April 2020 Issue-News

News

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Scroll down for articles on this page covering these topics:

  • Students’ right to protest upheld by amended SFUSD policy

  • SFUSD budget cuts and layoffs create serious concern for staff

  • COVID-19 rattes SFUSD as cases continue to surge

  • Allison Collins visits “Lincoln Log” staff


News Briefs:

Our cadets received some good news about the November parade.  Our Drum Corps earned 1st place; the Exhibition Drill Team won 2nd place, and the Color Guard won 3rd place in the parade!

 

STUDENTS’ RIGHT TO PROTEST UPHELD BY AMENDED SFUSD POLICY

By: Ella Fino

student protest

September 20, 2019- San Francisco students participate in SF Climate Strike to call on federal leaders and demand action. Photo by Ella Fino

 


Climate change, gender inequality, gun control, you name it -- San Francisco Unified School District students have walked out of their schools, peacefully protested, and rallied across the city to convey their beliefs to the world. 

 

In the past, SFUSD did not excuse students’ absences when they have missed school to attend walk-outs, protests, and rallies.

 

Senior and student activist Michaela Mesler recalls, “I’ve walked out for a few protests including March For Our Lives and the Climate Crisis walkout…”

 

“I was upset that schools would mark students absent, including myself, for doing something important that exercises the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to the real world…”

 

On February 11, 2020, the SFUSD Board of Education held a meeting to discuss a variety of policies, including Board Policy 5145.2. With the re-written policy in effect, students will now be able to get excused absences if given parental permission to participate in a protest, rally, walk-out, or other civic engagement. Board Policy 5145.2, which went into effect on February 11, validates students’ first amendment rights; specifically their freedom of assembly. 

 

In an email interview with Alison Collins, Board of Education Commissioner at San Francisco Unified School District, she says that the policy is not new, but that it is redrafted. 

   

It’s the same policy, it’s just been amended to allow students to receive an excused absence for participation in protests if they have parent permission,” says Collins. 

    Collins expresses her reasoning behind voting for the amendment of Board Policy 5145.2, “I just think it’s the right thing to do...my kids...expressed frustration with the prior policy…”

   

Along with Collins, SFUSD’s Board of Ed. agreed to pass the amended policy proposal in order to ensure a democratic education for all students in the district.

   

According to SFUSD’s website, the district is in full support of students’ constitutional right to “peacefully protest.” The SFUSD Board of Education unanimously voted on the amendment to Board Policy 5145.2.

 

SFUSD Commissioner Jenny Lam speaks on the issue at the board meeting, “freedom of speech and expression...came out of a light of the importance of...the Board of Ed. hearing from young people and our students how critical it was to feel that they had a board policy.”

 

The district stands behind students’ first amendment rights, but they are still adamant about making students’ safety their top priority. This is where parental/legal guardian permission comes into play. The redrafted freedom of speech policy affects all SFUSD students. The rise in student activism and the surge of awareness among the youth has influenced the redraft of the freedom of speech policy. 

 

Mesler believes the redrafted policy “will be great for students to exercise their first amendment rights. Without the negative incentive of an absence, even more students will be able to show up and protest for what they believe in.”

 

Moving forward, SFUSD will uphold their belief that a democratic education, consisting of “free inquiry and exchange of ideas,” is a right for all students within the district.


 

SFUSD BUDGET CUTS AND LAYOFFS CREATE SERIOUS CONCERN FOR STAFF

By: Michaela Mesler

Hundreds of teachers protest outside City Hall and the District Office to demonstrate their frustration with SFUSD’s budget cuts and layoffs. Photo by Michaela Mesler

 

On February 19, 2020, Superintendent of SFUSD, Dr. Vincent Matthews, sent an email to distract staff that the school district is currently “facing the reality of employee layoffs” due to a depletion in reserves and unexpected expenses.  

 

After years of relying on reserves, the public school system has finally reached its limit and “faces an up to $31.8 million shortfall for the current school year” according to district spokesperson Laura Dudnik. The district's deficit is ongoing, meaning the severity of these layoffs and budget cuts could be a plight SFUSD faces until at least 2022. 

 

Much of the “unexpected costs” have gone to several new programs including new laws that increase pay and expand teacher leave, as well as additional funding for special education programs. Although these new programs have been enacted, many San Francisco teachers and staff are unsatisfied with this analysis and believe there are other contributing factors that are responsible for the school districts budget shortfall.

