On January 8th, the San Francisco School Board will have two freshmen.
Matt Alexander, former headmaster of the Unified School District in San Francisco, and Kevine Boggess, director of education for the nonprofit Coleman Advocates, will join the board as first-time election members. Voters also re-elected board member Jenny Lam, Mayor London Breed’s education advisor, and board chairman Mark Sanchez, a teacher.
“It just seems like a really strong team,” said Alexander. “I think we all kind of like and respect one another. I’m super excited about the board. “
The two fathers will join the board when SFUSD begins another semester of distance learning after plans to bring back a first round of priority students in person suffer a setback on Friday. A January 25 date had been set but was canceled after the district and unions failed to reach an agreement on working conditions as coronavirus cases increased.
While Alexander believes the reopening plans could have developed earlier, he felt that things were moving in the right direction ahead of the announcement on Friday. In the meantime, the district should continue developing distance learning and consider improvements in areas like voice access and an accessible phone line for support, he said.
Boggess, a native of San Francisco and an SFUSD graduate, aims to further improve relationships with families and work better with nonprofits. The reopening of plans and the introduction of changes in the Lowell High School admissions process have increased tensions with SFUSD for many families.
“I think we’ve got to a point where there’s so little trust and confidence in the district, to the point where people make the second and third guesses,” said Boggess. “It feels outwardly slow to us I think because we need to feel like we know what’s going to happen so we can prepare.”
Kevine Boggess is the Education Director of the nonprofit Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. (Kevin N. Hume / SF examiner)
Alexander also hopes to transform the district’s culture so that he will listen more to input from school leaders than to give them a final decision. For example, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to school principals to learn in November that they would have to work from school buildings, he said.
Both consider how they can contain the learning loss and catch up with the students. Boggess sees a need for individual learning plans, including psychiatric care and childcare, for all students at this point, as school education and the different learning environments are isolated.
“The way we budget public education is not really intended for individual learning. That really puts us at a disadvantage, ”said Boggess. “The learning experience is so different for every student and family because of personal things in their homes, how they learn, their teachers, and how they connect with their students.”
Looking ahead, Boggess would like students to get grades or take some courses all year round. Flexible grading could inadvertently penalize students applying to colleges that may not trust grading, he noted.
Alexander sees an opportunity to switch to a performance-based assessment. For example, June Jordan School For Equity, the high school he helped found and run, assessed students on projects rather than tests.
“This is an exacerbation of an ongoing problem,” said Alexander. “It is clear that the standard systems will not work right now. I think it’s an opportunity to move these things forward. “
Alexander has also spoken out in favor of pushing for fairer school funding. San Francisco voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Proposition J, a package tax expected to bring $ 48 million to the district, while California voters opposed Proposition 15 to revise the property tax.
However, there is still a structural deficit: SFUSD has a deficit of $ 169.7 million over the next two fiscal years and reopening costs run up to $ 44.8 million. Alexander believes that there is plenty of space for the headquarters when needed, rather than for the schools themselves.
Matt Alexander, a member of the Incoming School Board, is a former headmaster of San Francisco High School. (Kevin N. Hume / SF examiner)
“I think this is a missed priority that needs to change,” said Alexander. “I’m obviously concerned about the cuts, but I think we can do it without touching people who work in schools.”
Other issues that the Board will address shortly include: Implementing a recently approved new system for student allocation; Renaming schools with racist affiliations; the increasing performance gap; Development of a safe school infrastructure without police and more.
Once Boggess and Alexander take office, the board will have only one veteran member, Sanchez, who has served a full term. Members Faauuga Moliga, Alison Collins and Gabriela Lopez were elected in 2018, while Breed Lam appointed in 2019.
Boggess and Alexander will replace members Stevon Cook and Rachel Norton, who both refused to stand for re-election.
Board member Alison Collins said she would lack Cook’s flexibility and continue his work on implementing Black Studies. Previously, she praised Norton for withstanding inappropriate comments made to members of the Color board of directors, adding that Norton has been able to productively move discussions.
But Collins is delighted with Alexander’s extensive experience as a school principal and parent and his knowledge of preparing for college. Boggess, who helped Collins draft resolutions, including those seeking to remove police from schools, has deep roots in the city and is aware of the needs of the southeastern neighborhoods.
“It’s just more of us who know what the pulse is,” said Collins. “I’m super excited.”
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