Sunday, June 29, 2014

SF schools cook up a new approach to the cafeteria experience

A recipe for a whole new cafeteria experience is being served up in San Francisco public schools, consisting of a pinch of progress, a dash of technology and a sprinkle of student input.

Following a five-month collaboration last year with Bay Area-based design and consulting firm IDEO to rethink the San Francisco Unified School District's food system, officials this fall will launch pilot initiatives to revamp spaces and incorporate technology to transform the overall dining experience for students and faculty.

"We really are changing what it means to eat lunch within the schools," Angela McKee, project manager for SFUSD's future dining experience, said at a recent panel discussion of the topic.

The panel, held May 28 at the urban policy think tank SPUR, revealed the district's vision for a food experience drawing on the input of more than 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff, principals, teachers and administrators.

"This is the first project where we've taken a truly student-centered approach" to the district's food system, said Zetta Reicker, interim director of Student Nutrition Services for the SFUSD.


Monday, June 23, 2014

An easier-to-understand school budget — at only 600 pages

It is a truth universally acknowledged that school district budgets are crazy complicated.
In San Francisco, district officials this year are trying to make all of that more understandable, creating a two-volume budget document that runs 600 pages.

“The district budget should not be a bulky, byzantine, document, only accessible to a select few,” said board member Matt Haney. “It should be a public-facing document, with families, students, and teachers able to read it, navigate it, and understand what it means for their school.”

OK. Sure, 600 pages doesn’t sound simple. But the digital heft is largely a product of how education funding works in California.

For starters, there are several pots of money, with some designated for very specific things like facilities or food. Those are called restricted funds. Others that are more loosey-goosey are called unrestricted funds.

From there, it gets almost undecipherable, with money flowing into  hundreds of school-based and departmental accounts.

The budget documents explaining all this typically include page after page of ledgers with squint-worthy type.

School boards across the state are adopting those behemoth budgets this week to meet a state-mandated June 30 deadline. Rarely are there regular Joe’s and Jane’s at the meetings weighing on line item 341 — Custodial Support within General Fund expenditures for Operational Support.

But this year, the San Francisco document is easier to understand. No, not necessarily easy, but easier.
“The budget is always a challenge to thoroughly understand,” said school board President Sandra Fewer. “However, our budget books have a lot of good, quality information that is very helpful to the understanding of the budget. We have come a long way.”

Basically, there are less wonky explanations of where money comes from and where it goes. And more importantly, there are colored graphics and charts that help too.

“While SFUSD’s budget book has for years provided visual charts and narrative to explain the mechanisms of the budget, our book is now designed to show the reader more easily what our priorities are, what our strategies for success are, and to show how these drive our budget decisions,” said district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson.

It’s a step in the right direction, albeit not perfect, Haney said.

“Getting there is a process, but every year we seem to be doing better, with a greater emphasis on transparency, readability and a clearer narrative explaining how we got here,” he said. “And of course more charts and pictures, because everyone loves pictures!”

The San Francisco school board is expected to pass the 2014-2015 budget Tuesday night.
The short version of it:

The district is proposing to spend $477 million in unrestricted funds (the most flexible and important part of the budget), up $36 million over last year. All told, the entire proposed operating budget is $716 million.

To read Volume I: go here.
To read Volume II: go here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Balboa High School Teacher Receives Award for Impact on Students

A teacher at San Francisco’s Balboa High School is one of five recipients of a student-nominated award that recognizes educators at state public high schools.

English teacher Eric Wilcox received a Carlston Family Foundation Outstanding Teachers of America award for his impact on students.

The awardees are chosen after former students enrolled in or graduated from a four-year college or university nominate their high school teachers highlighting the qualities that made an impact in the classroom and on their personal lives.

For 15 years, Wilcox has taught classes including Advanced Placement Language and Composition, College Prep English and Speech and Debate at the school at 1000 Cayuga Ave. in the city’s Balboa Park neighborhood.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

SF schools part of new study highlighting challenges facing California immigrant students

Two years after she emigrated from Jerusalem to the U.S., San Francisco resident Buthienah Taha made what would prove to be a significant decision for her family when her first son was born in 1981: her children's first language would be English.

