Why I Have Lost Faith In Our Public Schools
As the child of immigrants and raised primarily in California, I’m a proud graduate of the California public school system – from elementary school through college – and a big supporter of our public school system.
As a Sunset District resident of more than 20 years, my two sons are both graduates of our neighborhood elementary school, Jefferson, and are currently at AP Giannini Middle School and Lowell High School.
The importance of a public education is fundamentally rooted in the desire that everyone should have an equal opportunity to get a good education. For myself, a public education for my boys signifies not only access to a good education, but the opportunity to experience diversity, both ethnic and economic. The decision to put my boys in public school was a deliberate one because I believe in the public school system, and that public schools benefit when parents place their children there.
Despite many excellent public schools, from elementary through high school, San Francisco has one of the highest opt-out rates of students eligible to attend its public schools. There are a myriad of reasons for such, but this past year only serves to reinforce the notion that San Francisco has not, and cannot, properly meet the needs of its public school students.
In truth, this past year has sorely challenged my belief in the San Francisco’s public school system. The San Francisco Board of Education’s inability to focus their primary objective on re-opening schools has been a travesty. This inability deteriorated to incompetence, as evidenced by its numerous mis-steps – from focusing on re-naming schools and changing the merit-based admission of Lowell – instead of focusing primarily on the re-opening of our public schools.
The ultimate indictment of the failure of our Board of Education was the meritless complaint filed by board member Alison Collins. The recent extension of Superintendent Vincent Matthew’s employment contract, which requested that the Board of Education abide by its own code of conduct and focus solely on the re-opening of our San Francisco public schools, further evidenced the ongoing failure of the Board of Education to navigate our public schools through the present crisis.
The Board of Education’s failure to put our students first shined a bright light on what has been a known secret; a position on the board has served as a springboard for those with political aspirations.
The result is that the needs of our students are not being met, especially in a time of crisis. Now, we have an opportunity to address this through the emergence of organizations, such as Better SF Schools, which seek to change the current election of board members from an elected to an appointment system. Moving to an appointment system similar to other large urban school districts, such as Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., will result in greater accountability of board members in meeting the needs of our public school system, and the selection of individuals whose focus is primarily on our public schools and access to a quality education, and not their personal political gain.
My boys have attended school from a desk or in bed for more than a year now. They are fatigued and discouraged over the inability of their schools to open when friends in private schools, and in other counties have returned. We have every hope that schools will return to “normal” this fall. But we have been let down greatly by the Board of Education and SFUSD this past school year. To avert a similar let down in the future, we must make a change, and that is why I support the movement to change how our Board of Education members are selected.
Categories: letter to the editor