Name: Julie Sinai, 57
Job: Chief Strategy Officer, LifeLong Medical Care
Why are you running for School Board?
As a long-time Berkeley resident, parent of two BUSD graduates, and experienced policymaker, I pledge to ensure all Berkeley students graduate ready to take charge of their education, their career and their future. Preparing students for today’s world requires a full-throated commitment to literacy, math, science, technology and career exploration. I will focus on strengthening BUSD’s curriculum, professional training and use of data by doing what I do best: harnessing the expertise and resources of our region’s world-renowned colleges and universities, community organizations, local governments, businesses, labor, teachers and parents/guardians. With an unwavering commitment to eliminate the opportunity gap, I will promote rigorous program evaluation and ensure fiscal responsibility.
Why are you qualified for the position?
For 30 years I’ve demonstrated passionate, results-oriented leadership in nearly every arena impacting our children’s lives — child development, K-12, afterschool care, higher education, healthcare and employment services, the Berkeley School Board (appointed 2013-14) and City of Berkeley Mayor’s Office (2003-11) and city commissioner on the Children, Youth & Recreation Commission (2015-present). I have deep experience building coalitions and partnerships across jurisdictions and with broad cross sections of the community including parent groups, grassroots advocates, business, labor, non-profits and public sector institutions.
BUSD is headed toward painful budget cuts, for the second year in a row. How would you get the district in a better financial position?
I will work locally and statewide to address our budget constraints. On the state level, I would like to work with my fellow board members and statewide associations of teachers, administrators, school board directors and parents to call upon our state representatives to increase funding for public education, including advocating for reforming Prop 13. I will also work within the district with my fellow board members and administration, teacher, and staff representatives to generate recommendations to find efficiencies across the district. I will ask the superintendent to report on the implementation of the recommendations in the special-education assessment, which has the potential to generate savings while focusing on strengthening professional development and programming. There is no doubt that without additional funding from the state, Berkeley, like districts across the state, are going to have to make painful reductions. This must be done inclusively and transparently.
There are persistent, significant academic disparities along racial lines in BUSD. How would you work to close the achievement/opportunity gap?
I have maintained a steadfast commitment to increasing access and improving quality of education, jobs and health care for our traditionally under-represented residents. Ten years ago I helped launch the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth — a community vision that called for the elimination of racial predictability in academic success by the year 2020. 2020 is just 14 months away and we have not realized our vision. It is time for a renewed call to action. We know what we need to do – research tells us: Kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, ninth grade math, high school attendance, reduced disciplinary actions, family engagement, and college and career pathways, are the gateways to success. We’ve made some gains, but the gap between African American and Latino/as and white students persists. I plan to reach out to education partners at CSU East Bay, the STEM Institute, USF, UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College for both professional development for teachers and staff, and for student programming. I intend to reinvigorate our partnerships with the city and community-based organizations for family and student supportive services. I’ll call on our district administrators to demonstrate progress or tell the board and community what changes are needed.
This election follows recent violence and tragedies on school campuses, and the growth of a national movement to prevent those incidents. How would you make Berkeley schools safer?
Berkeley School Board recently approved funding for Columbine Locks and other safety measures. I support all schools, including the afterschool programs, having annual active-shooter training and training to increase safety and awareness among our students, teachers and staff. It is important to do an annual safety assessment of school grounds. I support having an anonymous hotline for students to report any sighting of a firearm or unsafe condition. I am impressed with the student activism at BHS, with Students Demand Action and the other student associations working together to end gun violence. I would like to work the city to ensure we have the strongest local gun laws and ordinances in place, that there are laws to ensure any gun owner in Berkeley is required to keep their fire arm(s) in a locked cabinet. I pledge to stand with our students to elevate their voices in the city, Sacramento and Washington D.C.
What are your two other top priorities?
1) Ensuring every student graduates ready to pursue their education and career path. That means we have eliminated the opportunity gap and we strengthen our literacy program while putting new energy into math, science, technology and career technical education. When students graduate skilled and competent in all these areas they will have greater opportunities to secure a path to a rewarding career with a living wage job.
2) Financial strength and competitive compensation packages for BUSD’s teachers and staff. We are facing serious challenges with constrained budgets. Our teachers and staff cannot afford to live in Berkeley. We are losing skilled employees and are challenged with recruiting new teachers and staff. Many of our facilities were retrofitted and renovated more than 25 years ago and need to be upgraded. The Facilities Bond and the maintenance parcel tax will be up for renewal in 2020 and we have to prepare for a robust campaign. I plan to work with stakeholders across the district, city and region to a) provide good compensation packages, b) address teacher/staff housing, c) advocate at the state level for resources and d) ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability.
What is your most inspired/unusual idea for Berkeley Unified?
To inspire every middle and high school student to dream about their future. In a structured career exploration class, each student would have a career and education portfolio that they carry with them throughout their schooling. The portfolio would be the tool that allows them to explore their dream jobs, which can and should change frequently over time. The portfolio will be a place where they can explore a career, the ladder or growth potential, the earnings, the education required, the contribution to society it may have, etc. Combined with this, I want to develop robust partnerships with local business and higher education where Berkeley teachers could benefit from externships to experience how their subject matter is applied in today’s world and they would bring the experience back into the classroom. I would like teachers and staff to have a space on a wall or website that paints a picture of the education and career path that brought them to where they are now. Students should be comfortable knowing we all experience transitions, changes, and quite possibly curvy, bumpy roads along the way, but with skills, knowledge, persistence, flexibility and vision they can achieve their goals — their dreams.
How will you be accessible to constituents?
I will always have an open door policy and I’ll be accessible via email and cell with a commitment to return messages within 48 hours (24 hours if urgent). When I was an appointed School Board director in 2013, I held monthly “open office hours” that rotated across the city.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $25,000 to $30,000
Find Julie Sinai online: Website