Taha has five children, two of whom still attend schools in the San Francisco Unified School District.
"If you go to college, you have to learn to speak English, so the first language has to be English," Taha said of studying in both Jerusalem and the U.S.

While Taha's decision was important to her children's future, they were schooled by a district that happens to be a national leader in addressing the needs of immigrant students and students of immigrant parents.

Taha's children -- who were also raised speaking Arabic -- are among the more than half of California youths ages 16 to 26 who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, a number revealed in a first-of-its-kind report for the state released today by the Migration Policy Institute.

The study, "Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth," recommends decisions that could be made by policymakers and education leaders as California recovers from the economic crisis.


Monday, June 2, 2014

San Francisco Counselor on a Mission to Make College Dreams Come True

Reporter: Ana Tintocalis | California Report

Linda Jordan, the African-American community liaison at Mission High School, is determined to get more black youths into college. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)


Linda Jordan is easy to spot in the hallways at Mission High School in San Francisco. She’s tall with long black dreadlocks and tows along her little black dog, Mr. Socks, almost everywhere she goes.

Together they greet students outside her office every day between classes.

Jordan is a big presence on campus and a big presence in the lives of these young people because she is determined to help them graduate and move on to college.

“I tell the students when they come in, ‘I’m never going to disrespect you. I’m always going to be real with you. You may not like it, but I have to tell you. Otherwise, I’m not being the best I can be for you,’ ” says Jordan.

Jordan’s official title is African-American community liaison, but she’s more like a social worker and college counselor for the school’s black students.

Mission High created her position five years ago after being classified as a low-performing school for many years.

Assistant Principal Laura Parker says Jordan is playing a key role in helping turn the school around. Last year, Mission graduated the highest percentage of African-Americans in the San Francisco Unified School District.

“Often students who have been underserved by the education system … they hold themselves back because they’re not used to accessing the same [opportunities] that other students are getting,” says Parker.

Jordan opens those doors for kids by connecting them with mentors and inviting college recruiters on campus. But students say the most important thing Jordan does is simply listen.

Jordan says she’s just trying to “pay it forward” because she had strong leaders in her life.

“I’m standing on some really broad shoulders,” she says. “I’m replicating what someone else already did with me beforehand and has done with others. So I don’t take a lot of credit for that. I’ve been blessed to connect with the students that I do.”

One of the students this year is 17-year-old Jennifer Disovah Wilson, who has completed her education despite a life full of setbacks.

Wilson’s mother was addicted to drugs. Her father died when she was just 3. A relative raised her but was physically and verbally abusive, Wilson says.

So in middle school, she ran away.

“When I was getting abused … I was told to act like nothing is the problem,” says Wilson. “I hated that. Now, I feel like I shouldn’t have to talk about … because I’m trying to better myself.”

Jordan reminds Wilson that she does not have a “magic wand” and she can’t “turn back the clock.” She constantly encourages her to “grab her future and move forward.”

Jordan says students like Wilson drive her to do the work she does. The one-on-one conversations help to keep Wilson focused on her studies, which has been especially important her senior year.

She has been accepted to Wiley College, a historically black college in Texas. She also recently reunited with her biological mother, who is now clean and sober.

They’re living together for the first time, but one complication is that Wilson’s mother is HIV-positive.

Wilson now has to make the tough decision of either going away for college or staying home to help her sick mother.

“You can see the change in her face, in her body,” says Wilson. “It’s hard to cope because, if she was to pass, I would like to be here to have those days with her. It’s only been a year that I’ve been with her.”

Jordan sympathizes, but has been gently guiding Wilson to seize this academic opportunity.

“She has to put herself first in order for this to start working for her,” says Jordan. “If you don’t grab an opportunity when it’s present, it might not come back around.”

Wilson still isn’t sure what she’s going to do but continues to put her best foot forward — collecting her transcripts, attending awards ceremonies and end-of-school-year functions.

