Statement from SF Board of Education President Mark Sanchez Regarding the School Names Advisory Committee and Reopening SF Public Schools to In-Person Instruction

Statement from SF Board of Education President Mark Sanchez Regarding the School Names Advisory Committee and Reopening SF Public Schools to In-Person Instruction

San Francisco (October 16, 2020) - “The San Francisco Unified School District is hard at work providing 54,000 students with distance learning and is committed to providing a phased-in hybrid model of instruction for our students. The District is preparing to offer in-person learning options and has shared a set of criteria on how and when we will do so for select student populations, beginning with our youngest learners in PreK and students who receive special education services for moderate to severe disabilities in our special day classes.

The Board of Education at this time is not using its time or energy on school names; the all-volunteer advisory committee is charged with doing the work and providing recommendations to the Board in 2021. In 2018, the Board of Education established a process for determining which school names would be recommended for potential change. As part of this process, a School Names Advisory Committee was created and has been meeting since December 2019. No decisions have been made regarding changing school names and the final decision rests with the elected members of the Board of Education. 

The committee has requested input from schools by the end of this semester. Schools are not required or mandated to participate in this process. The District appreciates that the advisory committee’s timing may be difficult for some schools, and has conveyed concerns to the committee regarding the challenges of making recommendations at this time given that we are engaged in distance learning due to the pandemic.

My colleagues and I are in full agreement that the biggest priority is ensuring the continued education of our students and the wellbeing of everyone in our community, including students, staff and their families. We also believe the timing for taking an anti-racist stance is as much now as ever, even in the midst of the pandemic. But I want to assure you that reopening schools is in no way being held up by the community process the school renaming panel is engaged in.

District teachers and staff continue to provide robust distance instruction while also taking comprehensive steps to safely and gradually welcome back our students. SFUSD is conducting school site assessments regarding ventilation and classroom capacities in light of physical distancing and other safety measures; negotiating with our various labor partners related to returning to in-person instruction; and seeking providers who can conduct regular COVID surveillance testing, among many other things. In an effort to make our preparations more visible to our community, Superintendent Vince Matthews will be sharing a dashboard to monitor progress on key indicators at the Board of Education meeting on October 20.”

About the School Names Advisory Committee

The SF Board of Education passed a resolution to establish a blue ribbon panel to review San Francisco public school names in the spring of 2018.  Panel members applied to serve on the panel and the Board of Education ratified the members. This advisory panel is responsible for considering the relevance of school names and appropriateness of these names when they honor historical figures. Per the resolution, the task force will make recommendations to the Board of Education for further action. Any final decision to change school names rests with the elected members of the Board of Education. 

The panel has gone through a process to set standards for why the name of a school would be changed, to research to the best of their ability the backgrounds of the individuals or places that are namesakes for a school, and analyzed those under the panel’s established guiding principles. From this process, the panel generated 42 schools covering 44 campuses that it intends to recommend to the Board. As part of its recommendation, the panel intends to include at least one alternate name for each school for the Board to consider.

The panel has sent an invitation to principals inviting them to engage the school communities in suggesting new names they would like the committee to recommend to the Board of Education.  This process is entirely optional. If a school declines to participate, it doesn’t mean they will be excluded from the committee’s recommendations. It is at the principal’s discretion how or if to engage their community at this time. 

The panel requested that schools share alternate names, if they choose to do so, by December 18, the last day of the semester. The panel plans to reconvene January 6 to meet and consider the feedback from the school sites and formulate their recommendations to the Board, which they currently plan to deliver in January or February.

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