SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2016
Due Date: Wednesday, August 31
Candidate Name: Phil Kim
Phone Number: 248-227-2127
Name of Campaign Manager: N/A
Signed voluntary spending limit: No, I have not signed the voluntary spending limit
Major Endorsements: N/A
Favorite Incumbent School Board Member: I look forward to working with all Board members.
Least favorite: N/A
1. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you involved in the past?
As a resident of San Francisco, I want to ensure SFUSD is a District that every family in our community trusts will bring an excellent education to their child. As a young resident, I am committed to building deep roots in San Francisco and, one day, raising a family here. I will be relentless in pursuing excellence for our schools so that SFUSD continues to be an attractive District for families and students now and in the future.
2. Why are you running for school board?
In many ways, my life reflects so many hard-working families in San Francisco. I am a first-generation American-born educator. I am the son of small business owners. I am a product of the public school system. I am gay. Money was an incredible barrier for our me, as I grew up in a family struggling to make ends meet. My mother and younger brother now live in government subsidized low-income housing outside of Detroit. Carrying my identities with me, I came into teaching with a desire to serve and give back to my community, and stayed in education because I realized how critical our educational system is in providing access and opportunity (and because I loved my team and my students).
Though I come to this work with a relentless commitment to access and opportunity, I am disheartened by the lack of educational equity in San Francisco. On average, San Francisco students appear to be doing well on many measures. However, if one disaggregates the averages for example by neighborhood, income, or race, it paints a very different picture.
If elected, I may be one of the only elected credentialed educators on the Board of Education. As the Board takes on important questions and issues, I want to ensure that the voice of the communities I serve, including that of teachers, the Asian-American, and LGBT communities, is heard. If we want to pay more teachers, support essential programs, and build and maintain sustainable facilities for our schools, priorities will need to shift and resources will inevitably need to be reallocated. All the communities impacted should be adequately represented in those conversations. I believe my experience both personally and professionally makes me uniquely positioned to be able to make informed decisions and enact policies or build programs necessary to elevate the needs of students, families, and teachers, and allow SFUSD to be a district where all students, regardless of their identity, can have an equitable education and live a choice-filled life.
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system? Would you make changes, and if so, which ones?
I am in favor of providing choice and options to families in SFUSD. I do believe that the idea of families having the ability to choose where to send their child to school is good. There are also significant barriers in terms of system and process that families must endure throughout the assignment process. The current student assignment system is not meeting the objectives it set out to achieve. The bottom line is that there simply are not enough spots open in our high-demand schools to satisfy every family's selections; we need better schools all around, in every neighborhood. The more high-performing schools there are, the easier it would be for parents to engage in SFUSD's student assignment system. Before I make suggestions on what needs to be overhauled, there are very specific questions I would like to have answered and data provided that supports those answers. After all my research, it is still unclear to me what data the District has around parent engagement with the assignment process, who is benefitting from the program and where they live, and how our assignment process is impacting the overall demographics of our school sites. It is loud and clear that many parents are dissatisfied with the current school assignment system, and I want to know more about what we know or don't know to determine what actions or next steps need to be taken to ensure an equitable, accessible, and efficient school assignment process in SFUSD.
4. How can we redistribute the more experienced and higher paid teachers throughout the city? What do you think the school district needs to do to attract and improve the retention of good teachers who are willing to work in socially stressed schools?
If elected, I will make it my primary goal to raise teacher salaries. As a former teacher at a public school in the Bay Area, providing teachers with a salary that enables them to live and work in their neighborhoods is incredibly important to me. I think this can also be achieved by considering alternative housing developments to ensure our teachers have a stable and affordable place to live. I want to explore possibilities of parcel taxes in bringing in additional income in the future, and look towards our distribution of LCAP dollars and QTEA funding to align to our goal of ensuring teachers are compensated for their work.
Beyond salary, I believe teacher experiences at school sites have a great impact on retention of staff. From the moment a new teacher joins SFUSD, I want to ensure they have all that they need to be successful. From lowering barriers of hiring and credentialing into SFUSD, to increased teacher feedback and coaching, I am particularly interested in ensuring teachers have the adequate coaching and school-site supports to be continuously developed.
