Even under regular circumstances, the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board serves as a vital bridge between BUSD and the community it serves. The school board’s essential function is to provide oversight and give the public an important voice in the decisions that affect Berkeley’s public education system. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the face of public education has completely changed — and so have students’ needs.
As students grapple with disruptions to their education, BUSD will require results-oriented leadership that understands the unique needs of both students and parents during this time. The Daily Californian interviewed each candidate with the exception of Jose Luis Bedolla, who could not be reached as of press time. While all candidates have admirable visions for what they would like to accomplish on the board, Ana Vasudeo and Laura Babitt possess the understanding of BUSD operations, organizing skills and grit necessary to support students when they need it most.
Laura Babitt has spent a decade as an active member of the BUSD community, both as an organizer and as a parent of three children. Over the past 10 years, Babitt has gained intimate knowledge of how BUSD works, as she has served on three oversight committees and has contributed to various PTAs.
As a board member, Babitt plans to ensure the safe return to Berkeley’s schools, strengthen distance learning and provide individualized support for students who may need it. Babitt will also focus on implementing robust restorative justice programs, which she emphasizes as an alternative to punishment. While Babitt also hopes to close the achievement gap in BUSD schools, at the classroom level, she plans to facilitate a welcoming school climate and address implicit bias.
With her solid background and track record of service to the BUSD community, Babitt’s commitment to equity and safety for all BUSD students makes her a clear choice.
Vote Laura Babitt for BUSD.
Ana Vasudeo, a professional Safe Routes to School leader, has experience working on schools’ COVID-19 responses in San Francisco, offering a perspective that will be invaluable to the school board amid the unique circumstances the pandemic has presented to Berkeley families and educators.
With two sons in Berkeley public schools, Vasudeo has personal experience with the school district and has stepped up as a parent leader. Having served as the vice president of equity and inclusion on the Berkeley PTA Council, she has plans to continue building greater connections between the school district and its most vulnerable families. Her objectives include bridging opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, advocating fair wages for educators and making safe, sustainable and affordable transportation accessible to students. Her practical experience and actionable goals will make her an excellent addition to the board.
Vote Ana Vasudeo for BUSD.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.