Below are the most common questions I have been asked throughout the campaign, along with my answers.
Why are you running? Why should we vote for you?
In the thirteen years my four children have attended SFUSD, I have been an active parent volunteer at seven schools. I am Chair of SFUSD’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC), a member of the African American Parent Advisory Committee, and a member of the LCAP Task Force. I participate in multiple district committees, stakeholder engagement teams, and working groups. I am a Parent Mentor with Support for Families of Children with Disabilities and a volunteer advocate with the Community Alliance for Special Education. As a former foster parent and adoptive parent of African American children, two of whom have disabilities, I am particularly passionate about the issues of equity and social justice.
I am a mechanical engineer by training, and spent 15 years selling automation equipment. In 2017, I decided to follow my passion and changed careers. I have spent the past year taking Spanish classes at City College as well as advocacy courses with COPAA, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. I am now a special education advocate, helping families of students receiving special education services understand their rights and responsibilities. I am a licensed small business owner within the City and County of San Francisco. I work with families of all backgrounds to ensure that our voices are being heard - and our feedback being included - when decisions are made about our children's education.
I am a collaborative leader with a track record of bringing diverse groups of people together. In the 2017-2018 school year, I worked with the Office of Family Engagement and leadership teams from multiple district advisory committees to plan the Family Leadership Alignment Summit. The summit was so well received amongst parent leaders that we are expanding our work with a second summit in November.
I’ve attended hundreds of district Board of Education meetings and committee meetings. I'm ready to make the move to the other side of the table: I want to do more than comment in committees and at board meetings. I want to ensure that we consider and support our most vulnerable students and families in every decision, resolution, and guideline.
What are your priorities?
My top three priorities are:
1. Ensure that each and every student feels welcome, included and valued at their school. After all, if a student doesn’t feel safe and supported, they are not open to learning. School personnel need to understand and implement restorative practices. All staff members need to practice cultural humility. We need more counselors and social workers to support our marginalized families. We must provide robust opportunities and resources for professional development. All school personnel should be trained in universal design for learning, positive behavior interventions, implicit bias, and trauma informed practices to fully support and engage our students and their very diverse needs.
2. Fund appropriate supports and interventions in each and every school so that all students are proficient readers by third grade. There are very few skills more important to future success than reading. Educators should be trained to recognize the signs of learning differences such as dyslexia, and provide or refer students to appropriate levels of intervention.
3. A fully transparent and accountable budget and decision making processes at every level of the district. As Joe Biden said, “don’t tell me your priorities. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your priorities." We need to demystify the SFUSD budget process and provide the opportunity for more stakeholders to engage in the process. As a member of the LCAP Task Force, I still find it difficult to determine whether or not SFUSD’s $863 million budget is being spent to realize Vision 2025.
Why is implementing district-wide reading interventions one of your top priorities?
There are very few life skills as important as reading, and the correlation between the ability to read and future 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. Teaching a student with a learning difference such as dyslexia to read is not quick, easy, or inexpensive. Students require early intervention and lots of support. This requires training on the part of the teacher. In some cases, it requires additional tutoring from a credentialed reading specialist or trained professional.
I have been working with both the Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) and Special Education Departments for years to raise awareness and address this issue. Last year, the C&I Department launched the Phonological Processing Pilot Program to ten elementary schools. This pilot program was a great start, and has been expanded to additional schools. More professionals continue to be trained, more intervention kits have been purchased…. but it’s not enough to reach all schools. More investment is needed to expand the program.
Why do you support the current middle school math sequence? What is your position regarding math tracking in middle school and beyond?
Historically, “tracking” has been a euphemism for racially segregated classrooms. The updated math sequence was developed by SFUSD teachers in conjunction with researchers from Stanford and Berkeley to bring SFUSD into alignment with Common Core standards and to address decades of inequities in math instruction. In the plan, middle school math has been redesigned so that algebraic concepts are introduced earlier. The focus of math instruction has shifted to growth mindset, meaningful discourse with the instructor and engagement with peers. All of these strategies have been proven to improve outcomes. Being part of a diverse learning environment helps our students develop strong problem solving and collaboration skills.
I went to public school in Ohio (obviously pre-common core). My math sequence took me through Calculus in high school, then on to a mechanical engineering degree. I tested out of my first semester of college calculus because of my AP score. The best advice I got from my high school Calculus teacher was to take that Calculus 1 class in college anyway. Having that high school foundation was beneficial, but it wasn’t the same as college-level calculus at Case Western Reserve University. I’m glad I had multiple opportunities within my pathway to review the material. It helped me be much more successful in the long run.
