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Ouster or business as usual? SF school board to vote for new president

SFUSD Board of Education President Jenny Lam listens during a board meeting on Aug. 9, 2022. | Noah Berger for The Standard

Each January, San Francisco's school board takes a vote for president and vice president. It usually garners little attention or board discussion.

This time, however, one parent group is hitting the panic button—framing Tuesday’s vote as an ouster. One school board member said she was baffled that the vote is an issue at all.

The San Francisco Parent Coalition, a group launched during the pandemic to advocate for reopening schools, alleges that the current board president, Jenny Lam, is being pushed out. Lam, an SFUSD parent and previous mayoral adviser, ascended from vice president after then-president Gabriela López and commissioners Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were removed during February’s high-profile recall election.

“Our hope is that just because there’s a board component change does not mean there is a change in the tenor,” said Meredith Dodson, executive director of the coalition. “It’s concerning that that would be shaken right now at a time where I don’t think it can handle.” 

The Board of Education takes a leadership vote each January. Typically, the vice president becomes president, and a new vice president is approved, cycling through board members.

The board does not always adhere to that process. It kept now-recalled Commissioner Gabriela López as president for a second term to maintain stability during the pandemic and elected Lam as vice president in 2022.  

Lam led the board, including three mayoral appointees, on a series of governance training sessions that set the stage for restructuring and new goals around student outcomes. She did not return a request for comment in time for publication. 

Vice President Kevine Boggess, who would rise to president under that typical practice, downplayed the need for the vote and the notion that he is vying for the role for political reasons. 

“That’s the way things have been done before, but it’s not a written rule or something that’s consistently happened,” Boggess said. “I do think it is helpful for us to share the leadership position.”

Boggess, who declined to share any potential decision he would make, also praised Lam’s leadership. 

“Jenny has done a great job of leading us through this difficult and unprecedented time,” Boggess said. “She has really set us on a course to be successful as a board and as a district.” 

Newly elected Alida Fisher, who beat out post-recall appointee Ann Hsu, said she was baffled that this was an issue. She also declined to share a public position and praised Lam’s leadership.

“We have all agreed—commissioners and the majority of our community stakeholders—we've all agreed we need to be focused on student outcomes,” Fisher told The Standard. “I don’t know why we're letting this detract from student outcomes. I'm honored to be serving on a board with great diversity of strong leaders and look forward to working with whomever it is.”

After the leadership vote on Tuesday, the board will hold a workshop on student outcomes. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at 555 Franklin St.