On Wednesday,  Jennifer Disovah Wilson graduated from Mission High School.

Mark Zuckerberg Bets Big on the Bay Area

BY Chris Ciaccia | The Street

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB_) CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to making big bets -- Instagram, Oculus Rift and WhatsApp, to name a few. Now he's making a big bet on the children of Silicon Valley.

Early Friday, Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan (a former teacher and current pediatric resident at the University of California at San Francisco), announced they would be donating $120 million to help improve education for underserved communities in the Bay Area, via the Startup:Education fund.

Zuckerberg made the announcement on his Facebook page, noting that although the Bay Area is rich in resources for the tech community, the education system in lacking in many areas, especially for underprivileged schools.

"Students from low income and minority backgrounds are the hardest hit, which means fewer end up graduating or attending college," Zuckerberg said in the post. "Improving public education in our country and our community is something Priscilla and I really care about, and we want to change this."

He noted that the funds will be used for new district and charter schools to encourage innovation, and to help build up the next area of leadership in education, as well as supporting student development.

Richard A. Carranza, of the San Francisco Unified School District, noted how important it is for the award to keep the youth of San Francisco ahead of the curve.

"Our youth are our most important resource, they will keep our city culturally vibrant and competitive," Carranza said in a statement. "But to transform our schools into truly 21st century learning systems we need a greater investment in financial, social and political capital. We are thrilled that Mark and Priscilla have stepped up to support our vision by focusing on the needs of students in San Francisco's most underserved communities."

Zuckerberg noted that there are so many communities in the Bay Area that are underfunded and underserved, noting that the Ravenswood school district had less than 40% of students proficient on state tests in English language arts and less than 50% in math.

Gloria M. Hernandez-Goff, superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District, was ecstatic with the award, explaining what it means to those in her district. "We are grateful for their support for everything we are doing to prepare our students for success in high school and college so that they, too, can launch careers in the increasingly competitive Silicon Valley work force."

Zuckerberg and his wife noted that the first $5 million of the fund will be used for the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto/Belle Haven, Redwood City School District "and several other high need communities in San Francisco." Those grants will go to providing computers, connectivity, as well as teacher training and parent outreach.

"Funds will also support leadership opportunities for students, more effective transitions for students moving from middle school to high school, and leadership training for principals."

Given the nature of the size of the award, Zuckerberg and his wife also penned an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News (a partner of TheStreet) to discuss why the award was made, and what they hope to achieve by making the investment.

This is not the first time Zuckberg has made an award to public schools, having done so almost four years ago, when he announced to Oprah Winfrey that he would be donating $100 million to do a similar action, supporting and improving district and charter schools in Newark, N.J.

Real world: Deloitte, SFUSD partner to train 'Courageous Principals'

By | San Francisco Business Times

The real world of the classroom will meet the real world of the cubicle in a program tailored by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte and leading off with San Francisco Unified School District principals and administrators.

The program, unveiled Thursday morning and funded in part by a private grant to the district, will send 60 SFUSD principals, assistant principals and administrators to Deloitte University near Dallas for three days of training June 6-8.

Along with Foundation's $2.7 million gift last year to the San Francisco school district, the Deloitte program is one of a handful of projects coming out of years of spade work by SFUSD to get the San Francisco business community — especially tech companies— to work with the district.

But SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza said programs like Deloitte's go beyond "bake sales or the donation of 50 computers" to forge a strategic partnership.

"Deloitte came in and said, 'This is what we do. How can that work with what the district needs?'" Carranza said.

Deloitte has invested about $1 million developing the "Courageous Principals" program and paying for trainers, the facility and program materials, said Teresa Briggs, the firm's West region and San Francisco managing partner.

"People have asked, 'Why principals?'" Briggs said. "With principals you get a multiplier effect" that creates "ripples of leadership" that extend to teachers and staff, students and the community at large, she said.

The contingent contingent from 57,000-student SFUSD is the first to go through the program, which works with the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz. Houston, Chicago and New York will send principals later in June and July.

Deloitte piloted the program last summer with 50 principals from four states.

