The League of Women Voters of Berkeley Albany Emeryville hosted a collaborative forum Monday for Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, school board candidates.
Co-sponsored by the Berkeley PTA Council, the forum allowed all six candidates to speak on various topics concerning BUSD.
“We invite you to join the league to help us engage voters and defend democracy,” said forum moderator Adena Ishii during the meeting.
The forum opened with brief introductions by the candidates before they delved into answering questions provided by the Berkeley PTA council.
The candidates were asked to address their relevant experiences and their perspectives on specific BUSD-related issues such as its after-school programs and the English language development program.
According to Jennifer Shanoski, a Peralta Community College District faculty member and president of the faculty’s labor union, the strongest voices are “well-resourced” parents and administration, while those who are least heard are parents and students with fewer resources.
“It’s really important that we invest in hearing those voices through practical strategies and ensuring that we seek out those voices in the decision making processes and center them,” Shanoski said during the meeting.
Of the candidates participating in the forum, Ka’Dijah Brown, who is currently running for reelection, noted specifically that her continuing interests include closing equity and opportunity gaps, as well as providing access to safe learning environments.
BUSD board candidate Mike Chang, who is also a UC Berkeley lecturer of ethnic studies and education attorney, asserted that his work in law will help inform his decisions if he is elected.
A particularly pressing issue featured during the forum concerned the sexual harassment allegations brought against a teacher at Berkeley High School. Candidates were asked what the BUSD school board could have done differently.
“No doubt it is shameful and we absolutely have to do better,” said candidate Reichi Lee, a foster youth attorney and associate dean for online education and director of academic achievement at Golden Gate University, at the meeting. “When young people needed us, we failed and we failed miserably.”
Lee said during the meeting she was “mortified” at the handling of the situation and that the structures in place need to be improved.
Many candidates also mentioned that having children who are currently enrolled in the BUSD was an important factor in their decision to run for the BUSD school board.
“I’m running because I have three kids in the district and all three of my kids have been academically wounded,” said candidate Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos, co-director of Classroom Matters.
Guerreiro Ramos noted that as a single mother of three children, it has been very difficult for her to ensure that her children’s needs are being met.
BUSD school board directors will be decided through a plurality voting in the Nov. 2022 election.