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San Francisco school district seeking input on potential school closures and mergers

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San Francisco Unified School District
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San Francisco Unified School District
SFUSD Logo

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has been struggling financially for years. Now, the district is considering school closures and mergers to help close the deficit. On May 6th, the District Advisory Committee, or DAC, held the first of three meetings to review the results of a stakeholder survey – conducted with help from a Stanford research team.

The following excerpt from that meeting includes a number of SFUSD members, as well as District Advisory Committee members, representatives from a family liaison group, and Ritu Khanna, SFUSD’s head of research.

Here, she describes how the survey was designed:

Ritu Khanna: When we looked at it, the most important value was given to the criteria around school culture and climate and the least important was given to attendance. OK. So that's just as an example of a comparison. We also found that our underserved population rated historical inequities a lot higher than others. So you could see how both for schools and for neighborhoods, historical inequities was rated much higher by Latino African Americans, Filipino, American Indian and Pacific Islanders. OK.

DAC Member 1: What's A-I?

Ritu Khanna: A-I is American Indian.

DAC Member 1: Oh, we pulled them out. Oh, cool.

Ritu Khanna: Yeah. So what we did was...I'm so sorry, Orlando. Go ahead.

DAC Member 2: Thank you. I think this is an important ...on the next slide, please...was the demographic of people responding representative of SFUSD?

Ritu Khanna: So if we look across all the different aspects, it was generally representative, it was actually underrepresented, especially our underserved population.
So what we did was on this slide, you'll see this next column called weighted mean. Do you see the weighted mean? So in that we adjusted for it? OK. So we actually would double the responses of an African American individual to make sure that they have the right representation as similar to our demographics. OK. That's why you see a weighted mean. OK. So we did, meaning we actually accommodated it and we did it based on the demographics of SFUSD

DAC Member 1: I, I hear the weighted mean. But I just, my heart is in the caution in saying that no one is a monolith in the danger of a single story. And so it's to add additional weight to a response that might come from a middle class black family that lives on the West side versus incoming immigrant black family from Ethiopia who's in the tenderloin, it could be different. You see what I'm saying?

DAC Member 3: So I think that's one of the reason I was worried about this is because, you know, I work in the community and a lot of our families that come into our hubs don't know how to use internet, don't have access to internet, don't have access to computers.So if the statistic reflects an under representation, then how is SFUSD going to address that issue because we're only hearing those of us that have access to technology and and doesn't reflect the the ones that had given in 2024 and doesn't have access to technology.

Lauren Kohler, Executive Director of SFUSD Enrollment and Devin Corrigan, a liaison with SFUSD respond.

Lauren Kohler: There was 16 in person community sessions at schools and communities. We texted the families who attend those schools and the families who attend around those schools, they were really focused on making sure that our underrepresented communities were able to get there.
A lot of them were in languages other than English or had support for families translation and languages other than English. So that was one of the really important things that we did to try and hear those voices. And I think to Ritu's point with the way they mean is to try and amplify those voices, even though they're sort of perhaps stuck in a technology vacuum.

Devin Corrigan: Well, I can just add that. I think that it's the unfortunate reality that we have our proportions of various demographic groups in the district. And any time we ask for feedback on anything in the survey or any other modality, we would love for those numbers to line up, exactly. And they do none of the time. And so we do the best we can to bring them together. And that's why we do the weight it means and that's why we also have in person events to triangulate.
But those are sort of the best options we have to deal with the reality of those numbers always being a little off

Another DC member and a family liaison representative shared the challenges they experienced with the survey.

DAC Member 4: I have a comment and it's about this, this is the most appropriate place for me to make it. And I came into this meeting today just having, after receiving a text from the district and your reminder email about the survey and looks like I, I don't know what the numbers are as far as responses so far, but clearly like you're trying to get more. So the, the issue that I had with this survey, the biggest one to me was the excellence category because when I took part one of the survey as a parent, it was vague to me what those were supposed to mean or what they would have to do with whether a school should stay open or not. Number one, also, those seem to be categories that are very much dependent on two things. One is the demographic, the demographics of the school population, the socio-economic status of the school population. And secondly, dependent on how the school has sort of been treated for lack of a better word by the district in terms of funding for a lot of years. So that whole category was kind of troubling to me. But the thing that really struck me when I just took survey part two, which I know we're not talking about that. But I think it's, it's relevant here is that to complete part two of the survey, you have to use your coins in every category. Now, if you're someone who doesn't think that these criteria in the excellence quote unquote excellence category, which like I said, I perceive those to be things that are very much decided by a lot of outside forces and have a lot to do with equity. You can't move on through the survey until you rank those things. And there is no way of ranking them zero in part two of this survey.

