SEIU Picks for School Board …

by on October 31, 2008

To the Editor:

San Francisco schools are not immune to the ills plaguing public school districts in major cities throughout the country—budget shortfalls, shifting populations with different needs, and the challenges youth face growing up in our modern urban jungle. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once again goes after the most vulnerable among us and prepares to further cut education funds, San Franciscans need leaders on their school board with vision, backbone and heart.

I am a library technician at Downtown High School, one of about 1,100 “classified” employees, the non-teaching staff at the San Francisco Unified School District represented by SEIU 1021. We are the clerical staff and custodians, the food service and health workers, the transportation schedulers and payroll clerks, the “invisible elves” who do the work that keeps the schools running.

Every day at our jobs we serve the community, and we do it gladly and proudly because we are of it. We are the parents, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles of the students. We are part of the village it takes. And every day we work under the policies and directives of the elected school board members. We have real life experiences of what it takes to make our schools work, of who understands that and who follows through on their commitments.

We have scrutinized the candidates for school board although only four seats are open for election this cycle, we found five candidates worthy of your vote:

James Calloway has a 30-year history as a school district employee. He has worked as a teacher, Dean, Assistant Principal and Principal. Even though he has retired, he still subs as a principal. He knows the staff, the students, the district and its problems as well as anyone. He is respected for his sincere dedication to our schools.

Sandra Lee Fewer is a long-time school supporter and parent activist, having served as a PTA president and vice president for more than 20 years, as a member of 10 School Site Councils and several SFUSD committees. For the past seven years she has been the Director of Education Policy and Parent Organizing at Coleman Advocates. She is a supporter of both the teaching and classified staff. Both she and Calloway came out to our picket lines and rallies when we were about to go on strike in 2005.

Bobbi Lopez is a young lesbian Latina—and SEIU 1021 member—who works for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, where she is founder and coordinator of La Voz Latina, a program seeking more support services and affordable housing in the city for immigrant families and youth. She has worked with parents to advocate before the school board on issues ranging from translation in the schools to subsidized Muni for middle school students, and has also represented youth in expulsion and special education hearings in the school district.

Norman Yee is a one-term incumbent seeking re-election. He is a former teacher and an advocate for children’s services. He has worked for parent involvement and increasing the number of small schools. He understands the need to find more money for the schools and worked to pass both the 2006 school facility bond and the 2008 parcel tax measure for schools.

Jaynry Mak is a community attorney who has worked as an assistant to then-Congressman Tom Lantos and legislative aide to then Supervisor Fiona Ma. She is looking to find more funds for the schools, to retain and recruit good teachers and classified staff and close the achievement gap between Latino and African American students and the others. Her bilingual skills can help involve parents in the schools.

If our children are the future, the education we provide them will either limit or expand their possibilities. Voting in school board members who look to expand them is the immediate next step in that direction.

Karen Bishop
member, SEIU 1021
San Francisco


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