Photo: Courtesy of Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

Name: Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

Age: 60

Job: Executive Director of BAHIA Inc.

What office are you are running for? Berkeley School Board

What is the main reason you are running? I am running for Berkeley School Board to solidify the focus through policy and practice the expectation of always holding equity and academic excellence of all our students to be a priority. In my work as a board member I have looked at data, programs, results and strengthening and amplifying the programs that are successful; and being accountable, accessible and responsive to our community of parents, teachers and students.

Why are you qualified for the position? I am an educator with over 36 years of experience and my education has focused on learning, bilingual education, equity and being a mentor and teacher of early childhood teachers. I am a qualified and credentialed by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing as a Program Director to operate child development programs, I have a Masters in Leadership and Education; and my programs meet all federal, state and local compliance in operating child development programs that serve children ages 2 to 10 years. Our bilingual programs are respected and well regarded in providing welcoming learning environments for families and their children. I am an incumbent with almost eight years’ experience as a school board member focused on moving the district in the direct that addresses the 2020 Vision in our schools. Even before the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Berkeley was already focused on ensuring 3rd graders are at reading level, putting greater attention and resource to attendance and truancy, reducing/eliminating the disproportionality of expulsion and suspension of Black and Latino student, developing career pathways for students ensuring that our students with the greatest academic needs are being served; and just as important the welcoming parents to our schools.

What sets you apart from other candidates? (200 words) I am an educator and my work environment is about creating safe, welcoming, learning environments for children. When I first came on board in 2008 – I was the 1st Latina bilingual woman to serve after a 25 years lapse. I am 1st generation in my family to go to college, a English Language Learner in elementary schools, my father was an immigrant (undocumented when I was born), raised to speak Spanish at home, my parents were working class (laundry worker and welder) that had less than a 5th grade education – yet, I went to college and graduated with a Master’s in Education. My story is not too unlike many of our 1st generation students and their parents – and I understand on a personal and professional level what it requires to be academically successful and the importance of retaining your language and culture, raising children to be bilinguals; and I have been an advocate for my entire career on the rights for family to have access to affordable quality child care, bilingual education. I have worked my entire career to involve, engage and welcome all families. I am the proud mother of two college graduates, a gay son, and a grandparent.

How did you end up in Berkeley? I was born and raised in San Francisco, Mission District and after one year from graduating from San Francisco State I saw an advertisement for a Supervising Teacher for a bilingual preschool. I have been working previously for Bilingual Preschool programs through San Francisco Unified and Head Start. I thought I would keep this job in Berkeley for two years. Fortunately by chance we found our house just one block away from my child care center and moved to Berkeley in 1993; and I have been here ever since. My life and work is centered in Berkeley and Berkeley schools.

What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future?

There are many challenges in the district but the most important that raise to the top right now for Berkeley Schools is:
• Passing Berkeley School Excellent Program – Proposition EI in Berkeley Schools without the passage of E1 the school board and district will have to cut 25 million dollars, increase class size and decrease and/or eliminate music and visual arts in our schools, cut technology and our parent liaisons would be no longer in our schools . Berkeley needs to vote YES on Proposition E1!
• Improving attendance and chronic absence and truancy of students. We must focus on getting students to school especially in the high school.
• Implement the Common Core with fidelity across the district that results in improvement of our students skills in reading and math

What are your ideas to solve them? 

• Get the vote out to VOTE Yes on Proposition of E1 that serves our schools through our property tax. Berkeley needs to vote YES to pass this property tax as it provides a reduction to class size, support our school libraries, counselors, and professional development of our teachers, technology, parent liaisons and parent engagement.
• Improving attendance and chronic absence is providing restorative justice services to students as a way to help student reintegrate back to school, catch up academically and receive ongoing counseling to support students.
• Continue Professional Development of our teachers in knowing how to address students work through professional learning communities and also increase the professional development of our classified towards pathway of teaching.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? (50 words) To have an Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) representative of parent liaisons, homeless coordinator, counselors, Safety officers, Berkeley Mental Health and Public Health Nurse…and a school board member (me!) all working to find a solution with parents and students on how to get our student back on track.

How will you be accessible to constituents? (100 words) The board and I have been the 1st board to have office hours and be accessible via social media. The community has our email address via our website and every board packet; board members have Facebook pages and respond to emails every day and frequently. Parents know where I work and come to my office. Being accessible has always been a priority to the Berkeley board and to me. Contact me at

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $7,000 to $10,000

A final thought? (100 words) I want to express my sincere appreciation for Berkeley voters for allowing me to serve Berkeley schools. I pledge to continue to work to support our students, teachers, staff, families and community in my next term. I am proven and committed leader, a hard worker that is focused on equity; and always dedicated to our children, families and ensuring that Berkeley Schools are successful in providing quality and equitable education to our students. Vote for me Beatriz Leyva-Cutler for Berkeley School Board and for Judy Appel for School Board and YES for E1, Proposition 55 and 58 and Y1. Gracias/Thank you!

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