2000-2001 Education Committee Report (Schools)

Table of Contents


Youth Speak Out/Youth Commission Policy Recommendations

Uncomfortable Learning Environment.....................................3

Inadequate Learning Materials..........................................5

Unsafe Schools.........................................................6

Non-Nutritious School Food.............................................7

Ineffective Curriculum.................................................8

Poor Teaching Methods.................................................10



A. News Release Announcing Youth Forum

B. Resolution Requesting Sanitary Conditions Within The SFUSD High School And

Middle School Restrooms


On January 31, 2001, at Mission High School's Little Theater, the San Francisco Youth Commission's Education Committee presented a youth forum on education: "Huge Classes, Broken Textbooks, Old Computers...What Should Be Done?"

The Youth Commission is a group of 17 appointed government officials that ensures government policies more accurately reflect the wants and needs of youth by including their input; and develops youth leadership in the political arena. The Youth Commission educates youth and adults and encourages youth to amplify their voices in legislative policy discussions affecting them. We do this by holding hearings, conferences, educational forums, lobby days and community meetings; meeting with public officials; inviting youth to partake in all of our endeavors. The Commission is composed of several committees and one of the committees is the Education Committee.

Our Education Forum was held to give youth in San Francisco an opportunity to voice their opinions on education issues that need to be implemented and/or altered in the San Francisco Unified School District. Youth from all over the City and County of San Francisco participated in our forum. Among the many students who were in attendance, there were students from the following schools: Mission High School, Lincoln High School, Leadership High School, Balboa High School, Galileo High School, Presidio Middle School, Aptos Middle School, Sanchez Elementary School, and various other schools, private and public. Since the hearing, the Education Committee has been involved in extensive outreach endeavors that include school presentations. At these school presentations, we gathered additional input for this report from students in the following schools: Thurgood Marshall High School and Visitacion Valley Middle School. The Education Committee plans on continuing our classroom/community center education outreach at the following locations: Sunset Beacon Center, A.P. Giannini Middle School, Walden House for Girls, Larkin Street Youth Center, Chinatown Beacon Center, and Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

With the acquired information and concerns expressed by San Francisco's youth, the Education Committee has decided to create a report and submit it to the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, City Departments, Board of Education and various youth programs in San Francisco. The purpose of our education forum was to hear young people's views on how the city should spend its money in the upcoming fiscal year budgets. As an upshot of the education forum and San Francisco Unified School District classroom presentations, the Education Committee has compiled a report with students' concerns and our specific recommendations to the city's policy makers on what needs to be done for youth. We are optimistic that these education recommendations will encourage effective change and positive dialogue in our communities, neighborhoods, and most importantly in our schools.

Uncomfortable Learning Environment

The environment that a student learns in is vital and pertinent to the overall outcome of that student's scholastic achievement. The current learning environment at our schools is not providing the basic necessities of sanitary, pleasant and comfortable conditions. When a student walks into her school, she should immediately feel and see that she is in an environment that is conducive to learning. To ensure the latter, schools must focus on increasing air circulation, repairing dilapilated walls, and cleaning bathrooms. An uncomfortable learning environment may result in a hostile and discourged attitudes among students because their environment is not welcoming or pleasant. To make sure the school environment does not negatively affect a student's attitude to achieve academically, schools need to provide the basic necessities.

"Kids come to school to rats, roaches, not given clean water, coming to school hungry. How do you expect the kid to come and to learn, read, write, and be fully attentive? If you want a kid to succeed, give them the right environment."

-Teacher at Sanchez Elementary School

"There is no heat, holes in the walls, the bathrooms have no mirrors, there is a metal steel that is all scratched up. If we push on the walls, they fall through".

-Mission High School student

"The school buildings look like jails."

-Former SFUSD student

Youth Speak Out:

There are significant structural problems with the SFUSD schools.

*The ceilings are falling down with "rain coming through the cracks of the classroom".

*Much of the furniture is worn out, with "squeaky tables that shift a foot when you move them".

School facilities are not clean.

*The floors are too dusty.

*There are rats, rodents, and insects in the school.

