Twenty-one percent. That is the percentage of Latinx students enrolled in the Berkeley Unified School District. With the departure of Beatriz Leyva-Cutler and Judy Appel in November, we are left with the unique opportunity to elect Ana Vasudeo to the School Board, a progressive voice for immigrant communities.
Not only would Ana’s seat at the dais maintain a fair proportional representation, but it would also incorporate a dynamic woman to the board: a coalition builder who would urgently meet the ever-fluctuating needs of students, staff, administrators, facilities and community members in the BUSD.
Ana’s current professional work as the senior transportation planner in charge of the Safe Routes to Schools Program in San Francisco and her agency’s role as their COVID-19 lead on issues related to schools reopening, gives her the unique experience she needs to serve as a liaison and lead us in addressing and creating actionable plans around some of the most pressing issues impacting all students and their families: transportation, climate change and, most recently, COVID-19.
In her capacity as vice-president of equity and inclusion on Berkeley PTA Council, Ana has already been advocating for our students and their families with one strong voice and two perfectly spoken languages. Because Ana is bilingual, as a board member she would open a channel for Spanish-speaking families to communicate their concerns to the board and to give public comment in Spanish, knowing they’ll be listened to and understood.
Ana would serve as a vital and vibrant role model for all of our dual language learners and her bilingual and bicultural partnership with Superintendent Stephens would underscore the need to expand and continue to strengthen the dual immersion program from K-12 for as many of our students as possible, including heritage language learners.
As we reach for our pens to fill in our ballots, we must pause to consider which values we want to see represented in our elected officials. It is imperative that those representatives mirror for us the attitudes that we want to see reflected in our communities.
Ana Vasudeo carries with her both the professional experience to serve as a School Board Director and a consistent and contagious passion for the wellbeing of everyone around her. Her capacity for demonstrating active listening dovetails with a sharp curiosity that instinctually seeks to improve the situation of others. Her warmth and affability make her extremely approachable and her life experiences make her exceptionally relatable.
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, the only Latinx School Board member, is leaving her position on the BUSD Board in November. Her contributions over the last 12 years are countless and impactful, and her strong Latinx identity allows her to understand the barriers that our students, many of them students of color, face. She is a beloved champion for our community, pridefully reveling in it and courageously fighting for it. It is exactly this culturally competent understanding that our Latinx families will miss when she retires. But we won’t have to live without it. Ana Vasudeo has been building trust, capacity, and knowledge for this position for many years. She is prepared to serve and we, her gente, are honored to stand with her. We urge you to do the same.