Let’s work together to ensure planning includes educators, family leaders, and all our community partners.
At the last Joint Select Committee Meeting, the SF Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) announced plans to launch Learning Hubs across the city. As an educator and parent leader in the district, I was eager to learn more about this proposed initiative to gather input from educators and community members.
In my conversations with the Superintendent and many high-level district staff, parent and community leaders, and City Supervisors, I heard many questions that highlighted concerns that in its haste, DCYF might be moving forward without including important voices at the District and in the community at large.
Based on the description provided by DCYF the Learning Hubs are meant to “support for students who are utilizing SFUSD’s Distance Learning Curriculum, and will prioritize children and youth with the highest need, particularly low-income youth and those who are part of the City’s most vulnerable populations.”
Despite this proposed goal, it seems there has been little if any outreach to parent leaders on District Parent Advisory Councils, or from many critical CBO’s serving families in Chinatown, Tenderloin, Mission, Excelsior, Western Addition/Fillmore or Treasure Island neighborhoods. I have also heard planning has been moving forward without involvement from key educators overseeing the implementation of district distance learning initiatives, namely the SFUSD Chief Academic Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Chief of Research, Planning, and Accountability or labor leaders with United Educators of San Francisco.
Additionally, while it appears DCYF leadership has met with some SFUSD staff, planning conversations appear to be broad and focused mostly at the operational level (e.g. meals, custodial, etc.). This means conversations thus far have largely left out considerations about curriculum, technology assessment, and student/family engagement/empowerment.
As an educator with over 20 years of experience building and supporting community-based educational programming, I know that in order to build a successful program to support distance learning, it is crucial to involve District family leaders and educators. And in order to ensure an education program is equitable, planning must involve planning with (not for) the historically marginalized communities that the program is meant to serve.
I and other district and city officials who are committed to social justice, transparency, and community empowerment have begun working to address the initial lack of coordination and communication we are seeing. Our collective efforts have identified the need for a clear process that allows for engagement and collaboration with families, educators, and community leaders. We are currently taking steps to put this process in place.
We are in a time of crisis. Now more than ever, the City and District and community leaders must collaborate to support students and families as we all adapt to all that is going on around us.
Moving forward, it is imperative that district parent leaders, education leaders, community leaders, and site-based staff on the front lines of this crisis are included in any City efforts to support student learning.
With this in mind, I have been working with parent leaders, Supervisors, and education leaders to develop a list of questions below to support this collective work. In sharing them I hope to identify critical issues that must be addressed to successfully implement DCYF’s proposed Learning Hubs in an equitable and community-responsive way. Centering our work around community questions we can establish an authentic partnership between District leaders, the Mayor’s Office, members of the Board of Supervisors and community partners so we can all work together to provide coordinated, transparent and accountable support for students and families across the city.
View and download a GoogleDoc version of the questions I’ve compiled by clicking here.
What questions do YOU have about DCYF’s proposed Learning Hubs?
This Friday at the Joint City/School District Select Committee from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM, Supervisors Ronen and Haney and Commissioners Sanchez, Moliga and myself will be hosting a hearing where SFUSD, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the United Educators of San Francisco, and the DPH Health Officer to inform and involve families in their children’s learning this fall (agenda available here).
The goals of this hearing are to 1) provide clear information to families around distance learning, how daily class schedules will be structured, and generally what to expect for the Fall semester, 2) inform parents about plans currently underway to support and improve the distance learning experience, such as the Community Learning Hub model being developed by DCYF, and 3) hear directly from families around what additional resources and supports are missing and are still needed to improve the learning experience of their children.
We want to make sure that key decision-makers in public education and family facing city agencies (like Department of Children Youth and Families, SF Public Library, and SF Recreation and Parks Department, etc.) hear directly from families who will be disproportionately impacted by the roll-out of distance learning. I invite parent and community leaders to participate by asking questions during the public comment period at this meeting. The information on how to listen in and provide public comment during the hearing is available here on the meeting agenda. Thank you and we hope that you are able to tune in on Friday.