Category Archives: Great things going on

Welcome back!

I’ve taken a break from blogging and most school board duties over the past six weeks or so, and it’s been a much needed break. But now a new school year is about to begin, and all over our school district teachers, administrators and other staff are gearing up. So I think it’s fitting to post something a bit inspirational.
Last weekend, teachers from all over the country marched on Washington D.C. to “Save our Schools” — an event designed to articulate teachers’ real concern about the direction of education policy in this country. There were some great speeches, but this one seems to have captured the imagination more than most — the actor Matt Damon, who flew all night to address the rally and honor his mom, a teacher herself.

Scenes from Young at Art 2011

I was glad to have a chance to see the 2011 Young At Art installation at the DeYoung today — it was the last day of this annual art festival celebrating the work of student artists at schools all over San Francisco (primarily public schools but some private schools enter as well). Here’s a look at some of the great artwork created by students:

SFUSD students showcase their cha-cha, salsa and swing

School Board Vice President Norman Yee has been busy this spring, helping several SFUSD elementary schools  (Hillcrest, Bryant, Leonard Flynn, Guadalupe,  Longfellow and Marshall) organize ballroom dancing lessons for students in their afterschool programs.

On May 7, students held a showcase to present what they had learned — which, judging from the video, was quite a lot!

Norman is a salsa dance enthusiast and he had a great time organizing this program for the students. He encourages students to learn dance because, like other athletic activities, it reinforces self-discipline and it provides students access to a new, joyful endeavor that requires focus to do well.

Thanks to Norman and to the dance coaches who helped students learn something new and have a great time in the process.

A bright spot

Sometimes, things happen to reinforce my faith that good things are happening in this school district, despite all the angry e-mails I get. Today, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the unveiling of a mural at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, created by two students from the Community Access Transition (CAT) class at the school. (Students in CAT classes are over the age of 18 but, due to their individual needs, still eligible for special education until the age of 22).  The CAT teacher at SOTA, Heidi Hubrich, noticed that two of her students had particular drawing abilities, and arranged for them to work with artists at an amazing local program, Creativity Explored.

Every Wednesday for almost a year, Steven Liu and Joel Kong worked with artist Larry Morace on drawing. Mr. Morace quickly noticed that Steven was especially talented at landscapes; Joel was especially talented at portraits. Both young men are extremely loyal to their hometown of San Francisco, and blossomed as artists when they began to visit locations around the city to find subjects to draw. Out of Steven and Joel’s work with Mr. Morace, a mural honoring San Francisco subjects was born.

The mural is  a lovely and inspiring artistic achievement in and of itself, but in the true spirit of SOTA (and its patron, Ruth Asawa), other student artists noticed the work and responded in kind. Two juniors in the Media Arts program created a five-minute documentary (which I am seeking to show at the March 22 Board meeting) about Steven and Joel and their mural. A student in the Creative Writing program wrote a poem about it. And today, artists and supporters from Creativity Explored, SOTA students and faculty, Steven, Joel and Heidi’s family members and many others gathered at SOTA to view the completed mural for the first time, celebrate the universal appeal and accessibility of the arts, and honor artists of all abilities.  Today’s event felt like a peek into a future we know can be in all of our schools – where students are respected, accepted and celebrated for what they CAN do rather than sorted based on what they CAN’T. It was lovely.

The next time you are visiting SOTA, check out the mural right next to the door to room 208, Ms. Hubrich’s CAT class,  and pause for a moment to think about whether the “dis-abilities” of the artists really matters.

Video fun

Two fun videos to share:

The video above shows the work of  students in our CAT program (transition for students with disabilities ages 18-22) who participated in a stop-motion animation class sponsored by  the City’s Recreation & Parks Department.

Click here to see SFUSD students featured on ABC-7 News tonight — the clip is about “Everything Goes,” a performance of the SF Arts Ed Players (full disclosure: my children are part of the Players this year).  You probably know SF Arts Ed for the artists-in-residence it provides to San Francisco public schools during the school year, and the Players are part of another amazing program where students learn dance, singing and acting skills and perform in a professionally-staged production.

Saturday and Sunday, the Players will be performing in a revue of Cole Porter songs — they have worked incredibly hard since September, with hours of rehearsals each week, and the hard work shows!  Shows are 2:00 p.m. both days at the Eureka Theater (215 Jackson St., SF) — Tickets can be purchased online through City Box Office.

Attention SF teachers: Free stuff!

