Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mission High Seniors DREAM Big

By Erica Hellerstein | Mission Local

Mission High seniors mobilize support for undocumented students.
Photo by Alejandro B Rosas.
 Angel scanned the group of high school seniors sitting before him.

Unlike speakers at most school assemblies, he didn’t have to shush a chattering crowd or engage a weary one. Students already looked expectantly toward him, paying rapt attention.

“Welcome, everyone,” he began. “My name is Angel. I’m undocumented, and for me, every day is a hustle.”

Angel, who works for the nonprofit organization Educators for Fair Consideration, teamed up with students from Mission High at the SF Promise College and Career Expo on Oct. 12. Together they led an in-depth workshop for seniors in the San Francisco Unified School District, where they discussed financial aid opportunities for undocumented students, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the DREAM Act.

The Mission High students, members of the club Awaken Dreamers, stepped forward and shared their stories.

“I’m documented,” said Nicole Ruiz to her peers, “but I support undocumented people because we have them all around our community. Our best friends are undocumented, and we see their struggles. That’s why we support them, and that’s why we want to talk to you guys.”

Ruiz and other seniors at Mission High formed Awaken Dreamers this fall to support undocumented students and provide them with financial aid options for college. Just months after its inception, it “already has a ton of supporters and interest,” said a club member who declined to give a name for fear of reprisal.

Through fundraisers — including car washes, garage sales and sales of “Support the DREAM Act” wristbands — the club plans to award a full scholarship to an undocumented student at the end of the year. With demonstrated teacher and community support, they are confident they will be able to raise the necessary funds.

“We’re trying to influence undocumented students to go to college and not limit themselves just because they don’t have enough money to go,” said Ruiz.

With the November presidential elections rapidly approaching, the topic could not be timelier. Heated rhetoric about immigration dominates the political conversation, especially in light of the Obama administration’s recent adoption of DACA.

Put into place in June, DACA grants two-year work permits and temporarily suspends deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally when under the age of 16. Its passage quickly generated fierce polemics.

Supporters of strict immigration enforcement criticized DACA as a form of political amnesty for lawbreakers, while many DREAM Act advocates criticized the policy as not going far enough, arguing that it should ultimately provide undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship and legal permanent residence.

Background information about this legislation, which resonates with many San Francisco students, was crucial to include in the Career Expo, said Maureen Carew, director of the group SF Promise.

“I wanted to have information for undocumented students, but wanted to make sure that students wouldn’t be put off by having to identify themselves as such,” she said.

So Carew linked up with the school district’s Deferred Action liaison, who introduced her to Awaken Dreamers. She attended one of the group’s lunchtime meetings, where students’ commitment to the cause made an impact on her.

“I was really impressed with the students and how well they were articulating this issue and the need for it, and that’s why I ended up asking them to participate in the Expo,” she said.

Spearheaded by the San Francisco Unified School District and SF Promise, the event offered workshops and information to over 3,000 college-bound seniors at public high schools throughout the city.

“This opportunity is really important to our students, especially in the Mission,” said Mariana Chavez, a counselor with the school district. “They really begin to understand that they have options. They gain confidence that there’s more for them out there.”

And for the Mission High students, confidence translates to activism, mobilizing a new base of dedicated supporters.

“Our members are really engaged,” said one club member. “They’re really committed to the cause, and we have a lot of allies.”

Girls Golf: Wong wins third straight AAA title, Lincoln earns team championship

By Jeremy Balan | SanFranPreps.com

A thick, low-lying fog obscured the final group coming off Fleming Golf Course at the end of the Academic Athletic Association girls golf championship, but one fact was crystal clear.

Lincoln senior Kristi Wong carved out her own spot in AAA history by becoming just the second player to win three straight San Francisco Section individual titles with a 9-over-par 69 on the executive course within Harding Park on Monday.

Lincoln senior Kristi Wong follows through on a drive
during the AAA girls golf championship on
Monday at Fleming Golf Course. (Photo by Willie Eashman)

Lowell’s Katrina Delen-Briones was the only other golfer to equal the feat, with three straight titles from 2004-2006.

“It’s really special to me, because it doesn’t happen a lot,” Wong said. “I worked really hard to keep the title and I just kept playing my game.”

Wong didn’t have a birdie, but only had one double-bogey, parred five straight holes on the back nine and bested the second-place finisher, Lowell’s Paulina Kang, by 14 strokes.

