Update: I was so tired last night I completely forgot to mention another bright spot from the meeting — an update from Peer Resources on the programs they provide in 13 schools ( high schools and middle schools). This is a fabulous program that teaches teens conflict resolution and leadership skills, and it has changed a lot of lives! It’s a program of the San Francisco Education Fund that needs to be in every high school and middle school. Thanks to Peer Resources for an uplifting report.
Anger over the Board’s Feb. 28 vote on layoffs continues. We had a large group of UESF members and other labor supporters address the board to oppose the layoffs, and the Board’s 5-1 decision to skip teachers at 14 lower-performing schools.
Some of the arguments were economic: do we really need to do layoffs? What about the district’s reserves? My answer to those questions is that the reserves aren’t enough for the worst case scenario if the tax proposals currently headed to the ballot fail, if the state’s revenues continue to falter and negotiations on the new contract do not produce any savings over projected costs for 2012-13.
Some of the arguments were political: We should be arguing with Sacramento, not amongst ourselves; The district’s layoff strategy is divisive and represents union-busting; Other schools are just as needy as those the district chose to skip. I agree that we should place the blame with Sacramento, but I don’t agree that skipping the SZ schools is union-busting. In voting for the skip my intent was not to weaken the union, but instead to support — in a limited way– schools that have under-performed for generations. My friends at UESF strongly disagree. Are there more underperforming schools that could benefit by keeping their teachers? YES. But skipping the 25 hard-to-staff schools would have presented an even greater challenge to UESF and I believe for that reason, the Superintendent chose not to go there. Still, several of us quietly agreed with the El Dorado staff when they told us we had not gone far enough to do anything for their school. (And I must give an annual shoutout to the El Dorado staff for the way they stand up for their school and for each other. They don’t think much of the Board or district leadership, but anyway I do appreciate their efforts and their advocacy. People are listening, even if maybe you think they aren’t.)
Several members of the Martin Luther King Jr. High community came to talk to us about discipline, leadership and personnel issues at their school; we also heard from several parents of children who are eligible for Transitional Kindergarten and remain unhappy with the district’s decision to go ahead with opening two TK programs — one in Visitacion Valley and one in the Bayview.
Board members unanimously passed a resolution in support of the SF Botanical Garden Society’s plans to upgrade its educational programs through the construction of a “Center for Sustainable Gardening.” These programs benefit thousands of SF public school students each year and I was glad to author a resolution that brings the Society’s dream of a true education center at the Botanical Garden a bit closer to reality.