SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2018
Due Date: Friday, Aug 24
Candidate Name: Mia Satya
Phone Number: (415) 304-3684, or call Campaign Manager at (415) 971-9559
Web site: MiaSatya.Com
Name of Campaign Manager: Otto Pippenger
Signed voluntary spending limit: N/A
Major Endorsements:Elected Officials
Supervisor Jane Kim
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman
Commissioner Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Education
Trustee Tom Temprano, City College Board
Trustee Thea Selby, City College Board
Trustee Shanell Williams, City College Board
Former Supervisor John Avalos
Former Supervisors Bevan Dufty
Former Supervisor Angela Alioto
Gabriel Quinto, Mayor of El Cerrito
Ash Kalra, California Assemblymember
Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club
Incumbent Board Member whose votes most reflect your values: Matt Haney
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 have taught workshops on health education, civic engagement and LGBTQ allyship for students at over 10 public schools, and I have worked with hundreds of SFUSD students in afterschool programs and youth internship programs.
I was active in the community coalition that worked for over a year and a half leading up to the reauthorization of the Children's Fund and Public Enrichment and Education Fund (PEEF) in 2014. I worked to include children and parents in the community lead needs assessment, and after the proposition was on the ballot I trained community members to speak to groups in favor of the proposition. I canvassed neighborhoods with Prop C literature and I spoke at rallies and press conferences.This resulted in an increase in the fund to over $100M a year in critical services for children including sports, arts, libraries, and afterschool programs.
I currently serve on the SFUSD Quality Teacher Education Act Oversight Committee which provides financial incentives for teachers in schools with high turnover as well as incentives for hard-to-fill subject areas like bilingual instruction and special education. The QTEA Committee is entrusted to ensure that the proceeds from the proposition are expended for their intended purposes.
2. Why are you running for school board?
The public school system has been the cause of both some of the gravest challenges and the greatest opportunities in my life. The hostility I faced as a young trans woman hindered my ability to advance in life to such a degree that I was homeless after high school, while also inculcating in me the motivation and cause to take my first steps into public life. Similarly, institutions like City College of San Francisco through their availability have enabled me to become an advocate for people like me and effect great change.
Subsequently all of my political work, both with city institutions and as an activist these past ten years has centered around youth in our city. Working in the effort to create free MUNI for 40,000 low income youth, registering queer youth to vote, reinstating the Public Education Enrichment Fund, all descend from and reflect my firsthand knowledge of the major faultlines of our society, and belief that those suffering those privations most acutely are the ones we should be listening to to correct them.
With our achievement gap along lines of race and class being so apparent, with fully 50% of trans youth attempting suicide by the end of middle school, with our students and teachers alike being unable to afford to live in this city, it is readily apparent to me that the gravest issues at hand in San Francisco's public educational system arise from the shadow cast by deprivation and prejudice at large.
I am running therefore, to bridge these gaps of resentment and poverty that have left so many unable to take advantage of our robust, egalitarian educational system. Those who are closest to the pain should be closest to the power, and as a youth activist who has had direct contact with the same obstacles I am running in hopes that I can use my experience to remove those obstacles for others so that they might be able to have a hand in shaping their own futures.
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system?
Would you make changes, and if so, which ones?
As a system designed to end segregation, the lottery still sees choice patterns highly consistent with race, and leaves the parents with the least resources or experience it was designed to help in an inferior position to better advantaged parents with the time and resources to engage in a strategic effort around their child's placement. The lottery system can also lead to absurdities like living across the street from one school and having to leave the house at 5:00 in the morning to be on time for another at the other end of the district.
Reforms must include a concerted outreach effort to immigrants and economically disadvantaged parents who make little use of the system. Parents and children themselves should be encouraged to think about where they want to attend with tours and formalized information being provided rather than the word-of-mouth and internet discussion that currently plays such a large role. When choosing schools there must be comprehensive information about all possible placements, ranging form test scores to nearness to the home. Parents should have the option to allow their children to be automatically entered into the lottery and choose whether they want to take the reassignments. Reassignments for medical of family hardships must also include hardship within the school itself as a provision, and we must prioritize ensuring that siblings can be placed at the same schools to spare parents from having to deliver children to multiple locations in the morning.
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 don't think the ultimate answer is to take well established teachers and reassign them. The reason experienced teachers are good is because of their long acquaintance with the students of a neighborhood, the school curriculum and administration, and their relationships with parents, administrators, and colleagues. We must work to turn new teachers into experienced and trusted ones just as much as we work to retain our best current teachers.
