Tag Archives: Richard Carranza

Recap: Board meeting Feb 10 2015

Here are the key issues discussed at this week’s Board meeting:

Memorandum of Understanding with SFPD: In January of 2014, the District entered into a landmark agreement with the SF Police Department (SFPD) that clarified the rights and responsibilities of students and families in situations where police are called to schools. At tonight’s meeting the Board received an update on the progress of the MOU and the ongoing relationship with the SFPD. The report was quite positive, and Lt. Colleen Fatooh (the supervisor for officers assigned to SFPD schools) was on hand to answer questions and engage with the Board. It’s not required for our district (or any district) to have such an MOU in place with the local police department, but in our case it has greatly helped the relationship between our two institutions and served our students and families better.

KALW Annual Report: Many people don’t know that the school district owns the license for KALW (FM 91.7), the public radio station that airs our meetings twice a month and offers lots of other great programming. KALW is a wonderful community resource, and it’s unusual for a school district to have such an asset — radio licenses aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. As the license holder, we operate no editorial control over the stations and are not involved in programming decisions – so long as the station complies with FCC regulations and finds an audience, it can broadcast what it wants. Financially, it’s almost completely independent of the district, mostly supported by individual donations and institutional grants (though it does occupy district-owned space at Burton HS). A few years ago, during the Great Recession, we extended a line of credit to help the station maintain cash flow, but they have paid it back in full and are in better shape now. There are plans to re-launch a companion philanthropic “Friends of KALW” organization and interest in programming continues to be strong (Note to self: check out the popular home-grown “99% Invisible” design podcast, available on  iTunes).

Superintendent and Board agree on three-year contract: Board members were all smiles and full of compliments in the run-up to voting on a new three-year contract for our rock star Superintendent, beginning July 1 of this year. Richard will receive $310,000 in annual salary, up from the $282,500 he is currently receiving.  The Board and Superintendent have a great relationship — we trust him and we (based on everyone’s comments at the Board meeting, I think it’s safe to use a “we” rather than an “I”) think he’s doing a great job. Is everything perfect?  No –not even Richard would say that. But the important things are: Richard shares the Board’s values and works with us constructively and collaboratively, the district is running smoothly and moving in the right direction, and he’s a great public face for us.  We’re lucky to have him and other districts know it — he was courted extensively over the past year by major urban districts all over the country.

(For a flashback of the day we voted on Richard’s first Superintendent contract, read this post — it tells you a lot more about the man who is leading the work).  In addition, the Board approved agreements with five more labor unions, including United Administrators of San Francisco. Negotiation season is drawing to a close, which is good news for everybody.

We heard almost two hours of public comment, on two main topics:

Ida B. Wells/John O’Connell HS co-location:  Ida B. Wells is one of the district’s continuation high schools, for students who are behind on credits or otherwise at risk of not graduating. The school’s longtime home, on Hayes Street across from Alamo Square, is undergoing construction so the community was co-located with John O’Connell High School for a year starting last month. The adjustment, let’s just say, hasn’t been smooth. Though both high schools have generally been peaceful places, there have been some safety issues now that the communities are occupying the same space and parents and teachers are alarmed. They came to talk to the Board about the issues and plead for more support (some John O’Connell parents argued strongly for Ida B. Wells to be relocated elsewhere, but that’s not really an option).

