Taking the necessary, if deeply wrong, steps

Yesterday and today have seemed like one long Board of Education meeting — a grand total of 7 and a half hours when all was said and done.  Tonight’s meeting was mainly about public comment and about the unpleasant but necessary step of approving layoff notices for 279 teachers.

We heard almost 90 minutes of public comment on various site-based budget decisions that will result in cuts to programs: Washington HS, for example, will probably have to cut back on course offerings in language and other electives;  Lincoln HS has cut its music offerings (arts funding through Prop. H is protected, but the site has chosen to focus spending on visual arts rather than music).  Parents at Bryant Elementary came to protest the proposal that their school would feed into International Studies Academy for middle and high school;  teachers from El Dorado Elementary and Marina Middle School came to protest the layoff notices. Probably (at least for me) the most emotional moment of the night came when our student delegate, Athena Creer, tearfully told the visitors from Washington and Lincoln about the lack of programming at her high school (Burton) and expressed resignation that schools just aren’t able to offer what students want.  She was right to point out the inconsistencies across high schools in our own district  and her comments were thought-provoking. They were also tragic,  and refocused the room on the real problem: it’s not only that some schools should keep what they have, but that ALL schools should have more.

This week, teachers from up and down California are declaring a state of emergency and saying: No More. On last night’s news I saw at least one SFUSD teacher arrested for occupying the state capitol; each day there are activities to focus different constituencies on the state budget crisis and what it means for our futures. On Friday there will be rallies across the state for anyone who doesn’t think the status quo is OK. (Locally, our rally will be held in Civic Center plaza starting at 4 p.m. )

We thanked the teachers tonight for their advocacy and then did what was necessary, though deeply wrong: voted to issue several hundred layoff notices before the May 15 deadline.

Other actions:

  • The Board adopted a new proposed contract with SEIU Local 1021;
  • The Board accepted for first reading a proposal to place a $500 million facilities bond on the November ballot; the proposal will be vetted and discussed at a Committee of the Whole on May 17;
  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution in support of the May 9-13 State of Emergency Week of Action sponsored by the California Teachers Association;
  • The Board accepted for first reading a proposal to clarify the role of the Community Advisory Committee for the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) – the proposal will be heard at the next meeting of the Rules, Policy and Legislation Committee.
  • In its report to the Board, the Parent Advisory Council issued several clarifications and responses to questions raised in last night’s Student Assignment Committee meeting on the middle school feeder plan, most notably that the PAC had never reported “predictability” as a major concern of parents in student assignment.

6 responses to “Taking the necessary, if deeply wrong, steps

  1. El Dorado teacher

    As I was one of the teachers representing El Dorado I would like to clarify that my purpose at the board meeting was to impress upon the Board the need to pay close attention to equity issues. In many ways, pinks slips being one of them, the district is FURTHERING the predictive powers of demographics which it professes to strive to eliminate or reverse.

  2. 7-1/2 hours! Quite a marathon, but two topics (K-8 feeders and budget) couldn’t be better placed in back-to-back sessions.

    On Monday, PPS and PAC recommended that the District provide a parent-friendly report of results from the MS quality assessment inventory that highlights the challenges and strengths of each school. Also, they asked the District to develop and share detailed plans for action steps to strengthen middle schools, including measurable objectives, timelines, and deadlines. Next, we listened to the District present their pie-in-the-sky K-8 feeder proposal and a disjointed spiel on Quality Middle Schools, without one mention of measurable objectives, timelines, deadlines, or budget, i.e., how are they going to fund school improvements or hire new faculty for expansion of language pathways, visual and performing arts (VAPA), band/orchestra, etc., etc., in order to establish all programs and all electives at all middle schools as promised. After all, school equity is the cornerstone to the acceptance of K-8 feeder proposal.

    On Tuesday, the budget crisis became crystal clear. The District is sending layoff notices to 279 teachers. Language instruction, music, and electives are being cut in high schools.

    Hello! On Monday, the District is talking about hiring faculty and expanding electives and language offerings at all middle schools; on Tuesday, the District is laying off faculty and dropping electives and language offerings. Does anyone else see the irony in this?

    Rachel, I hope that BOE members are fiscally responsible and demand that the District provide a detailed plan, timeline, and 5-year budget for every MS site (i.e., course offerings, electives, GATE/honors, language pathways, new faculty positions, etc., whatever is needed at each school to insure parity across the District). Until the District presents a viable strategy and sustainable budget and until the District makes progress in improving middle schools to the same high standard, I hope that the BOE rejects the District’s forced K-8 feeder proposal.

    Thank you for listening and for working so hard on these complicated matters.

  3. Here’s my two cents that I added to the link to this blog post on my facebook location: If you ask me, the now commonplace practice of laying of teachers each and every summer is a reprehensible monetary trick with a dirty outcome. How do you expect to retain or attract high quality teachers if good people can’t know they will be retained for the following year? “it’s not only that some schools should keep what they have, but that ALL schools should have more.”

  4. Antonio Tunzi

    Although I can understand the emotions of the student delegate Athena Creer last night, I cannot accept her resigned message: she, and all the students in our District, deserve a variety of programs and opportunities to develop their talents. It’s not right that students at Burton don’t have Arts or AP classes since long ago, and it’s not right that students at Lincoln and Washington will not have advance language or music classes in the future: we shouldn’t just accept it.

  5. What’s going on with cutting 20 days off the school year?? (I heard about it on the news – affecting the whole state). Is that really going to happen? Is that in addition to all these deep cuts? Or is it an either/or? Thanks.

  6. Carlos Almendarez

    I agree with you that while deeply wrong, SFUSD’s hands are tied in needing to layoff teachers unless money appears to pay for them given the cuts at the state level. It is a sad day for educators everywhere. It’s an unfortunate yet necessary part of your position to have to make those tough choices .