Tag Archives: calendar

Recap: Final meeting of 2015

We had a very packed agenda last night, with many substantive items and some good discussions. First up is a summary of actions:

  • We recognized winners of the 2015 QTEA Innovation Awards — these are schools that successfully applied for innovation funds provided through the 2008 Quality Teacher and Education Act (the school parcel tax that also provides key support for teacher salaries and professional development);
  • I was proud to sponsor a resolution commending the California Academy of Sciences‘ Guest Services Department for their amazing support of students with disabilities by providing job support and training for students from AccessSFUSD:The Arc. It was kind of an accident that we ended up issuing the commendation during Inclusive Schools Week but utterly appropriate. I am so grateful to the Academy and also to Heidi Seretan and Jennifer Kabbabe of AccessSFUSD:TheArc. I also love seeing their students (I care about them all but there is a special place in my heart for DeMian and Chris — love you guys!).
  • The Board voted 6-1 (Wynns voting no) to issue a charter to Mission Prep, previously a state-authorized charter school in SFUSD . I’ll add more about that below.
  • We unanimously passed Commissioner Fewer’s resolution recognizing the historical contributions of Chinese Americans in San Francisco public schools. It was an honor to hear from retired principal Lonnie Chin and family members of Gordon J. Lau (San Francisco’s first Chinese American Supervisor), and chilling to be reminded of the horrors of the Chinese Exclusion Act and its impact on Chinese Americans in San Francisco and all over the country. There are some similar xenophobic strains reverberating through the country right now, so it is more important than ever that we learn from our history.
  • The Board approved the 2016-17 instructional calendar, which has school starting on Monday, August 15, 2016 and ending on Monday, May 26, 2017. The full calendar is printed on page 59 of the agenda. (big PDF document; don’t download on your phone).
  • We also accepted the Balanced Scorecards/Single Plans for Achievement for every school. If you would like to see your school’s Balanced Scorecard, please visit this link, then click on the link for the school you would like to view.
  • Finally, we heard an informational presentation on the progress towards fully-realizing the Afterschool for All initiative. The vision is that there will be ample, sliding-income-scale capacity for any student who needs or wants afterschool enrichment programming at every school. We aren’t there yet, but great progress has been made, and the goal is to make sure the vision is fully-realized during the 2016-17 school year. I commend the staff for the great work that has been done on this initiative so far.

In depth: The Mission Prep charter was a tough decision for many members of the school board. This is a charter that five years ago was not at all ready for prime time when it was first submitted. It was unanimously denied, but subsequently granted by the State Board of Education. In my opinion, the State Board approves many sub-par charter petitions that were appropriately denied by school districts and county offices, more out of ideology rather than some deep understanding of educational value. However, because of the actions of the State Board, Mission Prep was established and began enrolling students in 2012-13.

They have, contrary to my expectations in 2010, done a good job. We have had three hearings on the renewal petition — in the Budget and Curriculum committees, and again last night at the Board. It’s been clear at each of those hearings that the Mission Prep families are passionate about their school, and that they believe strongly that the school is serving their children well. The school’s outcomes are so far very good. And the staff analysis of the petition and the program found no deficiencies and a strong financial position. Here are the remarks I prepared for last night’s meeting about the Mission Prep application. I didn’t deliver them verbatim, but they’re close enough:

I intend to support the petition, for two reasons.

First, the petition is a very strong petition. I have no doubt that should we deny this petition this evening it will be granted by the State Board of Education, which has granted much weaker petitions than this and imposed schools we didn’t ask for and didn’t want on this school district. Given that reality, it makes sense for us to have a relationship with Mission Prep as the authorizer of its charter.

The second reason is the families. I have heard in testimony tonight and at the Budget and Curriculum committees that this school is a positive place where your children are learning and growing. That counts for a lot. I cannot look each of you in the eye and say you can’t have a school that is working for your children.

I do, however, want you to understand the impact your request for a building is going to have on other students and families in the school district. Prop 39 requests displace existing school communities or they result in co-locations, which rarely work. There are many in-district schools that are working for their families and their students as well — your request for space may result in this board having to disrupt some other student’s education. I don’t think it’s fair and I think the law is a bad law.

I hope that should this petition be successful this evening, you will be mindful of your impact on the entire district and on other students.

The ongoing and most difficult issue with the charters, as I see it, are facilities. (Note that I said most difficult, as facilities are not the only issue). Prop 39 requires school districts to offer appropriate space to charter schools (meaning, that if a school is a high school it should have, for example, science labs and athletic facilities, so that it can meet the requirements of the education code ). We must comply with the law even if we denied a charter and the state is the authorizer.  This drives me crazy because it is so unfair and so contrary to the principle of local governance. We have school communities that may well be displaced or forced to co-locate with charter schools because the State Board thought that a charter was a good idea for our district even when the locally-elected board unanimously denied it.

