Recap: the last meeting of 2011-12, and the end of an era

Tonight was both a celebration and a farewell — Carlos formally administered the oath of office to Richard Carranza, so officially we have two Superintendents until July 1 (“I’m the spare,” Richard joked after the ceremony). It was wonderful to see Richard assume the office, but many of us (Carlos most of all) got choked up at the realization that tonight was Carlos’ last Board meeting as Superintendent. (He got over it pretty quickly — by the time our marathon meeting wrapped up in the wee hours, Carlos was glad to bring his years in SFUSD to a close; he’ll miss us, but not that much).

“Thank you for hiring a crazy guy like me,” Carlos said to the Board in his farewell remarks tonight. He went on to praise San Francisco as a city that cares deeply about its kids and its schools, and said it had been a wonderful experience serving as Superintendent for SFUSD over the past five years.

I think Carlos was particularly proud to swear in Richard, the successor he handpicked as his possible replacement when Richard relocated from Clark County, NV (where he served as an area superintendent) in 2010.  From the day I took office, it was pretty obvious to me that Carlos hoped to create a long-term succession plan to give the district continuity of leadership and vision for years to come.  Tonight, that dream was finally realized.

The Board also unanimously adopted the Superintendent’s recommended budget for 2012-13, with one important change over what was proposed for first reading earlier this month: additional funding for credit recovery, meaning programs that allow students to retake core courses they may have failed, without falling further behind on the path to a diploma.

Now that the class of 2014 and beyond are required  to pass the A-G course sequence with a D or better, we are seeing many more rising 10th and 11th grade students who are behind in credits.  Credit recovery programs are crucial if these students are to stay on track for graduation.  The budget passed by the Board tonight devotes $500,000 in additional funds ($300K from the school district and $200K from the City’s Department of Children, Youth and their Families) to credit recovery programs — a direct result of advocacy by members of Coleman Advocates, which has been watching the district’s implementation of the A-G graduation requirements very closely.

Commissioners Yee and Wynns joined me in authoring a resolution in support of  both statewide revenue initiatives that will appear on the November ballot. You may have heard of the Governor’s “Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act,” which would stop the bleeding to schools but provide us with almost no funds to begin to restore the millions that have been cut over the past few years; hopefully you have also heard of “Our Children Our Future,” (OCOF)which was promoted by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and is being strongly supported by the California state PTA. OCOF would provide significant additional funding to schools (more than a million a year to my daughters’ middle school, for example) but no other part of the budget.

Whether you like one and hate the other, the strategy that is most important to education advocates is to make sure at least one of the initiatives passes, and the only way to ensure that happens is to convince as many people as possible to vote yes on both. A yes-yes vote doesn’t mean you’ll be double-taxed if both initiatives pass (more about that in a minute) but it does help guard against the “nuclear winter” that would ensue if both measures fail.

Did you know that SFUSD will face $24 million in mid-year cuts if neither initiative passes? The state is telling school districts that they will have the authority to reduce the school year by up to 20 days if the initiatives fail — nice of them, right?  Personally, I would much rather the OCOF initiative pass, but I’ll take the Governor’s if it means I don’t have to vote to cut the school year by almost a month.

What happens in the happy event both initiatives pass? Ultimately, the courts would have to sort it out. There are a few provisions that conflict, and most likely the initative that receives the most votes would get the “edge.” It is true, however, that there would be uncertainty and some kind of legal fight should both pass — I don’t know about you, but that seems like a good problem to have.

The Board (by a vote of 6-1) also granted a new charter petition by KIPP to open a new charter high school in 2013-14. This was a difficult decision for many of us, because of the expected decline in high school enrollment due to projected demographic trends. My fear is that by opening a KIPP high school, we are making it all the more difficult for schools like John O’Connell, Thurgood Marshall, and Burton — sites with great leadership and staff that are working hard to build, and maintain, robust, rigorous and engaging programs for students.  They need enrollment to support those programs, so more competition for students is exactly what these programs don’t need.

