Tag Archives: immigration

Recap: April 10, 2012 — a little good news!

Update: Oops and a big thank you to Bernal Dad who pointed out that I neglected to mention that Daniel Webster parents came by during public comment to again let us know that they are unhappy with the choice of ISA as a feeder middle school for Daniel Webster. The parents propose a split campus K-8 with the ISA site.

A mostly routine agenda tonight, with a lot of public comment on various topics (see below). I’m leading with the good news, which is that the district has finally reached a deal to sell 700 Font St., a long-abandoned school site that is pretty much smack in the middle of the SF State campus.

As soon the property was formally declared surplus (not sure when that happened but it was probably almost a decade ago), it made sense for SF State to purchase it, but the sticking point over many years has been price. At one point, probably 2007, the district had a buyer and a deposit, but the $13 million deal eventually fell through.

I visited the site back in February and it is an eyesore — it’s boarded up, full of graffiti and a haven for homeless people and those who are troubled or otherwise up to no good.  Because of its condition, age and general layout, it is no longer usable as a school site. SF State has  also had numerous security issues with the site (the property line — on the left — is just feet away from student dorms).

So it’s truly win-win for both parties that we have finally come to an agreement to sell the property for $11.1 million. By law, that income can’t benefit our general fund, as proceeds from real estate assets can only be spent on capital improvements or purchasing other property. However, here’s what it can do: the district will use the $11.1 million to pay down long-term debt on another property, which will realize $875,000 annually in interest savings — interest payments that would have come out of the general fund. In other words, $875,000 we would have had to pay each year for the next 16 years will now be saved and can go to the classroom.

Other highlights from tonight’s meeting:

  • A presentation from the Bay Area Urban Debate League, which provides afterschool debate classes in a number of SFUSD high schools. Debate is such a great way to learn critical thinking, public speaking and general literacy, so I remain a huge fan of this program. Program participants urged us to find ways to make the course a regular part of the academic day at the high schools, and it currently qualifies as a “G” elective under the district’s (and UC’s) requirements.
  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution authored by President Yee which clarifies the support and assistance the district will give to current employees who are non-citizens but working under an H-1B or other visa. Commissioner Yee’s resolution was born from a case where an employee’s work visa expired, and advocates were critical of what they saw as the district’s lack of support for the employee’s application to renew that visa.
  •  Public comment from parents and teachers at Paul Revere, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and Visitacion Valley Elementary, regarding personnel decisions. We have heard a great deal from different factions of Paul Revere parents this year, some of whom dislike the current principal and others who like her. Tonight’s group spoke in the principal’s favor and urged the Board to renew her contract (spring is the time we make most of our staffing decisions for the next school year). A group of Harvey Milk parents and teachers, by contrast, urged us to overturn a site council decision to forgo an interview process and offer the current principal another year at the school. Parents and teachers from Visitacion Valley Elementary spoke against the principal’s decision not to “re-elect” (rehire) a probationary teacher at the school.  These are all touchy issues with strong feelings on all sides — because they involve past or future personnel votes by the Board, I’m not going to comment on the merits of each of these positions and no particular opinion should be inferred by what I’ve written above.
  • Finally, three parents of  children who qualify for transitional kindergarten came to protest the district’s handling of the state’s Kindergarten Readiness Act (passed in 2010), which gradually moves the eligibility date  for Kindergarten back over three years, so that eventually children must be age five by September 1 of the year they enter Kindergarten (from the original December 1 eligibility date).  Some believe their current four-year-olds would do just fine in Kindergarten and so are urging the district to issue age waivers to their children. Others are fine with waiting another year for their children to enter Kindergarten, but take issue with the fact that there is not a broader choice of Transitional Kindergarten programs to choose from (the law requires districts to offer Transitional Kindergarten to four-year-olds who otherwise would have been eligible to enter Kindergarten).  I’ve talked to Sen. Simitian, who wrote the legislation to move the eligibility date and create Transitional Kindergarten, and I believe he did a good thing by drawing a new line for Kindergarten readiness. Kindergarten is much more academic than previously, and children who (for whatever reason) are not academically ready really suffer. At the same time, I believe an unintended consequence of the legislation was to create another complex and possibly unfunded mandate for schools. SFUSD’s handling of this issue has been far from perfect but I believe it is compliant with the law and minimizes the district’s financial risk in a time of great fiscal peril (did anyone see the news that state revenues, yet again, fell short of predictions? That’s fiscal peril for schools).  But no, the district’s plan does not meet the needs of all stakeholders and I’m sorry for that.

The budget is adopted, with a whimper

Tonight the Board unanimously adopted the Superintendent’s proposed budget for 2010-11. It wasn’t exactly a happy moment — how can you be happy at such a budget, which leaves virtually no program in the district unscathed? But I do think we conducted a good process, with lots of community input and engagement. Amazingly, there was only one member of the public who came to the meeting to speak to us on the proposed cuts — I would say we’re starting to learn how to do this better (now we have to do an information (re)design for the budget document itself — next year).

The cuts that hurt the most are:

  • Eliminating virtually all summer school, except for special education students and seniors who are in danger of not being able to graduate (a $4.6 million cut approved back in January);
  • Eliminating all high school transportation (a $1.7 million cut);
  • Shortening the school year by four days (a savings of $9.2 million).

There were scores of other cuts — reductions in art and music programs, nurses, counselors and staff professional development among them — but we squeaked through this year, bloody but still alive.