Anyway, in the case of Mission Prep, I think we’re trying a somewhat new tack. We could easily have denied the petition, because in the end it would have made no difference, as I said above — indeed, in her remarks last night Commissioner Wynns said we could regard the hearing on the Mission Prep petition as a “procedural requirement,” or a box to simply be checked before proceeding to virtually guaranteed reauthorization by the State Board. In that scenario, it would have been the state’s job to oversee it and SFUSD still would have had to provide an adequate facility. (Note also that “adequate” is a key word — charters do not get to choose the facility they are offered, though often these offers are subject to intense negotiations. So long as the district’s Prop. 39 offer meets the adequacy standard, the district has met its legal burden under Prop. 39.)

However, as I also said, simply kicking the can down the road to the State Board probably wouldn’t have been fair to Mission Prep either — the school is clearly doing a good job for their students and there is an argument to be made that we, as the SFUSD governing board, have an obligation to make sure that continues to happen.

Anyway, when it comes to charters there aren’t any easy answers. It would help if state law created more of a level playing field, but the current education code basically says charter schools have more rights and fewer responsibilities than traditional schools. I fail to see how that kind of skewed policy-making helps all students in California. It certainly helps a few, but very likely at the expense of the many.

All of that said, I congratulate Mission Prep for successfully navigating the renewal process, and most importantly for their demonstrated commitment to their students. Now that the district has reauthorized their charter, I hope we can forge a newly collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship going forward.

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Coming up: December 9 Board meeting

A few items to note on the agenda for our upcoming Dec. 9 meeting:

Ethnic Studies: In 2010, the Board voted to pilot a new Ethnic Studies course at several high schools. The course has since been offered at five high schools and has been popular with students. On Dec. 9, we will vote on a proposal authored by Commissioner Fewer that would expand our Ethic Studies offerings to all 19 high schools. Ms. Fewer originally proposed making Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement, but has since amended her proposal to say that the district should “explore ways to institutionalize its commitment to Ethnic Studies by including Ethnic Studies coursework as a requirement of graduation” within five years of the passage of her resolution. Los Angeles Unified recently approved Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement for its students.

At the Budget Committee last week, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing the cost of the proposal, which comes to about $480,000 in the first year. The bulk of the costs will result from hiring more teachers and bringing the current content specialist up to full-time in order to develop and oversee the course. The findings from the Curriculum Committee made it clear that there is work to be done in aligning the Ethnic Studies curriculum with Common Core, and it would be beneficial to get the course qualified as meeting the A (History) requirement under the UC/CSU A-G framework. Otherwise, adding Ethnic Studies or any other new graduation requirement is very costly; it also takes up time in schedules where students are now taking electives.

Ultimately, the Budget Committee and the Curriculum Committee recommended that the Board approve the Ethnic Studies proposal.

Movies and TV in the classroom: Over two years ago I wrote a post asking parents if they thought students were being shown too many movies or television shows in the classroom. The responses, an unscientific sampling, seemed to point to yes, so I’ve been paying attention to this topic. I get complaints about this from parents on a regular basis, and have always been told that the district discourages movies being shown in the classroom and that any movie shown must relate to the standards being taught. I have not, however, been able to find any written policy on this topic. When I learned recently that my teenagers have been shown full-length Disney movies in science classes, I decided it was time to make sure we have something in writing.

I’ve submitted a proposal that will be heard for first reading on Tuesday; it will come up for a final vote of the Board sometime in late January or early February. I want to be clear that I think most teachers try to use movies and television to bring standards to life in an engaging way, and I really have no problem with excerpted material being shown to illustrate a particular concept or point. But when this content consumes an entire class period, is not age-appropriate and/or isn’t academically rigorous, I have a problem. So I thought it would be appropriate to ask the Board to clarify our beliefs on this topic, in order to help the Superintendent convey clear standards to site administrators and teachers.

Instructional calendar for 2015-16: The Board will adopt the calendar for the 2015-16 school year on Tuesday. School will start August 17, 2015 and the last day will be May 27, 2016. Old timers will remember that sometimes in the past the calendar didn’t get approved/set until spring — causing a big problem for families that were trying to make summer plans. We’ve gotten much better about this in recent years.

The 2010-11 instructional calendar, with furloughs

Thanks to Suzanne Morikawa-Madden of PPS-SF, who amazes me with her diligence and attention to detail. Suzanne sent out an email blast to PPS-SF members tonight with an update on the 2010-11 instructional calendar, which has been modified to show proposed furlough days (in blue on the document I linked to above). The Board will be asked to formally approve the updated calendar at a special session now scheduled for June 3 at 5:30 p.m. In her email, Suzanne notes:

  • This draft was approved by the Calendar Committee, which included SFUSD, the teacher’s union (UESF), administrator’s union, SEIU and parent organizations like PPS-SF, PAC (Parent Advisory Committee), PTA, and the Office of Parent Relations.
  • There was discussion about having the furlough days on the two days of Thanksgiving, but because the first semester is shorter than the second semester, it was agreed that we would minimize the number of furlough days in the first semester.
  • The tentative agreement with UESF has November 1st, the day before Election Day, as a specified day for furlough because there is a planned action around education budget advocacy for that day.
  • Another goal with the scheduling of furlough days would be to space them out so that employees would not take a large pay cut in any one month.
  • Parents and guardians should plan to make arrangements for childcare as needed for furlough and Professional Development days if approved because schools will be closed on those days.

