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SF Unified Attempts Return to Normalcy Despite Payroll Mess, Ann Hsu Controversy

Written by Ida MojadadPublished Aug. 08, 2022 • 6:30pm
Students are arriving to Mission High School in San Francisco, on Thursday May 26, 2022. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard

At the first school board meeting of the new year on Tuesday, San Francisco Unified School District will attempt to continue a post-recall “reset” besieged by struggles to staff up in time and a commissioner’s recent statements widely condemned as racist.

Superintendent Matt Wayne, who began in July, will outline his 117-day plan to listen to stakeholder input and eventually report back on his findings.

At the same meeting, the relatively green board will discuss a draft vision to prioritize improving student outcomes—a blueprint created last month but not expanded upon in much detail since then.

Wayne said he has or will meet with students, staff, parent groups, City Hall officials and philanthropists to understand the needs of each school and what’s common across the district. He also said he’ll hold town halls and webinars to talk about curriculum, finances, relationships, culture and more, per a presentation for his first regular meeting as superintendent. 

Wayne has already said he wants a strong start to the school year by improving governance with the Board of Education and making immediate improvements to payroll—which is still wreaking havoc on teachers, who plan to make demands at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The board will also discuss its draft goals around third-grade literacy, eighth-grade math and college and career readiness. Some of those goals include ensuring that major decisions are preceded by consultation with stakeholders, addressing needs of students dealing with interrupted learning, consistently implementing of district-wide initiatives and an equitably allocating resources. 

With a new superintendent and three board members appointed by Mayor London Breed to replace recalled commissioners, SFUSD leaders have tried to signal a new chapter by re-evaluating district priorities.

But that came to a screeching halt last month when mayoral-appointed Commissioner Ann Hsu, a Chinese immigrant, made comments roundly slammed as racist, attributing racial disparities to “unstable family environments” of Black and brown students. 

Hsu apologized, faced calls to resign and was unanimously admonished by the board in an unruly and tense meeting last week.

Hsu’s comments, written and submitted for a candidate questionnaire, come a year and a half after recall proponents surfaced 2016 tweets of former Commissioner Alison Collins, who is Black, insulting many Asian Americans. After she was criticized for not meaningfully apologizing amid widespread calls to resign, the school board gave a vote of no confidence in March 2021 and stripped her of her title and committee assignments. 

Collins was recalled in February 2022 with two other commissioners. 

If public comment following Collins’ rebuffing of calls to resign are any indication, frustration over Hsu remaining on the board will make itself known at its meetings for weeks and months to follow. 

If she wins election in November—while up against very few challengers uncharacteristic of past school board elections—that frustration will continue to fester and overshadow the newfound focus on student outcomes.

In the meantime, staff will also present on Tuesday the latest information on the ever-moving state budget numbers and the board will vote to transition to recognizing Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha throughout the district to ease burdens Muslim families have sought for years. 

The meeting will be held at 555 Franklin St., open to the public starting at 6:30 p.m. Virtual participation is offered through Zoom and SFGovTV but not guaranteed. 

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