Meeting recap: Tuesday, May 24

Congratulations to all of our graduating students, and especially those who won scholarships from United Administrators of SF, United Educators of SF, and various other educator organizations. Some very impressive young people are graduating from SFUSD schools and going on to great things this week, and being reminded of that fact was definitely a bright spot to start the meeting.

  • The Board voted to place a $531 million facilities bond on the November ballot, amending the list of sites potentially included in the bond to reflect the possibility of doing work at 135 Van Ness and 1950 Mission St.
  • The Board heard a report from our independent auditor of our bond program (Varinek, Trine & Day) as well as from the Vice Chair of the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (Michael Theriault).  The audits are again squeaky clean (“the notable thing about the audit is that there is virtually nothing notable about the audit,” in the words of Mr. Theriault.)
  • The Board heard for first reading a revised student assignment policy that uses the middle school feeder plan as a tiebreaker until the 2016-17 school year, at which time it would become an initial assignment for every incoming 6th grade student (students would be able to participate in a choice process in subsequent rounds).  The Board will hear the plan at the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment now scheduled for 6 pm on May 31, a meeting that will also be televised.
  • Lots of public comment, since the end of the year is coming and controversial decisions are being made on personnel and budgeting. The lion’s share of the public comment came from the Bayview, where parents are frustrated and tired of waiting for change to come. Many community members came to speak about recent events at Willie Brown MS, which will close for good at the end of June (after district summer school concludes);  promotion ceremonies have been disrupted, unpleasant incidents have occurred between families and staff, and at least one staff member has been placed on administrative leave in connection with the general unrest and unhappiness at the school. Closing schools is never easy, and closing a school in a community that feels eternally shortchanged is an extra affront.
  • A number of commenters also spoke about the STAR Arts Program, which provides itinerant art teachers to STAR schools (a previous district reform that designated certain schools as warranting extra, centrally-funded resources like a parent liaison and other things — among them an art teacher).  The STAR art funding is on hold until we have more clarity from the state;  the program is also being retooled based on feedback from school sites.  A few students from Wallenberg High School came to speak about their art teacher, Emily Van Dyke, a fabulous teacher who received a pink slip. I’m told the Wallenberg art teaching position remains funded, but because other art teachers are being cut elsewhere in the district, Ms. Van Dyke may lose her position because she has less seniority than others.  In the end, it doesn’t matter, because a cut is a cut is a cut — when school starts next year, somewhere there won’t be an art teacher.  Based on what I’ve heard about Ms. Van Dyke, though, I really hope we can find a way to keep her.
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5 responses to “Meeting recap: Tuesday, May 24

  1. I am really confused. “As” says the Board is considering abandoning virtual K-8s or what you call feeders, and SF Mom is worried that you are not going to abandon them.

  2. Rachel, I’m still really confused and would appreciate it if you would explain why you and other members of the BOE believe that changing to a system of neighborhood elementary schools that feed into designated middle schools will close the ubiquitous “achievement gap” and provide greater equity, particularly if busing will be significantly reduced. It seems to me that this plan will have exactly the opposite effect of what it is purported to accomplish.

  3. Is there a way to see what the ‘new’ middle school feeder plan (or lack thereof) is going to be unveiled on May 31st? Is the board really abandoning the idea of virtual K-8 schools til 2016? It is really too bad for those of us that like the plan….

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I’m concerned about the effect of a ballot measure for neighborhoods schools. With all the single and childless families in San Francisco, what is the likelihood of this measure passing against the will of those invested in the system and what can SFUSD do to make sure it doesn’t pass? What would be the political affect should it pass? Does it have any power to affect change in your well researched and thoughtful new student assignment system?

  5. Hi Rachel,
    From your post about the closure of Willie Brown MS and the findings in the PPS/PAC report on middle schools, it appears that the families of the Bayview really want a quality middle school in their neighborhood. Would there be a way for SFUSD and the BOE to continue the dialogue with families in the Bayview on how to best develop a middle school there? If you have an active group of parents, would it be possible to collaborate with them in creating a Bayview middles school that would support students and their families? Are there specific services and programs that parents would like to see? What are the ways in which Bayview parents would like to participate and support their neighborhood school? It seems that the conversation has been started, it would be great to see how it would progress.