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Data dive: Diversity on the San Francisco school board over 30 years

School board members Faauuga Moliga, Gabriela Lopez, and Alison Collins. | Illustration by Doni Conner

By recalling Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga during the February 15 special election, San Franciscans removed three members of color from the city’s Board of Education. (López is Latina, Collins is Black and Moliga is Pacific Islander).

Mayor London Breed will soon appoint new board members to finish the current 2021-2022 term, and the ethnic and racial makeup of her picks will be closely watched. In that context, it’s helpful to understand what the board has looked like over time. The Standard identified all the school board members of the past thirty years to understand better the ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation of SFUSD board members.

Adding up the board seats over the past three decades, white and Asian Americans have held more than half of the total board seats. Black and Hispanic board members have accounted for another third of the total.

The city has elected openly gay and lesbian board members to approximately one-tenth of board seats.

By many measures, the board makeup appears reasonably diverse given there has been representation for many ethnic and racial identities found in the city.  

However, long tenures for the seven seats and the effect of small numbers can create a misleading picture. Native American, Pinay, and Pacific Islanders, for example, appear well-represented, but there are only three people involved: Hydra Mendoza, who served on the school board as a Filipina board member from 2007 to 2017; Juanita Owens, who served two terms as a Native American member over twenty years ago, and the recalled Faauuga Moliga, the first and only Pacific Islander to serve on the school board—or any elected office in the city.

A look at students' racial and ethnic background in San Francisco’s 113 public schools reveals that Black and white board representation for the past decade was greater than the presence of these groups in the student body. Hispanic and Asian American students have been underrepresented, which is why Moliga’s appointment was initially so well-received.

Breed said Wednesday at a press conference following the recall that she didn’t regret appointing Moliga, a San Francisco native and a social worker.

“Faauuga had a lot of skills in working with communities that are on the southeast sector of the city,” Breed said. “He was running already and had a lot of support and especially had a lot of support from the communities that were struggling in our school district.”

Recall organizer Siva Raj said Breed previously told him that she wants to retain diversity on the board. Breed said Wednesday she is looking for someone focused on the students, particularly around learning loss and turning the district around. Outreach to find and vet candidates will go on as the vacancies are finalized.

“I think about those kids who don’t have advocates,” Breed said. “This is probably one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make as it relates to appointments because of the significance of what this means and what the people of San Francisco expect of who I will appoint.”

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