I have been an avid reader of SFUSD BoE agendas for years. I consider this part of being an informed educator. If I want to advocate for my students, it's good to have the facts. Board resolutions also help identify key buzzwords; if you want someone to take what you're saying seriously, it helps to align it to their priorities and their language.
Not to mention, it knocks Deputy Superintendent Leigh off his "This money stuff is too complicated for your little teacher brain to understand" game when you can ask some esoteric question about funding streams.
This year I also became an avid public commenter and organizer of public comments at Board meetings. My role was to make sure we'd get an early speaking slot (we were often first because I called ahead) and to organize our key themes so that we got as many across in a pooled-time comment as possible. I helped write public comments and add key facts and figures that supported our arguments and made sure we would have large banners and big turnouts.
Despite the fact that we were not ever that successful in our comments and the remarkable rudeness of our Board and Superintendent (many of whom really need to stop texting when teachers are talking, and talking audibly and laughing when a teacher is crying at the podium is poor form), we did win some big points.
For instance, it was fun having principals and other District staff call the school or email on the down low to let us know that they loved us and encouraged us to keep up the pressure. I was not the only person who noticed Superintendent Garcia saying "That's not true!" when one of our teachers quoted from his own strategic plan. I heard that Gentle Blythe was not too enthusiastic about the "SFUSD saves teachers' jobs" story in the Chronicle being illustrated by...a big picture of protesting teachers from my school. And we all got rehired in the end - with some comments being made to various individuals that we'd been so noisy that big layoffs at our school were politically unwise (also legally unwise, but I digress).
Another outcome was that I got to mouth off to Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller. But he had it coming.
What I learned from Tony Miller was that the administration apparently feels it needs to "be bold" in transforming failing schools. Apparently, "boldness" is defined as the transformation-closure-charter-turnaround models proposed for persistently low-achieving schools.
So boldness, in essence, is reconstitution. Boldness is getting rid of the teachers and administration. Boldness is charter schooling.
Boldness is bunk.
Those aren't bold solutions! Those are same old, same old. Reconstitution doesn't work. Charters aren't more successful than non-charters. And administrator shifting, teacher transfer - it's been done. It doesn't work.
Real boldness would mean real change. It would mean dealing with infrastructure and equity issues that lead some schools down the road to failure. Over a quarter of California's schools have endemic vermin infestation, for instance. About the same number have failing physical plants. My school has mice and ants. We can't hang things on many walls in my classroom because of encapsulated asbestos. Two of the windows have been broken for years, and paint is peeling everywhere. There are holes in some walls. I had no heat in my classroom for over a week this winter. I run the sink and fountain in my room every day for two minutes to clear the lead pipes. And my school is in good condition compared to those on the SIG list.
You know what would be bold? A school rebuilding campaign.
Eighty percent of my students live in poverty. Many have persistent food insecurity. There is no grocery store in my community. Many of my students have health problems associated with poor nutrition: anemia, vision problems, insulin resistance.
You know what would be bold? A major increase to the Federal School Lunch Program and a community garden initiative.
California state funding per pupil has dropped nearly two thousand dollars over the past two years. At my school, we ran out of yellow construction paper in February and sentence strips in December. By March, we were on the last bits of copy paper and the laminator was out of commission. Field trips were out of the question. I spent several thousand dollars of my own money on my classroom and wrote twenty grants on my own time.
You know what would be bold? A radically equitable funding system that provided additional money to high-needs schools.