SFUSD Superintendent addresses challenges, teacher shortage ahead of upcoming school year

Ahead of the upcoming school year, KTVU spoke with the superintendents of some of the Bay Area's largest public school districts – to ask them about their plans, challenges and goals for the upcoming school year.

San Francisco Unified School District is the largest public school district in the Bay Area, with more than 50,000 students in 115 schools.

Last year, the district was plagued by problems with its payroll system, which led to teachers and staff members not being paid correctly.

"We've made significant strides in improving the payroll system," Matt Wayne, San Francisco Unified Superintendent said. "We still have a few challenges we're working through but overall we're in a much better place."

Like most other public school districts in California, and in urban areas across the nation, SFUSD is dealing with the challenge of finding enough permanent teachers.


San Francisco schools actively recruiting for 40 teacher vacancies as school year begins

San Francisco Unified School District has about 40 teaching vacancies and is offering hiring bonuses. But on the first day of class, every classroom had an educator.

"We are still hiring as we start the school year," Wayne said, adding that SFUSD is starting the school year with a 25% teacher vacancy rate, compared to 20% last year. 

That roughly translates to about 100 teacher vacancies across all the districts' schools.

"It is tough, every district is trying to fully staff their classrooms," Wayne said. 

Classes that do not yet have a permanent teacher do have a certificated staff member supervising the class, he added. 

When asked why teachers should work at SFUSD, Wayne made this pitch: "We have a lot of innovative programs. The City can become your classroom – that's not something that other places can offer. We also have great benefits and professional development."

Wayne also spoke about the equity gap in test scores for Black and Latino students. A recent district analysis found that two out of every 100 7th grade Black Students in SFUSD are not proficient in math.

Wayne said the goal this year is to implement a "laser-like focus on our three goals: literacy, math and career readiness."

That means more classroom teachers, after-school programs, and bringing in additional support in the classroom with a software program called Dream Box, which allows students to track their progress, learning mathematical concepts.

"We're putting all our resources into this. We have to make growth, because we have to do better by our kids," Wayne said.

SFUSD's past approach to teaching math was recently in the spotlight last month, when California Department of Education officials adopted a new statewide framework for teaching math. 

Supporters say the framework prevents the "tracking" of students to specific lower and higher-level math classes and is a more equitable way to teach math for student groups that have traditionally fallen behind. But it lacks widespread popularity.

Critics of the framework argue it de-emphasizes the teaching of algebra in 8th grade and other upper-level math courses. The framework is based on what SFUSD used as its math curriculum in 2013, but later changed, after discovering math scores among students of color did not improve.

"San Francisco Unified was an innovator to eliminate the tracking that existed," Wayne said. "We're not going back to that, but we did learn we need to find ways to provide students for acceleration if they're ready, as well as ensuring the students who aren't ready are getting the support they need. We're still working on our plan and the key is figuring out when to be able to provide that acceleration opportunity at the appropriate time and make sure students have multiple pathways to success."