2020 Board of Education questionnaire responses

Candidate Name: Matt Alexander

Web site: http://mattalexandersf.org

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office.

I have 20 years of experience working in SF public schools, including a decade as a teacher and a decade as a high school principal. I have a track record of leading innovation, facilitating democratic decision-making, and organizing for real change.

Some of my accomplishments include:

  • In the late 1990s I worked with parents, youth and educators in a multi-racial movement for small, community-based schools, which led to the founding of June Jordan School for Equity.
  • At JJSE, I led a student body that was more than 80% low-income and nearly 30% special education students, and Black and Latino students graduated and were accepted to college at rates exceeding most other schools in SFUSD.
  • In 2017, I worked with youth from high schools across SFUSD to push the School Board to pass the Undocumented, Unafraid, and United Resolution, which significantly strengthened protections for undocumented students. 
  • At Faith in Action Bay Area, I have organized citywide campaigns to get immigrants released from ICE detention, for housing subsidies for low-income seniors at risk of losing their homes, and to protect our unhoused neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis.

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues?

To make our public schools excellent for all children, especially Black and Brown students:

  1. We need to increase revenue, and spend our money where the children are. SFUSD spends about half what New York City public schools spend per student. No matter how bad the economy is, we’re still living in one of the wealthiest cities in the world: we must increase both local and state revenue.  SFUSD spends the lowest percentage of any large California district on classroom instruction; we need to re-allocate funds directly to schools and classrooms. 
  2. We need to listen to the people doing the work.  Parents, students, teachers, and paraprofessionals must be central to our decision-making. Democracy begins by listening to the people–and our schools need to reflect and nurture our democratic values. I led a democratic decision-making process at June Jordan School for Equity and will work to establish similar processes district-wide.
  3. We need to lead San Francisco into the future. SFUSD is a powerful civic institution and the second-largest landowner in the city. We must increase our engagement to address the housing crisis that is destroying the soul of San Francisco, both by using district-owned land for affordable housing and by pushing for tax and policy changes at the City level.

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful?

SFUSD has a long tradition of conveniently locating school facilities in every residential neighborhood in the City. Yet there is a gap with very few schools between Chinatown in the north and Bayview in the south. As the population with families in this area increases, it will be necessary to build more schools in this area, starting with the proposed new Mission Bay school.

The schools that already exist in Potrero Hill are unique schools, including the diverse Daniel Webster and Starr King Elementary Schools, as well as SF International High School, which is part of a highly-regarded national network of schools serving recent immigrant students. These schools need to be supported so that they can succeed. Specifically, I will fight for:

1. Allocating much more funding to schools and classrooms district-wide. Currently SFUSD only spends 54% of its budget on classroom instruction, the lowest of any large district in CA 

2. Targeting funding much more intensively to southeast schools, including Potrero Hill schools

3. Creating more Community Schools, so schools can serve as community hubs with wrap-around services

4. Employing more bilingual staff at schools and compensating them, so parents and school staff can communicate effectively across languages

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll) , 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)?

I support Prop 15: Corporate landowners have exploited the loophole in Prop 13 for too long. For example, Disneyland still pays 5 cents per square foot in property tax, whereas most homeowners in San Francisco are paying around 5 dollars per square foot.  Prop 15 will bring as much as $800 million in much-needed revenue to our San Francisco public schools and municipal government. 

I support Prop 16: I started teaching in SFUSD in 1996 and I joined educator colleagues to oppose Prop 209 that fall. After it passed, we saw the negative impact, as more of our Black and Latinx students were denied entrance to California’s public universities. Overturning Prop 209 is long overdue in a state that claims to care about justice, and it will allow us to prioritize hiring and educational access for women and people of color, thus creating more equal opportunity for all.

I support Prop 18: I started my teaching career as a US government teacher at Balboa High School in 1996. Each year, I would review candidates and ballot measures with my 17-year-old students, and they would always have opinions and positions that were as thoughtful as any adult I knew.

Candidate name: Kevine Boggess

Web site: www.kevineboggess.org

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office.

As the Education Policy Director at a SF-based non-profit education advocacy organization (Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth) for almost a decade, I have a proven track record of working to serve the best interest for our students, our schools and our families. I’ve worked with hundreds of students and parents to improve our public schools, and have co-led several local and state campaigns to change education policy and increase school funding. I have served on multiple SFUSD committees, oversight bodies and task forces, including: the Local Control Accountability Plan task force to assess progress being made to address disparities in the district; a district-led Special Education working group; the A-G implementation working group to oversee the policy change that expanded access to college readiness courses; and the Equity Studies Task Force, focused on ensuring that curriculum speaks to marginalized student populations.

