One of the biggest issues for San Francisco Schools over the past few years has been declining enrollment. Since the state provides schools with a per pupil allotment of funds, the annual loss of about 800 students has cost San Francisco Schools about $7 million. Given the budget pressures it’s already dealing with, the district was forced to close many schools in the 2006-2007 school year.
That’s why the recent state budget was such good news. San Francisco schools will receive an additional $13 million in cost-of-living (COLA) increases. This will help offset the expected $7 million loss from continued declining enrollment. The remaining funds will be used to cover salary increases for teachers and health benefits for San Francisco Schools’ employees. But how will the San Francisco Schools move forward from this point?
The plan involves two major components. The first is a long-term plan to address the enrollment issue in San Francisco Schools. The second is a parcel tax, which is expected to appear on the February 2008 ballot. Of course, there is no guarantee that voters of the San Francisco Schools will approve a tax increase. Commissioner Jill Wynns is working with the unions, and encouraging San Francicso residents to support the parcel tax.
LEADERSHIP CHANGE IS IMMINENT
Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan has announced her retirement as of July 1st. While this isn’t a complete surprise, many in San Francisco Schools hoped that she would opt to take the position permanently after the finesses she showed in smoothing over fractious issues. A new San Francisco Schools’ leader will be named by the end of May. The new superintendent will bring different strengths and a different focus to the San Francisco Schools. How this person will impact the coming school year can’t be predicted.
What is certain is that some San Francisco Schools are undergoing small changes in a big way. The small schools initiative will effect San Francisco Community School and June Jordan High School. These San Francisco Schools will benefits from different governing rules, more autonomy and separate evaluation procedures. Smaller sized schools are representative of a nationwide trend to encourage a more intimate setting where student needs are met on an individualized basis, and a community feeling is fostered.
In the San Francisco Schools’ current climate where students are leaving in droves, current administrators feel that a tighter focus and neighborly feel might help retain some of those families. But San Francisco Schools’ teachers are still without a budget for the next school year. So with the teachers’ union still trying to strike a deal, on-going budget concerns, and the upcoming change in leadership, the San Francisco Schools will continue to face challenges.
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