SF, education officials aim to graduate 100 percent of public-school students 

On Aug. 18, the first day of this school year, Mayor Ed Lee spoke about the importance of technology in San Francisco's public-school classrooms.

Nearly seven months and millions of dollars in donations for tech equipment later, the San Francisco Unified School District is advancing toward its goal of trying to raise $40 million in the coming years to support digital learning efforts.

And now The City's public schools are poised to get an even greater boost from the private sector following a first-of-its-kind collaboration announced Wednesday with The City, the SFUSD, local businesses and higher education entities.

UniteSF, an initiative of the Chamber of Commerce, aims to graduate every public-school student, Lee said at the chamber's CityBeat Breakfast. No timeline for this goal was announced.

"We are strengthening our public-private philanthropic partnerships so that we can advance opportunities for youth," Lee said. "We want to make sure that all of our students are educated and take advantage of the great opportunities our city has to offer."

The initiative, which will be overseen by the chamber's philanthropic foundation, hopes to ensure that every student is prepared for college or a skilled vocational program, and that they are provided with pathways to jobs and careers.

Donations, mentorships, activities and expanded access to technology are some of the ways that businesses, schools and The City will facilitate such goals, officials said.

Teaching students the skills relevant to, say, the technology industry will also help to keep the sector diverse and ensure a range of students are eligible for such opportunities down the road, SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza noted.

"That diversification is right now in the public-school system," Carranza said.

Establishing relationships between businesses and schools will also encourage students to grasp the relevance of their education, the superintendent added.

"Kids need to understand that what they're studying is going to lead to something," he said.

The district's need for outside funding for technology is no secret. A 2014-19 technology plan dubbed the Digital District estimated that a total digital transformation of SFUSD will cost nearly $200 million over five years.

Recent initiatives have sought to bring technology into public-school classrooms, including a $5 million donation from Salesforce.com Foundation last year to put iPads into the hands of middle school teachers and students.

Also last year, city and district officials announced an expansion of the Circle the Schools program that connects nearly two dozen San Francisco-based tech companies with The City's public schools through an adopt-a-school model.

City College of San Francisco, UC San Francisco, UC Hastings College of the Law, University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University, along with companies such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, Zynga and Comcast, have already pledged to participate in UniteSF.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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