There are two vacancies on the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) Board, and both incumbents — Judy Appel and Beatriz Leyva Cutler — are not running for reelection. Here is a rundown of every candidate running for School Board.
Laura Babbitt is a financial controller from Durham, North Carolina, and has been a member of the BUSD Oversight Committee for the last ten years. Babbitt’s platform centers around equity and community; she has pledged to cut obstacles that make it harder for people in need to receive aid from the government, as well as other related things. Babbitt also wants to “create accountability structures so that our programs [and] special education services are implemented effectively.” Student Director Miles Miller stated that, “[she is a] very qualified candidate, and I think Laura Babbitt has a perspective that Berkeley High School (BHS) will really need in the next couple of years.”
José Luis Bedolla
José Luis Bedolla is the CEO of the humanitarian technology non-profit Data Science for Social Good Foundation (DSSG). DSSG focuses on “[creating] programs that enhance the use of data science, AI, and machine learning to create positive social impact in a fair and equitable manner.” Bedolla is also on the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission and previously worked on the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP). Much of his platform centers around using newer technology — such as online resources and physical electronic tools — to further improve learning in Berkeley, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael “Mike” Chang
An attorney and lecturer from Brooklyn, New York, Mike Chang works for the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, and lectures at the University of California Berkeley. Chang’s platform centers around restorative justice, which he hopes will “address the troubling sexual harassment concerns raised by students in the district.” Chang has also served as a commissioner for the Berkeley Police Review Commission, and has been endorsed by Mayor Jesse Arreguín and current Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel. Appel said that Chang will “bring a lot of talents and knowledge to the school board…[He is] super qualified.”
Norma J. F. Harrison
A realtor and activist from Chicago, Illinois, and a long time educator, Norma J. F. Harrison became a licensed teacher in 1963. Her platform revolves around equality and inert inequities buried in our current school system. Harrison has also been a member of the California Peace and Freedom Party, as well as the Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party for twenty years. Harrison also worked on the Community Action Program/Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke, Virginia. Harrison wants to fundamentally change the school system, which she said fails to teach subjects in an interconnected way.
Esfandiar Imani is an Iranian immigrant working in Risk Management. Imani’s platform is based around sexual assault, racial inequality, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and more. He has volunteered as a member of Youth Engagement Advocacy Housing (YEAH!) and distributed food and computers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also has served as a member of the BSEP committee.
Ana Vasudeo is a transportation planner and has served on the Berkeley Parent Teacher Association Council as the Vice President of Equity and Inclusion. Vasueo plans to improve wages for educators, use her knowledge from her current occupation to make sure children are transported to school in a safe and sustainable way, and close the opportunity gap. She is endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. Appel said, “We have a lot of Latinx students in Berkeley and I think it is really important to have a Latinx representative on the board … [Vasudeo] is super qualified.”
To read the full Candidate Statements for School Board profiles go to the City of Berkeley website.