Category Archives: Campaign

Good news all around!

There are still lots of votes to count, but it looks very much as if the three incumbents (Fewer, Norton and Wynns) were re-elected along with newcomer Matt Haney (you can learn more about Matt here — he will be a great advocate for our students and a great addition to the Board!). Congratulations to the winners and my sincere thanks and admiration to all of the candidates who worked so hard and contributed to the substantive dialogue in this year’s Board election.

In addition, Prop. 30 appears to have passed! If confirmed, its passage will prevent mid-year cuts and a loss of additional instructional days. This afternoon, the Superintendent sent out the following message:

Dear SFUSD Colleagues:

While the voters of California narrowly approved Prop 30, the voters of San Francisco approved it by an overwhelming majority. I am incredibly grateful to my fellow San Franciscans for committing to our public schools.

Some of you may be wondering what Prop 30 passing means for our schools.  This proposition temporarily collects new taxes to maintain state contributions to K-12 education at the same level as 2011-12. The real outcome of Prop 30 is to stop further cuts to schools. The good news is that as a result of Prop 30 passing we do not anticipate any mid-year cuts.

Our collective challenge remains that, even with Prop 30, the baseline K-12 resources from our state remain underfunded by 22% or about $1,500 per student based on the Prop 98 guarantee and cost of living adjustments the state has failed to provide for years.  We still have to maintain cuts in the current year’s budget, including furloughs for employees for up to two days and the school year will still be shortened by one half-day for our students (the last day of school).

The take-away: We need to keep advocating for more adequate funding for our schools AND today’s election results are a small, but significant step in the right direction.

I am thrilled that we have a bit of breathing room on the budget, and honored to have another four years to serve on this Board. There is a lot more work to do!


Closing argument: Why I should be re-elected

Why should you choose me as one of your four votes for S.F. school board this year? Here are some reasons why I should be re-elected:

  • Despite years of cuts, the district is in good shape and achievement is rising.  There are three incumbents running for re-election, and as one of them I believe we should all get credit for keeping the district running well despite four straight years of terrible cuts to K-12 education in California. The district recently reported an Academic Performance Index of 807, above the state’s required benchmark for schools; student achievement is rising for all ethnic groups and we recently had a very smooth leadership transition — avoiding an expensive Superintendent search and affirming the district’s current direction by promoting Richard Carranza. And though I’ve been supportive of the district’s general direction, I have pushed back on administration and/or other Board members when necessary.
  • I have led the work to transform special education services in SFUSD. Four years ago, I ran on a platform that special education services in SFUSD were dysfunctional, outdated, and not delivering much benefit to students. That view was affirmed by an external review we commissioned in 2010, and since that time there have been huge changes both in department staffing and philosophy. The work is not done — my own recent experiences as a middle school inclusion parent have underscored this — but we have acknowledged the problem and have articulated a vision about where we need to be in the coming years. More teachers have been trained in inclusive practices, and every school in SFUSD is now an inclusive school — this was not the case when I ran in 2008. We have made progress and I am very proud of my role in leading this change.
  • I have been a responsive and visible member of the Board of Education, providing an unusual degree of transparency through this blog and other channels.  I often meet parents, teachers and other constituents across San Francisco who tell me how much they appreciate the information I provide through this blog. I stay up (too) late after every board meeting to recap what happened, and I respond to questions and comments from readers.
  • I’ve kept my promises.  Here’s the post I wrote four years ago, several days before the election. Judge for yourself whether I’ve delivered on what I promised.

For these reasons, I respectfully ask for your vote for another term. If you need  more information, check out my endorsements, my background, and my stands on the issues.  Thanks for your time and attention. 

Scarier than Halloween . . .

Tonight the Superintendent sent a memo to the Board listing the effects if Prop. 30 and/or Prop. 38 don’t pass. It’s not good, and includes $10 million in additional forced closure (furlough) days this school year — school would end with a half day on Thursday, May 23 instead of a half-day on Friday, May 27–as well as $6.5 million in additional mid-year cuts. And then there’s 2013-14.

Though many school advocates feel Prop. 38 is better for schools in the long run (here is a more detailed comparison of the two measures as well as a fact sheet), the measure has never polled above 50 percent. Prop. 30 had polled above 50 percent until recently, but because of negative advertising the measure is now supported by less than a majority according to polls.  Though I have long advocated a “yes/yes” position on the two measures, with the reasoning that asking voters to choose between the two dooms both to failure, I think now during the stretch it is imperative that education advocates impress on voters who care about our schools that Prop. 30 must pass.   In other words, do whatever you want with Prop. 38 (I’m voting yes) but please, whatever you do, vote YES on 30. 

