A New Twist on the School Board Wars
Over the past year, I’ve seen so many school board meetings. Angry meetings. Meetings where parents were dragged out the door. Meetings where whole contingents of observers jeered and then sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But I’ve never seen a school board meeting quite like this. At a San Francisco school board meeting in January, held over Zoom, the president of the board kicked things off by saying, “We want to make sure you feel welcomed and heard, especially during a time when so much pain and hurt is persisting.”
The way she speaks here—with a lot of talk of “holding space” and “lifting people up”—that is the vibe the board is cultivating. There are a lot of good-natured shoutouts among this crew. But it all takes a lot of time. “The school board meetings often go for seven or eight hours, well into the evening,” says Jill Tucker, who writes about education for the San Francisco Chronicle. She says the problem with all this talking is that it was happening as a lot of San Francisco parents were struggling. At this point in the pandemic: Kids had been out of school buildings for almost a year. San Francisco still didn’t have a firm reopening date on the schedule. But you wouldn’t know any of that if you tuned in to the first few hours of this meeting, because reopening the buildings was way down the board’s priority list, tucked under the 11th agenda item. They didn’t even get to it until seven hours into the meeting.