Recap: Teachers, condoms and Mandarin


One of the highlights of the early spring at the school district is the annual celebration of the National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). This incredibly rigorous professional certification requires a serious commitment on the part of educators, so those who successfully complete the program rightly deserve to be celebrated!  At tonight’s board meeting we honored 17 new and 12 renewed NBCTs — the district has 264 NBCTs in all.

condom packet

This is the packet high school students currently receive when requesting condoms.

The much-discussed (in the media anyway — I have gotten very little mail from actual constituents, but most of the feedback I have heard has been positive) proposal to make condoms available to sexually-active middle school students was held after a request from a group of parents who wanted more time to understand the proposal. We’ll vote on the proposal at a future meeting, probably Feb. 23. If you’re concerned about the proposal, are some things to consider:

  • There is absolutely no research that shows condoms increase sexual behavior, and lots of research showing that they reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that only five percent of SFUSD middle-school students are sexually active, so this is a small group of students we’re talking about; yet it’s crucial to be sure students that young are safe if they are engaging in sexual behavior.
  • State law allows students of any age to access contraception confidentially, and does not require parent consent.
  • At the middle schools, students will meet with a school nurse or social worker before receiving contraception.
  • The county’s Department of Public Health is strongly supportive of the policy.

I was very pleased and honored that the Board unanimously passed the resolution I authored with Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer to explore expanding access to Mandarin and other world languages. The amended resolution asks the district simply to initiate the program placement process to explore placing world language Mandarin programs into elementary schools that feed into middle schools that already offer Mandarin. As the Board was preparing to discuss and vote on the resolution, a group of teachers in district biliteracy programs and parents from those programs also gave public comment to draw attention to the additional demands of assessing students in two languages. The Board received petitions signed by almost 90 teachers asking for an additional 21 hours of compensation each year to address this extra workload.

bilingual teachers

And wait, there’s more . . .

  • The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is now recruiting! The PAC is one of the parent engagement success stories in the school district, created to engage, inform and represent parent perspectives, ideas and voices on education matters. Serving on the PAC promotes, supports and builds parent leadership to improve outcomes for all SFUSD students. Learn more and apply! (information also available in Spanish and Chinese). Applications are due by April 15, 2016.
  • Did you know SFUSD holds the license to the KALW (FM 91.7) public radio station? At one time, many public school districts and universities held radio licenses, but we may be one of the few left. We are very proud of our partnership with KALW, and Station Manager Matt Martin gave his annual report of the station’s financial position and programming — some great stuff going on! Learn more about KALW and its programming at their website, You can also donate (I did!).
  • Commissioners Murase and Wynns introduced a resolution and proposed policy change that amends our P.E. independent study policy to solve a number of issues, including how students at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts complete P.E. requirements and the administration of the JROTC program. Given the always hot-button P.E. and JROTC issues, I expect this resolution to generate a lot of ink and heat in the coming weeks. We’ll discuss it at a Committee of the Whole on Feb. 16 starting at 6 p.m.
  • A big thank you to members of the CAC for Special Education, who brought us a slate of five new members who were unanimously approved tonight. This committee is where I got my start as a parent advocate, and I’m so grateful to the members who volunteer their time and effort to encourage awareness and advocate on behalf of students with disabilities in our district.
  • Last but not least, the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee came with our bond program auditor to present a positive report on the district’s capital program. Our schools look better than they ever have — go visit the new classroom buildings at Peabody ES and Sunnyside ES, the new campus at Willie Brown MS and see the construction that will renew Daniel Webster ES and James Lick MS for examples.

And if you haven’t read enough so far . . .

  • A bit more reading material: The Learning Policy Institute, a new think tank out of Stanford University, has released a report titled “Assessing California’s Teacher Shortage” (PDF download). There are some interesting policy prescriptions in the report. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we, as local policymakers, can really move the needle on the teacher shortage. Salary is the biggest piece of that, and we start contract negotiations early next year. In addition, there are other important ways we might be able to attract and retain teachers here in SF, as well as continue to grow our own. Take a look at the report and let me know what you think.



3 responses to “Recap: Teachers, condoms and Mandarin

  1. When I was a young teenager I had to ask the druggist for condoms that were kept behind the counter. Some would sell them to children. Today anyone can walk into a Walgreen’s or CVS and get them off the shelf without parental permission. I am not sure what all the fuss is about.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    I also support the condom availability. I think it tells the students that sex is a responsibility and that it is better to put sex in a responsible, conscious framework rather than a framework of secrecy and shame.

    In terms of the teacher shortage, I think debt reduction of student loans (it’s expensive to go to school and teacher’s salaries are not high), higher pay, and 3 year mentorship programs for new teachers (similar to residencies for doctors) would help keep people working in education and draw them to the profession. I also think in high poverty schools that having two teachers per classroom to create a co-teaching environment would also be supportive of teachers.

    In addition, I think teaching profession has been stripped of its professionalism because of testing and pre-defined curriculum. If the district moved toward giving teachers more authority in terms of curriculum and co-optative autonomy where teachers work and reflect in groups as was presented in the book MIssion High then teachers would have a stronger pathway of supported engagement in the profession. As you know, the book Mission High tells the story of teaching success. It seems that the district should read that book and also spend time with those teachers. The district should ask teachers what they need and what would help them stay in the profession.

    Ask teachers first what supports they need – big and small – and see what they say. Maybe there are some small changes that would make a big difference in the life of a public school teacher. It’s hard to know if you don’t ask them.

  3. I just wanted to post in support of the condom proposal. I’m glad you are hearing mostly good feedback about it. I suspect a lot of people have gut reactions that handing condoms to middle schoolers is a touch extreme (I know I did). I’m sure that the media framing doesn’t help — handing out “condoms for 6th graders” as if your child will get them with their school lunches.

    But facilitating condom use for those who are sexually active is in the interest of public health, no matter what they age. If kids are active in middle school, we should own up to it, and offer safer options at least. As a parent it pains me to say this, but parents should not be given the option to consent, nor should they be notified of their childs’ condom usage. The system wouldn’t really function any other way.

    Additionally, I personally believe condom use is more of a deterrent for those inexperienced in sex than an inspiration. Having to stop to put on a condom allows for second thoughts, a conversation, etc. Condom usage promotes the grown-up reality of sex rather than the fantasy image of it.