SF Green Party School Board Endorsement Questionnaire 2014
Candidate Name: Shamann Walton
Phone Number: 707-332-3225
Name of Campaign Manager: Esete Assefa (858-442-6724; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Signed voluntary spending limit: N/A
Favorite Incumbent School Board Member: I respect the entire current School Board
Least favorite: I respect the entire current School Board
1. How are you currently involved in the SFUSD -- or how were you
involved in the past?
Over the past 11 years, I've had the opportunity to work with SFUSD in
several capacities. As the School Readiness Coordinator and Director
of the Potrero Hill Family Resource Center, I developed and
implemented kindergarten transition programs at Starr King Elementary
School; coordinated parent workshops on various topics including SFUSD
enrollment, nutrition, and rights and advocacy for parents; started
the School Readiness Health Fair in collaboration with Principal Chris
Rosenberg; and created the Peace Walk in the Potrero Hill Community in
partnership with Daniel Webster and Starr King Elementary.
Recently, I've organized, executed, and managed training programs for
job and life skills at Phillip Burton, Thurgood Marshall, Balboa, and
Wallenberg high schools. I've also assisted in the development of
mentorship programs in Starr King Elementary and Everett Middle
2. Why are you running for school board?
Public education is an essential institution in our society. A
high-quality education allows our students to pursue their dreams and
realize their full potential. San Francisco public schools have made
great strides in recent years; however, we can do better. We are an
innovative city, yet we have one of the largest achievement gaps in
the state. Many of our schools are not providing the level of
education our students deserve. There are too many children falling
behind-we need to improve.
As a parent who has raised two children in the public school system, I
know that it takes hard work and dedication to ensure our children
receive a quality learning experience. I am running for the San
Francisco Board of Education because I want to ensure all children in
San Francisco have the opportunities to be successful, and I believe
the vehicle for that success is through SFUSD.
If elected to the Board of Education, my top three priorities would be
to: ensure increased funding opportunities for strategies that get
resources directly into the classroom; develop real solutions to close
the achievement gap, especially for African American, Latino, Pacific
Islander, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students; and
work collaboratively with SFUSD and stakeholders to ensure equitable
and high-quality schools are available to students in every
neighborhood or community.
3. How do you feel about the current school assignment system? Would
you make changes, and if so, which ones?
I don't think the current student assignment system is meeting its
stated objectives. We have yet to diversify across all SFUSD schools,
and in some instances still have students attending schools with a
predominant ethnicity, which contributes to racial isolation. We need
to do a better job of providing high-quality education in every school
in SFUSD. If we are unable to guarantee quality neighborhood schools,
we will continue to have a student assignment problem in SFUSD.
I've worked with SFUSD parents for years and I know that with their
passion and dedication, together we can work towards an equitable and
successful student assignment system. I know that the only way to
resolve this issue and change the school assignment system is to
create quality schools across the entire city.
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?
In order to redistribute more experienced and higher paid teachers
throughout the City, I think we need to build quality schools across
the district, by garnering the resources needed for quality and
innovative programs (more immersion, arts programs, internships and
vocational programs). Once schools are equitable throughout the
district, it will be easier to get good teachers to work in schools in
every neighborhood and community.
Having inherited an organization-as an Executive Director-that has
endured many funding challenges, I know what needs to be done to
garner more resources. I have been able to find additional resources
for our organization that align with our mission and we have raised
over 3 million dollars ($3,000,000.00) in less than four years. SFUSD
has to do the same to attract and retain high quality educators,
administrators and school support staff. The entire school community
has to believe that the Board of Education is willing and able to
obtain the resources needed to provide quality education. The Board of
education has to look at the available options (federal funding, set
asides from developers, the private sector, foundations, tax options
and extractions) and see which of these resources align with the goal
of ensuring that all SFUSD students receive a quality education.
I would also work hard to develop a pay structure that allows teachers
the same opportunity for higher wages and increased benefits as the
current City and County of San Francisco staffing structure. This
would create equity for educators and I truly believe this would
increase motivation for teachers to work anywhere in SFUSD.
In addition to increased salaries, we need to address affordable
housing. San Francisco has one of the most expensive housing markets
in the country, and our educators are unable to attain affordable
housing. This is a real issue, which needs to be addressed
directly. By helping educators attain affordable housing, SFUSD can
help increase teacher retention. I believe SFUSD and the Board of
Education can work closely with the Board of Supervisors to create
legislation that allows educators working in SFUSD to get adequate
housing at an affordable rate.
