Name: Ka’Dijah Brown, 27
Profession: Public school teacher
Why are you running for School Board?
As a proud product of Berkeley schools (Washington, Longfellow and Berkeley High), and public school teacher, I am committed to the academic and holistic success of all BUSD students. My firm belief is that education levels the playing field, provided that all students are afforded a quality education that is both equitable and accessible. As a member of the Berkeley School Board, I will be a champion for closing the equity gap, an advocate for educational and workforce pathways, promote fiscal accountability, and support best policies and practices that ensures the success of all students in our schools.
Why are you qualified for the position?
As a proud alumnus I had a first-hand experience of education in BUSD, which prepared me for this position. As a public school teacher, I am well versed in the Common Core Standards, and work daily to deliver instruction that is culturally responsive, and yields optimal results, a perspective that is needed on the School Board. As the president of my school’s Site Council, I’m well versed in school policy leading a governance body that develops our fiscal accountability plan (LCAP). In this role I evaluate student data, develop improvement plans, and engage stakeholders around decision-making that is student-centered.
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?
Unfortunately budgeting is a zero sum process in an environment of finite revenues. Budgeting is not an easy process, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In helping our district move towards financial stability I will always keep in mind what’s best for our students. Prioritizing best practices/services that address the racial/ethnic predictability of academic achievement in particular – which requires quality and supported teachers and classified staff. I will always do my best to make cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.
There are persistent, significant academic disparities along racial lines in BUSD. How would you work to close the achievement/opportunity gap?
As the president of my school’s Site Council I’ve had experience in delegating LCAP funds to support academic learning and provide supplemental support for subgroups in my school. This is one of the best ways of closing the achievement gap, supporting programs like Response to Intervention and Instruction. As a board member it will be one of my priorities to expand BUSD’s Response to Intervention and Instruction through professional development and instituting equitable funding of district resources so that schools with higher student populations of at-risk and higher needs receive appropriate funding. In addition, I believe that classroom teachers and staff are our greatest assets. I am a great believer in the power and impact of excellent teaching based upon a deep mastery of curriculum, differential learning, and “woke” understanding of diverse communities and I will support professional development to facilitate excellent and equitable teaching practices that focus on closing the achievement gap.
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? My first priority is to keep our students safe. Across the country many organizations have created programs in response to violence and mass school shootings, that if implemented would be beneficial to our students’ safety and well-being. Specifically, the Sandy Hook Promise created the Say Something Program and the Start with Hello Week. Both programs strive to promote a culture of inclusion and connectedness and empower students to notice, talk and act. These are initiatives that should be supported and adopted by our schools in an effort to keep our schools safe, paired with stricter gun laws and accessible mental health support.
What are your two other top priorities?
My priorities for the BUSD focus on support for all learners. BUSD serves a high number of English Language Learners, however we are currently seeing a change in demographics where low-income and working-class families are being pushed out due to the extreme cost of living. As a direct result, our ELLs and families are decreasing. To this end, there is a huge need for an update to the district’s Master Plan for English Language Learners. One of my first priorities would be to have an updated Master Plan that is reflective of the population that we serve, and that uses best current practices for sites with high numbers of ELLs. Secondly, we are suspending students at disproportionate rates and more work needs to be done to interrupt the School-to-Prison-Pipeline. The District would benefit from adopting and supporting mentoring programs for at-risk students, reactivating Student Court, and offering professional development trainings on Restorative Justice for faculty and staff. The district has done extraordinary work through the lens of Restorative Justice, however data shows that more word needs to be done, and it will be my priority to do the work in order to provide a transformative education for all students.
What is your most inspired/unusual idea for Berkeley Unified?
One of my inspired ideas for BUSD is to create a recruitment and retention program for teachers, specifically teachers of color similar to the Teacher of Color Preparatory Institute, or TEACH Tomorrow Oakland.
How will you be accessible to constituents?
The best School Board members are ones who are engaged with families and community members. I will always make myself available through office hours, having an open door policy regarding breaking issues.