As Black San Franciscans, it’s obvious to us that calls for Ann Hsu’s resignation are in bad faith
The latest battle in San Francisco’s culture wars would be just another tempest in a teapot were it not setting back the urgent work of the SFUSD.
Person of color here. I have no issue with what Hsu said. Frankly, she's right. If only we'd take heed of her words instead of dismissing her as a racist perhaps we might actually get somewhere when it comes to minimizing the achievement gap. It's been decades now and there's been zero improvement. Even worse, our test scores and grades just get lower. Until we confront reality and swallow the truth about this matter we're never going to get anywhere.
This is the reality of this city nowadays--everything is brazenly done in bad faith. Instead of accepting and confronting the truth you just label someone as a racist and bully them into submission.
The latest battle in San Francisco’s seemingly endless culture wars would be just another tempest in a teapot were it not setting back the urgent work of improving educational outcomes for thousands of public school students.
For the past week, a spectacle involving brand-new board commissioner of San Francisco Unified School District, Ann Hsu, has escalated. Its ostensible origin is a comment Commissioner Hsu submitted on a candidate survey. She is one of three commissioners appointed by Mayor London Breed to replace those recalled back in February and, along with the other two newly appointed commissioners, is now campaigning to earn a full term on the board.
In reply to one query on the school board candidate survey, Hsu wrote:
“From my very limited exposure in the past four months to the challenges of educating marginalized students, especially in the black and brown community, I see one of the biggest challenges as being the lack of family support for those students. Unstable family environments caused by housing and food insecurity along with lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning cause children to not be able to focus on or value learning.”
After Hsu submitted her responses to the questionnaire, another board of education candidate highlighted this reply in a tweet. That’s when all hell broke loose. Within days of that other candidate’s tweet, a local news outlet published a story, followed by a Chronicle report, which in turn, apparently led some members of the Board of Supervisors and several community activist groups to call for her resignation— even though Hsu had already apologized. For its part, the S.F. chapter of the NAACP met with Hsu, accepted her apology but then its membership voted to call for Hsu’s resignation immediately.
As Black San Franciscans, we are appalled by the bad faith and cynical theatrics driving this “controversy.”
This is not the first time a manufactured dust-up has been ignited by bad faith actors in SF who are more interested in performing “progressive values,” than they are in tackling the complex tangle of historic socioeconomic conditions and school bureaucracy that impacts student achievement — especially for students from households with limited resources.
In 2017, for example, the S.F. chapter of the NAACP issued a “state of emergency” report regarding dire achievement data for Black students in SFUSD, noting a litany of statistics on graduation rates, reading and math comprehension, and other key metrics of students’ progress that collectively shows that thousands of Black students struggle academically.
Now, along with the local NAACP, some of the loudest voices calling for Hsu’s resignation are former SFUSD board commissioners who accomplished little to resolve the persistent achievement gaps in the district’s student population during their time on the school board. Instead, previous board members, including the three recalled commissioners, prioritized cosmetic matters such as changing school names and removing murals at Washington High School rather than lighting a fire under school administrators and teachers to focus more closely on closing the persistent student achievement gaps.
By contrast, when Hsu served on the district’s bond-funding watchdog entity, Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, or CBOC, she focused on accountability — notably, identifying gaps in processes affecting disbursement of the funding, including getting to the bottom of why certain schools slated to receive funding for critical facilities rehabilitation had not yet received their allocations. The district had been spending tens of millions of dollars without any independent oversight for almost three years until CBOC was formed in May 2021. As its inaugural chair, Hsu prioritized enforcing accountability on the district’s stewardship of $744 million from the 2016 bond measure.
That is exactly the kind of financial acumen and mission-driven professionalism that our students need on the school board. (Disclosure: Rex Ridgeway, one of the co-authors of this op-ed, served as vice-chair with Hsu.)
Now, a predictable script is unfolding: A neophyte public figure in S.F. is being called “racist,” and a phalanx of usual suspects are calling for her removal.
