‘What’s going on?’

SFUSD-School-Supt-Dr.-Vincent-Matthews-at-0921-School-Board-meeting-by-Daphne-1400x788, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
This photo of SFUSD School Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews was taken at the September 2021 School Board meeting. – Photo: Daphne Young

Education beat for November 2021

by Education Reporter Daphne Young

What? A $116 million deficit!

Let’s just begin with the “elephant” in the room. Can you believe that the state’s sixth largest school district is facing a possible “takeover”?

All because of the huge $116 million budget deficit facing SFUSD in the school year 2022-23. The state superintendent has put SFUSD on notice because $116 million is a “historic deficit,” even for San Francisco. 

Possible state takeover?

State-Supt-for-Public-Instruction-Tony-Thurmond-works-w-student-by-CA-Dept-of-Education-102121, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Thurmond works with a student. – Photo: California Department of Education

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond’s office has given SFUSD until on Dec. 15, 2021, to submit an updated “balanced budget” or the state of California is threatening to take over. 

According to the letter sent to the district by the chief financial officer for the California Department of Education, Elizabeth Dearstyne, SFUSD has failed to submit two fiscal recovery plans, per the State’s request. Although I asked SFUSD about the deadlines, and they swore there wasn’t one, there’s a deadline now, for sure. 

So, stay tuned as we’ll keep you updated on SFUSD’s efforts to balance the school budget and try to keep from letting the state step in. Also, send me your questions and comments about all this craziness. I’m sure our readers have much to say.

California Literacy Task Force

Meanwhile, the state superintendent has been a “busy bee” focusing on reading scores and improving education for all students, especially African American students. The superintendent recently unveiled two separate task forces to work on solutions to both issues.

Thurmond has appointed Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, California State Board of Education; Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County; E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association; Dr. Francisco Escobedo, National Center for Urban School Transformation; Dr. Barbara Flores, president of the California Association for Bilingual Education; Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California; and Dianna MacDonald, former president of the California State PTA to co-chair the new statewide “literacy” task force that he’s launched to help get all California third graders reading on level by 2026. It’s a hefty task. But it’s got to be done.

Some of the best minds in education in California are coming together to tackle this academic challenge facing students of color.

Plus, just recently, Thurmond made a bold move by specifically targeting African American students. He’s creating a Black Student Achievement Task Force as well.

Some of the best minds in education in California are coming together to tackle this academic challenge facing students of color.

The task force will include Dr. Tyrone Howard, founder of the Black Male Institute, Dr. Pedro Noguera, professor at UCLA Graduate School of Education, along with Desiree Carver-Thomas, researcher and policy analyst with the Learning Policy Institute and Sen. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who is hoping to turn the task force’s work into legislation. 

Of course, this effort couldn’t come at a better time because, according to the Department of Education:

  • 67 percent of California Black children do not read or write at grade level.
  • 86 percent of Black students are not at grade level in science.
  • 31 percent of Black students have completed their A-G requirements – necessary for admission to a California state college or university – as opposed to 49 percent of White students and 70 percent of Asian students.
  • 77 percent of Black students graduate high school, in contrast to 88 percent of White students and 93 percent of Asian students.

Hopefully, these educators can help turn things around for all children across the state. While we realize that we’re still engrossed in this ongoing pandemic, we also know that our children must continue to learn.

Thanks, readers!

By the way, I must send a big thank you to all of you who read and followed my article last month about the California Reading Report Card. Wow! What a response the SF Bay View received from our readers. 

Of course, we also heard from SFUSD. According to Laura Dudnick, with SFUSD’s Office of Communication, they weren’t too pleased with our story. But we simply reported the “numbers and data” that were included in the report. And numbers don’t lie. Right? 

To hear that dozens of schools are facing cuts due to declining enrollment over the past few years really tugs at my heart.

Plus, those were pretty dismal figures, which tell us that there’s lots of work that needs to be done to help improve children’s reading scores in California. So, let’s stay focused on the issue. 

It’s unfortunate that SFUSD was among nine school districts in the Bay Area who were listed at the bottom – 267 for SFUSD – among the statewide list of 287! But that’s simply the truth, the whole truth.

Declining enrollment

Now, let’s move on to another sad reality, and that is SFUSD has lost thousands of students since the pandemic. Yeah, thousands! So, enrollment is down at dozens of SFUSD schools. 

At the Sept. 21 school board meeting, I was saddened to learn that since enrollment has dropped so dramatically, the impact may be felt more directly by students and teachers. I realize a lot of folks have left the Bay Area with this pandemic. But, to hear that dozens of schools are facing cuts due to declining enrollment over the past few years really tugs at my heart. 

Readers, I think you’ll be surprised too when you take a look at the full list. Special thanks to Commissioner Matthew Alexander for requesting that SFUSD actually name the schools that might be impacted by proposed cuts.

