I moved to San Francisco five years ago with twin boys in the 4th grade when a family emergency happened. My kids went into the only neighborhood elementary school that had space mid-year. The kids adjusted well and fed into the neighborhood middle school when the time came. It wasn’t until their eighth grade year, when they had to choose high schools, did I learn about the school assignment lottery system. I thought it was a crazy system where a kid may be assigned a high school clear across town. I then learned that this system has driven out many families with school-age children from San Francisco.
When the pandemic lockdown happened last year, my kids finished their school year at home, and I thought it was reasonable given the public health crisis. Then came the fall, and my kids stayed home to begin ninth grade. After the first grading period, one of my sons was failing because he was watching YouTube and playing videogames during zoom classes. I tried to take him out of school to homeschool, but that was not feasible. So I became his full-time tutor, staying on top of him every day and in every class to make sure he at least did some work. It was extremely time consuming, and I felt lucky that I didn’t have a job outside of the home. I can’t imagine how other working parents could do this.
After a full semester of this, I became frustrated and started to look into why SFUSD had not communicated any school reopening plans. Then came the school renaming announcement, and I thought what kind of school board would rename schools at a time when kids aren’t even in school? Does renaming schools benefit the kids?
The Board of Education (BOE) commissioners seem to have their priorities in the wrong place! Only when SF City Hall sued SFUSD did I see any movement on school reopening. Even so, it was only for elementary school students. My high school kids are still at home. I am expecting them to go back to school in the fall of 2021, but the more I learned about the BOE, the less confidence I have about that happening. I heard about budget deficits, and upon closer examination, learned that SFUSD doesn’t have any less money than other large school districts around the country, so there is either incompetence or willful financial mismanagement.
All of these personal frustrations really activated me in trying to do something, and that’s why I joined the Better SF Public Schools (www.bettersfpublicschools.org) campaign. From where I sit, the lottery system doesn’t make sense for kids and families. Extended distance learning is harming kids and families. Renaming schools during the pandemic clearly shows wrongly placed priorities. And learning that the BOE is a training ground to launch political careers just pisses me off. It has become abundantly clear that some commissioners don’t deserve to sit on the BOE and need to be recalled. However, how can we guarantee that future ones are any better, when many voters are like me and don’t pay attention to down-ballot BOE candidates? That’s why I really support Better SF Public School’s effort to overhaul the election system for BOE seats. We need commissioners who put kids and families first instead of their own political careers. An appointment system would get us more qualified, competent and accountable commissioners as most large cities’ school boards across the country have done. It’s time to reform the SF school board!
Categories: letter to the editor