Several business items of note in tonight’s meeting:
- First, the school district’s auditors presented the annual financial report for the year ending June 30 2015 — another clean audit with one finding regarding the unduplicated count of students in our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP rules say you can only count a student once — so a student who is in foster care and eligible for free or reduced lunch cannot be counted in both categories. This is a new level of precision that was not required before the implementation of the LCAP, and district data systems did not adequately account for the fact that some students fall into more than one category. Therefore, the auditors found that our unduplicated count was overstated and resulted in the district qualifying for more supplemental or concentration grants than it should have received under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula — $2.5 million more. The auditors testified that many school districts are encountering this finding due to the increased demands, and fiscal impacts, of the reporting required in the LCAPs. In other words, procedures that were appropriate prior to the implementation of the LCAP now need to be updated because the rules have changed, the auditors said, and added that they believe the district’s corrective measures (including reporting the error to the state) will address the problem in future years. We’ll discuss in budget committee next week how this error might affect our budget going forward.
- Commissioners Walton, Haney and Mendoza-McDonnell authored a resolution in support of legislation being sponsored by Supervisors Wiener, Cohen, Mar and Farrell that would ban the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to people under the age of 21. Supervisor Scott Wiener was on hand to urge the Board’s support, which was unanimous. As a former smoker — I had my first cigarette at age 13 and smoked a pack a day until I was 30. It took me three tries to quit for good, and I’m happy to say I haven’t had a puff in over 10 years. Never again. National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking, as I did, before the age of 21. Needless to say, I am strongly supportive of this idea.
- The Board unanimously reauthorized three separate but related charters held by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department for Five Keys Charter schools. These institutions serve adults and juveniles who are either incarcerated or on probation, helping them to get back on track and complete a high school education. These are truly innovative programs first begun by former sheriff Mike Hennessey and continued by his successors Ross Mirkarimi and Vicki Hennessey (no relation to Mike).
We also had an informational report from the Title VII Indian Education Program and Parent Advisory Council. Under the Indian Education Act, a Federal law passed in 1972, school districts must create programs to serve the unique educational needs of American Indian/Alaskan Native students. Since that time, the school district was required to have a Title VII program serving the needs of this population, but in the early 2000s the program fell into decline. In 2008-09 the program was re-established, but did not have a permanent home. In 2014 the Parent Advisory Council for the program came to the Board and district leadership advocating for a permanent space so that they could better serve their students and families, and eventually moved into a bungalow at Sanchez Elementary. There, they now host monthly Family nights, community events and Cultural Nights, offer academic workshops and after-school tutoring, and hold Parent Advisory Council meetings.
Federal funding is available to support the Title VII Indian Education programs, but school districts can only claim this funding for students whose families have filled out a special Federal form — Form 506. As of October 2015 only 145 students in SFUSD had a Form 506 on file, but community members testified tonight that the eligible population is significantly higher, perhaps more than 400 students. More outreach to parents and training for staff is needed to document the true number of indigenous students eligible for Title VII funding, the group said. They also stressed the need for much greater cultural competency and sensitivity from school staff–this is a population with a lot of needs but also a proud and distinct culture that is not always respected or honored in our schools.
Public comment: United Educators President Lita Blanc testified on behalf of staff at Charles Drew Elementary, who have raised concerns about their facility. Drew is an open plan school, with classrooms that can be reconfigured by opening or closing temporary sliding walls. Perhaps this seemed innovative when the school was built (in the 1970s) but now “pods” have gone out of fashion and for good reason: students and teachers find it almost impossible to focus in them. Cabrillo Elementary on 25th Avenue had such a design when I looked at it as an option for my children a decade ago –I liked a lot of things about the school at the time but the facility design made the classrooms feel like they had been set up temporarily in someone’s living room. Now, Cabrillo has been converted to district office space, and Drew and George Washington Carver might be the last true “pod” artifacts in the district. Commissioners asked for the facilities department to give us a report on what can be done to mitigate the impacts of the facility on teaching and learning.
