Six candidates are competing for three seats on the Berkeley Unified school board. Top (left to right): Ka’Dijah Brown, Mike Chang, Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos. Bottom: Norma Harrison, Reichi Lee, Jennifer Shanoski. Credit: Marina Small, Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Update, Nov. 18, 5 p.m. Ka’Dijah Brown, Mike Chang and Jennifer Shanoski have earned the seats on the Berkeley school board after all the ballots were counted Friday evening.

Reichi Lee, who raised the most money of any school board candidate in recent history, finished fourth, missing a seat by 1,000 votes.

The results are not legally finalized until an audit has been completed and, in close races, the count can be inaccurate.

Updated, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. Incumbent Ka’Dijah Brown has a firm lead in the race for three at-large seats on the Berkeley school board that has drawn an unusual amount of attention this year.

Three candidates — Jennifer Shanoski, chemistry professor and president of Peralta Colleges’ teachers union, civil rights attorney Mike Chang and Reichi Lee, a former dean at Golden Gate Law school — are competing for two remaining spots, all within a few hundred votes of each as more results were reported Thursday evening. Special education advocate Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos and community activist Norma Harrison trailed the field.

Brown, Chang, Lee and Shanoski have been front-runners in the race, having earned key endorsements, although Guerrerio Ramos also held her own, running a campaign focused on improving how the school district serves students with disabilities.

In Berkeley, school board directors are elected at-large, which means you can cast votes for your top three candidates, regardless of where you live in the city. Unlike some other offices in Berkeley, school board directors are not elected using ranked-choice voting. 

Many of the school board candidates share, broadly speaking, a progressive stance on education, agreeing that disparities in academic achievement are among the district’s biggest challenges. Other top issues include sexual harm and mental health.

But, despite the similarities among the candidates, the race has been the most contentious and costly in recent memory. Groups associated with teachers unions poured $55,000 into backing their endorsed candidates — Chang, Shanoski and Brown — while Lee raised $55,000 as of Oct. 22, the most raised by a school board candidate since at least 2008.

Lee is a rare candidate who, with five city council member endorsements, has a chance at a seat without the backing of the teachers union. (In at least the last eight elections, winning school board candidates had been endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.)

Current school board directors Ty Alper and Julie Sinai’s decisions not to run for re-election mean the race could bring major change to the composition of the school board. 

The board directors, elected to four-year terms, are tasked with giving guidance on the direction of the school district. They work closely with the superintendent, provide feedback on district decisions and budget and pass their own policies and resolutions. 

Check back for updates to this breaking news story.

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.

Here are some other helpful election resources:

See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

Ally Markovich, who covers the school beat for Berkeleyside, is a former high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in The Oaklandside, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post,...