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Board of Education president will not seek fourth term, to step down from role in Mayor’s Office

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Hydra Mendoza announced Friday that she will not seek reelection to San Francisco’s school board and is stepping away from her role as education advisor to the mayor. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Board of Education President Hydra Mendoza said she will not seek re-election in November for what would be her fourth term on the board.

The longtime education advisor to the late Mayor Ed Lee announced Friday that she will also be transitioning out of her current role as Deputy Chief of Staff on Education and Equity in the Mayor’s Office.

Mendoza cited the reshuffle at City Hall that ensued after Lee’s unexpected death in December as leading her to make “a couple of significant decisions” regarding her day job, as well as her position on the school board. Lee’s death resulted in the City holding an unanticipated mayoral contest on June 5, of which Board of Supervisors President London Breed was named the winner this week.

“This is her time,”said Mendoza , adding that she will support Breed in her new role. “Breed graduated from public schools, she is a true champion for our children and education. I don’t see education or children services falling through the cracks under her leadership.”

Mendoza’s last day in the Mayor’s Office is July 6, though she will continue working for The City. After a planned three-month break, she will join the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families in a project-based role as director of Strategic Partnerships.

However, her 12-year stint on the Board of Education, which included several terms as its president, will officially come to an end in January 2019.

Mendoza said that her role in the Mayor’s office is “part of what made [the school board] an effective position for me to be in,” adding that the school district is not under the City’s jurisdiction.

Serving for more than a decade as education advisor under Lee and former Mayor Gavin Newsom, she was able to learn about issues affecting public school students early on and advocate for resources.

“We didn’t do much for each other and with each other — there wasn’t consistent communication,” she said. “Over the last [decade] that was my goal, to bring SFUSD closer to the city family and tapping the city’s services and resources to get to the students.”

A long list of potential candidates vying for three open seats against only one incumbent emerged early on in the November 6 school board race.

Members with expiring terms are President Shamann Walton, who is a candidate in the District 10 supervisorial race and is not seeking re-election to the school board; Mendoza, and Commissioner Emily Murase, who filed for re-election for a third term last August.

Commissioner Matt Haney is running in the District 8 supervisorial race and, if elected in November, his seat on the board will be filled by a mayoral appointee.

As of Friday, 26 candidates have filed papers for the school board with the Department of Elections, although at least two are known to have since withdrawn their candidacies.

Reflecting on her legacy with the school board, Mendoza named her priorities as having been specific around “early education, wanting to improve middle schools, building up partnerships with the school district and private sector.”

A product of the San Francisco Unified School District, Mendoza spent most of her career with The City advocating for its youth.

Mendoza served as executive director of Parents for Public Schools in San Francisco, a nonprofit organization that assists parents in navigating the public school system, from 2000 to 2005, when she was hand-picked by Newsom to serve on his Policy Council on Children, Youth and Families. She was later tapped for a newly created position as Newsom’s education advisor.

While rising to the role of advisor to the highest elected official in City Hall, Mendoza served her first term on the board of education in 2006, at Newsom’s insistence.

“It was [Newsom’s] brilliant idea — although I didn’t think it was brilliant at the time— to run for the school board,” said Mendoza , who was re-elected to to a second term in 2014 and a third term in 2016. “He felt like I had ‘street cred’ because I graduated form SFUSD, sent my kids there, and was a parent organizer — he thought I had the credentials to be a voice in the district as a consumer.”

When Lee was appointed as mayor in 2011 following Newsom’s resignation, Mendoza decided to stay.

She listed securing a multi-year investment of $33.7 million from tech giant Salesforce toward increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in middle schools and two-years worth of funding for free tuition at City College for San Francisco residents as well as focusing resources on creating educator housing, among Lee’s accomplishments.

“It didn’t always feel like I was working for him, but with him,” Mendoza said. “He made it easier to come in and work really hard for The City.”

Hydra Mendoza, who has served as an education advisor to former mayors Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee, announced Friday she is stepping down from that role. She is shown here with Lee during a 2016 classroom visit. (Examiner file photo)

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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