“It’s a privilege coaching someone like that,” said Lincoln head coach Steve Robinson. “She’s just so steady in her game and she has always been so consistent, even as a freshman. She has that calm demeanor and she continued to improve all four years.”

Wong, as well as third-place finisher Charlotte Woo (91), also led the Mustangs to a 558-565 win over Washington in the AAA team championship. Washington was led by Jessica Hom, who shot a team-low 97 and finished fourth individually.

“The team came through and it was great competition all year, no matter what the level of the league is,” Robinson said. “Every match with Washington and Lowell this season came down to a couple of strokes. Today it was just seven and it was really exciting.”

The championship is Lincoln’s fourth title in five years, and most were driven by Wong and her older sister Shannon, whose individual title in 2009 (Kristi’s freshman year) was the only thing preventing her younger sister from claiming an unprecedented four titles in a row.

“I’m going to miss her a lot,” Robinson said of Kristi. “It’s the end of the ‘Wong Era’ and it’s been five years with two great girls that were like assistant coaches, helping the other players out.”

SFUSD puts out bid as part of effort to improve its school food program

By: Mike Billings | SFExaminer 

While local school cafeterias have made culinary strides, 
such as installing a salad bar at Lincoln High School, 
above, momentum is building for a food overhaul.

The San Francisco Unified School District is often recognized as a leader in the effort to improve student nutrition. In 2003, it began phasing out sodas and unhealthy snacks. In 2007, it installed salad bars at dozens of schools. Other initiatives have improved the quality of food in vending machines and increased the number of students who eat breakfast.

But in spite of such progress, the majority of the food the district serves its students is cooked elsewhere, shipped frozen and then reheated at school.

Although some meals are put together at schools using locally sourced foods, more than 90 percent of what students eat is prepackaged, according to Orla O’Keeffe, the district’s executive director of policy and operations, who took on oversight of its Student Nutrition Services Department in June.

The district is The City’s largest public food service program. Every day, it serves more than 27,000 meals and 6,000 snacks to students, according to district records. The department’s budget is nearly $18 million a year.

Current meal provider Preferred Meal Systems is an Illinois-based company that ships frozen, precooked foods from three facilities to sites around the country, according to a January analysis of SFUSD food services commissioned by the San Francisco Food Bank. After such food arrives at the company’s Brisbane facility, it is redistributed, reheated and served throughout the district.

“In San Francisco, of all places, with such a sophisticated food culture, to have food shipped in from Chicago seems to be a dissonance,” said Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a nonprofit advocacy group.

But now the district is seeking a new provider to further improve the quality of its food and the participation in its meals programs. As its existing contract ended, district officials decided to explore replacement providers, O’Keeffe said. The district ultimately extended the relationship for six months while putting the contract out to bid.

“We want to take it to the next level,” O’Keeffe said.

Getting to that level will take a full assessment of the district’s existing food program, a task O’Keeffe compared to flying a plane while designing a new one. In addition to considering the food itself, the district also will review food procurement and distribution, along with cooking and dining facilities, O’Keeffe said. After all, some San Francisco schools were built without kitchens, and the equipment in many others is nearing the end of its useful life.

“Existing facilities and equipment is one of the impediments to improving the system,” O’Keeffe said.
Such problems are not limited to San Francisco. Barlow noted that residents of Oakland and Sacramento will both vote this November on whether to upgrade their facilities to be able to prepare more food locally. But getting those cities to that point took years and years of studies and advocacy.

Barlow and others familiar with the SFUSD’s sprawling nutrition department say the selection of O’Keeffe and the push by new Superintendent Richard Carranza to expand successful programs indicate a willingness to progress.

“To me, the issue is a genuine commitment within nutrition services to serving a better meal,” Barlow said.
Speaking at a San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association lunch event in September, Carranza said he let the Board of Education know during his job interviews that he’s committed to better school nutrition.

“In a city like San Francisco that is the culinary haven that it is, we should have food in our schools that is commensurate to the food in our community,” he said. “My experience as a teacher, as a parent, as a principal in several districts in several states has always been that if students are not well-nourished in school, they will not learn.”

Attendance, alertness, behavior and academic success all improve with a well-balanced nutritional program in schools, he said. Barlow agrees.

“It is common sense that kids can’t learn if they’re hungry,” she said.

The connection between academics and nutrition is especially pronounced for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic populations, whose families are more likely during an economic downturn to rely upon schools for their nutritional needs, Barlow said.

