Must’ve been the Wheaties because tonight’s meeting wasn’t as arduous as I was expecting. We had a very substantive presentation from the Arts Education Master Plan Advisory Committee on the plan’s successes over the past decade and also ongoing challenges. In a nutshell, the plan has done a lot of good in our schools and it’s time for a major refresh — taking into account the vision for the SFUSD Arts Center that would house district-wide arts professional development and educational programs as well as a brand new Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.
One thing I think most people agree on is the need for a sequential arts curriculum (here’s a great example from New York City public schools) across schools that would assist us in reaching the simple and yet powerful vision of the Arts Education Master Plan: Every student, every school, every day. While we’ve made a lot of progress towards that vision, we haven’t realized it yet.
The Superintendent ended up pulling the Teach for America contract. After my post last night, I emailed him to tell him I was reconsidering my support for the program; it was pretty clear that other Commissioners weren’t prepared to support it either. As I wrote last night, even though I’m loath to limit the staff’s ability to recruit new teachers, it has begun to seem pointless to go through a very divisive debate every year for 15 intern teachers. It’s clear that the teachers’ union is very opposed to this program and their representatives made some good points about repurposing our modest investment in TFA teachers to invest in other programs (San Francisco Teacher Residency is one example) that have better retention rates. In the end, the larger problem is that we have a crisis in our schools that serve some of our neediest populations, and we need to think bigger and more radically than we have in the past to deal with the teacher shortage issue and stabilize staffing in those schools.
Then JROTC. The resolution under consideration by the Board was an attempt to fix a number of unreasonable restrictions imposed on the program by past resolutions, but it was problematic in that it also proposed sweeping changes to our P.E. policy. I had a number of issues with the P.E. portion of the policy, but wanted to support most if not all of the changes proposed to JROTC. The problem going into tonight’s meeting is that the authors (Wynns and Murase) insisted they did not want to split the policy into two resolutions — one making the needed changes to JROTC and the other proposing a lot of changes to our P.E. policy. After a long, and at times heated discussion, the authors agreed to split the resolution into two separate proposals and bring them back at a future meeting.
UESF members were also out in force, holding a rally asking for wage increases that would help teachers and paras afford San Francisco, as well as requesting additional investment in the Safe and Supportive Schools policy that has transformed our approach to discipline. Teachers stressed that they support the policy, but need training and resources to make sure that we are realizing positive approaches to behavior and discipline for all students.
Hi Rachel, I really appreciated your questions at the Board last night, especially those questioning whether it’s really realistic for our district Visual and Performing Arts department plan to make the claim that all kids are accessing quality arts programs in ALL our schools.
I think, at the elementary level, there are some serious design flaws with our current model of program delivery. In some cases, we have amazing arts educators doing amazing things. But, it’s not really realistic to expect teachers that in some cases service five schools each to deliver rich instruction to every kid at every school they serve. Even social workers and librarians, who usually serve more than one school, only serve two schools max. Add two this the expectation that VAPA staff partner with principles and other school staff… I don’t have to talk to you every principle in the district, but I can tell you this just isn’t happening by and large.
Additionally it sounds like our current model excludes many English learner students taking English language development classes at the middle and possibly high school school level. No one could argue that this is anywhere near equitable.
That said, we all agree arts education is important. I appreciate your continued involvement in this issue and hope the district can do more to survey parents and students and teachers at various schools throughout the district to gather their experiences in crafting a an ambitious yet realistic arts education program for our district.