Public school volunteer Laura Babitt seeks election to Berkeley school district board

(FILE) Photo of Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, Karin Goh
Karin Goh/File

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Parent and longtime Berkeley public school volunteer Laura Babitt is running for election to the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board this November.

BUSD board members serve in staggered four-year terms, with two seats up for election this year. Other local offices — including the mayor, four rent board seats and City Council seats for Districts 2, 3, 5 and 6 — will also be elected in November.

Babitt, who has served in various BUSD advisory groups and works in the private sector as a financial auditor and controller, is campaigning on a platform of better remote learning, individualized student support and restorative justice programming. Babitt said she hopes to educate the wider community about issues of restorative justice.

According to her campaign website, Babitt volunteers at Rosa Parks Elementary, where her daughter is in the fourth grade. Babitt is also a member of Parents of Children of African Descent, or PCAD. All three of Babitt’s daughters attend or have graduated from public schools in Berkeley.

Babitt’s interest in local public schools stems from her belief in the importance of good education as a path out of poverty.

“For me, the best way to leave poverty is to get a quality education,” Babitt said. “The more I started looking at our educational system, the more I realized how we have these cycles of poverty in our communities, especially Black and Brown communities.”

Babitt added that if she is elected to the board, she will seek to introduce restorative justice programs so that students “have adequate support over punishment” and benefit instead from empathy and community.

From 2012 to 2016, Babitt was the executive director of PCAD. During this time, PCAD advocated for equity initiatives regarding student suspensions, provided workshops and a Special Education Toolkit to parents and hosted meetings with BUSD stakeholders.

Babitt also served as a member of the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee and as the parent liaison for Berkeley High School’s African American studies department.

As remote learning continues in the fall, Babitt wants Berkeley public schools to “really work with individual families” and implement more personalized learning opportunities for students.

“The beauty of remote learning is we can actually create different learning strategies for students who are distracted in classrooms,” Babitt said.

Babitt added that some students may receive better one-on-one support in a remote classroom compared to in-person classrooms that prioritize the learning needs of the majority of students.

Babitt’s campaign will be co-hosting a socially distanced Black Lives Matter protest with City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, Covenant Church, NAACP Berkeley and The Way Christian Center on Saturday.

Contact Jessica Li at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLi57.