Name: Ana Vasudeo, 38, Safe Routes to School senior transportation planner
What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley School Board
What is the main reason you are running? I am running for School Board because I believe that all our students can reach their full potential with the right support systems. As a bilingual Latinx candidate and first-generation college graduate, I know first-hand how important community and school partnerships are in closing our opportunity gaps. As the mother of two boys in Berkeley public schools, I feel responsible for ensuring that our public school system builds a strong foundation for our youth. Furthemore, as a Safe Routes to School Transportation Planner, I have dedicated my career to creating safe streets for our students. It would be my greatest honor to serve Berkeley public schools.
Why are you qualified?
As an active Berkeley parent, I have held leadership positions in both site and districtwide PTAs. I have fought for our students by:
-Advocating alongside the Berkeley Federation of Teachers to ensure that our schools are better funded.
-Partnering with Walk Bike Berkeley to pass Vision Zero to keep our children safe on their way to and from school.
-Serving as Vice-President of Equity and Inclusion on the Berkeley PTA Council to give families of color more of a voice in decision-making.
As a professional Safe Routes to School leader, I currently oversee a districtwide program to ensure that 55,000 children can get to school safely. I bring practical government experience and strong fiscal management skills to this position.
What sets you apart from other candidates? I am the only candidate with the endorsement of the entire current Berkeley School Board. Furthermore, I am the only candidate with direct experience overseeing COVID-19 response efforts for schools on a professional level. At the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), I am our agency’s lead contact for transportation issues related to schools reopening. I will bring years of practical government experience and strong fiscal management skills to the Berkeley School Board. Furthermore, my life experience as a first-generation college graduate and English-language learner gives me the unique perspective of navigating the school system as a member of our most vulnerable communities. I understand first-hand the institutional barriers that our most vulnerable families face and I am committed to addressing these as a School Board member. Lastly, since our only Latinx School Board member is not seeking reelection, it’s important that we have a School Board that represents the rich diversity of our student body. I’m looking forward to being a bridge between the school district and Berkeley’s Latinx community.
What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? I was born and raised in Berkeley and San Francisco in a Nicaraguan immigrant family. My family first moved to Berkeley when I was a teenager and my brother was attending U.C. Berkeley. I moved back to Berkeley after graduating from Cornell University with my master’s degree in environmental and land use planning. My husband and I decided to buy our first home in Berkeley in 2014 and raise our boys here because we value Berkeley’s diversity and progressive ideals.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years?
-Closing the opportunity gaps. Our equity gaps have only worsened with COVID-19. We desperately need childcare for essential workers.
-Fighting for increased funding for our schools. Our schools are grossly underfunded and we need to continue to advocate for adequate funding.
-Making data-driven funding decisions. There are many pilot programs happening in our schools but the school district has not adequately invested resources in evaluating their success.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? As a professional with experience overseeing a $2.8 million budget and robust evaluation plan as part of Safe Routes to School, I will work hard to ensure that I am making data-driven decisions for our school district. As a member of the Berkeley School Board, I will advocate for strong evaluation of our programs.
Furthemore, as a professional working on the COVID-19 response for schools in San Francisco, I’m very impressed by how the city has convened working groups with various stakeholders to come up with solutions like the Community Hubs Initiative, which provide additional support for children of essential workers. We are already seven months into the pandemic and we have not figured out a way to provide childcare to our most vulnerable families in Berkeley. We need stronger city and school district partnerships to coordinate on short-term and long-term solutions for closing our opportunity gaps. For the short-term solutions, we should be coordinating on issues such as public WiFi for all our students during distance learning. For long-term solutions, we need to think more comprehensively about leveraging our partnerships to close the opportunity gaps for African American learners, Latinx students, and students with disabilities.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? I’d like to push the district and city to launch something like San Francisco’s Community Hubs so we can offer children neighborhood based places to go to for distance learning. Schools provide many wraparound services for families beyond just academics. Recognizing this as part of our COVID-19 response is important. I’d love to launch similar hubs in Berkeley to help vulnerable students such as African-American learners, Latinx students, students with disabilities, homeless and foster youth.
How will you be accessible to constituents? I have made it a point in my campaign to be accessible to our diverse BUSD families. I have hosted community forums in Spanish and English with families from various schools to understand their challenges with distance learning. I enjoy authentically engaging with diverse communities. As a strong believer in community-based solutions, I will be available by phone or email and will host bilingual office hours.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? ~$20,000
Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. As someone who is passionate about active transportation, my favorite activity is to bike around Berkeley with my family. My youngest son has learning differences and it’s very therapeutic for him to bike. As a family, you can find us on the Ohlone Greenway on the weekends biking around town. It’s my passion for active transportation that inspires me to work with groups like Walk Bike Berkeley and advocate for safe streets in Berkeley. In addition to biking, I love making homemade chai! My husband is South Asian and I prefer to drink chai or turmeric milk vs. coffee in the morning.