Broad-based support for my re-election

I’m honored to announce some great new endorsements for my re-election campaign: the San Francisco Young Democrats endorsed me this week, as did the District 11 Democratic Club and the Noe Valley Democratic Club. For a complete list of organizations, elected officials and individuals supporting my re-election, please visit my endorsements page

Inspire me: you have two minutes

I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C, and it’s made me think a lot about campaign speeches.  Now, one big advantage the speechifiers in Charlotte seem to have is time – -for example, Bill Clinton was supposed to speak for 28 minutes but he spoke for almost 50 minutes. Did you notice anyone trying to get him to stop talking? I didn’t.

When you are speaking to an audience,  you want them to first of all pay attention. Have you ever spoken to a room of people that was more interested in talking to each other than they were interested in hearing what you had to say? I have, and it’s awful.

Once you (hopefully)have the audience’s attention,  you  want to inspire them — to make them feel something after hearing what you have to say. Finally, you want to spur them to action — to take the feelings you inspired and translate those feelings to donating money or time for the cause.

I’m a little jealous of the convention speakers because here in San Francisco — where local candidates make the rounds of more than two dozen political clubs and organizations– we usually get about two minutes. I challenge anyone to first capture the attention of a jaded group of political operatives who have heard 10,20 or 30 canddiates over the course of a day and then to inspire  said group of political operatives to remember what you said — and then like it enough to vote for you at the end of the day.

That’s the job of a candidate– incumbent or challenger. In 2008, when I was a challenger, I wrote about this two-minute speech. Now, since I’ve been on the Board for four years, I’ve updated the speech to read (more or less verbatim, though the version below takes three minutes to recite):

Hi, I’m Rachel Norton, and I’m running for re-election to the Board of Education.  Four years ago, I promised to hold the district accountable for:

  • Increasing the achievement of all children and narrowing the achievement gap
  • Increasing transparency in district decision-making and communication with all stakeholders
  • Transforming the district’s special education services.

I’m proud to say that I’ve kept those promises.

  • Expectations for students are higher than ever with the implementation of the new A-G graduation requirements. Test scores have risen every year I’ve been on the board, and the achievement gap is narrowing, despite a very painful and prolonged budget crisis.
  • I’ve used my web site, as a vehicle for communicating with constituents, explaining district decision-making and getting important information out to the public. In addition to writing about important issues facing the district, I post recaps of every Board meeting, and answer questions and comments from readers.
  • The district commissioned a top-to-bottom audit of special education in 2010, and has begun a complete redesign of the way we provide support and individualized instruction to students with disabilities. I’m very proud of the fact that full inclusion is now an option at every school in the district, rather than a select few.

As a parent of two middle schoolers, one with special needs, I’m pleased about the progress the district has made, but I’m not satisfied yet. Both my daughters will enter high school in the next few years, and I want to be sure there are challenging, engaging programs that will help support them and encourage them to reach their dreams. I want to continue to closely monitor the outcomes of our redesigned student assignment system and the ongoing work in special education. I want to support our new Superintendent and leadership team in meeting our strategic plan goals of Access and Equity, Student Achievement, and Accountability.

There’s lots of work to still to be done in our 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools, particularly those in the Bayview, which have long been the City’s most under-resourced and under-attended schools.  It’s time to stop talking and start improving our district’s student nutrition infrastructure, which will require money for updated facilities and staff to cook fresh meals for students, not reheat frozen food as we currently do. Finally, our budget will remain very thin for the foreseeable future – particularly if neither Prop. 30 or Prop. 38 on the ballot pass in November.  Steering the district through the “nuclear winter” that could result will require a Board that is cohesive and committed to doing what is best for students, even when it is difficult.

Over the past four years, I’ve proved myself to be a hard-working, well-informed and responsive member of the school board, and I’ve earned a second term. My endorsements include the Democratic Party, SF Parent Pac, Richmond District Democratic Club, President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu and Supervisors Scott Wiener, Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, Carmen Chu, and Eric Mar, School Board president Norman Yee and Commissioners Jill Wynns and Emily Murase, as well as District Attorney George Gascon and State Senator Mark Leno.  I would be honored to have your endorsement as well.

Sometimes, you show up at an endorsement meeting and you only have one minute to speak. Sometimes, you have three minutes, with two additional minutes for questions. (Surprisingly, I’m best at the question and answer part — you’d think I’d hate the uncertainty but I find answering constituent questions to be much more relaxing than the opening statement).  So, part of being a candidate is being able to adjust your stump speech on the fly.

