Notes from last night’s Board meeting: The Board elected new officers
tonight — Commissioner Yee will be President and I am Vice President. Board members also expressed sincere thanks to Commissioner Mendoza for her two years of service as a member of Board leadership.
Parents from Alice Fong Yu Alternative School (accompanied by former Board of Education member Dan Kelly, whose child attended the school) came to express their alarm with a plan to change the school’s immersion model. Originally, the school was “one-way” immersion (where every child comes in English-proficient and everyone is immersed in Cantonese and eventually Mandarin). A few years ago, the school began admitting English Learners as one-third of every Kindergarten class (to be admitted as an English proficient student at AFY, children have always had to pass an English skills test). Now, the district is proposing to turn the school into a true dual-immersion model, which would shift the incoming class composition to one-third English-proficient and two-thirds English Learner.
AFY is an award-winning school, one of the school district’s highest-scoring and most highly-requested, but its instructional model (requiring a large number of students who are already proficient in English) ensures that fewer students with challenges will enroll in the first place. AFY parents argue that changing the instruction model will cause the school to become less ethnically diverse; they argue that their school is successful and that changing the instructional model will endanger that success.
I don’t know that I think changing the model will make the school less successful, but I haven’t heard the district’s arguments for why this must happen now. As I understand it, research on one-way vs. dual- immersion programs is inconclusive; just as the research on whether English Learners do better in immersion as opposed to bilingual education is also inconclusive. But judging from the green shirt-clad crowd who came to support AFY, this issue is very important and not going away. I will be bringing the topic to the Curriculum & Program committee on January 18 at 5 p.m. for further discussion.
A group from Paul Revere PK-8th school came to speak in support of their principal (blog readers might remember that another group of parents has come to speak to the Board several times to express their unhappiness with the same administrator).
Other items of note:
- Superintendent Garcia told the Board and public that he has reviewed the Governor’s proposed budget (inadvertently released last week), and that it contains very bad news for SFUSD. Our deficit could grow to $40 million in 2012-13 after we had been planning for a worst-case scenario of $20 million. The news coincided with the release of initial contract proposals for bargaining with United Educators of San Francisco and United Administrators of San Francisco. Leaders of both unions were on hand to remind us that their members have already given — a lot. With the “sunshining” of proposals, bargaining can now begin, but I would expect it to take a while as there are no good agreements to be made.
- The Board honored members of the District English Learners Advisory Committee (DELAC); workers on the district’s building at 1601 Turk St. who went above and beyond to warn residents of a large, destructive fire on December 22, 2011; and writer Katherine Otoshi, who together with the Japanese American Citizens League, arranged for copies of her two wonderful anti-bullying books (“Zero” and “One“) to be donated to SFUSD elementary school libraries.
- Finally, the Board passed President Yee’s resolution affirming district support for an upcoming summit he has organized and will chair (possibly with Mayor Edwin Lee). The purpose of the “Pre-K – 3rd: Looking Back, Moving Forward” summit is to create and to support a vision of a PreK to 3rd Grade which would allow many different entities and organizations working on early literacy to better work together and align their efforts. The summit will include a national speaker, Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President ofthe Annie E. Casey Foundation, who is leading a national initiative to have all children read at grade level. It is scheduled for February 25, 2012, location and time TBA.