Category Archives: Great things going on

SFUSD posts strong academic results for 2011-12

Last Friday, President Norman Yee and I were proud to stand alongside Superintendent Carranza and other district leaders to announce the district’s scores on the 2011-12 California Standards Test (CST or STAR test). The scores added another data point to the trend of gradual improvement for all SFUSD students in English/Language Arts and Math.

English/Language Arts:
Overall, 60.5 percent of all students in grades 2-11 scored proficient or above, up from 50.5 percent in 2008. In the Superintendent’s Zone, fewer students scored proficient (35.5 percent) but compared to just 19.4 percent proficient in these schools in 2008, the gains were impressive. The nine SIG schools (those receiving three-year Federal School Improvement Grants ending in 2013) increased to 36.6 percent proficient compared to 18.2 percent proficient just four years ago.

Mathematics
Overall, 67.6 percent of all students in grades 2-7 scored proficient or above, up from 59.4 percent in 2008. In the Superintendent’s Zone, fewer students scored proficient in Math (48.8 percent) but compared to just 25.1 percent proficient in these schools in 2008, the gains were impressive. The nine SIG schools (those receiving three-year Federal School Improvement Grants ending in 2013) increased to 50.4 percent proficient compared to 23.5 percent proficient just four years ago.

More data and charts are posted here, and at the Committee of the Whole on Sept. 18 the Board will receive an in-depth presentation on our 2011-12 achievement data. Stay tuned!

District, UESF reach tentative agreement on a contract

Hot off the presses – United Educators of SF and SFUSD have reached a tentative two year agreement (covering 2012-13 and 2013-14) that will restore the number of instructional days to 179.5 and limit the number of forced closure days to 1.5.  This is huge, not only because teachers, paraprofessionals and other UESF members have taken four furlough days in each of the past two years, but also because students will now have the benefit of a full school year (the last day of instruction both years will be designated a half day).

The tentative agreement was reached by the district and UESF bargaining teams last week, and last night was ratified by the UESF Executive Board by a 2-1 margin. Next, the agreement will go to UESF membership with a recommendation to ratify — members will vote in a mail-in election with ballots due by August 20.

“What stands out about this agreement is that, even in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis for public schools in California, we worked together to find a way to make student learning come first by restoring the school year,” said Superintendent [Richard] Carranza. “However, our ability to keep schools open for our children completely hinges on the voters of California passing either or both tax initiatives, Prop. 30 and Prop. 38. Without this, we’ll have to institute as many as 5 additional forced closure days for the upcoming school year and up to 10 additional days for the 2013-14 school year.”

[UESF President] Dennis Kelly pointed out “that the union advocated for the half-day and non-instructional day closures to preserve learning time and to make a statement about the importance of extricating children from the vice of state fiscal failures.”

Major props to the bargaining teams for both sides, who persevered and achieved a good agreement despite some pretty hard feelings earlier in the spring. Assuming UESF membership ratifies the agreement, this is truly a win-win-win for the district, its partners in UESF, and families — who can now look forward to the first day of school without losing precious instructional days and worrying about having to scramble for additional child care to cover scattered forced closure days, or even worse, a prolonged strike.

Read the district’s press release on the agreement here.

Recap: A new Superintendent!

Richard listened as Carlos and members of the Board said lots of nice things about him; his daughter sat at the staff table and recorded every word for posterity.

The big news from tonight’s meeting is that the Board unanimously voted to confirm Richard Carranza as the new Superintendent of SFUSD, beginning in July 2012. He will receive a $245,000 annual salary each year for the term of his three year contract.

Richard has never been a Superintendent before, but he has served as Carlos’ deputy for the last two years and has proved himself more than up to the job of Superintendent of SFUSD. He is smart, hardworking and focused on the job at hand; we like that he has school-age children (two lovely and poised daughters) who are attending (and excelling at) SFUSD schools.  In his remarks this evening, Richard told a story about a time in his life when he wasn’t sure he wanted to go to college. His father took him to work at his job cutting sheet metal in 112 degree Arizona heat, and told him: “I don’t want you to work like me. Work with your head, not your hands.” That was the lesson that set him on the road to being an educator, Richard said, as his proud family looked on (one thing I learned tonight — Richard is an identical twin, and you would be hard-pressed to tell him from his brother Ruben –four minutes younger — if they dressed and combed their hair alike).  Carlos was visibly moved as the Board voted, because having Richard succeed him has long been a dream for him.

The bottom line is that Richard is the right man for the district at this moment. We have made a lot of progress since Carlos arrived, and Richard has proved himself to be a person with the vision, skill and the drive to carry the district to the next level even as he has a deep and first-hand knowledge of where we have been. In addition, I will always be personally grateful to Richard for the way he has championed the special education overhaul.

Other items of note from tonight’s agenda:

  • Board members unanimously passed a resolution authored by several student delegates, articulating a broad bathroom access policy for students. Though each school will be able to craft their own specific rules about bathroom access, the new policy makes clear that bathroom access is a right, and students should not have to explain their bodily functions or restrain them at the order of an adult. Bathrooms should remain unlocked during the school day, and students should be allowed to access them as needed as long as that right to access is not abused.
  • We also passed updates to the Board’s comprehensive health education policy, and heard a presentation of data about some of the health challenges that still affect our students. The updated policy makes clear that health education is a priority for SFUSD students and requests that the district redouble its effort to be sure all students are receiving the recommended number of lessons each year.
  • Large groups from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and Buena Vista Horace Mann each came to discuss their principal leadership (the Harvey Milk group spoke in favor of their current principal while the Buena Vista Horace Mann group spoke in favor of a past administrator taking the soon-to-be vacant principal’s job). We heard from teachers who are affected by the Board’s authorization of layoffs back in February, and were urged to rescind those layoffs as soon as possible. A group of non-English-speaking parents came to advocate for more Transitional Kindergarten sites.

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.