‘It’s gonna get worse’: parents wary of SF school board recall

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“To be told by a community of people I know privileged that we do not support the most marginalized, it was honestly difficult for me because a part of me knew that they did not see it and did not live it every day. . The chairman of the board, Gabriela Lopez, said.

Lopez says his work with the Latino Task Force helped families meet basic needs early in the pandemic, and that this work then helped inform city policies through his work with researchers at the ‘UCSF.

“There is one constant thing that (boards and advisory committees) say their children need: They need to see that their community, their history and their culture are reflected in the curriculum,” Collins says. “It motivates the kids when they see themselves in the program, which has a direct impact on success. “

During their tenure, Collins, Moliga, Lopez and their colleagues took steps to expand ethnic studies and anti-racist pedagogy, efforts that build on the work of previous councils and respond to community advocacy.

Two years ago, the board passed a plan to introduce an ethnic studies lens to all school districts, a plan, Collins says, grew out of an investigation by the African American Parents Advisory Council from principals who revealed that too many schools do not teach black history. Black Parents worked with educators to create a Black History Teaching Resource Guide that became the blueprint for rethinking how the history of Asian, Latin, and Native American Americans is taught.

Tara Ramos, a teacher librarian at Sanchez Elementary School and parent of a third-grader in the district, poses for a portrait at the San Francisco school on November 19, 2021. (Beth LaBerge / KQED)

Lopez and Moliga laid the groundwork to channel more resources toward closing the achievement gap for Latinx and Pacific Islander students, while Collins and Lopez proposed an arts equity resolution ensuring that all schools have an art teacher and all students have access to free instruments. Moliga also led efforts to develop affordable housing for educators, while Collins worked with the Native American Parent Advisory Council to replace stereotypes and misinformation in district documents with accurate and culturally competent information.

For Tara Ramos, a teacher librarian at Sanchez Elementary School and parent of a third-grader in the district, the board members have remained true to the values ​​they have run on.

“We campaigned for them and elected them because we wanted something new and different,” says Ramos, a longtime parent advocate and one of the organizers of Vote No School Board Recalls. “As a city, we were prepared to tackle racist systems and structures in the school district and that is the job they were doing.”

More and more parents became intimately involved in the educational process during the pandemic. Many began to pay attention to school board meetings for the first time, and many did not like what they saw, whether it was delays in reopening schools, mask warrants, or school programs. ethnic studies.

Ramos called it a “gentrification of parent activism.” She would have liked to see the newly active parents working with established parenting advocacy groups.

“Instead of just assuming that there is no work in progress and just highlighting your problems – which is important to you and your children – and not thinking about other people’s problems and what their children need, ”she says.

A yellow pin on a black jacket says
The SFUSD teacher and school board recall that opponent Cynthia Meza wears a “Racial Justice Cannot Remember” pin outside Leonard Flynn Elementary School in San Francisco on November 19, 2021. (Beth LaBerge / KQED)

Meanwhile, the recalls have increased. Ballotpedia had 84 school board recall efforts this year, up from an annual average of 23 per year between 2006 and 2020.

San Francisco recall supporters interviewed by KQED are loath to align themselves with the wave of anti-school board sentiment fueled by nascent conservative groups like Moms for Liberty, but a recent editorial by the group’s founders echoed the arguments made by the local supporters of the recall about the school. school boards are prioritizing social justice when classrooms reopen.

For many others, the cost of dismissal, just nine months before the re-election of commissioners, is reason enough to oppose it. Mayor Breed is asking for $ 12 million to cover the cost of the February election, which includes the recall and other contests.

SFUSD teacher Cynthia Meza, who has three children in the district and who previously worked with Lopez at Leonard Flynn Elementary School, finds the argument that the recall will improve conditions is hollow.

“There’s no way this reminder could end the learning loss. If anything, it’s going to make it worse, ”she said. “These people who support this recall are robbing our students of color who need it the most.”

A man wearing a green t-shirt and two women, one in a navy blue shirt and the other in a black jacket, yellow pin and floral shirt stand in the street.
SFUSD teachers and school board recall opponents (left to right) Alex DiCicco, Karina Hwang and Cynthia Meza outside Leonard Flynn Elementary School in San Francisco on November 19, 2021. (Beth LaBerge / KQED)

To defend the cost of the recall to the cash-strapped district, recall co-head Autumn Looijen draws a comparison to former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment days before his term ends.

“Why did we do this? Because we had to send the message that certain types of behavior are not acceptable on the part of public officials,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing here. We say, ‘We were in crisis and you abandoned our children. We were in crisis and you left the most vulnerable children behind. Don’t ask them to wait for justice “.

The urgency is also to install new board members in time to choose the next superintendent after Vincent Matthews retires this summer, according to Raj and Looijen. They want incumbent leaders they trust to handle the district’s budget crisis. If one of the council members is recalled, Mayor Breed will appoint his replacement.

SFUSD parent Fernando Marti, who heads the Council of Community Housing Organizations and has worked with Moliga on his educator housing initiative, says he understands the frustration of supporters of the recall. But, rather than blame the school board, Marti sees larger systemic flaws as the culprit for the school district’s dysfunction, which has historically failed students of color.

“It has to do with taxation, income, funding and all of those things that are prerequisites for having the right programs and the right structures in place to deal with a crisis like this,” says -he. “And we just don’t have that.”

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