SFUSD-enrollment-rates-from-SFUSD-Board-meeting-0921-1400x788, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Enrollment is down at dozens of SF schools. As a result, a lot of state funding will be lost by SFUSD due to figures projected for fall 2021. – Photo: Daphne Young, courtesy of SFUSD

Here’s the list of SFUSD Elementary Schools potentially facing budget cuts. Elementary schools:

  • Alamo Alvarado
  • Argonne Chinese Immersion
  • Clarendon Elementary
  • Cleveland Elementary
  • Cobb Elementary
  • Edwin and Anita Lee
  • Feinstein 
  • Leonard L. Flynn
  • Grattan 
  • Guadalupe
  • Dolores Huerta 
  • Jefferson
  • King 
  • Lafayette
  • Lakeshore Alternative
  • Gordon Lau
  • Longfellow 
  • Frank McCoppin
  • McKinley 
  • Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy
  • Miraloma 
  • Mission Education Center
  • New Traditions 
  • Redding
  • SF Public Montessori 
  • Junipero Sierra
  • Sheridan 
  • Sherman
  • Spring Valley 
  • Robert Louis Stephenson
  • Sunnyside 
  • E.R. Taylor
  • Daniel Webster 
  • West Portal
  • Yick Wo Alternative

Middle schools:

  • Bessie Carmichael 
  • James Denman
  • Claire Lilienthal 
  • Presidio
  • Rooftop 
  • Roosevelt

High schools

  • SF Academy 
  • Lowell
  • Ruth Asawa SOTA 
  • Raoul Wallenberg
  • Phillip and Sala Burton 
  • George Washington

Of course, a lot of state funding will be lost by SFUSD due to low enrollment figures projected for fall 2021. According to SFUSD, about 2,000 students and their families have moved out of the area over the last few years. Suggestions were made to put Teaching Student Assistants (TSA) into the classrooms where teachers are being removed. 

$24 million in cuts

“The last place we should cut is the classrooms,” said Commissioner Matthew Alexander. “Yet the first place the district is presenting is the classroom,” Alexander added. But, with $24 million in cuts, 60 percent central and 40 percent at the sites, we will have to see how creative the district gets as they work to decrease the enormous deficit SFUSD is already facing.

By the way, during another recent School Board meeting last month – yes, there have been many lately for SFUSD – we learned that these sites lost students even though schools continued to get funding. Hmmm?

Rats, gas leaks and unhealthy conditions at Horace Mann!

Horace-Mann-Elementary-broken-toilet-by-Allison-Matamoros.jpg, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Conditions at Horace Mann are documented by educator Allison Matamoros.

Kudos to a fourth grade teacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann for exposing unhealthy and horrific conditions at this Mission District school. It took a gas leak, dead rats, faulty ceilings and educator Allison Matamoros to make a slide presentation to her class showing broken toilets and dangling electrical wiring in classrooms to get the SFUSD School Board to vote unanimously to ensure that monies will finally get to Horace Mann, K-8, to help pay for some much needed renovations. 

Horace-Mann-dangling-wires-in-classrooms-by-Allison-Matamoros, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Wires dangle dangerously in a Horace Mann classroom. – Photo: Allison Matamoros

Located in the heart of the Mission, Horace Mann is a school made up mostly of Latinx and low-income students. Even one of the commissioners commented that if the kinds of repairs needed at Horace Mann were a problem at schools in more affluent areas of the city, repairs and changes would have been made long ago. It’s a shame.

For a little background: In 2016, voters approved Proposition A, which was meant to help modernize schools and build new ones. Buena Vista Horace Mann was told they’d be one of the schools to receive funds, but that never happened. 

Housing for Black male teachers

Let’s turn to some good news now for teachers in the Bay Area, especially teachers of color. In an effort to bring more Black male educators to San Francisco and Oakland area schools, several Bay Area organizations have partnered and are offering affordable housing to 20 fellows for a four-year period.

Harry-Matthew-Seawright-Gerrard-Watts-Jr.-Codion-Isom-Kameron-Corprew-and-Talib-Coffield-in-Urban-Ed-Academy-by-Ryan-Louie-101421-1400x1050, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Black teachers in the Urban Ed Academy help Black students feel safer in their learning environment – yes! Research shows that for Black students, having a Black teacher makes them feel safer, learn more, drop out less and pursue college at higher rates. This is the kind of change in education we need – more Black teachers so our children can thrive! From left to right: Harry Matthew Seawright, Gerrard Watts Jr., Codion Isom, Kameron Corprew and Talib Coffield. – Photo: Ryan Louie

“We are proud to partner with 2B Living to help ease the financial burden for Black teachers and to play a critical role in the education of Black students; because research shows that for Black students, having a Black teacher makes them feel safer, learn more, drop out less and pursue college at higher rates,” said Randy Seriguchi Jr., executive director at Urban Ed Academy, a non-profit organization that recruits, trains and supports Black male educators.

