There are a lot of unmet needs in our community, and our schools currently suffer from being in a state that spends less on K-12 public education than almost any other in the nation. This is, thankfully, finally starting to turn around with the passage of propositions 30 and 38.
But to make the big leaps necessary for optimal learning, including teacher support and development as well as technology infrastructure and access, we need more than the current or near-future resources we have.
Fortunately, last week we heard good news. Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, announced that his foundation, the Salesforce.com Foundation, intends to support San Francisco’s public schools, starting with an initial investment of $2.7 million for the 2013-14 school year.
While this is not the only significant investment a local business has made into the San Francisco Unified School District, it is one of the largest made in a single year and, more importantly, it is the beginning of what Benioff says he intends to be a long-term relationship between his foundation and our city’s youth.
This year’s initial investment from the Salesforce.com Foundation, what we’re calling Phase 1 of a multiyear project, is being shared across 12 comprehensive middle schools. It will help the district refine its strategy around the tools and resources needed to deliver innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum across grades, including substantive professional development for participating teachers in using technology to teach STEM.
Along with tailored professional training for teachers, it will build our ability to make the best use of technology and help students master 21st-century content. When done right, STEM education removes the traditional barriers between science, technology, engineering and math and teaches the subject matters together.
It’s cool to teach this way, but we’re also thinking ahead for our students: The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, over the past decade, the number of new jobs involving STEM expertise has grown at a rate triple that of jobs that do not.
And this is just the beginning. With the support of Mayor Ed Lee — who has made it a top priority to see that San Francisco’s youths receive a quality education and are ready for college and the jobs of the 21st century — I predict we will continue to see more partnerships like the one we have now with the Salesforce.com Foundation. I also predict that these will help us improve all our schools for every one of our students, pre-K through 12.
I look forward to future investments like this into our schools to dramatically improve the educational experience for more of our students for years to come.
Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.