Tag Archives: board leadership

January 8, 2013: Meeting recap

gavel“And now it is my pleasure to announce that I have been elected President of the Board of Education.”

It’s kind of strange to chair the annual Board elections and be a candidate at the same time, but with today’s swearing in of new District 7 Supervisor (and outgoing Board President) Norman Yee, I was the only outgoing officer available to chair tonight’s meeting.  I’m honored and humbled to have been unanimously elected President of the Board this evening — thanks to all of my colleagues for their vote of confidence and especially to new Commissioner Matt Haney, who did me the honor of nominating me as a candidate.  Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer was unanimously elected Vice President of the Board.

Board elections and other procedural business disposed of, we then moved to recognitions and commendations.  Alice Fong Yu Alternative School and its principal Liana Szeto were recognized for receiving two major honors — a National Blue Ribbon School award and the Terrell H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. It was wonderful to see the joy and pride of the AFY community in celebrating these honors — though the school was asked to bring just three representatives to speak at the meeting, they couldn’t resist bringing at least 13, including parents, teachers, and many students. I will never, ever get tired of hearing what I’m told is perfect Mandarin coming from the mouths of African-American, Irish-American, or Filipino-American students at AFY — it’s one of the jewels in our district and the community is rightly proud.  Washington High School teacher Michelle Kyung was also honored by the Board for winning the Carlston Family Foundation award for outstanding teaching.

Also of particular note on tonight’s agenda was the adoption of the district’s annual financial audit. For the first time anyone can remember, there were no findings  requiring attention or remedies from the Board and district leadership. And the absence of findings isn’t unusual just for SFUSD — it’s unusual for school districts across the country. We have had the same auditor for many years, so it’s also not as if Vavrinek, Trine & Day (our audit firm) are just going easy on us — even in my four years on the Board I have seen them ding us for one thing or another.  Bottom line — it is an indication of fiscal transparency and good stewardship of public funds that we were able tonight to adopt a 100% clean audit.  Or, as our auditor Leonard Dana told the Board tonight: “I’ve never been applauded on presenting an audit before. Auditors never get applauded.”

rev foods sampleCommissioners also had an opportunity to sample meals prepared by our new meal provider, Revolution Foods. On tomorrow’s menu: Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and 100% beef meatballs; fresh fruit, butternut squash, and baked whole wheat ranch-flavored chips. I would have to say — not bad at all. I am mostly hearing good things about the first two days of meals with our new provider, though there have been a few glitches. I would like to hear from more parents and kids — what’s your experience with the new Revolution Foods meals? Leave a comment or email me at comments “at” rachelnorton.com.

We heard from many members of the Creative Arts Charter School community, who are alarmed at a proposal to co-locate Gateway Middle School at the Annex building on the Golden Gate Elementary School building they have occupied for several years. Creative Arts is a K-8 school that will have about 400 students next year. Gateway Middle is a 6-8 school that will have about 300 students next year, and is managed by the same group that manages Gateway High School, located for many years at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School site on Scott and Geary (about two blocks from the Golden Gate ES site).  Gateway MS has, since the Board first granted its charter in 2010, expressed a strong desire to be near Gateway HS, and serve the Western Addition.

Co-locations are often contentious and I understand that they are not ideal. No one wants to have to compromise about the program they offer their students so that a completely different program with completely different students can share their space.  District officials tell me that they have agreed to a suggestion that the Gateway, CACS and district decision-makers meet to try to come to a resolution that works for all parties. But somehow I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.

I want to close with my sense of humility and gratitude to my colleagues that I’ve been granted this leadership opportunity (and responsibility) this year.  The quote I contributed to the district’s press release reads, in part: “Every Commissioner is utterly committed to increasing student achievement and making sure every student in San Francisco has access to educational opportunity. Our challenge will be to stay focused and make sure that our time and energy is spent crafting policies that best support these priorities.”

Here we go!

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.