Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teens who fled peril for U.S. get 1st Thanksgiving feast in S.F.

Jill Tucker | November 26, 2014 | SF Chronicle

Photo: Lea Suzuki / The ChronicleAmalia Agustin, 15, and Rodrigo Mejia, 16, look at
a picture volunteer Jennifer Holthaus took of them as they help to prepare a sweet potato
dish for a Thanksgiving meal for new arrivals at S.F.’s Mission High School.

It took 17-year-old Yancarlos Santos Lopez three months to get to America, riding on top of trains, sleeping when and where he could, risking his life to escape an even more dangerous existence in Honduras, where he said gangs either killed boys or recruited them.

He arrived in San Francisco in September — following 40 days in a Texas detention facility — and for the first time in more than four years, he went to school.

At Mission High School, he’s learning how to learn again, how to speak English, and on Tuesday, how to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, his first ever.

In the school’s industrial kitchen, he and several other students put on aprons, got a turkey in the oven, then prepared mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, and an apple pie.

Most of the students are among the surge of unaccompanied minors who have come to the United States from Central America in the past year. They all have a harrowing tale of how they got here — and why they risked the journey.

More than 57,000 children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border since October. Most are being placed in California, Texas, Florida or New York. The vast majority of these children come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence and poverty offer little hope for the future, especially for the boys.

“The gangs,” Yancarlos said in Spanish. “I never wanted to be a part of that, but they come after you. There, they’ll kill somebody and the police don’t do anything. Here, you’re safe.”


SFUSD, teachers' union agree to pay raise

Lyanne Melendez | November 26, 2014 | ABC Ch. 7

Teachers in San Francisco expect to get a nice gift from the school district for the holidays. The district has agreed to a 12 percent raise over three years. The teacher's union was originally asking for a 20 percent raise

The tentative contract agreement is between the school district and the teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco.

"We make about one-third of what teachers make and teachers already don't have the biggest salaries and it's hard to live in the city," said paraprofessional educator Patrick Whelly.

The tentative agreement also includes giving paraprofessionals, who work directly with students with special needs, an additional 3 percent raise if they have worked at least eight years in the district. That brings their three-year salary increase to 15 percent.

"We've been very clear from the beginning and the union has been very clear that they wanted to do something for the paraprofessionals," said Superintendent Richard Carranza.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter break? Perfect time to keep your children learning

December 22 through January 2 is winter break for San Francisco’s public schools, which gives students and teachers a chance to celebrate the holidays with families and get some rest before starting 2015 and a new semester.

But taking a break from the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean the learning stops. In fact, the change in routine can reinforce what students have been studying in school. The time off is the perfect chance to show your children how what they learn in school relates to the everyday world around us.

Sneak in some reading

Are you planning to see some movies during the break? Before heading to the theater, have your children read a review of the movie and ask them to write a review afterward. If you’re more outdoorsy and like to take advantage of our warm winter days here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before taking heading to the park together.

Leave things around

At home, have newspapers, catalogs and books on the table to spark your children’s interest. Children are naturally curious and will choose good reading material if it’s available.

Do math on Muni

If you’re on Muni, you can have your children count the number of people on the bus, then the number of people holding cell phones. Ask them what percentage of people on the bus are holding cell phones. Or, at the grocery store, head to the bulk foods aisle and ask your children to put a favorite item in a bag, weigh the bag, then figure out how much it will cost based on the price per pound – the suspense at the checkout counter might make the trip more interesting. If you’re in the car for a long trip, you can tell them the speed you are driving and the distance to the next rest stop, then together you can figure out how many minutes it will take to get there.

Set off a spark with a story

This time of year is a natural time to tell family stories. Perhaps relatives will be visiting or calling to say hello, and childhood memories are part of the conversation. Share fun stories from your own childhood. Perhaps talking about a favorite teacher of yours when you were young will spark a conversation about your children’s teachers or special staff members at school. Talking about what they like about school can help the transition back to the classroom in January.

Most importantly, remember that you are your children’s first teacher. Taking time to do a quick math problem just for fun, finding something interesting to read, and talking about school shows them that their education—inside and outside the classroom—is important to you.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SF schools continue to rethink the cafeteria, connect students with local food

By Laura Dudnick | SF Examiner

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Roosevelt Middle School is the first in the SFUSD to revamp the look
of its cafeteria following feedback from students, parents and school staff.
Part of the new setup is a lounge area called Chill Out.
The SFUSD wants to make lunch programs more attractive.
 Seventh-grade student Alex Luu, 12, surveyed the hot-lunch options before him in the Roosevelt Middle School cafeteria on a recent Wednesday: a hamburger or a bean-and-cheese burrito.

He also could have opted for a barbecued-turkey wrap or a salad from the to-go section, but selected the burrito because it "looked much more delicious."

And then came a novel question Luu, along with other Roosevelt students, now faces at lunchtime: Where should I sit?

For the first time, the students have options beyond simply rectangular tables with stools attached.
In the new dining hall, students sit at round tables and chairs, long movable tables and a lounge area with plastic-covered couches and foot rests. The space at Roosevelt reopened Oct. 21 after undergoing a monthslong renovation as part of a pilot project tied to the San Francisco Unified School District's overall food-service transformation.

The space, about 25 percent bigger and boasting modern decor, looks more like San Francisco's hottest new restaurant than a school cafeteria.

"It's much more state-of-the-art, it's all new and we have the new cushions," Luu said of the lounge area. "Regardless of wherever I sit, I still like it because it's more decorative and much more colorful."


Thursday, November 6, 2014

By Meredith May | SF Chronicle Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle Junior architect Justin Marks helps intern
Nicole Chin learn how to save large blue prints in the computer.
By day, they are typical high school students. But when 1:30 p.m. rolls around, they are working alongside real architects and designers, helping draw sketches, price out materials and make models of San Francisco’s ever-changing skyline.

Build San Francisco Institute is a unique collaboration between working professionals and the public schools to create a fully accredited “small learning community,” for juniors and seniors who love to build things.

The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco rallies volunteers from 13 firms that specialize in design, engineering, construction and architecture, and matches them with a student. The San Francisco Unified School District provides a teacher for afternoon classes in environmental science and architectural design.

Each semester, 20 students enroll in the half-day high school program. Twice a week, they work alongside their mentors in a firm, getting a firsthand look at their chosen career. The other three afternoons a week, they gather in a design studio in The San Francisco Chronicle building South of Market for lessons on sustainability and the latest industry software, such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Revit Architecture.

Students dive into projects such as creating a livable community on Mars, complete with robots that break up surface ice to melt and filter into drinking water; domes for houses; and shipping containers with agricultural crops inside. Students used Autodesk 3-D animation software to present their futuristic city and collaborated with students in England and Australia.