The role of the PEEF advisory committee – a response

My eternal gratitude to my friend Tim Lennon, who serves at my request as the co-chair of the PEEF Community Advisory Committee (Tim is a parent of twins who attend an SFUSD middle school. He’s also a great guy).

Tim has written a very thoughtful response to the Board’s questions about the role of the PEEF CAC and the overall issues that were raised during Tuesday evening’s meeting. The letter is posted below, with his permission. (Video of the meeting is now posted on SFGov TV; the PEEF discussion begins at 01:29:00. It’s an hour long but worth it if you like this stuff).  Here’s Tim’s letter:

Dear Rachel,

I watched the January 25th BOE meeting on-line.  It brought to the surface numerous issues, questions and unresolved problems.

Let me start by saying that I speak only for myself here.  I have the honor of being co-chair of the PEEF CAC with Stevon Cook who I have copied to this email.  I respect the hard work that our SFUSD staff person, Kathy Fleming, has done in support of our committee who I have also copied to this email.

Since there are numerous issues, I will not attempt to have a finished analysis, assessment and layout of the issues rather it is an effort to provide you with some information and background to the CAC and its workings.  You are most welcome to share with other BOE members or SFUSD staff if you feel it is informative or helpful.

1.  None of the CAC members were at the January 25th meeting as we understood that our presentation in November counted as the event were BOE and CAC would interact on the substance of the PEEF proposal.  Since there were no substantive changes in the proposal from then until now we assumed it was to be read and approved.

2.  Funding for PEEF programs are just carried over.  There were no significant changes from the previous years.    

3.  As per BOE directive as described in Board Resolution 86-24A3 dated April 2009 “the CAC will serve as a conduit for informing as well as receiving input from SFUSD stakeholders…(and) will inform, educate and brief community stakeholders…(and gather) feedback and ideas from community members.”  Well that directive cut off the legs of the CAC reducing our role to conduits and cheerleaders for PEEF projects.   Don’t get me wrong, all the CAC members are exceptionally strong supporters of PEEF and have attempted to promote PEEF at every opportunity.   Nonetheless, funding for PEEF programs strictly copy previous year funding without meaningful discussion as to their merits.

4.  My view is that the annual report and proposal has little or no substantive.  Let make it clear, the PEEF programs are magnificent.  The SFUSD do a wonderful job using these funds to enrich our students.  By all measures the money is being well spent.  But our PEEF CAC report has no standing as advice and best functions by describing the programs and the information provided by program managers and recipients.  When the CAC is reduced to “conduits” there is little opportunity to provide meaningful recommendations.

5.  In the resolution (86-24A3) it cites an earlier resolution (44-27A10) directing the CAC to make recommendations to the Superintendent and the BOE while the latest resolution limits the role.  So to most everyone (CAC and BOE) these contradicting directives lead to confusion.  This in turn leads to a process where the status quo is maintained.  The CAC has no opportunity to ask:  “is funding a HR position better than expanding the Wellness Centers, or is funding of housekeeping really an enrichment comparable to the benefits of Peer Resources?”  Shouldn’t we discuss the four million dollars transferred to the reserve fund used to subsidize WSF?  There are true issues to discuss but if we are just a “conduit” of information why do any analysis?
6.  Since we have no mandate for recommendations and since we have not structured ourselves to make recommendations what value does the Superintendent or the BOE place in our report?  Realistically the funding is continued year to year with miniscule changes.  What value does the CAC have other than to be cheerleaders for PEEF and its marvelous programs?

7.  There was much discussion in the BOE about impact data.  The data is there–each program director should have that data as part of a process to evaluate the success and challenges of their individual programs.  But data is not knowledge or analysis.  This becomes the issue.  The CAC has neither the time nor the skills to critically assess data and make it meaningful.   We receive data but principally we rely on the program managers assessment.

