San Francisco school board president: On second thought, we'll focus on opening schools before renaming them

That this was not the San Francisco Unified School District’s priority in the first place speaks volumes about where students rank in its focus. This reversal from Gabriela López does little to change that, either. It only comes after the SFUSD board made itself into a national laughingstock — and after the city sued to get them to do their jobs:

Six weeks ago, I became president of the school board. Since day one, my priority has been to reopen our city’s public schools safely. As soon as possible.

There have been many distracting public debates as we’ve been working to reopen our schools. School renaming has been one of them. It was a process begun in 2018 with a timeline that didn’t anticipate a pandemic. I acknowledge and take responsibility that mistakes were made in the renaming process.

“Mistakes were made”? No kidding. Note the use of passive voice, as well as the buck-passing in these two paragraphs. López might only have become board president six weeks ago — which actually preceded the renaming vote — but she’s been on the SFUSD school board since January 2019. Furthermore, as her bio notes, “López is a core organizer at Teachers 4 Social Justice,” which likely means that she didn’t put up too much resistance to this renaming push.

And in fact, López is still pretty stoked about that project, “mistakes” and all. She’s just embarrassed to have been caught out on her priorities:

Our students need to attend schools where they feel valued and seen. This work is anti-racist and we’re proud of that.

But reopening will be our only focus until our children and young people are back in schools. We’re canceling renaming committee meetings for the time being. We will be revising our plans to run a more deliberative process moving forward, which includes engaging historians at nearby universities to help.

Shouldn’t consultations with historians have been done in the first place? That might have saved the board some embarrassment when the notes from the committee came to light, although that didn’t stop the process from moving forward either. Alex Griswold dedicated a Twitter thread to the hilarity:

This is what you get, apparently, when dealing with Teachers 4 Social Justice rather than Teachers 4 Education. These research notes should have demonstrated that the real “distracting debate” was the one over names. Instead, López led the SFUSD board into rearranging nameplates while schools and students were sinking in the City by the Bay. It was so distracting, in fact, that the school district got sued by the city itself to stop playing around with social justice and get back to education — and coming from San Francisco, that’s really saying something. And we haven’t even gotten to SFUSD’s war on acronyms as a tool of white supremacy, or meritocracy, or their rejection of a gay man for a lack of diversity. They’ve been focused on everything but students and getting them back into classrooms.

As far as “mistakes were made,” that much is certainly true. They were clearly made by voters who elected the SFUSD board members, and perhaps especially López. If they had any integrity, these officials would follow the example set by Oakley’s board and give voters a do-over, and let them set the educational priorities properly.