A San Francisco Unified School District Parent Advisory Council may be approved by the San Francisco Board of Education at this Tuesday’s board meeting. The problem is that this group of parents was selected in a manner that broke state law.
District legal counsel has determined that the process violated the state education code and board policy on racial discrimination and did not follow the state Brown Act.
So will the Board of Education overcome SFUSD Superintendent Matt Wayne’s objections and invite another expensive lawsuit?
I hope for a vote NO so that the district can instead use that potential lawsuit money for the students.
The PAC advertises itself as a group in service of parents and families: “The PAC was created by the San Francisco BoE as a formal way for family perspectives to be included in the district’s decision making process. PAC members actively reach out to engage families in district policy discussions and to represent family concerns to district leaders.” It is a group of as many as 15 volunteer parents who are scheduled to meet monthly and present their findings to the Board of Education regularly.
Yet there are only five members currently, and they have only met twice this year, including a meeting last week.
One of the council's efforts over the past school year was to increase membership. After much recruiting for applications, they set about deciding who to recommend for the Board of Education. Here is where things went sideways. Former PAC Coordinator Michelle Jacques sent a denial email to an applicant with unusual reasoning: “... we received more applicants from our Chinese community than could be accommodated.”
When the PAC’s recommended slate was set to be presented to the board on Sept. 20, BOE Commissioner Matt Alexander appeared to have read that email and heard related concerns from public comments and elsewhere.
“I am concerned about the sentiment that folks may be feeling excluded from the PAC,” he said. “What I don’t want to have happen is a situation where somebody feels like they’re being excluded on the basis or any other criteria for that matter.” Soon afterward, board President Jenny Lam stopped any further discussion on the proposed slate, saying, “It’s not on the agenda.”
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One month later, the board voted on the contract for PAC Coordinator Jacques. It voted 4-3 to end the contract in November, with commissioners Lam, Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi and Lisa Weissman-Ward in favor and commissioners Alexander, Kevine Boggess, and Mark Sanchez against.
At the same time, Superintendent Wayne and district staff were looking into the allegations of denying applicants based on race. In a memo from Marin Trujillo, district head of staff, to the Parent Advisory Council members, Trujillo wrote, “Legal counsel found enough evidence that there were serious issues with the process to merit not moving forward with the slate.”
As part of the legal reasoning, Trujillo wrote, “Per Education Code 200 and Board Policy 0410 note that ‘district programs, activities, and practices must be free from discrimination on all of the following bases [including] race.’” He further described that emailing about candidates among members and the Coordinator was violation of the state Brown Act. In other words, district legal counsel found the slate selection process was illegal.
The decision to agendize the PAC supported slate fell to the board's president, now Kevine Boggess. At the April monthly PAC meeting, Boggess laid out his thinking. The minutes report he said something to the effect of 1) The slate selection process was harmful, though not intentional, 2) the process was careless, 3) he was committed to having a PAC. Then Boggess said that he would get a PAC slate on the Board agenda before the end of the school year.
The PAC will make a presentation Tuesday night to the Board of Education and will recommend its proposed slate of parents to add to the PAC. These seven parents' names will be advanced despite the district’s concerns of the illegality of such a selection process.
Why did Boggess decide to let this PAC group go forward with its plan, regardless of the legal concerns? He said in the April meeting that he acknowledged the PAC’s autonomy, separate from the BoE and the district.
Why did the PAC seek to choose this potentially illegal route which would put the financially strapped district into further legal jeopardy? The PAC majority wanted what it wanted and would not themselves be in legal jeopardy.
So here we are.
I hope the BOE commissioners will vote against this illegal slate. I also hope that the commissioners will not extend the terms of the PAC members that are up for renewal for the 2023-24 school year. Just like the past PAC coordinator, the current PAC members are not fulfilling the mission and goals laid out for them. These extended adult conversations are not helping the students.