Click here for answers to FAQs about the first week of school.


Q: What should I do if my child will be absent because of illness or other emergencies?
Answer: Call or email the attendance clerk (510-644-4564, willardattendanceoffice@berkeley.net) before 10am; if you know ahead of time, e-mail teachers (firstnamelastname@berkeley.net) and check to see if there’s any make-up work for your child.

Q: What is the difference between “excused” and “unexcused” absences?
Answer: An excused absence is any absence that is medical in nature or involves a family emergency.

School Lunch Information

Q: How does Lunch work?
Answer: There are three ways a child can have lunch at middle school: 1) bring their own; 2) student or parent can put money on a child’s account in the cafeteria or using the ezschoolpay.com website, and when the lunch money runs out the cafeteria staff will let your children know. No child will be left hungry, but only fruit or salad will be offered to a child with no lunch or money in his/her account; 3) if you think that your child may qualify for free or reduced lunch, you can fill out an application, which can be picked up in the main office.


Q: What should I do if my child needs help with class work?
Answer: Teachers are available to support your child, so you or your child can advocate for some extra help. If the necessary help goes beyond the occasional teacher conversation, your child might need other supports and you should talk with the Academic Counselor, Jen Antonuccio (call via main office).

Q: What should I do if my child needs help with homework?
Answer: Encourage your child to get a study buddy (teachers can help with this). It is important for students to navigate the homework process on their own, so they don’t benefit from too much support.

Q: What if my child can’t complete his/her homework?
Answer: Homework should take approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours per day, with possible spikes happening before grading period. When longer projects are involved, it is in the best interests of your sanity and the child’s emotional and academic well-being to plan ahead, so that the child is not overwhelmed at the end. If a nightly assignment is taking an unreasonable amount of time, your child may stop and you should sign that spot so that the teacher sees how long an assignment has taken. If this is a pattern, please contact the teacher so that all parties can address this issue.

Q: Do I need to keep all my child’s completed homework assignments?
Answer: It would be in your child’s best interest for you to keep completed assignments at least until the end of the grading period. Teachers are not always perfect and mistakes have occurred.

Q: How does the grading system work?
Answer: In each class, your student will receive two grades. 1) The first grade is for Standards-Based Performance (“SBP”) and is a measure of how well your child is understanding and retaining the subject matter (based on performance on tests, quizzes and other assessments designed by the teacher). 2) The second grade is for Habits of Work (“HOW”) and is a measure of how well your child is handling the responsibilities of being a student (based on getting to class on time, completing homework assignments on time, paying attention and participating in class). Each grade is scored on a scale of 1 to 4. Please see the September Willard Phoenix for more information.

Community — Getting Involved & Staying Informed

Q: How can I meet and chat with other parents?
Answer: Come to the PTA Coffee Chats on Thursdays from 8-9:30 AM, attend PTA meetings, attend school events, get to know your child’s friends and their parents.

Q: How can I volunteer in my child’s classroom?
Answer: Contact the teacher, with the understanding that middle school teachers aren’t as good at putting parents to work. Please help out where you can, and keep in touch with room parents and the teachers.

Q: How can I volunteer at school?
Answer: Contact the school, become a writers coach, become active in the PTA

Q: How does the PTA work and how can I get involved?
Answer: The PTA’s main goal is to develop community, raise funds, and provide support for students, parents and teachers.

Q: What is the SGC? How can I get on it?
Answer: The School Governance Counsel (“SGC”) is a committee comprising equally of parents, teachers, and staff. The goal of the SGC is to establish goals promoting the academic success of students, the development of students into productive citizens, and the communication and participation of parents as part of the community. To accomplish these goals, the SGC collects and reviews data, assess programs and progress, and allocates funding for small grants and for larger programs. In total the SGC is responsible for allocating approx $200,000 per year (which come primarily from your parcel taxes). In particular, these funds support the Athletic Director, the Garden and Cooking Program, Student Mentoring, Mental Health Counseling, After School Sports, and Professional Development. SGC members are elected in the Fall by the parent body.

Q: Where can I get parenting advice?
Answer: Communicate with your child’s teachers or talk to the academic counselor (Jennifer Antonuccio) or mental health counselor (Cory Cohen) via the main office. The PTA will offer parent education events throught the year to benefit parents navigating their middle schooler — these events are helpful, so please come to them.

Q: How do I keep informed about school events?
Answer: You will receive automated phone messages from the principal throughout the year, informing you of important events and information (you should already have received a few such messages — if not, please update your contact information at the main office). Sign up for the Willard e-tree at willardpta.org/etree. Sign up for the Google Willard Calendar via the PTA website.

Social / Behavioral

Q: What should I do if my child feels like he/she is being bullied?
Answer: Contact the teachers if it’s happening in a class, contact your child’s advisory teacher for advice, or contact the counselors if it’ a more general problem. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing — please involve us, which you can do confidentially, without your child knowing. We need to know because your children need to feel safe at their school, and we can keep an eye on problems before they escalate into something more serious.

Q: What should my child do if he/she observes another child doing something mean, dangerous, or illegal?
Answer: Same as above. If you or your child hear word of another child behaving negatively, please let us know right away.

Extra-curricular and other activities

Q: How do you join Band? Orchestra? Jazz band?
Answer: Prior to school starting, there are sign-ups for the music program. If your child wants to start mid-year, please contact the Academic Director to make the necessary arrangements. Band and Orchestra are classes that meet at zero period from 7:45 to 8:30, and Jazz Band meets after school but is only available to students who take the morning music class.

Q: Do grades in band/orchestra/jazz band count toward GPA?
Answer: Yes.

Q: What is advisory?
Answer: A 25-minute class that meets M,T,Th,F. During this class, monthly themes are discussed, such as being a responsible citizen, being an ally, study skills and time management, issues regarding social networking and media awareness, being inclusive and appreciating all abilities, being a bridge-builder, dealing with issues around social mores and stereo-types, being respectful in our relationships, social justice, drug sex and alcohol. Advisory periods are also used for additional academic support during two of the class days.

Q: How do assemblies work?
Answer: These are grade level gatherings to recognize students for achievements or offer learning opportunities to highlight societal, developmental, or other topics of interest to that specific age group.

Q: Can you explain the difference between the after school programs and “MathWorks”, etc.?
Answer: Children can enroll in the paid Phoenix Rising After-School Program from 3-6pm, which includes a mandatory homework component and other activities. There are separate after-school tutorials like “MathWorks” and the “Young People’s Project,” that are entirely dependent upon resources and needs and may not be offered at all.

For any questions that are not included here, please call the person you think might be immediately relevant, or the main office can direct you appropriately (510-644-6330). And of course, the principal’s door is always open for parents and students who have questions or want to know more about their school community.