I heart SCRAP (Scrounger’s Center for Reusable Art Parts), and here’s just the latest reason–their “Hats Off to Teachers” open house and art supply giveaway this Saturday. Here are the details:

Please join us on Saturday for our annual open house – Hats Off to Teachers – and materials give away.  We will have a room-full of supplies, including National Geographic magazines, calendars, boxes, paper, markers, crayons, pens, pencils as well as refreshments and hands-on demonstrations. All supplies will be available from October 2nd to October 7th while supplies last. Pass the word on to all the teachers you know.
Hats Off to Teachers
DATE:  Saturday, October 2nd
TIME:  11 am – 4 pm
LOCATION:  SCRAP – 801 Toland Street, entrance on Newcomb

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Kenan Shapero
Friends of SCRAP, Inc.

Don’t miss: ‘Young at Art’ at the DeYoung!

Sunday, May 16 is the last day to see the wonderful artwork from students at schools throughout the city.

Two days late but no less grateful

Tuesday was National Teacher Day; I meant to post this then but got busy and so now it’s two days late. It’s a tribute to all teachers, but especially the hardworking, dedicated and no-nonsense Marilyn Laidlaw, a P.E. teacher at James Denman Middle School. I got to know Marilyn in the wake of the JROTC controversy, after she reached out to me to take issue with some of my notions concerning P.E.

Since then, I’ve visited her class at Denman several times. When her 8th graders were learning gymnastics, she brooked no protest when I wanted to sit and watch and instead insisted I learn how to do a handstand (I did – wouldn’t you have?) More recently, I’ve visited her dance classes, which are a combination of typical 6th grade students and mainstreamed students with disabilities who are enrolled in a self-contained classroom at Denman.  I could say a lot more about the lovely interactions and mutual learning I’ve observed on these occasions, but I’d rather let the videos below speak for themselves. Watch all three — it’s a total time investment of maybe six minutes and well worth it – are these joyful learners or what?

Thanks, Marilyn, for everything you do. And thanks to all teachers who continue to believe in what they are doing and in the students they are teaching. I am so grateful.

El Dorado Bakers Book: great gift for a great cause

Crossposting from The SF KFiles:

The Kindergartners of Room 9 and their First Grade Buddies in Room 104 would like to share the delicious results of their Breaking Bread unit with you. Their bound and illustrated cookbook will be available 5 December for $4.00 a copy (+ $2 shipping and handling if applicable). All proceeds will support their weekly cooking projects.
The El Dorado’s Bakers’ Book can be purchased at El Dorado in person, by phone (415.331.1537) or by mail (Jennifer Moless/Tali Horowitz, El Dorado ES 70 Delta St. San Francisco CA 94134). Orders are also accepted by email to jennifer.moless “at” We can accept cash or checks made out to Jennifer Moless or Tali Horowitz.
Thank you for supporting healthy, hands-on learning in our classrooms!
El Dorado is a great school with a great staff, and great students. They deserve all the support they can get! 

How I really feel about the enrollment fair: The shocking truth!

cropped_fairToday was the annual enrollment fair. It’s a kind of amazing, only-in-San Francisco event designed to help parents find a public school for their child. What a scene it is! Every school staffs a table, and most of them have elaborate photo displays, banners and brochures on hand to represent the school’s unique identity. The district’s Educational Placement Center organizes workshops helping parents to understand how our complex enrollment process works; and other agencies and organizations that serve families and children are also on hand.

The first enrollment fair was organized by PPS-SF back in 1999 2000, and it was an astounding success when over 1,000 people attended. Now, the attendance at the annual fair is easily four or five times that 7,000 people or more.  And it’s going to sound mushy (and kind of enrage people who hate our current enrollment process), but I love the fair every year! There is a tremendous positive spirit in the room, filled with people who want our schools to work and who are for the most part volunteering their Saturday to send the message that they are working for many children.

Like the annual Support for Families Information and Resources Conference every spring, this event is a great time for me to catch up with friends at schools across the district, and make some new ones. I had a great conversation with one of our newer principals about the way his staff are using data to identify which instructional strategies are working and which are not.  I met many prospective Kindergarten parents and a number who were looking for high schools and middle schools.

Now, I know that the complexity and uncertainty of our assignment process is the underlying reason why we have an Enrollment Fair in the first place. And that the expense and effort of organizing and hosting the fair every year wouldn’t be necessary if our system were less complex and more certain.  I also know that the current assignment process needs to change, because it is not accomplishing our district-wide goals of closing the achievement gap, and providing access and equity for every child.

All of that said, I still think it is such a positive experience to see so many hundreds of parents, teachers and principals ready to spend an entire Saturday talking about all the good things that are happening in our schools. I wish very good luck to all of the parents who attended today’s fair, and want to assure you that in the end, you WILL find a good public school for your child in San Francisco.