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Super intentions: Reflections on nine months in SF public schools

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Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh listens during a news conference introducing Dr. Vincent Matthews as the San Francisco Unified School District’s new superintendent on March 31, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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As you may have heard, the San Francisco Board of Education has selected Dr. Vincent Matthews to be the next superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. His first day on the job will be May 1.

Dr. Matthews is not new to San Francisco. He actually grew up in The City, attended SFUSD schools, taught at Carver Elementary and served as a principal at two public schools here prior to leading three other California school districts. He is thrilled to be returning to his roots in San Francisco schools, which he credits for his own high-quality education.

As this is my last column as interim superintendent, I wanted to share some of my favorite accomplishments in the school district from this past year.

RISING GRADUATION RATE

The SFUSD now has its highest graduation rate ever: 86.5 percent. This is high for an urban school district anywhere and is also higher than the California average of 82.7 percent. I’m especially heartened to see that our African-American, Latino and Pacific Islander students have accomplished the largest gains over the past seven years.

COLLEGE PREPAREDNESS

Quality is more important than quantity. We are sending our graduates into the world better prepared than in previous years. In a recent report, “College Readiness of California’s High School Students,” our district was cited as an excellent example of how to provide students access to college preparatory coursework and set high expectations for graduates, while ensuring support and intervention to keep students on track to graduation.

GROWING TALENT

Aspiring teachers now have a new route to our classrooms, called the SFUSD Pathway to Teaching. This is a one-year credentialing program to train new teachers and build strong relationships in their school communities while developing standards-based and culturally relevant curriculum for students in our highest-need schools.

EDUCATOR APPRECIATION

We’ve boosted salaries of SFUSD teachers and paraprofessionals by almost 15 percent over the past three years, and we recently offered another proposed salary increase of 10 percent over the next three years.

Though our revenues are slowing and our mandatory expenditures are growing, we’ve made prudent, though challenging, choices to afford these raises in order to draw and keep our hard-working educators in our classrooms.

PROUD AND GRATEFUL

I have been extremely proud to serve as your interim superintendent these last nine months. I look forward to returning to my position as deputy superintendent of policy and operations with new insights and skills, including a deeper understanding of the SFUSD. Most of all, I’ve been grateful for this chance to see, from a new and unique vantage point, the inspiring work of our talented students and dedicated staff.

Please keep reading the superintendent’s column, where Dr. Matthews will comment on public education in San Francisco.

Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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