Before inducting San Francisco’s new schools superintendent into office Monday, Mayor Gavin Newsom promised Carlos Garcia an all-access pass to city government resources.
It reflected a growing relationship between The City and the San Francisco Unified School District that already includes programs for truancy prevention, parent education and language immersion.
“We’re enthusiastic about the partnership that’s beginning to take place,” Newsom said.
The two leadership bodies are starting to “blur the line” in order to “support each other,” he said.
The City and school district have not always had a robust relationship. Tensions rose last year between the Board of Supervisors and the school board regarding school closures and voter-approved school “enrichment” funds that come from The City’s coffers.
A defunct joint Board of Supervisors-Board of Education committee has since been brought back to life to build communication between the two bodies.
In the past, the committee was a supervisor-controlled forum, resulting in a power imbalance that allowed supervisors to set the agenda and make inquiries of the school board, but not vice versa. The leaders have decided to work differently this time.
Garcia, who officially took over for interim Superintendent Gwen Chan on Monday, said he hopes to pursue additional joint programs that would promote safety, professional development, nutrition and physical education.
He said he met with Newsom before accepting the job.
“I found that the mayor was very open to having discussions about collaborating on partnerships that are going to be good for kids,” Garcia said Wednesday, his third day as superintendent. “That’s not easily found in a lot of different cities.”
In fact, more and more school districts across the nation are being taken over by municipal governments, which Garcia opposes.
“We’re assuming that cities have solved all the problems they have,” he said. “Most places where these takeovers have occurred, the cities themselves have more problems than the school districts.”
With community members citing safety as a top priority, Garcia said he plans to work with city transportation officials to make sure students have safe routes to schools on public transit.
He said The City can help provide security at bus stops and appropriate bus schedules, while the district can implement school hours that begin and end at safe hours.
“We need to make sure there are not problems [with bus routes] going across areas where we might jeopardize how kids are treated,” he said.
Besides an enhanced transit partnership, Garcia has suggested joint employee training between The City and the district.
He also said he would like to see the city-sponsored nutrition and physical education programs, which are currently housed at seven high schools, expanded citywide.
“The City and county have limited resources,” Garcia said. “Obviously, if we didn’t, I could give you a laundry list of things that we want.”
Can City Hall and the school district work together?
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