Name: Jose Luis Bedolla, 50, nonprofit CEO
What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley School Board
What is the main reason you are running? I am a frustrated parent. COVID-19 exposed existing failures in our current educational system–inequities, disparate experiences, and our tacit acceptance of those failures. Vision 2020 had the goal of narrowing the “achievement gap” among racial groups, but large gaps remain in all key metrics. This is not acceptable. We are not serving our students as we should. BUSD is a public entity and everyone who lives here pays taxes. Yet, there is no public outrage about this opportunity gap. We keep talking about the problem but have not found the political will to realize the solution. I am running to ensure accountability and results. We must believe that we can do better.
Why are you qualified? I have lived experience as a parent of three BUSD students. I have felt their struggles and have seen what went well and the myriad ways the district has not served them. Professionally, I have experience working at Fortune 500 companies managing departments with multi-million dollar budgets that provide complex products and services. I also have worked in multiple start-up companies and the nonprofit sector, including Habitat for Humanity. BUSD is a large entity of approximately 10,000 students. It deals with complex issues with budget constraints. BUSD and Berkeley deserve experienced professional management that can address systematic change with out of the box thinking and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is what I can bring to the board.
What sets you apart from other candidates? What sets me apart from others is my life, work experience, and my team. I came from immigrant farmworkers and am an immigrant myself. I know the value of a good education and how it can serve as a great equalizer. Thanks to public schools, I have a BA from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Georgetown. My work experience has thought me how to run large organizations, manage people, and bring about change. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. But I promise to do my homework, to base my policy positions on solid academic research, and to listen to parents, which is one of the key things BUSD does not do enough of right now. My campaign is led by frustrated parents, disillusioned students, professors of education who have spent decades studying educational policy, and my sheer frustration about how, in a district, city, and state with so many resources, we still are failing so many of our most vulnerable students. Berkeley has long stood for an aspirational of what our society can be. Our school district should live up to that vision. Right now it does not.
What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? Public education brought me to Berkeley. I had the privilege to come to Berkeley and work my way through Cal. This is my second time back. I returned with my family in 2008 when my wife was offered a Berkeley faculty position. I have lived in Berkeley for 17 non-consecutive years. My three children have attended BUSD schools. One has graduated BHS and is now attending college. One is at BHS and the youngest is at Longfellow. I root for all things Berkeley, most importantly its public schools.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Over the next five years, Berkeley will need to have managed the COVID crisis while not leaving its minoritized students behind. Given the inequities already present before the crisis, not leaving a generation of children behind is the unprecedented challenge our district is facing. We cannot face this moment with the failed solutions from the past; we need to be bold, experimental, and laser-focused on our most vulnerable families. Only by serving them can we hope to be successful.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? Education is an interesting domain, one where everyone thinks, because they went to school, they have the answers. But the questions and solutions are complicated. There is no magic bullet. What we need to commit to is the hard work needed to achieve a shared vision where every student can reach their full potential. To do that, we need to focus on what research has shown to work in other districts. Using studies from the Learning Policy Institute, we see that California districts that have been highly successful serving BIPOC students have: (1) a shared vision that prioritizes learning for every child; (2) instructionally engaged leaders; (3) a strong and stable teacher workforce; (4) collaborative professional development opportunities for their teachers; (5) curriculum and assessment focused on deeper learning rather than rote memorization; (6) an emphasis on using of evidence to inform teaching and learning; (7) systemic, holistic supports for students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and (8) family and community engagement. We need to build a Berkeley Promise Neighborhood, leveraging all our varied service resources from the city, county, state, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors to provide our students with the wrap-around services they need to thrive in school. This crisis is an opportunity to focus on what matters, to leverage the resources we do have, and to re-commit ourselves to an aspirational vision of an educational system that serves all.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Berkeley is already at the cutting edge by being a fully integrated district. We need to take that to the next level and show that integrated schools can be academically successful, not just the higher income. That alone would be revolutionary. Looking at the statistics, we can see the difference start early in kindergarten readiness. By third grade, the disparity becomes a gulf. I want to attack the issue at the genesis and train the student and parents as to the expectation for success.
How will you be accessible to constituents? I want to hear from you and for you to know what I am doing. I will be accessible via phone, email, FB, Zoom, etc. — all the communication channels available right now. I plan to hold “virtual” office hours via electronic signup and a second set of office hours reserved for responses to individual questions. More generally, I plan to have an electronic newsletter to make sure I’m communicating what is happening. When the pandemic ends, I intend to have open in-person meetings.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $5,000-$10,000
Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. My children, food, and technology are my passions. Even though I did not know anything about soccer, I became my daughter’s team manager (U07 Spurs). My son decided to take up badminton and I had to learn another sport. My eldest daughter decided to try wrestling. I was happy to learn more and drive across Northern CA to for all of them. I had multiple jobs working my way through Cal. One was cooking at a Japanese restaurant. This sparked my passion for cooking. I watched Julia Child and Jacques Pepin to learn the French technique. I am the only one in my family who has our mole recipe. I have three patents to my name, all in the field of hybrid navigation systems. I helped build Toyota’s Telematics and Satellite Radio businesses.