SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2022
Due Date: Saturday, September 3
Candidate Name: Lisa Weissman-Ward
Phone Number: 415-340-0740
Web site: www.lisaforSFBOE.com
Name of Campaign Manager: N/A
How much do you expect to spend in this contest: Unknown. I am currently fundraising and accepting donations for individuals.
• Senator Scott Wiener
• Mayor London Breed
• Supervisor Hillary Ronen
• Supervisor Ahsha Safai
• Supervisor Myrna Melgar
• Supervisor Rafael Mandleman
• Assemblymember Matt Haney
• Assemblymember Phil Ting
• City College, Trustee Shanell Williams
• City College, Trustee John Rizzo
• Board of Education President, Jenny Lam
• San Francisco Democratic Central Committee (DCCC)
• United Educators of San Francisco (UESF)
• San Francisco Labor Council
• San Francisco Firefighters Local 798
• San Francisco Building & Trades
• LiUNA Laborers Local 261
• Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club
• San Francisco Women's Political Action Committee
• United Democratic Club
• Eastern Neighborhood Democratic Club
• District 2 Democratic Club
• San Francisco Parent Action
Incumbent Board Member whose votes most reflect your values:
I have come into this space with a desire and commitment to learning from all of the incumbent board members. Fortunately, each and every one of them has embraced me with open arms and shown a willingness to share information and engage in thoughtful dialouge.
Incumbent whose votes least reflect your values:
N/A (see above)
1. What is your stance on COVID safety in the schools? Under what circumstances might you support instating a mask or vaccine mandate, or canceling in-person classes? What would be the main basis on which you make this decision? (e.g., would it be based on your gut feelings, or whose advice would you listen to?)
I have a range of expertise, but epidemiology is not one of them. To that end, I would make decisions on whether to initiate a mask mandate, vaccine mandate, or cancel in-person-classes based on local SFDPH and recommendations.
2. Why are you running for school board?
I am a bi-racial mother of two SFUSD public-school children, a daughter of educators and a civil rights advocate, a twin-sister (to a doctor specializing in addiction medicine and gender-affirming healthcare), and a spouse (to a labor and workforce development advocate). That's to say that I've grown up with-and chose- to surround myself with people who, like me, are committed to improving the lives of others. I am bringing this commitment to my work on the School Board.
I am the product of public schools - from kindergarten through college and law school. I understand and have personally benefited from quality public education.
As the Associate Director of Stanford Law School's Immigrants' Rights Clinic, I have two roles. Wearing my attorney hat, I represent individuals facing deportation, asylum seekers fleeing persecution, and undocumented individuals with limited legalization options. Wearing my educator hat, I teach and mentor law students. Working under the supervision of my law license, my students have an opportunity to represent clients before the immigration courts and asylum office. I teach them how to engage in critical discourse, negotiation, and consensus building, and how to interview clients with a cultural humility and trauma informed lens. My work has shown me the value of meeting each individual where he/she/they are and the importance of starting conversations from a point of commonality rather than a point of difference.
I was appointed to the School Board in March. I joined the School Board because I know (and experienced first-hand, as a parent) how badly the trust was broken between the School Board and the public. That's why I have been focused on student-centered outcomes to rebuild that trust and promote equity and excellence for all SFUSD students. Since my appointment in March, I have spent hundreds of hours in Board meetings and preparing for meetings. I approach my work with the School Board with attention to detail and a commitment to understanding and learning the ins and outs of the School District.
In five short months, my colleagues and I have:
• passed a balanced budget,
• rescinded teacher and staff layoff notices,
• hired a student-centered new Superintendent,
• helped bring new revenue to the District,
• created a transparent and community-driven framework to improve high schools citywide, and
• engaged in intensive work to improve our processes and governance structures so that we can focus on improving student outcomes and closing the opportunity gap.
SFUSD is at a crossroads. Since I was appointed to the School Board, my skills have helped contribute to the progress that my Board colleagues and I have made. These are the skills that will move us forward toward the quality education that all our students deserve.
I am running for the office because I believe that public education is an essential and indispensable social institution. I believe that quality public education for all can close opportunity gaps and help lay the foundation to reverse economic inequities through access to higher education and/or career opportunities. I am also running because of my commitment and desire to focus our District and Board on student-centered outcomes, rebuilding trust and promoting equity and excellence for all SFUSD students.
3. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you involved in the past?
I am a parent of 2 SFUSD children (second and fifth grade). I have been serving on the School Board since March 2022.
4. How do you feel about the current school assignment system (including at Lowell)? Would you make changes, and if so, which ones?