Since 2010, the Urban Ed Academy has served over 1,000 Black and Brown students, offering educator support in San Francisco through Saturday school programming and culturally focused teacher recruitment. 

With the high cost of housing in the Bay Area and the lack of educators, especially African American, in classrooms, this is good news! So, if you’re a Black educator interested in getting more information about the Urban Ed Academy, visit https://urbanedacademy.org/.

Finally, young children at nine San Francisco childcare centers, and family childcare homes are enjoying renovated green outdoor play spaces after community volunteers worked multiple weekends to create new natural playgrounds.

Connecting San Francisco’s youngest children to nature

Children-at-Wu-Yee-Childrens-Services-in-Bayview-by-James-Watkins-101421-1400x1120, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Children at Wu Yee Children’s Services in Bayview smile at the chance to enjoy beautiful outdoor time with Mama Earth. – Photo: James Watkins

The Wu Yee Children’s Services location in the Bayview is one of four childcare centers that received a green outdoor makeover. “We are committed to the success of San Francisco’s children, and physical surroundings are an important part of every child’s health and development,” said Wu Yee Children’s Services Executive Director Monica Walters. 

Black-teacher-planting-at-childcare-center-in-San-Francisco-by-Maria-Durana, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
The 2021 Connecting Children with Nature Program brought together many volunteers and educators from around the city to transform four SFUSD childcare centers in a green outdoor makeover! Here, a teacher plants a young fern for kids and adults alike to enjoy. – Photo: Maria Durana

“Wu Yee Children’s Services believes nothing is more essential than excellent childcare and education for all our children, right from the start, and nature is an integral part of their learning.” added Walters. “Providing unstructured time to play in a natural environment inspires discovery, exploration, creativity and joy in young children.”

Other daycare centers include the Frandelja Enrichment Center, with locations in the Bayview, and FACES SF in the Bayview. Some of the family childcare homes include Banana Fana Preschool and Guidry Early Care and Education Program, both in the Ingleside neighborhood, Las Mañanitas in Westwood Park, Tender Love Childcare in Silver Terrace and Valle Los Niños in Noe Valley. 

“Children and families in San Francisco need outdoor engagement, and it is part of our mission to provide this space,” said Monique Guidry, director of Guidry Early Care and Education Program, a family childcare center in Ingleside. 

People-working-the-land-at-childcare-center-in-San-Francisco-by-RebuildingTogetherSF, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
Climbing, playing and finding wonder in nature! Our people were the first stewards of this land – through initiatives like Connecting Children with Nature, we have the opportunity to help raise the next generation of Black farmers and gardeners. – Photo: RebuildingTogetherSF

“To the detriment of their health, most children here do not have access to green spaces in their neighborhoods,” Guidry added. “It is therefore vital to the family childcare community to access funding to enhance our green spaces,” said Guidry. “This funding will improve their programs and guide their children, families and community towards a lifelong connection with nature.”

People-working-the-land-and-tilling-soil-at-childcare-center-in-San-Francisco-by-Maria-Durana-1400x933, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
“Within a generation, children’s lives have largely moved indoors with a significant loss of freedom to explore the natural world” – let’s work to reverse this trend. What we need more than ever is to be connected within our bodies, with nature and with each other as human beings. – Photo: Maria Durana

The transformed play areas include new plantings and gardens for experiencing nature, log and tree stump clusters for climbing and loose parts to use in creative and imaginative play. Many of the logs and other natural materials that make up the transformed play areas came from Golden Gate Park. 

Black-teacher-digging-at-childcare-center-in-San-Francisco-by-Maria-Durana-1400x933, ‘What’s going on?’, Eye on Education Local News & Views
We all need a healthy dose of grounding. – Photo: Maria Durana

The 2021 Connecting Children with Nature program was launched in March by LIIF, First 5 SF and the San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education. The project brought together a unique partnership with RTSF, Recreation and Parks Department and San Francisco Children and Nature along with hundreds of volunteers and in-kind donations of natural materials. 

“We know outdoor play provides opportunities for learning with direct benefits for children. Within a generation, children’s lives have largely moved indoors with a significant loss of freedom to explore the natural world. Research indicates that direct experiences of nature in early childhood contribute to the care for nature across the lifespan. Providing this daily opportunity for our children is monumental to help restore their freedom to explore the natural world,” said Office of Early Care and Education Director Ingrid Mezquita.

Let’s get our children outdoors as much as we can, “safely.” And, be sure to support some of these organizations in our community. Thanks for staying informed! Contact me at education@sfbayview.com.

Daphne Young is a Chicago native and an award-winning journalist who’s worked in radio and television from coast to coast. She’s received honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the New Jersey Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Inc. and the New York Association of Black Journalists.