Committee of supervisors and school board members to meet 

Newly appointed members of a joint Board of Supervisors-Board of Education committee — which has not met regularly for more than a year — hope to bring the forum back to life in order to build communication between the two leadership bodies.

Created in 2003, the City and School District Select Committee has been used by the Board of Supervisors in the past to discuss such topics as affordable housing for teachers, children’s exposure to diesel fumes, student nutrition and graffiti in the schools.

Although the committee is scheduled to meet twice a month, in 2006 it "didn’t meet much, if it met at all," school board veteran Jill Wynns said.

Ironically, 2006 may have been the year in which the committee might have been most useful, as tensions began to arise from some supervisors around several school-district-related issues, including school closures and the spending decisions of voter-approved school "enrichment" funds that come from The City’s coffers.

The committee’s structure — as a supervisor-controlled forum — resulted in a power imbalance that gave supervisors the right to put a topic of discussion on the agenda and make inquiries of the school board, but not vice versa, Wynns said.

School districts are funded by the state and not accountable to local city or county governments.

"It was not exactly as we had in mind and it wasn’t very effective," Wynns said, adding that promises by the newly appointed committee chairman, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, have made her optimistic that things may become more mutual this year.

"We should be approaching this as equal partners," Dufty said. "I’ve made a commitment to introduce hearing item requests on behalf of school board members."

Other new members of the committee this year are Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and newly elected school board members Jane Kim and Hydra Mendoza. Wynns, as well as Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, are returning members to the group.

Mirkarimi, who represents The City’s Western Addition neighborhood, which has had a disproportionate number of schools shuttered or threatened with closure in the last two years due to the district’s budget woes, puts the blame for the lack of communication on the school district.

"The school district needs to quit operating as a silo, acting as if the rest of us, the city government and the people don’t matter," Mirkarimi said. "We need to have more of a joint existence and focus on how we can be more supportive in providing quality public education."

Maxwell said the supervisors should have some say in the school district, because, "the public schools are such an important part of The City, our life … They’re why people stay, why people go."

Mendoza, who works at City Hall as Mayor Gavin Newsom’s education adviser, said she believes that if there is more communication between the two leadership boards, there will be less tension.

"I don’t think it was intentional, but I know they sometimes feel like they’re the last ones to hear about things, and then they become reactive," she said.

The first City and School District Committee of the Board of Supervisors will be held on Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall. Subsequent meetings will be held on the first and third Thursdays of each month at that same time.

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