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?
It's no secret that SFUSD doesn't have the resources needed to
adequately fund all schools in the district. However, if elected to
the Board of Education, I'd make equitable funding a top priority, and
fight to make sure we address this issue.
I strongly support the "weighted student formula" to funding, where
additional funding is given to schools with larger numbers of lower
socioeconomic students or English Language Learner students. This can
help ensure less affluent schools receive the same attention and
resources the more affluent areas receive, and help provide some
balance since less affluent schools require additional funding.
Further, we should ensure that when funding does come into the
district, the bulk of that money is directed to address funding
inequities in schools. We also need to strategically and aggressively
pursue additional funding from alternative local, state, federal, and
private funding sources, which can be used to help less affluent
schools with major funding challenges.
6. What is your position on JROTC in the public schools?
SFUSD has been stripped of resources year-after-year due to state
budget cuts and reductions. I think that district resources need to go
towards hiring more teachers, paraprofessionals, and making
appropriate connections so that all SFUSD students are able to deal
with the rigorous challenges of A-G requirements. Therefore, I do not
think that any SFUSD resources should go towards JROTC. Funding for
JROTC programs needs to come from federal sources and sources outside
of the district.
I do support a fully federal funded JROTC.
7. Would you support district elections for school board members?
No. I believe that the public education is a citywide matter.
8. What do you think of the public comment policy at school board
meetings? How (if at all) would you change it?
I am in favor of public comment at school board meetings. I value
democracy and I believe that everyone should be able to voice their
concerns and opinions publicly at board meetings. I would work to
figure out a system that would allow speakers more time at board
meetings, especially when we are dealing with pressing issues.
9. How would you expand the opportunity for staff development for
paraprofessionals? What do you think of the district's staff
I'll be a strong supporter and defender of ongoing professional
development for paraprofessionals and teachers. Professional
development for our paraprofessionals and educators must be viewed as
fundamental and not expendable or optional. Professional development
opportunities keep staff motivated and excited about their jobs and
allows for growth. Everyone should have an opportunity to learn how to
do their job better and to increase their skills and
knowledge. Additional funding and partnerships can help to expand
professional development opportunities, and a district-wide assessment
can be conducted to monitor and evaluate program effectiveness based
on comprehensive feedback from staff. I also believe that teachers
need to have adequate prep and release time to prepare, exchange
information, and discuss instructional strategies. Schools that
perform well have educators who spend more time preparing, reflecting,
analyzing, and sharing.
10. What is your stance on allowing noncitizen parents, guardians and
caretakers of students to vote in school board elections?
I believe that anyone who has children in SFUSD should have the right
to vote on matters that affect their children. I think it’s unfair if
any parent of an SFUSD child cannot vote in school board elections.
11. 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 would have an open door policy and meet with teachers, students,
parents, caretaker and all SFUSD stakeholders on a consistent basis. I
would make myself available to meet in all San Francisco neighborhoods
and communities on a consistent basis. I'll ensure that all
information is available and disseminated via websites,
forums/meetings, etc. In addition, I'll work with teachers and school
site councils to develop best strategies for involving/supporting
parents and teachers. In addition, I'll provide a space outside of
board meetings, to better cultivate opportunities to communicate and
increase input. As a member of the BOE, I'll visit schools and spend
time within each community. I'll host meetings and attend various
12. Would you strengthen the voice of the elected student
representatives, so that they could introduce legislation and vote on
If elected, I'll work closely with students and student organizations
to ensure that they’re consulted closely on all relevant items, and
that student views are respected. I'll hold forums and town halls on
campuses, work closely with student governments/student groups, and
create an interactive online method for students to provide feedback
regarding personal experiences/priorities, and concerns.
13. How do you see the role of the School Board in comparison to the
role of the superintendent?
The School Board determines policy for all public schools and is
responsible for approving curriculum, establishing educational goals
and standards, setting the district budget, and approving purchases of
equipment, supplies, services, leases, etc.
The Superintendent serves as the board's chief adviser on educational
matters and as the district's educational leader. He/she is
responsible for ensuring the board is informed about district
operations and activities, and about the district's needs.
The School Board is the final authority in the district. The School
Board confers to the Superintendent sufficient authority to implement
the Board's policies and run the day-to-day operations of the
14. A portion of SFUSD income is from rental of various
properties. What changes should the district make to increase the
income from these properties?
