Thurgood Marshall? Who's that??

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I took my team out to lunch at the beginning of the week because it was the last day for one of my employees at Mission Bit. We had a lot of laughs and the discussion turned to the high schools we attended. As it turned out, everyone at the table went to public schools in San Francisco: Mission HS, John O’Connell HS, Lowell HS, and Thurgood Marshall HS.

When I told the team I went to Thurgood Marshall my departing team member asked, “Who’s that?” As it turned out, no one at the table had ever heard of Thurgood Marshall. Being that we all also happened to be under-represented minorities and immigrants that attended desegregated public schools, the revelation was particularly shocking. The lunch became a teaching moment and the timing of it was appropriate given that the lunch took place on January 31st, the eve of Black History Month.

Some take issue with the existence of a Black History Month. I know those arguments and I say that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Personally, I study the contributions and struggles of the African American community throughout the year. I find the history inspiring and it motivates me to think about the legacy I want to leave for those after me. I saw the lack of information about Thurgood Marshall as an opportunity to inform my team. And I figured I would keep that going on social media. I’ve decided not to highlight anyone from entertainment or athletics. Instead, I’ve gathered a list of innovators, political leaders, entrepreneurs, scientist, and intellectuals that in many ways were before their time. I will post the full list for reference at the end of the month. For now, you can get the daily updates by following me on Instagram.

This week as your Commissioner:

Part of the orientation as a newly elected Commissioner is to schedule meetings with the heads of every department. The board spent half of the day last Saturday together doing a retreat, which was a very positive experience. Over the past week, I met with Deputy Superintendent Kevin Truitt, Chief of Buildings and Grounds David Golden, Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, and Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd.

These introductions give me a high level view of the scope of their work, their priorities, and some personal history about how they came into their respective roles. As issues surface during these meetings, I have started to hone into some of the broader strategic changes I think we should be making as a district that will result into better outcomes for students and families. I hope to announce some initial plans on that very soon.

I ended the week with a site visit to Presidio Middle School. With over 1,000 students, Presidio is one of largest middle schools with a long standing reputation for academic excellence. They have an active parent group, many after school clubs, and an exciting yard redesign that is happening in partnership with Marc Benioff’s foundation.

At the same time, the leadership at the site has made efforts to confront the persistent challenge the school has faced in academic achievement between white and Asian students and their African American and Latino counterparts. The school also is paying attention to strategies to support English Language Learners and students with learning differences. One of the things that became evident during our meeting was that efforts to unpack these issues in a way that will result in meaningful outcomes for students require tenacity and courage.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at Presidio Middle School, but I plan to return to sit down with the students at the school’s Black Student Union and learn more about the school overall. This week, I plan to visit Roosevelt Middle School, but I will also be at Rosa Parks Elementary for the African American Read-In and my work at Mission Bit takes me to Balboa High School to run a coding workshop in partnership with Radius.


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Reading at Rosa Parks Elementary School for the African-American Read-In.