Harrison Announces Intention To Run For School Board Seat

By Suzanne La Barre
Friday July 21, 2006

Norma Harrison, a communist and active member of the Peace and Freedom Party, has announced a bid for school board.  

Harrison, 71, is seeking one of three open seats on the five-member Berkeley Board of Education this November. A self-employed realtor and former public school teacher, Harrison has lived in Berkeley since 1979. She has never run for public office. 

“I’m not talking about funding, racial integration, smaller class sizes—I’m not talking about the usual issues,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m talking about creating a venue to go toward talking about the kind of living we like. There’s no place for that conversation these days.”  

If elected, Harrison would work to “gradually eliminate school as we know it,” she said. She did not offer specific plans.  

Harrison grew up in Chicago, and attended Roosevelt University, where she obtained a teaching degree in 1963. She taught in the Chicago public schools for five years and on a kibbutz in Israel for one year. She has worked as a substitute teacher in the Bay Area, and held other odd jobs while raising two children.  

Her daughter attended King Middle School and Berkeley High School in the 1980s, but did not graduate. Harrison’s son, who attended public school in Chicago, also dropped out of school. 

Harrison’s husband, Jack Harrison, a member of the Rent Stabilization Board, is running for California Attorney General; Harrison serves as his campaign manager. 

Harrison has not yet submitted official nomination papers. She is in the process of collecting 150 signatures, which absolves her of the need to pay Berkeley’s $150 candidacy filing fee.  

She has not sought any endorsements. 

Harrison is up against incumbent school board directors Nancy Riddle and Shirley Issel, and challenger Karen Hemphill, who lost a bid for the board in 2004. After two terms of service, board President Terry Doran does not plan to run again for his seat. 

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the union representing 700 teachers and other certificated employees, has endorsed Hemphill.