Berkeley school district board member Judy Appel returns to work after accident

Judy Appel/Courtesy

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Berkeley Unified School District board member Judy Appel has returned to work after she and her wife, Alison Bernstein, were hit by a car in January in a collision that left them in critical condition.

Appel said she and her wife have not yet fully recovered but that they have received a lot of support from the community. Appel was present at the school board meeting Wednesday, where she resigned as president of the school board.

“I really feel strongly about having a strong school district for the kids,” Appel said. “It’s difficult to be injured; I’ve been focused on healing.”

Appel introduced a motion shortly after resigning to appoint former board vice president Beatriz Leyva-Cutler as the new president and former board director Ty Alper as the new vice president. The motion was approved by the school board.

Board Director Julie Sinai and Alper said in emails that they were both “thrilled” to see Appel recover and return to the school board.

“I am thrilled to have Judy Appel return to the Berkeley School Board,” Sinai said in an email. “Her resilience, combined with her passionate commitment to our students, is awe inspiring. Her presence was greatly missed last year and I look forward to having her depth of experience and insight back on the dais.”

Judy Appel / Courtesy

Superintendent Brent Stephens said at the Wednesday meeting that he was looking forward to deepening his relationship with Appel. Appel said that although she was not present for the appointment of Stephens, she thought he was a “great” choice.

In addition to members of the school board expressing their excitement over Appel’s return, Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín also expressed their support.

“I am delighted; I am excited,” Hahn said. “It’s extraordinary, given what she’s gone through. It’s amazing. It’s a testament to her grit and what she’s gone through physically and emotionally.”

In response to Appel’s January accident, Arreguín noted his efforts to reduce traffic collisions involving pedestrians in Berkeley through the Vision Zero program in an emailed statement.

Arreguín’s website states that between 2012 and 2016, an average of three people died and 31 were seriously injured in traffic collisions per year. Vision Zero aims to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from car crashes.

“I am thrilled to hear that my friend is making a strong recovery and is returning to her work at the School Board just in time for the new school year,” Arreguín said in an email. “I wish Judy and her wife Alison Bernstein the best as they continue their rehabilitation.”

Leon Chen is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.