SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2018
Due Date: Friday, Aug 24
Candidate Name: Gabriela López
Phone Number: (415) 879-8683
Web site: gabrielalopez.org
Name of Campaign Manager:Gabriela Alemán
Signed voluntary spending limit: I have not needed for my race.
Major Endorsements: Harvey Milk Democratic Club
League of Pissed Off Voters
Progressive Democrats of America - California
Rose Pak Democratic Club
San Francisco Latino Democratic Club
Latino Young Democrats of San Francisco
Richmond District Democratic Club
Supervisor Jane Kim
Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer
Supervisor Hillary Ronen
Board of Education Commissioner Mark Sanchez
Board of Education Commissioner Hydra Mendoza-Mcdonnell
Board of Education Commissioner Matt Haney
SF Democratic Party Chair David Campos
Incumbent Board Member whose votes most reflect your values: Hydra Mendoza-Mcdonnell, Shamann Walton
Incumbent whose votes least reflect your values: Emily Murase
1. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you
involved in the past?
I currently working in the classroom as a public school teacher in SFUSD. I have been working in education for over 10 years in a variety of capacities. I started my career as a para-educator working in the same school district I attended for two years. I also worked in arts education at a non-profit that provided professional development for public school educators and administrators to bring arts instruction into the classroom with low resources for five years. Meanwhile, attending Cal State Dominguez Hills and UCLA to get my Bachelor's in Liberal Studies, teaching credential, BCLAD certification and Master's in Education. I am now a fifth grade Spanish Immersion teacher and the mentor of a teacher candidate from USF. At my site, I am on the Union Building Committee, I am on the School Site Council, I am the Arts Coordinator and I am part of Mentoring for Success, which connects me to the diversity of people working in schools.
In addition to these roles, I am on the English Language Learners Committee for the California Federation of Teachers, appointed by the president of my union, Lita Blanc. I am also the only teacher serving on the Public Education Enrichment Fund Community Advisory Committee appointment by Board of Education Commissioner Mark Sanchez. I am a core member of Teachers 4 Social Justice and I volunteer with the Academic Peer Education Project in San Quentin.
Having been a classified employee and working closely with classified staff, I understand how important their contribution to the work in schools is. Classified staff is certainly part of all we do to accomplish this work and help create an effective learning and teaching environment for all students. We could not do this work without them. Classified workers often are the most culturally competent and connected to the communities we serve. It is only through classified and certificated employees working together, that schools can be successful.
2. Why are you running for school board?
As a public school teacher, I understand the needs of students, families and educators. I work closely with many different people whose roles support the day-to-day success of a school. I am running for Board of Education because I want to bring a much-needed voice, and the voices of the communities I work with, to the leadership of SFUSD and ensure that we are represented. As a bilingual, Latina educator, I can bring my 10 plus years of unique experience in education to the school board.
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system?
Would you make changes, and if so, which ones?
Student assignment is an important tool for desegregation. The Board of Education has an obligation to ensure that schools are not segregated and all students have equitable access to education opportunities. I support a mix of neighborhood and city wide school preferences, and other equity factors determining student assignment. Student Assignment is something we have to revisit and monitor on an ongoing basis. This can be done by looking at data and listening to the needs of families while holding close our values for diversity.
While we cannot control all the trends of demographic shifts for the city we can control how families experience the process. Currently, the district's process creates so much unnecessary stress for families. We have to increase the transparency at the Education Placement Center and provide more support for the student assignment process. We have to shorten the process, allow for parents to apply online, do virtual tours and easily see the program offerings and facilities for each school. These basic customer service strategies can go a long way in improving our student assignment process and could also have a positive impact in how diverse our schools are because families would be better informed.
I also support some level of preference for teachers and all school staff. This would also have the dual impact of helping with the recruitment and retention of educators.
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?
I support experience based hiring decisions. I support seniority. Early in my work in education, I worked at a charter school in Los Angeles as an at will employee. Teachers there did not have union support. There was only one teacher at my school with more than ten years experience. At Flynn Elementary School, I have benefited from the mentorship of multiple teachers with 15 plus years experience and I have seen the incredible impact these leaders have on our school and community.
I will make clear that the best use of district time and resources is supporting, developing, training, and retaining the teachers we have. I will make clear that I am a staunch opponent of any merit based pay, or performance based layoffs. In practice, such systems are really code for doubling down on the failure of standardized testing. They can never take into account the hundreds of ways that experienced teachers bring love and guidance into a student's life, and that of their colleagues newer to the profession.