*Conditions throughout the schools are unsanitary.

There are problems with heating in school buildings.

*Rooms are too hot when it is warm outside and too cold when it is cold outside.

The buildings are not pleasant to look at.

*The buildings do not have any individuality.

*The buildings should include murals and gardens created by students.

The classrooms are overcrowded.

The most commonly expressed concern (by almost every student and teacher who we heard from) was the unsanitary bathroom conditions.

*There is not enough toilet paper, paper towels, or soap.

*Many stalls are broken.

*The bathroom conditions are generally unsanitary; bathrooms are often littered with paper, bodily fluids, and blood.

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Repair walls and ceilings.

*Replace old furniture.

*Increase air circulation and better regulate heating.

*Repaint schools, decorate them with student murals (to display student artistic talent), and plant gardens in front of every school.

*Reduce class sizes.

*Keep bathroom supplies fully stocked.

*Increase janitorial staff.

*Follow the specific recommendations of the Student Advisory Council and the Youth Commission's resolution regarding SFUSD bathrooms. (see resolution)

Inadequate Learning Materials

Youth today are working with the some of the worst materials. As I look at my textbook, the cover is damaged, some pages are ripped, plus the first person to use the book is from the class of '88. It makes you think nothing happened in the past 12 years. Students need good, updated textbooks, computers, etc. Without these items it makes it harder for youth to succeed in their education.

"The library is rarely open. You have to go during school hours because it's closed before or after school. They hand out a limited amount of library tickets at lunch. If you don't have a ticket, you're at a loss for learning."

-Presidio Middle School students

"We get hand me down books from Lowell to Lincoln."

-Lincoln High School student

"We have torn textbooks where you see no pages."

-Mission High School student

Youth Speak Out:

Resources are often inaccessible to students.

*The library is not open long enough.

*There are not enough study halls after school.

*Students are not allowed to use copy machines.

*Many computer labs are inaccessible to students.

There is a lack of necessary supplies for students.

*The chalkboards are too old.

*There is often not enough paper.

*There are not enough computers for all students who need to use them.

*Students have to share books.

The textbooks are in poor condition.

*Students described books as "outdated", "very old", "too heavy", "soiled", "ripped", "water damaged", and "dirty"

*Students have "torn textbooks where you see no pages".

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Keep libraries and computer labs open so students' minds can stay active.

*Put copy machines in the libraries and allow students to use them.

*Replace chalkboards with white/dry erase boards.

*Seek donations for schools.

*Increase teacher and student input in choosing textbooks.

*Replace textbooks often (within 5 years).

*Put textbooks online and increase internet access for students.

Unsafe Schools

You walk down the halls of your school, you then hear someone say, "Hey, man you are acting like a faggot". Then you look at the teacher, he says nothing continuing talking to another teacher. You feel afraid to say something because you don't want to get picked on. You are also scared to tell the teacher because you feel that you would be a snitch to your peers. What do you do? This is an example of an unsafe enviroment for youth.

"Words like gay, faggot, dike are so demeaning. We need to start questioning what we learn. It is the school's responsibility to make sure we are not just learning math and reading, but how to be a human being."

-Student Advisory Council member

Youth Speak Out:

Students do not feel physically safe in their schools.

*Students know of other students who bring guns or knives to school.

*Gangs or groups of people hanging out near schools often harass students.

*Police in school create a hostile environment.

*Buildings are structurely unsafe (See Uncomfortable Learning Environment Section).

Students do not feel safe to be themselves.

*There are many instances of students not respecting each other in school, with racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks and actions.

*Female students expressed frustration with the way some male students disrespect them.

*Students are afraid to express opinions because some teachers and administrators do not respect their opinions.

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Address the deep reasons why students bring weapons to schools, by having in class dialogues facilitated by students and teachers

*Take police officers out of disciplinary positions.

*Encourage better relations between students and security officers in the school. Include youth voices in the training of security officers.

*See recommendations in the Uncomfortable Learning Environment section (regarding building safety).

*Have more parent involvement in school.

