In 2003, a committee was created with members appointed from the city Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education. In the beginning, the committee was used to discuss joint concerns on issues, such as affordable housing for teachers, student nutrition, and graffiti in the San Francisco schools. Unfortunately, the structure of the joint committee was a matter of contention from the committee’s inception with an imbalance of power.
The Board of Supervisors control the forum. They decide what issues are put on the meeting agendas for discussion. They have the right to make inquiries of the San Francisco schools’ officials, who are expected to respond to all inquiries. Unfortunately, this is a one-way power structure.
The San Francisco schools are funded by the state and not accountable to city or county governments. The structure of the committee makes the San Francisco schools’ officials accountable to the city’s Board of Supervisors and doomed from the beginning. Thus, the committee has met rarely in the past couple of years.
Though the San Francisco schools’ officials and city supervisors were scheduled to meet twice monthly in 2006, it did not happen, according to Jill Wynns, a veteran San Francisco schools’ board member. Unfortunately, 2006 was a year the committee was most needed. There were several San Francisco schools issues in the forefront last year that caused undue tensions within the San Francisco schools and the community. There were several closures of San Francisco schools, for example, as well as decisions on the use of voter-approved enrichment funds (from the city) for San Francisco schools’ expenditures.
A new committee chairman has been appointed to help bring the committee back to life. Chairman Bevan Dufty, a member of the Board of Supervisors, is promising a more mutual relationship within the committee to build more and better communication between the two leaderships.
In order to breath new life into the committee, Dufty plans to approach the forum as equal partners between the city supervisors and the San Francisco schools’ officials, beginning with agenda items. San Francisco schools’ officials now will be able to submit requests to put issues on meeting agendas. Though Dufty still has final say on the agenda items and there has been no commitment to two-way inquiries, this is a major first step toward positive change.
Other members of the committee include veteran supervisor Sophie Maxwell, newly appointed supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, veteran San Francisco schools’ official Jill Wynns, and newly-elected San Francisco schools’ officials Jane Kim and Mydra Mendoza.
It is hoped that the infusion of new people, especially the new chairman, will energize the committee into a partnership for positive change within the San Francisco schools.