SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2018
Due Date: Friday, Aug 24
Candidate Name: Li Miao Lovett
Phone Number: (415) 370-5279
Web site: lilovett.com
Name of Campaign Manager: Carly McCarthy
Signed voluntary spending limit: Yes
Major Endorsements: Organizations & labor
United Educators of San Francisco
San Francisco Democratic Party
San Francisco Labor Council
Rose Pak Democratic Club
SF Progressive Democrats of America
Elected officials (titles for ID purposes only)
Phil Ting, CA Assemblymember dist. 19
David Campos, Chair, SF Democratic Party
Aaron Peskin, Supervisor D3
Norman Yee, Supervisor D7
Hilary Ronen, Supervisor D9
Eric Mar, former Supervisor D1
Incumbent Board Member whose votes most reflect your values: Stevon Cook
Incumbent whose votes least reflect your values: Hydra Mendoza
1. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you
involved in the past?
I've worked in public education for over two decades; in the nineties I started a mentoring program in two SFUSD schools in the Bayview and ran an after-school and Beacon program for public school kids in the Mission. As an academic counselor at City College, I've supported thousands of students on their college paths. Most recently, I worked with the entire senior class from two SFUSD high schools enrolled in CCSF's Early College. I have also volunteered and student taught at Mission High and AP Giannini as part of my training for a single subject teaching credential in science. In these different capacities, I understand the ways that our public schools provide quality education as well as wrap-around support for high-needs and special education students.
2. Why are you running for school board?
Our public schools bring us closer to a vision of an inclusive, diverse society with opportunities for all. I grew up in Chinatown but felt isolated from other communities in SF until I came back to work in the Bayview, Mission and other neighborhoods. I got my degree at Stanford in 1990, where I developed my passion for public service. During that time, I learned about politics from working with an alliance of ethnic groups to seek demands for change from the administration. That's the foundation for my twenty years working with students, starting and running programs in public education.
I am a public school parent interested in addressing needs across our diverse city. As an immigrant, I've seen this city open doors for many families like mine; our young people today deserve no less. I am concerned about the growing divide between rich and poor; our public schools give students the opportunities their parents did not have, and our educators do the hard work of supporting their academic growth, and just as critically, social and emotional development. I am invested in shaping priorities that will lift up all our students.
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system?
Would you make changes, and if so, which ones?
As a public school parent, I spent hours poring over SFUSD's demographic data and maps in their Student Assignment reports as I was keenly interested in seeing the distributions of requested choices and assignments by ethnic group (and dismayed to see lack of diversity in some schools). The system was fairly new when my son started kindergarten in 2013-14, and as we can see from recent reports, the diversity challenge has not been addressed based on the increases in number of schools with >60% of any ethnic group, as well as the percentage increases at these schools. Putting area attendance over CTIP 1 as the priority for enrollment would slightly decrease diversity, while increasing the achievement gap. This is not the solution.
I think one possible approach to revamping the enrollment system is to divide the city into 3 to 5 large zones, which demographers have modeled based on Berkeley Unified School District's system. These would capture the socioeconomic diversity beyond local residential patterns, as you see in some of our supervisorial districts, while diminishing the distances some families would travel. Here's the big change: families would only be able to apply to schools within their zones. CTIP 1 would still be a top priority within each zone, but low-income families have the option of submitting financial statements that would trump their CTIP area.
SFUSD can employ strategies to challenge parent perceptions and biases around ‘desirable' schools. Instituting more language programs in less desirable schools is one strategy; these programs don't have to be immersion (which can create distinct immersion vs. general ed groups). SFUSD can work with PTAs and PPSSF to engage in a massive education campaign, with parent liaisons doing outreach. Finally, hold enrollment fairs in each zone that aren't filled with tables and brochures; instead, showcase the arts and enrichment programs, have students demonstrate their talents, and build a narrative that connects diversity to beneficial outcomes.
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?