*Make sure administrators and teachers support students' opinions, activities, and clubs that address identity issues (like multi-cultural, language, and LGBTQQ issues) so that students will not feel like there's a barrier between them and the administrators and teachers.

*Adapt a No Tolerance Policy for hate. As a consequence for racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks, have students take courses about diverse groups and/or write research reports about them.

Non-Nutritious School Food

In a way, school meals are balanced. You have your meat, a rubber hamburger patty, your dairy, a bag of milk, your vegetables, one old piece of brown shredded lettuce (a.k.a. salad), and last, but not least, your grains: one soggy hamburger bun. This food is disgusting! Students' growing bodies need a healthy start! Yes, this meal, to a certain extent is balanced, but all too often, is so repulsive and distasteful, that students do not eat lunch at all. What is that doing to their growing bodies?

"Homeless students go to school starving and then go home starving. School lunch is the only food we get the whole day."

-Former SFUSD student

Youth Speak Out:

School lunches are not satisfying.

*Students described them as "oil-laden", "greasy", and "don't taste good".

Students would like to eat healthier, but healthy food is not available.

There is not enough access to clean water.

*There are not enough water fountains.

*The water fountains are locked at times.

*The lead and bacterial content in the water is unsafe.

Beaneries (food vendor)are not affordable to everyone.

The eating areas are unsanitary.

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Develop an onsite wellness center that is involved in meal planning.

*Involve students in planning and preparing meals.

*Include healthy options for students, like a salad bar, juices, and fruit.

*Unlock all water fountains.

*Replace and clean water pipes.

*Increase contact with nutritionists.

*Have free water dispensers.

*See recommendations in the Uncomfortable Learning Environment section (regarding sanitary conditions).

Ineffective Curriculum

Knowledge is power. We feel that a school's curriculum is the foundation of knowledge. Knowledge is found in mathematic textbooks, cultural field trips, student leadership, athletic events, computer research, etc... Curriculum is meant to expose students to issues, ideas, and perspectives that they are not yet aware of or comfortable with. Curriculum is where knowledge is stimulated and manifested into a student's desire and determination to be curious and inspired to learn. With a robust curriculum that incorporates all voices and is interactive, students will have the knowledge to affect powerful and positive change in the future.

"The big issue is that students are not interested in the curriculum. Teachers have to make it more interactive and interesting because kids are not going to school and because ultimately it will affect them."

-Galileo High School student

"Not his-story, but your story empowers you.

Why wait until college to become more empowered?

-San Francisco City College student

Youth Speak Out:

The curriculum is not interactive enough.

*Too many teachers teach straight from the textbooks.

*The focus on standardized tests takes away from the important teaching of critical thinking and life skills.

*The curriculum needs to be more culturally tuned. It does not include non-traditional methods like oral history or poetry.

The curriculum does not include all voices.

*Not enough people know about historical leaders from different cultures, oppressed people who have made changes in society.

*Students are tired of learning about the same historic leaders. They want to hear about up and coming leaders of today, who they can identify with.

*LGBTQQ issues are not represented in the curriculum.

*Students of color are not being taught about their historical and cultural heritage.

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Youth need to have input on what they learn.

*Make sure curriculum reaches different types of learners.

*Add visuals in the classroom (like paintings, movies, photos).

*Students should take more field trips (to Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez sites, for example). Field trips are a great way to learn about the community by getting outside of the classroom.

*Students should be exposed to more spoken word events and other youth poetry events.

*Teach life skills to students (business, stock market, basic job and presentation skills).

*Have career days.

*Invite youth and youth organizations to present to classes.

*Support students in community service endeavors.

*Make sure that teachers include all under represented voices in the curriculum.

Poor Teaching Methods

Effective teaching methods make students want to learn. When teachers use word searches and cross-word puzzles regularly in their curriculum, the students aren't learning! When it comes to supporting effective teaching methods, the district leaves teachers in the dark. The curriculum is only as effective as the way it's taught!

"Teachers should take child development training. Teachers need training in adultism and shouldn't fall into societies mainstream view of young people."

-Former SFUSD student

-I want to become a teacher because I have had a lot of bad teachers. We need teachers of color for students of color. SFUSD is very multi-racial and teacher:student ratio needs to be as well."

