Thursday, December 29, 2016

Your family's digital life

Kids spend an increasing amount of time online to learn, communicate and collaborate. To ensure they do so safely and responsibly, it’s important for both families and schools to teach them about issues such as cyber bullying, online privacy managing their digital footprint.

In other words, we want our students to be good digital citizens.

This can be confusing and difficult for families, particularly for those of us who grew up without the pervasive influence of the internet. That’s why we’re being proactive and promoting safe and responsible behavior online, especially with regard to social media:

Digital Citizenship Day

Of course, we want to provide digital citizenship education throughout the year. But to make sure these important lessons reach every child, we have Digital Citizenship Day!

In this districtwide day of learning, every K-12 grader will participate in lessons for their grade level to learn foundational knowledge, ethics and skills around digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship Advocate Program

We’ve been participating in Digital Citizenship Day for years, but this year, we’re taking a brand new approach with our advocate program. Every school will have teacher advocates, who will be trained in digital citizenship knowledge and skills, and these advocates will ensure that all students receive at least three grade-appropriate lessons throughout the year.

Bringing it back home

It’s great that our students are getting this education, but what about life at home? We know many families worry about how much screen time kids should get, or if they should post about their kids on social media.

Thankfully, we have an expert partner to help us navigate all of this—an organization called Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing trustworthy information and education in this ever-changing world of media and technology.

Take a look at some of the lessons your kids will be diving into—or take advantage of their education for families and get tips on how to be a good model for digital citizenship—at

Tackling the teacher shortage

By now, you’re probably well aware of the nationwide teacher shortage. Largely due to a dramatic decrease in the number of new teachers entering the profession, SFUSD, like many school districts, has faced challenges filling hard-to-staff teacher vacancies in certain credential areas including bilingual and special education.

We’re tackling this issue head on. At the beginning of the school year, we offered signing bonuses for the first time in recent history for special education teachers and aides. And just a few weeks ago, we launched Pathway to Teaching, a new credentialing program sponsored by SFUSD to recruit individuals who are already making a difference in their communities, but who may not have the flexibility to switch to a new career in teaching without support.

Designed to be affordable and accessible, SFUSD Pathway to Teaching will allow aspiring teachers to earn a full salary as they work toward their credential. If you know someone who would be a great teacher--nominate them or encourage them to apply to the program by Jan. 16.

And, since the teacher shortage goes hand-in-hand with San Francisco’s high cost of housing, we’re working with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and other community groups to provide housing resources and aid for educators.

We also have other programs for prospective teachers, from our Para to Teacher Program for paraprofessionals to the San Francisco Teacher Residency, where credential candidates complete coursework at local universities while in a yearlong apprenticeship with a master teacher.

What does the Board of Education do, exactly?

In our local elections this fall, you may have noticed a long list of familiar -- and not so familiar -- names of people running for the San Francisco Board of Education. We hope you were able to take part in the election, because choosing these board members makes a difference in your child’s education.

What they do

First, the basics: the Board of Education determines policy for all PreK/TK-12 public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, which serves the City and County of San Francisco. We have seven Board commissioners, who are elected by San Francisco voters and serve four-year terms. To run for the office a candidate must be a resident, and registered to vote, in San Francisco. Elected commissioners are not full-time employees of the school district, but are paid a stipend of $6,000 per year.

The Board can establish graduation requirements and course offerings above and beyond those required by the state. For example, the Board recently passed a resolution for all high schools to provide ethnic studies classes. It also approves equipment purchases, supplies, services, leases, renovations, construction, and labor union contracts. In addition to those responsibilities, the Board confirms appointments of SFUSD’s senior staff, including the superintendent.

Nothing can happen without resources so, perhaps most significantly, the Board approves SFUSD’s annual budget, which is independent of the city's budget and comes with hefty state and federal requirements. It is due to the state at the end of June every year. In addition to the annual budget, the Board also approves SFUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is a plan that details how SFUSD supports high-needs students and is created with input from staff, student and family advisory groups, and community organizations.

