Monday, March 29, 2010

SFGate: 5 S.F. school principals under fire

This from SFGate:

Five principals at the helm of struggling San Francisco schools will be forced within the next few weeks to make a gut-wrenching choice: Fight for their jobs - a battle that could cost their schools millions of dollars - or leave.

Last week, the principals found out their sites had been placed on the state's list of schools that are persistently the lowest-performing. Statewide, 188 schools are on the list, and each one can qualify for up to $2 million annually in federal grants for the next three years. But in exchange, they must undergo a major overhaul, starting with naming a new principal.

The schools have less than five months to come up with a reform plan, apply for the funding, and put everything in place by the first day of school in the fall.

It's a tight timeline that has school communities of educators, parents and students being forced to choose from a list of limited and drastic options in exchange for the cash.

San Francisco has 10 schools on the list; five can keep their principals because they've been on the job less than two years. The other five principals would have to go.

Parents speak up

Already, some schools on the list are organizing efforts to keep their principals even if it means forgoing the money. Tuesday night, a group of Carver Elementary parents urged the school board to keep Principal Emily Wade Thompson at her post.

If the principals don't volunteer to leave, the district will ultimately have to make the tough call between the community's wishes and a California law that requires the adoption of a reform plan. The state law, in contrast to the federal mandate, does not require a deadline. Waiting, however, would mean giving up the federal money.

Read the full story


  1. Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza said, "We're not inclined to remove principals wholesale just because we're chasing the money."

    Right. Instead of getting a windfall of money that could radically alter the possibilities for the school, keep the principals, lay off the teachers and sue the state at District expense.

    "I could not, in good conscience, remain at Paul Revere knowing that it would deprive our students and school of the desperately needed funds and resources over the next four years." Lance Tagamori - principal.

    Mr. Tagamori, should leave - and become Superintendent. If only we had more reasoned minds like that of Mr. Tagamori.

  2. It's important to look at this situation school by school rather than keeping the status quo. I congratulate Mr. Tagamori for putting children (his own and his students) first.

    I hope that other principals are big enough to do the same.

  3. I believe it is child abuse to send kids to some of the lower performing schools. They should be shut down and the children given an opportunity to succeed elsewhere (even if that means SFUSD pays to send them private).

  4. Chris, if SFUSD has to pay to send those kids to private school, you and I have to pay to send those kids to private school. Our taxes fund the schools, remember? So are you volunteering for a huge tax increase? If so, why not raise taxes now, and give the money to the low-performing public schools to provide the kinds of wraparound services (counseling, medical and dental clinics, ESL for the parents, preschool, daycare, social service advocates, etc.) that can make a real difference in their lives?

  5. Plus, I'd like to see how well those private schools perform if they had a huge influx of high-poverty kids. A little thought experiment b/c it would never happen, of course, but I bet they wouldn't perform so well--school outcomes are 90% demographics, with some play on the margins.

    The margins do matter and they can include good teaching, rigorous curriculum, a high level of services for needy kids as mentioned by the last poster, small class sizes (primarily effective with needy kids), and avoiding an overwhelming % of high-need kids--a significant portion of low-need kids improves outcomes for the whole school. This is the 10% margin that lifts ER Taylor, for example.

    But dump a bunch a low-performing students on your average dainty private school? Hah! Epic fail.

  6. If you are right that 90% of school outcome is demographics, why are you espousing dumping tons of money into them for little benefit?

    I don't know what percentage of school outcome is based on home life. But I would bet that a well run school of dedicated teachers could make a considerable difference if given the time and resources.

  7. I can't speak for 12:12, but I look at the successes of a program like the Harlem Children's Zone and see hope. Are their results reproducible on any kind of scale? I don't know. But it makes sense to me that if a school can become a central force in its area and offer services and opportunities that pull everyone up, it can overcome demographics.

    The "resources" a teacher really needs to be successful in any school or classroom extend well beyond what our traditional public schools can offer right now. Then again, if the gap between rich and poor in this country weren't such a huge chasm, it wouldn't seem so daunting to supply the basic necessities of a decent life.

  8. I am happy to pay more taxes if it went to schools. Currently there are some very poor schools in SFUSD, and to send any child to those schools is Child Abuse.
    If it cost us all more to ensure those children get a good education, of course we should all pay more taxes. Who would not pay more taxes if they knew it was to ensure kids could achieve their best?

  9. People who don't have kids and don't see their personal interest in adequate education for other people's kids, and people who are convinced SFUSD is a giant wasteful bureaucracy, for starters. Shortsighted and misguided but typical of many Americans to think "If it's not an immediate problem for me personally, it's not a problem," and "money to government is money thrown away."

  10. Chris,

    Students don't achieve their best by the public paying more taxing. Yes, we have to fund education appropriately , but that is different from maximizing achievementudents achieve more primarily as a function of upbringing. The data on that is not debatable. You seem to subscribe to the idea that simply putting more money into the system will solve the achievement gap. We already do that with any number of compensatory education programs to little effect. I do think we could do a better job of using the resources we currently have to educate children. And I am for increasing funding to education. But when less than half ends up in the classroom, we have to rethink what increasing funding will buy us.

