Sean Dugar had been thinking about running for the Board of Education for some time. But last weekend, he checked in for one last time with his closest advisers – his parents.
They were quite supportive.
“I’m very proud of our son,” said Toni Dugar, mother of the 17-year-old Berkeley High School senior. “He’s very involved. He knows what he’s doing.”
Dugar, who formally declared his candidacy at the school board meeting Wednesday night, has joined a growing field of candidates for three slots on the board. Incumbents Shirley Issel and Terry Doran, and activists Derick Miller and Nancy Riddle have also declared their candidacies.
BHS discipline dean and long-time chair of the African-American Studies Department Robert McKnight said he will almost certainly run in November, and nutrition activist Joy Moore has declared her interest.
Incumbent Ted Schultz has announced he will retire at the end of this term. Board members John Selawsky and Joaquin Rivera are not up for re-election this year.
Dugar, one of two representatives from the senior class who serves on the BHS student leadership team, has made several appearances at school board meetings this year, criticizing Superintendent Michele Lawrence and members of the board for budget cuts. On March 6, he helped lead 200 students in a walk-out to protest the shift from a seven- to a six-period day next year.
Lawrence has argued that the move will lead to longer classes and more instructional time over the course of the year, while saving the financially-strapped district some money. But activists, including Dugar, have raised concerns about the reductions in double-period science and electives that will result.
Dugar said the major theme of his campaign will be increasing the student voice in district decision-making.
“Education is all about students,” said Dugar. “I just think students should have input on any decisions made about us.”
As a board member, Dugar said, he would push for an advisory committee composed entirely of students, and would work to place students on all of the other advisory committees.
“That idea would be very helpful,” said Doran, who welcomed Dugar into the race. “I think it’s fantastic that a student is that committed and thinks he can do the job.”
“I think Sean’s a great guy and he has a lot of enthusiasm,” said Miller.
“A lot of candidates entering the race early is a good thing,” he continued, arguing that it will lead to “substantive dialogue” about the issues.
Dugar said closing the “achievement gap” that separates white and Asian-American students from African-Americans and Latinos would be a chief concern. He said he would boost African-American, Chicano/Latino and other ethnic studies programs to address the problem.
Dugar said he had mixed views about the movement to divide Berkeley High into a series of themed, small schools – a measure, proponents say, that would help close the achievement gap.
“I think small schools are a good idea, but there are questions about small schools that haven’t been answered,” he said, raising particular concerns about whether they would lead to racial segregation of BHS students by small school.
Dugar turns 18 in June, making him eligible to run for the board. He has deferred admission to Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school in Providence, Rhode Island, until the winter. If he wins, Dugars says, he will stay in Berkeley and plans to attend City College of San Francisco.