Why I'm Running
The core of my candidacy is equity and enacting that value by ensuring that SFUSD students from all backgrounds have the support and tools they need to reach their full potential. I have seen first-hand how our current model doesn’t work for so many of our students. Schools should be learning of institutions that close the equity gap; too often, our segregated schools widen it instead. I have spent the past decade advocating for students. 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.
I believe that in order to meaningfully engage and mediate through these issues we need to do so through a restorative justice lens. This means rather than just rectifying mistakes, we have to build an invested and engaged community where people take ownership, pride, and responsibility for its continued health. And, most importantly, we need to start looking at the poor outcomes of our most marginalized students as a reflection on the problems with our system rather than the students themselves. Behavior is a form of communication; we need to be asking why a student isn’t engaged. We need to get to the root cause of the issue rather than punishing the symptom. All of our children are capable scholars, and they should be treated as such.
Where I come from
I've been an active community member of SFUSD for over 14 years with my four children having attended seven different schools in the district. I am the former 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 show up because equity and social justice aren't just ideals to me
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 am now a special education advocate at CASE, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families of students receiving special education services understand their rights and responsibilities. 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.
My top three priorities are:
1. Social-emotional supports (for staff as well as families)
2. Implementing restorative justice practices
3. Reading interventions.
Each and every student must have access to the supports and services they need to reach their full potential. We need to meet our students’ and teachers’ basic social-emotional needs before any learning can happen. Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize the mental and physical health of students and teachers. Each and every student must feel welcome, included and valued at their school. This means ensuring school personnel is engaging in anti-racist practices to support our diverse SFUSD population. We need to understand how to engage students. And once we have our students engaged, we need to ensure they are proficient and confident readers by third grade. The correlation between the ability to read and 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. I will continue to work with SFUSD to implement Tier 2 and 3 reading interventions in every school so that all students are proficient readers by third grade.To execute these priorities, we need a transparent and accountable budget. Budgets are value statements, and it’s time we fund our values, that means more social workers, nurses, school counselors, and school psychologists in our schools.
On Renaming Schools
The renaming committee is all volunteers right now. I know some of the members of the committee and respect their work and activism. Renaming to me is part of our long term inequity issue too. At some point, we have to grapple with the historic wrongdoing and make it right. A good first step is to stop glorifying folks by prominently displaying their names on our schools. I haven’t reviewed the list lately and don’t think we have the capacity to address all the schools on the list right now, but the ones like Denman where the entire community agrees should be a no-brainer. (James Denman was the first Superintendent of SFUSD schools. He also actively worked to prevent Asian Americans from accessing their education because he didn’t think they were worthy or capable of learning.) And considering the district has a $1 billion dollar budget, finding a few hundred thousand per school isn’t as huge as it seems, especially if we are smart about it. Again, using Denman as an example: when our bond retrofit work is done, the name change signage could potentially be rolled into that work. At Miraloma, we used to have a cable car as our logo. We turned the mascot design into a contest that helped to build family engagement. That was only a decade ago and the dragon has become ubiquitous.
Does that mean we should move forward immediately and rename all the schools on this list? No. We wouldn’t have the resources to do so if we were all in agreement about this anyway. Not only are we dealing with the upcoming election, holidays, and COVID, but we’re also in the middle of a HUGE assignment system redesign. There’s so much going on right now, getting it all done with existing resources will be really difficult. But these are important conversations to have. And the entire community at each school on the list needs to be involved in the decision.
There is an upside to this at some schools. Look at how quickly Fairmount was changed to Dolores Huerta. That was easy - there was lots of community support. Not all schools getting renamed will be controversial and could be a real positive thing for those schools in a time when we all really need it. The process has been a point of pride for the Dolores Huerta community and is empowering for many students and families. It has to be evaluated case by case basis.
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. Two years ago, 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.
Do you support Defunding the Police?
Absolutely. Defund the police means to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against the generations of injustices trauma perpetuated by law enforcement. For me, this issue is deeply personal and literally hits close to home. My 14-year-old son has always been in the top percentiles of the growth and weight charts and has sensory processing disorder and auditory delays. He shuts down in stressful and overwhelming situations. He loses the ability to verbalize and often goes into "flight mode." His auditory processing delays mean that directions often have to be repeated more than once in order for him to be able to understand them and follow. My biggest fears in life all surround potential interactions between him and law enforcement.
I believe a significant portion should be funded into education. I want to partner with the City and County to re-allocate SFPD resources towards preventative programs such as RP, implicit bias training, de-escalation training, universal design for learning training, mental health supports, and academic reading interventions would lead to improved outcomes for our Black students.