 

Much of the concern of SFUSD’s budget cuts stem from the fact that San Francisco is known to be a prosperous and affluent city, yet the local public schools are not properly supported through means of resources and revenue. 

Alison Collins, Commissioner on the Board of Education, speaking outside City Hall on March 5th to protest SFUSD’s budget cuts and layoffs. Photo by Michaela Mesler

 

In an interview with the Lincoln Log, Alison Collins, Commissioner on the Board of Education says, “We are 41st out of 50 states when it comes to per pupil spending… which is kinda ridiculous when California makes more revenue than some countries.”

 

Another contributing factor to the district's cuts is Proposition G, a parcel tax voters passed in 2018 to fund teachers salary increase. The proposition did not pass with the 2/3 majority vote it needed and is currently tied up in the courts. SFUSD has covered that increase; however, this year there has not  been any formal commitment to cover it with the new shortfall, yet.

 

Since the gravity of this announcement directly affects teachers, educators have been voicing their concerns on the matter by protesting outside of the district offices at 555 Franklin street.

 

On March 5, hundreds of educators from around San Francisco’s school district gathered to march in protest of the layoffs and budget cuts that they say have the potential to cause detrimental effects on teachers’ classrooms and work. 


Abraham Lincoln High school staff dresses in red to show their resistance to SFUSD’s budget cuts and layoffs.  Photo by Michaela Mesler

 

Public school teachers and staff chanted, “Education is our right! That is why we have to fight!” as they marched from the district office to City Hall. 

 

Several speakers representing the Board of Education, local schools, and district supervisors spoke to show their support for teachers across the city.  A running theme through the rally was to “chop from the top,” meaning that social workers, counselors, and teachers who have a direct effect on students' progress and learning should not be penalized from the district's layoffs. 

 

Educators are interested in knowing how much money is given to schools and how much is being retained at the district level. The continued suspicion is there are a lot of administrative staff that might not be adding to what happens with students in the classroom and therefore want a greater visibility of districts spending money overall. 

 

“We need administrators, but how many people do we need in the central office to keep the lights on and functioning sites?” asks Collins.

 

In regards to the Abraham Lincoln High community, George Ishikata, Chairman of Lincoln’s School Site Council, provides advice to Lincoln’s principal, Shari Balisi, regarding the school's satisfaction of certain goals, especially if it’s proceeding with federal funding. 

 

Lincoln’s administration has made a budget to satisfy their goals of retaining the same number of staff, which means no layoffs for teachers. Ishikata says, “Focus items like reducing class sizes in A-G courses and maintaining elective options” are also part of the schools budget priority. 

 

However this means Lincoln has relatively little budget for expenditures like stipends, supplies, google chrome carts, etc. 

 

Ishikata says, “If you look at the spring preliminary for last year and this year… there's actually about a $200,000 reduction.”

 

Although smaller class sizes are still being supported, there will need to be a minimum number of students which “potentially cuts down the number of sections in a particular subject area which impacts the individual teacher.” On top of this, a dramatic decrease in stipends for the proposed spring preliminary from just over $63,000 (2019-2020) to under $13,00 (2020-2021) might affect how teachers participate in extracurriculars for students. 

 

Principal Shari Balisi and Vice Principal Lance Tagomori are in charge of the budget but have respectfully declined to be interviewed for this story.

 

Collins says, “Right now we’re in a holding pattern with the new landscape we’re in [COVID-19]... we need to think long term.” 

 

With students at home due to COVID-19, families, residents, and even businesses could potentially reconsider the value placed on schooling and education as a whole. In the meantime, Collins urges students voices “through social media or encouraging friends and family old enough to vote for statewide efforts that give money to schools.”


 

COVID-19 RATTLES SFUSD AS CASES CONTINUE TO SURGE

By: Yvonne Qiu

The exponential increase of COVID-19 cases in San Francisco are similar to many other cities around the world. Photos courtesy of data.sfgov.org.

 

The coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019), reached San Francisco on March 5, and cases have been increasing at an alarming rate. The virus, which has infected 653,000 and killed at least 33,405 nationwide as of April 16, has already infected at least 1,020 individuals in San Francisco. 

 

In response, San Francisco Unified School District issued a statement suspending on-campus academic instruction and nonessential activity such as athletic and performance events from March 16 through the end of the spring semester on June 2. 

