I am a candidate for the School Board because as a parent of two sons in Berkeley schools, I see the promise of what the BUSD can be—a model urban district that uses our vast community resources to provide our children with the opportunity and support to bring out their personal best and prepare them for the challenges of our 21st century world—academically strong and ready to thrive. And, as a long time volunteer in the school district and as a senior manager in local government, I have the proven leadership, skills and experience necessary to bring about this vision.
I have been an active parent in the school district for 10 years and have a track record of bringing together diverse school communities toward common actions that benefit our youth—most recently, last year as co-president of the Berkeley High PTSA. I have held many other leadership positions, both at the school site and district-wide level, including serving on the BSEP (school tax measure) Planning and Oversight Committee, the District Advisory Committee, and the governance councils of Washington Elementary and Longfellow Middle Schools. And, I am currently on the Yes on Measure A, School Tax Renewal Steering Committee and urge everyone to vote for Measure A.
As a senior manager in local government, I have extensive budget, policy, and organizational development experience and have regularly facilitated community-based planning efforts and interest based negotiations. I have secured millions of dollars of private and public funds -through grant writing and developing agreements—working with public agencies, non-profits, and the business community. And, I have established relationships with our local, regional and federal elected representatives that can form the basis for expanding the resources available to help our children succeed. I am also a graduate of Brown University (Asian Studies/Comparative Politics) and have a graduate degree from UC Berkeley in Political Science/Public Administration.
Why is this relevant? Because, if elected, I have the demonstrated ability to tackle complex and/or sensitive issues that I can draw upon to address district issues such as continuing educational reforms at the high school so that all of our students are challenged and supported to do their personal best, addressing our students’ declining math scores, successfully implementing inclusionary education for students with special needs, bettering relationship between the district and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, narrowing the achievement gap between Whites/Asians and African-Americans/Latinos in a manner that unites rather than divides our various school communities, dealing with safety/discipline, and addressing the District’s land-use issues such as the warm pool, sports fields, West Campus, and underutilized and/or seismically unsound facilities such as Oregon Street and Hillside.
If elected to the School Board, I will have three priorities:
1) Work with our school and wider community to develop a district-wide student achievement plan that sets educational priorities and determines core programs so that all of our students are challenged and supported to do their personal best—whether they are students with special needs, underachieving students, average students, or academically gifted students, that is supported by relevant teacher/staff training and which is tied to a sound fiscal plan that includes partnerships with local government, private foundations, the university and community colleges, non-profits, businesses, and community groups. The plan would also incorporate the role of visual and performing arts, libraries, and mental/emotional and physical wellness (including nutrition and exercise) in supporting academic achievement as well as fostering student self-esteem, self-discipline, and a joy of learning.
2) Facilitate a community discussion, that includes our various school communities as well as organizations that work with youth of color within our city, on what our district can do to bridge the achievement gap between White/Asian and African-American/Latino students, so that all of our students can reach their personal best and that is incorporated into the proposed District-wide student achievement plan. The fact that African American students in Berkeley public schools have one of the lowest achievement rates in Alameda County is a local disgrace. I believe, we can and must do a better job in setting high expectations, training teachers in how to motivate and educate our diverse student body, recruiting teachers and staff of color, and building family-school-community partnerships so that students of color are achieving academic excellence.
3) Facilitate the creation of a much more open and inclusive school district, by insisting on a user-friendly district budget format; advocating for the institutionalization of public advisory and oversight committees; and stressing two-way communication with the community around district finances, educational priorities/programs, safety/discipline, and other issues.
My ability to work with and gain the support of our diverse communities to achieve common goals is further evidenced by the wide range of endorsements I have received. I have been endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers as well as Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Mayor Tom Bates, City Councilmembers Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Max Anderson, Dona Spring, Laurie Capitelli, Kris Worthington, Gordon Wozniak, former City Council members Maudelle Shirek and Ann Chandler, Alameda County Schools Superintendent Sheila Jordan, Alameda County School Board members Gay Plair Cobb and Jacki Fox Ruby, Peralta Community College Trustee Nicky Yuen-Gonzales, School Board member Terry Doran, Former School Board members Pamela Doolan and Miriam Rokeach Topel; organizations including the Alameda County Democratic Party, Green Party of Alameda County, Berkeley Democratic Club, Wellstone Democratic Club, National Women’s Political Caucus: North Alameda, Alameda County Central Labor Council, and United In Action; a spectrum of our school community, including Janet Huseby (former PTA President of Berkeley High, King, Rosa Parks, and Cragmont), Dan Lindheim, (President, BSEP school tax measure Planning and Oversight Committee), Michael Miller (Executive Director, Parents with Children of African Descent-PCAD), Berkeley High School Site Council Vice President Carol Lashof, Jessica Seaton, and Rebecca Herman; as well as community members such as Pastor Emeritus George Crespin, Johnnie Porter (past President NAACP), Bob Brauer, Louise Brown, Betty Hicks, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Pam Hunt, Roxanne Fiscella, Viki Davis, and Royce Kelley.