Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The First Community Forum was Well Organized and Well Attended

The Principal, faculty, and staff at Denman Middle School rolled out the red carpet to welcome families to discuss quality middle school and K-8 pathways. Kudos to Denman MS, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), Parents for Public Schools (PPS), and Board of Education Parent Advisory Council (PAC) for coordinating the evening in a professional and effective manner. It was obvious that a lot of time went into preparing for the first community forum. I estimate that 80 to 100 people were in attendance.

At check-in, families got brochures and handouts from Denman, SFUSD, PPS, PAC, and the YMCA OMI/Excelsior Beacon center (they provide free, onsite after-school programs at Denman). Childcare was available, as promised, and refreshments and food were plentiful and nicely displayed. The evening started in Denman’s beautiful auditorium. After presentations by Denman’s principal Han Phung and by the SFUSD, parents were divided into smaller groups for in-depth discussions of prearranged topics and questions (this will ensure consistency at all forums). In each classroom, an interpreter assisted non-English speaking attendees, a scribe recorded comments, and the moderator used flip-chart paper to distill the comments down to bullet points. At the end of the breakout session, everyone reconvened in the auditorium, and a spokesperson for each classroom presented their top item for discussion. SFUSD responded to questions and comments, and even stayed after the forum ended to continue discussions with families. Everyone was approachable and engaged.

Parents who want more information about quality middle school and K-8 pathways are encouraged to attend one of the Community Forums. Voice your concerns and offer alternate suggestions.

Finally, one point of clarification: you do not need to attend the forum at your prospective middle school; you can attend any session on any date.

- Donna


  1. I agree that the event was well organized, and there was a healthy and open dialogue between parents and district staff.

    I came away very concerned though that this entire feeder plan is being sold on the promise of a of a 7th period. But at the end of the forum, a parent asked directly what are the chances of the district really funding a 7th period (on a scale of one to ten?) The district staff person would not give a number, but it was clear that there is no source of funding. She mentioned that possibly parents could do some fund-raising, or grant-writing, or something. What???

    I think the 7th period idea needs to be taken entirely off the table at subsequent community forums until a sustainable funding stream is identified. Or, they could add in such other impossibilities as class sizes of 15, indoor swimming pools, and a pony for every child.

  2. How come the school district never drew up attendance area maps for middle school like they did for elementary school? Maybe we would have preferred MS attendance areas over MS feeder patterns. I would have appreciated being respected enough to have been given all the options, not just the option that the school district was selling.

  3. Rank these options:

    1. Feeder pattern with CTIP (what is being proposed)

    2. City-wide choice with CTIP (what we have now in the one year delay)

    3. MS assignment areas with CTIP (the maps we never got)

    4. MS assignment areas without CTIP (to complete the options on how geographic MS assignment areas similar to ES assignment areas might work)

    Ranked choice voting applies, so this is preferential voting, not just top vote getter. You do not vote for just one option. You vote for up to all four in the order of your prefernce.

    I'd like to see the community forums take a vote like this.

  4. Charlie,

    You make some good points and provide an example of how a reasonable person finds common ground. Your criticism of the Board for not providing t the public with the obvious options is well taken. On the other hand, I hope you understand that the commissioners didn't want to provide options that they felt were not consistent with their personal political views on social justice. So a purely neighborhood system would never have been an option because it does not pass the social justice litmus test.

    I disagree and believe that statistics demonstrate that diversity-based assignment systems, do not meet the needs of the most vulnerable students. We should be putting our efforts into building up schools and their communities, not finding ways to avoid the real work of school districts. If SFUSD continues to place it priorities on assignment and, more specifically, lottery-based SASs, we should let the California Lottery Commission run it. Or we can stop playing politics with our kids and just move on. SFUSD should stop wasting our district time and resources on failed experiments. We can only have social justice in a school system when we spend every available penny on learning and focus all efforts on achievement.