Emily Murase School Board questionnaire

Emily Murase School Board questionnaire

Postby Jeff_W on Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:05 pm

Emily Murase, PhD for San Francisco Board of Education 2010




1) Why are you running for The Board of Education in the City and County of San Francisco?

I am running for school board because I am passionate about public education and believe that a high quality education is a human right to be enjoyed by all of our kids. I am a graduate of San Francisco public schools and my two kids are enrolled in public schools. As a parent volunteer, I have been an effective advocate for public education. In my professional life as Executive Director of the SF Department on the Status of Women, I have a proven track record of convening city government officials and community advocates to tackle difficult issues such as family violence and human trafficking. I believe these skills make me highly qualified to serve on the school board.

I am endorsed by State Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee, Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris, Assessor Phil Ting, Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, David Chiu, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd, Eric Mar, and Ross Mirkarimi, Joan-Marie Shelley,

2) What is your background in Public Education?

I benefitted from a world class public education in San Francisco that prepared me well for higher education, including a BA in modern Japanese history (Bryn Mawr), a master's in international relations (UC San Diego), and a PhD in communication (Stanford).

Now a parent of 2 children attending public schools, I have been an active parent volunteer in the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program since 2002 when my older daughter was in preschool, advocating for additional school resources and engaging other families to get involved. I currently serve on the Rosa Parks School Site Council.

I have advocated for public schools on a city-wide basis as a member of the SFUSD Parent Advisory Council (2006-2008), the 2008 Proposition A Steering Committee, a coalition of parent advocates, teachers, school board members, and business leaders who successfully worked together to raise teacher salaries, and, more recently, the Parents for Public Schools Advocacy Team which championed the successful 2010 Proposition A for earthquake safety in public schools.

3) If elected to this position, what are your top three priorities for improving public education in the City and County of San Francisco?

Quality schools in EVERY neighborhood.

The Board of Education and school district have spent an inordinate amount of time on revising school assignment polices. However, in my view, this effort would be better directed to improving the quality of schools throughout the City. If we had quality schools in EVERY neighborhood, we would not have the problem of overenrolled schools in one part of town and underenrolled schools in another.

Transparency and accountability.

It is a huge problem when only a few people understand what's going on with the school district budget. We need more transparency in the budget because it reflects policy priorities. The school district is accountable not only to the students, teachers, and families of the district, but to the community as a whole. We need to report on the overall health of our public schools, including the budget, to all households in San Francisco, and in multiple languages.

Keeping kids in school.

Last year, we had over 5,000 students miss more than 10 days of school unexcused. That is nearly 1 in 10 students in the public schools. We need to rethink our truancy policies, make them a budgetary priority, and fund partnerships with service providers and advocates to keep kids in school.

4) What is your strategy for reducing, or completely closing the learning gap between students of different ethnicities and income levels?

The strategy must be one based on cultural competency and respect. A program that has had great success at my kids' school Rosa Parks (in the Western Addition), has been the Academic English Mastery program (AEMP), pioneered by Dr. Noma LeMoine, Director of the LA Unified School District's Close the Achievement Gap Branch. The program is based on the idea that some children speak non-standard English, not because they are underachievers, but because of their cultural upbringing. Educators are trained to understand that this cultural upbringing has roots in indigenous cultures and must be respected. Non-standard English speakers should not be "punished" for their heritage language. Instead, the program introduces a culturally-aware curriculum that is designed to teach standard English to primarily Black, Latino, and Pacific Islander students. I strongly support this approach.

5) Do you believe Teacher and Principal Retention is important for student achievement? If so, what will you do to increase the retention of Teachers and Principals in the San Francisco Unified School District, should you be elected to the San Francisco Board of Education?

In the 5 years I have been a parent volunteer at Rosa Parks, we have gone through 4 different principals. The constant turnover of our principal has been extremely disruptive. Fortunately, the teachers have remained stable throughout this period. To promote student performance, stability of school staff, including teachers and the principal, is essential. There should be formal recognition programs and financial incentives for teachers and principals who remain at the same school site for many years. Provisions of the 2008 Prop A that I worked hard to enact created financial incentives for new teachers to stay at the same school. We must develop creative incentives to promote teacher and principal retention.

6) Special Education in public schools is essential for students with disabilities to achieve academically. However, most often the program is underfunded, or there is an unwillingness to make the reasonable accommodations needed for the students with disabilities to succeed. What plans do you have to mitigate this inequity in San Francisco’s public schools should you be elected to the San Francisco Board of Education?

I fully support the recommendations of the SFUSD Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. In particular, the following recommendations deserve to be prioritized.

Ø Hire special education Parent Liaisons to specifically focus on Chinese-speaking, Spanish-speaking and low-income families to help parents navigate SFUSD’s special education system.

Ø Create an oversight committee to monitor evaluations and assessments, ensuring

that assessments cover every area of suspected disability, and that children are not

being misidentified.

Ø Ensure that all Special Education Classes and Programs do not exceed their

student capacity or staffing allocation ratios as outlined in the current labor


7) The San Francisco Unified School District in recent years has developed policy to ensure a safe environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender students in San Francisco’s public schools. Can you summarize your understanding of these policy objectives? What are your plans regarding this policy should you be elected to the San Francisco Board of Education?

The explicit goal of the school district is "to create a safe, affirming and enriched environment for participatory and inclusive learning for every group of students." In 1990, the school district created Support Services for Gay Youth as one of the programs in Student Support Services Department and, just this year, the school board adopted a comprehensive program of measures to institutionalize responsiveness to the needs of LGBT students by the district, including dedicated staffing. As a school board member, it would be my duty to ensure that the district is a welcoming and supportive place for all students, including LGBT students.

8) What role if any, do you believe Charter Schools play in the public educational system of the United States?

The data on student performance in charter schools vs. traditional public schools is inconclusive. In San Francisco, average student performance at charter schools is about the same as in traditional public schools, so I am not convinced that charter schools are the answer to improving student performance.

9) What is your position regarding the privatization of public education?

Given the chronic underfunding of public education by the state, privatization of public education is already occuring, however unintentionally. California is 47th in the nation in per student spending. While New York and New Jersey are spending about $15,000 per student, California is spending less than half that. Some estimate California is spending as little as $5,000 per student. As a result of this severe underfunding, the San Francisco Unified School District faces a $113 million budget deficit over the coming 2 years.

I am strongly opposed to the privatization of public education and call for increased investment. That's why I've joined the "Close the Loophole" movement to reform Prop 13. We need to maintain protections for residential property owners, but require that commercial property owners pay their fair share. A column in the LA Times reported that Disneyland pays something like a nickel per square foot in property taxes while the average post-Prop 13 homeowner pays 40 times that rate. This is patently unfair and wrong. Major corporations like Disney have a huge stake in having an educated workforce. They must be required to pay their fair share of state property taxes. I support the proposal to tax the property of major corporations on a different basis than residential properties.

10) Do you favor the use of Project Labor Agreements in the San Francisco Unified School District?

I support project Labor Agreements so long as they can be structured to include minority and small business owners in an equitable manner.
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