Finally, a number of teachers and students from Lowell came to discuss the new Common Core Math Sequence and its effect on Lowell students (more about the math sequence in this post and on the district’s excellent math curriculum site, sfusdmath.org).  The issue, as I understand it, is that incoming 9th graders from SFUSD schools will not have taken Algebra I under the new course sequence. However, students coming from private schools may have taken Algebra 1 in 8th grade, raising the question of whether the new course sequence will create a community of private school “haves” who are eligible earlier for advanced math courses, and public school “have-nots” who will not have the opportunity to take an advanced math course until a “compressed” Algebra 2/Precalculus course in 11th grade.  (Why Lowell in particular? The contention is that Lowell HS receives a high percentage of students who attended private schools K-8 and I’m willing to stipulate that is probably true, though I’ve asked for the data to see if other high schools should be concerned about this issue as well).  Lowell teachers testified that the compressed course will not work because it will not give students enough time with Precalculus concepts to prepare them for Calculus in 12th grade. Other math teachers from other high schools testified in favor of the current course sequence. I just have to be honest and say I don’t know who is right — it feels a bit like he says/she says at the moment. I’ve talked to the Superintendent and our math content specialists at length about this topic and they are convincing on the idea that the new course sequence/Common Core offers a stronger foundation that will serve students better in the long run (and it’s true that we weren’t exactly hitting it out of the park on math instruction prior to implementing the Common Core standards). At the same time, no one wants to disadvantage our students coming from public schools who have the aptitude to handle advanced mathematics early.   I’m told there are productive discussions going on about the idea of giving everyone a math placement test on entering the 9th grade, whether or not they took Algebra in 8th (Oakland USD does this).  Stay tuned.

Recap: the last meeting of 2011-12, and the end of an era

Tonight was both a celebration and a farewell — Carlos formally administered the oath of office to Richard Carranza, so officially we have two Superintendents until July 1 (“I’m the spare,” Richard joked after the ceremony). It was wonderful to see Richard assume the office, but many of us (Carlos most of all) got choked up at the realization that tonight was Carlos’ last Board meeting as Superintendent. (He got over it pretty quickly — by the time our marathon meeting wrapped up in the wee hours, Carlos was glad to bring his years in SFUSD to a close; he’ll miss us, but not that much).

Continue reading

Recap: A new Superintendent!

Richard listened as Carlos and members of the Board said lots of nice things about him; his daughter sat at the staff table and recorded every word for posterity.

The big news from tonight’s meeting is that the Board unanimously voted to confirm Richard Carranza as the new Superintendent of SFUSD, beginning in July 2012. He will receive a $245,000 annual salary each year for the term of his three year contract.

Richard has never been a Superintendent before, but he has served as Carlos’ deputy for the last two years and has proved himself more than up to the job of Superintendent of SFUSD. He is smart, hardworking and focused on the job at hand; we like that he has school-age children (two lovely and poised daughters) who are attending (and excelling at) SFUSD schools.  In his remarks this evening, Richard told a story about a time in his life when he wasn’t sure he wanted to go to college. His father took him to work at his job cutting sheet metal in 112 degree Arizona heat, and told him: “I don’t want you to work like me. Work with your head, not your hands.” That was the lesson that set him on the road to being an educator, Richard said, as his proud family looked on (one thing I learned tonight — Richard is an identical twin, and you would be hard-pressed to tell him from his brother Ruben –four minutes younger — if they dressed and combed their hair alike).  Carlos was visibly moved as the Board voted, because having Richard succeed him has long been a dream for him.

The bottom line is that Richard is the right man for the district at this moment. We have made a lot of progress since Carlos arrived, and Richard has proved himself to be a person with the vision, skill and the drive to carry the district to the next level even as he has a deep and first-hand knowledge of where we have been. In addition, I will always be personally grateful to Richard for the way he has championed the special education overhaul.

Other items of note from tonight’s agenda:

  • Board members unanimously passed a resolution authored by several student delegates, articulating a broad bathroom access policy for students. Though each school will be able to craft their own specific rules about bathroom access, the new policy makes clear that bathroom access is a right, and students should not have to explain their bodily functions or restrain them at the order of an adult. Bathrooms should remain unlocked during the school day, and students should be allowed to access them as needed as long as that right to access is not abused.
  • We also passed updates to the Board’s comprehensive health education policy, and heard a presentation of data about some of the health challenges that still affect our students. The updated policy makes clear that health education is a priority for SFUSD students and requests that the district redouble its effort to be sure all students are receiving the recommended number of lessons each year.
  • Large groups from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and Buena Vista Horace Mann each came to discuss their principal leadership (the Harvey Milk group spoke in favor of their current principal while the Buena Vista Horace Mann group spoke in favor of a past administrator taking the soon-to-be vacant principal’s job). We heard from teachers who are affected by the Board’s authorization of layoffs back in February, and were urged to rescind those layoffs as soon as possible. A group of non-English-speaking parents came to advocate for more Transitional Kindergarten sites.

