SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2019
Due Date: Thurs, Sep 12, 11:59 pm.
Candidate Name: Jenny Lam
Phone Number: 415.699.5349
Name of Campaign Manager: Cynthia Ngan
How much do you expect to spend in this contest: $55,000
I am proud that diverse elected officials, community groups, and
activists support my candidacy to continue my work on the SFUSD Board
of Education. I've worked hard to gather support from community
members from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and contexts, and will
continue to lead through collaborating with and listening to the
Public officials who have endorsed me include:
London Breed, Mayor
Scott Wiener, State Senate
David Chiu, State Assembly
Phil Ting, State Assembly
Carmen Chu, Assessor
Vallie Brown, Supervisor
Sandra Lee Fewer, Supervisor
Matt Haney, Supervisor
Rafael Mandelman, Supervisor
Gordon Mar, Supervisor
Hillary Ronen, Supervisor
Ahsha Safai, Supervisor
Catherine Stefani, Supervisor
Shamann Walton, Supervisor
Alison Collins, School Board
Stevon Cook, School Board
Gabriela López, School Board
Faauuga Moliga, School Board
Rachel Norton, School Board
Mark Sanchez, School Board
Brigitte Davila, College Board
Ivy Lee, College Board
Alex Randolph, College Board
Thea Selby, College Board
Tom Temprano, College Board
Shanell Williams, College Board
Jane Kim, Fmr Supervisor
Emily Murase, Fmr School Board
Suzy Loftus, Fmr Police Commission
Organizational endorsements include: Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club
Bernal Heights Democratic Club
Building and Construction Trades Committee on Political Education (COPE)
Democratic Women in Action
Harvey Milk Democratic Club
Latino Democratic Club
League of Conservation Voters
Rose Pak Democratic Club
San Francisco Democratic Party
San Francisco Women's Political Committee
San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club
United Educators of San Francisco
United Democratic Club
Incumbent Board Member whose votes most reflect your values: Mark Sanchez, Faauga Moliga, Stevon Cook
Incumbent whose votes least reflect your values: I'm endorsed by all of my colleagues
1. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you
involved in the past?
I'm a member of the San Francisco Board of Education and I
serve as Mayor London Breed's Education Advisor, where I proudly serve San
Francisco's public school students, families and educators.
I have served a total of nine years on two SFUSD advisory committees
directing education funding and supporting teachers. I was the Co-Chair of
the SFUSD's Public Education Enrichment Fund and the Quality Teacher and
Education Act Committee.
I live in San Francisco with my husband and two children, who attend SFUSD
2. Why are you running for school board?
Quality education is the right of all children. We must provide all
students with an equal opportunity to succeed. Put student learning first,
build pathways to success and excellence, and develop our students to
contribute towards improving a better society for everyone. Public
education is fundamental to democracy.
I am running for School Board because I have a deep connection with public
education. I am a daughter of immigrants. My parents immigrated to Oakland
the year I was born with few resources. I was an English learner, speaking
only Chinese the day I started Kindergarten. I am a proud product public
schools and am the first in my family to graduate college from the
University of California, Santa Barbara.
Public education is what gave me and my family the opportunity for economic
and social mobility. I've dedicated my professional life to public service
and social justice including working for nonprofit organizations most
notably OASES and the civil rights organization, Chinese for Affirmative
Action in San Francisco.
I have lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years, raising two children
who currently attend San Francisco public schools. Being involved in our
schools and SFUSD for ten years, I have directly experienced many
exceptional educational practices in our public schools. But I have also
witnessed various school challenges in my work with immigrant and
limited-English-proficient parents in Chinatown and southeast
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system? Would
you make changes, and if so, which ones?
The current system is not fulfilling its goal of diversifying our schools
and is frustrating to many families. Over the past couple of decades,
despite our efforts to develop systems to address this, our schools have
been increasingly segregated, and our families with the greatest needs are
among the least likely families to take advantage of our choice system.
Families also face uncertainty and confusion in navigating the school
However, there are no easy answers here. While everyone wants access to a
good school, some families want neighborhood schools and others want
choice. It is not possible to guarantee both, and not easy to design a
system that allows families to meet their needs while also ensuring equity
and diversity. I support the Board's resolution to direct district staff to
consider other student assignment systems and to solicit parent and student
feedback in this process. I am committed to taking a critical look at our
current system and considering how it should be changed through this
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?
