Clarification to the Ruth Asawa SOTA community

It’s come to my attention that members of the Ruth Asawa SOTA community are planning to come to the Oct. 8 Board meeting this Tuesday out of the mistaken idea that the Board has made changes to the school’s Artist-in-Residence program (working artists are paid as consultants to work with students in their artistic disciplines as part of the school’s arts-focused program). I’m asking members of the Ruth Asawa SOTA community to share this widely to correct this misapprehension:

To: Members of the Ruth Asawa SOTA community

From: Rachel Norton, Board President

I want to reassure you that the Board of Education is not interested in curtailing or reducing the Artist-in-Residence program at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, nor have we taken any actions to change the program. In fact, on September 24 the Board unanimously approved the Superintendent’s request for Artist-in-Residence funding.

No cuts to the Artist-in-Residence program have been made or will be made this year. The Artist-in- Residence program with its full annual funding is included in the district budget that the board passed in June of 2013 and no change to that budget has taken place.

In recent years, Friends of SOTA has served as the fiscal agent for the district in administering the Artist-in-Residence program. The agreement that the district has with FoSOTA has been under review because the Board is interested in making sure that the district improves its internal administrative functions; we also take seriously our fiduciary responsibility for the democratic oversight of the expenditure of all the public tax dollars that we spend on behalf of the citizens of San Francisco. The Board has asked the Superintendent to investigate the question of what is the best and most publicly-accountable  way to pay these school district contractors, since we have several parallel programs that are paid through district processes—not a fiscal agent–efficiently and accountably. 

The Board remains more committed than ever to the program at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. We will make certain that there is no delay in the payments made for the artists as we are well aware of what an integral component of the school program they represent.

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6 responses to “Clarification to the Ruth Asawa SOTA community

  1. @Jana – thanks for sharing your view. I have made a personal commitment that the Artist-in-Residence program will not be disrupted by the request to re-evaluate how the artists are paid. I know how important it is that this part of the RA SOTA program continue to run smoothly.
    That said, as Lorraine alludes to, the district has experienced problems of various kinds with the use of fiscal agents to disburse public monies. As such, we have a responsibility — not just to students but to the taxpayers of San Francisco — to periodically evaluate whether we are being truly accountable and efficient in these arrangements. Paying the RA SOTA artists-in-residence on time is hugely important, but so are our values of transparency, equity and public governance. A Board member raised some questions about whether the district’s current arrangement with FoSOTA satisfies these values, and the Superintendent is in the process of formulating a comprehensive answer to those questions. FoSOTA has raised its own questions about what the plan is for the second half of the year, and we (I) understand we are operating on a short timeframe. While I think this kind of re-evaluation is absolutely appropriate for a school board policy discussion, I will not allow the Artist-in-Residence program to be held hostage. If we can’t resolve the questions that have been raised about the FoSOTA-district arrangement before it’s time to ink another contract, I would support inking another contract and continuing to examine the concerns. In any event, the Board will continue to ask questions and the Superintendent will continue to provide answers to those questions. We hear that the RA SOTA community does not want the artist-in-residence program disrupted — neither do we. That doesn’t mean it might be better for it to be run differently (or not).

  2. Dear President Norton,
    I am a SOTA parent. I have just learned that the Board is considering fundamental changes in the management of the Artists in Residence Program. Currently our family – and many others – donates a substantial sum to FOSOTA and to date we have been very pleased with the program provided to our child. We have been impressed with the professionalism of the artists, directors, and those that run fosota. We were extremely concerned when we learned that major changes were being considered without any input from the parent community and without any demonstrated cause. We urge you to refrain from making any substantive changes until such time as the program has been objectively and thoroughly reviewed and the parent and faculty community have had a chance to weigh in meaningfully. In the absence of any demonstrated impropriety – as distinguished from allegations- we would prefer that fosota’s management continue undisturbed.
    Best regards,
    Jana Clark

  3. A very balanced explanation. Thanks, Rachel.

  4. Colleen Ivie

    Thank you Rachel. As the ED of the Friends of SOTA, I can speak for FOSOTA and also wish to make some clarifications. FOSOTA’s handling of this matter to date has been a letter to the BOE that is posted on FOSOTA’s website. FOSOTA has NOT been involved in organizing the call to attend the next BOE meeting, but we do have a very passionate group of parents, art directors and artists who are very concerned that the K Resolution was changed without discussion or explanation, and without a plan for moving forward. This evening I received a call from Ms. Norton. This was the first time anyone from the BOE has contacted FOSOTA. We were not aware that FOSOTA’s agreement with the District has been under review. The funding approved on 9/24 was for 50% of the budgeted amount and only through 12/31. While the other 50% of the funds do remain in the school’s budget, as of now, there is no procedure in place for using these funds to pay artists come January. FOSOTA, as always, is interested in finding a solution and we look forward to continuing a dialogue with the BOE. We welcome oversight and, given the opportunity, feel certain we can address any BOE concerns. FOSOTA’s contributions at the school are significant and we appreciate the support of our Asawa SOTA community.

  5. In light of several trying situations faced by SFUSD in recent years with fiscal agents and public school funds, I appreciate that the BOE reviews these arrangements with care. I’m also grateful for your reassurance of the BOE’s commitment to the stellar Ruth Asawa SOTA program. Our family is thrilled be a part of this amazing school and are so grateful for the opportunity provided our daughter.

  6. Thank you Rachel.