 

“It sucks,” says Quinn Vamosi. “As a senior I know it’s not as bad as it is for juniors who are applying to college, but as a senior it has affected a lot of the goals and achievements we work towards. Graduation and prom have been things I’ve always dreamed of participating in and have looked up to as the light at the end of the tunnel of high school. I understand that it’s necessary to take these precautions in order to keep everyone safe, but it’s pretty depressing.”  

 

On March 16, Mayor London Breed and the San Francisco Department of Health (SFDH) issued a new health order demanding residents of San Francisco and five other Bay Area counties to shelter in place and not leave the house except for essential activities beginning on March 17. Essential services such as banks, gas stations, grocery stores, and government services remain open. All nonessential places for businesses and gatherings will be closed until at least May 1. 

 

San Francisco was the first city in the United States to declare a citywide state of emergency and the first city to issue a shelter in place order.

 

 “Today, we are ordering that everyone in San Francisco, who can, remain at home until April 7. This is a critical intervention that we know can reduce harm and save lives. The coronavirus is spreading in our community, and we need to slow it down,” San Francisco Department of Health director Grant Colfax states in the new health order.

 

Prior to the shelter in place order, Breed issued a statement cancelling all public events involving unnecessary gatherings of people from March 9 through March 22, and on March 14, banned all group gatherings of 100 or more. 

   

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China in November of 2019. By April 10, it had spread to 209 countries and territories worldwide with a case count of 2,173,000 cases, 144,900 deaths, and 546,000 recoveries. The virus spreads through person to person contact such as close contact, or community spread, which is contact with individuals that have been exposed to other individuals with the virus.

 

Colfax states that the best way to minimize community spread of COVID-19 is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, avoid touching the facial area, and to stay home if not feeling well.

 

Teachers are having trouble planning lessons and the College Board made a decision to cancel the March 14, May 2, and June 6 SAT tests. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for juniors are also canceled.

 

Biotechnology teacher David Frischer says, “We can't do lab work, so that bums me out.  The biotech classes have always involved online stuff, so while there are changes, they are not super drastic.”

 

He adds, “I'm honestly not very happy with [SFUSD’s] response. I understand how unprecedented this all is, but feel they have not been as transparent as they should be about decisions.”

 

In addition, AP tests, which determine if a student will receive college credit for their class, have been changed to online tests that are 45 minutes long. Distance learning for Lincoln students will start on April 13, a week after spring break, and will continue until the end of the spring semester.

 

The annual Brotherhood Sisterhood Assembly, originally scheduled to be held on Friday, March 13, has been canceled; Lincoln’s Prom, originally planned for April 25, has been canceled; and all CIF San Francisco Section league matches and practices scheduled for the spring season are canceled.

 

In addition, the City College of San Francisco is suspending all in-person instruction for the rest of the semester and planning online instruction, San Francisco State University is implementing an online learning plan until at least April 5, and San Jose State University will remain closed until May 3.

 

“We are at a time in which we are committing to college, yet I’ve had to cancel numerous college visits due to travel bans etc, making me feel really nervous about my future going to a school I may have possibly never toured,” Vamosi states.

 

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that the United States is looking at possibly 60,000 deaths by the end of the pandemic. 

 

The San Francisco Department of Health stresses the importance of social distancing as most known COVID-19 cases were spread through community contact.

 

“There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill [with COVID-19]. So protect yourself, but remember that you can also be a vector or a carrier. And even though you don't get seriously ill, you could bring it to a person, who could bring it to a person, that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother or your elderly relative. That's why everybody has to take this seriously, even the young," Fauci says in an interview with CNN.

 

COVID-19 continues to increase at an accelerated rate, and the United States is preparing for the worst. With the closures of schools, businesses, and cancellations of many events, students and faculty are learning to adjust to life in a pandemic. 

 

Senior Harrison Lee says, “With the [shelter in place] order, I feel very trapped in my own home. I view the virus as a wake up call for the country, as there is a high possibility of other epidemics occurring in the future, and the response from our country showed just how unprepared we were for something like this.”


 

ALISON COLLINS VISITS “LINCOLN LOG” STAFF

Photo by Francy Wentker

 

The "Lincoln Log" was honored by a visit from the SFUSD commissioner who said she has been "blown away" by the student journalism in the paper, and that it "is better journalism than [she's] been reading in our local papers." She spoke to the student journalists about the power of using their voices and the responsibility that comes with those First Amendment rights.