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Q&A: SF’s new school board president talks post-recall reality

School board member Kevine Boggess poses for a portrait at the SFUSD District headquarters of San Francisco, Calif. on June 28, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

San Francisco’s school board looks remarkably different than it did a year ago.

In 2022 alone, three Board of Education members were recalled and replaced by Mayor London Breed, a payroll disaster kept picking up steam as staff shortages permeated schools, the state oversaw another careful budget approval process with layoffs on—then largely off—the table, Lowell High School's selective admissions were restored, and a new superintendent stepped in. Voters also replaced one of the appointed board members, Ann Hsu, after controversy over racist statements made in a candidate questionnaire. 

The board sought to restructure itself to ensure good governance and a focus on providing for students by taking a step back with ideas and moving into oversight of San Francisco Unified School District staff.  

Last week, the board held its regularly scheduled leadership vote and, to some atypical rancor, elevated Vice President Kevine Boggess to president while electing Lisa Weissman-Ward as vice president. The Standard spoke with Boggess to talk about the landscape ahead. 

What had you go for the presidency this month? What did you make of the political pushback compared to other leadership votes? 

We had a new process this time where we split the vote for the president to happen in two votes so there would be more opportunity for public info and dialogue on what was happening and why. People used it as a moment to express their fears and concerns and desires for who they wanted to have in board leadership. 

Some of it is a reflection of our post-recall reality. For a certain segment of the city, they view our board as existing as progressives and moderates versus people who are committed to kids. This is our first role. 

What path is SFUSD on after the past year? 

Some of our lingering crises and problems we haven’t been able to resolve affect our staff and families at school sites. Since President Lam took over and started on a different trajectory for our board, we’ve been locked into that. We’re still pursuing a path where the board has an aggressive and assertive role in holding the superintendent accountable. 

What are the board’s priorities going into this next calendar year? What’s the timeline to meet new goals?

We’re essentially in a place right now where the superintendent is drafting and finalizing his interim goals to go with the goals that the board came up with. The superintendent is going to be working on essentially developing the plan to implement those goals. We’re going to be having monitoring meetings to check the progress and status of those.

What’s next for budget planning and ensuring the district no longer relies on outside consultants to make payroll function better than it is now? 

The Empower situation is urgent. There are internal processes that are currently happening to get our central office administration payroll in order. They’re going about that and taking the steps to get us there. I’m unsure of the timetable for that.

The high school task force is meeting to evaluate the district’s offerings and make recommendations, including admissions. There’s interest in that and, as always, what comes of Lowell High School. What are you looking toward as that process unfolds and the board has to make another decision related to Lowell's admissions?

I’m excited to talk about all of our high schools and how we can make all of them better. I went to Thurgood Marshall [Academic High School] when it was the new school in the Bayview. It was supposed to be the Lowell of that side of the city. It didn’t live up to that expectation. For me, it’s about how do we raise perception as well as what’s available so students are getting the best education regardless of the school? 

Do you think there's still a contingent of people who won't accept if there's a recommendation that ends Lowell’s selective admissions process? 

There’s always a contingent of people not willing to accept things. I still get people now who threaten to recall me, which people have been doing since before I was sworn in [in January 2021].

There’s a political climate that’s divisive, to a certain extent. People see political offices as trophies of their victories. For us, we’re just focused on the kids. We will make sure everyone who is upset or frustrated has an opportunity to voice that.

This has been edited for clarity and length.