I think that the district should aggressively rent and lease
underutilized properties. I think that there should be a strategic
plan in place that outlines exactly how the district will approach
increasing property revenue.
I think there is also an opportunity for the district to sell
properties (after all other options are exhausted) that have not been
used in years and that are not in plans for utilization in the near
future. Revenues from sells could go into an account that can yield
interests for 5 years (as an example) and use the funds for more
teachers, paraprofessional, and support that goes directly to the
15. What should the district do to make its schools more
The district can make sure that every school recycles and uses
appropriate waste cans. In addition, schools can work to eliminate
waste and use less paper in the classroom and administratively. One of
the biggest forms of waste used by schools is the enumerate amount of
I believe in safe, livable, and green communities, which is why I
continue to support community gardens at all school sites. To ensure
their continued success we need to allocate resources to fund these
activities. I also support learning gardens and will work to bring
“green funding” to create these types of opportunities at our schools.
For example, schools can grow produce in their gardens and share the
food with families in need.
16. What is your assessment of how adequate the School Board Sunshine
I believe that the School Board’s Sunshine regulation is adequate and
if there is any information someone wants to obtain, they can get to
it. The board may not be forthcoming with all information at all
times, but there are mechanisms in place that allow the public to make
requests and receive information and responses within a certain time
period. I think the bigger issue here is educating parents and the
public about how to access any needed information from the School
17. Should every high school have a functional, open, operating
library? If so, how could we make it happen?
Yes every high school should have a functional, open and operating
library (to some degree I would argue every middle school as
well). The way to make this happen—like so many other issues within
the district—is to obtain the appropriate resources so that we could
have adequate staff, security and personnel to maintain an open
library. I think this is not only good for the students, but it is
also good for the community at large. It can assist in providing
access to textbooks outside of school time and help encourage families
to study and research together. In order to make this happen, we need
additional resources through alternative sources other than the state
(federal and local). We can also develop a system where individuals in
the community can rent books, videos, CD’s and other materials for a
fee (much like other public libraries) to subsidize costs and provide
a source of revenue.
18. Would you ensure that all San Francisco students have access to a
public pre-K program? If so, how?
I strongly support SFUSD's commitment to early education. There are
few investments that we can make that are more valuable and have
greater returns than early education. I’ve spent over four years
providing kindergarten transition programs within schools in
collaboration with SFUSD/UESF educators, and spent years providing
developmental screenings for children ages 3 months to 5 years to
identify developmental delays and proper services.
It's critical that we focus energy and resources on connecting
children with learning experience as early as possible. Any serious
conversation about closing the achievement gap is not possible without
a clear commitment to early education.
As a member of the Board of Education, I’ll make sure San Francisco
students have access to a public pre-K program and that the Early
Education Department receives the priority it deserves. We also should
be proactive and aggressive about securing additional funding sources
for our EED sites, including traditional and alternative funding. We
need strong partnerships with EED experts to help develop programs and
identify resources, and to ensure early education programs aren’t in
competition with other city programs. In addition, I’ll work with EED
experts to develop a system where all pre-school educators can become
certified district teachers and receive a bachelor’s in early
childhood education to establish credibility.
Early Education Department is critical to the future success of our
students and I'll make sure that it continues to get the support it
19. Did you support SB 1381, the proposal that raised the age
requirement for students entering kindergarten? How will you ensure
that Transitional Kindergarten is available to all students?
I did not support SB 1381 for a couple of reasons. I think that
children need to get into a classroom environment as soon as possible
in this age of advanced skill requirement to be successful. I think
that students need be provided with every opportunity to learn as soon
as possible. I also know that parents have a choice to wait if they
feel that their child is not ready for kindergarten. Another reason I
did not support SB 1381 is due to the financial burden it can cause
parents who can barely afford childcare. Without adequate support, SB
1381 is forcing some families to spend another year of costly
I would be inclined to feel better about SB 1381 if we were able to
provide adequate and free kindergarten transition programs citywide
for all students who do not make the kindergarten cut-off age.
20. What do you think of the current rules regarding teacher tenure?
I agree with the current rules regarding teacher tenure. In my
opinion, teachers have the hardest job and to have the ability to stay
in education should mean something. Teachers are mentors, educators,
and in some cases the most positive role model in a child’s
life. There is something to be said about someone who is dedicated to
ensuring that students are successful and have the opportunity to
learn. I do feel that teachers are under-resourced and this can at
times be frustrating to some educators, but I think the majority of
teachers try very hard to provide a positive learning experience for
students and having the ability to do that year-after-year should be
rewarded. We just need to provide teachers with the needed resources
to stay motivated, innovative and excited about teaching.