We must think long term and keep the cultivation of the overall careers of our educators in mind. If we need teachers in a hard to fill school or subject, (in addition to the current system of direct financial incentives) we should be looking to our existing teachers at those schools and prioritizing them for retraining opportunities, or else looking to lifelong community residents, substitutes, staff, and paraeducators already dedicated to high-stress schools, and offering them the financial and career planning assistance to become the teachers we need.
The best course is to use our funding as effectively as possible to attract and prevent dissatisfaction in new teachers by offsetting student loans, and offering assistance in moving here or finding a first apartment.
With a pay scale that is based on subject, school, seniority, and education we should be doing everything possible to identify teachers early and help them advance along multiple vectors at once. Moving schools loses its appeal when the expense of moving or transit exceeds the pay incentives, and so we must pursue teacher housing as well as educator ride-shares or transit discounts. We must use district negotiating power and recommendations to ensure that promising teachers can receive additional education that fits into their work schedule (nights, and summers), whose costs we can offset, and for which time in education also counts as time spent teaching in terms of seniority and salary.
Retention of teachers also stems from personal satisfaction, for which I propose increasing each teacher's personal input into their curriculum, making efforts to ensure that teachers can have a long term role as mentors and advocates in former student's academic careers to cultivate their connection and sense of accomplishment, and ensuring that teachers are well supported in their lives outside the classroom with opportunities over the summer for additional education, academic work, and access to district negotiated deals to defray costs, like cell phone or internet plans.
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?
There is a stinging unfairness and absurdity apparent when some already well appointed schools can prevail upon the wealthier parents of their students for extra budget when others are lacking in basic essentials. Emergencies like the achievement gap, and the affordability question, must be addressed first. However, I do have misgivings about altogether eliminating a nonetheless positive means for schools to improve themselves. The two questions for me are firstly, to what extent does a parent's ability to pay implicitly determine their child's acceptance into schools like Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and Lowell? And secondly, how can we create equity without dissuading parents from contributing?
Contributions by parents to schools are essentially a charity, and like any charity they present the issue of funds being distributed equally to the more apparent targets rather than the most deserving.
I ultimately think that parental donations should be given to and routed through the district firstly, with the funds being automatically divided between schools. Failing that, I also would support efforts pursue the creation of price-matching fund, whereby parental donations to wealthier schools would be matched by city funding, or whereby donations drives for wealthier schools would also see the parents of those first schools made aware of the needs of others, so that funding efforts might be paired between schools as common practice. I also feel there is a distinction between spontaneous or case by case/emergency donation drives and standardized, annual practices like the large donations requested of parents at RASOTA and other schools.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
I am opposed to the armed forces recruiting from amongst minors with developing minds, and to the Department of Defense having any formal or financial influence within schools. I was supportive of Sandra Lee Fewer's efforts in 2016.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
I would. School Board candidates as citywide candidates must attract 50,000 - 100,000 votes to win, and if we are to encourage the educators, activists, and parents who have the expertise and passion for these positions to run, switching to a district based system would allow greater democracy by allowing candidates without large budgets or staffs to run, as well as allowing members to more directly engage with the parents and educators of the schools in their districts.
I favor municipalist reforms in general, and feel there are few cases where allowing candidates more time to meet with voters, and voters more time to question candidates would be undesirable.
Wealthy districts like D8 see an undue influence overall as well, and a district based system would allow underserved ones like D10 and D11 the opportunity to have their particular needs met.
8. What do you think of the public comment policy at school board
meetings? How (if at all) would you change it?
The point at which public comment can be made is often very late, and two minutes is not always sufficient, with commentators standing through large irrelevant stretches to get to their point of interest.
Therefore I propose that each major agenda item in a meeting be given its own period of commentary, followed by a catchall at the end as is standard. So as to give large groups an increased ability to gather with limited time availability, and for the general public to be able to respond to items directly and when relevant. While this would introduce an element of delay, when a Board of Education meeting is significant to attract the time and energy of a large group of citizens, I feel that that interest must be accorded respect.
9. What is your stance on allowing non-citizen parents, guardians and
caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
I am very much in favor of this. Moving to another country, enrolling a child in school there, and wanting to undertake the effort to vote to my mind are all the qualifications a person should need. Every parent surely has an equal stake in what happens in their child's school? As it currently stands our school board is asked to presume the desires of the numerous non citizens it represents rather than legitimately enact them.
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
I think that administrative decision making needs a formalized voice for teachers at every level of proceedings. Policy at the level of a single school should be voted upon by academic senates of teachers as in the UC and City College system. By and large K-12 education can take much from collegiate organization- matters of curriculum and day to day administration should be informed by the decisions of department (i.e. English) or grade level (i.e. 3rd grade) "Deans" chosen amongst teachers, while an academic senate should have a hand in curriculum, hiring, and budget, with the support of union structures and resources to ensure that they are separate from other administrative structures.