Ground-breaking policies

You have probably have heard a little about our PreK-12 Computer Science curriculum, our University of California approved graduation requirements, and the healthy food in our cafeterias. These are just a few examples of progress SFUSD has made in recent years under the direction of the Board of Education.

Want a deeper dive into Board decisions? Take a look at the online archive.

Hiring a new superintendent

The Board of Education is in charge of setting policies and approving spending, but for leading strategic implementation of the District's vision and the day-to-day operations, the Board appoints a superintendent of schools. This past fall, when Superintendent Richard Carranza was chosen to lead Houston’s public schools, hiring a new superintendent for SFUSD was placed high on the Board’s to-do list.

Since then, the Board has been following a selection process and plan to hire a superintendent in a timely manner. Meanwhile, Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh was asked to fill the role.

How you can stay informed - and inform us

Our Board of Education meets regularly throughout the year, with a few exceptions for holidays and other breaks. These meetings are often filled with reports from various school district departments and committees. For example, Pupil Services makes routine presentations to the Board on SFUSD’s truancy and graduation rates, along with other vital student statistics, while Facilities will update commissioners on school renovations.

Unless marked otherwise, all Board meetings are open to the public, and all have a time set aside for anyone to make comments to the Board regarding SFUSD issues.  If you’d like to make a comment, you do not have to be on the agenda, and you have two minutes to speak directly to commissioners. However, due to state law, the Board cannot converse with you directly during your presentation. To sign up, there are cards in the Boardroom lobby you can fill out prior to each meeting.

Can’t make it in person? The meetings are broadcast live and archived online.

Who’s new? 

Below are links to information and news about our new and returning commissioners, as well as a look at those who are moving on this year.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Acceptance, tolerance, and bullying: Facts and resources for parents

Feeling safe and included at school is fundamental for learning.

During the first week of December, SFUSD celebrates Inclusive Schools Week to bring more awareness to what being truly inclusive means.

Creating a safe environment at school

Here are some of the things our School Health Programs department does to help create safe schools:

  • Social workers, counselors, nurses, and other support staff address the social-emotional needs of students. 
  • Violence prevention lessons are taught as part of a comprehensive health education throughout the district. 
  • Mentoring programs are coordinated by district nurses and social workers. 
  • All students are encouraged to report incidences of bullying or other safety concerns to a trusted adult at school. 
  • Schoolwide events raise and sustain awareness about safety at all schools. 

How to talk to your child about bullying or feeling excluded

First of all, bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior done by someone who has real or perceived power over someone else. This behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

Parents, school staff and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. You can:

  • Talk about what bullying is (see above) and how to stand up to it safely, such as finding a trusted adult and letting them know what happened.
  • Tell your child that bullying is unacceptable--it’s important to say it, even if you feel your child knows this. 
  • Talk with your child about all ways to get help if they see bullying. 

What about bullying online?

If you child is online, their chances of finding cyberbullies, haters and trolls is, sadly, quite high. Common Sense Media provides many useful suggestions for handling this. You will find guidelines, videos and articles to help with tough conversations.

What is tolerance?

We are a community that believes that each child and each person is the equal of every other. This belief cuts across race, nationality, immigration history, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic means, ability status, language, and age.

When we talk about tolerance in schools, we mean that people should accept people for who they are and treat them how they wish to be treated. Tolerance is about being inclusive and welcoming, not about accepting bad behavior or allowing it to continue.

You can talk with your child about ways to be inclusive and tolerant, such as:

  • Inviting someone they don’t know well to sit with them at lunch 
  • Smiling at someone who seems shy 
  • Noticing things they have in common with other kids who may not look or dress like them 
Get some more suggestions, or work with your child to come up with other inventive ways to reach out to people. Even if their actions don’t spark a friendship, it’s still good practice toward being part of an inclusive school environment and society.