Here is the challenge with regard to redistribution, if I'm reading this question right: Based on the contract for certificated teachers, there are two ways for teacher transfers to take place. The voluntary transfers would need to have incentives, and I imagine stipends for taking on the extra work that comes with high needs schools would help sweeten the pot. And then there are involuntary transfers, which does not seem viable because only special circumstances would allow for these to happen to any individual beyond 2 academic years. This doesn't help with stability of personnel in high needs schools.
Thus, the approach needs to be training new teachers and providing them the resources to stay in their positions at high needs schools. When I was enrolled at SF State's credential program, I saw that many were coming into the profession full of enthusiasm and dedication. How do you ensure they don't burn out after a few years? Give them all the support new teachers need at the start of their career. Create intervention teams so that the kids who need the most services get wrap-around support; hire the right folks who can coordinate with busy educators and relate to the kids. Provide stipends or extra compensation for teachers taking on projects that support students. Give educators channels to express their frustration and address their problems, looking at best practices in schools with similar demographics. If teachers feel supported, they'll be more likely to stay.
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?
Parent fundraising does lead to significant inequities. One possible strategy is to create school- to-school partnerships involving exchange of ideas, joint programming, technical assistance and fundraising to boost less resourced schools in a spirit of collaboration. I would be interested in conducting a study of schools across a range of income sectors to identify the levels of enrichment activities, teacher support and extra resources available based on the distribution of LCFF funding, PEEF monies going to sports, libraries, arts & music, and PTA fundraising. From this assessment, it may be possible to rebalance the distribution of LCFF funding in the Local Control and Accountability Plan.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
These programs have been quite controversial. I think that providing some students an avenue to learn about discipline and physical training is not a bad thing in principle. However, these programs can get coopted, as they did by commissioner Jill Wynns several years ago in her reelection campaign. I think that the purpose of JROTC should be non-political and also should not provide access to recruitment for the armed forces.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
While I think that's a novel idea to encourage greater representation, I'm not sure that it would necessarily foster the collaboration we need to address the challenges of high needs schools. We need a concerted effort to support these students, families and schools - not just because of the achievement gap - but given the systemic imbalances and poverty faced by these communities.
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 policy works in general, as it's pretty standard to have people turn in speaking cards at the meeting and give a time limit, in this case 2 minutes. However, I think allowances should be made for those needing translation to have extra time.
9. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and
caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
I think that this legislation has been a significant milestone. However, it will take more than one election cycle to encourage noncitizens to vote. Chinese for Affirmative Action and Mission Economic Development Agency have embarked on efforts, yet it is critical to proceed with caution given the current national climate. It is understandable that our immigrant communities would feel reluctant given the risks; parents and guardians need to be given accurate information so they can decide whether to register to vote.
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
Teachers, parents and staff need to be heard and their concerns and ideas should taken seriously during decision making processes. We need to build more bridges of communication between all parties to ensure success for educators, students families. While there is a parent advisory council as well as a student advisory council, as well as UESF representing all teachers, I think that the school site councils could function in a more lateral fashion so that common problems and best practices can be shared among schools. While there is a planning summit for SSCs, I think some cross-pollination would help to empower constituents to bring systemic challenges to the attention of the administration and the board.
11. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student
representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote
In 2005, a student delegate made the bold move of challenging then Supervisor Arlene Ackerman on proposals for a generous pay raise and stringent conditions for teachers to stay in high needs schools. In that advisory role, he and other student delegates have felt the pressure to back down from advancing legitimate concerns that could subsequently be acted upon. I think that student delegates should be able to advance proposals without a co-sponsor, and also have a vote. Perhaps there can be a trial period (6 months to a year), yet I think they should be vested with more authority as they represent the students who are the ones SFUSD is supposed to serve!
12. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the
role of the superintendent?
I think that board members should have oversight and work with the superintendent to ensure that personnel and resources are appropriately allocated, systems are in place for implementation and course correction. From my experience with our board at City College which gave in to administration and state FCMAT demands during the accreditation crisis, I firmly believe that the SFUSD school board needs to scrutinize budgets and evaluate priorities advanced by the district as an elected body that is accountable to the public.