5. Some of our schools receive significant funding from parent fundraising. Are you concerned about the inequality in fundraising between schools in rich and poor neighborhoods, and if so, what ideas do you have to make things more equitable?
Yes, I believe resources must be more equitably distributed to ensure schools that need it the most are receiving more funding - and you see this reflected in California's equity financial model of per-pupil spending through the Local Control Funding Formula. Through SFUSD Multi-Tiered System of Supports, I believe we are working towards building a more equitable financial model for our schools, where increased resources are being directed towards high-need schools. I would love to dive deeper into where this model has proven to be most impactful, and finding ways to better support schools with low-income populations.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
If federal funding can maintain JROTC in our schools, I support JROTC in our schools as a program for students. However, I recognize there are requirements to the program that severely limit and restrict the flexibility of the program and how it can be supported by the District.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
I am open to having the conversation around district elections for school board members, but currently support city-wide elections for school board. I can see how one may believe it is better to mirror the election system of district Supervisors, but also recognize that SFUSD serves all students, regardless of District.
8. What do you think of the public comment policy at school board meetings? How (if at all) would you change it?
I support the public comment policy at school board meetings. I am curious to know more about the public's frustrations around the public comment policy.
9. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
If a parent has a student in SFUSD (or is trying to get their student in SFUSD), then I believe they should have the right to vote on the policies and people that are elected onto the school board. San Francisco has a long history of supporting undocumented youth in our District, and we must extend the same respect and influence to their parents, as well. As a public school district, I believe it is crucial that we recognize and embrace all young people engaged in SFUSD, and validate their backgrounds and experiences by including their families in our District elections.
10. In what ways would you work to increase teacher input in administrative decision-making? How would you work to increase the voice of school site councils (parents, students and staff), in administrative decision-making?
I firmly believe our decisions in the boardroom must be informed through close, proximal relationships and partnerships with those who are working on the ground in our schools and communities. I believe it is the duty of a Board member to engage with teachers, students, parents, and staff by attending meetings, being at school sites, and making themselves available to those stakeholders.
11. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote on measures?
I believe the work of the student representatives should be encouraged and that their voices be heard in the boardroom. I believe it is incredibly important for their voices to be at the table, and to have a dedicated space to share their thoughts and opinions of their peers. I will work closely with the student representatives to ensure their voices are reflected in our legislation.
12. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the role of the superintendent?
The Board of Education sets the vision and direction of SFUSD, and introduces policies and legislation that support that vision and direction. In partnership with the community and District staff, the Board has a responsibility to include all stakeholders in the decision-making process, while staying true to the mission of the District. The Superintendent is tasked with carrying out those policies and legislation in alignment with the vision and direction of SFUSD set by the Board. The Board must work to hold the Superintendent accountable, but also work closely with the Superintendent to ensure that decisions made in the Boardroom are informed by the experience of the Superintendent in leading the day-to-day operations within SFUSD.
13. A portion of SFUSD income is from rental of various properties. What changes should the district make to increase the income from these properties?
I believe we need to consider all the space that SFUSD has in San Francisco and determine how to best leverage our resources to meet the needs of our students - this includes the building of new schools, expanded facilities, and better utilizing rental agreements to ensure we are being aggressive in our approach to maximizing property value.
14. What should the district do to make its schools more environmentally friendly?
I am a strong advocate of looking at innovative technologies to streamline workflow and decrease our environmental footprint by encouraging teachers to "go paperless" in their classroom as much as possible. Through adequate training of Google Classroom and e-books, for example, we can significantly decrease the reliance on paper. I led much of this training at my school site on teaching teachers how to use technology effectively.
I am also an advocate of instilling environmentally-friendly mindsets in our students, by encouraging school sites to compost, building "sustainability programs" at school sites, and funding the creation of school gardens.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a public pre-K program? If so, how?
Early childhood education is incredibly important in building a strong foundation at the earliest age. I will work to ensure all students have access to a high-quality Pre Kinder or Transitional Kinder program. This requires the alignment of policy, programs, and funding to ensure we have the staffing in place, adequate facilities available, and dedicated funding to ensure universal access to early childhood education. I believe we can partner with community-based organizations and established existing programs to steadily build out our PreK program.