Download student-made Inclusive Schools Week posters

Monday, October 3, 2016

Listen to the 10/3/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Curriculum & Program Committee:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Listen to the 9/29/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Ad Hoc Committee on Personnel/Labor Relation:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Listen to the 9/27/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Listen to the 9/21/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Listen to the 9/19/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Buildings, Grounds and Services Committee:

Listen to the 9/19/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Rules, Policy & Legislation Committee:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Listen to the 9/13/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Listen to the 9/6/2016 meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Listen to the 9/13/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Listen to the 9/6/16 meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Listen to the 9/6/16 meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sign up to participate in a discussion forum

We’re asking current SFUSD parents and parents of infants and toddlers to participate in discussion forums to help SFUSD develop a public awareness campaign.

The forums will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 (current SFUSD parents) and September 14 (parents of infants and toddlers) at 555 Franklin St. Food will be provided, and child care if needed.

You also will receive a $25 bookstore gift card and be entered into a prize raffle for a $50 Safeway gift card if you are selected to participate.

Complete this form to participate:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Listen to the 8/23/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Listen to the 8/16/16 meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Listen to the 8/15/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Meet Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh

Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh has been a mainstay in San Francisco Unified School District for over a decade, quietly overseeing most non-instructional operations that support our schools.

Although you may have seen him most often speaking about the budget, he also directs facilities, school meals, educational placement, information technology and many other essential operations.

After completing a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Myong began working in the public school system in Washington, D.C.

Myong says he had always dreamed of living in San Francisco. “As an Asian and a gay man, this is a place where my identity is affirmed and not marginalized.”

“When I thought about the work that I wanted to do, SFUSD is the perfect fit. For me there’s a huge sense of responsibility to make a positive difference and work in a collective system to help others make a positive impact and create the conditions that help students succeed.”

With Superintendent Richard A. Carranza’s imminent departure, Deputy Superintendent Leigh has been asked by the SF Board of Education to serve as interim superintendent, a role he will likely assume in early September.

Friday, August 12, 2016

While you were away...

The renovated Ida B. Wells High School, photo by Hoodline
The summer months are always busy for us at SFUSD as we prepare for the next school year, and this summer was no exception. Here's a short list of the work done while families took a break from school.

SFUSD's Facilities and the Bond Program was hard at work:
  • Approximately $150 million in construction work was done at more than 35 school sites. 
  • Ida B. Wells High School and Daniel Webster Elementary School are both moving back to school sites that have been completely transformed. 
  • Students and staff will be returning to 21st century classrooms at James Lick Middle, Presidio Middle and Visitacion Valley Middle, Mckinley Elementary, Longfellow Elementary, Gordon J. Lau Elementary, Visitacion Valley Elementary and Burton High School. 
  • Lowell High School has a brand new classroom building. 

But that's not all...

  • Custodial services cleaned and polished over 9 million square feet of buildings and 3000 classrooms. 
Phew! The lights are on and the doors are open for all of our new and returning students. Welcome!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Interpreting CAASPP results

If your child participated in any California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) testing last school year in English Language Arts, Math and Science, individual student score reports will be mailed out the week of August 15.

What is the CAASPP?

The CAASPP exams are part of California’s comprehensive plan for supporting high-quality learning at every school. They are based on California’s academic standards, which are designed to help all students graduate ready for college and to pursue a career. These tests include a wide variety of questions, and require students to explain how they solve problems, think critically, and write analytically.

  • Download guides in multiple languages to learn how to interpret CAASPP score reports.

Understanding the CAASPP student score report

Watch the following video to get tips on how to interpret the 2015-16 CAASPP score reports:

Come talk with us about the CAASPP!

The Achievement Assessments Office will be meeting with parents about CAASPP score reports, and translation and child care will be provided.