21. 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 do think that Prop 13 needs to be reformed. I think that due to Prop
13, our schools and social services have suffered throughout the years
as we rely on cuts to address spending and deal with deficits. I think
that some level of property tax increases are warranted in times of
need and that Prop 13 has to be restructured. I would work with
parents and families in the school community to bring awareness to the
affects of Prop 13 on education and hopefully this would begin to
spread in terms of the belief that Prop 13 should be restructures so
that our schools and social services don't always suffer when we have
I also think that commercial property owners are benefitting from prop
30 as they hide sales and the transfer of buildings which lets them
avoid the higher tax penalties of newly appraised properties upon a
sale. This is skirting the system and not the intent of Prop 13.
22. 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 read Diane Ravitch’s recent book. I’m a true believer in
the public school system and I believe it’s vital to the success of
all children in San Francisco. I support public education with
democratic accountability and oversight over our schools. For that
reason, I generally don’t support the idea of having charter schools
as a central part of our strategy to deliver high-quality education. I
believe that charter schools can positively support the education of
our children if charter schools play a supplemental role and do not
set out to replace the traditional public education system in San
Francisco. When Charter Schools take away resources from traditional
schools (as they often do) they actually undermine our school system
and SFUSD suffers due to the fact that resources are given to Charter
Schools and due to the fact that students and families are forced to
choose between the two. That puts Charter Schools in direct
competition with SFUSD’s traditional school system. Rather than
provide the space for Charter Schools and the funding that goes along
with it, we should be using these resources to increase the
opportunities for our traditional public school system. We could hire
more teachers and paraprofessionals so that we could make inclusion
practices more successful, we could be putting more resources towards
physical education and arts programs. Charter Schools can help, when
all opportunities for a student is exhausted and the resources for
Charter Schools are obtained by private funding and dollars that are
not used to fund SFUSD schools.
23. What do you think of the District's and state's standards for
curriculum, and the federal Common Core mandate? How would you
increase student achievement levels?
I will continue to work with SFUSD educators to establish
high-quality, modern, and engaging curriculum that provides all
students an effective and efficient pathway to success. Providing
educators with the support and resources needed to transition
successfully to the Common Core needs to be a priority so we can
ensure that our students have an high-quality, engaging curriculum
that offers a pathway to success. I’ll put a strong emphasis on
project-based learning, leadership, and the skills required to succeed
in the 21st century. It’s crucial that we bring in the professional
development and innovative partnerships to establishment
school-to-career pipeline options, especially drawing on the
technology and innovation growth that is taking place in our city,
allowing us to integrate real-world learning into each subject
area. This includes promoting internship and vocational programs,
which allow students to equate academic performance to employment
opportunities and future successes. I’ll work with educators to ensure
we are investing in high-quality academic support, tutoring, and
mentorship for struggling students. Finally, I’ll fight to protect
educational opportunities by standing against efforts to cancel summer
school, shorten the school day, or shorten the school year.
24. How can the public schools better address the needs of Special
Education students and ESL students?
I think we have to improve how we serve our Special Education and ESL
students. As a father of a child who had an individualized education
program (IEP), I understand many of the issues facing children with
special needs. We need to ensure our Special Education and ESL
students are afforded the same opportunities provided to all SFUSD
students. This includes supporting Special Education students in
traditional classroom environments through inclusion techniques. It’s
important that Special Education students receive classroom training
with their peers as this provides opportunity for socialization and
interact with their cohorts. This can be achieved through proper
classroom support and smaller student to teacher ratios. It is also
important that we utilize increased resources to provide funding for
more para-educators so that we can ensure the appropriate amount of
caring adults in the classroom to assist with inclusion strategies. We
also need to fund more accelerated language programs that provide
English Learners with opportunities before and after school.
25. 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 my political decisions through an inclusive process. First I
meet with all stakeholders involved (families, teachers, students,
other leaders, community members, etc.). Then I determine whether a
decision aligns with my core beliefs on equity and social
justice. Then I weigh in all of the consequences and benefits of each
decision. From there I make a decision based on having all information
and discussions with everyone involved.