Building A Stronger Community
This is an exciting time for San Francisco’s public schools. We are making progress in the academic achievement of our students, and have set a new standard that all our young learners be given college prep courses.
We have implemented a host of new policies on the school board and initiated new programs to broaden the academic horizons of our students.
While on the Board of Education, Hydra has been an active leader in creating real change in the academic standing of the district. Some of these achievements include:
- The District boasts higher test scores in an independent measure of academic success for many of our children
- SFUSD has supported more small schools by design in an effort to reduce classroom size and provide a different school culture
- There is a new technology initiative afoot to refit our classes with whiteboards to provide students and teachers with greater interactive education tools that better gauge individual learning
- Our schools have implemented new environmental policies that include eco-literacy for our students, and updated conservation and recycling goals
- SFUSD is now able to better provide more complete student information to parents via the internet
But there is still much work that needs to be done. Hydra is committed to providing leadership to build upon these recent successes. She will focus her efforts on building even stronger parental ties to our schools, and supporting great teaching in the classroom.
Engaging Our Parents
Parental involvement is a key ingredient to a child’s academic success. While school administrators are charged with providing a quality education in our schools, parents have a role to play as well. The most effective education approach is an integrated one, where the student understands that he or she is accountable to a community of individuals including their parents. This shared partnership approach makes a tangible, lasting difference.
Our school district should reanalyze its approach to parent involvement in order to create a school climate that better emphasizes this approach. Teachers and principals should be actively taught more effective strategies for engaging parents.
In addition, SFUSD should adopt a no-fault policy with regard to a student’s low achievement. There should be an action plan implemented where school staff asks families about ways they encourage learning and what cultural traditions might improve a child’s outlook on education. The District should encourage interactive homework that engages both the student and the parents.
Finally, our schools need to be clear about their level of professional involvement. Parents need to understand what they can expect from the schools.
Equity and Access
SFUSD has embarked on an ambitious strategic plan entitled “Beyond the Talk.” This plan calls for an overhaul in our education process that more squarely focuses on making sure our students are ready for college and/or a career.
We have taken real measures to transition our education model to one where all students are required to take A-G classes. This will satisfy eligibility for CSU and UC will provide all of our students with greater opportunity and access to go on to a four year college or university.
The adoption of our Plan Ahead program will provide college ready curriculum in every high school beginning in ninth grade. It is a partnership with San Francisco State and San Francisco Promise that will provide a spot for every SFUSD student who is eligible to attend. Support for our San Francisco Promise students begins in 6th grade, and a new program, in collaboration with the City and City Treasurer and SFUSD, ‘Kindergarten to College’, will open college savings accounts for our incoming Kindergarteners to that they are preparing early and often.
Supporting Our Teachers
Teachers play a pivotal role in setting the direction in our classrooms. They inspire and challenge our kids. As importantly, they set the tone for learning. They influence how our students get motivated, and on what paths they eventually choose to explore.
Yet, the role of the urban school teacher is a difficult one. We ask so much of our instructors, and we often times fail to give them the necessary support.
In our schools today, teachers are charged with a variety of different duties including acting as educational instructors, counselors, friends to families, role models, and behavioral disciplinarians. With such expansive job duties, it is no wonder that teachers often times feel besieged by the demands of their positions.
Nevertheless, there are real academic demands placed on all teachers. Our teachers must lead the integrated partnership in which parents, principals and administrators share the burden of a student’s education.
We must help our teachers ease the burdens of their responsibilities to the extent we are able. Professional development and peer-to-peer training must be encouraged, as teachers can benefit from getting tips on how to more effectively do their jobs.
In addition to training teachers, we should place an emphasis on hiring those teachers who are prepared to be educational leaders in San Francisco’s urban school setting. Our rich cultural and ethnic diversity makes our schools different—and our new-hire teachers should be given the tools to fully maximize the learning opportunities presented by this diversity.
Fiscal Responsibility for SFUSD
Shamefully, California ranks 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. One fundamental problem our schools face is the shrinking amount of money they receive every year from the state. Schools, which are largely funded by the state property tax, must compete for fewer and fewer dollars as the state faces its own significant budgetary shortfall.
These are hard financial times, and projected budgetary numbers suggest that the next few years will be difficult too. It’s not enough just to understand the budget and know where money is needed and where it is going; we must also look carefully at the budget with a critical eye for efficiency and explore ways to generate money for the District. We must first safeguard the District’s budget and then channel more funds where they can do the most service to education: in the classroom.
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Hydra Mendoza currently serves as the Vice President of the San
Francisco Board of Education. She chairs SFUSD's Building's and
Grounds subcommittee. Hydra lives in the Bayview with her two