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.
- 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.