On a personal note, I was born and raised in San Francisco and attended public schools K-12. As a graduate of SFUSD, and as the parent of a child who will soon be entering the public school system, I know firsthand the challenges in our schools, and am committed to a platform that puts our marginalized students, families and educators at the center.

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues?

 The COVID-19 pandemic has left our education system in crisis, not just locally but across the country, and big questions about how to implement distance learning. This is clearly the biggest issue facing our schools. That said, I want to take this opportunity to address three ongoing structural issues: 

  1. Retention issues for educators and students/families due to economic insecurity and unwelcoming school culture. I am committed to ensuring that they are centered in decision-making and evaluation of district policies and changing the school culture to prevent push-out, and would also work for more affordable housing for educators on SFUSD and/or publicly owned land.
  1. Budget deficit and projected cuts. My priorities are to identify and fight for new revenue– including Prop 15, and more– and to protect our classrooms from budget cuts.
  1. Racial disparities in the educational system. For years I’ve worked to transform the discipline system, secure additional academic support, and more. I want to see the expansion of ethnic studies programs, targeted resources and academic support for students of color, and strengthen the voices of Black, Latinx and Pacific Islander students and families who are experiencing most significant disparities.

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful?

Ultimately it is my top priority to improve schools across the district, particularly those who have historically been under-resourced, by centering the voices, experiences and needs of impacted students and families. This certainly applies to schools in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch. I spend hours each week at school sites engaging with students, families, teachers and staff, and know how infrequently their feedback is incorporated into policy or budget decisions that directly impact school sites. I would prioritize equity and geographic balance and expand the kind of speciality programs that make particular schools in such high demand, in order to expand access for those types of programs in more schools. We don’t have enough high-performing schools, limited specialty programs (like immersion programs) and few high-demand alternative schools— and these issues are impacted significantly by race, income and geography. If elected, my commitment is to prioritize listening to real feedback from school communities which should then drive decisions about how to change and improve our schools.

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll) , 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)?

 I strongly support Prop 15, the statewide ballot measure that would raise close to $900 million for San Francisco, at least 40% of which would come to the public schools. My family helped collect signatures to put Prop 15 on the ballot! This is funding that could help stabilize the district and sustain the critical academic supports to help our students be successful. 

I strongly support Prop 16. When Prop 209 passed, I was a young person whose mother worked in affirmative action contracting. I saw firsthand the benefits of affirmative action, and also saw the terrible impact on communities of color when Prop 209 passed, within public education, employment and hiring. I support the long-overdue repeal of 209 and support implementing equity measures to help aid communities who have historically been left behind.

And I strongly support Prop 18, the statewide initiative to lower the voting age to 17, as well as our own local Prop G which would lower the voting age to 16. I agree with most initiatives to expand the electorate and I have also been closely involved with the youth leaders of Coleman Advocates in the push to get Vote 16 on the ballot.

Candidate: Alida Fisher

Web site: www.alidafisher.com

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office. 

In my 15 years as an SFUSD parent, my four children have attended seven different schools. As a former foster parent and mother of African American children, all of whom have learning differences, the issues of social justice and equity are very personal to me. I have been an active member in school site and district level governance. I’ve participated in PTAs, SSCs, PTA boards, the district-level African American Parent Advisory Committee , the Charter School Oversight Committee, the Equity Studies Task Force, the LCAP Task Force, and I’ve chaired the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC). My work focuses on the intersectionality between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability level, and bias. 

I collaborate with district leaders, CBO partners, and families to improve outcomes for students. I am an outside-the-box thinker who brings creative thinking to difficult problems. I have worked with SFUSD to increase Tier 2 and 3 reading interventions at schools, to increase parent understanding of their rights, and I am currently working on finding unique solutions to the difficult challenges facing families as their students return to school via distance learning. 

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues? 