School site councils should be have representatives present at meetings with the district, gather amongst themselves annually to compare their experiences rather than only through their school, be used to evaluate principals, and have representatives drawn from their ranks in any Citizen's Advisory Committees pertaining to school property or any other city agency activities affecting the school in question.
11. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student
representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote
Yes! As a former Youth Commissioner, this is one of the changes I most strongly favor. I have led dozens of workshops teaching students how to organize in school and in the larger city civic processes in terms of everything from registering to vote, to sitting on a city committee. I favor registering all high school graduates to vote, the addition of student voices to district planning, review, PTAs, and the like, as well as the addition of curriculum materials centered around practical engagement in local and national democracy for all grade levels.
Student leadership councils must be given the education and support needed
12. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the
role of the superintendent?
The School Board compared to the superintendent must be uncompromising in its commitment to carrying out the will of its constituents, and members of the district. They are the ones who receive public and educator opinion, and who have the firmest responsibility to respond to it. I have no major designs on changing the relationship between the Board and the superintendent.
13. A portion of SFUSD income is from rental of various properties.
What changes should the district make to increase the income from
The prices for rentals, particularly for private/commercial events are quite cheap- no more than $99 per hour for gymnasiums and cafeterias, along with permit and staffing fees of course. I am very much in favor of district facilities being cheap for nonprofits and community groups, I see no reason why costs for businesses and private parties should not be increased under a progressive gradation that ensures cheapness for working and middle class families or small businesses while extracting higher costs for larger entities.
Secondly, instead of hourly event fees, in the case of property unused for long periods of time (i.e. summer vacation) I would also favor the creation of a separate payment schedule for longer term rentals, offering discounts for rentals covering weeks or months rather than hours, assuming that extremely firm protections could be put in place to ensure non competition with the legitimate educational uses for which most of the facilities were initially intended.
14. What should the district do to make its schools more
We can implement a complete refurbishment of lighting and electronics to reduce consumption, and move towards at least partially green energy for all schools by installing solar panels.
Minor improvements can be made by reducing water flow, studying usage of AC/heater units to reduce costs during non-peak consumption periods, and encouraging students to bring their own (or issuing) silverware, thermoses, and cloth napkins. Similarly we can reduce paper waste by re-introducing the usage of chalk or dry erase tablets for day to day note taking amongst students in classrooms.
Littering should also be addressed directly, with education around recycling and compost emphasized, and a communal emphasis on the collection, and proper disposal of such materials. Compost can be observed, and recyclable waste can be measured, with both integrated into classroom discussion productively.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a
public pre-K program? If so, how?
I would. I was active in the community coalition that worked for over a year and a half leading up to the reauthorization of the Children's Fund and Public Enrichment and Education Fund (PEEF) in 2014. I worked to include children and parents in the community lead needs assessment, and after the proposition was on the ballot I trained community members to speak to groups in favor of the proposition. I canvassed neighborhoods with Prop C literature and I spoke at rallies and press conferences. One third of the PEEF is allocated to SFUSD EDD, and has helped increase the amount of four year olds enrolled in preschool to 83% which is above the national average. While serving on the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families Oversight and Advisory Committee we worked in collaboration with the Office of Early Care & Education, First 5 San Francisco, Children's Council, and Child Care Planning and Advisory Council to improve quality and increase accessibility of early childhood education for all children in San Francisco.
We need to survey the exact number of private pre-k's in the city, and do what we can to ensure they meet our standards, relying on them and existing programs to first ensure that as many under-5 children are receiving pre-k education as possible with recent funding increases, then work to acquire or build as many as possible through the district. It will be a project necessitating the support of other city agencies in creating facilities master-plan, and in training employees which must be begun as soon as possible if it is to be implemented.
16. Do you think Prop 13 needs to be reformed? If so, in what ways?
It certainly does. I favor reform to enable the collection of taxes from commercial parcels or other business properties and the closure of loopholes pursuant to ownership changes while preserving the initial intent of the proposition to protect ordinary homeowners. Non Primary residences, and properties owned for speculation should also be subject to property taxes.
How will you use your position on the Board to advocate for this?
The Board of Education's interest in reform is obvious- the return of as much as possible of the roughly 10 billion dollars in lost property taxes to education. With the affordability crisis, the largest classroom size in the nation, and being ranked 44th in per-pupil funding, the Board of Education should be taking a leading role in Prop 13 reform advocacy by calling attention the weaknesses missing funding has created in our schools, and fighting to ensure that the school district's financial needs would be met by such reform.
