Sept. 22: Board meeting recap

Tonight’s meeting wasn’t all that long, as meetings go, but nevertheless I’m tired. So the recap will be stream of consciousness and not-necessarily-in-that-order. Probably the most newsworthy thing we did was pass, on first reading, a resolution supporting Supervisor David Campos’ proposal to restore due process to undocumented juveniles accused of a crime. Without going into the long history, after three well-publicized killings last summer, San Francisco changed its Sanctuary City policy and began reporting juveniles in City custody who were suspected of being undocumented directly to Federal immigration authorities. This often leads to youth being deported, even if they have not committed any crime–because once they are in the hands of immigration authorities, their immigration status trumps any other rights they may have.

We heard tearful testimony from mothers about losing their children to deportation, and comments from Mission High teacher (and Bilingual Community Council chair) Derrlyn Tom about being in the awful position of fearing to bring students to the attention of City agencies because of worries they would be deported and taken from their families.

The Board voted unanimously (with one recusal by Commissioner Mendoza, whose day job as a City employee would put her in conflict with the resolution) to pass the resolution and call on the City to restore due process rights to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

Other notes:

  • The Board voted 6-1 to spend $50,400 on the next round of facilitation training for site administrators. This is an expensive contract and I had my doubts about it when we approved it last year; I have still more doubts this year but ultimately I voted in favor after hearing discussion from the staff. I think this is the last time I vote for this program, however.
  • The Board voted unanimously to approve a $150,000 professional development program with BayCES (yes, former SFUSD Deputy Superintendent and now OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith used to work there, and so did his wife — she quit in August so that the organization could continue working with Oakland Unified). I had some questions about this but after checking with people who have been through the training in SFUSD, listening to a presentation on the program and reading through the materials, I approved it.
  • Last night I blogged about some questions I had regarding Federal funds for tutoring low-income students at Title I schools. Turns out there is a pretty extensive FAQ on the district web site, in three languages, and that answers a number of my questions about the program (the information is for 2008-09 but should still be reasonably correct). The answer I got from district staff about the eligibility of special education students is still incomplete, and we’ve asked for a fuller presentation on the Supplemental Education Services program, but the upshot is that any student who a)is qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch; b)attends a Title I school that failed to make adequate yearly progress two years in a row or more and c)scores Below Basic or lower on the California Standards Test should be eligible for the funds. This is important for families to know now, because students who meet these three criteria should be getting a letter from the school district soon letting them know about the program and how to apply. If you know a student who should be eligible for this tutoring but who doesn’t get a letter by the end of October, speak to the principal at the child’s school. Finally, the funds do eventually run out every year, and so they are generally awarded to the students who are the lowest-income and the most behind.
  • The Board approved, 4-2, a $40,000 contract with Bryonn Bain, a New York-based hip hop artist, poet and activist. The program is a continuation of several pilots we have done with students in our court and county schools — students who are either incarcerated or on the last stop before incarceration — and Mr. Bain is a compelling figure. But despite a glowing article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the work students did with Mr. Bain and his Lyrical Minded program at the Principals’ Center Collaborative, there was considerable negative feedback from another school, Civic Center Secondary. Things got so out of hand last winter that the then-principal at Civic Center eventually asked for the program to leave his school. I take that seriously, and I also wonder why we would give a $40,000 contract to a New York hip hop artist (however wonderful and talented), when we have a diverse community of local artists right here to work with. Especially since we already spent a lot of time, money and effort to create an internationally-recognized Arts Education Master Plan (PDF) that has as its central premise the idea of the school district collaborating with the artists in our own community, creating a give and take that enriches our students and supports our local arts organizations. No one denies that the students covered by this program are our most troubled and our most underserved — but in the end I voted against this contract because I think we should find a way to engage and serve these deserving students without setting aside our principles or our arts master plan.
  • Bright spot: we did approve a budget transfer that will allow us to finally fund Musician Corps, a really innovative Peace Corps-type program that puts working musicians into schools to work with students. Ever since I first heard about Musician Corps, I felt it needed to be in SFUSD and tonight brought us one step closer to making that happen!
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