Campaign update: I need your help!

And now for a bit of political news: my re-election campaign is up and running — I’m collecting signatures to count towards the ballot filing fee of $500 and raising money to pay for slate cards and mailers that will be sent out in October. On June 30, candidates will report what they’ve raised so far, and though there is still four months left until the election, fundraising totals are viewed as an important sign of viability (or vulnerability :-)).

People tell me all the time how much they appreciate the information I post on this blog, and how important it is for parents and community members to feel informed about what is happening in schools. Hearing that is deeply gratifying to me: I love this work and I know I have made a difference since taking office in early 2009. Many people have already pledged their support and more endorsers are coming on every day — I’m so grateful for all of the support I’ve received thus far! But it is not enough, yet, to get me over the top on Election Day.

School board races are won three ways: energizing your base of support to help get out the vote, having the financial resources to pay for mail and slate cards, and capturing key endorsements from individuals and organizations. I’m working hard on all of those things! Can you help me? Please, even if you can only donate $25 or $50, a contribution to the campaign is the single best thing you could do to help me right now. Later on, in September and October, supporters can display window signs, have house parties, walk precincts and do other get-out-the-vote activities.

But right now, the best way to help is to get the campaign the resources I’ll need to contact the vast majority of voters who don’t pay attention to down-ballot races like the school board.

Donate to the campaign >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

(This link takes you to ActBlue, an external fundraising site that provides easy credit card processing for Democratic candidates. If you are not a Democrat, or don’t wish to use ActBlue, you can download this form and mail me a check. Just don’t forget!)

Did you get the letter?

Families with children enrolled in SFUSD are receiving letters this week reminding them that using a false address to attend San Francisco public schools is fraud, and offering families who come forward voluntarily amnesty from fines and possible criminal prosecution.

We got our letter on Tuesday — it’s very important to know that if the letter arrives at your true address, and you legally reside in San Francisco, you do not need to take any action.  The district’s frequently asked questions document about residency fraud is here; the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the fraud crackdown earlier in the week.

* * *

The school board race is very close; Hydra Mendoza, Kim-Shree Maufas and Margaret Brodkin are leading with Emily Murase closely behind in fourth place — I’ve heard different estimates of how many ballots remain to be counted but it could be several days before the outcome is certain.  The Department of Elections is posting updates here each afternoon.

Final BOE candidate forum is online

Last night, the SF PTA, PPS San Francisco, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and Chinese for Affirmative Action sponsored the final candidate forum for this year’s Board of Education election. 11 candidates are running, but only seven of the candidates attended the forum (Kim-Shree Maufas, Omar Khalif, Tom Chan and Bill Barnes were not present). The event was rebroadcast this evening on public radio station KALW, and a podcast of the entire forum is available for download on

Full disclosure: I have endorsed Margaret Brodkin, Emily Murase and Hydra Mendoza in this election.

BOE Candidate Forum

I had a whole post written about last Friday’s candidate forum but  . . . really, everyone already knows what I think.  For those who haven’t made up their minds, I did some live tweets of the first few rounds of questions, and took some video of candidates’ closing statements.

Present at the forum were: Omar Khalif, Hydra Mendoza, Starchild, Winifred Dajani, Emily Murase, Margaret Brodkin, Natasha Hoehn, and Jamie Rafaela Wolfe. (Winifred Dajani had to leave early and so did not give a closing statement).

The second and final forum for this election season will be held Wednesday, Oct. 27 starting at 6:30 p.m., at Lincoln High School (20th Ave. and Quintara).  Yeah, I know this event conflicts with Game 1 of the World Series — still, I hope undecided voters will try to come out and learn more about the candidates.

How I’m voting today

As a reminder, here’s how I’ve decided to vote on the six Propositions on the ballot for today’s Special Election:

  • 1A (Cuts spending and establishes a Rainy Day fund): NO – this is no way to make good public policy (update: if you don’t believe me, believe Sweet Melissa, she knows!);
  • 1B (Repays school districts later for budget cuts now): YES – 1B does not take effect without 1A, so this is a protest vote that will have no practical effect but feels good;
  • 1C (Restructures the state lottery): NO – I am OK with borrowing against future lottery revenues but don’t like that the proceeds go in the general fund instead of funding education;
  • 1D (Cuts in services for children age 5 and younger): NO;
  • 1E (Cuts in mental health services funding): NO;
  • 1F (Prevents pay increases for legislators): NO – this is a basically meaningless measure (CFT calls it “faux populist”) that is just there to make people feel good by sticking it to the Legislature, but hey–support it if it makes you feel better.