Our district is facing terribly tough times, and tonight I attended the meeting where Carlos Garcia mapped out how we can make up for the $113 million budget shortfall.
The cuts are painful, and while Garcia and deputy superintendent Myong Leigh went over the plan--reducing summer school, eliminating eight schools from the STAR program, introducing unpaid district-wide furloughs--everyone in the room shuddered.
In fact, people were hissing when he announced that class size might be increased to 25 students in K-3. Garcia looked up with sad eyes and said, "I know. I don't want this either."
The meeting was intense. After the superintendent's presentation, the community chimed in. When the 20 or so students from the SF International High School got up in front of the crowd and begged for the board to not make cuts, I couldn't help but cry.
I wasn't the only one tearing up. When Board of Education vice president Hydra Mendoza shared her feelings of devastation over the cuts, her voice was cracking.
And then there was the eighth grader from Hoover Middle School who didn't want her school's art and music program to go away, and the teacher/parent who stood up in front of the crowd and screamed at the top of her lungs, "It is a crime to settle for this amount of money? Who is committing this crime? We are not picketing! We are not rallying! We need to put pressure on the politicians! Our state is the third lowest in education spending in the country. We can't agree to this budget. We need to take care of our children and let them shine!"
I thought I would leave the meeting feeling depressed and helpless, maybe even thinking I should jump ship and move my kid to private school. But rather I left feeling hopeful and proud to be a part of the city's public education community.
In that room, there was so much passion and determination to figure out how to get ourselves out of the hole. The board vowed to try to get federal government money and to find ways to gain a profit from the district's real estate holdings. Teachers, parents, and students shared ideas.
Everyone had the children's best interest in mind. Not everyone agreed that the cuts should be made in the same places, yet they did all have a common end goal: to offer our kids the best education possible.
Even though Garcia was presenting these cuts, he was anything but the bad guy. He kept saying things such as, "Together, we need to figure out how to get out of this mess"; and "This is an assault to public education"; "No one in this room is the enemy and if we don't stand up for our children who will"; and "Our students deserve better than this." He also talked about suing the state for providing an inadequate amount of money to education our children.
I have heard rumors that board meetings are terribly boring. This was anything but that. I learned a lot about how our district functions. In the coming weeks, the board will be tackling budget cuts and the student assignment system and so I encourage parents to attend meetings. They're held the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month; click here for info. This was my first meeting, and I left feeling empowered and determined to work even harder to make our district better.
Here's Tucker's article for a less emotional, more factual take on the meeting:
San Francisco's school Superintendent Carlos Garcia laid out his plan Tuesday to bridge an expected $113 million budget shortfall over the next two years, describing it as a long list of "horrible and deplorable" cuts that rival those experienced during the Great Depression.