Davis Middle School will close; two grades merged with Brown 

San Francisco’s seven-member school board — which started 2007 with three new members — had to tackle a tough question at its first meeting Tuesday: What to do with the district’s three original Dream Schools, which suffer from declining enrollment.

After much discussion, the group accepted a recommendation by district staff and voted to close Gloria R. Davis Middle School — which was expected to enroll students from grades seven to 12 — and add some of its younger grade levels to Willie L. Brown Jr. College Preparatory Academy. Willie L. Brown, which serves students from grades four to six, will also enroll seventh- and eighth-grade students, including the Davis students, starting next year.

Numerous parents attended the school board meeting to protest the elimination of the high school grades from the Dream School program.

"We need a good high school in our community," parent Derrick Eva said.

Although they unanimously passed the resolution, several school board members expressed interested in creating a small Dream School high school that would still exist on the Davis school site or perhaps share space with nearby Thurgood Marshall Academic High School.

Students in the eighth and ninth grade attending Davis will be given their first choice of high schools for the 2007-08 school year, except for Lowell and School of the Arts high schools, which have special admissions requirements.

The Dream School program, championed by the district’s former superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, sought to boost academic achievement at struggling schools and reopen them with a fresh coat of paint, longer school hours, a uniform requirement, more resources, extracurricular activities and mostly new staff members.

While all three schools saw improvement in their overall academic test scores during the last two years, enrollment has declined at all three southeast sector schools. District officials and others have blamed the declining enrollment on grade configurations for each school that don’t match the other district schools.

The third Dream School in the southeast sector, Charles Drew Elementary, for example, only enrolls students from pre-K to third grade, while most elementary schools have students in fifth grade and some up to eighth grade. The grade levels made it hard for parents to transfer from a Dream School to a non-Dream School, or vice versa.

According to district staff, the recommendation was based upon public input from five community meetings held from November to January.

Progressive voted in as school board president

San Francisco’s school board shifted a little more to the left on Tuesday, with Mark Sanchez, an openly gay teacher and Green Party member, unanimously elected as board president by his colleagues.

Picked for the position of second in command was newly re-elected school board member Norman Yee, who, like Sanchez, ran unopposed and won unanimously.

Yee was teleconferenced into the meeting from a hospital bed, where he is recovering after being hit by a car while walking three weeks ago. For several years he has been a swing vote on a board that has been frequently divided between progressives and moderates.

"I’m looking forward, as soon as I get out ofthis hospital, to working with you, Mark," said Yee, who nominated Sanchez for the office.

Sanchez said he was "humbled and happy" to be elected president of the board. He said he hoped to focus the attention of the school board on "the district’s neediest students" including black and Latino students, whose academic achievements lag behind their white and Asian peers. Sanchez said he planned to promote small secondary schools and wanted to look at ways to increase integration through the student assignment system. Also on Sanchez’s agenda is a ballot measure to increase the board’s stipend of $500 per month and a one-hour earlier start of meetings.

beslinger@examiner.com

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