The past several months have been a great learning experience serving as Commissioner on the San Francisco Board of Education. We recently selected Dr. Vincent Matthews as our finalist for Superintendent. He’s a fellow native of San Francisco and a graduate of McAteer High School. He’s built a tremendous career as an education leader and has a personal narrative that brings forward what we say we believe is possible with a public school education.
We sat down a few weeks back to have a one-on-one conversation as part of his onboarding. I shared my priorities of advancing STEM education for our girls and students of color, local hiring initiatives to ensure our classified positions are filled, and addressing our affordability crisis through equitable housing and salary policy for our staff and educators.
Parent/Student Evaluations: We have pockets of greatness in our district, though not many opportunities to elevate and share great practice through a feedback-based process. I’d like for our district to explore the implementation of the Teacher Excellence Network (TEN) developed by Jeff Duncan-Andrade in Oakland. I had an opportunity to speak with him about the outcomes during a recent visit to Roses in The Concrete in East Oakland. The evaluation platform currently runs in 13 states and a few foreign countries. I’m excited to see what the platform can bring to our city.
Local Hire for SFUSD classified positions: We currently have over 200 open positions which only require a high school degree or GED. These opportunities exist while African American unemployment in San Francisco is 53%. SFUSD should be a part of the solution to create viable, attractive, and secure employment positions for our city’s residents.
Achieving 1:1 laptop and data access: We continue to have a digital and connectivity divide in San Francisco. A city that happens to be the epicenter of technology. The district has begun to expand access to technology at multiple school sites and I would like to see an improvement on the work that’s begun. My aspiration is that every student has a home laptop and data package so they can have internet access and continue their learning outside of the classroom.
Equity with Accountability: As a district, we’ve launched a number of initiatives related to addressing the opportunity gap. We’re tremendously ahead of many public education systems in our willingness to call out longstanding issues of institutional racism. Now we have to start holding ourselves accountable for the outcomes we achieve when it comes to moving the needle on improving outcomes for African American, Latino, and Polynesian students. I want to start conversations with our community about what that should mean for our schools.
Middle School Grading Policy: There are not uniform standards in grading policies across grade levels in middle school or across subject departments within a school. A passing grade in one class does not mean the same as a passing grade in another. As a result, we see grade discrepancies and at times bias in scoring student work. In addition, it’s not clear that we need to give students zero grades at all due to what it does to a student's development and association with learning. I have been in conversations with educators advocating for the need for more consistency in grading. I’d like to work with more educators and policymakers to ensure we come to a resolution that improves academic excellence for all students.
There are a host of issues that continue to hold the entire board’s attention: teacher salaries/housing, advancing our capital projects, strengthening the arts, ensuring our students with special needs are being adequately served and our students are going into the world with the skills to compete and thrive in the workforce and in life.
I look forward engaging with you on the issues I’ve laid out above and any others you’d like to address. As we close out this school year I think we have a lot to celebrate and other areas we have work to begin. I say the time to go is now.
Please share your thoughts with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be hosting community conversations as well. If you’d like to attend these meetings sign up for my newsletter at stevoncook.com. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you about these important initiatives.