Meeting recap: March 13, 2012

Update: I was so tired last night I completely forgot to mention another bright spot from the meeting — an update from Peer Resources on the programs they provide in 13 schools ( high schools and middle schools). This is a fabulous program that teaches teens conflict resolution and leadership skills, and it has changed a lot of lives! It’s a program of the San Francisco Education Fund that needs to be in every high school and middle school. Thanks to Peer Resources for an uplifting report. 

Anger over the Board’s Feb. 28 vote on layoffs continues. We had a large group of UESF members and other labor supporters address the board to oppose the layoffs, and the Board’s 5-1 decision to skip teachers at 14 lower-performing schools.

Some of the arguments were economic: do we really need to do layoffs? What about the district’s reserves? My answer to those questions is that the reserves aren’t enough for the worst case scenario if the tax proposals currently headed to the ballot fail, if the state’s revenues continue to falter and negotiations on the new contract do not produce any savings over projected costs for 2012-13.

Some of the arguments were political: We should be arguing with Sacramento, not amongst ourselves; The district’s layoff strategy is divisive and represents union-busting; Other schools are just as needy as those the district chose to skip. I agree that we should place the blame with Sacramento, but I don’t agree that skipping the SZ schools is union-busting. In voting for the skip my intent was not to weaken the union, but instead to support — in a limited way– schools that have under-performed for generations.  My friends at UESF strongly disagree. Are there more underperforming schools that could benefit by keeping their teachers? YES. But skipping the 25 hard-to-staff schools would have presented an even greater challenge to UESF and I believe for that reason, the Superintendent chose not to go there.  Still, several of us quietly agreed with the El Dorado staff when they told us we had not gone far enough to do anything for their school.  (And I must give an annual shoutout to the El Dorado staff for the way they stand up for their school and for each other. They don’t think much of the Board or district leadership, but anyway I do appreciate their efforts and their advocacy. People are listening, even if maybe you think they aren’t.)

Several members of the Martin Luther King Jr. High community came to talk to us about discipline, leadership and personnel issues at their school; we also heard from several parents of children who are eligible for Transitional Kindergarten and remain unhappy with the district’s decision to go ahead with opening two TK programs — one in Visitacion Valley and one in the Bayview.

Board members unanimously passed a resolution in support of the SF Botanical Garden Society’s plans to upgrade its educational programs through the construction of a “Center for Sustainable Gardening.” These programs benefit thousands of SF public school students each year and I was glad to author a resolution that brings  the Society’s dream of a true education center at the Botanical Garden a bit closer to reality.

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3 responses to “Meeting recap: March 13, 2012

  1. It’s obvious to me that SFUSD and BOE just doesn’t really care about the TK students. They are relying on the fact that parents with any means to pay for preschool will not take advantage of public TK given the dismal options being offered. They are then hoping that the open spaces that would have previously be taken by these young kids will be filled up by 5 year old students who would have otherwise gone to a private school for lack of space in an acceptable public school. Unfortunately, those of us affected are screwed.

  2. Parents are unhappy with the districts plans for TK, because those two locations aren’t realistic options them. We live in Western Addition – a pretty central location. The closer of the two locations is more than 5 miles away from where we live. I believe that an important metric used by SFUSD when trying to find Elementary School placements for students is that they are able to offer of a school within 2 miles of the students home address. Why is this standard being completely ignored for TK students?

    I also want to note that I have been trying to find out a few basic details about these new TK programs. It would seem that no-one can tell me how long the school day will be. Start time and end time are also unknowns, and no-one can even begin to talk about the curriculum. How are parents supposed to sign on for these programs when they know nothing about them? The district has given TK parents no reason to trust them so far.

    SFUSD is making it up as they go along and are doing a huge disservice to the children caught in the middle of this. SFUSD has broken it’s promises pretty badly over this issue. I would like to see SFUSD engage with parents to come up with a workable solution to this mess.

  3. Transitional k at Bayview and Visitacion Valley is patently unfair and geographically nonsensical. Why would you put the only two options relatively close to each other in the worst part of town. Seems to me the BOE and the SFUSD is now just saying they don’t care about folks on the west side of the city or the north side of the city.

    Is the SFUSD trying to wage a war against middle income families in preference for low income families from Bayview and Visitacion Valley?

    The whole school district would get more parent involvement and benefit everyone if you just stuck with local schools and stopped trying to socially engineer some solution.