Current and future Berkeley School Board members say goodbye to Josh Daniels and Karen Hemphill. From left: Daniels, Ka’Dijah Brown, Julie Sinai, Hemphill, Judy Appel, Donald Evans, Ty Alper, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Arvin Hariri. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Wednesday’s Berkeley School Board meeting was the last for Karen Hemphill and Josh Daniels, who have served on the board for 12 and eight years, respectively.

The unconventional meeting was more of a farewell party for the now former board members, who were each given the floor to say their goodbyes — and whatever else they wanted.

Each official’s outgoing remarks reflected that board member’s leadership style: Daniels’ a data-driven presentation and methodical reflection, and Hemphill’s a long and passionate speech in which she did not mince words.

Hemphill excoriated what she described as rampant racism and implicit bias in Berkeley’s schools and the city, saying black students are set up to struggle.

In her dozen years on the board, the district has added extensive, important resources, Hemphill said, and yet “we have failed to significantly solve our biggest challenge: overcoming the achievement gap.”

Daniels contemplated his achievements and failures during his two terms on the board and left his colleagues with one over-arching message, supported by data tables and graphs. He told them to thoughtfully target their spending and programs.

“When you focus a lot of resources on a small number of students, you move the needle,” he said.

The two board members decided long before the election not to run again. Ty Alper, incumbent, Ka’Dijah Brown, the board’s first active K-12 teacher, and Julie Sinai, LifeLong Medical executive and former appointed board member, handily won the three open seats.

Watch Daniels’ and Hemphill’s remarks:

(If the video doesn’t load, click “Watch this video on YouTube.” The speeches start at the 1:35:00 mark.)

Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...