BUSD swears in new board trustees at last meeting of school year

Rachel Barber/Staff

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As the first teacher in decades to serve on the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board, Ka’Dijah Brown, alongside returning members Ty Alper and Julie Sinai, was sworn into her position at the board’s regular meeting Wednesday.

At the meeting, the board officialized new positions, instituting Judy Appel as the board president, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler as vice president and Ty Alper as the clerk. The board also heard an update on the 2020 vision for Berkeley’s youth and approved the first interim budget for 2019.

“I know it’s going to be an exciting year,” Leyva-Cutler said at the meeting. “New perspectives will push the question of: how do we close the opportunity gap?’”

Throughout the meeting, board members, including Brown, Sinai and Appel cited bridging inequity gaps within the BUSD community as a main goal going forward. Once appointed president, Appel gave new board trustees time to present their individual visions to the board for their new term.

With the recent passing of Measure O in this year’s midterm election, several people also stressed that the board address affordable housing for BUSD staff. During an update from local union members, Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Cathy Campbell said that the district currently has three educator openings it can’t fill due to low wages. Campbell suggested the board set affordable housing for staff as a priority for next year.

“I know three people who are planning to resign because they can’t pay their bills,” Campbell said in a public comment.We’ve got to address this … (Students) are having daily subs. That is a travesty.”

Sinai said at the meeting that she hopes the board will join forces with the city of Berkeley to make affordable housing for staff a reality.

According to Sinai, she is also personally focused on solving internal issues with BUSD’s math program, exposing students to local careers “of high groves and wages” and strengthening partnerships between the different parts of the BUSD community.

“We have made significant gains but we have a lot of work to do,” Sinai said at the meeting. “There’s a lot of exciting momentum going on right now.”

Brown said at the meeting that she plans to be a “champion” for fiscal accountability and to support student-centered practices. In her statement of vision for the board she said she will work to ensure the well-being of all students.

Brown teaches fifth grade at Making Waves Academy in Richmond. Her election to the board is the first time in 140 years that a teacher has held the position, according to Brown.

“I’m excited what that means for teachers and I’m excited for what that means for students,” Brown said at the meeting.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.