This past Wednesday evening, as several Everett parents were preparing for our annual International Night community event, a Walton funded organization called “Innovate Public Schools” had their own plans. They had organized a meeting with Interim Associate Superintendent Tony Payne at Everett Middle School. Unknown to the administration and staff at Everett Middle School or to Tony Payne himself, the meeting was widely published on social media outlets. “Innovate Public Schools” has a corporate privatizing agenda to diminish resources for local public schools and open charter schools.
Another Everett parent and I were able to warn key school personnel, our community liaisons, Principal Lena Van Haren, and Tony Payne, the district associate superintendent, before the meeting took place. Though uninvited, we managed to stay at the meeting in which three “Innovate” employees “supported” four parents in reading questions off of a script. Tony Payne handled the questions superbly. He told his compelling story of becoming a lifelong public school educator in his hometown, and focused his answers on how SFUSD works to support and retain high quality experienced teachers to teach all students at every one of the district schools. Ironically, “Innovate” group’s expensive and sleek translation headsets did not work. Their interpreter did not step up to translate Tony Payne’s responses. The monolingual Spanish speaking parents were unable to understand his answers to their scripted questions. I then volunteered to translate the meeting, as I actually believe in parents being able to hear the answers to their questions, unlike the “Innovate” Walton funded organization.
Among the sophisticated brochures and materials provided, “Innovate” handed out a flyer that publicizes a “Community Action Forum” at 5051 Mission Street on December 4 at 6:00 pm. Their flyer states that SF NAACP “has declared a state of emergency.” Meanwhile the California NAACP (as well as the National NAACP) has called for a moratorium on charter expansion because of the harmful effects that charter schools have on local community school children.
This organization has deep pockets and they are trying to get parent contact info. They are infiltrating parent community groups in San Francisco. Please beware, and do not give them your information freely. Local public school and civil rights groups are rightfully concerned about the recent arrival of “Innovate”. In a city where teachers cannot afford to live and work, where we lose teachers every week to higher paying professions and better funded districts in the suburbs, parents and community members will need to become well-informed about this particular organization and others like it. “Innovate” likely sees San Francisco as its next conquest, and we can’t let their tactics divide us and our scarce public school resources.
After being sidetracked by this strange meeting on our public school campus, the Everett School Community came together the following night with a potluck of homemade dishes. Our middle school cheerleaders performed with spirit and grace, our Raza Club students took the mic, and a 6th grader played her violin. We sat in “mix it up” community circles and passed our “talking pieces” to tell our stories of wild animal encounters, favorite meals from our past, and people we are thankful for. On a beautiful night in November our teachers and staff, parents, grandparents, and children shared stories and listened to each other. People translated for each other so everyone could take part. And no script was needed.
“Innovate” will be quite innovative in its disruption of our community public schools that strive and struggle and shine. Let’s remember that our fight is with all of us together focused on more equitable resources for public education, school and community integration, and respect for the folks that work with our students everyday.
The following articles shed light on this organization’s tactics and motivations:
And an op ed by two of our SFUSD Board members who are as dismayed as I am to see our public schools and teachers blamed once more.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to post to other parent / community groups and forums.
“It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices. As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.” Nikole Hannah Jones, 2017 winner of the MacArthur Genius award.