Having interacted with Hsu personally, we can confidently report that Hsu is foremost a continual learner — up to and including in cultural matters. We question the apparent unwillingness of those calling for Hsu’s resignation to afford Hsu a degree of grace in what she herself has admitted was a terrible misunderstanding of the inter-connected factors that drive the stubborn achievement gaps in SFUSD’s student population. We also take Hsu at her word when she indicated a fierce commitment to learning more about systemic racism in S.F. and nationwide as it has impacted Black people for centuries and as it continues impacting the shrinking population of Black people in our city.
As a Galileo Academy of Science and Technology parent, president of its Parent Teacher Student Association, an immigrant and a serial entrepreneur with academic background in electrical engineering and business administration, Hsu has the intellect, experience and demonstrated commitment to effectively address the historic conditions that have fueled the academic achievement gap in SFUSD.
We are not interested in performative pronouncements and symbolic displays of grievance: San Francisco’s students — all of them — deserve SFUSD board commissioners who are tough and dedicated to fixing a system that has long failed its most vulnerable families. We know that Hsu fits this bill.
Amy L. Alexander is a journalist and a member of the Abraham Lincoln High School (SF) Alumni Association. Rex Ridgeway is interim chair of the CBOC and a member of Lincoln High’s PTSA.
She isn't wrong. When parents are working 2-3 jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, there isn't going to be much focus on the child's education, especially if the parents themselves were never exposed to a lot of education.
I'm half black and I'm not offended by what she said. She didn't state it to be negative, I think her goal was to paint a picture for those who may not be aware of the struggle in many of the poorer black and Latin communities. She wasn't trying to make it as if Latin or black parents didn't care about education or are all poor and destitute, she just said it was more difficult for kids that struggle in the poorer communities due to the distractions brought by a number of variables that they have to face.
I'm actually glad that wants to focus on bettering things for this segment of the population, because on the other hand, staff members treat kids from these neighborhoods like shit too, and this would've addressed that as well. I can't count how many time a teacher or counselor dismissed my question or gave a half-hearted answer.
Do they have good family support structures for education? Is her statement accurate ?
Imagine being that upset about someone pointing out that people of color struggle more than others. Thought it was pretty well understood that some are privileged while others are not. To say that it impacts children’s school work isn’t a stretch by any means
Ann Hsu spoke the truth.
And more resources should be channeled to help the students that need the help, not deflecting from these issues.
What she said was completely true. I taught in inner city LA for a year and the school was 98% Latino. The difference between kids who got good grades and those that didn’t was the amount of support they got at home. It’s not the kids’ fault if they didn’t perform well in school. I had kids whose parents worked multiple jobs just to pay the rent. Kids whose parents were deported. The key to closing the gap is taking care of their home lives.
Nothing she said was wrong. I say this as a POC. My question is who really wants to step up to take action. The folks calling for her head are also those who did nothing when they were given the chance.
Thank you for this insightful opinion that destroys the fingerprinting whining of the culture warrior vultures that have descended on this woman for pointing out the obvious problems facing minority kids. A clear case of shoot the messenger, enhance my own cred, and pretend the elephant in the room isn't there.
My parents not once in my entire school life were ever really invested in my schoolwork. Of course I was the middle and scapegoat child so there might be an issue with me but even with their "miracle child" which is my younger brother were they involved. Cultural and language barriers were there but they could have made a huge difference in my *indifference to education and not had their heads in the sand with the work excuse. Not ONCE in my entire time in school was college even brought up. She's right. I'm not offended and the supe from Bayview that is pretending to be offended is playing politics
only the dark side deals in absolute, including the left. How is what she saying wrong again. Studies after studies has shown that more money into school does not work. period.
I see a lot of folks making assumptions about what she said so here’s the exact quote.
“From my very limited exposure in the past four months to the challenges of educating marginalized students especially in the black and brown community, I see one of the biggest challenges as being the lack of family support for those students. Unstable family environments caused by housing and food insecurity along with lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning cause children to not be able to focus on or value learning. That makes teachers’ work harder because they have to take care of emotional and behavioral issues of students before they can teach them. That is not fair to the teachers.”
“I was trying to understand and address a serious problem and seek solutions, and in doing so I said things that perpetuated biases already in the system," Hsu wrote on Twitter, adding, "I made a mistake, and I am deeply sorry."