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