Walt Gmelch, SOE Dean, opens the candidate forum.
Photo courtesy of Shawn P. Calhoun
A larger than expected attendance, which included University of San Francisco students, staff and faculty, community members, and parents, filled Fromm Hall for the panel discussion held September 13, 2012. San Francisco voters will soon be choosing 4 of 11 candidates to fill the open seats in the 7-member school board. The board oversees the education of more than 50,000 children and the district’s budget, which may be facing further cuts depending on the outcome of the November election.
Developing the event
The idea to host an open forum at USF originated with Sheryl Davis, of Mo’Magic, a community organization in the Western Addition, who joined with Chris Thomas (School of Education, Assistant Professor, Leadership Studies), Corey Cook (College of Arts & Sciences, Associate Professor, Politics), and Shawn Calhoun (Head Librarian, Gleeson Library), to collaborate on the event. As public school fathers, the latter two had an additional interest in promoting the forum.
The coordinators wanted to have the candidates focus on specific issues not always addressed, such as, ethnic studies, the prison pipeline, distributing resources equitably, and the youth voice. Thomas said, "We wanted to ask them how they would make it a priority to make all schools in SF great schools."
Thomas continued, "It is very important for the School of Education and USF, as the city's university, to be active in the issues that are happening in our neighborhood schools. We say we are about equity, community and social justice, so we must create the opportunity for events like this."
With all seats filled and others standing, those attending obviously agreed. The discussion is being continued through social media with a positive response from the community.
The candidates able to participate in the panel were:
- Sandra Lee Fewer, current school board member
- Kim Garcia-Mesa, early childhood educator and USF alumnus
- Matt Haney, executive director, University of California Student Association
- Rachel Norton, current school board member
- Beverly Popek, civil servant and educator
- Sam Rodriquez, education and workforce adviser
- Shamann Walton, executive director, Young Community Developers
- Jill Wynns, current school board member
See related SF Chronicle article at SFGate >>