New school year gives San Francisco more opportunities to nurture youths

The 2012-13 school year is right around the corner, and on Monday, 54,200 public-school students and 8,189 staff members will fill 131 child development centers and elementary, middle and high schools throughout our beautiful city.

This is an exciting time for our San Francisco Unified School District. It has a new leader at the helm in Richard Carranza, a proven leader and deputy superintendent over the past three years under the great leadership of former Superintendent Carlos Garcia. The district API will likely hit the state target of 800, with more than half of our schools meeting or exceeding that mark. Suspensions are down, chronic absenteeism is down, graduation rates are rising and as a city, we are working hard to provide more opportunities for our youths.

This year, under my Summer Jobs+ program, we provided our city’s young people with 5,002 paid internships, many of those slots going to at-risk youths. With our partners at United Way Bay Area, we hope to make this a year-round program.

In addition to internships, our Department of Children, Youth and Their Families funded 62 summer programs that provided a meaningful summer learning experience for 6,700 students from kindergarten to the eighth grade. We also focused our efforts in grades six through 12 with programs that helped kids learn leadership skills.

This doesn’t include the thousands of young people served through our comprehensive summer programs at the Recreation and Park Department. For the second year in a row, we funded summer school to help out our high school students. We also sponsored the Free Summer Food and Snack program, which provided 5,000 meals daily to our youths.

As the school year begins, I look forward to strengthening our partnership with our public schools and paying particular attention to our middle school students and their families. Transition years are critical and if we want to continue to raise graduation rates and prepare our students for college and careers in our innovation economy, we need to invest in our youths early and often.

The state budget has made it difficult for all of our public schools, but the city of San Francisco has stepped up and continues to be a strong partner for our families and their children, not only at the pre-K though 12th-grade levels, but also with our local colleges and universities. We look forward to a productive, innovative, creative, safe and engaging school year! To all of our students and families throughout our city, welcome back to school!

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco.

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