As a candidate for Board of Education as well as a mom, my priorities are all about education as a door opener. My top three priorities are social emotional supports, implementing restorative justice practices, and reading interventions. Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize the mental and physical health of students and teachers. Each and every student must feel welcome, included and valued at their school. This means ensuring school personnel is engaging in anti-racist practices to support our diverse SFUSD population. We need to understand how to engage students. And once we have our students engaged, we need to ensure they are proficient and confident readers by third grade. The correlation between the ability to read and success is irrefutable. A student not reading at grade level by the end of third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school. For students from low income families, that number jumps to six times less likely to graduate. To execute these priorities, we need a transparent and accountable budget. Budgets are value statements, and it’s time we fund our values, that means more social workers, nurses, school counselors, and school psychologists in our schools.

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful? 

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch are prime examples of San Francisco’s wealth and opportunity gaps. We have to address the systemic and institutional barriers in public education. As commissioner, I would begin by implementing an equitable budget. Our budget is a value statement; for too long English learners, Black and brown students, and students with learning differences have been disenfranchised and deprioritized. As an advocate for children with special needs, I often run into the mentality of “encroachment.” Some families fear that funding initiatives to support specific groups of children will negatively impact other children by taking away resources. In reality, the opposite is true. 

By investing in professional development opportunities and co-planning time for educators, we provide them with the skillset to address the needs of a diverse classroom. It’s critical to recognize the various levels of cultural competency and humility amongst SFUSD staff and families. We must address our shortcomings by providing more implicit bias training and implement trauma-informed practices. All school personnel should be trained in universal design for learning, positive behavior interventions, and de-escalation strategies to fully support our students and their very diverse needs. Doing so will improve outcomes for all students. 

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll) , 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)? 

I support Prop 15. We need education funding reform in California, and this is a start. Our schools are grossly underfunded. California is the world’s fifth largest economy yet we rank 41st in spending compared to other states. We need to do better. Prop 15 addresses the unintended consequences of Prop 13 and forces large corporations to pay their fair share while protecting homeowners and small business owners. 

And I absolutely am in favor of Prop 16 and 18. We need a strong affirmative action program in order to address the systemic inequities that have marginalized our historically underserved students. Prop 18 is about giving our youth activists who are engaged and at the ready the power to exercise their voice. If we are serious about supporting the next generation of leaders we need to pass Prop 18.

Candidate: Jenny Lam

Web site: jennylam.org

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area as a second generation Chinese-American, I have devoted my career to public service and social change. I’m a member of the Board of Education and am the Mayor’s Education Advisor, where I proudly serve San Francisco’s public school kids, families and educators. As an experienced community leader, I have worked to expand opportunities for all. I was the State Engagement Manager at Education Superhighway, bringing technology to public schools country-wide. As Director of Programs at Chinese for Affirmative Action, I expanded civil and political rights for San Francisco’s immigrant youth and families. While Executive Director of GirlVentures and Deputy Director of Oakland Asian Students Educational Services, I built leadership of diverse youth through robust opportunities beyond the classroom, including peer leadership, outdoor education, financial literacy and the arts. I have served on public commissions and nonprofit boards directing education funding, supporting teachers, expanding political fairness and access to parks, including: the San Francisco Redistricting Taskforce; Co-Chair of the SFUSD’s Public Education Enrichment Fund and Quality Teacher and Education Act Committee; and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. I live in San Francisco with my husband and two children, who attend SFUSD schools.

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues?

1. Putting Students’ and Staff Members’ Health and Wellbeing First Due to COVID-19, school looks different for all of us. Class will look different. In planning for ongoing changes, I am reviewing data, listening to the perspectives of school staff and public health officials, families and students to guide my decision-making.

2. Supporting Students’, Families’ & Staff’s Emotional Wellness by providing resources for staff during and after this public health crisis, above and beyond the mental health services available through their health plans. Our staff cannot be expected to be fully present for our youth if they are facing trauma and uncertainty, and lack necessary personal and professional support.

3. Maintaining Commitment to Continuity of Instruction In order to support our most vulnerable youth, SFUSD must continue to hold high standards for learning. Low-income students of color are most likely to fall behind in a crisis– which is why I support additional investment in resources for student learning in order to proactively mitigate the widening of the opportunity gap. My priority is to spare classrooms and educators from budget cuts as much as possible. Services that directly benefit students will be protected.

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful?

