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