  11. Don I sort of agree with allot of what you are saying, it is upbringing and Private schools have motivated parents. I don't think I explained myself well.
    Out of interest we are moving to Orinda as we are 0/7. So SF USD is losing more motivated parentsbecause of the poor school allocations.

  12. Chris,

    I am a believer that you can get the school you want if you show persistence and patience. But I would also understand if can't commit to that route. You are a perfect example of why we need to have guaranteed assignments for neighborhoods, along with an alternative choice system. We are losing too many families like yourself. I am sorry to see that happen and that is why I have persued the issue of putting neighborhood school on the ballot. BTW, we are moving forward to make this a reality. Hopefully the voters will endorse it and the Board of Education will subsequently heed their wishes.

  13. Don,
    Didn't they already do this? Why is it going to be on a ballot?

  14. No,Chris. SFUSD does not have the capacity to offer every taker a spot at many assignment zone schools based upon enrollment patterns and community surveys. Also, by offering preferences to others outside the school zone before residents within it, you are ensuring that many locals won't get in. Of course, the dynamics of this varies from school to school and neighborhood to neighborhood.

    It is true that the original proposal by the Superintendent was fairly neighborhood oriented, but the BOE scaled that back, with the exception of middle school. The goal of Students First is to balance schools choice with neighborhood schools so that all residents can have a guaranteed local assignment and also have the opportunity to try to get into an alternative school or other neighborhood school. We do no believe people should be forced to commute to school. This has led to a mass exodus of the middle class and upper middle class families from the system. Where do they go? Either to private school or to a district where they can rely on going to their neighborhood school. The change in demographics over the last 4 decades has created very mixed neighborhoods by and large. Relative diversity will be maintained with neighborhood schools combined with choice.

  15. I had heard on a podcast from American Radio Works that CA was denied race to the top funding because the contract with the teachers' union wouldn't allow for the possibility of evaluating teachers for promotion/firing. Does anyone know more about this? I understand that evaluating teachers is a very tricky proposition, but I tend to think that Arne Duncan has the best in mind for our kids.

  16. Duncan is a bag man for the charter industry . He is intent on reform, but what reform? He's leveraging his RTTT money to deny district's their fair share of tax dollars on the basis of NCLB type reforms, which are proven failures. It is one thing to want reform, it is another to say it must be this or that specific reform or screw you. And I say this as a person that believes charters, properly done, have a role.

  17. " The goal of Students First is to balance schools choice with neighborhood schools so that all residents can have a guaranteed local assignment and also have the opportunity to try to get into an alternative school or other neighborhood school."

    Um, how is that different from the system coming in for Fall 2011? You don't get YOUR local school, it's true, but even you are saying A local assignment. You can't stuff everyone in a given neighborhood into a given school, so there have to be other nearby options, which sounds to me exactly like what the BoE decided to do. And if you don't like what you get, it's on to the lottery, where yes, you may end up commuting -- but you made that choice.

    Students First strikes me as a front for something, but what? Anyone care to illuminate me on why this blog is littered with ads for it?

  18. I have posted a mention of our organization 2 or 3 times over the last month. There have been a few limited but varied responses and some have inquired at our email address. SF Kfiles is not littered with *ads* for our group as you have contended.

    Students First has no ulterior motive and I don't know why you would imagine it does. We feel it is wrong to ask parents to leave the neighborhood for schooling unless they want to. Schools close to home help to build community. And with the demographic changes over the last quarter century a neighborhood based system would engender more diversity than under the current or, I believe, the newly adopted system.

    Simply stated, we promote quality schools close to home. Our efforts at present are to promote a stronger neighborhood schools policy in comparison to the weak one that was recently passed by the BOE.

    The new SAS does nothing to increase capacity that has been drawn down as a consequence of the previous assignment systems and, as a result, will not address the need for many neighborhood children in different areas of the city. It also provides preferences to the detriment of neighborhood schools.

    We do not want to undo choice, but strengthen it with more school options over time. We want to focus on reinvigorating schools that have been allowed to wither. And in regard to SES diversity it is our contention (and it is backed up by facts) that SF is losing too many to private schools and other districts with neighborhood policies. Most of these families that can afford to leave the system or never enter it in the first place are from the middle class and they are crucial for diversity. We have to stop that outflow and have policies that encourage families to participate in public education in San Francisco.

  19. How does Students First intend to address the inequities that arose from neighborhood-based schools in the first place (white flight, differences in PTA base, skews in real estate, etc.)?

    Is it connected with anyone's political campaign?

    Where is its funding coming from?

  20. 7:42,

    It is impossible answer questions that don't make any sense. Do you think all PTA's should pool donations or that all real estate should be equal based upon square footage? Marxist is tolerated in a free society, but I won't indulge it.

    Most other questions I've already answered. We accept donations from the public just like any other registered political group. As for candidates, we have to see what happens - what the field looks like- and we may have our own.