Oct 11, 2022 - Politics

Meet the key players in San Francisco's Board of Education race

Students wearing "Lowell BSU" jackets.

Members of the Lowell High School Black Student Union hold a press conference to speak out against the racist attacks on the Lowell community in February 2021. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Three San Francisco school board seats are up for grabs in the wake of the recall of three members of the Board of Education earlier this year.

Be smart: The school board determines policies for all public schools across the city, establishing educational goals and standards, setting the district's budget and more.

The candidates: Three mayor-appointed members, Ann Hsu, Lisa Weissman-Ward and Lainie Motamedi.

  • Karen Fleshman, a diversity and inclusion consultant
  • Alida Fisher, advocacy chair of the SFUSD's Community Advisory Committee for Special Education
  • Educator Gabriela López and former school board president

The intrigue: López, was recalled earlier this year, after critics argued the school board spent too much time on efforts to rename schools with problematic namesakes and changing Lowell High School to a lottery admissions system. A judge later ruled the board had violated procedures in making that change.

Flashback: Hsu came under fire in July for claiming on a campaign questionnaire that it's difficult to educate Black and Latino children because of their "unstable family environments" and "lack of parental encouragement to focus on or value learning."

  • Hsu explained in a public apology that she "was trying to understand and address a serious problem and seek solutions, and in so doing [she] said things that perpetuated biases already in the system."

By the numbers: Breed's appointees are leading the fundraising race, per campaign filings.

  • Hsu has raised the most with $62,071.
  • López has raised the least amount of money, with just $10,844 in donations.

Race and racism have been at the root of many of the issues plaguing the school board in recent years.

  • Community civil rights organization, Chinese for Affirmative Action, hosted a debate this month with the candidates to discuss, among other topics, their thoughts on the planned changes to how elementary students are assigned to schools and how to address racial segregation in the district.
  • The new student assignment policy, set to go into effect in the fall of 2026, is designed to place students in schools based on geographical zones.
  • Hsu and Motamedi did not participate in the debate.

What they're saying: López referenced her past work on the Board of Education's student assignment committee, where she oversaw the efforts SFUSD made to create more diverse school environments. But the district, she says, needs to do more to "tackle the underlying issue of people who don't want to go to specific schools because of the reputation they have."

  • Weissman-Ward said she's working with staff and outside experts to design geographic zones so families "have meaningful choice that is within proximity to their homes," but that also better integrates schools across race, ethnicity, income and other factors.
  • Fisher said many families are concerned the new policy will strip them of their choice, saying they're worried "that if they don't get to choose where they get to go, they could end up very racially isolated."
  • Fleshman echoed Fisher's remarks, saying she's "concerned about eliminating agency and choice as we move toward a more regional-based model."

Key endorsements: Hsu lists endorsements from San Francisco Mayor London Breed, GrowSF, state Sen. Scott Wiener and others.

  • Weissman-Ward: United Educators of San Francisco, Breed, state Assemblymember Matt Haney and others.
  • Motamedi: Breed, Haney, SF Supervisor Gordon Mar and others.
  • Fleshman: SF League of Pissed Off Voters, SF Berniecrats, D6 supervisor candidate Honey Mahogany and others.
  • Fisher: SF Supervisors Dean Preston and Shamann Walton, Haney and others.
  • López: School Board members Mark Sanchez and Matt Alexander, Preston and others.

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