16. Do you think Prop 13 needs to be reformed? If so, in what ways? How will you use your position on the Board to advocate for this?
Yes, I support Prop 13 reform. I believe this conversation needs to take place at the State level, and I am committed to building the necessary relationships with elected leaders to ensure that Prop 13 is reformed. I believe we must also build a coalition of school boards across the State that are advocating for the reform of Prop 13, and collectively partner in making our voice heard! I will work with neighboring Districts, our elected officials, and with grassroots organizations to bring Prop 13 to the forefront of State-level policy that must be reformed.
17. Have you read Diane Ravitch's book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System?" What lessons should the District take from this work? Whether or not you've read the book, what role do you see for charter schools in the public education system?
I have not read Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System but have read about it and know Diane Ravitch's positions. As a product of K-12 public schools, I strongly believe our public schools play an incredibly important role in the success of our communities.
I support SFUSD's model is giving parents the decision on which school is best fit for their student. I believe parents should be empowered to decide where they believe their student would be best served by the District. In that same perspective, I believe that if a charter school can show that there is a demand by parents and the community to fill a need that SFUSD is not able to meet, that community should be empowered to offer and build a solution that meets that need - in some cases that means approving a petition to open a charter school. I believe it is our role as a public school District to do all that we can to meet the needs of all our families, and to work hard in ensuring our families have excellent District school options to enroll their children in. If we know that we are not able to adequately serve a particular need by the community, it is our job to ensure that we find a way. I believe charter schools are one way to meet this community demand.
I support the work of the free, public open-enrollment non-profit charter schools I am familiar with in San Francisco, knowing that many charter schools in San Francisco serve students who have traditionally been underserved by SFUSD. If another petition were to come in front of the Board for approval, I would hold it to the same high bar of excellence and expectation that we would for our District schools, and would look for demonstrated support from the community and take into consideration the alignment to our vision for building safe, supportive, and high-performing schools for all students in every part of our City.
18. What do you think of the District's use of standardized tests? How would you change them, if at all?
Data from standardized tests is one indicator of student growth and progress, and should not be used as a summative conclusion on a student's intelligence or ability. Standardized tests do, however, provide insight on benchmarks, give information on aggregate comparisons, and can be used as a spotlight to gain a high-level understanding of areas of strength and growth.
The indicators, then, are only as accurate as the strength of the assessments themselves. As someone who works directly with assessments and data, I am committed to working closely with District leadership to better understand how we implement standardized tests (either through SBAC, interims, reading levels, or other sources of data), gather and analyze the information, and how that impacts our instructional decisions moving forward.
19. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special Education students and ESL students?
I believe we are in a dire need to assess how our District is diagnosing and supporting students with special needs and ESL students. I want to execute a full study of our areas of strength and growth when it comes to Special Education and English Language Learners, to understand the progress we've made and where greater resources need to be concentrated to ensure our students are progressing.
20. Please describe how you make your political decisions. What is the main basis for your decision making (e.g., consultation with your constituents, political consultants, colleagues, unions, businesses, donors, or your gut feelings)?
As a publicly elected Commissioner on San Francisco's Board of Education, it is critically important that I ensure the voices of the communities I serve are heard, while also tapping into expertise at our school, community, and district levels to make the most informed decisions. In all processes where I need to make decisions, I first look to (or, if it doesn't exist already, ask for) data that surrounds that subject, and seek context through research-backed practices in the field and lessons learned from any historical decisions the district has made. Then, I would approach all the stakeholders impacted (teachers, parents, community organizations, students, etc.), to gather anecdotes and build understandings from an array of perspectives.
My hope is that with the consultation of the Superintendent a diverse Board of Education can collectively leverage the various experiences at the table and strive to include voices from the community, including parents and students, to come to a decision that ultimately serves students best. I expect all of the decisions I make to be rooted in data, and supported by the experiences and demands of as many parents, students, and teachers as possible, while also ensuring that the decisions I make are in line with my beliefs on equity, social justice, and a commitment to excellence focused on increasing student outcomes and access to greater opportunities.