As the program connects school leaders with top officials from the business, public sector and not-for-profit arenas, Deloitte’s curriculum focuses on understanding personality types, how to communicate effectively and how to have difficult conversations. It is the same curriculum used internally by Deloitte.

"I like the name, 'Courageous Principals,'" Carranza said, "because principals have to have courageous conversations all day long."

The program ultimately could help "the Mesopotamia of innovation" called San Francisco develop a future wave of entrepreneurs, Carranza said.

For Edward Robeson Taylor Elementary Principal Marlene Callejas, the program is an opportunity to meet people who think differently about “problems of practice and management style.”

“I want to find out from managers what they’re looking for,” said Callejas, adding that schools already have adopted business-like practices where teachers are more like facilitators for conversations in the classroom.
“I want to see if I’m on the right path,” she said.

Callejas is in her third year leading E.R. Taylor, in the city’s Portola neighborhood. The school has 720 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, 36 teachers and 50 other staff members. Its morning announcements in the school’s courtyard are done in English, Spanish and Cantonese.

The school bought Apple iPads this year to connect students to technology and started a breakfast program because staff found that several students were arriving for the 9 a.m. start of the school day without having eaten.

“I have friends in corporations who can’t believe what we do,” said Callejas, who is in her 32 nd year with SFUSD. “They have their day planners and they check the boxes, but if I get to do three things that I planned at the beginning of the day, that’s something.”

Class of 2014 first to graduate with SFUSD’s new graduation requirements

| SF Examiner

Mike koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
Graduates from the Academy of Arts and Sciences fill
the bandshell at Golden Gate Park on Thursday. In the
San Francisco Unified School District, the 2014 graduating
class was the first to face A-G requirements to take college-
preparatory classes.
As the first class that completed San Francisco's new college-ready graduation requirements received diplomas this week, district officials are touting the policy's success despite a few admitted challenges.

The A-G course requirements, a sequence of college-preparatory courses covering a variety of subjects, were adopted by the San Francisco Board of Education in 2008 and implemented for the class of 2014. They ensure all graduating students complete the minimum required courses to be eligible to apply for the California State University and University of California systems.

That means requiring a second year of foreign language and a third year of college-preparatory math for most students at the district's 16 comprehensive high schools, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

Students who attended the district's two continuation high schools or five county high schools were exempt from meeting the A-G requirements this year.

As of last month, more than 90 percent of the district's 3,500 seniors were on track to meet the graduation requirements, with 70 percent having already met the requirements and 21 percent missing at least one course but likely to graduate by the end of the summer, according to Blythe.

Christina CaƱaveral, director of parent organizing and education policy for San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates, monitors the evolution of the A-G requirements in schools and said that while the policy "opened up access to all students" to take college-preparatory courses, the implementation has room to improve.
"I think that when students don't graduate in this district, it's not because they didn't want to graduate," CaƱaveral said. "The help that they needed wasn't there for them."Additional support is needed for students who are falling behind, including early interventions, consistent data to identify students that are falling behind, increased tutoring, and a wider variety of credit recovery options, according to Carnaval.

"For me all along this has been not just a high school issue, but a K-12 issue," said Tony Talarico, a parent who served on a task force last year to help implement the new graduation requirements. "If we wait until high school to try to address the issues of a rigorous curriculum for all students, it's too late."

SFUSD officials agree there is more work to be done to help students who fall behind, and they said this year the district made A-G classes available online for the first time. Also this year, the district began transitioning to a new student database to replace its more than 20-year-old system that measures how many students are on track to graduate.

"Right on the heels of passing this new requirement we hit some really hard financial times," Blythe said. "The board had to make difficult decisions about cutting services that would have created safety nets for students."

The district is also working to ensure high schools have the faculty needed to offer students all of the A-G course requirements, which has been "particularly challenging at some of our smaller high schools," Blythe said.Graduation data for the class of 2014 will not be available until the next school year. The district's graduation rate has remained steady at about 82 percent for the past three years, higher than the state graduation rate.