A fond farewell to Carlos Garcia

Today SF Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia announced his intention to retire from education after 37 years as a teacher, principal and superintendent. His five-year tenure in San Francisco has been remarkably smooth for a big-city Superintendent — on average, urban superintendents quit or are fired after 3-1/2 years on the job. I would say Carlos’ major accomplishments are:

  • His handling of the district budget. Carlos’ tenure has been marked by unprecedented cuts in California’s funding for education, and still the district has seen achievement rise every year he’s been in the job. Schools like Mission, Everett and Horace Mann — long considered to be the district’s lowest-performing — have new sparkle. It is a credit to Carlos that the district has continued to move forward even in the face of these incredible cuts (I joined the Board 18 months after Carlos took over, and even since then, we’ve been forced to cut close to $150 million — with more to come).
  • Refocusing district programs on the achievement gap.  Carlos didn’t discover the achievement gap and he didn’t solve it, but he led efforts to tackle the factors that produce the gap head on — a standout is the work he did hammering out the agreement on how to spend the funds raised by the 2008 parcel tax have helped the district retain teachers, pay them more, and offer them additional stipends and professional development for teaching in the most challenging schools.
  • Defusing the tension. At the end of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s tenure, it was pretty much all-out war between factions who supported or opposed the controversial Superintendent, and the bitterness persisted between those factions into the tenure of interim Superintendent Gwen Chan. Though the Board was controlled by the anti-Ackerman faction, the decision to hire Carlos in June 2007 was almost unanimous (Commissioner Maufas dissented). By the time Commissioner Fewer and I were seated as the newest members of the Board in January 2009, every Board member had forged a collegial relationship with the Superintendent and the Board began to coalesce. Today, a 4-3 or even 5-2 vote is quite rare. That doesn’t mean the Board doesn’t have policy disagreements, but it does mean that we are able to find common ground and move forward on that.

The thing I’ll miss about Carlos the most is his “life is short, don’t take things too seriously” mentality. He has his priorities straight, which is probably why many people around San Francisco are scratching their heads and saying “Really? But he’s still so young!” At this morning’s announcement, one reporter asked me if the real reason behind his retirement was illness. No — it’s actually a healthy understanding of what is important in life. Carlos has had a great career, and he has a great family and a good pension based on his many years of service in California. He wants to enjoy those things, and who would blame him? “I want to play,” he told me a few months ago, and he’s earned the right to make that decision. I’m grateful to him for the work he’s done in San Francisco, and now it’s time to pass the torch.

I can’t think of any reason NOT to pass the torch to Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza, and indeed the Board has decided to begin negotiations with Mr. Carranza for the district’s top spot. While I am sure there are other qualified and interesting candidates out there, I don’t see why we should spend upwards of $100,000 to search for them (that is what a Superintendent search costs!) when we have a candidate right here who:

  • knows the district well;
  • has fully bought into Carlos’ philosophy and management style;
  • has demonstrated that he can work well with the current board.

In addition, I have studied several districts that have really “moved the needle” on student achievement and the common thread is continuity of leadership. Probably the poster child for that assertion is Montgomery County, Md., which until this past summer was led by Superintendent Jerry Weast. (Read the book  “Leading for Equity” if you are really interested in the story of Montgomery County.)  If the Board believes we are essentially on the right track (and I believe that a majority of the Board would say we are), then we owe it to students to continue with our current leadership philosophy. Richard represents that.

Finally, on a personal note, Richard has been an absolute champion for the changes we must make in our special education programs. It was Richard, in his first few months in the district, who came to me and said he thought we had to do an external review. He was right, and I continue to be grateful to him for his leadership in reworking special education.