March 10 – a looooong meeting

Heres’s a somewhat condensed update of tonight’s regularly scheduled Board meeting. I’ll flesh it out tomorrow when I’m more awake:

  • The good news: The Mayor will release the district’s full share of $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund this year!!!
  • The not so good news: Due to the budget situation and rising demand for kindergarten, the district plans to increase kindergarten class sizes to 22. I know this will cause anxiety on the part of parents, but I hope you will trust me when I say that it is probably the best step we could take at this moment. Class size is important, but not as important as retaining and training teachers and keeping classrooms well-supplied in this year of very tough choices.

  • We heard public comment in favor of reinstating JROTC. Cadets from Mission, Galileo, Lowell and Balboa high schools  spoke to the Board about their disappointment that we have not acted to reinstate the program, even though Prop. V passed with 55 percent of the vote in November.  Commissioner Wynns submitted a resolution (I am a co-author)  to reinstate the program two weeks ago, but it was held off tonight’s agenda.  Numerous cadets showed up with placards urging the Board to act. They are eloquent and they are passionate. These young people are going places!
  • We offered commendations for the John O’Connell HS chess team. The students are working with an organization called Hip Hop Chess, and have begun to compete in regional competitions. The presentation led to the best quote of the night, by student Freddy Sanchez: “I love chess. I think chess is cool. And then you add hip hop and . . . wow!”
  • We issued a RAVE award for a special education teacher of severely-impaired students at Balboa HS.
  • We offered commendations for SFUSD administrators, to observe the week of the School Administrator. We also formally approved an agreement between United Administrators of San Francisco (UASF) and SFUSD to provide administrators with an ongoing portion of the parcel tax proceeds as a salary increase. The increase is targeted to elementary school principals, because this group is the lowest-paid in comparison to their counterparts in neighboring districts. These negotiations were very difficult and took a long time, so it’s very good to see our hard-working administrators finally get salary increases!
  • We got a thorough and very interesting presentation from the San Francisco Youth Commission on Youth Vote‘s efforts over the past year and going forward. We were also fortunate to hear presentations from three of the five candidates for BOE student delegate, running to replace Maxwell Wallace who is off to Georgetown University at the end of the year. We will miss Maxwell but judging from the candidates we saw tonight, he shouldn’t worry about who will take his place! The Youth Commission and Student Advisory Council collaborated on a very in-depth survey of students this year; this survey was presented to us at the meeting and I am hoping we can make it available online.  ALSO – there will be a Youth Summit for all SFUSD high school students on March 26: more information is available here.
  • Balanced Scorecard coach (and rockstar former principal of Mission HS) Kevin Truitt gave us an update on schools’ progress on the Balanced Scorecard initiative. This was a rich, informative presentation and I am going to have to go through the handouts again before I can distill it intelligently, but the best part is available online: the WOWs from the draft scorecards turned in by schools all over the district. There are 671 of them and it is great reading.
  • Commissioner Wynns and I also introduced a resolution entitled “Feeding Every Hungry Child in SFUSD.” This resolution was referred to the Budget committee for further discussion. In essence, it asks us as a district to formalize our unspoken policy of refusing to serve children a “meal of shame” if they have not qualified for Free/Reduced Price lunches and do not have money to pay for a meal. In some districts, kids who cannot pay and don’t qualify for reimbursement are given a bowl of cold cereal if they show up in the lunch line; we do not do this and instead offer every child a meal whether they pay or not. This is the right thing to do, but it has a financial impact and it’s important that we figure that policy into our budgets if we want to keep the “no meal of shame” policy going forward.
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