Let’s talk diversity in schools. I’m in my fourth year as an SFUSD parent and have followed the schools and its assignment process for many years before that, so that many parents reach out to me for help. As a parent in a public school with changing demographics, I’d like to add my thoughts for how to increase diversity in our SFUSD schools. In doing so, keep in mind a recent SFUSD presentation with proposed changes for next year.
If SFUSD is serious about diversifying our schools, here are some actions you can take today to make changes
- Transportation. Let’s look at the changing demographics at New Traditions, which was 32% black and 30% white as recently as the 2008-9 school year. In 2010-11, the school added so many white kids that the still consistent black population fell to 24% of school while white kids rose to 37%. The numbers dropped most precipitously in 2012-13, the year the bus stopped from Hunters Point, so that in 2013-2014, the school was left with 35 or 14% black and 132 or 52% white. Data shows these numbers are largely due to transportation challenges, which disproportionately affect lower income families, who cannot afford cars or gas or the time out from work to transport their children.
- Transportation Proposal: For 2018-19 school year, add school bus service from Hunters Point and Vistacian Valley to Grattan, McKinley, New Traditions, and the predominantly Asian schools of the Richmond district, with enough kids at each school so that they diversify. Stop buses to schools like Cobb, which is over 50% black. If you continue to assign children across town from affluent neighborhoods, bus them as well to avoid another tragedy as happened outside Marina Middle School.
- Lowel Admission Proposal. Currently, children in underrepresented schools meet a lower bar for admissions into Lowell; because this includes private schools, wealthy children at schools such as Hamlin, Stuart Hall, the Lycee and French American qualify for special treatment, taking away band 3 spots from middle and low income children. Fix this for 2018-19 school year with the insert of children in underrepresented public schools.
- Hunters Point elementary school kids. We love the idea to give these kids a tie breaker but only paired with transportation and specifying public school only. Otherwise, repeat the Lowell mistake, and La Scuola and Alt School kids receive a tie breaker, nifty for the mostly white, affluent kids.
- Proposal: Subsidized kids in PreK or OST/Excel aftercare for TK should receive automatic to kindergarten in that zone, for 2018-19 application year. These kids are among the most diverse and have documented financial needs. They should not be required to live in the AA to get a special tie breaker.
- Magnet School in Hunters Point with Transportation. Experiment! Add a gifted program with accelerated algebra at Willie Brown. Add a Spanish Immersion program at Muir. Include transportation so that families can take advantage.
- Proposal: Change CTIP to families receiving CalFresh and similar benefits. Forge a partnership with the city to automatically provide a first tie breaker for families in need, including transportation. Stop giving owners of multi-million dollar lofts a golden check to any school in the city. This, combined with the subsidized preK/TK tiebreaker, would at minimum improve optics, but also give those who need it the most, the chance to attend different schools.
SFUSD Staff should only get preference at the school where they work. If your teachers don’t respect their workplace enough to send their own children there, what kind of example is this for the other families in the city. Further, employees at headquarters don’t have any different hardship than any of the other hard working middle class families in this city, and changing will only squeeze them out further. At its worst, the very same employees who design and run the system are giving themselves a golden check to attend any school in the city. When SFUSD leadership don’t believe in the schools, nobody believes in the schools. That said, we could certainly understand a school assignment for hard-to-recruit credentialed teaching positions.
The ”swap” round for middle school should stay to allow reduced commutes. Since there are only 13 middle schools vs. 100 programs for elementary, the “swap” is not so much a gaming system like for kindergarten, but instead a simple way of trading ones feeder for a more convenient choice.
Add spots to accommodate all feeder students at middle schools. Follow through with the promise and the design for integrated middle schools by adding the capacity needed to meet the promises made when children entered kindergarten, that their spots in middle school would be guaranteed.
–Vicky Keston, parent of kindergarten and 4th graders in a nearby SFUSD school. Vicky is also the co-founder of Renegade Kids Tinkering Club, lover of math and her adopted city of San Francisco. Vicky’s favorite educational experience was her middle and high school math program called Unified Math, which led her to a BS in engineering from Carnegie Mellon and an MBA from Stanford. Vicky believes that math, science and engineering should be accessible to all.