Come by on:

Aug. 30, 6-7 p.m.
555 Franklin Street

Sept. 13, 6-7 p.m.
Mission High School
3750 18th Street

Sept. 15, 6-7 p.m.
Willie Brown Middle School
2055 Silver Avenue

Please RSVP at 415-241-6400 or

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Listen to the 8/10/16 meeting of the Board of Education Rules, Policy, and Legisl Committee:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Listen to the 8/9/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Listen to the 8/4/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Welcome back to school!

New to our schools? First of all, we are happy to have you here in San Francisco’s public schools! You have enrolled your child in one of the highest-performing school districts that believes in educating the whole child, rigorous education standards, and graduating your child ready for college and career in this fast-paced 21st century world.

Here are a few things you can do right now to help you and your child settle in:

  1. Get in touch with your school and see if they're holding any events for new and returning families
  2. Download the 2016-17 Student and Family Handbook and turn in the required forms
  3. Sign up to receive emails about your child's schoolwork and be in touch with teachers on School Loop (have your child's SFUSD ID number handy)
  4. Check with your school secretary to make sure your contact information is up to date
  5. Find the closest Muni lines to your school
  6. Find your school's website
  7. Find out what's for lunch
  8. Apply online for free or reduced-price meals—even if you don't need or want them, each completed application helps fund our schools and benefits all students
  9. Join San Francisco parent organizations you're interested in
  10. To get the latest news and information, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly email newsletter
  11. Subscribe to our calendar so you don't miss an event or a day off
  12. Share these safety tips (Español | 中文) from Safe Routes to School and Vision Zero SF with your child
Did you know? If you can't make it to a Board of Education meeting, you can view it live online or listen to it on 91.7 FM KALW. For past meetings, check out the webcast archives or subscribe to a podcast of board meeting audio recordings (iTunes | Google Play | direct link).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

6-28-2016 Regular Board Meeting

Listen to the 6/28/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Committee of the Whole

Listen to the 6/21/2016meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Augmented Buildings, Grounds, and Services Committee

Listen to the 6/20/2016 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Buildings, Grounds, and Services Committee:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Special Augmented Rules, Policy & Legislation Committee

Listen to the 6/15/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Rules, Policy & Legislation Committee:

Augmented Rules, Policy & Legislation Committee

Listen to the 6/15/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Rules, Policy & Legislation Committee:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Regular Board Meeting

Listen to the 6/14/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Augmented Curriculum and Program Committee

Listen to the 6/6/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Curriculum and Program Committee:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee

Listen to the 1/1/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Regular Board Meeting

Listen to the 5/24/16 meeting of the Board of Regular Board Meeting:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Augmented Buildings, Grounds, and Services Committee

Listen to the 5/23/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Buildings, Grounds, and Services Committee:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Committee of the Whole meeting recoarding

Listen to the 5/17/16 meeting of the Board of Education Committee of the Whole:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Regular Board Meeting

Listen to the 5/10/16 meeting of the Board of Education Regular Board Meeting:

Monday, May 9, 2016

Augmented Ad Hoc Committee on Personnel Matters/Labor Relations

Listen to the 5/9/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Ad Hoc Committee on Personnel Matters/Labor Relations:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Augmented Budget & Business Services Committee

Listen to the 5/4/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Augmented Curriculum and Program Committee

Listen to the 5/2/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Curriculum and Program Committee:

Friday, April 29, 2016

A special teacher can change a life

For National Thank a Teacher Month, Superintendent Richard Carranza writes about one teacher who had a deep influence on his life:
I don’t know if you remember much about being in kindergarten, but I sure do. And what I remember most is my teacher, Mrs. Ellis.

She didn’t speak a word of Spanish and I hardly spoke a word of English. But she liked me. That’s all I knew on my first day.

Mrs. Ellis knew what to do. She called me “honey,” and I knew by the way she said it that it meant something nice. During those first days of school when I couldn’t understand a thing at all, I’d hear her call to me with that special new English word, and I felt safe.

