From the Desk of the Superintendent

Letters From the Desk of the Superintendent

Read SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews' biweekly column from local newspapers, published in English, Spanish and Cantonese.

December 2021

12/3/21 - Celebrating Inclusive Schools Week

Inclusive Schools Week champions the progress that schools are making in providing a safe and supportive learning environment for an increasingly diverse student population.

November 2021

11/17/21 - Learn More About SFUSD's Budget Plan

While SFUSD has attempted to soften the impact on schools, including making reductions to central support services in the last few years and exploring additional funding sources, current projections show estimated deficits of at least $125M for the district’s next fiscal year, 2022-23.

11/12/21 - COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available for 5 to 11-Year-Olds

Earlier this month, I visited Malcolm X Academy School with our Board President and a UC San Francisco pediatrician where fourth and fifth grade students showed us adults just how curious and engaging they can be. As the newest group to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the students wanted to learn more about why they should get vaccinated.

October 2021

10/28/21 - What the Governor’s New Bills Mean for SFUSD

I’m encouraged by the recent suite of bills that Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law –– it will increase student support, bolster broadband access to help bridge the digital divide, and expand educational opportunities to help boost academic achievement and attainment. Each of these pieces of legislation will complement and amplify the work already being done in SFUSD.

10/15/21 - Celebrating Filipino American History Month

In SFUSD, we are committed to uplifting the cultural brilliance and historic contributions of the Filipino community in our City and within our schools. It is absolutely necessary in order to provide each and every student in our care with a humanizing learning experience. 

10/1/21 - Stanford study affirms long-term benefits of Ethnic Studies

A new Stanford University study, which was done in collaboration with SFUSD as part of a research-practice partnership with the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), shows that academically lower-performing students who participate in a ninth grade Ethnic Studies course are more likely to attend and be engaged in school, have a higher probability of graduating from high school, and are more likely to attend college.

September 2021

9/17/21 - Latinx Heritage Month

This month, we’re joining the nation in celebrating Latinx Heritage Month to highlight the diversity, brilliance and beauty of the Latinx community. 

9/3/21 - Keeping our air clean

San Francisco public schools occupy some of the most beautiful buildings in the City. If you’ve been to one, you may have seen baroque domes, tiled entryways and courtyards. Part of running our school system involves regular modernization and maintenance on these beautiful community assets, which includes more than 130 buildings. 

August 2021

8/20/21 - Building relationships and community this year

This is a moment to celebrate, and we also know that students are coming into this school year with a lot of unknowns. Every single child entering our schools is arriving ready to be welcomed. Every family is sending their child, trusting us to love them, to teach them and to prepare them for their future. What an immense and humbling honor we have in fulfilling their expectations. That’s why we are emphasizing building community.

June 2021

6/8/21 - Tips for summer learning

Just because school is out for summer, it doesn’t mean that learning stops. In fact, there are many ways you can encourage your child to continue their learning all summer long, both through Summer Together activities and from home.

6/1/21 - Celebrating the Class of 2021

For our nearly 4,000 graduating high school seniors, the San Francisco Unified School District in partnership with the City and County of San Francisco will be offering in-person graduation ceremonies to commemorate the huge milestone of earning a high school diploma.

May 2021

5/24/21 - SFUSD offers mental health support in May and year-round

Across the country, Mental Health Awareness Month is recognized in May. For students within the San Francisco Unified School District, mental health and wellness is a priority year-round. And, as we emerge from the pandemic isolation and students return to school buildings, we are working with The City and community partners to provide even more access to school-based mental health support.

5/17/21 - SFUSD salutes classified workers

This week I want to celebrate more people who are essential to making our schools work for kids –– school secretaries, custodians, security guards, cafeteria workers and teaching assistants, to name just a few.

5/10/21 - May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

This month in May, we recognize APA Heritage Month to honor and uplift the many important contributions of Asian Pacific Americans who are essential to San Francisco’s history, present and future.

5/3/21 - SFUSD celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week

Teachers are masterful at both teaching and learning, constantly growing and evolving as professionals. They handle challenges with grace and joy, committed to having a positive impact on their students’ lives.

April 2021

4/26/21 - SFUSD Pride observances include virtual events this year

The San Francisco Unified School District is proud to honor the members of our LGBTQ community in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month in April. This work takes place all throughout the year and has been the mission of SFUSD’s LGBTQ Student Services (part of the Student Family Services Division) for over 30 years since 1991, aiming to support educators with tools and resources to support LGBTQ students and families.

