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Issel, Riddle and Hemphill to Run for School Board

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday April 18, 2006

Two incumbents will vie to maintain their hold on the Berkeley Board of Education, while President Terry Doran says he won’t run again.  

Three of five seats are up for grabs this November, as Doran and Director Shirley Issel finish out their second four-year terms, and Director Nancy Riddle wraps up her first.  

Issel, a clinical social worker, and Riddle, the CFO for Monster Cable Products, have filed candidate statements of intent, City Clerk Sara Cox confirmed. 

No other official candidate statements have been submitted, but Karen Hemphill, the BUSD parent who narrowly lost a bid for school board in 2004, told the Planet Friday she plans to rerun. 

Two years ago, Hemphill ran in tandem with fellow parent Kalima Rose. Both were defeated by incumbents Joaquin Rivera and John Selawsky. Rose said she has no intention of running again, but Hemphill, who was edged out by 609 votes, reenters the political arena ready for battle. 

“There were members who said they would take up a strategic plan for student achievement. They have not,” she said. “I would bring a sense of urgency to the fact that we need an achievement plan: some new energy and vision that comes with my being an active parent for the last 10 years.” 

If elected, Hemphill, who works as the assistant to the city manager in Emeryville, would be Berkeley’s first African-American school board director in years. More than 30 percent of Berkeley’s public school students are African American, yet the district’s chief decision-making body is comprised of four white members and one Latino member. Many believe the board should more accurately represent the make-up of Berkeley student. 

“I have always encouraged and tried to solicit and support African-American candidates, and by having an African American on the school board, I feel the decisions would more closely resemble decisions of the community,” Doran said, while saying he would not support a candidate simply for being African-American.  

Hemphill weighed in on the role of an African-American leader on the board:  

“I think it’s incumbent on every school board member to represent the entire constituency. I don’t think that not being black absolves you of representing the African-American community,” she said. “At the same time, one African American can’t claim to represent the African-American community.” 

Though a relative unknown in the 2004 election, Hemphill earned endorsements from several public officials including Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Mayor Tom Bates, seven of nine councilmembers and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Doran supported Hemphill in 2004. His high opinion of her has not changed, he said. 

Another possible candidate is Dan Lindheim, a longtime Berkeley resident who went through the public school system. His children are now following suit.  

Lindheim said he is considering a run, though he hasn’t decided just yet. Once a congressional policymaker for Ron Dellums, Lindheim currently volunteers full-time in various capacities: as a soccer coach, an issues consultant for Dellums’ Oakland mayoral campaign, and chair of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) Planning and Oversight Committee. Two current directors, Selawsky and Riddle, are past committee chairs, and many deem the position a launch pad for a spot on the school board.  

In the November 2002 election, with three seats up for bid, Riddle raked in 25 percent of the votes, Doran received 21.1 percent and Issel earned 20.5 percent. 

This year, Issel follows the lead of board Vice President Rivera in chancing a third term. Rivera pursued and—with 27.4 percent of the vote—easily won a third term in 2004. The school board does not impose term limits; however, candidates historically have sought just two terms.  

The official nomination period for school board candidates begins this summer..