At the same time, KIPP schools have a strong academic track record in our district, and a lot of community support. It doesn’t sit right to tell community members they can’t have a school they want because it might hurt schools that have so far been spurned by those same community members. I believe Burton, O’Connell and Thurgood Marshall are better schools than their enrollment and achievement numbers suggest, but that belief (so far) hasn’t been enough to attract families.  I should also mention that KIPP management does not believe the new high school will present as much competition as the Board fears — I hope they are right, and I hope the new school will give our most marginalized communities yet another quality educational option.

The item in tonight’s agenda that I was happiest to support received no discussion and unanimous approval by the Board — authorization for the district to enter into a lease with The Arc of San Francisco to use space on the ground floor of its building at 1520 Howard Street for transition age students (students with disabilities ages 18-22). The three-year lease requires the district to pay $70,000 per year for the first two years, $71,400 for the third year, and annual two percent increases after that if the district exercises two optional one to five year lease extensions. This isn’t just a real estate deal — The Arc is an amazing community institution that has long experience and extensive programming for adults with disabilities. It is a far better place to transition students who are no longer age-appropriate for high schools; when I visited several months ago I saw students learning life skills like handling money, taking Muni, and even starting their own businesses! SFUSD students placed at The Arc classrooms will be able to take advantage of classes and programs that are already organized and funded by The Arc; so will their parents and so will their teachers! This is truly a win-win deal, and students will benefit the most. I was thrilled to support it!

The Board also spent significant time on a technical fix to the P.E. Independent Study program that is offered to students taking JROTC.  Due to a restriction approved by the Board in June 2011, the district has not been able to hire JROTC instructors unless they are certified and appropriately credentialed to supervise P.E., but this requirement has proved overly restrictive — there are several vacancies Human Resources has not been able to fill due to a lack of eligible candidates. Tonight’s amendment, which squeaked by on a 4-3 vote, allows the district to hire candidates who do not possess the required certification, as long as there are ample JROTC instructors who are appropriately credentialed to supervise P.E. Independent Study so that students can take JROTC as an elective and fulfill the state’s P.E. requirement.

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4 responses to “Recap: the last meeting of 2011-12, and the end of an era

  1. The OCOF ”tax the poor” Bill is very unlikely to pass. Even if it does pass, the Legislature will undermine it by decreasing State Funding for Education, so schools will have as little money as they have now. The OCOF propaganda about ”all the additional money your kids school will get if this passes ” is deceptive.
    If both initiatives pass, all of it will have to be sorted out in the courts, to define which clauses from which bills will be upheld.
    I also think Board Members should all take the position that they will absolutely not vote for any budget proposal that cuts any more days out of the school year. Tell administration that is not an option. The business of SFUSD is to educate children, keeping the classrooms open should be the number one priority. There are more places to cut the budget, before cutting school days. How much does keeping all the schools open for a day cost SFUSD, may I get an approximate figure?

  2. The picture of KIPP schools’ academic track record isn’t complete without parallel discussion of their sky-high attrition.

    KIPP schools are well known for pushing out students who are less successful and not replacing them, which is an additional burden on the district schools that receive those students.

    It’s something that the school board commissioners need to think long and hard about before approving a new KIPP school — after all, any of our public schools could improve their test scores by similarly getting rid of low-performing students. It’s a solution for that school at that moment in time, but not a genuine solution for all students or for the challenges of public education in a high-poverty community.

  3. Hi Melissa – we havent gotten that far yet (housing a new KIPP HS). They will make a Prop 39 request in January and we will have to see — of course that’s another concern, because there isn’t an obvious place for them to go that wouldn’t require co-location. That also puts pressure on in-district schools (see Denman MS and Leadership HS, for example).
    On the ballot initiatives, CSBA did a really nice comparison sheet that I posted last month: https://rpnorton.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/tax-measure-comparisons.pdf

  4. Rachel, thank you for posting the latest news from the district. I appreciate hearing your endorsement for both ballot measures – I need to know more about them. I’m curious…where will the new KIPP high school be housed?