Letters to Commissioner Cook #001

I receive letters everyday from parents, students, voters and interested members of the public from all over the world. My plan is to release letters a few times a month throughout the course of my time in office. Some of them will receive public responses, others will not. If you are interested in writing me please send me a message to info@stevoncook.com.

September 24, 2018

Mr. Cook,

My name is T.H. and I am a Lowell High School Alumni. I am writing this email to tell you that targeting Lowell High School’s policies will not solve SFUSD’s problem of poor academic performance, nor will it benefit the children most at risk in the school system.

I grew up in a poorer neighborhood in San Francisco and went to a poor performing middle school, and I can say from first hand experience that the problem is with the systemic acceptance of poor performance in academics as the norm. Many of my peers in the middle school I attended not only accepted poor performance as the norm, but many of my peers would even shun achievement and mock those who did well. I would constantly feel like I had to downplay the amount of work I did and the grade I earned. Working hard and garnering high results was seen as “not cool” and was often followed by chants of “nerd”. The problem is the environment in which our young people are going to school in, and the mentality that is present.

Changing Lowell’s policies will not help our children reach their true potential, but will instead send a clear message to the youth that hard work and strong performance is to be targeted in our society. You and the rest of the Board should be focusing your efforts on improving the environments in under-performing schools so that our children can work hard and reach their potential in any area they choose.

Respectfully,

T.H.

September 26, 2018

Hello Stevon,

Congratulations on your election as President of the School Board.

My name is C. L. and I am a 3rd generation native who was a champion at every level of public school in San Francisco. I went undefeated in four years as a wrestler (two years at Gal and two at Bal). I then was an NCAA Division I qualifier and NCAA finalist at SFSU and graduated in business administration with Real Estate. I was inducted into the Hall of fame at SF State and at Balboa. I was born in Fillmore but lived in neighborhoods all over The City.

As soon as I graduated and started an academic wrestling program, I found out about the disparities in SFUSD, especially with regard to African American youth. Special Ed was over 50% Black even though we only made up 18% population at the time. I began to raise my voice for kids in education and housing. Of course, I sacrificed jobs and income to remain independent and be able to speak truth to power.

I found that in order to create a learning culture, we have to address the deep rooted physical conflicts first. I have demonstrated this in our most underserved schools, including Willie Brown, Drew and Carver. I mixed cooperative wrestling fundamentals with grade level academic standards. If you go into the Principal’s office at [ABC MIDDLE SCHOOL], you will see a poster of the students I worked with last year. They can be utilized as leader a since they are now 8th graders. I didn’t do wrestling in PE or after school, but as part of the advisory (Counseling) period. At Malcolm X, I did it at math time!

I recently was instrumental in changing the wrestling leadership at SF State. There is also some special things happening at Menlo College in Palo Alto with women’s wrestling. I would very much like to meet up with you regarding the achievement gap and how we can close it by guiding students past the culture of conflict so they can enjoy a learning culture.

Sincerely,

C. L.

September 27, 2018

It is a disgrace that you are considering dumbing down Lowell. If the Middle Schools can’t produce students that qualify, why not fix them? -T

October 1, 2018

Re: Resolution №185–22A1 In Support of Making College More Assessible to SFUSD Students

Dear President Cook,

I am writing to you in support of the above referenced Resolution. Upon learning about this Resolution and having an opportunity to review the enclosed information, I felt compelled to reach out and share my support.

As a parent of three amazing children I have spent many years advocating for my children in every aspect of life. Whether it be educational, medical, athletics or other interest, I have 23 years of experience focusing on ways to provide my children with every opportunity to attain growth, success, health and wellbeing.

There have been times when things simply seem to fall into place, and yet there have been others when I have felt as though I have had to be in the trenches. It would seem that it would be natural for every child to be awarded the same opportunity to excel in this ever competitive and changing world or education; however, due to circumstances this is not always the case.

I have often found that a teacher, counselor, administrator or other staff member can make all the difference in the outcome of a situation. However, the afore mentioned team members should never be a hinderance to a student’s success. Unfortunately, there have been times when I have had to intervene on my child’s behalf due to an individual’s own subjective point of view.

There should never be a roadblock which hinders a child from exploring or achieving their potential. There are so many options available to them and providing them access to these options can make all the difference in their lives and greatly impact their futures in a positive way. Below is an excerpt of some concerns which I shared with your very own Stevon Cook and which he was kind enough to share it with Dr. Vincent Matthews. It is regarding the varying experiences which two of my three children have had.

“That being said, I would like to share with you one of the challenges which our children can face. While Kiana has had an amazing counselor in Mr. Twho has provided her with every potential opportunity, her sister Jasmine has not been so fortunate. Jasmine has faced resistance upon trying to advocate for herself and is seldom provided with opportunities by her counselor Ms. J. I have found that I end up having to advocate for her while always including the Principal in efforts to provide Jasmine with available opportunities which are readily available to other students.

Ms. J will often try to dissuade Jasmine from enrolling in Advanced or AP courses although Jasmine current sustains a 3.63 unweighted GPA while participating in many volunteer and extra-curricular activities.”

Fortunately for Jasmine, our persistence aided her in getting into her desired AP course; however, it should never have gotten to this point.

Students require options and opportunities and they should not always come at a cost. Cost and/or resistance should never prevent a child from having an opportunity to succeed or compete. This referenced Resolution provides them with just that. It would empower students and parents. It would provide them with the ability to know that collage is achievable while mitigating unnecessary and exorbitant costs. This Resolution should not only be passed, it should also be widely publicized.

It is my hope that this board is willing to brighten the future of all students in the San Francisco Unified School District by providing them with not only a head start, but a direct path to success.

Sincerely,

Lesley-Ann, parent

Stevon Cook