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?
I am troubled when any school receives more funding than another. First and foremost we need tackle the root cause of this problem- de facto school segregation. We can make progress through greater parent outreach, changes to the school assignment system, and improvements to the quality of education in our public schools. In the short term we should be tracking the amount of money that comes in through parent fundraisers and I would support efforts to compensate for large gaps with money from the general budget. I want to call on San Franciscans to view the overall health of our school system and our schools as a shared responsibility.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
I do not support JROTC programs as it teaches youth to glorify the military. I feel there are many other programs that are and should be available to high school students centered around the arts, science and technology, that would provide a place for them to go and also a set of skills they could use in the long term. I support the board's decision, more than 10 years ago now, to remove the program form our schools, one that is outdated and created over a century ago.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
I would if the aim was to appropriately represent specific areas of the city, by people who reflect understanding those needs.
8. What do you think of the public comment policy at school board
meetings? How (if at all) would you change it?
I think the public comment portion of any meeting in front of large bodies with decision making power is extremely important and should remain the right of any citizen willing to voice their concerns, needs, wants, etc. I would change the ability to videotape people who may be unwilling to participate for that reason, and provide another form of recording if that needs to happen.
9. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and
caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
I am absolutely for allowing non-citizen voting by parents who have children in the district, since these people work directly with the schools, teachers, students and other families who are consistently participating in making our schools better. We need to ensure they have an opportunity to be a part of deciding who gets to represent the students of San Francisco. These people are contributing citizens of our society who pay taxes and participate in a variety of ways, so they should have the right to vote in these elections.
And we have to ensure that we provide these families with all the necessary information that will keep non-citizens safe during the voting process and give them all the necessary information in order to safely make that choice.
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
There must be a role for SFUSD members when determining changes made to SFUSD because we are the ones who know the work. When the school board, the superintendent and central office makes decisions that directly affect educators and students, it is imperative that the people doing the work are a part of the decision making process. We must ensure that those experienced in the classroom, who know the day-to-day needs of students, play a role when determining changes to programs and policies. Being on the School Site Council since I began working at my school site helps me see the benefits of including a diversity of voices in the decisions we make for a larger community.
11. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student
representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote
I would encourage teaching about this process and allowing some form of decision making from their end.
12. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the
role of the superintendent?
The School Board and the superintendent's role is to work continually together to improve the system being put in place by both parties. There needs to cue communication, transparency and accountability in order to build an effective relationship and appropriately represent the school district.
13. A portion of SFUSD income is from rental of various properties.
What changes should the district make to increase the income from
As school board members we can work with the city, community based organizations and San Francisco businesses to fundraise to support rental relief, expand the Teacher Next Door program, develop educators housing that is affordable and expand our benefit offerings to educators, that can benefit the district and its employees. We can also be more responsive to educator concerns and work to ensure schools have good leadership and more importantly change the funding priority, and balance in SFUSD to be more towards schools and classrooms versus central office projects and programs.
14. What should the district do to make its schools more
We can continue to partner with local environmentally friendly programs and groups, including Recology, Education Outside and Urban Stewards Program at College Hill Learning Garden, that share information with students starting in kindergarten that will help build better habits that are friendly to the planet. In my classroom, we have had classroom visits from experts, gone on field trips, studied and practice living in environmentally friendly ways everyday. Another way is the district can improve food services by creating relationships with local gardens to bring in healthier food and starting community gardens within schools. Meals should also be prepared on site by workers who are represented and have access to ingredients and products from nearby sources.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a
public pre-K program? If so, how?
It is no mystery that learning begins at birth and supporting our youngest San Franciscans with access to high quality early education experiences helps prepare them for life and learning. I will fight for the early education programs in SFUSD and support continued efforts to improve and maintain these high quality programs. This means ensuring all children in San Francisco receive early childhood education, increasing salaries of early child care professionals and supporting professional development opportunities for our early education staff. I will support early childhood education workers, and expand offerings so that every child entering the school district will have an opportunity to have early childhood education. We are lucky to have so many early education opportunities for families in our county and I would like to ensure that SFUSD continues to be a leader in these efforts.
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?
