Board meeting: Feb 10

Already I’m slipping! I’m a day late posting about last night’s Board meeting, but my excuse is that we didn’t adjourn until 11:30 p.m. and I had a full plate of appointments today. Anyway:

  • The Superintendent gave a grim report on the ongoing budget crisis: We expect a shortfall of $13 million for this school year (2008-09) but should be able to absorb it with money we have set aside. Next year (2009-10), we’re looking at a $24 million hit and will probably send out 400 preliminary layoff notices in the next few weeks. It’s important to know that even though the budget impasse goes on in Sacramento, we are required to assume a worst-case scenario for the purposes of staffing: our labor contracts require us to have notified employees who might be laid off by March 15 in order to preserve our right to lay off any employees later in the year. This is confusing, I know, and the end result is that many teachers and other staff (probably including several good friends of mine) will experience unnecessary anxiety in the coming months. I’m truly sorry for that and wish we had a different system.
  • It’s also important to know that issuing layoff notices is one of the conditions of qualifying for another Rainy Day Fund distribution in 2009-10. We might be able to receive as much as  . . . $24 million, coincidentally enough. Head spinning? Tell me about it. And stay tuned – none of this is anything close to a done deal.
  • In better news, it looks like we will reap a good chunk of Title I (education dollars earmarked for low-income children) and special education money from President Obama’s stimulus package. Today, House and Senate leaders reached a compromise and the package looks headed for approval by both houses  by the end of the week. (I also still really like typing “President Obama.”)
  • Students from Galileo High School’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism showcased their podcast tours of San Francisco. We were treated to “Coffee Lovers” and there are other tours of Hayes St., Golden Gate Park, and “Living Like a True San Franciscan.” This series has received a great deal of media attention. Great work, students!
  • We passed a resolution urging a solution to the state’s budget crisis — other than balancing the budget on the backs of children, that is.
  • The New Teacher Project presented us with a report on the steps we need to take to improve teacher recruitment and retention. A number of their recommendations are very well taken, and point the way to some reforms we need to make. I also want to commend UESF for contributing a lot of their thoughts and experience in this area to the researchers; it’s clear that their participation deepened the report significantly.
  • Creative Arts Charter School submitted its application for renewal of its charter; the application was forwarded to the budget committee for consideration.  I wasn’t aware until last night that CACS is San Francisco’s oldest charter school.
  • I appointed Tim Lennon, a parent and SSC member at McKinley Elementary, to the PEEF CAC; Commissioner Fewer appointed powerhouse Cindy Choy to another term on the Bilingual Community Council.
  • Ms. Choy and her fellow Parent Advisory Council (PAC) member Un Un Che also gave us a great report on the PAC’s plan for parent outreach around changes to the student assignment plan. They reminded the Board that while we are hearing from many parents around this process,  we have to work harder to be sure we’re hearing from everyone. This will probably involve taking some of our Board meetings out into the community, to allow people to attend who otherwise might feel intimidated by coming to 555 Franklin St. Some of our school auditoriums also accommodate many more people than the Board room — another plus for getting out there on particularly hot button issues.

The agenda for tomorrow night’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Student Assignment has been revised — the models the staff planned to submit to the Board are not yet ready and so tomorrow night’s meeting will be a brief recap of work done to date with a brief period for public comment to the Board.  The Board will be reviewing simulations of different assignment plan options on March 9.

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