Middle School Redesign, American Carnage & Theo Epstein for DNC Chair

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"What an ironic week in America. We started the week celebrating the legacy of one of the greatest Americans that ever lived in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Much has been said, quoted and written about the courage and moral authority Dr. King used to transform America into a more inclusive society." -Commissioner Cook 1/24/2017

 Middle School Redesign, American Carnage and Theo Epstein for DNC Chair

During our Committee of the Whole meeting, we had a presentation on the Middle Grades Redesign. The presentation included district staff and a middle school administrator giving the board an update on the work that has been happening on changing the experience for educators and students in middle school. The staff emphasized the importance of undergoing an iterative process to inform their redesign work.

I was intrigued by the presentation and enjoyed hearing from the principal of Martin Luther King Jr Middle School, Michael Essien. Also, I plan to start my school site visits by going to all the middle schools in San Francisco. But being that I have a younger cousin attending an SFUSD middle school on the southeast side of the city, I was especially interested  in how this work was translating into the classroom.

The presentation didn’t showcase tangible outcomes nor spoke to short or mid-term goals for student achievement. My impression of the presentation was that it was a progress report. I did learn about some of the systemic barriers related to the course offerings, school climate and initiatives related to technology partnerships.  

In light of those barriers, there were a number of issues that surfaced about the direction the work is taking.

  • The district is seeking to select a small cohort of school sites as early adopters. How are schools being selected to participate in the cohort?

  • What is the level of access to technology devices at the site level and how many students have access to a home computer?

    • I plan to meet with the Chief Technology Officer soon to go into more depth about this topic. This is San Francisco and our district should be leading the nation in closing the digital divide.

    • When I went to Thurgood Marshall, every incoming 9th grade student got a computer to take home. I was in the 9th grade back in 1999 (almost 20 years ago now (dang hella long ago)). If school leaders were able to accomplish that back then, there is no reason we can’t do that for all 6th graders now.

    • I know Vis Valley Middle School had a laptop giveaway this year with the support of a private donor. I hope to find out more about that soon.

  • How much of the student experience and outcome is informing the new direction of the work?

    • I don’t doubt district staff and school sites want to see academic outcomes improve. Overall, I know we’re interested in academic excellence. But we have an opportunity gap that we constantly have to be working to address. Seeing the shifts in data they were looking to make in addressing that gap would have been helpful.

Top Stories from the week

What an ironic week in America. We started the week celebrating the legacy of one of the greatest Americans that ever lived in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Much has been said, quoted and written about the courage and moral authority Dr. King used to transform America into a more inclusive society.

We ended the week with the inauguration of the 45th President Donald J. Trump, who I would say is the antithesis of Martin Luther King Jr. He went on the attack on several fronts: the American political leadership, the Islamic world, intercity and rural poverty, and backed away from America being an active leader in the world. I think this is likely one of the most memorable political speeches for its negativity. We went from Obama’s hope to an era that will most likely be described as Trump’s American Carnage.

This was an important week to look back to the resistance leaders take proceed us. I spent the week watching YouTube interviews and reading the words of Steve Biko. I also  re-watched the Eyes of the Prize documentary. Trump’s leadership is troubling to many of us, but he’s definitely not the most racist political leader we’ve had. Not too long ago, America was a much nastier place where police violence was used to suppress and intimidate blacks from confronting the social order of society.

In the aftermath of civil rights, there were members of the black and Latino communities that questioned the value of desegregation. They argued something was lost when the community sought to integrate. They said people of color would have opportunities to build their own community if they didn’t segregate.

I won’t go into the merits of that debate this time, but I will say the courage it took to fight for entry into broader education, political and economic society continues to inspire awe within me. We have access to every institution the country has to offer. The question now and has continue to be is what we will do with that access?  

What will we do now in Trump’s America?

I have been chosen by the people of San Francisco to govern and I believe my mandate is clear.  When parents/guardians wake up in the morning they still want opportunity for their children. When our children come to school, they still want to learn, be affirmed in their identity and celebrated for their ability. We are still charged with providing all students the opportunities to pursue their passions. We have yet to accomplish that for all children so my work continues in education.

As a political leader, I am looking to build community locally around shared goals and connect to a network of like-minded leaders nationally and around the world. My work at Mission Bit has already led me to build connections with people all over the country and foreign nations. I think my political work can be a great continuation as it allows for institutions to continue policies that will support citizens for generations to come.

As a black man, I have been afforded incredible opportunities because of the sacrifices my ancestors made. They confronted people in government and society that were much more racist and violent than Donald Trump. During the Obama presidency, I saw more black men killed by the police and read more news headlines about mass shootings than I have ever read in my life.

I want to see my people continue to find ways to resist, govern, build companies and create art that serve to represent the beauty and ability we possess as a people.

From The Internets: Podcasts, Youtube & Netflix

Theo Epstein For Chair of Democratic National Committee.

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This past week, I listened to an interview on the Axe Files between David Axelrod and Chicago Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein. I’m a Giants fan and they have my loyalty. But I really enjoyed hearing about his career and what he was able to accomplish in Boston and Chicago.

During the team’s trip to the White House, President Obama made a joke about recruiting Epstein to be the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. The podcast revealed that Epstein has supported Democratic political candidates in past. Although it’s unlikely, it would be great to build a team of people like Epstein from different sectors to support Democrats in state and local races.

Senator Warren vs. Betsy DeVos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld6k2b-AEfU

My objection to Betsy DeVOS as Secretary of Education is well documented. For the record, I didn’t necessarily support nor can I point to anything of significance that happened during Arne Duncan tenure, but this person has no business being considered for the position. She’s completely out of her league and unprepared for the task ahead. Nothing showcases this point better than the exchange between DeVOS and Senator Elizabeth Warren.


Cyber Warfare has Begun

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPXctbdBth0&t=1080s

Vice covered the increased threats to cyber security in this piece about Zero Day Markets last year. The insights are especially relevant now given the hacking of the presidential election. The report is troubling given how much of the systems we rely on are susceptible to compromise given our high dependency on technology.

These issues are highly concerning; it has the makings of another arms race or cold war. I am educating myself on the situation and plan to advocate for protections for consumers and private citizens.