We need to provide additional support for schools serving vulnerable youth in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch. Our Black, Brown, low-income, English Learner, and special education students are at risk of falling further behind other students because of social, economic, and racial disparities in San Francisco, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19, school closures, and the far-reaching economic and health impacts of the pandemic. We not only need to provide academic resources, but also social and emotional resources. Many children are experiencing stress and trauma in their young lives and we have an obligation to support them in their learning and development. My top two priorities for providing equity and opportunity are:

1. Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Staff

I will continue to support the retention of educators of color through such avenues as advocating for teacher housing programs and providing stipends for educators serving in the highest-need schools.

2. Expand Support for English Learners

I will continue to prioritize two-way immersion programs by ensuring an adequate supply of qualified bilingual teachers in these programs from SFUSD’s teacher residency program and Classified Staff Teacher Training program.

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll), 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)?

Prop 15: Support

Prop 16: Support

Prop 18: Support

Candidate: Michelle Parker

Web site: www.michelleparker.org

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office.

I am a 22 year resident of San Francisco and have spent the last 15 years active in our public schools. I am a single mother of three who have all attended SFUSD schools since kindergarten. I am a parent leader, advocate and organizer, and I bring the critical leadership we need as we face several crises of massive proportion in SFUSD.

Governance experience:

  • Past President of District PTA, serving and supporting more than 60 schools across our city
  • Arts education nonprofit Board President, guiding org through an organizational merger, through complicated process with the city as we took on the master lease in the Geneva Powerhouse to provide free arts programming to our city’s youth, and as we continue to implement anti-racist instructional practices in classrooms and internally with staff.

Oversight experience:

  • Co-chair of SFUSD parcel tax oversight committee for 4 years, ensuring $32mil in taxpayer funds were spent responsibly to improve quality teaching in our district
  • Current chair of SFUSD charter school oversight committee, making sure charter schools are transparent with data and accountable for serving students
  • LCAP task force member, making sure district spending is aligned with the student learning outcomes we seek 

A more complete bio can be found at https://www.michelleparker.org/about 

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues? 

The budget. SFUSD is a precarious budget situation that gets worse annually as we project out. We must:

  • Evaluate the initiatives and programs we invest in, determine which ones aren’t impacting students, and then stop doing them 
  • Increase revenue by 1) passing School and Communities First, 2) reducing state tax expenditures benefitting primarily the wealthy, 3) passing Prop J, 4) securing a permanent allocation of excess ERAF funds 

Support students, staff, and families through the COVID-19 pandemic. We must:

  • Prioritize students’, staff’s and families’ safety
  • Consistently communicate
  • Center decisions in equity; prioritize services for our most vulnerable students
  • Support working families with technology training, childcare, etc. 
  • Identify and implement ways for relationship-building between students, families, educators, schools
  • Establish regular check-points to evaluate how distance and blended learning is working; iterate as needed

Accelerate closing the African American opportunity gap. We need:

  • Budget alignment with priorities
  • More social and emotional learning in classrooms
  • More mental health services, and fully implement/resource programs like restorative practices, safe and supportive schools
  • Community schools models and practices
  • Black educators and staff recruitment
  • More partnership with city agencies to address root causes like housing insecurity, food insecurity, employment, mentorship programs starting in elementary grades not high school, etc.
  • Universal Preschool

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful?

We have to look at current and projected enrollment now, particularly in SouthEast areas of the city. This growth potentially means 7,000-16,000 new students by 2040. We also already have more children than available seats in our most child-dense neighborhoods (south and east). We will need to 1) re-evaluate school capacities, 2) build more schools, and/or 3) repurpose other existing facilities to serve these families, and should begin this now.

I am excited about the new Mission Bay School and attended some of the early meetings as that process and design was brought to the community. I am excited that it will allow us to expand our early education program, that it will provide high school students opportunities for connecting what they are learning with the real world, and that we’ll have dedicated space for professional learning for educators. 

We need to continue to recruit talented educators and administrators who are invested in and will work with school communities to support students. I want our schools to be community hubs and cornerstones in every neighborhood that people value and invest time and energy into. We must also support schools with strategies to make sure every family in our schools feels a sense of belonging and value.

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll) , 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)? 

PROP 15: I’ve supported this effort since I first learned about it in 2009. I collected dozens of signatures both times we worked to put it on the ballot, and am now educating and organizing parents all around the city to help get it passed to increase funds to education and essential city services. 

PROP 16: I support ACA 5, which will help us achieve a more diverse student body in higher education institutions, close racial opportunity gaps, and recruit and retain more educators of color. Importantly, we must also work to develop cultures and supports that are inclusive and increase opportunities for underrepresented students to not only get admitted to universities, but ensure they graduate prepared for their chosen career. 

