Disagreements over school reopening lead to internal strife in San Francisco

The pandemic has caused painful frustration among parents, educators and students across the United States. But it’s possible that no American city can compare to San Francisco in terms of internal strife, public outrage, and indecisiveness in efforts to reopen schools.

In February, the city of San Francisco sued the city’s school system, whose schools have only operated remotely for a year, and the school board, accusing them of violating California law by failing to take over the classroom teaching.

Shortly after, two parents enraged by the education council’s decision to change the names of 44 schools, despite having closed them, launched a campaign for the removal of three council members. About 9,000 people have joined the campaign’s mailing list and it is expected to start collecting signatures soon.

Then critics of the organization uncovered tweets from four years ago written by the vice-president of the council in which she accused Asian Americans of approaching white Americans in order to get away from it all. before without facing racism. The tweets compared Asian Americans to slaves who profited from working inside the slave master’s house. More than a third of the neighborhood’s students are Asian Americans.

The turmoil turned into a declared war. Within days, state lawmakers, the mayor and two members of the education council himself joined the rapidly growing chorus calling for the resignation of Vice President Alison Collins.

Collins refuses to resign, but on Thursday (25) the board of directors voted five to two to remove her from the vice-chair and her roles on the committee. The education council was deeply divided.

Amid the chaos, one thing has remained clear: It is highly likely that the majority of the city’s public school students are unlikely to return to face-to-face this school year.

The district has set deadlines from mid-April to the end of April for elementary school students and some older students with special needs to start returning to face-to-face classes. But there are still no plans to bring back most of the high school students. At the same time, the 10,000 teachers and school officials in the district have been urged to receive the Covid vaccine.

“The number one priority for this school board should be to get students of all grades back to school as soon as possible,” said Dennis Herrera, an attorney for the city of San Francisco. His request for a court order to force the school district to come up with a plan to reopen schools was dismissed by a judge on Thursday. “Instead, we are subjected to a political drama here in San Francisco that makes the school district a laughing stock across the country.”

Critics of liberal San Francisco-style politics have long pointed to a disconnect between the high-profile discourse of elected politicians on social justice and the reality of a city where fabulous wealth coexists side by side with misery and despair, illustrated by the homeless., drug addicts and the mentally ill on the streets of the city.

In education, the pandemic has reinforced the vision of a city divided by income and race. One-third of the city’s students, many of whom are white, study at private schools – one of the highest rates of any major city in the United States. Many of these private school students have been in face-to-face classes for months, while public school students, disproportionately black, Latin American and Asian, have been in virtual classes for a year.

Data released by the school district suggests that distance learning has widened racial disparities in academic achievement. Class attendance has declined among African American and Pacific Islander students, as well as homeless students.

To escalate its problems, the school district faces a significant budget deficit and now, with declining enrollment, it risks losing even more funds. District data shows an approximately 10% drop in preschool enrollment in the 2021-2022 school year.

Already last summer [junho a setembro], it was clear that the school district had no plans to reopen the schools. When school principal Vincent Matthews offered to use donor resources to hire a consultant to help design a plan to reopen schools, the school board voted against, in part because the consultant in question had links with schools. [unidades que recebem fundos públicos mas operam de forma autônoma].

Thus, schools remained closed throughout the fall [setembro a dezembro], although San Francisco has one of the lowest coronavirus rates in the country. But the school board pursued a plan to change the names of 44 schools whose names were believed to be linked to slavery, genocide or other injustices.

The plan has been criticized for its recklessness in the research process, which led, among others, to Paul Revere [homenageado como um dos patriotas da guerra pela independência americana] be falsely accused of attempting to colonize the Penobscot people. The Mayor of London Breed said the council’s emphasis on renaming schools was offensive as they remain closed.

In early February, shortly after the final vote to adopt new names for the schools, the board addressed another controversial issue, voting to permanently change the admission process to Lowell High School, the elitist public school of the city. Rather than admissions based primarily on student grades and test scores, a lottery process would be adopted.

As has been the case with selective high schools in cities like New York and Boston, Lowell School is a source of pride and disagreement in San Francisco. Its students are mostly white and Asian-American, with black and Latino students underrepresented, despite the school’s efforts to diversify.

Last year, the school board voted to change the Lowell admissions process to a draw for one year. Data released this week indicates that the share of black and Latino college students among those hired has increased dramatically.

Shortly after the Lowell School vote, Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen, a couple who said they were outraged by the board’s decision to devote time to the process of renaming schools instead of reopening, launched a campaign to oust Alison Collins, board chair Gabriela López. , and a third board member, Faauuga Moliga.

The day after the campaign was publicly launched, the board suspended the school’s name changes.

On March 18, a voluntary moderator of the group’s Facebook page fighting for the dismissal of members, Diane Yap, who studied at Lowell High School, discovered Collins’ tweets. The same night, the group posted the discovery on Twitter.

In the topic of December 4, 2016, Collins, who is black, wrote that she wanted to “fight anti-black racism in the Asian-American community” at her daughter’s school, where most of the students were from. Asian origin. She complained about what she saw as the refusal of many Asian Americans to face racism.

“Many Asian Americans think they benefit from the false idea that they are a ‘model minority’,” she wrote, alluding to the stereotype that Asian Americans are people who don’t defy the rules and strive to be the best. “They are using white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘move on in life’.”

The tweets were resuscitated two days after the Atlanta Spa Massacre, in which six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent, heightening fears of violence against Asians. Within hours, demands for Collins’ resignation emerged.

Collin released a statement saying his comments were taken out of context. “I am sorry for the pain my words may have caused and I apologize wholeheartedly,” she said.

At a meeting last week, Collins said he would continue his work on the board.

Voices choked with emotion, students and parents of Asian-American descent summoned to the meeting sharply criticized Collins and the other board members.

“This council is emerging as a case study of hypocrisy and superficial, performative activism,” said one person who identified as a student in the neighborhood.

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