Teachers want what anyone wants in their work: to make a meaningful
impact, grow as a professional, and work on a high-functioning
team. In order to achieve those aims, schools need visionary
leadership that executes with fidelity. Studies have shown that strong
and consistent school leadership attracts educators and improves
teacher retention. If the district invests in school leadership,
especially in schools serving low-income students of color, we will
see stronger outcomes for educators and for students.
Of course, income is also a factor. I supported the Mayor's policy to
increase teacher pay for educators working in our highest potential
schools. I will continue to support higher pay for educators serving our
most vulnerable young people.
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?
Inequities in school funding are an issue in communities across California
and the nation. While our state's funding formula has become more equitable
in recent years through the Local Control Funding Formula, inequities in
school-level parent funding remain. Within SFUSD, one elementary school PTA
may raise $400,000, while another may only raise $4000. Other districts,
such as Albany, have centralized donations in an effort to combat these
inequities and ensure all schools can benefit from parent donations. A key
step to begin to consider solutions to addressing these inequities is to
track what funds are raised at each SFUSD school through private donations,
and what those funds pay for.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
I support programs that promote youth leadership and offer students
opportunity to build community. I support the current SFUSD policy on
JROTC as the program has been positive for students who participate. I
support positive programs so long as they are fiscally responsible,
non-discriminatory and the staff is qualified.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
Lack of representation at the decision-maker level is always deeply
concerning. It is something that deserves our focused attention.
It is critical we are intentional in developing and fostering leadership,
particularly parents with children in the School District. I served a total
of 9 years between the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) community
advisory committee and the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee for the School
District. During this time, I learned more about the School District as a
public educational institution including budget, curriculum, educational
support programs experiences of school sites. Not only do we need to
encourage people of color to run for public office but provide ongoing
coaching and peer support to ensure their positive growth and success. It's
imperative SFUSD personnel teachers, administrators, program staff, school
board reflect our student body. I am committed to supporting diverse
candidates for School Board.
8. What do you think of the public comment policy at school board
meetings? How (if at all) would you change it?
I encourage and support members of the public to comment at school
board meetings, both during general public comment and on particular
agenda items. I am pleased that a recent policy changes adopted this
past March places the general public comment earlier in the agenda,
during opening items, so that public comment is more accessible to
students and parents. I believe that agendas, including order of
agenda items, should be transparent, published, and regularly updated,
so that members of the public can arrange their schedules to be
present and offer public comment. Interpretation services are a key
component of making public comment accessible to all members of our
school and city community.
9. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and
caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
I tri-chaired Prop N (2016) Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections.
Unfortunately, the measure didn't pass. In the third attempt, San Francisco
became the first city in California to allow noncitizens to vote for School
Board elections in 2018. As a result, 59 out of 65 registered noncitizen
voters voted. This is the highest voter turnout of any demographic.
To expand access, more resources are needed for community outreach and
education so people have the information they need to register and vote. We
must also make sure that non-citizens feel safe in casting their ballots
and making their voices heard.
With the partnership of Chinese for Affirmative Action, I have worked with
several founding coalition organizational members including the Central
American Resource Center (CARECEN), La Raza Community Resource Center
through SFILEN, and the San Francisco Immigrant and Legal Education Network
to provide these potential voters with legal and supportive services.
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
At the school level, key opportunities for staff, family, and student
input into administrative decision-making occur through governance
bodies such as the school site council, English Language advisory
council, union building committee, and parent-teacher-student
association. Thus, district investments and supports for these key
governance and organizational structures is key, especially where
capacity may vary by school site. The annual SSC summit is an example
of the kinds of training and support that can be provided to
facilitate robust input in school decision-making processes. Training
for school principals and leaders in how to facilitate robust staff,
student, and family input--including through surveys and governance
structures--is also essential.
At the district level, district level
structures such as the District ELAC, Parent Advisory Council, and
Local Control Accountability Plan Task Force provide parallel
district-level structures for input into administrative
11. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student
representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote on
Yes. I believe students who serve on SFUSD's board of education should have
the full right to vote on measures, just as student members on our
California State Board of Education do. Students are the people whom the
Board of Education exists to serve and represent. Including them as full
voting members of the Board is essential both to meet our democratic purpose
as well as to model for our students the democratic process in ways that
will foster civic engagement throughout their lives.
12. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the
role of the superintendent?
There are a lot of misconceptions, even among people who work in
education, about the role of a school board member. School board
members set district policy and direction, hire a superintendent and
hold him/her accountable for policy implementation, and sign off on
the budget. School district employees report to the Superintendent,
not to the Board. School board members do not start the budgeting
process from scratch. Rather, the Superintendent solicits input from
schools, departments, unions, and the community in order to create a
draft budget for the Board to consider.
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?
SFUSD complies with the 2010 California Civic Centers Act (Education
Code 38130-38139) which sets the framework for how school districts
charge fees for the use of their facilities and grounds by external
organizations. The fee structure for renting school facilities is
equitable nonprofits whose work supports SFUSD's strategic goals (for
instance, a community based organization) are charged less than
for-profits (for instance, a major film corporation). I would propose
that the fees for profit-making companies be raised, keeping in mind
that SFUSD buildings exist for students, and that all rental requests
not impinge on the teaching and learning at the site, regardless of
the profit-making opportunities.
14. What should the district do to make its schools more
Greening current sites and building new, green sites has been a
priority of the District for more than 20 years. SFUSD has one the
most ambitious climate action plans of any school district in the
nation. I will continue to support sustainable building designs in our
school capital program that will eliminate the use of natural gas in
buildings, improve stormwater capture with green infrastructure,
increase water and energy efficiency, and support onsite energy
generation projects. I believe these projects will create a healthier
environment for our employees and students, and will instill the
environmental values and learning opportunities that are crucial to
create new generations of environmental stewards. I further pledge to
defend the practices if budgetary discussions begin to question the
cost and usefulness of greening.
I support transportation improvements as well, in order to provide better,
greener transportation to schools for students and employees, many of whom
currently drive. Yellow school bus transportation for General Education
students has been on the decline for decades and I do not support an
increase yellow school buses and routes. Instead I will advocate for a new
yellow bus contract pushing for an all-electric, zero emission fleet, and
to improve awareness and new programs that will promote sustainable
transportation options for students and employees like public transit,
carpool apps, biking, and walking.
When we make greener decisions, we benefit our students' learning, as well
as the environment. The district has made such improvements in the past,
like when SFUSD made the switch to greener cleaning products, and when it
integrated air quality monitoring and education into the curriculum. We saw
the benefits of this strategy: documented improvements in respiratory
health among students.
I intend to increase SFUSD Sustainability's Earth Day Every Day program,
and find ways to expand and maintain SFUSD's Green Schoolyard programs. I
will do this because I wholeheartedly support wellness for our students,
including ways that they can help themselves, their peers and adults around
them to lead a healthy life.
SFUSD established the Office of Sustainability in 2008, which has been
steadily growing not only its environmental curriculum, but students'
ownership of their school and home environmental practices. However, there
is more work to do. This includes curriculum that focuses on student
empowerment to create a more sustainable world for themselves, and learning
that grows a healthy respect for the earth, and in turn, for oneself.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a
public pre-K program? If so, how?
The research is clear that access to high-quality pre-K puts children--and
especially children from low-income families and dual language learners--on
a path to strong academic and life outcomes. Yet a recent set of studies on
California's public education system found that the achievement gap is
present before kindergarten. The learning rates of California's third
through eighth grade students are the same as or slightly better than other
students nationwide, but California's low-income students lag behind their
peers nationally primarily because of lower school-readiness levels when
they enter kindergarten. Black and Latino children and dual language
learners are less likely to have attended preschool than white children.
Here in San Francisco, though, we have a made a significant public
commitment to providing access to high-quality pre-K to all students,
through efforts such as Preschool for All as well as investments in early
education through initiatives such as the Public Education Enrichment Fund.
I strongly support these continued investments, as well as the eventual
expansion of Preschool for All so that it covers all 3-year olds, not just
all 4 year-olds. SFUSD offers access to Preschool for All programs through
its public preschool sites, but many Preschool for All sites are also
privately operated. This mix of public and private delivery--with key
quality assurance and accountability mechanisms, in addition to state
licensing requirements--is key to ensuring an adequate supply of
high-quality preschool opportunities to meet the demand for services across
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?
