We began our work by conducting nearly a hundred brief, uniform interviews with civic leaders, educators, and active parents in San Francisco, to gather information that would provide the basis for a proposal about what a wider civic dialogue about supporting our public schools should look like: how it could be shaped, when and where it would take place, and what we could expect to achieve. We took careful notes during each interview using a principle of non-attribution, which allowed us to quote exact words without attributing them to any particular person. We analyzed what we heard, identifying patterns and overarching themes. Download the full list of people we interviewed.
We reported the following highlights from our interviews, summarizing what we learned:
- People expressed clear, if cautious, optimism about launching a broad-based civic dialogue in San Francisco to support our public schools. In addition, they expressed trust in the PEPS team to lead this process.
- People also expressed skepticism about whether and how, as a city, we can overcome barriers to civic engagement that come from racism, classism, and related systemic social and political divisions.
- People want this dialogue process to produce practical results—not just words.
- People believe that all San Franciscans need to learn more about the realities of our public
- schools, to be better informed about our schools’ successes and challenges.
- People especially expressed interest in creating a clear set of positive statements that we can all stand behind, as a city, about how we expect to meet our responsibilities to educate all of our children in a public school system that is equitable, fair and well-funded.
- People require that these public dialogues engage everyone—not just the “usual suspects” but those individuals and groups that aren’t typically empowered to take part in community decision-making.