Tonight the Board passed another milestone in the years-long effort to update our district’s student assignment system — adopting updated assignment area boundaries for elementary schools and an interim citywide choice plan for middle school enrollment (feeder patterns to allow students to move from elementary schools to specific middle school placements will be put in place for 2012-13 enrollment).
Boundaries are probably one of the most contentious parts of the effort, and I think the staff deserves some credit for managing this piece with a minimum (but not a total absence) of uproar. (Not so much on the middle school patterns. But you could argue, and some have, that the district listened to the very real objections raised by families and agreed to delay this part of the effort. So we may still get more uproar before the redesign is fully implemented.) Anyway, there was only the barest amount of public comment — one person thought we should introduce a “buffer zone” preference (after CTIP, preschool and attendance area) to people who live near an attendance area but not in it; then two members of the public showed up after we had already voted to urge us to delay middle school feeder patterns. No problem!
During public comment, staff and families from Moscone Elementary and Thurgood Marshall Academic High School came to protest cuts in their budgets resulting from lower-than-projected enrollment. Some of Thurgood’s concerns have apparently been addressed by the Bayview Superintendent’s Zone supervisor, Assistant Superintendent Patricia Gray. But the Moscone community is outraged over the loss of a $37,000 half-time Reading Recovery teacher and other funding — a total cut of $46,000. Moscone is a very high-achieving school despite its mostly low-income and English Learner population, and for the parents’ and teachers’ hard work to be rewarded by budget cuts (because of a seven-student drop in enrollment) is hard to swallow. And yeah, it was galling that even after hearing the Moscone pleas, five members of the Board voted for a $250,000 professional development contract ($125,000 of which will be paid out of precious unrestricted funds). I’ve written about NUA before and I am not going to belabor the point, but I do think it shows questionable priorities to continue to fund a pricey program with mixed reviews that was originally parceled out to schools in a very haphazard and non-strategic way, when at the same time you have successful schools coming to Board meetings begging to just keep the status quo.
The Board also had its annual hearing on whether students are being supplied with sufficient textbooks and curriculum materials at all of our schools — last year we did pretty well but this year’s figures are terrible. There are a lot of schools that began the year without enough textbooks, and the Board asked for a full accounting of why this is (we have until the middle of next month to have adequate supplies and staff assured the Board we will make that deadline).
Anyway, it appears that there are a lot of reasons for this year’s inadequate supplies. For one thing, high schools have more new classes due to the new A-G graduation requirements, and therefore had to order more new books; in some cases sites may not have put those orders in early enough or may have underestimated demand. Also, the state’s decision last summer to delay textbook adoptions to save money has had some unintendend consequences. Generally, textbooks are on a seven-year adoption cycle, so that texts are replaced before they become too old to be unusable. Textbook publishers plan for adoption cycles and stop printing books that are near the end of the cycle, which can lead to shortages for older texts. Since California has delayed adoption of some textbooks, districts are needing to replace old and damaged books and finding them in shorter supply than usual. Still, whatever the reasons — our students need books and it’s unacceptable for them to go without. The Superintendent has appointed a new manager to oversee the textbook inventory and ordering systems, and Board members will hear a post-mortem on this year’s systems breakdown sometime later this Fall.
Finally: the Board passed a resolution in support of Prop. D, which would allow non-citizens with children attending San Francisco public schools to vote in school board elections.