4/19/21 - April is School Library Month

Did you know we have more school librarians in our San Francisco public schools than nearly any other school district? Thanks to the support of San Francisco voters, funds from the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) allow us to have teacher librarians at all SFUSD elementary, K-8, middle and high schools in our district.

4/5/21 - New beginnings for SFUSD students

We’re excited to welcome back thousands of students next week. And, if you’re one of those who is staying in distance learning for now, your classes are still one community and we believe all students are equally important members of that community.

March 2021

3/22/21 - Women’s History Month in spotlight in SFUSD programming

Today I want to share some of the ways San Francisco public schools celebrate and uplift women, and gender diversity, during Women’s History Month and all throughout the year.

3/15/21 - Social workers make important contributions to schools

School social workers are trained mental health professionals who focus on coordinating the efforts of schools, families and communities toward helping students improve their academic achievement and social, emotional and behavioral competence by using the unique perspective of viewing the person in their environment.

3/8/21 - SFUSD celebrates National School Breakfast Week

Students do better in school when they have access to healthy meals, and at the San Francisco Unified School District we are committed to providing this essential nutrition to all students who need it.

3/1/21 - Science studies in focus for SFUSD youngsters

Today, I’m going to share with you how our San Francisco Unified School District science teachers are creating interactive experiences for students learning remotely. They are using multimedia, simulations, recorded demos of lab experiments, and guest speakers to bring science learning into students’ homes.

February 2021

2/22/21 - Getting elementary students back in classrooms

There is a lot to consider as we plan for when our students return to school buildings. Today I want to talk to you about an important topic we’ve been discussing a lot –– the instructional schedule for our elementary school students. Simply put, we’re trying to determine the number of days and hours our elementary school students in a general education program can receive in-person instruction once schools resume in person.

2/16/21 - Excellence celebrated during Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, San Francisco public schools host a multitude of lessons, events, performances and more to celebrate black excellence.

2/8/21 - SFUSD counselors assist students in many ways

School counselors work with students in the areas of academic, social and emotional, and college and career planning.

2/1/21 - Supporting success and achievement of all African American students

At SFUSD we are committed to improving the experience and outcomes for our African American students – a group our district has historically failed to serve well. This commitment extends across all schools and all district staff. In addition, we have a specific group that helps to support this priority – our African-American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI).

January 2021

1/25/21 - SFUSD recognizes great contributions of mentors

It’s National Mentoring Month and a chance to share my gratitude that here in San Francisco several great community organizations recruit, train and support mentors who support our city’s youth. We even have a mentoring program run by San Francisco Unified School District that’s comprised mostly, though not exclusively, of SFUSD employees who commit to mentoring a student. Here are just a few stories about the mentors serving 400 SFUSD students.

1/18/21 - SFUSD continues planning for return to classrooms

In light of new information, we are reassessing our previous return to in-person learning plans. It continues to be our goal to find a way back to in-person soon and we are working with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to understand current data and information around testing and vaccine distribution.

1/11/21 - Deadline to apply for SF public schools rapidly approaching

Applications for the 2021-22 school year are due Friday, Feb. 5. You can submit an application for your child asfusd.edu/onlineapp, and learn all about the process at sfusd.edu/apply.

1/4/21 - New coordinated care teams help SFUSD better serve students

The San Francisco Unified School District has long been a leader in implementing systems to support the emotional and physical well-being of students. It is a priority in our district to connect with all students, and to go the extra mile to reach the most vulnerable youth and families to understand what support they need and connect them with resources whenever possible.

December 2020

12/14/20 - Systematic approach to reopening classrooms is well underway

Returning to our school campuses involves modifying learning plans and bell schedules, developing and deploying appropriate protocols and training for employees, providing sufficient cleaning and supplies for all sites, and instituting prevention measures and changes to facilities among so many other things.

12/7/20 - Donations will help SFUSD bring students back to classrooms safely

Schools were already facing severe funding challenges and struggling to balance budgets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those same funding challenges remain, and they are only becoming more severe. The pandemic has brought about millions in new unanticipated costs for SFUSD.

