by Bay View Education Reporter Daphne Young
This is our first education column at the Bay View. Our hardworking editors and myself are truly jazzed to bring our readers, and especially parents, this brand new column that will tackle education issues impacting schools and students here in the Bay Area, specifically the Bayview area.
Each month, we’ll share with you some of the top education stories, along with some much needed good news to help us all keep our heads up during these trying times. So, here we go.
Money, money, money! Despite all the money received by the District from the COVID Relief State Incentive Grants (AB86), budget cuts are actually being considered by the San Francisco Unified School District School Board. Say what? During a pandemic? Yup!
A lengthy presentation was made by the superintendent at the Sept. 14, 2021, Regular School Board Meeting outlining their plan to try and resolve a $5 million deficit. The goal is to cut schools that have “low attendance.” At least, that’s the initial plan.
But, the United Educators of San Francisco is having none of that! UESF President Cassandra Curiel sent an “I’m heated” video via email to UESF members on Sept. 24, outlining her reaction to the board’s plan for school site cuts due to the $5 million deficit.
And she didn’t mince her words. The union is not happy about SFUSD’s initial plan for budget cuts. Hats off to UESF for reacting so swiftly and making their voices heard.
Keep in mind, though: The school board’s plan is still being worked out. So stay tuned and listen to the September SFUSD School Board meeting for yourself, and you’ll hear and see that the writing seems to be on the wall. Something’s getting cut! But closing schools and cutting back on teachers isn’t the way – as if educators, students and parents don’t already have enough to deal with these days.
While we’re on the subject of the UESF: The SF Teachers Union is calling for improved conditions for “cleaner air” in SFUSD classrooms. Last month, UESF held a spirited rally at City Hall. Kudos to Willie Brown Middle School educator Michelle Cody, who took to the podium to voice her concerns about not having working windows or air filters in her classroom.
Michelle is a science teacher who says it’s a challenge for her students to be able to even breathe fresh air. Right now, according to SFUSD, children and educators in roughly 160 classrooms don’t have “operable” windows, which means some students and teachers don’t have clean air while at school.
So, on Sept. 22, educators at George Washington High School organized a walk-in and demanded safe school sites for students and staff.
In the district’s defense, they have announced a plan to spend $2.9 million for new air filters. But many classrooms are still without filters or working windows. We’ll follow up with SFUSD and find out exactly what’s up with those air filters.
Also, parents and educators: YOU let us know when those air filters arrive at your kid’s school. We’ll be sure to share.
Next up: reading scores. Yikes! Now everyone, let’s take some really deep breaths before we move on to our next serious issue facing Bay Area schools. Here we go.
According to the California Reading Coalition Report, seven Bay Area School Districts rank in the bottom 10! What?! Yeah, SFUSD just missed the bottom 10 list by ranking 267 out of the 287 school districts who have third graders reading “below level.” See our findings in a separate article investigating the California Reading Report Card here.
The California Reading Coalition just released a study that tested third graders across the state for reading and comprehension. The crazy thing is that the study took a look at 2017-18 and 2018-19 CAASPP scores – the results didn’t even include 2020, due to the pandemic. So, one can only imagine what test scores would look like for the 2020-21 school year.
Anyway, parents, if it’s any comfort, San Francisco was not alone. San Mateo, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Oakland, Alameda,Contra Costa and even Marin County all had school districts that ranked in the bottom 10 on the list! According to the report, more than 51 percent of third graders tested in nine Bay Area counties are reading below level!
Ironically, Los Angeles area schools ranked in the top five: LA, Riverside and San Bernardino. Heck, even the Clovis School District in Fresno landed in the top five. Hmmm? So, what are they doing that we’re not?
If students haven’t grasped reading by the third grade, they are more likely to drop out or lose interest in school altogether.
Well, State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Thurmond sat up and took notice. Thurmond has announced he’s setting up a task force aimed at tackling the statewide reading problem. His goal is to have California third graders reading on level by 2026! Let’s see if it works.
Something has to be done. Experts say if students haven’t grasped reading by the third grade, they are more likely to drop out or lose interest in school altogether. Click here for more.
Ok, now we have to move on to COVID-19 updates. Yup, it’s a part of life these days, unfortunately.
While COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation and at San Francisco Unified School District sites, the San Francisco Department of Public Health says as of Sept. 24, 2021, there are only 321 positive COVID-19 cases at SFUSD schools and sites. That’s out of 52,000 students and nearly 10,000 staff members at SFUSD schools. Check out the SFUSD COVID-19 Testing Dashboard.
Meanwhile, in Bayview – one of the hardest-hit communities during the pandemic – SF Department of Public Health tells us there are only 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases that have been reported at all SFUSD Bayview schools combined. The eight schools in Bayview include:
- Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School (ES)
- Bret Harte ES
- Malcolm X Academy
- Dr. Charles Drew Academy
- Leola Havard Early ES
- Willie Brown MS
- Thurgood Marshall HS
- C.A.R.E. Bayview
Neither SFDPH nor SFUSD are releasing the names of the actual schools that are reporting COVID-19 cases because SFDPH tells us that due to privacy issues, any school reporting “less than five cases” doesn’t have to be named.
The important thing is that SFUSD says they’re following protocol when positive cases are reported at a school site. Families who are “directly impacted” are notified with a letter from SFUSD, along with instructions on self-quarantining. Rest assured, parents, SF Covid-19 cases among kids are low in comparison. Check out my stories at sfbayview.com for more information.
Here’s what parents can do to help keep your children and entire family stay healthy and safe:
- Stay in close communication with your child’s school regarding COVID-19 updates and information.
- Consider getting your child vaccinated if they’re 12 and older.
- Watch the new SFUSD Quarantine Practices video with Dr. Enikia Ford Morthel and other SFUSD leaders.
- Check the SFUSD Covid-19 Testing Dashboard daily, or at least weekly, to keep an eye on the number of Covid-19 cases being reported by SFUSD.
Now, for some good news! Amazon Prime gets a high-five for dropping off hundreds of pairs of beautiful Cinderella shoes and backpacks last month to Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School and Bret Harte Elementary School students.
More than 5,000 pairs of shoes were donated to students at underserved schools in 11 cities across the country. Students at Carver and Bret Harte were the lucky recipients in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lastly, go Giants! As if they aren’t already superheroes with their recent 100th win! Now, the SF Giants are also putting their money where their mouth is and offering five scholarships to 9th and 11th graders who want to go to college.
The SF Giants are partnering with the legendary Willie Mays to give five $20,000 scholarships to 9th and 11th graders. African American students are strongly urged to apply. Applications for The Willie Mays Scholarship are being accepted until October 7th! Apply! The partnership also involves 100 percent College Prep and the non-profit Alive and Free, and is an effort to help more Black students attend and pay for college.
Check out our interview on Bay View TV: Education Beat with Dr. Joseph Marshall of KMEL Radio as he talks about how the SF Giants, Willie Mays, 100 percent College Prep and Alive and Free are all coming together to help more Black students get to college. Apply here.
Well, that’s it for now, ya’ll. Until next time. Be well, be safe and be sure to let us know: “What’s going on?” Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daphne Young is the Education Reporter at the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. The Chicago native is an award-winning journalist who’s covered news for radio and TV stations around the country. She attended San Francisco State University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. If you have an education story that you’d like to see the Bay View cover, please contact Daphne by email: email@example.com.