13. A portion of SFUSD income is from rental of various properties.
What changes should the district make to increase the income from
I do not have adequate information at this time to assess a good way to bring more income from these properties. A 2013 report indicated that there are 10 surplus properties with potential for development or other uses; this offers possibilities for additional units of affordable housing for rental to educators in addition to the development slated for the Frances Scott Key Annex. This would be a win-win for educators and the district.
14. What should the district do to make its schools more
SFUSD has been a leader in developing new energy efficient buildings. However, there are great opportunities to do so with existing buildings in terms of heating, electricity use, water conservation, and alterations to existing rooms and structures that would minimize the temperature extremes leading to greater energy use.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a
public pre-K program? If so, how?
There are 40 pre-K programs, and while it would be impossible for this number of schools to serve all San Francisco students, there should be better channels for outreach so that families know these options are available. Disseminate information more effectively through the enrollment fairs, community-based organizations working with schools, parent liaisons, and community leaders. Put out a media campaign, and celebrate the unsung heroes in the preK schools.
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?
I support the reform of Prop 13. Just today I flagged an email in my inbox from California Federation of Teachers president Josh Pechthalt about the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act, slated for the 2020 ballot. This would bring in $11 billion in crucial funding by reforming Prop 13 to tax business properties at current rates. There is no reason that corporations play a shell game with properties so they artificially suppress the assessment values on them. This would significantly increase funding for our public schools.
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, but I have heard her speak to a gathering of SF educators and read several of her articles and blogs. The district needs to think about accountability in terms of the communities which need to be lifted up so that opportunity gaps are not exacerbating achievement gaps. We are still caught up in this focus on standardized tests, and need to embrace the holistic approach espoused in the ESSA.
Charter schools exploit achievement gaps to push new charters into communities, as Innovate recently attempted in the Bayview. A concerted expansion by for-profit charter corporations has been documented nationwide. It's not about serving our neediest kids and communities. Using digital instruction to replace or reduce the teaching staff does a disservice to these students. In
fact, it neglects high-needs students who need caring adults in their lives. Charter
schools need to be scrutinized on policies excluding special needs and at-risk students,
as well as their practices in teacher hiring, due process, and contracts. The passage of
AB406 gives us a clear signal that for profits do not belong in education.
18. What do you think of the District's use of standardized tests?
How would you change them, if at all?
I think that most of the district's assessments are valuable tools in providing teachers, students and families with knowledge about student proficiency in core literacy areas. Based on personal experience with my son, now going into 5th grade, the Fountas and Pinnell tests help teachers to provide leveled texts and differentiate instruction for students; its scale shows a high degree of overlap in the range of scores for each grade level, thus validating that students' levels vary widely and need to be served accordingly. The testing method is individual and appropriately time consuming, so I would support teachers having more release time to administer these tests. The Integrated Writing Assessment is also a valuable test that looks at the student's ability to think critically and explain what they've read in their own words. As for the math assessments, they measure students' ability to perform tasks, but also assess their reasoning and ability to communicate their solutions. If this duplicates the measures in Smarter Balanced math assessments (mandated by the state), then these particular tests may not be necessary.
19. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special
Education students and ESL students?
The district has a mandate to serve special ed students with IEPs and 504s, managed by a learning specialist working with a team at the school. This means that the learning specialist is responsible for ensuring that appropriate and trained personnel are assigned to the student during school hours. This is particularly important when it comes to students who might have behavioral issues impacting the safety of other students. In this sense, the team is accountable for delivering services, and it is the responsibility of the specialist to ensure this is done properly.
ESL students need to be tested early enough in order to receive appropriate services and placement for the school year. Teachers who have English learners in their classrooms need the curricular support to scaffold learning for these students. Also, the testing system should be revamped so that kids who are stuck as long-term learners have avenues to move forward in their language development. Finally, more than half of the 2000 homeless students in SFUSD are English language learners. We need to allocate more funding toward personnel and services that support these students' mental and physical well being,
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 make decisions by consulting the groups who are most impacted by these changes. As an AFT 2121 faculty leader, I have ensured that the voices of students, instructors, counselors and others who work on the front lines are heard by our CCSF board of trustees. Having advocated for Prop W which funded Free City College, I also count on community groups to speak for the needs of students and families.
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