I think that you should write an expose in the next issue of the Richmond Review on the machinations by San Francisco School Board with regard to the renaming of several San Francisco schools for unjust causes.
Herein anticipated actions by the elected School Board members would constitute a clear violation of the Brown Act by committing $10 million of public funds without an adequate public hearing on the basis for such expenditures. The apparent Board plan utilizes a so-called “blue-ribbon” panel to determine by consensus the adequate basis for renaming several schools in San Francisco as a result of individual panel members’ detailed historical research into dozens of historical figures previously so honored. The Board appointed panel included Mr. Sanchez, President of the Board, who attended only the first meeting of the panel on January 30, 2020, and thereafter, participated in none of the several subsequent public Zoom meetings of the panel.
Furthermore, there was no public discussion in any of the Zoom meetings posted online regarding the basis for dishonoring individual historic names, especially that of President Abraham Lincoln – there were only public “consensus votes” condemning important historical figures so-honored in the past by the citizens of San Francisco. I believe that the full Board will simply approve, with little or no discussion, the “blue-ribbon” panel’s carefully researched recommendations for individual school name changes, and then commit by a vote of the elected San Francisco School Board members to appropriate the expenditure of $10 million of public funds, and thereby, unjustly and unfairly dishonor the character and reputation of men such as President Abraham Lincoln and President George Washington by renaming San Francisco public schools named in their honor.
Mr. Quentin Kopp in his commentary piece in the November issue of the Richmond Review made the following statement regarding the San Francisco School Board process for consideration of renaming several public schools in San Francisco for just cause:
“Appalling is the word best descriptive of the Board of Education which, confronting a multi-million dollar deficit and virus impediments to classroom instruction, plans to change the names of 44 San Francisco public schools, including Washington, Lincoln, Lowell, Mission, Balboa, Presidio, Alamo, Clarendon, Commodore Sloat, Ulloa, Sutro, Sheridan, Sherman, Feinstein, Lakeshore, Jefferson, Noriega, and Garfield (don’t forget El Dorado!). A committee including one non-resident and four Native Americans has so recommended. The estimated renaming cost is $10 million.”
I was entirely unaware of this San Francisco School renaming process until alerted by a story in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “S.F. might change 44 school names, renouncing Washington, Lincoln and even Dianne Feinstein” – by Jill Tucker, Oct. 15, 2020. But subsequent thereto, I went online and reviewed each and every one of the 10 public Zoom meetings regarding the panel’s process for fairly examining the basis of individual schools renaming. In particular, I was most concerned for panel’s recommendation in their last public online meeting that both Washington High School (in the Richmond district) and Abraham Lincoln High School (in the Sunset district) be renamed for just and equitable cause.
I am an avid member and participant of the Lincoln Discussion Symposium online. As I did my research of the process for this “blue ribbon” panel for recommendations to be made to the School Board itself, I have made several posts about this unfair and unjust process. I have copied over the individual posts that I have made regarding the proposed renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School at the end of this email.
There are several revelations contained within the document that may be of interest to you. For instance, one public commentator made a comment about the unfairness inflicted upon President George Washington. The facilitator (a first grade teacher in the San Francisco School District, Jeremiah Jefferies) cut her off. In this same Zoom meeting, a panel member raised the issue of hiring American historians to review the panel’s final recommendations for renaming of particular San Francisco schools. The same panel facilitator abruptly informed the panelist that there were be no appropriation of School District funds for such an expenditure.
Another time, a different panel member made the point that none of the panel members had been forwarded any of the emails from the public that the administrators for the panel process had received (thereby, insulating the panel from considering any public comments regarding the fairness of the school renaming process). Also, interesting to note is the fact that the single member of the San Francisco School Board appointed to the panel by the full Board of Education (elected San Francisco Board President, Mark Sanchez) had attended only one of eleven public meetings of the Renaming of San Francisco Schools Recommendations panel, the first non-Zoom meeting of the panel held on January 30, 2020. (This fact is confirmed by the panel’s meeting minutes on attendance.)
One of the posts that I made was a copy of the following email that I sent to the office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Nov. 2, 2020:
Subject line of email reads: Renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School by SF Board of Education.
Dear San Francisco Mayor London Breed,
As I understand the situation, the SF Board of Education Committee is citing Lincoln’s involvement in the Dakota Uprising as their source of meeting the criteria listed.
The following is Lincoln’s Dec. 11, 1862 statement to the Senate on the Indians to be executed:
Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles. This class numbered forty, and included the two convicted of female violation. One of the number is strongly recommended by the commission which tried them for commutation to ten years’ imprisonment. I have ordered the other thirty-nine to be executed on Friday, the 19th instant.
Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 265 of the 303 Dakota men condemned. He also later pardoned one of the 39 mentioned in the letter to the Senate after evidence came to his attention questioning the man’s guilt.
After the 1864 midterm election, Minnesota Senator Alexander Ramsey told Lincoln that Republicans could have gotten a larger electoral majority in the state if Lincoln had allowed the execution of more Indians.
Lincoln told Ramsey, simply: “I could not afford to hang men for votes.”
Episcopal Bishop Henry B. Whipple lobbied the president to reform the corrupt Indian agency system. In the spring of 1862, the bishop had recommended more humane treatment of the Minnesota Sioux. Lincoln promptly asked the secretary of the Interior to investigate, which he did and suggested numerous reforms.
The president told a friend that Whipple “came here the other day and talked with me about the rascality of this Indian business until I felt it down to my boots.”
President Lincoln pledged to Bishop Whipple that “If we get through this war, and if I live, this Indian system shall be reformed.”
President Abraham Lincoln made it through the war but did not live long enough thereafter to reform the Indian system as he wanted to do.
Mayor Breed, please put a stop to this travesty of justice in renaming Abraham Lincoln High School for clearly invalid and unjust reasons.
I did not receive a response to this email from the Mayor’s office.
Mr. Durand, if you need more information from me, please do not hesitate to ask. I would be willing to work with you on this project as best that I am able to do so.
P.S.: Professor Michael Burlingame was the winner of the 2010 Lincoln Prize for his two-volume work on Lincoln, titled “Abraham Lincoln: A Life.” Professor Burlingame devoted five pages of his scholarly work to the 1862 Dakota Sioux Indian uprising and the subsequent actions taken by President Lincoln, titled “Magnanimity: Dealing the Minnesota Sioux Uprising.” (“Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” Vol. Two, pages 480-84.)
The introductory first paragraph contains the following important historical fact: “They (the Dakota Sioux Indians) killed hundreds and drove over 30,000 from their homes. It was the bloodiest massacre of American civilians on U.S. soil prior to September 11, 2001.”
I would be willing to bet one “Abraham Lincoln” (i.e., a $5 bill) that there is not a single member of the Renaming of Schools Panel, appointed by authority of the elected San Francisco School Board, that is aware of this important historical fact regarding President Abraham Lincoln’s actions in consequence of the 1862 Dakota Sioux Indian uprising.
Categories: letter to the editor