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 it, but am familiar with its arguments. I agree with the basic assertion that essential based education- namely the liberal arts and sciences should be prioritized. More importantly I agree that modelling public schools on private businesses is heinous and wrongheaded. A test should measure the student's facility with a curriculum, not replace it altogether. Setting goals such as "no drug addiction in school" or "1st in the world in math and English" as George Bush Sr. did in the late 80s only encourages falsification and harshness to meet the technical definition of these goals.
In removing the "business model" from public schools we should use district resources to fight back against private stakeholders like expensive and politically motivated textbook publishers or test publishers by creating and commissioning our own alternatives when possible and harshly penalizing administrators who enter into relationships with unscrupulous contractors or private campus bookstores. Particularly in the case of school supplies and food we would be wise to limit the opportunity and role of profit seeking companies to dictate the contracts entered by our public schools. Like any other public industry, lobbyists, and regulatory capture are present in our schools and must be fought.
Charter schools, the KIPP conversion model in particular must be fought. Any attempt to privatize a public school is an attack on democracy, and another victory for union-busting against our constituent teachers and educators. I am interested in keeping some of the educational advancements of charter schools in our city with regard to structure and curriculum, but as far as their status and relationship to the district, unions, and civic democracy, I am only interested in returning them to the public purview.
18. What do you think of the District's use of standardized tests?
How would you change them, if at all?
I believe that educators, not policymakers, should be developing and implementing assessments to best prepare our students for succeeding in today's rapidly changing economy. Instead of narrowing down curricula, greater emphasis should be placed on strengthening critical thinking skills and civic engagement.
I am glad there has been a decrease in the amount of time SFUSD students spend taking assessments, and I believe we can continue to cut back on tests not required by state and federal law. I support allowing teachers to opt out of administering district mandated assessments including Integrated Writing Assessments and the Fountas and Pinnell (F and P) Benchmark Assessments, because teachers are already aware what students are falling behind and need smaller class sizes and more paraprofessionals to bring students up to grade level. We also need to continue working to ensure that schools have adequate technology to prepare students to take computerized tests.
19. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special
Education students and ESL students?
ESL students would benefit immensely from being able to receive their coursework in their native languages so that they might work with tutors, or their ESL instructors to complete it. They should not be held back in every capacity when they are capable of learning the same material as English-native classmates. ESL instructors should be advocating for their students with other teachers so that they can more fully participate in the entire scholastic experience. The district must also take steps to explore what it can do to protect its students and their parents from federal immigration agencies. We must be prepared to address microaggressions and other racialized hostilities seriously, with sensitivity training and counseling alike being key.
Special Education students can also benefit from having their programs better integrated with the individualized care their students receive outside of school, and by making sure that parents have numerous opportunities to become involved in their students' educations and observe. We should refurbish the environments used by Special Education classes for optimal safety, and ensure that there is ready access to a wide range of paraprofessionals and mental health professionals. In the case of immobile or nonvocal students, we must combine medical and psychological observation, parental engagement, and observation by multiple, separate, non intersecting organizational structures on a regular basis to ensure that they are not in pain, or being mistreated in any way. Educational efforts should also focus more on integrating them into civic/social/community life outside of school and home without directing Special Needs students towards exploitative menial labor. Social, athletic, artistic, and skill based opportunities should all be high priorities.
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 view things through a public policy mindset as I was taught to when studying for my degree in Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis from Mills College, as colored by my experience as a queer and homeless youth who was barred both implicitly and explicitly from the civic process, and lastly as someone who has spent the last decade working on city committees, nonprofits, and as an activist to conceptualize, draft, advocate for, enact, and evaluate policies through every step of their creation and and implementation. If I do not have personal experience in a given issue or field, then my standard practice is to consult the people affected by an issue for their desires, before discussing it with my colleagues in the decision making process.
My first step when learning about a new issue to try to come to grips with the specifics as soon as possible- to read the text of a law, court case, or financial records for myself to dispense with exaggeration and prejudice as much as I can. I will usually find subjects I am unfamiliar with, and will either study the terms directly or determine who has the expertise to interpret them, and seek their advice.
For political issues I want to know who is supporting a given position and why. I will read old minutes and voting records to find who supports what, and what their arguments are. I will look into the supporters they cite, as well as their campaign contributions.
After feeling comfortable with the historical/intellectual aspects of an issue, I will seek out constituents and experts on both sides to compare and contrast my understanding with theirs, and follow that again with my colleagues in the decision making body. Once I've gathered enough information, I make my decision based on my principles. What is equitable? What is fair? What do the majority want? What does the minority need? Is there an answer that avoids hurting anyone? Does this advance municipal democracy, the material conditions of the average person, or the social conditions of the marginalized? Is this right in perpetuity or for the moment? What could go wrong down the road?
I make my decisions to meet needs that I, and my constituents agree are pressing. I try to offer the fairest, longest lasting, and most ethically sound decisions I can.
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