November 2020

11/16/20 - Updates to planning for in-person learning

From hanging signs and checking the ventilation in classrooms, to ensuring there are health and safety protocols, to developing a registration process so families can indicate whether they want to send their child to in-person classes or remain in distance learning, the San Francisco Unified School District is working all day every day to take the next steps to carefully and safely welcome students and staff back to our sites.

11/9/20 - Making the most of parent-teacher conferences

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Parents are also a child’s most influential teacher. And during this time of distance learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents are more pivotal in their child’s education than ever.

11/2/20 - Education-related measures on November ballot

We have finally arrived at the eve of Election Day, an event that, as everyone knows, will have profoundly important consequences for our nation, state and community.

October 2020

10/26/20 - Celebrating Filipino American History Month

Every October is another opportunity to celebrate Filipino American history together as a community. In SFUSD, schools have offered lessons and other activities to honor Filipino history and culture.

10/19/20 - Update on elementary school assignment process

We’re nearing the end of a robust multi-year process of redesigning how elementary school students are assigned to schools, and the Board of Education plans to vote on a new policy on Dec. 8, 2020.

10/12/20 - Updates on plans for in-person learning at SFUSD

In the past few weeks, the state and The City cleared a path for San Francisco Unified School District schools to return to in-person learning for the first time since San Francisco went into shelter-in-place.

10/5/20 - Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

This month, we’re joining the nation in celebrating Latinx Heritage Month to highlight the diversity, brilliance and beauty of the Latinx community.

September 2020

9/28/20 - How we're planning for in-person learning

Our district team is working diligently to deliver remote instruction while also putting everything in place to offer an in-person learning option to students most in need.

9/21/20 - Learn about upcoming education-related ballot measures

This Election Day, San Franciscans will vote on several education-related measures: Proposition J, which addresses a legal loophole to continue providing funds to SFUSD and Proposition 15, which would increase revenue for public education and other services.

9/14/20 - Schools partner with families at back-to-school events

Even though we’ve begun this school year from a distance, schools are still upholding their new year traditions. For instance, in the first few weeks of the school year, every school has a Back to School event for families. 

9/7/20 - Tips for using ParentVUE

More than ever these days, SFUSD families are turning to online platforms to get information from their children’s teachers, schools, and the district. 

August 2020

8/31/20 - There are bright spots in distance learning

I want to share with you some of the ways that SFUSD staff have already been showing their creativity and providing new opportunities for more meaningful distance learning.

8/24/20 - Technology tips for families

As all of our schools engage in distance learning this fall to protect against the spread of COVID-19, you and your child may be encountering new technology and programs. And you may have questions. But rest assured -- at SFUSD, we’re here to help!

8/17/20 - Supporting families with distance learning

The beginning of a new school year is a time to celebrate, and even though we’re beginning this year from a distance to protect the health and safety of our communities, I hope we can all find moments of joy, grace, and compassion to share in this new school year together.

8/10/20 - Tips for supporting your child's home learning

Rest assured, we are doing everything we can in the district to prepare for a return to school buildings when science and data suggest it is safe to do so. And in the meantime, great educators are planning robust learning for students to engage in this fall from a safe distance.

June 2020

6/29/20 - Summer learning can be fun

It’s been almost a month since the 2019-20 school year ended, and what an unusual year it’s been. Though the year has brought enormous challenges and hardship to our entire community, including our students, staff and families, I want to offer a few celebrations as we wrap up the year and suggest some things for your summer learning list.

6/22/20- School is going to look different this fall

We know that in addition to public health, there are many factors to consider when reopening school buildings for in-person instruction. Based on public health guidance, schools will likely need to operate differently in terms of class configurations, passing periods, recess, lunch, and more.

6/15/20 - SFUSD's budget challenges and how you can help

Schools were facing severe funding challenges and struggling to balance budgets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those same funding challenges remain, and they are only becoming more severe. The pandemic has brought about millions of new unanticipated costs for SFUSD. As this crisis has unfolded, it has been abundantly clear that schools are — and always will be — the centers of communities and the beacons of hope for many students and families. It’s time to fund and support them. You can help. 

6/8/20 - Celebrating the accomplishments of students in a difficult year

When we started the year last fall, none of us could have imagined that this is how we are beginning our summer.Getting to this day has been hard and taken an incredible amount of effort. Parents have had to care for children at all hours of the day while also tending to many other responsibilities. Teachers have to learn how to educate from a distance, recreating years of carefully developed lesson plans within a matter of weeks. Students have to be in charge of their learning in a whole new way.

