Tonight’s Committee of the Whole was a look at what has been happening at the Superintendent’s Zones in the Mission and Bayview neighborhoods of the City. These zones comprise schools that primarily serve low-income students and those impacted most by the racial achievement gap in our schools – all 10 SIG schools are also located in either the Mission or Bayview zones. (SIG schools have been designated as persistently-underperforming by the state, and therefore are eligible to receive additional funding for three years in order to improve their performance.)
San Francisco Unified has 10 SIG schools, including: Bryant Elementary, Chavez Elementary, John Muir Elementary, Everett Middle School, Horace Mann Middle School, Mission High School and John O’Connell High School are in the Mission Zone; Carver Elementary, Paul Revere K-8 and Willie Brown 4-8 are in the Bayview Zone. There are five additional (non-SIG) schools in the two zones: Bret Harte Elementary, Drew Elementary, Malcolm X Elementary, and Thurgood Marshall High School are in the Bayview Zone; Flynn Elementary is in the Mission Zone. The Mission Zone is led by Assistant Superintendent Guadalupe Guerreo and his team; the Bayview Zone is led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patricia Gray and her team.
Tonight’s presentation focused on the various strategies each team is using at their schools, as well as specific goals each Zone has set for its schools, such as “double-digit growth in the number of students scoring at proficient or above on the the Math and English/Language Arts CST test for 2010-11,” (from the Bayview Zone presentation.
Public comment centered mostly on the need for more and better public engagement around the changes that are happening at the various schools, SIG and otherwise. Families and staff are communicating with Board members to say that they feel they are not being consulted about the big initiatives and plans going on around them — I am definitely hearing that people feel bewildered and less than fully up-to-date on what is happening, but I also know that the staff in both Zones are spending significant time trying to communicate with families. So I think that perceived communications failures are probably about the methods that are or are not being used to get the word out, and the time that is available to do the communicating (not much after the demands of the work itself). Communicating about change and initiatives that get schools and families out of their comfort zones is not something this district does particularly well (does any school district?) so I am not surprised we are hearing this particular complaint.
Staff from Bret Harte and Horace Mann were on hand to specifically talk about issues in implementing the Zones at their schools — Bret Harte staff have complained several times now about prescriptive strategies and top-down management; Horace Mann staff are concerned about the implications of the announced merger of their school with Buena Vista Elementary.
There was a lot more in the 2+hour presentation, but those are the highlights. The Board’s job will be to return to this initiative several more times before the end of the year, to monitor our investments and the academic outcomes. The next opportunity to check in on the work of the Zones will be the March Budget Committee meeting, now tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, March 30 at 5 p.m. (yes, that is Spring Break).