by Bay View Education Reporter Daphne Young
Down to the wire! It looks like the San Francisco Unified School District is getting an early Christmas gift just in time for the Dec.15 deadline by the state of California, which requires SFUSD to present a balanced budget, or risk a possible state take-over.
But, since the Proposition G lawsuit against SFUSD failed in the California Supreme Court late last month, now SFUSD will finally receive the funds from the Prop. G Living Wages for Educators Act parcel tax, which was passed by San Francisco voters back in 2018.
“This ruling is a huge victory for San Francisco public schools and represents the will of the voters of San Francisco,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “We will continue to work with our community to determine next steps in balancing our budget and ensuring these funds are used for their intended purposes.”
With the original lawsuit, $50 million was being withheld from SFUSD annually over a period of three years, which totaled a whopping $150 million that our students and teachers didn’t have going to SFUSD schools.
But now, SFUSD is finally set to receive at least $123.4 million from property owners that was placed on hold for the past three years while the courts decided whether or not the tax was legally authorized by voters.
“When the majority of San Francisco voters approved Prop. G in 2018 and its replacement Prop. J in 2020, they showed their support for our public schools,” said SF Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez.
SFUSD is finally set to receive at least $123.4 million
Fortunately, the higher court declined to consider an appeal from two prior court decisions and provided a final resolution in this litigation with this latest decision. Talk about perfect timing.
So, the good news is that this money, thanks to a lawsuit that went all the way up to the California Supreme Court – and lost! – is finally heading to our financially struggling school district, just in time to avert a state takeover. Whew! SFUSD was cutting it kinda close. But it looks like they made it onto Santa’s Christmas list this year, after all.
By the way, there have been many meetings this past month or so to discuss SFUSD’s budget woes. Here’s a look at SFUSD budget meetings that have taken place in November and are still to come in early December.
SFUSD meeting hacked, again
Speaking of meetings, SFUSD also has their hands full trying to secure and protect their public meetings from hackers! The Nov. 3 Equity Committee meeting was actually Zoom-bombed, as the techies call it, and it was the second unwelcomed cyber interruption at a SFUSD Equity Committee meeting this year.
Back in January there was another incident during yet another Equity Committee meeting. That meeting was designated to discuss Lowell High School. Hmmm?
Some members of the Equity Committee think the connection with discussions on Lowell HS is not a coincidence.
“I feel the administration and the board need to do more and take a serious look at how this is happening,” said Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, president of the SF NAACP. “This was an intentional attack against this committee, and it’s a form of cultural neglect,” Brown added.
Rev. Brown was actually the person speaking when the “unidentified person” interrupted the Nov. 3 SFUSD Equity Committee meeting and began randomly cursing and using the N-word. To make matters worse, the hacker also showed pornography to the approximately 40-plus people who were tuned into the online meeting, including some children, who were watching with their families.
School Board President Gabriela Lopez issued a statement days after the incident: “For all of the people who were present who had to witness this and who endured further harm, I am sorry. This committee has been attacked since its inception, down to the applications sent in.
But both SFUSD and law enforcement have been pretty quiet about what’s actually being done to catch the hackers.
“But this will not stop the crucial work that will occur and the inclusive, clear process we have built throughout. I am proud of the group we have formed, and I am able to see how each member’s presence is going to aptly contribute to what we have set out to do.”
President Lopez wants to assure those who attend SFUSD School Board meetings that the board is working to resolve the issue and find the culprit who’s been hacking SFUSD meetings. But both SFUSD and law enforcement have been pretty quiet about what’s actually being done to catch the hackers.
We’ll keep you posted when and if we get word on an investigation into this latest hacking incident.
Students ask questions about COVID-19 vaccine
Now that the Centers for Disease Control has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 years old, the SF School District has opened up four school-based vaccine clinics where children and families can get the shot.
One of those vaccination clinics is located at Malcolm X Academy Elementary School, at 350 Harbor Rd., San Francisco, CA, 94124. But many Black and Brown families are still leery of the vaccine. So, SFUSD hosted several town halls last month and school officials also made an in-person visit to actually talk to students about the vaccine.
During the visit to Malcolm X Academy in November, Dr. Vincent Matthews and School Board President Gabriela Lopez along with UCSF’s Dr. Daniel Woolridge talked to fourth and fifth graders and fielded their questions about the vaccine.
SF Bay View was also there to listen in as the young minds asked great questions and wanted answers to questions like why they should take the vaccine? And, could they still get sick if they, or a family member get the shot?
The message from SFUSD was: “When a child is fully vaccinated, they won’t have to quarantine if they are considered a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This will be a dramatic improvement for elementary schools where students currently have to miss out on instruction when they need to quarantine.”
Families: For more information about SFUSD vaccination clinics and previous town hall meetings the district held for families in multiple languages, go to SFUSD.edu.
2021 Willie Mays Scholarship recipients
Moving on to more good news about our students in the Bay Area. Five outstanding SFUSD students were honored in November during the First Annual Willie Mays Scholarship event.
In San Francisco, only 31 percent of the Black population aged 25-plus attain a bachelor’s degree, compared to 74 percent of the white population.
The Willie Mays Scholars program is geared to helping address racial and educational inequalities by providing additional opportunities for Black youth in San Francisco to prepare for, attend and succeed in college.
The five scholarship winners for 2021 are students. “I had the absolute pleasure of being on the selection committee,” said Randy Winn, board member of the Willie Mays Community Fund and former SF Giant, 2005-09.
Winn, who also attended the special ceremony on Nov. 17 at Oracle Park, told the SF Bay View: “It was so tough. We had some incredibly talented young men and women. It made the decision difficult. But the five young men and women who were picked should be super proud because of what they are doing in their communities and in their schools.”