If you're elected, what racial justice policies will you push for?
We need to address the systemic and institutional barriers in public education. As commissioner, I will begin by implementing an equitable budget. Our budget is a value statement; for too long, students learning English, Black and Brown students, and students with learning disabilities have been disenfranchised and deprioritized. Even this year, when we are working implementing anti-racist practices in SFUSD, the Superintendent’s June budget contained a 38% cut to the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative. We need to reinstate full funding to AAALI.
By investing in professional development opportunities for educators, we provide them with the skillset to address the needs of a diverse classroom. As an African American parent stated during the 2017-2018 LCAP stakeholder engagement process, “it’s not an achievement gap for our Black kids. It’s a love gap.” It’s critical to recognize the various levels of cultural competency and humility amongst SFUSD staff and families. We must address our shortcomings by providing more implicit bias training and implement trauma-informed practices. All school personnel should be trained in universal design for learning, positive behavior interventions, and de-escalation strategies to fully support and engage our students and their very diverse needs.
One additional point across all of these focal populations is that there are not enough educators, administrators, and school staff that reflect the students’ experience. We need to hire more teachers of color, and bilingual teachers in particular. I appreciate SFUSD’s pathway and teacher development programs, particularly the effort to recruit and train bilingual and special education professionals.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the education of our students. How should SFUSD decisions be made in these unprecedented times?
SFUSD needs to involve families, educators, school-staff as stakeholders moving forward as we adjust to a new ”normal” in distance learning. In the spring, there was palpable frustration from parents and educators alike who felt there was a lack of communication and resources to support their students. As a part of the district’s Reopening Task Force, I’m working to ensure that we learn from the spring to ensure that every student has the supports and services they need to succeed in the digital classroom.
The pandemic has shined a huge spotlight on the inequities within our public education system. The focal groups that struggle the most with distance learning - students receiving special education services, foster youth, students who speak languages other than English, and early education students - are the students we must prioritize.
Student and family engagement is key. Students miss their peers and teachers, and teachers miss their students. We have to build authentic engagement opportunities into our schedules and we have to do a better job of communicating with families. More translation and interpretation services are needed. We haven’t addressed our the increasing need for mental health support or reading and other academic interventions.
As a special education advocate, I am currently spending a lot of time helping families understand how to support their students during distance learning. It’s no easy task, that’s for sure! More professional development, co-planning time, and ongoing coaching surrounding technology platforms are needed. Families need tech support. We need our community partners to help engage students.
How will you work to ensure underserved or impoverished children in SF have access to computers and wifi as well as quality education during COVID-19, whether learning from home or in school with social distancing?
We are lucky in San Francisco to have many philanthropic partners, including local tech companies. Spark*SF, SFUSD’s nonprofit partner, raised $5 million this spring and summer to acquire Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots for students in need. We have been able to use federal stimulus money to support some of our work. However, this pandemic has highlighted the systemic underfunding of public education in our state and country. We shouldn’t have to resort to philanthropic donations in order to provide the tools our students need. We need to pass Prop 15 and overhaul our education funding model, not just in California but nationwide.
Putting Chromebooks and WiFit hotspots into the hands of students won’t solve the digital divide. Many neighborhoods in San Francisco have cell phone dead zones, meaning that hot spots won’t work. We need to ensure that all students have a space where they can safely and reliably access power and WiFi. Some families need tech support, as they have never used Chromebooks or the distance learning technology platforms. I appreciate the work SFUSD is doing to offer webinars in multiple languages, but each school should have a tech support point person who is accessible to families throughout the school day. Ensuring that families have access to support in their home language (or verbally for family members who struggle to read) will be an important part of equitable technology access. We have many community partners who are currently doing this work to support families, and should be coordinating services with them.
What are your views on the SFUSD school assignment system? Would you advocate for any specific changes to better address the needs of students and families?
As the aligned advisory committees have pointed out, the student assignment system redesign must address the current inequities in school programming, staffing, and facilities in various parts of the city in order to have the desired impact. Back in 2018, when Resolution 189-25A1 was initially introduced, I raised questions that have still gone unanswered today: How are we going to ensure the quality of the educational experience in schools across the district? What is the plan to make sure all SF public schools have the necessary resources to serve their students? What is being done to renovate the existing under-enrolled and under-requested schools? I tend to agree with Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams: “if you build it, they will come.” If we provide the programming and resources that our families have prioritized (language pathways, STEM programs, inclusion, etc) at under-enrolled schools, families will be more likely to consider these schools.
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