6/1/20 - Honoring the Class of 2020

Graduation is a special time for students to celebrate the years of hard work that it takes to grow and advance to the next stage in life. And, it's not just special for graduates, families and friends get to witness the accomplishment of loved ones. Here are some other ways we’re making graduation season during COVID-19 as special as possible. 

May 2020

5/17/20 - Classified employees are at the forefront of SFUSD’s pandemic response

This week I want to celebrate more people who are essential to making our schools work for kids, like school secretaries, custodians, security guards, cafeteria workers, and teaching assistants, to name just a few.

5/10/20 - Supporting English language learners during distance learning

As an educational institution, we are deeply invested in maintaining a comprehensive system of support for English language learners. Our district offers 50 language programs that reach 9,400 students, including students who are just learning to speak English. During this time of temporary school closures, our mission is no different.

5/1/20 - Celebrating San Francisco educators during Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is National Teacher Appreciation week, and I invite you to join me in celebrating the teachers we have in San Francisco public schools –– not only this week –– but all year long. 

April 2020

4/27/20 - SFUSD offers new resources to families to get access to information and support

The SFUSD Family Resource Link allows families to contact content experts via email, an online request form, and phone with questions they have related to distance learning and other topics related to this unprecedented time when school buildings are closed but instruction is still continuing in some form. Our goal is to connect families with information and support that they need.

4/17/20 - Keeping students connected with music, mindfulness and magic

This week, I’m thrilled to share that we have another way our teachers are reaching our youngest students, who have disproportionately less access to technology than older students. We are partnering with KTVU to provide an hour long television episode for preschool through 2nd grade students called “SF Loves Learning” Monday through Friday at 2 pm on KTVU Plus!

4/12/20 - Learning while at home

Even though school buildings are closed, the school year continues. As a district we are implementing a phased-in distance learning plan and today, we begin our third phase.

March 2020

3/2/20 - Celebrating National School Breakfast Week

As part of National School Breakfast Week, we’re celebrating the impact breakfast has on our students and highlighting our goals to increase access across the district.

February 2020

2/23/20 - Participating in the 2020 Census with SF public schools

2020 is the year of the Census, and San Francisco public schools are making sure that everyone in SF counts! Every 10 years, the federal government is required by law to count every person that lives in the United States. This process is known as the Census, and our public schools receive federal funding based on how many people are in San Francisco. Here are a few things you should know about how it works:

2/16/20 - Kicking off the budgeting process with the School Planning Summit

Each year we submit a budget to the State and that budget is created with community input. One way that input is gathered is through School Site Councils. While they meet year round, the budgeting process is formally launched next week when school site leaders and community stakeholders meet for the School Planning Summit to work together as a team to create a strategic plan for their school.

2/9/20 - Budgeting to ensure students are prepared for college and careers

With tax time just around the corner, you might be thinking even more than usual about your finances. At the San Francisco Unified School District, finances are also a major topic on our minds.

2/3/20 - Celebrating Black History Month with SF public schools

Throughout the month of February, San Francisco public schools will host a multitude of lessons, events, performances and more to celebrate black excellence.

January 2020

1/26/20 - SFUSD made big gains for black students in 2019

In 2015 we formed the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI), which just released its 2019 Annual Report, showing the progress and the improvement areas that have emerged over the past several years. Allow me to share some of the bright spots.

1/19/20 - Helping to mentor an SF public school student

It’s National Mentoring Month and a chance to share my gratitude that here in San Francisco several great community organizations recruit, train and support mentors who support our City’s youth.

1/12/20 - Deadline to apply for SF public schools rapidly approaching

Here in San Francisco, we have a choice-based enrollment system, which means families have the opportunity to choose which public schools they would like their children to attend. This is different than how it worked back when a lot of us were kids, so I get questions about it. Here are some of them.

1/6/20 - Our vision is clear in the new year

Every new year brings a chance to reflect, consider where we’ve been and where we want to go. Fortunately, at SFUSD we’re clear about where we’re headed: we’re redefining school for the 21st century for each and every child.