The district's current financial situation is better than it has been
in years. With the generosity of San Francisco voters we have been
able to add critical services that had disappeared for many years and
is not available to other cities in California. However even with this
additional revenue we are far from getting the financial support we
need from the state to achieve our mission and serve all of our
students. We need to work at the state level to split-roll prop 13 and
have corporations pay their fair share so that we can fund or state
education infrastructure and public service safety net.
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 do not support increasing privatization or expanding charter schools. I
strongly support holding existing charter schools accountable for achieving
strong outcomes for all students, for serving student population that
reflects the diversity of SFUSD including students with special needs,
students learning English, students from low-income families, and for
serving students and families equitably (including with respect to school
admission and discipline procedures). I also believe every aspect of our
system should have the protection of labor rights and provide high quality
education for all children and their families.
I support our historical and local charters that have a proven track record
of serving students we have not historically or offering dramatically
different approaches to education, that we can not scale here in the
district, like outdoor education, schools for students with special needs
like blindness or deafness or more specifically like Five Keys Charter
which works specially with the police and Sheriffs Dept, etc.
Charters should be exceptions and exceptional, not common place.
18. What do you think of the District's use of standardized tests?
How would you change them, if at all?
SFUSD must follow state law in administering and reporting on student
outcomes on state standardized tests, including the Smarter Balanced
Assessments in Math and English Language Arts, the California Science
Assessment, and the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California.
Our district is held accountable under both federal and state law
(including on the California School Dashboard) for student outcomes and
progress on these assessments as well as other measures, as well as the
participation rates of our students. To support students in mastering both
the content and format of the assessments, and to support schools and
teachers in understanding how their students are progressing, the district
provides interim assessments throughout the year aligned to the statewide
Ensuring that these interim assessments are designed and scored by teachers
(who are fairly compensated for their time in doing so) ensures that the
interim assessments are responsive to classroom needs and serve as strong
professional learning opportunities for teachers as well.
19. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special
Education students and ESL students?
This is a personal issue for me, as I was an English Learner myself. SFUSD
has learned a lot in recent years about how to best support strong outcomes
for our English learners, and research suggests that continued
prioritization of two-way dual immersion programs is a strategic investment
in their success.
A recent study by Stanford researchers of SFUSD's pathway programs for
English learners found that, while students in English immersion programs
perform better in the short term, over the long term students in classrooms
taught in two languages not only catch up to their English immersion
counterparts, but they eventually surpass them, both academically and
Given these strong outcomes, I will continue to prioritize investment in
two-way immersion programs in order to better serve the district's EL
students. For these programs to be successful, we also need to ensure an
adequate supply of qualified bilingual teachers to teach in these programs.
SFUSD's teacher residency program and Classified Staff Teacher Training
program is an important source of well-prepared bilingual teachers.
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)?
My approach to policy and political decision-making is collaborative,
pragmatic, and grounded in over twenty years of experience working in and
outside of government, primarily in organizations focused on education,
equity, and social justice. I have found that inclusive, collaborative
processes that center the needs of students, teachers and educational
communities produce better policies and political decisions. I also think
as Board Members we need to listen with great care to our school district's
leadership and staff, as they are engaged full-time in implementing the
policies we develop. I am experienced working with diverse groups of
stakeholders to build consensus and advance equity-driven policies that are
both practical and consistent with my values.
I am a product of public education, kindergarten through college, and now
am a public school parent who has long been active at my children's schools
and in SFUSD overall including through leadership of the Public Education
and Enrichment Fund Committee and the Quality Teacher and Education Act
Committee. I have devoted my career to public service and social justice,
working in grassroots community organizing groups like OASES (Oakland Asian
Students Educational Services) and Chinese for Affirmative Action, service
providing organizations like GirlVentures and Education SuperHighway, and
now inside local government as the Mayor's Education Advisor.
As Board of Education Commissioner, my policy making priorities are guided
by values, principles, of improvement of academic achievement at all of the
District's schools through measures including (1) Support for teacher
training, collaboration, and retention (including by continuing to improve
teacher compensation) to advance innovative and high quality instruction;
(2) expanding early interventions for reading, writing, and math, paired
with social emotional supportive services, and (3) strengthening science,
math, arts, technology, and language opportunities in our schools and
striving to make access to these programs more equitable and widespread. We
need to ensure that all of our students graduate with life skills that
prepares them for the future - every student can access and thrive in higher
education and the workforce.
Due Date: Thurs, Sep 12, 11:59 pm.
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Completed questionnaires will be posted on our website,