The Board also unanimously passed a recommendation from the Superintendent to prohibit the expenditure of any District funds on the travel and/or attendance of SFUSD staff or Commissioners to any and all conferences and meetings in Arizona, as a response to two recent laws passed there. The first (SB 1070) has sparked nationwide protests because it authorizes law enforcement to investigate a person’s immigration status when they suspect that a person might be in the United States illegally. The second, House  Bill 2281, prohibits public schools from teaching Ethnic Studies. In addition, the Arizona Department of Education has (incredibly) ordered its school districts to remove and/or prohibit teachers with accents from teaching English classes.

My tweet announcing this action of the Board sparked quite a debate among my Facebook friends, so I’m pointing everyone here so that I can say first that I am proud of the Superintendent and the General Counsel for bringing us this resolution, for reasons that are deeply felt and strongly rooted in our values as a school district. Second, I was proud to support it. The ignorant and discriminatory actions being taken by Arizonans who should know better affect all of us as Americans, and it’s important to stand up and be counted as an opponent to these unjust laws.  The Superintendent’s resolution quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s caution that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” but I’m also reminded of  “First they came . . .” , a famous poem by German theologian Martin Niemöller, on the need to stand up to tyranny. Finally, it’s not “parochial” to prohibit our district’s money from being spent in a state that has proclaimed values so opposed to our own. If that means others will retaliate because Californians passed Prop. 8, so be it — I’d love for such a boycott to change some minds in other parts of the state and reverse our own unjust gay marriage ban.

We heard a report from a staff committee that is studying moving the high school start time to later in the morning. Currently, most of our high schools start at 8 a.m., with a few offering a “zero period” starting at 7:30 a.m. National research shows that most teens don’t get enough sleep, and this lack of sleep affects their academic performance and behavior. In addition, a representative from the SFPD was on hand to discuss the department’s data that incidents spike in the hours between 3 and 5 p.m., indicating that unsupervised teens might be at least part of that problem. (Chief Gascon, it appears, would like to see SFUSD supervise high school students a bit later into the afternoon).  But for every pro identified by the committee, there is also a con — higher transportation costs, obstacles for teens who play sports or work after school, as well as implications for start times throughout our school system. So while the Board remains receptive to the idea of starting high schools later, all of us urged a slow, deliberative process with lots of opportunities to engage parents, staff and others in the discussion.  In other words, this change is under consideration, but won’t happen anytime soon.

Among other items approved tonight:

  • The district’s request for almost $50 million in “SIG” (School Improvement Grants) funds from the Federal government as part of our plan to improve achievement at our 10 persistently underperforming schools.  The request doesn’t mean we’ll actually GET the $50 million, but at least we’re giving it the old college try.
  • A contract for $45,000 for an Inclusive Practices Specialist for our Child Development Program. This effort is LONG overdue and I believe it will save us many more thousands in the long run — the lack of inclusive programs in our Pre-K offerings is a major weakness currently.

Finally, a large group from Horace Mann Academic Middle School came to speak during general public comment to protest the news that they will be sharing their campus with Metro Arts and Tech charter high school operated by Envision Schools. There’s a back story here that has yet to fully emerge, but it appears that the Horace Mann community was first told they would not have to share space; this week an article in Mission Local indicated that the co-location was already a done deal. The staff and families of Horace Mann are justifiably angry at being left out of the loop — in one particularly dramatic moment a father pointed his finger at the Superintendent and recalled his time 17 years ago as a student at Horace Mann when Mr. Garcia was the principal. Anyway, Mr. Garcia handled the criticism without emotion and simply said that he had not been aware of the staff action that had set in motion the plan to co-locate the schools. But because the item was not on tonight’s agenda, legal counsel suggested the Board take it up at another meeting that could be properly noticed. That meeting will now occur Monday evening, June 28, at 5:45 p.m. in the Board room.

While City Hall wrangles over sanctuary policy . . .

The fight over the City’s sanctuary policy currently being waged between the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office isn’t really the school district’s fight, but the ultimate outcome has very real implications for our staff and students.  When City officials started referring undocumented juveniles accused of crimes to immigration authorities, school staff members felt they could no longer consult with local law enforcement in situations where they suspected that an undocumented student was engaging in illegal or unsafe activities at school. Teachers feared that reporting such students might result in families being torn apart or deported en masse.

That’s why a group of teachers, led by Mission High School’s Derrlyn Tom, came to the Board and asked us to make a statement in support of Supervisor David Campos’ legislation that would reinstate the sanctuary policy — at least to the extent that no one would be referred to immigration authorities unless or until he or she had actually committed a crime.  That statement of support passed 6-0 last month, but school staff will remain in a quandary until the legality of the Campos legislation is confirmed, clearing the way for it to go into effect (which Sweet Melissa says will not happen until at least December).

Sept. 22: Board meeting recap

Tonight’s meeting wasn’t all that long, as meetings go, but nevertheless I’m tired. So the recap will be stream of consciousness and not-necessarily-in-that-order. Probably the most newsworthy thing we did was pass, on first reading, a resolution supporting Supervisor David Campos’ proposal to restore due process to undocumented juveniles accused of a crime. Without going into the long history, after three well-publicized killings last summer, San Francisco changed its Sanctuary City policy and began reporting juveniles in City custody who were suspected of being undocumented directly to Federal immigration authorities. This often leads to youth being deported, even if they have not committed any crime–because once they are in the hands of immigration authorities, their immigration status trumps any other rights they may have.

We heard tearful testimony from mothers about losing their children to deportation, and comments from Mission High teacher (and Bilingual Community Council chair) Derrlyn Tom about being in the awful position of fearing to bring students to the attention of City agencies because of worries they would be deported and taken from their families.

The Board voted unanimously (with one recusal by Commissioner Mendoza, whose day job as a City employee would put her in conflict with the resolution) to pass the resolution and call on the City to restore due process rights to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

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