A YIMBY Action Endorsement Questionnaire. View all November 2018 Questionnaires.

Alida Fisher

Candidate - SFUSD Board of Education

SFUSD owns a good deal of land in San Francisco. A distressing amount of this land is surface parking lots. Do you think this is a good use of this land? Would building housing on these lots be a better use? How important is this issue to you?

San Francisco needs more housing. I am grateful for the concerted effort by many in our community to create new housing, particularly housing for residents of all income levels and housing for teachers. We should focus on building more housing along transit corridors (such as more housing near the Balboa Park BART Station). I support transforming surface parking lots into more useable spaces, including housing. As more units are built and housing becomes available, how do we allocate that housing? I believe that priority should be given to teachers, firefighters, police officers, social workers, and artists. One of the biggest heartbreaks for me is that many residents who grew up in San Francisco have been priced out. Every SFUSD graduate should be able to live independently and work in the city they have called home their entire life. They shouldn’t have to move back into their parents’ house to afford to live here. My family is currently experiencing this uncertainty firsthand. My oldest daughter just graduated from Mission High School and headed off to Washington College in Maryland. She is already worried about whether or not she’ll be able to return to San Francisco when she graduates from college. Lotteries for low and middle income housing, as well as down payment assistance programs, should also provide priority or tie breaker options for young San Franciscans whose families have been in San Francisco for at least a generation.

More and more students attending our public schools suffer from homelessness. What do you believe the school district should do to address this problem?

In 2016, SFUSD served 1,844 students experiencing homelessness. Thousands more are marginally housed. The stress of housing insecurity impacts learning outcomes for our students. By increasing our focus on wraparound supports, we can help our students focus on academic success.

We need more collaborative programs like the pilot program at Buena Vista Horace Mann that, starting in November, will allow 20 families experiencing homelessness to sleep in the school’s second gymnasium. As a foster parent, I experienced the frustration of navigating the city’s bureaucracy. It can be challenging for anyone, particularly those in crisis, to find the appropriate services. Short term, I believe each school should have at least one full-time social worker (and many schools need more than one) to help families navigate various city departments and access services. Long term, we need to invest in more mental health supports in our schools.

Students experiencing homelessness have legal protections, such as the McKinney-Vento Act. Each and every school should have multiple personnel trained in the intricacies of the act, and how to use the law to support and protect our most marginalized students and families.

More and more teachers struggle with the cost of housing. What do you believe the school district should do to address this problem?

I support building affordable housing for educators, paraeducators, and other SFUSD certificated staff on vacant school district property. I support giving teachers and other school district employees preference in city housing lotteries. We also need to pay our teachers, paraeducators, and school staff district employees a livable wage. I support building additional affordable housing throughout the city. I was a supporter of this June’s ballot measure, Prop G. I actively campaigned with UESF for teacher raises, and will continue to support initiatives that raise the salaries of SFUSD educators, paraeducators, and classified employees.

Getting children to and from public schools is a problem for many parents. A major finding from the SF CTA Child Transportation Study was that “most parents drive their children to school and afterschool programs.” Do you see this as a problem? What solutions do you think the school district could pursue to address this? Please feel free to discuss school busses, shuttles, protected bike lanes, etc.

Many families drive to work, and dropping students off at school is just part of the morning commute. This past year, my four different children were at four different SFUSD schools. My two oldest children, who were in high school and middle school, took public transportation. But I drove my sons to two separate schools each day.

Not all students live close to school, so walking and riding isn’t a feasible option. Something that might make public transportation more attractive to families could be a dedicated bus that left from a transportation hub, such as West Portal, and made stops at 3-4 schools.

If we want to prevent families from driving, we have to make getting to school without driving more attractive or convenient. Dedicated bike lanes are helping some families. What about offering incentives to schools that actively coordinate carpools, public transportation usage, or walking/biking programs? What if families that use public transportation to get to school at least once a week were given free MUNI passes for the following month?

I would love to collaborate with organizations such as the San Francisco Bike Coalition, San Francisco Transit Riders, MTA, and families to analyze the problem and work on creative solutions to this challenge.

YIMBYs care deeply about integration and healing the wounds of redlining and exclusionary zoning. These policies deliberately result in segregated schools. SFUSD has a lottery assignment system designed to fix this segregation problem in our housing, but it has not resulted in vastly more integrated schools. What do you see as solutions to this complex problem?

SFUSD’s opportunity gap is huge. While San Francisco has the second highest concentration of billionaires in the United States, we also have the highest percentage of homeless youth and young adults. At many schools within SFUSD, the performance gap in SBAC proficiency levels between White and African American students is more than 50%. SFUSD has been sanctioned by the state Department of Education for over-identification of African American males into classrooms for “emotionally disturbed” students.

While the statistics are heartbreaking, I am encouraged to see that SFUSD leadership recognizes our challenges and is working to improve outcomes. The Superintendent has identified “PITCH schools” – schools that have been historically underserved or have a high achievement gap – to receive additional resources this year. The African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI) was created in 2013 “to hold SFUSD departments and City agencies accountable for providing a high quality educational experience to African American students.”

We are seeing improvements. Is it enough? It won’t be enough until we see equitable outcomes amongst various races and ethnicities within SFUSD. How do we strike a balance between neighborhood schools and desegregation as well as parent choice and convenience?

While debate about enrollment continues, there are a few ways to (slightly) simplify the process, such as moving towards a more automated enrollment system.

There are serious geographic equity issues with our schools. Additionally, as some districts are growing their housing supply, adding more and more children, the lack of quality schools everywhere is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. How do you plan on addressing the issue of access to quality schools in every district and opening more schools?

I take issue with the statement about “lack of quality schools in every district.” Before considering the addition of new schools, I would want to increase the resources that are in place at many of our existing schools. SFUSD has a lot of “hidden gems” that are currently under-enrolled. I would urge all parents to look beyond test scores. Talk to a school’s students and families. For example, ask me about Mission High School. My oldest daughter graduated from Mission in June. She just left for Washington College with a presidential scholarship. Many San Francisco residents had cautioned my husband and me not to send our daughter to Mission. After all, hadn’t we heard about its reputation? Not only does Mission serve the highest number of African American students in the district, but they also had the highest number of students accepted to the UC’s. Part of what makes that statistic so impressive is that Mission is half or a third of the size of our larger high schools.

Is there anything else you think our members should know about your candidacy? Links, references, endorsements, etc?

In the twelve years my four children have attended SFUSD, I have been an active parent volunteer at seven schools. I am Chair of SFUSD’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC), a member of the African American Parent Advisory Committee, and a member of the LCAP Task Force. I participate in multiple district committees, stakeholder engagement teams, and working groups. I am a Parent Mentor with Support for Families of Children with Disabilities and a volunteer advocate with the Community Alliance for Special Education. As a former foster parent and adoptive parent of African American children, two of whom have disabilities, I am particularly passionate about the issues of equity and social justice. I work with families of all backgrounds to ensure that our voices are being heard – and our feedback being included – when decisions are made about our children’s education. 
I’ve attended hundreds of district Board of Education meetings and committee meetings. I’m ready to make the move to the other side of the table: I want to do more than comment in committees and at board meetings. I want to ensure that we consider and support our most vulnerable students and families in every decision, resolution, and guideline.

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