She was one smart teacher. She knew when I needed to sit next to her during a lesson. She knew when I was ready to start interacting with my classmates more, and she helped me make friends. Mrs. Ellis was looking out for me.

Years later, when I became a teacher myself, I sometimes had struggling students in my classroom. By then, I had a college degree and education training under my belt, and, of course, my English was better than my Spanish. But even with all my training, when I worked with my students, I simply had to ask myself, “What would Mrs. Ellis do?”

Because Mrs. Ellis knew what every good teacher knows: It’s not just the particular topic you’re teaching that matters, but how your students feel when they’re sitting in your classroom.

Most of us don’t remember every single thing we were taught in school, but boy do we remember when a caring adult at school showed us that we were going to be OK. We remember when something was hard to figure out and we had a teacher help us take a deep breath and try to solve it another way.

I check myself every day to be sure my actions are doing right by Mrs. Ellis.

May is National Thank a Teacher Month. If you had a Mrs. Ellis, or your child does, or if you know of any teacher who has had a profound effect on his or her students, take a moment to find that teacher and say thank you.

For more ideas about ways to thank a teacher, go to

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Board of Education Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee meeting

Listen to the 4/6/16 meeting of the Board of Education Augmented Budget and Business Services Committee:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Getting ready for SBAC

Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 will soon begin taking the Smarter Balanced tests (SBAC), one of the main assessments used for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Ask your child’s school for their testing schedule.

These tests measure students’ ability to think critically, synthesize material from multiple sources, and analyze problems. They are aligned to our curriculum and standards, which prepare students for success beyond high school. They go beyond multiple-choice questions and ask students to explain their reasoning and use evidence in writing prompts and math tasks in order to demonstrate that they understand the content.

Results from the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments:
  • Provide students with experience in using technology, explaining their reasoning and applying classroom lessons
  • Give parents and guardians a sense of what areas their children excel in and which ones have room for growth
  • Serve as a tool to help parents, guardians and teachers work together to improve students’ learning
  • Help our schools and SFUSD identify strengths and areas that need improvement in our educational programs
  • Provide the public and policymakers with information about student achievement and progress
California also benefits by having the diversity of our student population included in the analysis of test and test question quality and in the development of achievement level scores.

If you have questions about your child’s participation, please contact your school site administrator.

More resources

Photo of study materials from Sourabh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Monday, March 28, 2016

Students perform at sold-out, 2nd annual SFUSD mariachi show

SFUSD students of all ages from six schools performed for a sold-out show at the second annual Viva el Mariachi concert on March 25 at Mission High School.

The students performed traditional Mexican mariachi music on a variety of instruments. The concert marked the second year of the district’s mariachi program. The schools that participated were: Bryant ES, Cesar Chavez ES, Buena Vista Horace Mann School, Everett Middle School, Mission HS, and Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

The ballet folklorico group Cuicalli, as well as special guests Mariachi Nueva Generacion and Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School from Tucson, also performed at the show. Mariachi Aztlán is a premier, award-winning youth mariachi, founded by our very own Superintendent Richard Carranza. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

A preview of the budget

Each year around this time, we do our version of spring cleaning by tidying up our finances, looking at what we’ll need to budget for in the year to come, and then allocating our funds so they reflect our goals and priorities for student achievement. Like the past few years, we have some good news and some bad about the 2016-17 budget.

The good news is that Governor Brown’s proposed budget for 2016-17 includes slightly more funding for K-12 schools, and we’re receiving more money per pupil through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The bad news is that we’re still not back to pre-Recession levels of funding.

The largest share of the increased funding of $20 million is committed to existing and ongoing expenditures, with $11.7 million earmarked for employee salary raises and benefits cost increases, and another $4.1 million going to increases in teachers’ pensions. We’re also allocating nearly $10 million to strategic priorities, which include a $4.5 million increase in direct funding to school sites, and additional funding going to reduced class sizes in 8th grade math, the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative, expanding our multilingual pathways and world language offerings, upgrading our technology for the 21st century, and professional development for teachers.