In essence, that is what we’ve done to our middle school math curriculum here in SFUSD. The current middle school math sequence teaches algebraic concepts starting earlier than the old sequence and offers more reinforcement of those concepts. When SFUSD redesigned the middle school pathway, the goal was to give students the opportunity to go “deeper”. The redesign was focused on adding more rigor, and our students taking the current sequence have a much stronger understanding of the building blocks that lead them to higher level math. Students still have a pathway within their high school to Calculus, without paying for independent courses.
The question in my mind isn’t how do we reintroduce Algebra 1 in middle school. Rather, how do we ensure that all teachers have the capacity to implement the new curriculum with fidelity? In order to fully implement the math sequence and provide opportunities for all students to meet their potential, SFUSD must invest heavily in professional development, such as training teachers to provide differentiated instruction.
What is your position regarding the city’s school assignment system? Do you support recent changes, and what policies or further changes would you pursue as a member of the school board?
Making schools accessible and attractive to new families should be a top priority within SFUSD, if for no other reason than the huge fiscal impact it has on our district. Here in California, schools and school districts receive their state funding based on ADA, average daily attendance. For each student in attendance, a district received approximately $11,500 in the 2017-2018 school year. Consider this: every 100 students that chose an alternative, non-SFUSD school cost the district over a million dollars in ADA revenue.
I believe SFUSD should be doing more to attract families. Our current school assignment process is very cumbersome and stress inducing for families. Simplifying the enrollment process is a necessary part of making SFUSD more attractive to some families. We need more enrollment resources online, and we need resources to be more readily available in all languages spoken by San Francisco families. But, frankly, we have a lot of families in San Francisco who will only consider sending their children to a few well-known public schools. If they don’t get into those schools, they choose private, parochial, or charter schools. Some families choose to move out of the city rather than attend a public school they don’t know. How do we make our lesser known schools more attractive to families? When Willie Brown Middle School was opened, families who attended the inaugural sixth grade class were promised priority registration at the high school of their choice. We need to think about what incentives could attract a diverse group of families to our schools, such as language pathways and STEAM programs. One of the biggest questions we need to answer is, how can we equitably support schools so that every school is attractive to all families?
To start addressing this issue, I think we need to invest in stakeholder engagement beyond SFUSD. How can we listen to the concerns of San Francisco residents who have enrolled their kindergartners in private or parochial schools? How can we prevent families from moving out of the city because they didn’t get into one of the SFUSD elementary schools they were willing to attend? There are important lessons to be learned from these families that could help shape a more family-friendly enrollment process.
What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?
For many decades, SFUSD has been trying to strike a balance between neighborhood schools and desegregation as well as parent choice and convenience. Is there a perfect balance? While I appreciate the work that Commissioners Haney, Cook, and Norton are doing to update our enrollment process, we must be cognizant of potential consequences. I support the concept of neighborhood schools, but I think we must recognize that we live in a very segregated city. Neighborhood schools can propagate segregation if appropriate safeguards aren’t in place. We need to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to provide access to high performing schools for all students.
I believe that stakeholder engagement is critical to better understand the needs of San Francisco families. Families have many practical solutions to offer. One concrete example is the AAPAC collaboration with EPC. Stakeholder conversations teased out the need for more culturally responsive support for new and potential families, which led to the hiring of an African American EPC counselor to support families in the southeast. Enrollment workshops and clinics are now held in the Bayview.
Do you support charter schools? Would you support more regulations and increased oversight of charters schools on a local level?
I absolutely support more accountability and transparency for charter schools. We have too many loopholes in state law that allow for-profit entities to siphon resources from local communities. I would much rather see charter school funders work collaboratively with SFUSD to improve outcomes at our existing (and often under-enrolled) schools rather than look to open new schools.
To be fair, there are some San Francisco charter schools that do a great job of meeting the needs of students who have been difficult to serve in traditional classrooms. However, I find the lack of oversight and accountability troubling. Some charter schools participate in the SFUSD governance structure, including our Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA). They provide services to all students, particularly those with learning differences. I am opposed to schools that “counsel out” students with disabilities.
