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What I am grateful for on this Thanksgiving

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School Superintendent Vincent Matthews includes community support of public education on his list of reasons to be thankful. (Courtesy photo)

Thanksgiving is a few days away, and soon we will gather with friends and family to eat and give thanks. Today I’d like to share a moment of gratitude for some of the many people who make our public schools so rich with learning, talent and love.

Students who give their best every day

One of our fundamental promises we make to our students is to help them be their best.

We believe in each and every one of our students. We nurture their growth and teach them life lessons so they can recognize their purpose and value. We encourage each student to reach their full potential, whether they require extra support or a new challenge.

One source of tremendous pride is when I hear about students who take the initiative to help others. I recently learned about a student at Wallenberg who wants to address the stigma surrounding mental health. She started a student club called Bring Change to Mind, which is a mental health awareness club.

A student at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts gave this advice to other students: “The more you know, the better you will be, and the more opportunities you will get in the future. Just try everything. Meet people, make friends. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

I imagine that this young man developed his strong sense of self in part from all the teachers, family members and other mentors along the way who encouraged him to be himself and instilled in him that it’s okay to try things, even if you may fail.

Staff who exemplify our core values

I experience it every day — the incredible caliber of the educators and support staff in SFUSD.

Don’t just take my word for it, let me share a few recent commendations that others shared with me.

School administrative assistants at Charles Drew, Rooftop and the Academy at McAteer were honored for taking responsibility for the organization of their schools and providing leadership when needed to ensure the education and safety of all students and staff.

A Special Education supervisor was praised for being amazingly responsive, and the seamless way she addresses an issue make her job look way easier than it is.

I heard about a paraeducator in the Bayview, Ms. Princess, who holds students to high expectations and empowers them as community members and scholars. Ms. Lee, a para educator at a Richmond area school, goes out of her way to build relationships with all students. The students view her as someone they can turn to for help or to talk with.

Community dedicated to the welfare of children

Time and again the whole San Francisco community shows that it supports public education. Because the residents of our city are willing to vote for local funding for our schools, our students get teachers who are paid above the state average. They participate in more arts enrichment and sports and have access to more counselors and nurses than many other students across California.

Our community shares the treasure of hundreds of organizations whose staff serve our students during and after school and throughout the summer months. From bringing world-class musicians to schools to perform for our students, to helping high school seniors write essays for their college applications, community based organizations help provide access to opportunities and personalized support for thousands of youth every day.

No gratitude for a caring community would be complete without mention of our business partners, who host student interns, release staff to volunteer in our schools and donate funds to expand the educational experiences of all our students.

Please join me in saying thanks to all the great people who make up our SFUSD community. Everyone have a safe, restful Thanksgiving holiday.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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