SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The irritated mayor of San Francisco blasted an effort to rename some of the city's public schools, saying the school district should focus on getting children back into classrooms if it wants to address equity and systemic racism instead of wasting resources on replacing names such as Jefferson, Washington and Feinstein.
Mayor London Breed delivered the harsh rebuke in a statement Friday after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that parents and principals at 42 schools are scrambling to brainstorm new names during the pandemic that has kept the district's 57,000 students at home.
Breed, a San Francisco native and public school graduate, called the effort “offensive," as private schools re-open, providing students access to rich, in-person class-time while public school students stare at screens at home and fall further behind.
"Look, I believe in equity. It’s at the forefront of my administration and we’ve made historic investments to address the systemic racism confronting our city," Breed said. “But the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our city. Not the name of a school."
The renaming process is being led by the School Names Advisory Committee, which was established following a San Francisco Board of Education resolution in 2018, said Laura Dudnick, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District.
She said the panel has requested schools share alternate names by Dec. 18, although schools need not participate at this time. She said the district is delivering robust distance learning courses while making plans to welcome students back to classrooms. The board has final say over any name changes.
Dudnick acknowledged “that the advisory committee’s timing may be difficult for schools," and the district has conveyed concerns about the difficulty of making name recommendations at this time.
The names considered objectionable include Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson — former presidents with connections to slavery or oppression — as well as naturalist John Muir, Spanish priest Junipero Serra, American revolution patriot Paul Revere and Francis Scott Key, composer of the Star Spangled Banner.
The list also includes an elementary school named after U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor and Democrat who dismayed liberals with what name-change committee members call a lackluster performance during confirmation hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.