Today, I’d like to brag about our school district a little. We recently received not one, but two Golden Bell awards.
The Golden Bell award from the California School Boards Association recognizes public school programs that are innovative and sustainable, make a demonstrated difference for students and focus on meeting the needs of public school students.
One award is for our partnership with Mayor Ed Lee and the Salesforce Foundation.
We joined forces a couple years ago to reimagine the learning environment for students grades six through eight. We first focused on building the technology infrastructure (wireless system, purchase of devices), which required a large initial investment — but one that can be maintained by our own resources moving forward.
In addition, we invested heavily in training teachers as entire school faculties got up to speed with this shift in technology.
This partnership also includes the Principal’s Innovation Fund. Every participating middle grades principal has been awarded a $100,000 discretionary fund. With the freedom to spend this money to best serve their sites, it has led to amazing creativity with a wide range of activities launched and tested. They range from a platform for online sharing with Chinese students to having students help redesign their learning spaces.
Future Dining Experience
The other award is for the SFUSD’s work to create a plan for a student-centered, financially stable system that engages kids in eating fresh, healthy meals. With the Sara & Evan Williams Foundation and IDEO, we created the Future Dining Experience, a plan that reflects the input of 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff, principals, teachers, administrators and community partners.
Though the overall plan will take many years to implement, we have begun revamping cafeterias and incorporating technology at Roosevelt Middle School, Thurgood Marshall High School, Everett Middle School and Willie L. Brown Jr. Middle School.
These awards were not easy to achieve. Twenty-eight experts from school districts and county offices of education reviewed our entries and recommended us. Then on-site validators visited SFUSD schools and assessed our programs in action.
When these partnerships began, I knew we had something really remarkable in the making. And now, not only am I proud that all this hard work is transforming our schools, but I am also honored that our successes have the seal of approval from the CSBA.
Richard Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.