Recap: November 18 2014

Not much on the agenda tonight, but a long meeting nevertheless — followed by closed session!

Most of the Board’s time this evening was spent listening to public comment:

  • A group of parents from Mission Education Center came to tell us not to relocate students from Daniel Webster ES to their site when construction begins on that school next year. The construction will make Webster unusable for the 2015-16 school year, so the district staff is evaluating several options (none of them very popular) for housing Webster staff and students during the construction. Mission Education Center (a newcomer school that is serving large numbers of unaccompanied minors coming to S.F.) and Starr King have been two options under consideration. Last month, we heard from Starr King families that their site cannot accommodate all or part of the Webster enrollment.  Discussions continue on finding the least disruptive way to get the construction under way while continuing to provide Webster staff and students with a place to teach and learn in reasonable comfort.
  • A group of parents from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy brought us a petition signed by about 100 parents asking for something to be done to help their school move forward. There have been several years of problems, from distrust between staff and parents to faltering parent involvement, and culminating with prolonged absences in several classroom due to teacher leaves and other issues. Parents who testified to the Board tonight were invited to meet with Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and Assistant Superintendent Richard Curci (who supervises the school) , and after the meeting the administration reported that the meeting was very productive. I hope so. Leaders in the school’s Castro district neighborhood feel very strongly about supporting the school that bears Harvey Milk’s name. The neighborhood is affluent, and the student body is already very diverse. There’s no reason why this school shouldn’t be cherished by its parents, and I don’t blame the frustration of families whose children have endured weeks of classrooms with substitutes or sometimes no teacher at all. At the enrollment fair, President Fewer and I spoke with an HMCRA family who was very frustrated that their 5th grader’s classroom had been hit hard by the substitute shortage. The little girl was there and looked almost humiliated when her mother described to me that she had been placed for several days in a Kindergarten class because the class had missed a teacher. Anyway, HMCRA isn’t the only school hit by the sub shortage, but the extended leave of one teacher has meant that parents have really noticed the problem.
  • Several parents and teachers came to talk about our ongoing contract negotiations with United Educators of SF, the union that represents our teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, nurses and other certificated (non administration) staff. The negotiations have been tough and we’ve been working on them a long time. I remain very optimistic that we will come to a deal and that it will provide as much support to our valued staff as fiscally prudent.

A bittersweet part of the evening was the testimony and reading of Commissioner Haney’s “In Support of the Prevention of Gun Violence” resolution. Crafted with lots of input from students at Buena Vista Horace Mann, the resolution seeks to articulate the problem of gun violence in many of our communities, and detail the impact that violence has on young people. It asks the district to take numerous steps to help prevent gun violence, including education for parents and supports and curriculum for students. This resolution was particularly meaningful for the Buena Vista Horace Mann students, because their former classmate Rashawn Williams was tragically killed earlier this fall after a dispute with another student. The process of helping craft this resolution clearly had a healing and galvanizing effect for the teens, and it was very moving to hear their testimony and see their engagement in trying to make something good come out of a terrible tragedy. The resolution passed unanimously.

The Board also accepted the Williams Settlement annual report. Every year, the district must survey building conditions and classroom equipment at its lowest-performing schools. If deficiencies are found, the district must correct those deficiencies and then, using an independent auditor, issue a report to the Board on the problems found and how they were corrected. The requirement dates back to a class action suit filed in 2000 by students in SFUSD against the state of California (Eliezer Williams, et. al. v. California). The suit was settled in 2004 and as part of the settlement the state had to establish uniform complaint procedures and survey/reporting requirements.  This year, 94 percent of classrooms surveyed were adequately staffed and equipped at the beginning of school. Where deficiencies were found — primarily some wiring problems and textbook shortages at a few high schools–the independent auditors reviewed the problems and reported they had been corrected.

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In other news, congratulations to Emily Murase and Hydra Mendoza on being re-elected to the Board earlier this month, and a big congratulations and welcome to Shamann Walton for his successful run. Commissioners (new and returning) will be sworn in in early January.

