Recap: Sept. 11 Board Meeting

Several Board members had other commitments tonight so the meeting was unusually short, adjourning at 7:05 p.m.  However, there were a few items of note:

  • In his “thoughts for the evening,” Superintendent Carranza announced that he will be withdrawing the staff proposal to eliminate the middle school grades at International Studies Academy (ISA) on Potrero Hill (currently a 6-12 school). Originally introduced at the August 28 Board meeting, the proposal would have kept ISA a high school and fed students from Daniel Webster and Bryant MS to Everett MS instead of ISA as originally proposed .  However, the Webster community continues to advocate for a K-8 facility on Potrero Hill, and the Everett community has expressed concern about the capacity of the school to absorb students from two additional elementary schools. In addition, there are transportation issues and our demographic trends indicate a need for more middle school seats and fewer high school seats.  I suspect the withdrawal of this proposal will be a mixed bag for Webster families who have been watching this news closely — on the one hand it keeps the K-8 idea alive, but on the other hand means the issue will not be resolved until next spring. At the Sept. 18 Committee of the Whole, the staff will lay out some of the unresolved issues and questions around the Webster/Bryant/ISA/MS feeder/HS capacity issues and attempt to explain why this is a complex decision with a lot of moving parts. The plan is to return to the Board with a revised recommendation sometime in the spring.
  • Several families from New Traditions spoke during public comment to express dismay with the actions of a teacher at their school. These kinds of situations are so difficult because no one — staff or Board members alike — can explain what steps have or have not been taken and why or why not.  These are personnel matters and like all employees, teachers have due process and privacy rights.  As  I’m writing this, I’m watching an ABC-7 News report on alleged mistreatment of special education students in another district — and while the allegations make my blood boil, I feel some sympathy for the Board members because they cannot comment or take any kind of public action without opening up their school district to a serious liability. Hopefully, they are taking action behind the scenes, just as I’ll be following up on our own issue with staff.
  • We  also heard an update on a great partnership with UCSF that pairs interested high school students with working scientists and gives them experience working in research labs for the summer. Wallenberg HS  senior Chelsea Stewart wowed the Board and staff in presenting her research into an autoimmune disorder causing degeneration of the optic nerve. Ms. Stewart says the experience taught her a great deal and underscored her determination to go to college. One of my favorite parts was when UCSF administrator of the program, Katherine Nielsen, said that after participating in the program, students said they were surprised to find that there were UCSF scientists who were women and/or people of color, and that “scientists were nice.” Since I am surrounded by scientists in my immediate and extended family, I’m all in favor of a program that reminds us that scientists can actually be very nice people but I’m particularly glad to see that we are encouraging more girls and people of color to enter the field as well.
  • The Board approved a resolution in support of No Texting While Driving Pledge Day on Sept. 19. Apparently, 43 percent of teens admit they have sent text messages while driving even though 97 percent say they know it is dangerous and illegal. Students (and adults too!)  are asked to take the pledge not to text and drive.

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