Asawa SOTA & the SFUSD: proposal for a revised transition plan

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The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts is an award-winning, high- functioning, world class public arts high school and has been a source of pride and achievement for the San Francisco Unified School District and the Board of Education for more than 35 years. The community of Asawa SOTA includes over 2,000 current students, parents/guardians, teachers and artists-in-residence, as well as a significantly larger community of San Francisco Bay Area alumni families and others. They are passionate supporters of this successful arts high school and the education it currently delivers.

This same community contributes significant amounts of time, money, and resources to the success of the school and the programs, in large part because of the trust that exists between all parts and members of the Asawa SOTA community for each other

Current fundraising, producing student performances and events, and hiring artists who contribute to the arts education of our students is managed by the nonprofit organization, Friends of Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. This relationship and management system works seamlessly for our community and has been evaluated thoroughly by the District and outside auditors and has been found to be in full compliance with standard accounting, tax and legal requirements.

 On April 12, 2018,  the Asawa SOTA community was informed that the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the SFUSD and the Friends of Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts would not be renewed for the 2018/2019 year. The community was not involved in making this decision. It was further communicated that steps for replacing the entire structure of the ongoing management of the arts programs via the partnership between the school and our nonprofit booster organization had been decided upon and would be implemented immediately– also without the input of the Asawa SOTA community.

The primary motivation of the Asawa SOTA community is to continue to provide world-class arts education to our students and to effectively support the artists who work with these students and dedicate themselves to this mission. 

With a commitment to future collaborations and strong partnerships with the District and the Board on their future projects, and the opportunity to establish, nurture and rebuild mutual trust wherever that is lacking, the Asawa SOTA Community, proposes the following plan of action be honored by the SFUSD and the Board of Education and its representatives:

1. COMMUNICATION: We request three meetings between the Board of Education, the SFUSD Superintendent, the leadership of Asawa SOTA (both the administration, and parent and educator/AIR representatives) and the Board of the FORASFSOTA, to be held before June 30, 2018, to create an action plan and calendar for any changes that may be implemented.

2. APPROPRIATE TIME FRAME: The community, acknowledges the request from the Board for changes to some aspects of the administration of the school currently managed by the Friends of Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. We respectfully submit that changes of this magnitude need to be: a) well-planned with cooperation between all parties; b) well-communicated to the wider Asawa SOTA community:  c) phased in over an appropriate timeframe in order to avoid significant disruption to the students' educational experience, avoid disruption of the hiring and planning process for our teachers and artists in residence, avoid disruption of the fundraising capability of our families and patrons, and avoid the further erosion of trust between the larger Asawa SOTA community and the District.

3. TRUST: While Asawa SOTA enjoys a national reputation of respect and positivity, it is distressing to learn that an undeserved negative view of the school and community may persist among some members of the Board of Education or SFUSD. There needs to be a clear plan in place to put this to rest. We therefore request time to rebuild trust between the community and whomever has a concern, and address the perceived “contentious relationship” that SFUSD Chief Academic officer, Brent Stephens, made the community aware of at the Community Meeting at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts on April 23rd.

Shakespeare wrote, “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.” There is no grudge on behalf of the Asawa SOTA community, but there is a deep concern that without opportunities for face-to-face communication and dialogue, we continue to labor under an unjustly tarnished reputation. We request the opportunity to rehabilitate that reputation through community meetings, private meetings with the Board, or whatever methods will be proposed and deemed workable by the SFUSD and Board of Education.

Excluding our community from decisions which directly impact its well-being has the potential for continued misunderstandings and ultimately a negative effect on our students.

As the 2017/2018 school year is rapidly coming to a close, there is an urgency in our securing an agreement on this proposal and crafting a plan to move forward without the threat of ongoing disruption for our students and our school in the coming year.

We look forward to working in partnership with all parties to reach a well-crafted, clearly communicated and effective solution to this transition.

The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts Community

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