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5 responses to “Recap: November 18 2014

  1. Tired of no fun in schools

    Schools with PTA that take in close to 75k a year are the only ones that enrich all students on a regular basis. If they take in less, that money goes to the after school program enrichment or for programs for socioeconomic disadvantaged, forcing all others to enrich outside of school ($$$). We came to this sad realization and switched schools and couldn’t be happier. Well we might be happier with Alvarado considering their PTA bucks and how much they afford all their kids extra fun and enrichment. It’s sad how arts have been destroyed and children lack charisma due to lack of public speaking, creative writing, drama, music. I think adding back an hour just so kids can have enrichment would be good for all SF kids. I am tired of spending recentently reviewed and now a ridiculous tax bill for educations that don’t enrich ALL SF kids – disabled, fully capable, intelligent, on IEP, average, poor, rich – instead of focusing on just those IEP and below level kids. It makes all kids and staff suffer when school is not fun. Just grinding away for those teachers that are disengaged and focused on the “problem children” and ignore those with intellectual needs because hey, those kids are passing and gotta get those low scores up. Passing is good enough.

    I think the Webster to Willie brown is an excellent idea and could help with recruit later down the line. That school will need it. While we will consider it in a few years, it’s about the whole child being educated and thankfully we have many years to watch the school succeed or crash and burn. They really should have changed the name too. Location is good for a lot of people but tough for us central dwellers . Pretty ok for commuters down 101 as well. Why isn’t the work at Webster being done over summer and bungalows being used when not? I feel sorry for people with kids in schools during construction. It’s hard on commuters and the students.

  2. Willie Brown Middle School should have space, given that it will only contain 6th graders 2015-2016. If the district supplied buses to drive some of the students from Webster to and from Willie Brown (assuming that some would be able to get to Willie Brown on their own), it should be feasible.

  3. Milk offers no enrichment programs for children anymore. We’ve seen many activities taken away and support staff let go over the years. It is difficult to fundraise when parent involvement dissipates and families become complacent and frustrated. These stories spread in a small city and enrollment seems to reflect this. We are a very diverse school, and I know that so many of our working families would benefit greatly from an overhaul from the District. Pride in our school needs to return and we are desperate for the District to support our cause.

    Thank you, Rachel Norton, for advocating for our school last Tuesday. Your comments during the general comments portion were right on point. We appreciate your attention to our efforts and we know you want to see change happen for the families at our little school. Thank you!

  4. Mission Education Center, a newcomer school serving “unaccompanied minors,” is asking the district to keep Webster students out of the school’s unused classrooms. If the reverse were true, and parents at a school said they didn’t want immigrant children taking space in their classrooms, it would be quite troubling, wouldn’t it?

  5. We tend to think SF is unique. If you read newspapers from surrounding communities you will see all Bay Area schools tend to have similar problems. For example, a few days after the substitute teacher shortage article appeared in the SF Chronicle, an almost identical article appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

    Regarding Milk, it is curious why so few affluent residents of the AA make Milk their first choice; only 3 out of a possible 72. By all measures Milk is a good school; not in the top 25% on all indicators but it is at least high average on most. For measures of teacher quality it is in the top tier with an above average percent of advanced degrees and additional credentials.

    Why isn’t Milk attractive to attendance area residents but attractive to CTIP1 residents? Between 6-14 applicants from CTIP1 areas made Milk their first choice. Between 10 and 24% of the enrollment is from CTIP1 areas. That is the same range as Grattan.

    The 3rd Annual report showed that 55% of CTIP1 applicants to Grattan were white and Grattan continues to have a very low percent of economically disadvantaged students. So it would seem that affluent whites from CTIP1 areas are attracted to Grattan. On the other hand, almost half of Milk’s enrollment is economically disadvantaged. Like Grattan it would be interesting to see the demographics of Milk’s applicants from CTIP1 areas.