I believe that the school assignment system needs reform. I appreciate the primary goal of the current lottery system- which is to have our schools as integrated as possible. However, the system is flawed in multiple ways. First, it is not meeting its intended goals and many of the schools remain segregated in terms of racial and socio-economic demographics as well as teacher tenure and retention rates. Second, as a parent who has experienced the “lottery” system myself, it is stressful, lacks transparency, lacks predictability, and often lacks meaningful choice.
I am thrilled to be on the ad hoc student assignment committee. I have met with the SFUSD staff who are tasked with leading this process. I have also met with the Stanford data team that is responsible for the demographic data and studies about possible new geographic zones. I am looking forward to receiving and analyzing the forthcoming data from our Stanford partners regarding the options for creating a zone-based system that ensures students can attend diverse and integrated schools close to their homes that allow them full and meaningful access to things should as: before and after care programs, language programs; arts programs, science programs, experienced teachers, and strong PTA programs. As it relates to our high schools, including Lowell and SOTA which are currently criteria/selective admission based, as opposed to lottery, I voted to support the creation of a task force to develop community-led recommendations to examine, evaluate, and improve all of high schools. This task force is also tasked with examining the current admissions process for both Lowell and SOTA and we expect it to issue recommendations regarding future admissions processes that promote both equity and excellence from an academically rigorous perspective. In a city like San Francisco, we should have an abundance of high schools with reputations for excellence. I look forward to receiving recommendations from the task force about how we can grow and expand our rigorous academic programs. I also look forward to receiving recommendations about how we can explore additional opportunities for students who are interested in STEM, the arts, and trade school programs.
5. Some of our schools receive significant funding from parent fundraising. Are you concerned about the inequality in fundraising between schools in rich and poor neighborhoods, and if so, what ideas do you have to make things more equitable?
Yes. I think that this is one of the flaws of our current elementary school lottery system. Even though it is technically a “lottery,” we see that certain schools have access to considerably more resources because of better funded PTAs. Those PTAs then support additional programming, ranging from language to gardening to music. Our schools should not look different in terms of resources and access to learning opportunities because of the availability of a PTA to support more opportunities. I believe that the vision of the forthcoming changes in the student assignment process (desribed above) will assist in closing of these disparities and will uplift the schools that have historically had less access to a well-funded PTA.
6. Are you familiar with the case of Williams et al. v State of California? Do you believe that all schools in the SFUSD are currently in compliance with Williams?
Because I am a sitting member of the Board of Education, I want to be mindful of any potential conflict of interest in me opining on compliance with Williams. That being the case, I know that we have many schools in need of physical upgrades and that many of our schools could benefit from additional physical resources (space and materials). I am committed to ensuring that our schools have parity when it comes to physical space, materials, and qualified teachers.
7. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
Since I have been on the Board, I have heard many different perspectives regarding JROTC, including those who fiercely oppose it and those who fiercely support it. As a Commissioner, I want to create as many opportunities for students as possible. One thing that I am particularly mindful of is that despite my own personal feelings on the military, the overwhelming majority of students who have expressed interest in JROTC and who have praised the program as being one that has provided support and important learning experiences are students of color. Part of creating an inclusive environment is listening to the students.
8. Would you support district elections for school board members?
I have concerns about school board members elected just to represent a specific section of the city. I believe it sets up the elected members to have a “base” and makes the position much more political than it should be. I believe that the only “base” a school board member should have is SFUSD students.
9. Did you support the 2016 Proposition A school bond? Do you think funds were spent wisely?
I voted in support of the 2016 Proposition A school bond. I am concerned that the funds were not spent as wisely and as efficiently as our students, families, and taxpayers deserve.
10. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and caretakers of students to vote in school board elections? Did you take a public position on previous ballot initiatives on the subject?
I am wholeheartedly and enthusiastically absolutely in support of this. In fact, I stood on the steps of city hall on July 14, 2016 with electeds (including Eric Mar and David Chiu) and community organizers after the resolution passed the Rules committee and was on its way to the full Board of Supervisors.
11. What are your thoughts on the various non-profit organizations that partner and/or contract with SFUSD?
I believe that there is a lot of value in having SFUSD partner and collaborate formally with trusted local non-profit organizations. I am a proponent of Community Schools and am actively supporting the Student Success Fund Ballot measure (Proposition G), which will support our vision of centering the whole child and improving student outcomes. It prioritizes the “whole child” model and focuses on the same goals that I have as a Commissioner: improving student outcomes and closing the opportunity gap. For example, for students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, support could include facilitated wrap-around services with experienced and trusted community-based partners who can address the time-sensitive and important needs of our students experiencing homelessness. All of these supports would make it possible and likely that the student would remain in school with the necessary support to allow them to thrive.
12. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote on measures?
I believe some of the most thoughtful and relevant dialogue and conversation has come from our student delegates.
Introducing legislation: I don't believe that it is commonly known that student delegates may author and introduce a motion or resolution if such a motion or resolution has the approval of the Student Advisory Council and is co-sponsored by a regular Board member. I believe that this is a really important opportunity and would like to encourage the student delegates to strengthen their voice through these options.
Voting: Currently, the role of the student delegates as is set forth in Board Rule and Procedure 9150 allows for advisory votes on all matters decided by the Board at all regular and special meetings (except those subject to closed session discussions). This rule originates from California Education Code 35012. According to state law, a student delegate may be a “non-voting” member or a “preferential voting member.” The latter, which is what we have at SFUSD, allows a student delegate to issue a formal expression of opinion, but the vote cast will not serve in determining the final numerical outcome of the vote. As such, the first step to determining whether the voice can be strengthened would be analyzing State law and determining whether any changes are appropriate and possible to expand the voting rights of student delegates.
13. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the role of the superintendent?
The role of the School Board is to reflect the vision and values and to set policy. The role of the Superintendent is to implement the policy.
14. Do you think that SFUSD currently serves the transportation needs of its students? Would you make changes to the current system?
My children happen to attend one of the few schools in the District that has bussing for general education students. We are even luckier that we live a few blocks away from one of the bus stops. I recognize that we are a rarity and that we are exceptionally lucky to have access to a bus. As I described above in question 4, the District is in the midst of making changes to our elementary school assignment system. The goal of the changes are to establish zones so that all students will have options that are within a certain (close) mileage radius. With these changes, the need for bussing will be less.
15. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a public pre-K program? If so, how?
High quality early education is foundational and I support efforts to strengthen the Early Education Department. Fortunately, the State Budget Act of 2022 includes significant additional investments for our early education programs (transitional kindergarten). I believe that we should undertake a review of our 36 early education sites to determine opportunities to increase community participation and enrollment. These schools are important because for many students and families they offer the first experience with the School District and because these early years of education have significant impact on the future of our children.
As a Commissioner I have heard from parents that these resources are underutilized and, in some cases, understaffed. We have an opportunity to partner with the City and County of San Francisco and investments they are making to train early education professionals in partnership with City College of San Francisco and the Children's Council to not only help support our early education students but to recruit educators for these sites. I am also excited about exploring the possibility of a career pathway for pre-school educators to become certified district teachers.
16. Have you read Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System? What lessons should the District take from this work? Whether or not you've read the book, what role do you see for charter schools in the public education system?
I have not, but thanks to this question, I've just added it to my reading list!
My family and I are products of the public school system. I believe in our public schools and the value of public education- one of the only free social institutions that exists. I do not support the privatization of public education. The privatization of education, and specifically, a growing attraction to charter schools has a number of root causes, one of which is dissatisfaction with the public-school options and a sense that the public schools are not providing the high-quality education that each and every student deserves. In response to this root cause, the answer is to increase our public-school options and hold our system accountable when it does not provide high quality education for each and every student. While working to increase and grow the resources of the district and ensure equitable distribution of those assets, it is just as important that we don't lose additional resources. I believe that resources allocated toward new or expanded charter schools are resources lost from our public schools. I prefer that charter school funders work with San Francisco Unified to improve outcomes and enrollment at public schools.
17. What do you think of the current requirements that students take the SBAC test, and what are your thoughts on standardized testing in general?
I believe that standardized assessments can be used for a number of purposes. First, they can be used to demonstrate demographic discrepancies and areas for improvement. Second, depending on the standardized assessment, and in combination with other assessments that evaluate learning, these can also be used to inform the educator about where, in that moment in time, the student is, how to support the student, and what type of support the student may need.
That being said, I am also mindful of the problematic nature of standardized testing, including SBAC scores and the fact that the testing reflects racial and socio-economic biases.
18. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special Education students and ESL students?
There are many things that SFUSD (and the State) need to do in terms of addressing the needs of Special Education and ESL students. As it relates to special education, we know that this work is woefully underfunded. However, putting funding aside, I believe that we can better address these needs by requiring that General Education programs take a greater responsibility and ownership for early intervention and supports. Additionally, the district needs to work to interrupt the disproportional over referral into Special Education (especially for young African American boys). How to better address the needs for ESL students depends on the age in which the student is entering our schools and the access to formal education that the student had prior to entering our schools. I would look to have SFUSD Curriculum & Instruction staff engage with progressive academic experts who have short and long-term research findings about the best way to support these students, and to work with our educators to determine the best way to support training given the time and resources involved.
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