December 2019

12/16/19 - SFUSD's grad rate increases to 89%

​As a school district we use many measures for how well we educate students. Looking at data is important not just to gauge the effectiveness of our programs, curriculum, and strategies for student achievement but also to ensure we’re putting our limited resources to the best possible use. Graduation rates are one of those important data points, and the California Department of Education just released the 2019 graduation rates for school districts across the state.

12/9/19 - Students learning to use technology for good

At SFUSD, we recognize the importance of computer science education even if students don’t plan to pursue computer science as a career path. This week, thousands of SFUSD students are celebrating Computer Science Education Week.

12/2/19 - SF schools chart the course for inclusion

This week, we’re taking time to celebrate something that’s at the core of what public schools are about. We have inclusive schools, which means we include everyone — and I mean everyone — in our classrooms and our schoolyards.

November 2019

11/22/19 - Giving Thanks

I strongly believe in the importance of ensuring each and every child has access to an awesome public education.  If you’re reading this, we likely share this belief. Today I want to express that I am thankful for you and for our community for supporting our public schools.  

11/18/19 - Making the most of parent-teacher conferences

You’ve probably heard it before but I want to say it again: Parents are a child’s first teacher. I’d like to add that parents are a child’s most influential teacher. That’s why when teachers and parents team up to support and educate a child, amazing learning can happen.

11/11/19 - SFUSD champions efforts to protect, support transgender students

On the first day of November, San Francisco officials raised a special flag at City Hall: the Transgender Flag, in honor of Trans Awareness Month. It’s no secret that San Francisco is a leader in celebrating diversity, and our schools have also been nationwide leaders in affirming the rights of transgender and nonbinary students.

11/4/19 - SFUSD rethinks school assignment system

As an educator and parent, I know that where you send your child to school is an important decision. There are many different factors parents consider when selecting their child’s school, from location to program offerings, but generally speaking we parents want our children to be safe and supported and to receive a well-rounded top-notch education.

October 2019

10/28/19 - ​SFUSD celebrates Filipino American History Month

​Kamusta! That’s “hello” in Tagalog, one of the six languages most frequently spoken by our SFUSD students and families. If you’re in our schools, you may have heard this and other Tagalog words even more throughout the month of October as many of our schools have joined in celebrating Filipino American History Month. Read more.

10/21/19 - ​Celebrating a brand new state-of-the-art school kitchen

​The other day I enjoyed a truly delicious lunch with food from many different cultures. There were multiple entrees to choose from: Oven-fried rice with egg rolls, crunchy tacos, caprese salads, and fresh turkey sandwiches. Sides included organic tomato soup, carrots, melon, and a variety of whole fruits. Read more.

10/14/19 - ​Preparing students for the digital world

​We all know that being safe and successful in the digital world is now essential knowledge. That’s why this week schools across the City will be teaching lessons related to digital citizenship. Read more.

10/7/19 - ​A new approach to testing

​In SFUSD we realize the importance of using multiple methods to assist us in understanding what a student knows and can do. I want to share one of those methods with you, formative and summative assessments. Read more.

September 2019

9/30/19 - SFUSD celebrates Latinx Heritage Month

Our schools strive to be places where every student can see themselves and be themselves, where learning reflects both the familiar and unknown. Read more.

9/23/19 - SFUSD alumni leading the Bay Area

The year 1979 was important for San Francisco. I graduated from high school. Voters elected the City’s first female mayor. And, San Francisco Peer Resources was created to train students as first responders, advocates and allies for each other. Read more.

9/16/19 - Salesforce, SFUSD partnership proves it takes a village

There’s a well-known African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Here in San Francisco, we’re fortunate that this is not just a saying, but a reality. One such example is our ongoing partnership with Salesforce. Read more.

9/9/19 - Family partnerships are essential to ensuring student success

We know that a child's family is their first and most influential teacher. Just imagine what a difference it can make for a child when everyone is working together to make sure they have what they need to learn and grow. Read more.

August 2019

8/26/19 - Stemming SFUSD’s teacher shortage

I wholeheartedly loved working as a teacher at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Hunters Point. Spending my days with curious young people and helping them learn about themselves and the world is a joy like no other. Read more.

8/20/19 - SFUSD begins school year with new changes

We’re back. Did you miss the sound of children playing on the school yard or the vision of youth exploring the Presidio’s history? I did! Read more.

8/15/19 - Goodbye summer, hello school year

I have a very important announcement that will bring parents and children great joy: Our schools open next week! Read more.