Meeting recap: March 12, 2013

It’s very late after a very long meeting, so I’ll expand this post later tomorrow or Thursday when I have some time. In short:

  • Congrats to the 28 National Board Certified teachers honored tonight! SFUSD now has 231 NBCTs — the highest, on a per capita basis, in the state. This is a very rigorous certification to achieve and I couldn’t be more proud of our teacher corps for showing this incredible dedication to their profession.
  • The resolution authored by Commissioners Fewer and Haney and now Supervisor Yee requesting the Superintendent to create and forward a local hire policy to the Board for approval passed 6-0 (Murase absent). “Local hire” means changing the district’s contracting procedures (within legal limits) to prioritize the hiring of San Francisco residents on facilities bond construction projects; the city passed its own local hire ordinance in 2010 requiring city-sponsored construction projects to eventually employ 50 percent local residents. The “invitation to a policy” we passed tonight also contains provisions asking the district to take steps to increase opportunities for women and people of color in the construction trades, again within legal limits. It represents the aspirations of the Board to go in a direction that would channel the economic power of our bond dollars for the good of San Franciscans, and provide more career opportunities for our students. The final policy will represent some trade-offs –administering and monitoring a local hire program will increase costs  and may decrease competition in our bidding process (though so far that has not been the City’s experience). In order for such a policy to meet its goals and still be workable from a construction management perspective, there will need to be “off-ramps” or “safety valves” allowing contractors who can’t meet the local hire requirement to find some other way of contributing to the goals of the policy. So there are a lot of outstanding questions and a lot of work remaining, but the aspirations of the resolution are good, and worthwhile to take on. Stay tuned for further developments. 
  • We heard an update on the Lau Action Plan and saw some examples of the increased amount of data the district is receiving from the longitudinal study of our English Learner (EL) outcomes being conducted by Stanford University. Some of the data is very sobering (our Chinese-language-speaking ELs are becoming English-proficient much faster than our Spanish-language-speaking ELs; biliteracy pathways [also called bilingual programs] seem to be doing a slightly better job getting ELs to English proficiency than dual-language immersion programs. The good news, though, is that now we finally have a store of data that will help us analyze the effectiveness of our programs and continually question our assumptions so that we continue to make the best decisions for EL students, as required by the Lau v. Nichols court settlement we operate under.
  • Staff also updated the Board on the draft Coordinated Early Intervention Services (CEIS) plan submitted to the state last week — required because we have been found to be “significantly disproportionate” in our identification of African-American students for special education. The fact that African-American students in San Francisco and many other places are disproportionately identified for special education isn’t really a surprise to anyone, but now that the finding is “official” from the state, the district must take specific measures; the CEIS plan — listing our findings on the root causes of disproportionality and steps we will take to decrease it –is the first step. Once the draft plan is approved by the state the district will be required to use 15 percent of our IDEA appropriation to fund the plan, which is restrictive but given the depth of the problem, probably justified.

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