A group of parents from the San Francisco Unified School District, frustrated with schools being closed for face-to-face learning, suggested on Monday that elections for the education committee officers be abolished and instead switched to a date-based system.
Better San Francisco Public Schools group is campaigning for a constitutional amendment to vote in June 2022 to allow city leaders to elect school inspectors instead of voters.
“We believe this will lead to better accountability so that the Board of Education is made up of the right people with the right priorities,” said Patrick Wolff, parent of SFUSD and chairman of Better San Francisco Public Schools. “The city only elected the majority of this board a few months ago. Obviously, there is something wrong with the selection of the people who run our public schools. “
Although district leaders have emphasized that reopening schools depends on several factors, including agreeing health and safety standards with unions and making sure schools have adequate ventilation systems, parents and city leaders remain frustrated with those a year ago closings introduced when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The board received more criticism in January when it decided to rename 44 schools by April. Mayor Breed called for more urgency to reopen schools. To complicate matters, the city filed a lawsuit last month to further compel the district and school authorities to prioritize the return of face-to-face learning.
“I am seriously concerned about the Board of Education and its focus on the wrong priorities. Failure to prioritize members on top issues has catastrophic public education for our students and families, ”said Jennifer Kuhr Butterfoss, co-chair of Better San Francisco Public Schools, an SFUSD mother and former SFUSD principal. “My children’s friends, neighbors, and classmates go out in droves. The disastrous effects of this current board will be felt by the generations to come. “
The city first switched to an election-based system for school boards in 1971, sparked by opposition to desegregation after previously using an appointment-based system for more than 70 years.
Quoting other large U.S. cities that already have a date-based system like New York, Washington, DC and Chicago, Wolff said this makes most sense for large, diverse areas where voters are more likely to be poorly informed are in order to make a selection the most qualified candidates.
“Big cities are often really the only ones interested in this appointment-based system, and from what we’ve seen, it works well for them,” he said.
In the coming months, Better San Francisco Public Schools plan to meet with more parents and residents to grow the campaign and start a petition to put the initiative on the ballot in June 2022.
The group’s announcement comes just days after the school principals announced that some elementary school students from 66 schools will be able to return to face-to-face learning in the first phase of school opening on April 12th.
As part of the plan, more school locations would gradually reopen in the following weeks. A total of 91 school locations are to be reopened by the end of April.
During a briefing Monday, SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews said, “We know this has been a difficult time for families and we are excited about the ability to move forward and we continue to do everything as a district to serve as many students as possible Bringing back personal learning as best we can, but at the same time we want you to understand the limitations that are there. “