Judy Appel, Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) school board president, is running for reelection. The BUSD school board is composed of five elected adult members, as well as two student representatives, one from Berkeley High, and one from Berkeley Technology Academy.
Appel, who has served on the School Board since 2012, said, “Being on the School Board has allowed me to be intimately involved in helping to continue to build BUSD as one of the most effective and progressive school districts.” Appel believes she should be re-elected because of her extensive school board experience, including “quality instruction, equity, school climate, facilities, and budgets.” She added, “I am committed to bringing the best possible experience for our students from Pre- K through high school and adult school, and I bring the experience of being a parent to the work, too.” While it is early, Appel said her platform is built on making schools safer and more supportive for all students, and ensuring that BUSD has strong educators.
In January 2019, Appel and her wife, Alison Bernstein, were hit by a car while walking at night in Berkeley. Both sustained serious injuries and spent over three months in the hospital. Appel returned to the school board in August 2019. “The accident changed me and my life and I bring that to my work with the district. I missed months on the board. I am still healing,” she said.
Vice President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler replaced Appel as president while she was on leave, and explained that the board wanted Judy and Alison to focus on recovering as much as possible. Leyva-Cutler, who has spent 12 years on the School Board, will not be running for re-election this year. She said that the experienced board members would serve as guides for new leaders to show them where the district has been and can go in the coming years. A combination of new leadership and seasoned board members creates a balance for an effective board, Leyva- Cutler said. When Appel returned to BUSD, she resumed her role as president, and now that she is healthy and recovering, she is ready to continue her work on the School Board.
Recently, a group of Berkeley High School (BHS) students presented a list of demands to the school board regarding reforms of sexual assault reporting and increasing general support within BUSD. The demands included a Title IX coordinator for BHS cases only, proper consent education for students and staff, and two full-time restorative justice counselors for BHS. Board members were given the chance to respond directly to students during the meeting. Appel said, “I really respect those of you who are speaking out. I appreciate you having the strength to come here and give us suggestions. We all live in a society that sexualizes women and we need to be at the forefront of changing that.” She emphasized the importance of preventing sexist behavior from a young age and acknowledged that this is a problem larger than BUSD, but declared that the district can create change.
Appel said that she wants BHS students to know that she is committed to creating a safe, enriching environment for all students despite the complexities of solving such a deeply-rooted issue. Appel was on the School Board when a similar push for reforms happened years ago, and said that the board “moved forward then and can do very exciting things now. We are all very impressed with the students and recognize that now is the time for the next big step forward.” She is interested in evaluating how BUSD teaches gender issues and prevention methods like the curriculum “Coaching Boys Into Men”.