Tag Archives: family

My SFUSD roots: History gets personal

My sister and brother-in-law have become interested in geneaology in recent years, finding all sorts of long-lost tidbits about our respective families — tidbits that are all the more interesting because my sister married her childhood sweetheart, who hails from a family I’ve known since I was three years old. Long story.

Anyway, I learned a while ago that my great-great-great uncle, Dr. Arnold A. D’Ancona, served on the San Francisco Board of Education in post-earthquake San Francisco (prior to that, he was dean of UCSF’s medical school). Dr. D’Ancona is pictured above, and below with my late grandmother around 1925 (she’s the little girl wearing roller skates; he’s the gentleman with the white hair):

Dr. D’Ancona served as President of the Board of Education in 1913, and presided over the dedication of Lowell High School when it moved into a new building at Hayes and Masonic that year (the structure now houses the John Adams campus of City College).  Sadly, Dr. D’Ancona presided over a Board that restricted Chinese students to only one school, and had recently stated (in 1896) that its desire was that “Chinese or Japanese not be employed in or about the school buildings.”  I have to hope he was opposed to these and other similarly racist policies but I haven’t done enough research to know.

Next: I’m still trying to verify this, but family lore says that a few years later, in 1921, my great-grandfather on the other side, C.H. Snyder, was a civil engineer who helped build the lovely building at 135 Van Ness Ave –the building we hope will someday soon house the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.  (Great-grandfather Snyder also served as the civil engineer for our current City Hall, which rose from the ashes of post-earthquake San Francisco in 1915).  It also turns out that Bert W. Levit, who served on the SFUSD Board from 1948 to 1958, is related by marriage to my brother-in-law.  Later, Mr. Levit served as the first Finance Director for the state of California under Gov. Edmund G. Brown, the father of our once and future Governor, Jerry.

All of which is to say that history is always, if you dig deeply enough, personal. The joke about geneaology is that people always seem to find a connection to famous historical figures (who among us isn’t related to Cleopatra by marriage?) Still, it’s surprisingly moving to me that my connection to San Francisco and its schools is deeper than even I thought.

If you dig into your family’s historical roots, what connections to your current life will you find?



A tale of the playground

cautionaryA child I know has lately been obsessed with perfecting her skills on the monkey bars (she wasn’t tall enough to reach the bar until this year). Every recess for the past few months, she’s been out on the structure at her school, jumping and swinging and working on that upper body strength. One day her blistered palms gave out and started to bleed; she went crying into the office for a band aid, where the principal (kindly, but firmly) told her to lay off until her hands healed. She did – it took a week.

Over the weekend she proudly showed me how good she’s become. “I can jump to the third bar!” she proclaimed.

Today she missed, fell, and broke her left wrist. It hurt, and she was very scared, but she kept her head. After the ordeal of the emergency room was over, she reflected on the experience. “I learned a lesson,” she said. “DON’T jump to the third bar. Even though it’s so much fun!”

She has just turned nine, and I am so proud of her – first, for trying hard to meet her goals. And second, for being willing to learn from adversity.  She says she’ll be back on the monkey bars after the cast comes off. We’ll have to have a talk about the third bar, but if she decides she’s ready to reach for that height again once she heals, well – I’m not sure I’ll have the heart to stop her.

Wear those red buttons!

Two of my favorite students at Hoover MS have been wearing their red buttons every day:

Thanks guys, I’m honored!