Berkeley School Board candidate Judy Appel. Photo: Courtesy of Judy Appel
Berkeley School Board candidate Judy Appel. Photo: Courtesy of Judy Appel

Name: Judy Appel

Age: 51

Job: Executive director, California School-Based Health Alliance

What office are you are running for? School Board Director

What is the main reason you are running? Every child deserves the opportunity to be seen, valued and challenged at school. This is the kind of society I have been working to create for the last thirty years – as an activist, civil rights attorney, executive director, social justice leader, elected official and the proud parent of two BUSD students. It has been an honor for me to serve on the Berkeley School Board, where I have been driven by my belief in our students and my deep commitment to assuring that every one of them has access to a quality education and appropriate resources.

Why are you qualified for the position? I am currently an elected member of the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education, and served as Board President in 2015. In this role I have been a strong and consistent advocate for quality education for all of our students, with a particular focus on equity within BUSD, to assure we address the needs of our students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learning students.

Before joining the Board I was an active member of the school community at Oxford Elementary School. I was a community representative on the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC). I served as president of the PTA for two years, and was on the School Governance Council for four years, serving as Chair for the last two years.

My work at Our Family Coalition (OFC) provided a unique opportunity to work on educational issues, focusing on policy and curricula surrounding full inclusion of LGBT people in our schools, with a particular emphasis on family diversity that embraces all kinds of families (adopted, with single parents, divorced, foster, LGBT, kinship care, etc.) and gender stereotypes.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I believe that I have shown myself to be a strong advocate representing the students of Berkeley first and foremost, with a keen eye for equity, sound financial decisions and curriculum development, all toward creating a positive learning community for all students. I have worked closely with the members of this union, as well as with the administration and the parent community, on a multitude of strategies and I believe that we are seeing real changes in this district as a result

I am proud to be running collaboratively with my co-incumbent, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler. This collaboration reflects the strong partnership and shared vision of the current school board to strengthen our schools with a focus on closing the racial achievement gap and building a stronger, more engaged district for all of our students.

How did you end up in Berkeley? When my wife Alison and I were pregnant with our second child, living in a little flat in SF, we decided it was time to return to Berkeley, where Alison (BHS ’82) had grown up. We wanted to raise our children in a smaller community with solid progressive values that align with ours, where our LGBTQ family would be not just accepted, but normalized, and where the community as a whole supported the public schools.

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

I will answer this question specifically as it relates to our schools.

Educational Equity: We continue to experience a significant gap in the academic achievement between our African American and our English language learning students and our White students. This gap has been evident not just in the academic indicators, but in our disciplinary actions, and most importantly in the lived experience of many of our students. We have been making some strides in this area through the hard work of our administration, principals, teachers and support staff, but it remains the number one issue that we need to tackle in our schools.

Housing Shortage for our Educators: BUSD is committed to attracting and retaining quality, credentialed teachers. As the housing prices continue to rise in Berkeley, it becomes more and more difficult for our teachers to be able to live in the community in which they teach. This is especially true for our new teachers and teachers with families. Additionally, given the nation wide teacher shortage, it is vital that we provide affordable housing for teachers in order to make our district a workable and desirable alternative.

Gun Violence: Even as our graduation rates continue to be high, and the number of students who are UC/Cal State eligible is on the rise, too many of our students are impacted by violence after they leave our schools. In just the past year, five Berkeley alum have been shot and killed.

What are your ideas to solve them?

BUSD has made strides in closing the opportunity gap through a combination of academic interventions, coordination of service teams, intentional staff training, and implementation of research-validated equity strategies for the classroom. We must deepen these efforts across schools, paying attention to each child and their needs.

Our students need to feel connected and loved by the adults in their school to succeed not just in school, but in the life that follows. I have helped develop our new Restorative Practices program, expanded Toolbox, our social emotional learning program, and increased intervention counseling. We also must engage families and community partners in our schools.

For our educators to afford to live in Berkeley, we need to pay them fairly and provide our teachers financially accessible housing. We have given our teachers approximately 10% raises in the past 4 years, coupled with 5.5% one-time bonuses, and we will strive to do more. We must work with the City, the State and affordable housing developers to build teacher designated affordable housing. I am interested in pursuing the possibility of using District property for this purpose.

The need for strict gun laws is outside of local control. We can, however, invest resources in supporting youth and their families on positive conflict resolution strategies. We need to develop an integrated response involving our young people, their communities and our police. We must build on the high quality programs in Berkeley — including the MLK Jr. Youth Services Center / Y.A.P. the Berkeley Alternative Project, and our newly piloted Peacekeepers program at BHS — and supplement them with lessons on addressing trauma from neighboring communities. We have made a good start using restorative justice to address conflict and violence – now we need to take those principles into our community.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Berkeley has many therapists, yet it is virtually impossible for a young person in crisis to find immediate and affordable mental health care. I want BUSD to deepen our partnership with City of Berkeley to provide adequate MH care for all students K-12 who need it.

How will you be accessible to constituents? It is not only my honor, but my responsibility to be available to the people of Berkeley, and particularly students and their families, to hear about your concerns about our schools, what you like about them, and any ideas you have. I initiated an effort by our Board that each of us host monthly office hours so that one of us is available each week of the month. I host my office hours every month, on the third Saturday from 10-12 at Cafe Leila at 1724 San Pablo Ave. (Note: This week, Oct. 15, Appel’s office hours are from 1-3 p.m. at Cafe Leila because she is walking for Measure E-1.)

I am also available by email at

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? No more than $10,000

A final thought? E-1, the BSEP renewal, is the single most important issue on the local ballot. Join me in renewing our community’s commitment to essential funding for our public schools. Measure E-1 needs a two-thirds “YES” vote to pass. Please help us ensure a high quality education for all our kids by voting “YES” on Measure E-1!

Campaign information

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See past Berkeleyside coverage related to Judy Appel. See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

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