Congratulations to all of our graduating students, and especially those who won scholarships from United Administrators of SF, United Educators of SF, and various other educator organizations. Some very impressive young people are graduating from SFUSD schools and going on to great things this week, and being reminded of that fact was definitely a bright spot to start the meeting.
- The Board voted to place a $531 million facilities bond on the November ballot, amending the list of sites potentially included in the bond to reflect the possibility of doing work at 135 Van Ness and 1950 Mission St.
- The Board heard a report from our independent auditor of our bond program (Varinek, Trine & Day) as well as from the Vice Chair of the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (Michael Theriault). The audits are again squeaky clean (“the notable thing about the audit is that there is virtually nothing notable about the audit,” in the words of Mr. Theriault.)
- The Board heard for first reading a revised student assignment policy that uses the middle school feeder plan as a tiebreaker until the 2016-17 school year, at which time it would become an initial assignment for every incoming 6th grade student (students would be able to participate in a choice process in subsequent rounds). The Board will hear the plan at the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment now scheduled for 6 pm on May 31, a meeting that will also be televised.
- Lots of public comment, since the end of the year is coming and controversial decisions are being made on personnel and budgeting. The lion’s share of the public comment came from the Bayview, where parents are frustrated and tired of waiting for change to come. Many community members came to speak about recent events at Willie Brown MS, which will close for good at the end of June (after district summer school concludes); promotion ceremonies have been disrupted, unpleasant incidents have occurred between families and staff, and at least one staff member has been placed on administrative leave in connection with the general unrest and unhappiness at the school. Closing schools is never easy, and closing a school in a community that feels eternally shortchanged is an extra affront.
- A number of commenters also spoke about the STAR Arts Program, which provides itinerant art teachers to STAR schools (a previous district reform that designated certain schools as warranting extra, centrally-funded resources like a parent liaison and other things — among them an art teacher). The STAR art funding is on hold until we have more clarity from the state; the program is also being retooled based on feedback from school sites. A few students from Wallenberg High School came to speak about their art teacher, Emily Van Dyke, a fabulous teacher who received a pink slip. I’m told the Wallenberg art teaching position remains funded, but because other art teachers are being cut elsewhere in the district, Ms. Van Dyke may lose her position because she has less seniority than others. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because a cut is a cut is a cut — when school starts next year, somewhere there won’t be an art teacher. Based on what I’ve heard about Ms. Van Dyke, though, I really hope we can find a way to keep her.
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.
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.
Sunday, May 16 is the last day to see the wonderful artwork from students at schools throughout the city.
Long agenda, but again President Kim held us to a reasonable 4-1/2 hours. The meat of tonight’s meeting is really in the presentations I posted earlier tonight, but for those who like things tidy, here are the actions taken by the Board tonight:
- Approval of the amended resolution in support of programs and policies to support LGBTQ students: 7-0 in favor. The Board’s action tonight committed the school district to a bare minimum ($60,000 per year) of funding for a half-time staff person, curriculum and web site. We’re hoping our community partners can help us secure outside funding to pay for additional policy components outlined in the resolution, and the Board also voted to revisit the level of funding once our budget outlook improves;
- Renewal of the charters for KIPP Bayview and KIPP SF Bay Academy: 7-0 in favor;
- Revisions to the Board’s policies and rules of procedure that will make our meetings more efficient and hopefully decrease the overall number of meetings it takes to make a Board decision: 7-0 in favor;
- In support of sustainability in SFUSD: 7-0 in favor;
- Resolutions to realign our policies supporting immigrant students and close Newcomer HS, and revise our student assignment system were introduced for first reading and referred to Committee of the Whole meetings scheduled for March 2 (Newcomer) and February 17 (student assignment);
- A resolution to rename the School of the Arts after local artist and treasure Ruth Asawa (a major driving force behind arts programs in San Francisco public schools) was introduced for first reading and referred to the next meeting of the Buildings and Grounds committee.
The Hoover Middle School Jazz Band performs Earth Wind & Fire’s “September”: