Flash: Issel, Riddle, Hemphill Win School Board Seats, Measure A Approved By Huge Margin

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 07, 2006

Incumbents Nancy Riddle and Shirley Issel and challenger Karen Hemphill have won the three open seats on the five-member Berkeley Board of Education. 

Leading the pack was current school board director Nancy Riddle, who captured 29.56 percent of the total votes. Karen Hemphill came in at second place with 28.10 percent of the total votes. School board director Shirley Issel finished third with 24.56 percent. 

Riddle, CFO of Monster Cable Products, is currently finishing her first term with the School Board. A strong supporter of Measure A—the school parcel tax which won by a landslide in the Nov. 7 elections—Riddle has been involved in the process of rewriting it since 2003. 

Her campaign highlights included working toward removing barriers in education and to encourage a transparent and open budget process that reflects the values of the Berkeley community. 

Hemphill’s victory has made her Berkeley’s first African-American school board director in years. An assistant to the city manager in Emeryville, Hemphill has previously held posts in the Berkeley’s Civic Arts Commission and the Commission on the Status of Women. 

In an earlier interview to the Planet, Hemphill, who has two sons in Berkeley schools, said that she wanted to see BUSD grow into a model urban district that uses community resources to prepare its students for the 21st century.  

Hemphill said she wants to focus on a district wide student achievement plan which is tied to a sound fiscal plan that partners with government, private foundations and other such organizations. 

Issel, a clinical social worker, has served on the school board for the last eight years. She will continue to use her skills as a professional social worker and educational reformer to improve teaching and learning in BUSD. Issel also wants to improve support for students with learning barriers and to train staff to measure student progress. 

First time candidates David Baggins and Norma Harrison came in at fourth and fifth positions with 11.24 percent and 6.26 percent of the total votes, respectively. 

Baggins, a professor of Political Science at California State University, East Bay, had made school registration one of the main issues of his campaign.  

Harrison, 71, is a self-employed realtor and former public school teacher and has never run for public office before. During her campaign, Harrison had stressed on creating a forum for discussion which would help students in Berkeley enjoy school. 


Victory for Measure A 

Measure A, the school parcel tax which renews two existing school measures—Berkeley School Excellence Project (BSEP) and Measure B—won a decisive victory by gaining 79.05 percent of the total votes on Tuesday.  

Both BSEP and Measure B, which expire in June, provide the Berkeley Unified School District with $19.6 million annually, which primarily pays for 30 percent of Berkeley’s classroom teachers, all elementary and middle school libraries and music programs as well as school site funds.  

With Measure A passing, the current budget level will now continue.  

Ninety percent of Measure A will fund the class size reduction, school library, music and art, and site enrichment programs which have been authorized and reaffirmed by Berkeley voters since 1986. 

In the case Measure A had failed, the schools would have lost 25 percent of their budget, which would have resulted in the elimination of 30 percent of the teachers, libraries, the music program and a lot more. 

Although Measure A had been supported by every major organization, elected official and candidate for office in Berkeley, it received opposition from neighborhood groups such as Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA), Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (BANA), Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes (BASTA!) and Berkeleyans for School Management Access Accountability Responsiveness and Transparency (BeSMAART).