by Minister of Information JR Valrey
Black students continue to get injured at schools on the neglected eastside of San Francisco, while the school district is intending to leave hundreds of teachers’ jobs vacant to save money off of the backs of the most disadvantaged and educationally vulnerable students.
In 2023, in one of the most progressive cities in the country, Black residents are still fighting against separate and unequal distribution of resources to the local schools. San Francisco is home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world and it is also still home to some of the most vile systemic racism in this new technocratic Western world.
Bivett Bracket is a business owner, community activist, resident and parent that has made it her own personal quest to wake up the Black community to the underfunding of Malcolm X Academy and other schools on the east side of Frisco, and how this mismanagement of funds affects many aspects of Black student life in the City. Check out the very intelligent and informed Bivett Brackett in her own words.
JR Valrey: What is a Williams Complaint? Why did you file it a couple of weeks ago?
Bivett Bracket: A Williams Complaint is a written and signed statement alleging a violation of federal or state laws or regulations in regards to instructional materials, facilities conditions that pose an urgent threat to the health and safety of pupils, and teacher vacancy or misassignment; and it may be filed anonymously.
I filed the Williams Complaint after multiple students at Malcolm X Academy have been injured over a decade because SFUSD refuses to fix their hazardous playground structure. In 2016, voters approved a $1 billion facility bond which SFUSD promised to use to prioritize and fix the schoolyard at Malcolm X Academy.
SFUSD has exhausted the $1 billion on other playgrounds on the west side of San Francisco and have made no effort towards fixing the Malcolm X playground. As a result, a kindergarten child broke her femur bone during the 2022-23 school year and had to miss almost a month of school. Her injury is so severe she may have a permanent walking impediment.
JR Valrey: Is this the first time that you have made a formal complaint concerning what you observed at Malcolm X Academy in San Francisco? How has the community responded? How have public officials responded?
Bivett Brackett: Yes, this is the first complaint I have made at Malcolm X. I forwarded a copy of this complaint outlining the health, safety and ADA violations, SFUSD’s negligent handling of this issue for over a decade, misuse of facility bond funds, the 2023 SFUSD Master Facility Plan filled with errors and false information, and emphasize that this has been a pattern of disparate impact on students from economically poor backgrounds.
What we are witnessing in San Francisco is modern day separate and unequal educational facilities similar to the 1950s Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education days, where Black children were forced to study in substandard institutions while their counterparts just a zip code away had brand new facilities with state of the art amenities.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about what you observed about the mis-assigning of teachers?
Bivett Brackett: After attending multiple Board of Education meetings over the summer and fall of 2022, it was stated several times that our district budget was claiming “savings” by leaving teacher roles unfilled and/or programs undelivered to students.
Last year we had over 400 open positions still unfilled in October 2022. As a result students were not getting the services they needed and many students did not have credentialed teachers as required by federal law. In fact, our outgoing CFO told the superintendent and Board of Education members that the district failed to meet ESSA standards and Title 1, which requires credentialed teachers for our most disadvantaged populations.
She estimated the district would not only lose funding but be fined over $500,000. Another thing to note is we were not spending the required 55% in direct services to students and most of our district money was not going to the classroom but to administrative costs and private consultants.
JR Valrey: Can you tell people about what you observed about the conditions at Malcolm X Academy that a large Black student population attends?
Bivett Brackett: The protective surfacing beneath the playground equipment is insufficient, missing, worn out and uneven. This creates an environment where children are at a heightened risk of injury daily. The lack of appropriate surfacing material, such as rubberized or impact-absorbing material, further exacerbates the dangers present.
The overall maintenance of the playground is abysmal. It is evident that routine inspections and necessary repairs have been neglected for an unacceptable period of time. In 2016, MXA was listed as one of the schools which were supposed to receive SFUSD bond money to address the deficiencies described above. Yet, almost a decade later the bond funds have been exhausted and not one penny was spent on MXA’s school yard.