Family Liaison Representative: We represent family liaisons. And so actually, our secretary and our community organizer attended family liaison P DS when they were launching the survey and trying to looking at the survey and to support families to fill it out. And families were very, very confused. They did not even the liaisons were confused on how to get past this coin system. So that already became a barrier to be able to then help families fill out the forms, the surveys.

Devin Corrigan: Again, I can share a little more too about in terms of understanding the populations that answered the survey versus those who did not. We do have a way of saying more about that. And I, I just want to be clear that our, our policy always in our department every, every day is if we're going to release information, if we're going to release data reports, we're always going to disaggregate that data by the groups that we are able to. And so in the case of this survey that includes race, ethnicity, we ask questions about what schools you're affiliated with. Not everybody who answers the survey is necessarily affiliated with the school because it is open to the public community members, but as you saw most were parents. So there's a lot of affiliations, you can see what schools a respondent was affiliated with. You can see if they have a child who's receiving special education services, English language learners services. I mean, all kinds of things. So that is not a black box that, that is something we do have data on. And as a, as a policy, we we would always release that information and not, not, not keep that from the public. So that that will be that will be clear. These data are, I should say again, preliminary and these slides I know are sort of just scratching the surface but when there are more results to release, I just want to be clear. But we, we do have that data because it was collected on the survey and we'll make it, make sure that it's disaggregated in that way as, as we do in all of our reports, the demographics of the respondents for each category that you filled out.

Ritu Khanna: There is a report already in our website that has been produced to describe the demographics for every section. And Stanford's summary of their results.

Lauren Koehler gave a summary of where the DAC is in the process of drafting their recommendation that will then go to the Board of Education in June, one of the features of the first survey was a question about things that were missing or criteria that people would like to see included.

Lauren Koehler: We saw 12 themes emerge and they fell into three categories. So the first category were already included in the current criteria or in the equity checks. Those are transportation funding inequalities, proximity support programming, like after school programs, safety, sense of belonging, and the sense of staff feeling overworked. All of those things are included in either the equity criteria from a 1912 or in some way included in the criteria that we have here. Other things that people suggested as criteria to add are set by a collective bargaining agreement. So teacher pay and administrator pay, so not things that we would include in the criteria because they're set by an agreement. And then there's three things for which we do not have current data. Those are teacher quality school marketing and stability.

The meeting closed with public comments including these from a student and a parent from SFUSD.

Student Commenter: I'm a student at June Jordan school for equity. Less than 1% of S F US D students participated in this survey. How do you plan to significantly increase student engagement as a student? I feel disregarded as a student. The situation feels repetitive and redundant as a student. No, as a human being, this is unacceptable and outrageous that only 0.8% of students completed this form leaving the remaining 99.2% unheard. Our voices are crucial. Sorry, we are the future. We were promised to visit from Dr Wayne to sit and listen to our student voices, but he hasn't followed through. Do our voices not matter? Do our voices hold no weight? Do I have no say in my education? Thank you.

Parent Commenter: Hi, I'm a parent of fifth grader. I don't understand how we're gonna impact the budget in a positive way by closing schools. There's only about 14% of the budget that goes to the operation of the schools. You'd have to shut down a third of our schools to close the budget gap. It seems like this, the main cost of this organization as it is with most organizations is salaries and benefits and affiliated costs and it's, but it seems like we're short of teachers. So I don't understand the basic accounting and I think there are some accountants on this committee. I would challenge you guys to really dig in and figure out what's going on with the budget. It's not buildings. Thank you.

You can find information about future meetings here:
https://www.sfusd.edu/advisory-councils-committees/district-advisory-committee-dac

A video recording of the May 6th DAC meeting is available here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGjrrUjnEZU

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