Charter schools provide a layer of budgetary stress for many districts, including many here in the Bay Area. The Public Interest released a report in May titled, “The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts.” The report found that, in the 2016-2017 school year, charter schools cost Oakland Unified School District $57.3 million. This reduction coupled with Prop 39, the state law requiring districts to make classrooms available to charter schools, has strained many school districts to the brink of insolvency. We can’t allow that to happen here in San Francisco.
I agree with the NAACP’s 2016 resolution on charter schools that calls for a moratorium on charter school expansions as well as additional oversight for existing charters.
How would you tackle the district's persistent opportunity gap?
As the parent to four African American students, this issue is near and dear to my heart.
SFUSD’s opportunity gap is huge. While San Francisco has the second highest concentration of billionaires in the United States, we also have the highest percentage of homeless youth and young adults. At many schools within SFUSD, the performance gap in SBAC proficiency levels between White and African American students is more than 50%. In previous years, SFUSD has been sanctioned by the California Department of Education for over-identification of African American males into classrooms for “emotionally disturbed” students.
While the statistics are heartbreaking, I am encouraged to see that SFUSD leadership recognizes our challenges and is working to improve outcomes. The Superintendent has identified “PITCH schools” - schools that have been historically underserved or have a high achievement gap - to receive additional resources this year. School sites and stakeholders are working on needs assessments now. The African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI) was created in 2013 “to hold SFUSD departments and City agencies accountable for providing a high quality educational experience to African American students.” Pupil Services offers training and support to SFUSD employees, particularly teachers and paraeducators.
SFUSD has implemented the Community Schools model to support many schools. A “community school” is a school where educators, administrators, families, and community partners work collaboratively to identify the largest challenges facing a school’s student population. Wraparound supports are brought in from the community, and parents are treated as partners is supporting the needs of each child. The Department of Children, Youth, and their Familes (DCYF) has provided the district with increased funding in 2018-2019 for Community School model will allow the target schools to include many more supports for families and students. While there is much work being done to support our students, the reality at our schools is that they are understaffed. When a school has to choose between a nurse and a social worker, that’s a problem. I would like to see SFUSD implement the Community School model at all schools, and develop collaborative relationships and wraparound services at all schools.
We need to start having some very real conversations about perceptions, stereotypes, and racial bias. As an advocate for children with special needs, I often run into the mentality of “encroachment.” Some families fear that funding initiatives to support children with disabilities, English learners, or students of color will negatively impact other children by taking away resources from their child(ren)’s learning environment. I have found the opposite to be true. Education isn’t a zero sum prospect. As John F. Kennedy is quoted as saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Training an educator to differentiate instruction for a struggling second grader also helps that teacher understand how to support the child in the who is reading at a fifth grade level. Providing an educator with positive behavior intervention strategies helps that teacher manage his or her entire classroom, not just the students identified with challenges. This allows more time to be spent on instruction for all students. Research shows that diversity helps us become more thoughtful and innovative. It helps us become better problem solvers. And for those of us raising kids in San Francisco, it helps prepare our kids for the reality of our city.
SFUSD must allocate resources towards robust implementation of policies such as Restorative Practices (RP). All personnel need to be trained in cultural humility. Educators must understand the impact of trauma on our students. The resources required to fully implement a large-scale initiative such as RP are significant, and would require a massive focus on training, and a shift of practices at some schools. But these steps are necessary to improve outcomes for our most underserved students.
What can the district do to support families experiencing homelessness?
In 2016, SFUSD served 1,844 students experiencing homelessness. Thousands more are marginally housed. The stress of housing insecurity impacts learning outcomes for our students. By increasing our focus on wraparound supports, we can help our students focus on academic success.
We need more collaborative programs like the pilot program at Buena Vista Horace Mann that, starting in November, will allow 20 families experiencing homelessness to sleep in the school’s second gymnasium. The cities of San Jose and Oakland are both working with local nonprofits that serve families experiencing homelessness to provide evening access to parking lots. These programs include space to park and sleep, security, trash disposal, and in some cases access to bathrooms and showers. Why can’t we offer similar programs in San Francisco?
As a foster parent, I experienced the frustration of navigating the city’s bureaucracy. It can be challenging for anyone, particularly those in crisis, to find the appropriate services. Short term, I believe each school should have at least one full-time social worker (and many need more than one) to help families navigate various city departments and access services. Long term, we need to invest in more mental health supports in our schools.