-Former SFUSD student

"I've had teachers use crossword puzzles as science curriculum."

-SFUSD student

Youth Speak Out:

Classes are too large.

*The student/teacher ratio so big that teachers can't control the classroom and then have to act as disciplinarians.

Teachers are unprepared and under resourced.

*There are too many "emergency teachers" in SFUSD who are not certified.

*For many teachers English is their second language and there are communication problems in the classroom.

There is no student input in teachers' policies.

Teachers' methods are not interactive.

Youth Commission Policy Recommendations:

*Teachers should regularly consult with students to gain their input

*Allow students to evaluate their teachers.

*Create a Student Advisory Board for teachers.

*Teachers should take a course in youth empowerment.

*Give teachers more support, like workshops and staff development throughout the summer.

*Offer more trainings for teachers on how to make learning more interesting.

*Employ more teachers of color for students of color.

*See recommendations in Ineffective Curriculum section (regarding interactive curriculum)


The Education Committee would like to thank those who participated on the forum panel and all who contributed to the report: President of Board of Education Jill Wynns, Board of Education Commissioner Eric Mar, Board of Education Commissioner Mark Sanchez, Board of Education Commissioner Mary Hernandez, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, Presidents of Student Advisory Council Babe Kawaii-Bouge and Greg Zhovereboff, Mission High School Faculty, Sharon Solomon, San Francisco Youth Commission's Youth Empowerment Coordinators Nicole Derse and N'Tanya Lee, Commissioner Mari Villaluna, Commissioner Michael Geodzhayev, San Francisco Youth Commission's Youth Policy and Program Coordinator Ron McCan, San Francisco Youth Commission Director Colleen Montoya, and to the youth of San Francisco.


San Francisco Youth Speak Out on Education and Public Schools:

The San Francisco Youth Commission Holds Education Forum

On Wednesday January 31, 2001, from 5-7pm. The San Francisco Youth Commission will be holding a public forum at Mission High School (18th Street between Dolores and Church Streets). Youth and youth advocates will speak out to public officials on education and the state of San Francisco's public schools.

Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Sophie Maxwell, Matt Gonzalez, Mark Leno, and a representative from Board President Tom Ammiano's office will be in attendance. Also in attendance will be President of the Board of Education, Jill Wynns.

The San Francisco Youth Commission is a city commission created to represent youth in San Francisco. The Commission is made up of 17 youth between the ages of 12 and 23 appointed by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor. To find out more about the San Francisco Youth Commission or Wednesday's Education Forum, call (415) 554-6446 or visit our website at www.ci.sf.ca.us/youth_commission.



WHEREAS, The restrooms in the San Francisco Unified School District's (Here on referred to as "SFUSD") high schools and middle schools have required improvements since their construction; and

WHEREAS, On February 12, 2001, the SFUSD Student Advisory Council voted unanimously to make a formal request of the San Francisco Board of Education (here on referred to as "School Board") to make such improvements; and,

WHEREAS, A number of students do not use school restroom facilities because of their poor conditions; and,

WHEREAS, Such unsanitary conditions have the potential to spread many illnesses among the students in our schools; and,

WHEREAS, At a hearing held by the San Francisco Youth Commission on January 31, 2001, numerous students spoke about the unsanitary conditions in their public high schools and middle schools; and,

WHEREAS; The San Francisco Youth Commission considers the well being of students a priority, and places the improvement of SFUSD restroom facilities a top priority, then, be it

RESOLVED, Th RESOLVED, That the San Francisco Youth Commission declares its support for implementing a course of action to improve the unsanitary conditions of the restrooms in SFUSD high schools and middle schools; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the San Francisco Youth Commission urges the School Board to urge the appropriate SFUSD resources to implement and maintain sanitary restroom conditions, including, but not limited to: running hot water, toilet seat covers, deodorizing units, clean and sanitary floors, a necessary amount of hand soap, paper towels, and toilet paper in our public high school and middle school restrooms before next year; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Superintendent of Schools is hereby urged to notify necessary school site staff of this resolution.