Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board president Judy Appel announced Tuesday that she will not be running for reelection, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
Although Appel previously planned to run for reelection to the board, she ultimately decided against it, citing her ongoing recovery process from a 2019 accident that left both her and her wife in critical condition and hospitalized for several months.
“I did suffer from this pretty significant accident,” Appel said. “It’s hard to do, you know, something that involves this much focus and take care of my health.”
Appel served on the school board for eight years, during which she said she focused on serving the varying needs of Berkeley’s diverse student population.
Throughout her time with BUSD, Appel said she worked to prioritize all students in the district. Along with other board members, she implemented programs to facilitate this goal, particularly focusing on closing the opportunity gap among students.
Until a new president replaces her in January, Appel said she will be focused on developing procedures and making decisions regarding school reopenings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Appel added that BUSD will take “a while” to recover.
According to BUSD board vice president Ty Alper, Appel’s departure will create a vacancy on the board, which will allow a number of candidates to run for her seat.
Alper added that although Appel will be greatly missed, the board and community support her decision to step back.
“Her legacy will be to fight for racial and social justice, to improve the climate in our schools for all students, and to lead our community through some very turbulent times,” Alper said in an email.
BUSD board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, who is also not seeking reelection for her seat, said in an email that she hopes Alper will be the next BUSD president.
Leyva-Cutler also said she respects Appel’s decision to step back from the board and her continued service to BUSD throughout her rehabilitation process.
“She has been and always will be an asset to the district,” Leyva-Cutler said in the email.
Leyva-Cutler noted that Appel’s legacy will not only encompass the efforts she led within BUSD for equity and social justice, but also her engagement with elected state officials to advocate for Berkeley schools.
Reflecting on her own time with BUSD, Appel said she felt proud of the work she was involved in.
Appel added that she wanted to be engaged with the district, particularly in light of COVID-19, but ultimately stood by her decision.
“Not running again is a mixed bag for me,” Appel said. “I’m very proud of the work I have been able to be involved with in the last eight years.”