Students experiencing homelessness have legal protections, such as the McKinney-Vento Act. Each and every school should have multiple personnel trained in the intricacies of the act, and how to use the law to support and protect our most marginalized students and families.
What are your thoughts about San Francisco as a Sanctuary City and California as a Sanctuary State?
I am very grateful to be raising my children in San Francisco. I am 100% behind our Sanctuary City status and am grateful for the leadership of our state and city officials in this area. I think we need to open our immigration system to provide a path to citizenship for everyone. We need to change the negative narrative; immigration isn’t a “zero sum game.” Multiple studies have shown that immigration actually helps to grow our economy. I am supportive of city and county policies that protect immigrants from regressive federal policies and plan to do everything in my power as a Board of Education commissioner to protect our students and families.
I am a supporter of RISE-SF, the district’s Refugee and Immigrant Supports in Education program. RISE-SF offers workshops and professional development to schools to support newcomer students, as well as legal referrals and education surrounding sanctuary policies. Ensuring that wraparound supports are available at all schools to support undocumented students as well as their families is critical to the success of our students. Our newcomer students have experienced significant trauma in their journey to San Francisco, and we must provide them the resources to cope with their experiences while learning to thrive here.
The district has previously expressed support for protections for LGBTQ and transgender students, including allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice. Do you support these protections? Is there more you would like to see the district do or any particular policy in this area you would like to change?
I support AB 1266, the state law allowing transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity.
As a parent of students receiving Special Education services, I have worked towards more inclusion in our schools. As a member of the district’s Inclusive Schools Week committee, I have worked to expand the focus of “inclusion” beyond students with disabilities. My four children have all attended Miraloma Elementary School, and I was an early supporter of our gender neutral bathrooms. I continue to work towards inclusive policies.
As the Chair of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, I work with my fellow district advisory committees. While there are affinity groups for parents of African American, Pacific Islander, Native American, and English learner students, there isn’t a district-level advisory committee for parents of LGBTQ+ students. The district should address this shortcoming and include LGBTQ+ families in important stakeholder conversations.
What would you do to improve public transit services for SFUSD students? Do you use public transit?
My family and I use public transportation as much as possible. We live close to the Balboa Park BART station, so we are lucky to have many options and routes nearby. My two oldest daughters take or have taken public transportation to school each day. However, I drive my sons to two separate schools each day.
Many families drive to work, and dropping students off at school is just part of the morning commute. Not all students live close to school, so walking and riding isn’t a feasible option. Something that might make public transportation more attractive to families could be a dedicated bus that left from a transportation hub, such as Balboa Park or West Portal, and made stops at 3-4 schools.
If we want to prevent families from driving, we have to make getting to school without driving more attractive and convenient. What about offering incentives to schools that actively coordinate carpools, public transportation usage, or walking/biking programs? What if families that use public transportation to get to school at least once a week were given free MUNI passes for the following month?
I would love to collaborate with organizations such as the San Francisco Bike Coalition, San Francisco Transit Riders, MTA, and families to analyze the problem and work on creative solutions to this challenge.
What role do you see for families in school governance and budgeting?
I see a huge role for families in school governance and budgeting at every level, as does the district’s leadership team. Empowering families is part of the SFUSD mission and strategic plan. As a school site PTA and SSC member, plus a member of the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan Task Force, I see the power in understanding the budget process, both at the site level as well as centrally. As Joe Biden said, “don’t tell me your priorities. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your priorities.”
Whether a parent is involved in a school site budget by sitting on the School Site Council, or joins a district-level advisory committee such as the LCAP Task Force or Public Education Enrichment Fund Community Advisory Committee, there are a huge number of ways that families can - and should - participate in budgeting and governance. For more information, families should review the district’s Shared Leadership, Governance, and Site Planning Toolkit at http://www.sfusd.edu/en/family-and-community-support/family-partnerships-toolkit/tools-for-family-leadership-school-governance-and-site-planning.html.
San Francisco recently passed legislation allowing non-citizens to vote in school board elections. How do you feel about this?
I absolutely support non-citizen voting. All parents should have the opportunity to participate in every aspect of their children’s education, and holding elected officials accountable is an important part of our democracy. I also think it’s important for undocumented families to understand the risks involved in registering to vote. The Department of Elections could be forced to provide the database of registered voters to other governmental agencies, including federal agencies such as ICE. Parents should consult with an immigration attorney or other knowledgable resource before registering.