(Updated 6/11/09 to clarify several points and expand descriptions of board actions on June 9).
By now everyone pretty much knows the major news from last night’s meeting — the Board passed a resolution amending the district’s independent study policy to include students taking a JROTC course, allowing them to satisfy physical education requirements through independent study. I’ve posted thoughts about this issue here, and here, and here, so really — ’nuff said. (For those completely new to this protracted policy fight, the district has helpfully posted a fact sheet).
In fact, the action item from last night that will affect FAR more students, staff and families is the approval of a new calendar for the 2010-11 school year and beyond. I have received a lot of mail, mostly from elementary school parents, questioning this move — which basically starts school a week earlier, fixes spring break to occur always in the final week of March, and ends school just before Memorial Day weekend in May. Since I have two children in elementary school, I get the objections, but I need to point out that there are some real benefits for students in middle and high school — primarily because our calendar will now align with those of City College, where many high school students take additional courses, and because middle and high school students will now be able to complete their final exams before winter break. An additional benefit for all students (but not the reason the Superintendent recommended the change) is that more instruction will occur before the state testing in late April. Dennis Kelly, the President of United Educators of San Francisco, testified that 55 percent of his membership have also indicated a willingness to try out the new calendar proposal, which was also a persuasive fact for me.
My main ongoing concern is that community organizations which provide summer programming–like the YMCA, the JCC and many others–get enough notice and resources in order to completely realign their offerings to support families for whom summer camp is essential childcare. I have been assured that this is happening, and will be checking in on this over the next year.
We also received a report from the Bilingual Community Council (BCC), a Board-appointed committee that oversees the district’s services to English Learners. The BCC is mandated as part of the settlement of Lau v. Nichols, a 1974 Supreme Court decision that established certain guidelines for educating students with limited English skills; it is a separate body from the District’s English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC)–a district-level advisory committee. Basically, each school with 21 or more English Learners enrolled must have an ELAC; each ELAC must send a representative to the District ELAC, called DELAC. And under Lau, the Board must appoint, and listen to the recommendations of, a BCC.
Anyway, of primary concern to theBCC are procedures and services of the Educational Placement Center and support of ELACs. Board members asked that the BCC provide a list of recommendations each year so that we can be held accountable on our progress toward implementing better supports and services for English Learners.
Also of note:
- The Board unanimously passed a resolution authored by myself and Commissioner Fewer calling for the establishment of a joint committee with City College of San Francisco to discuss issues of mutual interest;
- The 2009-10 district’s budget was introduced for first reading but due to the late hour we opted not to hear the full presentation until the augmented Budget Committee hearing on June 16. For interested community members, there will also be a workshop on the 2009-10 budget on June 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at James Lick Middle School;
- The Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for the second annual Soda Free Summer.