After Governor Brown releases his revised budget in May, we will come out with our recommended budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The Board of Education will then adopt the new 2016-17 budget at the end of June.

For updates on the budget as they come out, go to

New condom availability program for middle schools

As a part of our comprehensive health and sexual education program, the Board of Education unanimously approved an expansion of our successful high school condom availability program into middle schools on Feb. 23. This has generated much discussion in the press and with parents, and we want to reassure you that student safety is always our first priority.

Under the new policy, condoms will be available in middle schools, but only to students who consult with a school nurse or social worker. These professionals will counsel students on consensual behavior and the potential risks of having sex, including a reminder that abstinence is the only 100% effective method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Research has shown that condom distribution and sexual education do not increase sexual activity, but they do increase condom usage.

Because of this, we see the expansion of the condom availability program as a part of our comprehensive sexuality education for all middle and high school students, which covers not only birth control and STDs, but also sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual harassment, and the importance of consent.

Spring break: take advantage of the city that is our ‘classroom’

For all the stress we can experience living in San Francisco, it’s nice to know that the city also one of the richest ‘classrooms’ in the world. You don’t have to be an expert in education to set up an field trip or two for your child over the spring break. The educational fun already set up for you and your child.

Take your little scientist to the Exploratorium. It’s known for an ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception in kid-friendly style.

If you have a kid who’s into bugs and wildlife, the Randall Museum is free and full of fun.

Want to see how much fun hands-on STEM learning is? Head to the Bay Area Discovery Museum (free day is first Wednesday of the month.)

Your young artist can make a day of it at the Children’s Creativity Museum, where kids get to imagine, create and share their works in a multimedia environment.

Got a history buff in the house? Check out our city’s rich sea-faring history at the Maritime Museum. Kids are free.

But what about old-school fun, for kids of all ages? The Musée Mécanique is full of hand-cranked musical instruments and penny arcade games from the early to mid-20th century. Admission is free, games are $0.25 or less.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SFUSD reaches record number of National Board Certified teachers

We all know teachers work hard every day, but did you know that each year dozens of SFUSD teachers put themselves through one of the most rigorous programs in the country—on top of teaching in class every day—to become even better at teaching?

Next week, the Board of Education will celebrate 17 newly-certified (and 12 renewed) teachers who have earned National Board Certification.

And, with 254 National Board Certified teachers now working in SFUSD, we have double the number of certified teachers than the national average.

National Board Certified teacher Crystal Carrillo earned her certification in 2014.

"This process really makes you reflect deeply on what you are doing in the classroom," says Carrillo. "I've become less bogged down by trying to complete a lesson on time and pay much more attention to what each student needs to 'get it' before moving on."

Carrillo is now one of many teachers who are mentoring others in the midst of their own Board Certification process. “We don’t tell them what to do; rather, we get them to think deeper about why they’re doing what they’re doing,” she says. “We tell them that they have the answers within themselves.”

What is it, exactly?

Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve this certification have met rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self assessment, and peer review. They build a portfolio that includes student work samples, assignments, videos of their teaching, and a thorough analysis of their work. Teachers must demonstrate an ability to meet diverse student needs and show that they collaborate with a learning community outside of their classroom.

National Board Certification also requires that candidates recognize students as individuals and adjust their teaching methods accordingly, treat students equitably, master their subject matter, and think systematically about their teaching while learning from experience. It is a voluntary program.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Valentine’s parties – how to make SFUSD’s Wellness Policy work for you

Photo of watermelon from denise carrasco, CC BY 2.0
With Valentine's Day and Valentine's Day parties coming up, we heard from principals this week that parents are embracing healthy snacks for class parties. We want to give a shout out to all parents for helping to make good on SFUSD’s longstanding commitment to school environments that promote and protect children’s health, well-being and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating—even at class parties.

