SF Board of Education Updates Resolution Enhancing Equitable Services for Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Students

SF Board of Education Updates Resolution Enhancing Equitable Services for Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Students

Press Release

San Francisco (September 24, 2020) - The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution that dedicates services and staff for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) students. Sāmoan students—with the highest academic disparities in the district of all Pacific Islander groups—will benefit from the creation of a PreK-14 pathway program that is rooted in Sāmoa Aganu’u indigenous values & practices. The NHPI resolution will also push the district to begin data collection for Pacific Islander groups that have not been counted in the district such as Tongans and Fijians. 

“This is a step in the right direction to begin dismantling the institutional and educational barriers that create invisibility and have denied quality education and resources to our students for decades,” Commissioner Fa’auuga Moliga-Puletasi stated.

Originally passed by the Board in 2018, the updated resolution was authored by Commissioner Moliga-Puletasi in support of NHPI, who are the third-fastest-growing demographic in the country, with more than 1.5 million NHPI from over 20 distinct cultural groups currently living in the United States. 

NHPI umbrella term includes a diverse population of indigenous Pacific Islander communities and cultural groups from the region of Oceania where most are independent nations while others remain colonies of larger first world countries. They include Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Aborigines, Belau, Bikini Island, Carolinas, Guam, Chuuk/Truk, Pohnpei, Enewetak Island, Saipan, Kiribati, Tinian Islands, Kosrae, Yapese, Kwajalein Island, Nauru, Northern Mariana, American Sāmoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Cook Islands, French Polynesia (Tahiti, Marquesas, Tuamotu, Leeward), Hawai`i, Niue, Sāmoa (Independent), Tonga, Tokelau.  

At SFUSD, 96% of NHPI students are from American Sāmoa and Independent Sāmoa and Hawai’i with roughly 23% of Sāmoan being multiracial with African American descent. In the 2018-19 academic year, SFUSD reported 436 Pacific Islander students (approximately 1%) for state or federal accountability purposes. In that same year, however, there were over 1,217 students (approximately 2%) whose families identified as Pacific Islander.  Respectively, 51% identified as Sāmoan, leaving a resource gap due to the unadjusted count of Sāmoan and Pacific Islander students. 

“The impacts of poverty have created an array of academic challenges for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” Commissioner Moliga said. “As a school district, it is our duty to work with the NHPI community to find solutions to address the academic disparities our kids face, and I am grateful to the Board and District leadership for their support of this resolution.”

The resolution calls on SFUSD to hire and assemble a team to establish a Fa’a Sāmoa Initiative by the end of Fall 2020. The Superintendent and district staff will work with the Fa’a Sāmoa Initiative to develop and implement a PreK-14 multiyear pathway affinity-based cohort of Sāmoan students and families over multiple years to close the achievement/workforce development gap, increase math and English scores by 3rd grade, and improve attendance by addressing truancy and absenteeism.

The Fa’a Sāmoa Initiative will launch an advisory committee of Sāmoan educators from community organizations, higher education institutions such as CCSF and SF State, parents, and students who will continuously provide feedback, expertise, and updates to the school district and the Board of Education by Spring 2021 on the initiative’s progress. 

In addition, all SFUSD material will be translated in Sāmoan language effective Fall 2020, and SFUSD will name a school in the Southeast Community after Sāmoan educator and community advocate, Fia Carlos-Valentino, by Fall 2021.

The Fa’a Sāmoa Initiative will be overseen by the Superintendent and the Board of Education Committee of the Whole, with guidance from the Sāmoan Advisory committee. An annual report detailing strategies and outcomes of these efforts will be available online by January of each year. In addition, a bi-annual report will be provided to the Board of Education on the metrics defined through the pathway planning

“This resolution and initiative will continue to expand the San Francisco county-wide effort to build a Critical Pacific Islands & Oceania Studies pathway from SFUSD to CCSF to SF State,” said Dr. David Ga’oupu Matthew Palaita, Ph.D. and Associate Professor at the City College of San Francisco. “This creates an amazing opportunity to work with cultural practitioners, educators, and elders in the community to be a part of a growing movement to preserve indigenous cultural frameworks and decolonize educational systems,” Palaita said.     

Read the full resolution here.

###