In addition, the current Master Facility Report presented to the Board of Education this spring by Superintendent Matt Wayne and staff contained inaccurate or missing data about the condition of several playground facilities and school sites. SFUSD’s 2022 Facilities Condition Assessment Findings was also riddled with errors and/or missing critical information. For instance, MXA Elementary is marked green on the citywide FCI outdoor facilities map, indicating MXA’s playground is in good condition. (See photo below.)
To me this is a perfect example of why Black or Latinx parents say SFUSD doesn’t care about changing student outcomes or real equity issues our children face daily, unless the media shames them into taking action. We saw this same thing happen in 2021, when Buena Vista Horace Mann Elementary School also complained that SFUSD ignored decades of Williams Complaints and students being electrocuted, exposed to toxins in the soil and extremely high levels of lead and bacteria in their water.
Both teachers and parents complained about the inaccuracy of the reports produced by contractors who were hired to do facility tests. Despite complaints of yellow and brown substances in the water faucet, the contractors said the water was safe to drink. No action was taken until the media published an article and Hillary Ronen championed the charge of BVHM PTA. This year the water was retested and they found 10 times the allowable rate of toxins in the water prompting the shutdown of multiple drinking fountains.
JR Valrey: You recently wrote a letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors about the concerns mentioned prior. What did that letter say?
Bivett Brackett: “Williams Complaint Detailing Urgent Concerns Regarding Hazardous Playground Conditions at Malcolm X Academy Elementary School, Request for Audit of SFUSD Master Facility Plans, and Need to Address Unconstitutional Separate and Unequal Education Practices.”
JR Valrey: Did you get a response?
Bivett Brackett: I was disappointed that only Supervisor Shamann Walton responded considering how vocal the Board of Supervisors have been on SFUSD affairs recently.
Moreover, unlike most other school districts in California, SFUSD serves both San Francisco City and County. This means there is no oversight body which can force them to be compliant. They can basically deny any wrongdoing and claim they investigated themselves and close valid Williams Complaints without ever having to cure the deficiencies.
In addition, the District sent three separate email communications to me stating that there was no state or federal oversight body which I could report these longstanding facility issues to. Representatives from the SFUSD Office of Equity also claimed they did not know who would have influence over SFUSD affairs except the BOS or Mayor’s Office.
JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about what is happening in San Francisco with all of the money that these bonds are raising for educational institutions? Why are Malcolm X Academy and other schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods of San Francisco continuing to be underfunded?
Bivett Brackett: SFUSD has had a longstanding practice of leaving schools on the east side of the City in disrepair and prioritizing the needs of affluent families with political power and connections to lawyers who can file lawsuits against the district to compel them to act swiftly. Sadly, families on the east side of the City have traditionally had less economic, political and legal power.
However, times are changing as the population continues to decrease on the west side and increase exponentially on the east side. There is opportunity for families to organize and demand the district provide our children with equal and adequate services and amenities which we have historically been denied access to.
JR Valrey: What can SF Bay View newspaper readers do to help?
Bivett Brackett: Bayview newspaper readers can do three things immediately to help:
- Send an email to the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education demanding that they fix the play yard at Malcolm X immediately as promised to taxpayers when they requested funding for the 2016 bond.
- Urge the Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed and other elected representatives of our community to summarily reject the SFUSD Master Facility Plan until a comprehensive audit is conducted to evaluate their practices, decision-making processes and equitable allocation of resources. The current state of the playground at MXA Elementary School is indicative of a systemic failure to prioritize the safety and welfare of our children, and it raises serious questions about SFUSD’s ability to effectively manage and maintain school facilities throughout our district in an equitable manner. There are also millions of dollars of COVID-19 funding which was available to SFUSD that should have been used for facility repairs which remains unaccounted for.
- Attend the upcoming community meeting to SAVE OUR SCHOOLS. Our superintendent has been floating the idea that he will put forth a proposal to have the Board of Education vote to close 25-30 schools based on incorrect data in the faulty Master Facilities Plan. Oakland Unified School District Board President Mike Hutchinson will talk about the impact of school closures on the entire city and what parents and others can do to protect their neighborhood schools.