The phrase “food insecurity” has  arisen to describe a lack of reliable access to nutritious food, said Teri Olle, associate director of policy at the San Francisco Food Bank. According to the food bank, one in four children in San Francisco is food insecure.

In district schools, about 50 percent of students qualify for free meals because their families’ incomes are below $30,000 for a household of four. Another 10 percent of students qualify for reduced-price lunch, where the benchmark is $42,600 for a family of four.

But offering every student nutritious meals takes money at a time when school budgets are more and more constrained. Even finding the money to study the district’s food service is a challenge.

And indeed, the district’s next step is securing funds to support “the additional data collection and feasibility analysis necessary for the planning process,” a district document said.

Barlow said true change could take a decade.

“Serving fresh meals is not as easy as changing the food that is on the plate,” she said. “It is a complex set of dimensions to managing this. It is a process that requires vision and leadership.”

Carranza said he is committed for the long haul.

“I want a solution for us so when we say we feed our children in San Francisco, in our schools our children are fed well, we all know what that means,” he said.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Clusters in Action

By | In The Zone

As you may be aware, Mass Insight Education believes in 3 Cs that must be present to inform successful change in persistently low-achieving schools: capacity, conditions, and clustering.  Many of our posts focus on changing conditions or strengthening capacity.  Today, schools in the San Francisco Unified School District serve as an example of clustering on the right track.

In 2010, SFUSD received SIG funding for 10 schools (with 9 schools funding for the following two years).  The district used a cluster analysis to sort schools based on similar features, such as number of minority students, teacher characteristics, and school culture.  This analysis resulted in two clusters called the “Superintendent’s Zone”; one with one high school and its feeder schools, the other with two high schools and their feeder schools.

According to the California Department of Education, every school in this zone made “large improvements” on state testing this year.  In fact, one of the Zone high schools saw the biggest point increase out of the entire district on API scores.  As the Zone is still in early stages, we look forward to watching future growth.

To round it out with another C (capacity), SFUSD is also building capacity as a district as a whole through a partnership with the Stanford University School of Education, where partners work to build bridges between theory and practice at district schools.  The partnership focuses on access and equity, achievement, and accountability.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fair Teaches Healthful Practices at César Chávez Elementary

By Sean Havey | Mission Local

César Chávez Elementary hosted the Muévete Health Fair last Saturday to help educate both students and their families how to maintain optimum healthfulness.

To help families increase their awareness to healthfulness the fair hosted a variety of workshops put on by local high school students on subjects including the correct daily proportions of food groups in meals. Other workshops showcased some basic exercises as well as a hands-on session where kids got to make trail mix from scratch as an alternative to the more common sugar laden snacks more widely available.

“The crux of the situation is that a student cannot perform well academically if they are not healthy,” said Carlo Solis the Community School Coordinator at the school.

The fair also teamed up with a variety of local medical organizations including UCSF, SF General Hospital and SFSU to perform Body Mass Indexing or BMI to give kids and their parents a sense of their weight as a function of their height to get a rough idea if they are overweight or not. UCSF also administered free flu shots and SFGH talked to families about interpreting the nutritional information on food products.

“By hosting this fair families don’t feel overburdened by having to go outside of their neighborhood to receive the health resources they need but rather those resources come to them,” said Solis.

For a former student at César Chávez Elementary, Jacqueline Barbeau, 48, who also put her daughter through the program and currently has two of her six grandkids already attending classes and more on the way, the school is a fixture in the community that provides a variety of functions including coalescing the community.

“I enjoyed the fair because I have two grandkids that are coming here next year so am happy to show them what this school is all about including this great outreach with the community,” said Barbeau.

Friday, October 12, 2012

School test scores rise around San Francisco

Principal Sheila Sammon and her staff and students at Paul Revere Elementary School have something to celebrate.

The K-8 school in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood made the largest gain among The City’s elementary schools in the Academic Performance Index to put them within reach of the state’s performance target for the first time in its history.

Revere, along with three-quarters of the schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, celebrated gains in the test scores released Thursday by the California Department of Education. API is a state progress report that tracks year-to-year improvement.

The district as a whole has passed the API proficiency benchmark for the first time, scoring an average of 807, which is up 11 points from 2011. Statewide, 53 percent of schools reached proficiency. Schools are given a score between 200 and 1,000. The overall goal is to reach a score of 800, which is considered proficient by the state.

