2 incumbents vie for final school board seat

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Newcomer Ty Alper and incumbent Josh Daniels have attained two of three Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education positions, leaving two incumbents vying for the final seat.

Alper, who ran in 2013 for a seat left vacant by then-school board president Leah Wilson, had 26.65 percent of votes, with Daniels following in second place with 25.26 percent of votes, according to results posted Sunday by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

“As cliched as it sounds, it takes a real strong organized grassroots campaign, and I was fortunate that I was able to put that together,” Alper said. “I think Berkeley is a small community, and when you have a lot of people working in camp, you can reach a lot of people.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Karen Hemphill had a 0.67 percent, or 485-vote, lead over Julie Sinai, who was voted to a vacant board seat in 2013.

“We’re going to lose one of them on the board, and it’s going to be a loss for Berkeley,” Daniels said.

Alper, a UC Berkeley School of Law professor, said his platform sought to look beyond standardized test scores and to maximize opportunities for creative thinking and problem solving.

Alper attributes his success to his “army of volunteers” who canvassed the city, knocking on doors and making “thousands of phone calls.”

Hemphill said Alper’s ideas, however, did not add new ideas to the school board.

“I think that when we started talking specifics, there really were not a lot of new directions that Ty had,” Hemphill said. “He was supportive of the initiatives we are already doing. He’s a very attractive candidate for many people.”

Daniels, who was also a co-chair for the Yes on D campaign, said being heavily involved in two campaigns was challenging, yet exciting. His platform concentrated on having a smart fiscal management plan and open and transparent community meetings, as well as streamlining more rigorous curricula.

All three incumbents mutually endorsed one another, putting Alper as the outsider on the board. Alper, however, does not see it this way, saying he hopes all board members, old and new, can work together to achieve goals.

“Once I’m on the board, I think we will work together,” Alper said. “I’ve worked with many of the board members before. I know them all and think very highly of them.”

The school board handles a wide variety of local school issues, from negotiating with unions to passing plans for school building expansion. Board members serve staggered four-year terms and oversee a district of more than 10,000 students.

“It takes a while to come up to speed and reintegrate a new person you have to work it out again,” Hemphill said. “I think he will be a new voice, but like the board now, we have and share similar values and priorities.”

Results for municipal elections will be released early this week, as final votes are still being tabulated.

Contact Adrienne Shih at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.