We are longtime Berkeley residents and parents of Berkeley Unified School District students. Education is an issue that hits home for us. We know it’s the best tool for social justice we have, but for too long, academic excellence in BUSD has taken a back seat.

Berkeley should be a place where we have enviable student success. Not a place where more than one-third of all BUSD students have not met English and math standards in 2018-2019. (More recent test results are incomplete due to the pandemic.) In 2021, 40% of our high school student body did not meet the minimum requirements to apply to a University of California or California State University college. The outcomes become alarmingly worse for our Black and Brown students.

Whether you are a parent like us or a community member, this should stop you in your tracks. How can this be acceptable for a district that receives as much money and community support as we have in Berkeley?

We believe Reichi Lee is the most qualified candidate for the Berkeley school board for a number of reasons. She is an involved parent in BUSD and is personally invested in its success. A university administrator, Reichi is the only candidate with student achievement at the top of her priorities and a lengthy track record to back it up. She wants to give all students what they need to catch up, excel, and feel challenged and excited about learning, and she supports a focus on strong literacy and math skills. 

Reichi has direct experience setting up programs that support student success while applying an equity-focused lens. As the director of academic achievement at Golden Gate University, one of the most diverse law schools in the country, Reichi developed curricula to help students with the highest needs succeed. Her work focused on study skills, reading comprehension, writing and critical analysis. 

As the associate dean for online education at GGU, her experience with online course design and the use of educational technology to accelerate learning is unmatched, a valuable asset to our post-shutdown schools.

An educator, Reichi knows that teaching and the student-teacher relationship are the most important variables in student learning, and she understands the need to support our dedicated teachers and staff. At GGU, she trained faculty on developing measurable learning outcomes and meaningful assessments, and is a nationally recognized expert on differentiated learning and academic support. Here at home, as chair of the School Site Council and a member of the Coalition for Anti-Racism at Rosa Parks Elementary, Reichi advocated for an inclusive school environment for all and increased funding for afterschool staff. In addition to pay increases, Reichi would like to see a classroom aide for each teacher.

Reichi also believes that excellence means access to outstanding opportunities, like learning a foreign language. She led an effort to bring a Mandarin-immersion district elementary school to a neighboring town that serves a racially and socio-economically diverse student population — kids who would not have been able to access a foreign language otherwise. 

Most of all, we support Reichi because she is a child advocate at heart. She has experience representing foster youth in Alameda County who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse. She fought zealously for their safety, permanence, education rights, and mental and physical well-being. This included advocating for their rights in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, truancy proceedings, and suspension and expulsion hearings.

As we come out of the pandemic, we can’t afford a business-as-usual approach. We need strong, equity-focused, child-centered, solution-seekers like Reichi who will put our children and progress at the top of every agenda. Please join us in voting for Reichi Lee!

S. Abby Ejigu is the parent of three children in elementary, middle and high school in BUSD and co-chair of the African American and African Descent Advisory Council at Rosa Parks Elementary. Deminika Spears is the parent of four children, with three in elementary, middle and high school in BUSD and former PTA president at Ruth Acty Elementary. Elizabeth Mackenzie is the parent of two children in middle and high school in BUSD and co-PTA president at King Middle School. Jose Luis Bedolla is the parent of two children at Berkeley High School and a former member of the BHS Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) Committee. Josh Buswell-Charkow is the parent of two elementary school children in BUSD.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

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