The five winners beat out approximately 30 other applicants to receive up to $80,000 for college tuition, along with support from organizations like Alive & Free and 100% College Prep. “These Willie Mays Scholars will now be equipped to succeed, through college and beyond,” said Winn.
With this inaugural class of 2021, five scholars will be inducted each year and they’ll also receive a scholarship of up to $20,000 as part of $80,000 worth of support, through high school and college, that includes hands-on mentoring and tailored wraparound support services.
Congratulations to the winners! For more information about the winners and the scholarship program, visit the Willie Mays Scholarship Fund.
Black movies for Christmas
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
Since it’s Christmas time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some kind of Christmas cheer with my readers. This year, it’s in the form of Black films! So, we’re combining education and entertainment in this issue of “Eye on Education” to share some Christmas joy!
Recently, I interviewed directors and producers of three magical and powerful Black films, and, in my book, these are must-watch movies before the end of year.
First up is “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.” This is a fun-filled Christmas movie for the whole family. The star-studded cast includes Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker and Cosby Show actress Phylicia Rashad.
It’s an imaginary story about a Black inventor, Jeronicus Jangle, who’s wronged when his apprentice steals his one-of-a-kind book of toy inventions and sells them, leaving him penniless. But with the help of his daughter and granddaughter, Jeronicus Jingle, played by Whitaker, re-invents one of his greatest creations just in time for Christmas!
Of course, there’s lots of singing, and great dancing in the movie, which makes it so much fun to watch! Plus, the costumes are colorful and creative.
This magical film also includes Latin singer Ricky Martin as the voice of “Don Juan Diago.” Usher and Kiana Lede’ lend their voices to songs in the movie, as well.
Bottom line, this film is sure to get you and the little ones into the holiday spirit! “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is available now on Netflix.
“Agents of Change”
Then there’s the powerful, educational and historic documentary by Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg, former Cornell University students, who were both present when Black students staged a takeover of the Ivy League campus back in the spring of 1968.
The film is narrated by actor and activist Danny Glover and a host of other real-life “Agents of Change,” like Dr. Ramona Tascoe of UCSF. Tascoe took part in the five-month student protests at San Francisco State University from 1967-68, which is the event that kicks off the film.
From coast to coast, this movie takes us back to some pivotal moments in the 1960s to show viewers how the Ethnic Studies Department at SFSU came about and why and how Black Student Unions were started at white campuses across the nation. More importantly, those who stood up to the establishment and called for real change were heard in this motivating documentary.
Plus, let me just say that the soundtrack alone for “Agents of Change“ is worth noting and taking a trip down memory lane – for those of us old enough to remember. With classic hits from James Brown to Jimmie Hendrix, the music in this documentary is as powerful as the film itself.
The documentary also shows us through black and white film and photos how these students’ boldness helped create a movement that, much like Black Lives Matter, spread all across the nation.
On Dec. 1, San Francisco State University, where most of the action in this film takes place, hosted a virtual screening and Q&A session with the directors of the film along with Dr. Ramona Tascoe, a former SFSU student. City College Journalism Chairman Juan Gonzales also served as moderator.
“It was an opportunity for college students today to view the film and ask their questions directly to some of those who took part in historic events on college campuses back in the 1960s,” said director Frank Dawson.
Dawson was actually one of the Black students inside Willard Straight Hall during the Black student protest. Meanwhile, co-director Abby Ginzberg was with the group of white students protesting outside. The two bring powerful counter viewpoints to the film.
Dawson added: “This film is a great way to show young people that many of the race issues back then are still relevant today.”
The film “Agents of Change” is now streaming on Vimeo for $9.99. And it’s worth every penny! Power to the People!
“Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power”
My final pick for Black films this Christmas includes the behind-the-scenes story of California Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Of course, the Bay Area has created some of the most powerful Black women in America, with Vice President Kamala Harris and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. But Congresswoman Barbara Lee has been in there fighting for the Black community since her early days as a single mother working for the Black Panther Party and eventually the Civil Rights Movement.
Greenwich Entertainment gives us a look at the life of one of the highest-ranking Black women in Congress, through the voices of activists, politicians, political commentators, families and friends. It’s been a busy year for director Abby Ginzberg, who also co-directed “Agents of Change.”
Ginzberg says she did this movie about Congresswoman Lee because “she’s one of the most interesting, progressive members of Congress, who many people have never heard of.”
Ginzberg added, “Look at her personal life experiences. Being a single mom, etc. I wanted to share Barbara’s story more broadly with a larger audience, particularly beyond the Bay Area, where people don’t know her.
This month, the film is going to England, and in a recent interview Lee told a reporter that John Lewis’ inclusion in the film talking about her standing up against George W. Bush’s decision to go to war shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks really touched her heart.
Lewis praised Congresswoman Lee for going it alone despite the opposition in Congress at the time. “Originally, the documentary was released in 2020, but because of the pandemic, the film was actually first screened at a drive-in in Concord, Calif., July 2020,” said Ginzberg.
“Ironically, the screening happened just days before John Lewis’ death,” added Ginzberg. “Barbara was able to attend, and she was able to enjoy his part in the film before his death. His words resonated with her and meant so much.”
The documentary on Lee also features others in Congress like Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez along with actor Danny Glover and author Alice Walker, who all praise and applaud Barbara Lee for her work over the years and her perseverance to fight for the common people.
“Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power,” was first released theatrically in August 2021 and it has won several awards, including Best Director at the Harlem International Film Festival, Best Featured Documentary at the Reel Sisters Film Festival and Best U.S. Documentary at the American Film Festival in Poland.
This film is informative and inspiring. And it’s about a Bay Area shero! You can watch “Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power” on Amazon Prime for a nominal fee of $5.99 to rent and $11.99 to buy.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.