In fact, we have a Wellness Policy that outlines how we approach nutrition throughout the school day.

Having a class party?

Schedule celebrations that involve food or beverages after lunch, and make sure what you serve meets SFUSD’s nutrition guidelines.

SFUSD parent Alison Eastwood has lots of experience with healthy party food. She’s a nutritionist by training, has three kids and is the snack coordinator at Miraloma Elementary. Here are some kid-tested fun ideas Alison recommends for this year’s Valentine’s party:

  • Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut sandwiches into a valentine
  • Slice a watermelon onto half-inch slabs and cut watermelon ‘cookies’ with a heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • Thread melon chunks and berries onto wooden skewers and add a strawberry at the end to make a cupid arrow

Fun things you can add to any party:

  • Physical activities
  • Games
  • Fruit cups
  • Fruit yogurt parfaits
  • Smoothies
  • Vegetables and dips

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Longtime family connection for Balboa High Principal Susan Ritter

Principal parents: This 1936 student photo, taken in front of Balboa High, shows the parents of now-principal Susan Ritter. Ritter’s father is behind the four girls, Ritter’s mother is at the far left. Above her mother’s head is where Principal Ritter’s office is today.
Hanging on a bulletin board outside the principal's office is a class of 1936 photo, taken on the front steps of Balboa High.

And it's not just for nostalgia's sake (in fact there is a room at the school dedicated to memorabilia): Two of the students in the photo are the current principal's parents.

"Yep, they met here and got married a few years after graduating." Principal Susan Ritter points out that her current principal's office window can be seen right behind her parents in the photo.

While they continued their courtship, Ritter's parents lived and worked in the Excelsior and the Bayview, and after her father served in World War II, they married and moved to San Carlos.

"But I remember summers in the Bayview (known back then as 'Butchertown' because of the many slaughterhouses) at my grandmother's house on Hudson Avenue."

Further back, Ritter's great-grandfather ran a saloon and boarding house on Fairfax Street and took in several people left homeless after the 1906 earthquake.

Long journey takes her back to Balboa High

Ritter married after graduating college, and her husband's career as a newspaper editor took her to several locations, including Nevada, Colorado and Washington D.C.

"I went to the White House for dinner a few times during the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations and have sat with Joe Biden more than once for dinner," says Ritter. "He really is as nice as he seems."

But when her three children went off to college, Ritter wanted to return to her roots. In 2001, with her teaching credential, she found work at SFUSD as a teacher at Burbank Middle School (where June Jordan School for Equity is now located, in the Excelsior district). Ritter chose the school not only for being close to her family's old neighborhood, but also to serve the students who went to school there.

"Burbank was struggling, and I wanted to work with those kids."

Ritter also taught summer school, which brought her to the Balboa High building. Soon after that, Ritter was teaching social sciences at Balboa High and worked her way up from assistant principal to principal.

The Balboa 'Whisper Yell'

When Ritter started working at the school, Principal Patricia Gray was orienting new staff. Gray started to teach them the special school chant.

"She began, in a whisper, 'B- A -L...' BA-BA-BAL RAH! and I chimed in 'B – O- A.' BO-BO-BOA RAH!" remembers Ritter. "The principal was startled and asked me how I knew the chant."

Ritter told her that she heard it all the time growing up. "My parents' friends had all attended Balboa. That chant, the "Whisper Yell" was sung every time they all got together!"


Ritter is happy her life led her back to her mother's old neighborhood, and to her parents' alma mater. "This side of town is not the one you see on postcards, and it doesn't get all the tourists. This is the part of the city that opened its arms to my grandparents when they immigrated here."

On being a principal

She loves her students, and keeps an important mindset that she shares with her staff:

"First and foremost, even though some high school students look like adults, they still are children. Not only are we their teachers, we are caretakers during their last four years of childhood," says Ritter. "They deserve the best our school district has to offer."