Meeting recap: 1/11/11

Congratulations to Commissioners Mendoza and Yee, who were elected President and VP of the Board, respectively, for the 2011 calendar year. And to Commissioner Murase, who sat for her first meeting as a member of the Board of Education — the first Japanese-American woman to be elected to any San Francisco public office.

The Board reviewed the findings of the district’s annual financial audit, which was basically clean with a few issues here and there, mostly around recordkeeping in the district’s Child Development and Excel afterschool programs. The auditor expressed confidence that staff is addressing the issues, which he characterized as not particularly serious, but deserving of attention in order to keep our eligibility for state and federal dollars that fund these programs.

The Board also heard the annual “State of the Station” report from KALW (91.7 FM), the public radio station operated by the school district. Some of you might know KALW as the place to listen to our bimonthly school board meetings, but they offer a lot of other wonderful programming too (they also provide some opportunities for students to learn about broadcast journalism).  Like other public radio stations, KALW depends on listener support to fund its programming (the school district expects the station to be independent, but does provide office space at Burton HS and some administrative support for budgeting and human resources). However, though expenses have remained constant at about $1.7 million a year, the economic downturn has caused a decline in their fundraising. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, the station saw giving decline by almost 15 percent. It has since rebounded a bit, but remains well below earlier years.

So . . . you can probably guess what is coming. KALW has asked the district for a $200,000 line of credit through June 2010 to help it maintain cash flow.  In an agreement worked out with the Superintendent, the station will repay (with interest) any withdrawals from that line of credit.  Joseph Grazioli, the district’s Chief Financial Officer, expressed confidence in the station’s financial management and its plan to hire a new Development Director. KALW’s General Manager Matt Martin told the Board that the station plans to pursue new avenues for foundation support and other fundraising, putting the station on a firmer footing for the future.

Though I have some worries (the language in KALW’s audit expressed doubts about whether the station will, ultimately, be able to remain independently-funded), I think the line of credit is a reasonable and not-too-risky step to keep such a valuable property afloat (FCC licenses aren’t exactly lying around for the taking.) KALW provides a valuable service to the community and is well-loved by its loyal listener base, so I believe it is sound to maintain this investment — unless the station’s financial condition were to worsen at some point in the future.

As one of her first acts as a Board member, Commissioner Murase co-authored (with Commissioner Fewer) a resolution honoring Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who fought a long legal battle to oppose the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The Murase/Fewer resolution (which was adopted unanimously, with a request to add all Board members’ names as co-authors) establishes January 30 as the Fred. T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in SFUSD, and encourages all schools and teachers to observe this date with activities commemorating the spirit and meaning of Fred Korematsu’s life — recognizing the need to preserve and protect our civil rights and liberties, even in times of real or perceived crisis (read the full resolution here — highly recommended).

Finally, the Superintendent introduced two items for first reading: the proposed spending plan for the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) in 2011-12, and a request by Edison Charter Academy to renew its charter. The PEEF plan will be heard by the Board at a Committee of the Whole on January 18 at 6 p.m., and the Edison Charter Academy renewal petition  will be head by the Budget and Curriculum committees later in the month (dates/times TBA, watch the SFUSD web site). Though Edison is chartered by the State, it must appeal to the governing board of the district where it is located for a renewal.

The meeting was adjourned in the memory of  several recently-deceased SFUSD staff members and and a student, as well as the victims of the mass shooting in Tucson, AZ on January 8.

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One response to “Meeting recap: 1/11/11

  1. Katie Russell

    I was quite surprised about the KLAW financial situation which was discussed last night (and yes, I was listening to their broadcast of the meeting, a service I greatly appreciate). Since I listen to that station EVERY SINGLE DAY, I guess I better pledge!