Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rachel Norton: recapping an eventful day

This is an excerpt from a recent post on Board of Education member Rachel Norton's blog:

I’m not sure whether tonight’s headline should be “Board approves 349 permanent layoff notices” or “District, teachers union reach ‘conceptual’ agreement.” Both are true, and equally newsworthy to readers of this blog.

I’m going to give a lot of credit to the leadership of UESF, who persevered and got to an agreement they could take back to their membership after many long and inconclusive hours at the negotiating table. This agreement, subject to ratification by the union membership in coming days, took shape just minutes before tonight’s Board meeting convened. I can’t give many details, but I can say that it keeps elementary class sizes at current levels through the 2010-11 school year. I can also say that earlier today, any agreement looked far away indeed. So kudos to the union leaders and to district staff, equally bleary-eyed after a very long and sometimes bitter negotiation. I truly hope the membership will agree that what UESF leadership will present is the best that could be wrought under the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Unfortunately, there will still be layoffs. Unlike almost any other urban district in California, we have not had to confront layoffs in recent years due to the City’s Rainy Day Fund. But that fund is now depleted, and it is unfortunately time to face what others across the state have been dealing with for at least the past 18 months, if not longer. First, let’s review the numbers:

  • $113 million — the amount of the district’s projected budget shortfall through 2010-11;
  • $3.6 billion — the shortfall between the estimated 2010-11 state revenues in the Governor’s January budget and the current estimate expected to be released in Friday’s May Revise (which could mean additional cuts);
  • $18.1 million — the amount the school district received from the Rainy Day Fund in 2008-09
  • $24.5 million — the amount the school district received from the Rainy Day Fund in 2009-10;
  • $6 million — the amount the school district expects to receive from the Rainy Day Fund in 2010-11;
  • 502 — number of FTE positions sent preliminary (“March 15″) layoff notices for 2010-11;
  • 348.72 — number of FTE positions to be sent permanent (“May 15″) notices for 2010-11.
Read the full post here.


  1. Rachel – “It’s healthy for a community to be skeptical of its institutions, (nice try) and for citizens to take it upon themselves to investigate whether they are truly being well-served by those institution (three cheers for open government, now can we move on ). But I can’t help feeling sad at the willingness, in many quarters, to believe that waste and misplaced priorities are the root cause of our current problems. (tsk,tsk those pesky accountability people) Today the Governor will release his May revise, which by his own account contains “terrible cuts.” ….Focusing on waste and priorities doesn’t really get at the real culprit: several years of devastating budget cuts coming on top of decades of under-funding of California’s schools.

    Don – Oh I see. Waste is fine when there are bigger problems. That's the value of prioritizing I suppose. I guess that’s why the Board authorized the big staff increase for Francesca Sanchez. And how about that big NUA contract? Mr.Garcia was pushing that one pretty hard while warning of impending doom. No doubt, focusing on priorities is undoubtedly a terrible, terrible thing. But we could have cut some of the categorical programs last year and used the money to keep class sizes low. But if you are not interested in priorities like “education” and never want to have a conversation at the Board about student achievement, then NOT using the district resources to save classrooms makes sense.

    Rachel – “As one SFUSD senior administrator puts it:
    [P]art [of] what central office expenses pay for is efforts to *increase* revenue to all our schools from state, federal, local and private sources. Central office people are critical to efforts to raise new revenues, including developing proposals, working with the City and other entities, and coordinating implementation. Imagine no Prop H, no rainy day fund, no bond authorizations, no parcel tax for teachers, expiration of TIIBG [consent decree funding], etc. Of course, countless people have provided leadership and contributed to all these efforts, but the “downtown” staff are also essential to seeing each source of revenue materialize and making sure it’s spent responsibly so we can keep faith with stakeholders for the next effort.”

    Don – I guess it makes more sense to figure out how to squeeze more money out of locals, even though the problem comes from the state, rather than figuring out how best to spend what we have.

    Just to give you an example of the wonderful ways in which SFUSD spends our money - I went to the Parent Partnership input meeting on Thursday. A whole ten people showed up too give input. They must have been very proud of their outreach efforts at input, or is that inreach efforts at output? It looks like there’s a lot of work to do to increase the parent partnership. I read the ‘plan’ later, but my 8 y.o. literally puked all over the floor before I had the chance to.
    If you cannot see what a waste of money some of the efforts at SFUSD are I suggest reading the Parent Partnership Plan on an empty stomach. This plan was the biggest load of nonsense I ever read (which i did after I got my son home). Of course, “Deepening a culture of partnership” is wonderful and I’m all for it. But you actually have to put some practical reforms in place to get there. This stuff was all bureaucratic goobledeegook, the kind that you cannot read without laughing out loud or vomiting if you care about parent participation and real no nonsense reforms that actually mean something to someone other than a district functionary. While SFUSD pays out administrative and contractor salaries to produce this nonsense, it specifically cancelled theBalanced Scorecard for 2010-11, the centerpiece of their strategic plan and the focal point for parents to be part of school governance . What about the review you promised and since when can the District supplant State law? More pesky accountability. But without it what would SFUSD administrators have to do?

    Not checked for typos

  2. Where did you get these comments of Rachel Norton's?

  3. He's running on his rims again.

  4. What is most telling is how he drags his sick child along with him to meetings, and then brags about it.

  5. What is telling is what an idiot you are. My child had just finished his afterschool exercise class and was feeling fine until we arrived there, when he was suddenly taken ill with stomach cramps. Who are you to go around judging my parenting abilities?