Tag Archives: bonds

Planning for the 2016 bond

The school district is planning to place a bond measure on the November 2016 ballot, and tonight the Board met as a Committee of the Whole to hear an update about the planning staff is doing for this bond measure and to give input into where we should make particular capital investments.

There is a lot of interesting information in the presentation, including:

  • A summary of enrollment projections for the next 20 years;
  • Long-range capital needs, both for the current bond and the next bond (the presentation says 2021, but according to one speaker there is no election that year);
  • The current plans for the 2016 bond — currently listing over $700 million in capital projects, including $80 million for up to two new schools and $100 million for the SFUSD Arts Center, the long-dreamed-of new home for Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and a district-wide professional development and performance space at 135 Van Ness Ave.

There is much more information on enrollment projections in a hefty new report available on the district’s web site (don’t download it on your phone – the PDF is over 100 pages). I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so I have no reaction to it. But based on the summary from the presentation we heard tonight, we have to get busy building some schools!

enrollment chart

We are still in the early stages of bond planning (we have to vote to place a final version on the ballot by early August, but due to the annual board recess in July a vote might happen in late June). We’re hearing from a lot of people urging us to build a school in Mission Bay; it also looks like there is huge growth coming to the Bayview and southeastern neighborhoods.

Family engagement update

We talk about family engagement a lot at the school district, and we put a lot of resources toward it. But are we getting results? Also at tonight’s Committee of the Whole we had a discussion with Kevin Truitt, Chief of Student, Family and Community Support, and Mele Lau-Smith, Executive Director of Family Engagement and School Partnerships. It’s become increasingly clear that while we have a large number of family engagement initiatives, the work is disjointed and not focused enough.

A big part of our strategy continues to be Family Liaisons — people who are embedded at school sites and trained to support and engage families. Over the years many of these people have become essential community members, and their school sites can’t imagine life without them — most are bilingual and serve as a key communication point for parents who don’t speak English. (This handout shows sites with a Family Liaison and a summary job description for the role).  Still, it’s been challenging to make sure that every site adheres to the Family Liaison job description and that these employees are trained in all of what they might need to know — discipline policies, special education rights and procedures, academic standards, etc.

I would say that 90 percent of the issues that come to me from constituents are family engagement issues: questions or problems that for whatever reason don’t have an easy “just talk to your principal” solution. There really is no one place parents of any background can go to ask such a question — sort of a 311 for SFUSD. In an ideal world, we would have a help line staffed continuously from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, with bilingual operators who could answer basic questions and log more complicated ones for a response within 24 hours.

One of the SEIU 1021 unit leaders (the union that represents our school secretaries) was in the audience and he emailed me that my suggested solution is too complicated. Instead, he suggested, why not offer our school secretaries and front-line clerical staff professional development that would allow them to answer most inquiries and transfer those they aren’t able to answer to the correct department within one transfer. I still think families need a help line, but I agree that better customer service training for front-line clerical staff would pay huge dividends in families feeling like they know where to go and that someone at the district is listening.

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Meeting recap: Tuesday, May 24

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.