In addition to the district’s overall gain, all the schools in the Superintendent’s Zones have made large improvements this year, spokeswoman Gentle Blythe noted. The Superintendent’s Zone are clusters of 15 historically under-performing schools in the Mission and Bayview neighborhoods where the district has placed a heavier focus on student achievement by providing resources and professional development for teachers.

SFUSD 2011 API Scores
“The investment in students is making a difference and API confirms that,” Blythe said. “Six schools with the biggest gains are Superintendent Zone schools.”

Revere, where the API score rose from 683 to 753, has been making gains for years, which Sammon credits to students, staff and the focus on achievement that the Superintendent Zones allow.

“We were in the 5 percent of persistently low-performing schools,” Sammon said. “But we’ve had resources with the School Improvement Grants and the Superintendent’s Zones and we’ve obtained consistent gains each year. No one can call us a persistently low-performing school anymore.”

Sammon gives credit to her school’s teachers.

“Our teachers are reluctant to take personal responsibility,” she said. “They are coming at 6 a.m. and they leave at 6 p.m. They’re dedicated and they are passionate, and they really should be proud of the results.”

But Revere was not the only school to make a big jump in test scores. At John O’Connell High School, another Superintendent’s Zone school, API scores climbed from 596 to 667, the biggest point increase in the district.

Principal Mark Alvarado said the hard work of the teachers and staff at the school made all the difference.
“Our team’s really good,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have walked into a house with a lot of talent and capacity. We will continue to grow exponentially over the next couple of years.”

The federal benchmark, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, focuses solely on whether students are
proficient or not.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Washington High School's breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge

By | MaxPreps.com

Photo by: Tawnya Grey
Some of the America's most famous football players have played high school football games at Washington (San Francisco), including NFL Hall of Famers Ollie Matson, O.J. Simpson and Dan Fouts.

Matson, also an Olympic medal-winning sprinter, is the only Washington alum of the trio. He graduated in 1948, eight years after the football stadium was built.

More famous than the players who have graced the field is the setting itself, nestled high in the Richmond District overlooking one of the Wonders of the World - the Golden Gate Bridge.

Called simply Washington High School Stadium, the field is also accented by a beautiful 2,500 square foot frieze with panels that depict both ancient and modern sports in the Olympics. The field was also updated two seasons ago with clean, bright, green, red, white and gold artificial turf. It was recently featured in our 10 high school football stadiums to see before you die slideshow.

But what clearly makes the stadium stand out is the view, a fact not lost upon Washington's students, athletes or faculty.

"It is a privilege to see this beautiful view everyday," Washington principal Ericka Lovrin said. "The faculty and students never take this view for granted. We know we have a million dollar view and we cherish it. It fills you with pride for San Francisco."

More pride is felt when the Eagles play San Francisco City Section rival Lincoln in the annual Big Bell Game. The teams will tangle for the 68th time Saturday at Lincoln. Washington holds a 35-31-1 lead in the series.

Cupcakes are out, kale is in for fundraising

SF Chronicle 

Kale Cupcakes | Courtesy of http://www.allthingscupcake.com
Stevenson Elementary School students will turn their autumn harvest into cold hard cash Friday by selling off the school’s garden bounty.

The school’s first-ever farmers market offered to family and friends will offer baskets of strawberries and tomatoes for a reasonable 25 cents each as third graders give tours of the garden and plant seeds.
Money raised will go to the American Red Cross and the SPCA, school officials said.

While the Stevenson market is a small community event, the idea of selling school-grown produce is expected to, well, grow across California.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure last week allowing all schools, rather than just officially  sanctioned instructional school gardens, to legally sell the produce raised — as long as all health laws are followed. The law kicks in on Jan. 1, 2013.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Community takes stroll to mark Walk to School Day in San Francisco

By: Sasha Lekach | SF Examiner 

Schoolchildren, along with local elected officials, laced up their sneakers Wednesday morning and walked through the Mission district to celebrate Walk to School Day.

A group of about 40 students, parents and teachers from Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 walked from Parque Ninos Unidos at 3090 23rd St. to their school at 3351 23rd St.

One parent, Erika McDonald, who walked with her kindergartner Amy, said most days she walks the four blocks to the school from the family’s home on Shotwell Street.

McDonald, a working mom, said the routine keeps her active in the mornings and afternoons, and pushes her to walk about a mile a day.