To review, last year the Board voted to shift the school year a week earlier, so the 2010-11 school year will begin on August 16, 2010 and let out on May 27, 2011. This is a benefit to middle- and high-school students, since it allows them to end their fall semester (and take final exams) before winter break. It also aligns the school district’s schedule with that of City College, a benefit to the many high school students who take concurrent courses at CCSF.

With the ratification of the new contract between SFUSD and UESF, the calendar will now be revised to contain four furlough days: November 1,  February 4,  March 25 and April 25, pending Board approval.

Recap: June 9 Board meeting

(Updated 6/11/09 to clarify several points and expand descriptions of board actions on June 9).

By now everyone pretty much knows the major news from last night’s meeting — the Board passed a resolution amending the district’s independent study policy to include students taking a JROTC course, allowing them to satisfy physical education requirements through independent study. I’ve posted thoughts about this issue here, and here, and here, so really — ’nuff said.  (For those completely new to this protracted policy fight, the district has helpfully posted a fact sheet).

In fact, the action item from last night that will affect FAR more students, staff and families is the approval of a new calendar for the 2010-11 school year and beyond.  I have received a lot of mail, mostly from elementary school parents, questioning this move — which basically starts school a week earlier, fixes spring break to occur always in the final week of March, and ends school just before Memorial Day weekend in May. Since I have two children in elementary school, I get the objections, but I need to point out that there are some real benefits for students in middle and high school — primarily because our calendar will now align with those of City College, where many high school students take additional courses, and because middle and high school students will now be able to complete their final exams before winter break. An additional benefit for all students (but not the reason the Superintendent recommended the change) is that more instruction will occur before the state testing in late April. Dennis Kelly, the President of United Educators of San Francisco, testified that 55 percent of his membership have also indicated a willingness to try out the new calendar proposal, which was also a persuasive fact for me.

My main ongoing concern is that community organizations which provide summer programming–like the YMCA, the JCC and many others–get enough notice and resources in order to completely realign their offerings to support families for whom summer camp is essential childcare. I have been assured that this is happening, and will be checking in on this over the next year.

We also received a report from the Bilingual Community Council (BCC), a Board-appointed committee that oversees the district’s services to English Learners. The BCC is mandated as part of the settlement of Lau v. Nichols, a 1974 Supreme Court decision that established certain guidelines for educating students with limited English skills; it is a separate body from the District’s English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC)–a district-level advisory committee. Basically, each school with 21 or more English Learners enrolled must have an ELAC; each ELAC must send a representative to the District ELAC, called DELAC. And under Lau, the Board must appoint, and listen to the recommendations of, a BCC.

Anyway, of primary concern to theBCC are procedures and services of the Educational Placement Center and support of ELACs.  Board members asked that the BCC provide a list of recommendations each year so that we can be held accountable on our progress toward implementing better supports and services for English Learners.

Also of note:

  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution authored by myself and Commissioner Fewer calling for the establishment of a joint committee with City College of San Francisco to discuss issues of mutual interest;
  • The 2009-10 district’s budget was introduced for first reading but due to the late hour we opted not to hear the full presentation until the augmented Budget Committee hearing on June 16. For interested community members, there will also be a workshop on the 2009-10 budget on June 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at James Lick Middle School;
  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for the second annual Soda Free Summer.

New calendar proposed for SFUSD

KC has blogged about proposed changes to the SFUSD calendar over at sfschools.org. The proposed changes have been a big topic on the various school chat groups as well.  In a nutshell, the Superintendent is proposing to move the first day of school up several weeks, so that schools would start the second week of August, rather than the fourth week. School would let out in late May, just ahead of Memorial Day.

While there are some arguments in favor — bringing SFUSD’s calendar in line with City College’s, and having the Fall semester end before winter break to give middle and high school students a true vacation — I’m dubious. For one thing, summer and after-school programs have already made their plans for the year. Strange as it sounds, making such a change by summer 2009 would wreak some serious havoc for the nonprofit organizations which run these programs. Second, the change would throw SFUSD’s schedule seriously out of whack with those offered by independent private schools, private preschools, and parochial schools. That would be a hardship to the many families whose children utilize both public and private schools.

So while I’m willing to look at changes to the master schedule that benefit kids and make our schools work better, I question the pace of the proposed schedule change and also whether the benefits are worth the drawbacks.  I think this idea needs a lot more discussion and exposure. And if we ultimately decide this is a great idea, then we should give community organizations and families more time to adjust to the change.