8.  How does the CAC work?  What does it do?  The CAC has embarked on a process starting this January to develop the CAC as the conduit of information to and from the community.  Here are some strategies:

  • An overall strategy is to prepare for the coming two years and renewed funding for PEEF.
  • We want to take the CAC out of the SFUSD HQ and go into the community.  We plan every month to go to a different area of the city for our monthly meeting.  Break up the city into quadrants and attempt to reach every area.
  • Invite the PTA and SSC from the host school and invite two, three or four neighboring schools to attend.
  • Divide up the various PEEF funded programs and have a couple of PEEF programs make presentations to the community.  Inform the community about PEEF and the benefit it provides.
  • Provide an opportunity to have the community ask questions and discuss the merit of the various programs.
  • Encourage the students (recipients) of PEEF benefits to present their experience at these  community meetings. Personalizing the enrichment that they receive which has dramatically more impact than just passing out cold data.
  • Provide a very brief survey to our audience to access their awareness of PEEF programs and to gather some information on community recommendations.  Have this survey on-line for all SFUSD community.
  • Document the events with significant quotes and video tape presentations to be used for future promotional material in a preparation for renewed funding of PEEF.  
  • We have talked about developing a two year timeline to map out our steps to prepare for refunding PEEF.
  • We have talked about strategies, potential allies and community resources that we will need to gather to build community consensus on refunding PEEF.

9.   PEEF has acted as a stop gap source for funding when SFUSD budgets are reduced.  PEEF has lost some of its gloss as enrichment to SFUSD programs and has reduced to fill the hole when previous programs lose some of their usual state funding.  

10.  I have a number of opinions concerning PEEF programs:

  • I don’t think that subsidizing the Housekeeping department is enrichment.  It appears that when the PEEF money was doled out Housekeeping reached in to get a taste.  But why continue?
  • I don’t think that subsidizing the HR department is enrichment.  I mean we lay off teachers all the time, subsidizing HR recruiting is hard to defend as enrichment.  Again, it seems that the HR department got part of the pie when PEEF money became available.
  • Increase the funding of the teacher academy.  What a jewel that program is!  It costs very little, engages HS students who want to be teachers and supports elementary schools along the way.  A very small program but one of the most cost effective and successful PEEF programs.  
  • Increase the funding of the Wellness Centers, Peer Resources and LSP.  Wow!  Every time I hear a presentation I am blown away by the dramatic impact these programs have on individual students, school culture, promoting and enforcing equity, establishing a welcoming and safe     school  environment.  I am deeply moved every time they give a presentation. We have a great community of programs who do real work improving our schools.  
  • We want to engage our parent community therefore we need to strongly support if not increase translation services.
  • I have written earlier (BeyondChron article) about Restorative Justice, a program initiated by  the BOE.  My belief that the money would have been better spent increasing the funding for existing PEEF programs such as Wellness Centers, Peer Resources and LSP.  
  • SLAM funding works well and little reason to increase or decrease.
  • Lastly, Career and Technical Education program and the Formative Assessment program are ciphers to me.  I think that professional educators have a better assessment of their value.  However, if we were go to the public at large they would be hard to explain as enrichment.

I have a couple of observations:

  • The impact data of the various PEEF programs must come from the program managers.
  • The PEEF CAC will continue on its course of being the “conduit” of information to and from  the community and work towards the future as noted in item #8 above.

I am very committed to PEEF and will work hard to promote its huge benefits and attempt to win the whole community of SF to the idea of how it benefits our children.  PEEF programs have made dramatic improvement of our schools and have personally been helpful to my family.

Many of these issues have been circling around for awhile;  I hope this letter provides some insight into some of the issues.  

Tim Lennon

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3 responses to “The role of the PEEF advisory committee – a response

  1. Tim, you rock. Thank you for all you (and Lisa!) do for our schools and community. This is a very thoughtful and helpful write up that is spot on!

  2. Thanks Tim. This is great information. It’s too bad the CAC doesn’t have the power to make recommendations. Since you all are the ones listening to the community and hearing the impact, you probably have the best vantage to compare program by program. And some analysis from managers would be helpful to flesh it out with some real numbers.

  3. Tim, thank you for this thoughtful commentary.

    I will repeat my ongoing concern about the “in-kind services” that the city supposedly provides to SFUSD as part of its obligation under Prop. H.

    In the past, these services were addressed and debated in full sunshine. Now they are simply agreed upon in the dark. Programs that the city claims to be providing to SFUSD are actually counted against the city’s Prop. H obligation — with no opportunity for the community to consider whether those programs should take priority over other school site needs.

    The analogy I use goes like this: I owe you $100. I buy you a $75 sweater, present it to you along with $25, and proclaim that my debt is paid. Then I announce to the world that I gave you a $75 sweater.