Julie Sinai appointed to Berkeley school board vacant seat

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Julie Sinai, director of local government and community relations at UC Berkeley, was appointed to a vacant seat on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board at a vote held on Wednesday.

Sinai was voted in unanimously by the four sitting board members from a pool of 10 candidates. Sinai will fill the seat vacated by former board president Leah Wilson, who stepped down in March after being appointed court executive officer for the Alameda County Superior Court. Wilson resigned citing concerns about a conflict of interest.

Current board president Karen Hemphill said that despite a strong applicant pool, Sinai had qualities that showed the board she was the most suitable person for the job.

“I felt that the Board needed someone who was already familiar with the District and was involved in public education and Julie met all of these attributes,” Hemphill said in an email.  “She has been a long-time public school activist, used to work for the District and in her current work at the university, it’s all about partnerships and collaboration.”

Before working at UC Berkeley, Sinai was also chief of staff to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. Sinai said she hopes to apply her previous community and university experience to the school district and help the board with its current challenges, which include a new superintendent, increased efforts to improve academic achievement and heated negotiations with teachers’ unions.

“My future plans are to become familiar with the issues that the board has to tackle and look how to move our equity work forward,” Sinai said. “I will also help with looking at the physical status of a student district and do whatever I can do to reach an agreement with the unions.”

Michelle Moskowitz, director of advocacy and institutional relations at UC Berkeley, works with Sinai and congratulated her appointment, saying she believes Sinai will exceed expectations on the board.

“I think Julie will be an amazing asset to the board, as she has many years of experience working for the city of Berkeley,” Moskowitz said. “They could not have made a better choice. All of her colleagues at the Government and Community Relations Office congratulate her.”

Hemphill said she is glad to be working with Sinai and believes that the board will benefit from working with her.

“I expect that Julie will be a great asset in building partnerships with our community, the County and of course the University,” Hemphill said in an email.  “She also will be great in furthering our work to advance overall academic achievement and Julie’s up close knowledge of what a governing body does and how an effective elected body works together through her work as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff will be very useful.”

Sinai will serve the remainder of Wilson’s term until the seat comes up for re-election in November 2014.

Contact Seif Abdelghaffar at [email protected].