Prop 13 absolutely needs to be reformed as it drastically hit the public school system. We need to reset the property tax rates, and change the requirement of future tax hikes of any form to pass the state Legislature by a two-thirds vote.
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
I have not read Diane Ravitch's book, yet! But in learning more it's imperative that the school district look to the very clear research that addresses the privatization, standardized testing, merit-based pay and punitive discipline systems's effect on a child's education. And use that data and information as a guide for better policy and systems. And especially pull from the resources we currently have, many of whom are teachers in the district.
The role of charter schools was supposed to bring innovative ideas to public schools, but instead they have brought the complications that come with privatization and the destruction of public school systems. We have to keep public funding with public schools. It is well established that on the whole Charter Schools do not outperform public schools and that is despite the overwhelming emphasis many charters place on test scores. My first year of teaching, as mentioned, I had to work in a charter school because the school district was offering no positions to new teachers as they were not prioritizing educators in pay or treatment. In that, I was in an inequitable pay scale, working with educators who had not gotten raises in over ten years, I had no union representation and I was the only teacher in my grade-level creating curriculum to meet the standards I had to teach. Our school rented space from a local church that had no playground, no sinks in the classroom and room dividers separating classrooms. Students deserve to have thoughtful spaces for learning where they could play, make art and learn in a proper educational setting that is provided for them. I do not support charter schools, though I recognize that we must find new ways to address the opportunity gap and disparate outcomes in schools for African American and Latino students.
There is a myth that innovation cannot happen within public school districts without charter schools. I am proud to say that I was on the design team at my site through SFUSD iLab where we applied for and won a grant that provided our school with access to technological tools and teacher training. This experience showed me that when teachers, support staff and administrators work together and are supported, they can be drivers of innovation within public schools. If we divest from our public schools into charter schools, it will be harder for teachers to champion initiatives such as these. We have an obligation to do right by our African American and Latino students and we undermine us all when we give into the narrative of charters and privatize our most valuable resource in creating equity, our public schools.
18. What do you think of the District's use of standardized tests?
How would you change them, if at all?
I see first-hand how the districts exacerbate over-testing with all the Reading, Writing and Math interim assessments that take away from instruction. I see how disastrous and inappropriate the district's efforts to do standardized tests with early childhood education, TK and Kindergarten students is wrong when educators should be focused on the development of the child. I support teachers being able to choose the assessments that will most inform their practice and allow them to best meet the learning needs of their students. My students would benefit more and I would be able to support them through more planning time instead of test training and staff time spent looking at repetitive and useless data for students they are likely no longer working with.
State-mandated standardized tests play no role in improving outcomes for SFUSD students. In my view, standardized tests have served one purpose: exposing the pervasive achievement gap affecting African-American and Latino students. We do not need to continue burdening our teachers, torturing our students, and distracting our parents with tests that highlight what we already know and offer no actionable path to a better education. This is why my colleagues and I, with support from the union, have taken the opportunity to inform our families of their right to opt-out from these irrelevant, anxiety-inducing tests. Our schools deserve more than to be interrupted so frequently for a poor measure of accountability when we could implement a more holistic approach that honors students' achievements honestly.
19. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special
Education students and ESL students?
As an English Language Learner myself, I understand deeply the effects this has on the education of immigrant and working-class communities. One of my core values, not only in this campaign, but also in my teaching, is ensuring that students and families have the necessary language access in order for them to be most successful. We need more inclusive support for english language learners without taking away opportunities for Arts, Tech and Science classes when they get to middle school. This is the same for students with Special needs.
I work with many families whose primary fear for their English Language Learners is not reaching "reclassification" before they leave elementary school. My work on the English Language Learners Committee with the California Federation of Teachers has been supporting families in understanding the rights they have to language programs under Prop 58, which repealed Prop 227. My plan is to increase language access for families, students, and educators that will meet the many variety of languages spoken in SFUSD. To provide language opportunities for every student in elementary, middle and high school. Including expanded translation services such as on-call translation for teachers and parents.
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)?
I base my decisions with all of those factors in play. I check in with the people directly affected, ask their thoughts, opinions, concerns and ensure that their voice is appropriately represented. I feel all of these key people, the ones doing the work, the ones directly affected by our decisions, absolutely need to be a part of the conversation. I do not have political consultants or associate with any businesses. But I work closely with the teacher's union in SFUSD and have been the union representative at my school site for three years.
Due Date: Friday, August 24, 11:59 pm.
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