Recap: First meeting of the 2015-16 school year!

Students aren’t actually in school yet but as far as the district is concerned, the year is under way. Administrators returned to work in late July, teachers report back this week, and the Board resumed its normal meeting schedule tonight after the annual July hiatus.

There were a couple of very interesting items on tonight’s agenda:

  • Willie Brown Middle School preview – 6 out of the 7 Board members have never opened a new school before (the last brand new school the district opened was Dianne Feinstein Elementary in 2005) , so the unveiling of the sparkling new Willie Brown Middle School this week is really exciting for us. The numbers are good: 215 students enrolled in the inaugural 6th grade class, with 33 on the waiting list. Our goal was to open Willie Brown as a fully-enrolled, diverse school, and it looks as if we’ll achieve that goal — the incoming class is 45% African American, 23% Latino and 32% all other races (Chinese, Caucasian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, etc), coming from 38 different SFUSD elementary schools and 15 different zip codes. Every student will receive their own personal Chromebook on the first day, and have an advisor who will work with them on their individualized learning plan throughout the school year. Principal Demetrius Hobson has hired a new staff that has been working together for several weeks now to build the new program. After the humiliation and defeat that was the old Willie Brown MS (someday I’ll write up what it was like to visit that school in the last few months before it closed), I’m feeling confident we have set up the new school for success.
  • Schools in The Shipyard – You know The Shipyard, right? That’s the Hunters Point Shipyard to you old timers. Lennar Corp. and the City of San Francisco are hard at work in the area creating a “revitalized waterfront neighborhood . . . offering a mix of residences, retail, entertainment, a research and development campus, community space, and a business incubator.” Early on, the school district was offered space for a school within the development, which is good because the plan calls for almost 5,800 new residences. Tonight, we heard that the early vision (much more planning and analysis will be needed) is for two schools in The Shipyard: an “elementary professional learning school,” which would be a collaboration between SF State and SFUSD to provide training and professional development for emerging and experienced teachers and focus students at an early age on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and a STEM “excelerator” that would be “a state-of-the-art research and technology facility where high school and college students design and complete projects in collaboration with partners in the local business community.” The big question mark, aside from how much all of this would cost and where the money would come from (more about that in a minute), is the demographic analysis. San Francisco is changing rapidly, and will look very different 10 years from now than it does today. So are these school visions what we will truly need?  One thing that has always bothered me, and many others, is that a few years ago  our demographers said we didn’t need to rush to build a school in Mission Bay because so few of the market rate homes being built there would yield public school students. That prediction has held true, as Commissioner Wynns observed tonight, but I would argue that we didn’t build it, so they didn’t come.  To risk a long Mission Bay digression, we have two schools that are near(ish) to the Mission Bay area (reportedly swarming with young kids)–Bessie Carmichael K-8 and Daniel Webster K-5. Both are almost a mile away from the core of the neighborhood, straight up a steep set of hills and/or on the other side of a freeway. Not walkable.)  Anyway, I strongly made the point tonight that we need to dig deeper on our demographic analysis, and not simply decide that middle- and upper-middle class kids will never come our way, so we shouldn’t build for them. Demographic analysis to inform The Shipyard school discussion, as well as our larger ongoing discusssion on student assignment policy,  should be available sometime next month.  Finally, as far as funding the vision for The Shipyard schools, we’re beginning to plan for a bond issue in November 2016. Considering Willie Brown cost $54 million, this might be a big one. Stay tuned for more on that.

I’ve made a new school year resolution to blog more regularly — reading back over old posts from a few years ago makes me realize how little I’ve posted in recent months. Hold me accountable! In the meantime, wishing everyone a very happy and productive start to the school year. I’ll post Willie Brown pix after Friday’s opening ceremonies.


6 responses to “Recap: First meeting of the 2015-16 school year!

  1. 5 or 6 percent Chinese means they have not attracted anywhere near the percent that live in the area. That may be a problem.

  2. Mission Bay has a lot of per-school age children. It is true that when children reach school age a number move out. This is especially true if they have a second child. The number of family friendly units in that area is limited. However, the question would be how many stay through most of elementary school. There may be a sufficient number to justify a school.

    The affordable units tend to be the smaller units purchased by young professionals just starting their careers. Really not much different than young people who buy market rate units. Depending on the unit they can make to $70 to $90K and still qualify for a BMR unit. However, they will also likely move on when they have children.

  3. Congratulations on the opening of Willie Brown Middle School!

    I’m excited to hear the board will reconsider building a school in SoMa. I see so many families in that area now and a well-designed school (maybe a K-8?) would be a fantastic community asset. If you haven’t see it, this video Tale of Two Cities comparing Vancouver and San Francisco’s approach to building schools is really food for thought:


  4. Each of the other ethnicities I mentioned–Chinese, Filipino, White, Pacific Islander–are 5 to 6 percent of the total student body. 8 percent is listed as “other”.

  5. Jamie Whitaker

    Number of families move out of Mission Bay once kids hit school age. I think another thing to keep on mind is that thousands of the homes are built to be affordable to folks making 55% area median income (around $50k for a family of 4) in the redevekopment areas of Mission Bay/ Rincon Point- South Beach, and Transbay… Not to mention high number affordable in Mission Rock, if approved by voters for zoning height increase and built.
    I would also argue that transportation to Mission Bay from other parts of San Francisco that are seeing a lot of housing development is easier – Mission Bay has many bus routes and T-Third along with bicycle routes.
    Also keep in mind District 6 represents 20% of the assessed values on property tax rolls – and SFUSD needs these voters to feel connected/engaged if they want to win support for future bonds or parcel taxes. A STEM oriented school in the midst of UCSF and Media Gulch seems like a home run too.

    I am afraid SoMa/Mission Bay sugfer the same stale geograpic discrimination – people grew up with yye notion that it is tye ghetto with no kids, and sadly, SoMa lacks public parks tonprivde visual proof that there are lotsa kids living in the SoMa District and Mission Bay.

  6. What is the composition of the other 32%? The high percent of African American students at Willie Brown, 45%, is much higher than Visitation at 25%. Visitation has the lowest academic performance.

    If middle and upper middle class kids will not enroll in public schools the question is why and why that question is not being asked. But that middleclass will not enroll in public schools may not be true. Middleclass kids can be found in popular elementary schools like Miraloma, de Avia, and Clarendon. Why are middleclass children found there and not in other schools?