PROP 18: I’ve been a longtime advocate for youth voting and believe this aligns with what we know about cold cognition and youth of this age’s ability to make judgements in unhurried decision-making, weighing pros/cons, reason logically, etc. It also helps develop good, steady voting habits. I also support making sure that young people who will be old enough to vote in a presidential election get the chance to help set the stage by weighing in during primaries.

Candidate: Mark Sanchez

Website: marksanchezsf.org

1. Please describe your qualifications for this office.

I began teaching in 1993. While a teacher, I co-founded Teachers 4 Social Justice in 1999, and in 2000 became the sole teacher on the San Francisco Board of Education and began teaching 8th grade science in Redwood City School District. After serving on the Board for eight years, I became a principal at Horace Mann Middle School in the Mission District and then at Cleveland Elementary School in the Excelsior District for the next eight years, only leaving site leadership in 2016 to return to classroom teaching as I rejoined the Board of Education, again as the lone educator voice on the Board. I am going into my fourth year as a 4th grade teacher at Panorama School in Brisbane School District. Throughout my tenure as an educator, I have continuously worked to create quality schools for all of our children and amplify the voices of parents and caregivers, educators and all others working for our students. I currently serve as the President of the San Francisco Board of Education.

2. What are the top three issues facing the San Francisco Unified School District, and what will you do about those issues?

  • Preserve School-Based Staff.  Educators and school staff are essential for the experience and the academic and social emotional success of our students. Given the change in safety requirements for appropriate health checks, given the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and long-known need for reduced class size, we should be preserving and adding staff support at school sites and reprioritizing funds we spend centrally and elsewhere.  
  • Keep cuts away from students and classrooms by making cuts in central office and departments. School budgets are already lean and will need even more supports in these difficult times as across the city vital resources are being cut back. It is critical we increase our support for schools. 
  • Continue to advocate for additional resources from the City, State and National levels as well as from the private sector. Without federal, state, and San Francisco’s municipal leadership providing adequate funding for SFUSD, it will be an extremely difficult challenge to provide an adequate, much less quality education moving forward, and asking too much of our staff.  I will continue to fight to see all Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund dollars go to support students and classrooms.

3. What specifically will you do on the Board of Education to support families in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and to ensure all public schools in our community are successful?

The following priorities of mine are particularly salient for our families in Potrero and the Dogpatch and those attending schools such as Webster, Starr King, Downtown, and S.F. International: 

Increased funding for schools and programs:   

While I will continue to fight to keep cuts away from schools as much as possible and reduce central office staff, I am also committed to fighting at the ballot for more revenue for schools as well as advocating at the state and national level to reinvest in public schools and provide emergency disaster funds during crises such the current one we face. 

As commissioner, I expanded the weighted student formula and moved funds to increase the number of social workers available in schools to help connect foster youth and their families to resources and community programs so they can be successful.   Per a resolution I co-authored, the District has expanded the weighted student formula to increase funding for different indicators that will mostly benefit  African American students essentially by proxy, utilizing extreme poverty (like residing in public housing, foster youth, students whose parents are incarcerated).  Additionally, we have also committed to defunding the police and are advocating for those resources to be directed to serve our schools and African American students in particular.  

Cut ties with policing in our schools:  

In addition to co-authoring resolutions like Undocumented, Unafraid, and United Students (ICE out of SFUSD), as President of the Board, I recently co-authored with Commissioners Collins and Lam the board’s resolution that effectively severed the district’s ties to the SFPD. The resolution gives direction to staff, centrally and at school sites, to move away from calling the police. Under no circumstances should ICE ever be called to schools.  We will be putting in place very strict guidelines for staff about engaging with law enforcement only when it’s unavoidable. It also puts the district on record regarding our commitment to alternative methods for de-escalation as well as a recommitment to our existing restorative practices policies. We are committed to keep all our students and families safe and that means no police in schools and give schools the tools, resources and training necessary to address students and families in crisis. Involving law enforcement is not safe for most of our children. 

4. What is your position on California Propositions 15 (split roll) , 16 (ending the ban on affirmative action) and 18 (allowing 17-year olds to vote in a primary or special election as long as they’re 18 by the general election)?

I am absolutely for all three of these propositions–in fact, I just got off a webinar with other SF leaders promoting Prop 15.

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