On tonight’s agenda:
- A resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Unified School District’s PTA (the organization’s celebration of that anniversary will be held February 10 at Patio Espanol — more details here – PDF);
- Highlights of the school district’s (and its partners’) celebration of Black History month this February — events include the African American Read In, the African American Honor Roll celebration honoring 1,200 African-American SFUSD students with a GPA of 3.0 or better (February 29 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 6 p.m. $10 donation requested), as well as the annual oratory contest sponsored by the San Francisco Alliance of Black School Educators (Feb. 25 at Thurgood Marshall High School, 8 a.m. to 12 noon);
- “Sunshining” of proposals and counter-proposals for contract negotiations with United Administrators of San Francisco and United Educators of San Francisco;
- Approval of the annual spending plan for the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) — Commissioners reviewed the plan at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting, and heard testimony from members of the PEEF Comunity Advisory Committee suggesting that three activities (teacher recruitment, custodial services for early education centers and funding for the district’s new formative assessments) should be funded with other monies (district staff wrote a response to that report here). For more information and lots more documents, visit the PEEF web site, which asks for a password but seems to let you in if you just click cancel. In the end, the Board appreciated the input but supported the original spending plan suggested by staff.;
- Review and approval of the district’s annual independent financial audit — there were two minor findings related to attendance accounting in the district’s early education and afterschool programs, but the independent auditor expressed confidence that the findings were being addressed, and commended staff for a growing string of clean audit reports;
- An overview of the Governor’s budget proposal released earlier this month – probably the only good thing I can say about this proposal is that it is very much not a done deal. For reasons I can’t quite explain, even the “rosy” scenario — where the Governor’s proposed tax increases passes — results in significant additional cuts;
- Public comment from parents and community members at Alice Fong Yu and Paul Revere, and introduction by UESF leadership of the union’s bargaining team for upcoming negotiations. A commenter last week asked me why I haven’t devoted much time in the blog to the competing statements of Paul Revere parents, and the reason is: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to muse publicly on personnel issues. This whole episode has been ugly and disruptive for everyone involved and I don’t see how it helps for me to “report” allegations from one side or another. I did feel momentarily shamed by the comment from one Revere parent who noted the district’s swift response to an outcry from Alice Fong Yu parents when they protested changes to their immersion program (after a meeting with the Curriculum Committee and district leadership last week, a deal for a pilot program was struck that will increase the population of English Learners at the school but maintain its essentially “one-way” immersion model — and tonight the community came to thank us for our swift reaction). Why weren’t we able to resolve the Paul Revere situation in as swift a manner? the Revere parent asked. The answer is complex — personnel issues usually can’t be resolved in one meeting and certainly not in public; and there is not the same unified perspective in the Paul Revere community — teachers and parents have been vocal about their divided opinions on which direction the school should go. Still, he’s right that struggling schools can’t easily summon 100 parents in matching shirts to attend a Board meeting, but their concerns are just as pressing.
It’s been an intense 24 hours — last night’s meeting ran very late and I have scarcely had a chance to sit and reflect since then. Tonight was a community meeting on the audit report, and tomorrow night Assistant Superintendent Dodge and I will be discussing the report again at a meeting of the CAC for Special Education.
I really appreciate all of the feedback I’ve gotten both on the blog and off — it barely scratches the surface but I am still grateful for all of the thoughts and experiences people have shared with me. I can tell from the blog traffic that lots of people are downloading and reading this report, and I would like to encourage the feedback to keep on coming! You can always email me off the blog — rachel “at” rachelnorton.com — if you don’t want your comments to be published or shared with others (I might ask to share information with district administration but will never do so without permission).
Anyway, my first impression is that there isn’t much in the report that I didn’t already know or suspect, but it still feels as if everything I and other parents have been saying for years and years has been validated by the findings. As Elementary Rat has pointed out, the recommendations in the report aren’t all that detailed, and certainly don’t constitute a map for reform. That’s OK — I think the next step is to engage the community as broadly as possible and get feedback on parents’, staff’s and advocates’ experiences with our special education services. The road map has to come after the district has listened, intently, to what constituents (consumers?) have to say.
Tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting will feature the long-awaited results of the district’s special education audit. For those of you at home, the meeting isn’t being televised but the report is here (PDF). I’ll post a summary of the meeting later tonight or tomorrow morning.
Readers of this blog know that in late February, SFUSD commissioned a third party audit to do a comprehensive review of the district’s Special Education services. The auditors–the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative–have conducted site visits, reviewed district data, and interviewed many teachers, parents, administrators and community advocates, then compiled their findings into a report. That report is due to be released to the public on September 21 at a Committee of the Whole meeting of the Board. In addition, the district will sponsor two additional meetings for interested members of the public to learn more about the auditors’ findings and the district’s plans for reform. Please spread the word about these opportunities to learn more:
- Board of Education Committee of the Whole Meeting — The auditors will present findings in person to the Board of Education on Tuesday, September 21 at 6pm in the Board Meeting Room at 555 Franklin Street; Interpretation provided.
- Community Presentation from the Auditors The auditors, Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza and Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services Cecelia Dodge will answer questions from the public about the report on Wednesday, September 22 at 6pm at Horace Mann Middle School, 3351 23rd St. Parking on site. Interpretation provided. Childcare is available if reserved by Sept. 20 — contact richardsona “at” sfusd.edu. For special accommodations, please contact Carol Kocivar at kocivarc “at” sfusd.edu.
- Community Advisory Committee for Special Education Board of Education Commissioner Rachel Norton (that’s me!) and Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services Cecelia Dodge will discuss the report with members of the CAC. Thursday, September 23 at 7pm Support for Families / 1663 Mission St, 7th floor. Call 282-7494 at least one week in advance to reserve childcare.