At tonight’s regularly scheduled Board meeting, Commissioners heard a presentation on plans for the new Superintendent’s Zone — comprised of 15 of our lowest-performing schools. Assistant Superintendent Patricia Gray supervises the Bayview portion of the Superintendent’s Zone, which includes Bret Hart ES, Carver ES, Drew ES, Malcolm X ES, Willie Brown College Prep, Paul Revere (which is actually in Bernal Heights), and Thurgood Marshall HS. Assistant Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero supervises the Mission portion of the zone, which includes Bryant ES, Chavez ES, Leonard Flynn ES, John Muir ES (which is actually in the Western Addition), Everett MS, Mann MS, Mission HS, and John O’Connell HS.
Many of these schools are eligible for the $45 million in SIG money that was authorized by the state Board of Education several weeks ago; the district’s presentation was a high-level overview of how that money will be spent, including new instructional and assessment strategies; additional staff to focus on parent and community engagement; and staff to coordinate the services of the many nonprofits also working with students and families at these sites. All of the plans sound good, but of course we have seen many reform agendas before in this district — the proof will have to be in the results.
Also of note: a renewal of the controversial National Urban Alliance professional development contract was on tonight’s agenda — $250,000 in additional services to staff at seven or eight schools. Readers of this blog might remember that I voted against the NUA contract when it was first brought forward in 2009, and despite some positive testimonials from teachers and administrators, I voted against it again. This time, however, due to the absence of several board members, the final vote tally was 3 votes in favor (Fewer, Kim and Yee) and 2 votes against (Wynns, Norton). Since three votes is not a majority of the Board, the motion failed, and the Superintendent will have to bring the contract back to the Board at a future meeting (where I will vote against it again). Why am I opposed to this contract? For one thing, despite the testimonials, some staff who have been through the training have privately told me they found it to be so-so. For another, the NUA consultants charge very high daily rates. Third, the funding source for this training is unrestricted — meaning it can go towards any use, and I’m not sure we should be spending unrestricted funds on an expensive program that gets mixed reviews. Finally, and most important, the schools currently receiving the program are not our priority schools! Only one, Willie Brown, is located in the Superintendent’s Zone (the priority area we had just heard all about earlier), and we’ve already said we’re closing down Willie Brown at the end of this school year. Enough said.
Finally, the Board had a good discussion about the administrative approval limits and procedures. Late last year, the Board raised the limit for administrative (i.e., bypassing the Board) approval of contracts from $8,000 to $25,000, and agreed to eventually consider raising the limit to $75,000. Because board members have noticed a few recurring issues, the discussion will go to the next Rules Committee so that the legal department can review the language with us and close any loopholes that exist.