UC Berkeley law professor runs for Berkeley Unified School District’s school board

Alvin Wu/Staff
Board meetings are held at 2020 Bonar Street

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UC Berkeley law professor Ty Alper is building on his administrative experience in the Berkeley Unified School District by running for the district’s board of education.

The school board is made up of one student director and five elected officials, who each serve four-year terms. Alper will be running against incumbents Julie Sinai, Karen Hemphill and the board’s current president Josh Daniels. With only three open board seats this election and four candidates running, any incumbent could potentially lose his or her seat.

“My vision is that every parent in the district can send their child out to a Berkeley public school and know that he or she is getting the educational services that he or she needs,” Alper said. “We need to spend our money on programs that work and give teachers the professional development that they need.”

A graduate of Berkeley High School, Alper returned to the city as a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, where he teaches social justice. Alper has three children attending Berkeley public schools. For the past year, he has been serving on a local middle school’s governance council, having previously worked on the Rosa Parks Elementary School governance council for five years — three years as its chair.

The school governance council, in a similar role to the school board, develops and oversees an overarching plan for a specific school community that includes policies on improving student learning, classroom size and discretionary spending’s direction. Alper said during his time on the committee, he helped make the council more diverse, among other efforts.

“When you have kids in the schools and you are in the schools every day talking to kids and parents, you gain an understanding of what is happening in the classroom,” Alper said. “There is an understanding there that a parent has that is really critical to be heard on the school board.”

Carrie Wilson, executive director at Mills Teacher Scholars — an organization that helps train teachers — has worked with Alper on the school governance council and commended his ability to recognize the complexity of issues affecting the school community.

“Ty is able to acknowledge that learning is complex, and, therefore, able to push conversations that question, among other things, the use of standardized test to measure student learning,” Wilson said in an email.

Alper is endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees.

“I’m personally really excited, because I feel like he is bringing some new ideas and innovation to the conversation around the school board,” said Dana Blanchard, a member of BFT’s executive board. “It’s always a good thing to have fresh voices.”

Jeff Landa covers city news. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JeffLanda.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Berkeley’s school board has two student directors. In fact, it currently only has one.