Buena Vista Horace Mann was one of 55 San Francisco public schools participating in walk-to-school events.

District officials said nearly 8,500 students would be taking part in the events, which highlighted pedestrian safety and The City’s Safe Routes to School program.

At Parque Ninos Unidos, Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg led students in a series of exercises in the grass, along with Supervisor David Campos, Board of Education President Norman Yee and state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Ammiano walked with his daughter and three young grandchildren, some of whom attend Buena Vista Horace Mann.

When the group arrived at the campus, a rally was held in the schoolyard. Campos made brief remarks in Spanish, urging students to stay active and keep walking.

Principal Jennifer Steiner described the benefits of walking, including staying healthy and protecting the environment.

“Every day I walk to school from 16th Street, and I feel great when I get to school,” she said.

Steiner, switching to Spanish, announced plans to establish a weekly Wednesday walking group from Parque Ninos Unidos to Buena Vista Horace Mann, and encouraged students and parents to join in.

Monday, October 1, 2012

High schoolers dig into SF history

Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

Kontion Wei, a student from Ida B. Wells continuation
school, moves dirt after excavating tiles from the former
conservatory in Sutro Heights Park Friday, September 28,
2012 in San Francisco, Calif.
Photo: Beck Diefenbach, Special To The Chronicle / SF
A dozen San Francisco high school students huddled in the dripping fog, where a patch of dirt was a history classroom Friday as they uncovered their city's past buried under the lawn at Sutro Heights Park.

The archaeological dig exposed the nearly forgotten blue and white tiles of the old Sutro Conservatory, which opened with great fanfare nearly 130 years ago on land that is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Ida B. Wells Continuation High students carefully brushed the dirt off the tiles, helping National Park Service archaeologists document the condition and size of the tiled area that bordered a large square of dirt.
For the 12 American democracy classmates, the field trip left dirt under their fingernails and a real sense of history in their hearts.

Senior Tuala Auimatagi, 17, wondered at the people, long dead, who laid the tiles so long ago.
"I just find it interesting because digging the tiles gives me an idea of what it looked like," she said as she brushed lingering dirt off the ceramic pieces, some upended by tree roots, others cracked or missing parts.
Until the late 1930s, the conservatory greenhouse stood on a small hill in the park above the Cliff House, a white wooden structure with walls of windows.

In a state of disrepair, it was torn down in 1939 along with the family home of Adolph Sutro, San Francisco's mayor from 1894 to 1898.

At some point, the tiled walkways were covered over with dirt and grass, mostly invisible to generations of picnickers and dog walkers.

Until this week.

For three days, Tuala and her classmates dug them out.

The activity was a service-learning project for the students, said their teacher Holly Friel.

It was also offering students a glimpse of career options in archaeology and in the Park Service as well a sense of civic involvement, linking the effort to the democratic principles she teaches in her class.

And perhaps more than that, it gave them a sense of pride in their work and their place in preserving San Francisco's history.

"We're a continuation high school," Friel said. "Students come here after not being successful at other high schools.

"This is a place where they can claim some responsibility. They can feel proud."

On Friday, tile border finally was fully exposed, some pieces cracked, others missing, with the layout then graphed to document the condition of the site.

With the excavation done, Park Service archaeologist Leo Barker gathered the students to ask them what they thought should be done with the tiles.

"You're going to save it now," he said, but did that mean leaving it exposed to the elements and the public or covering it up again to preserve it?

One student wanted to keep everything fully exposed, until Barker pointed out that some of it was crumbling and vulnerable to theft. Another student suggested putting a fence around it, which arguably would detract from the vast open space at the park, Barker said.

Tuala suggested covering part of it up, protecting the damaged area, but leaving some of it exposed so people could see it.

Another enthusiastic debate ensued about how much to cover up.

"Now you know what Congress has to deal with," Barker said laughing.

Finally, the students said they thought about 30 percent should remain exposed.

And that's when Barker told them they would spend the next hour or so piling the dirt back on the 70 percent.

"This is ridiculous," said Ashley Blackmon, 17. "You made us dig all that to put it back?"

Ashley and her classmates took one last look at the exposed tile and formed a bucket-line brigade to cover it up.

That was when they realized that they had seen a piece of history that few among the living would get to see.
"If I come to Ocean Beach, I'll know I uncovered the floor of the greenhouse," Tuala said. "We're part of Sutro's greenhouse."