A Dream Deferred:

How San Francisco schools leave behind the most vulnerable students

Pastor Mervin Redmond

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According to a recent article in the New York Times, one out of every seven San Francisco residents was Black in 1970. Today, that has dropped to nearly one out of 20.39

“I think because there’s a cultural difference, they don’t know how to deal with our kids. Sometimes it’s a language and cultural barrier… It takes a special and unique individual to take the steps required to learn and understand our kids.” — Pastor Mervin Redmond

“We’ve lost a significant number of congregants because of housing prices,” said Mervin Redmond, Pastor of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, who was born and raised in San Francisco. “Many have sold their homes and moved to Sacramento, Fairfield, Stockton and other areas. There’s no affordable space in San Francisco.”

Pastor Redmond is also the father of two children:

Mervin Jr., 14, and Meya, 11.

“The population of African Americans in San Francisco has decreased tremendously since I was a kid,” said Pastor Redmond. “It’s shrunk so much that by the time our kids do go through school, they’re looking somewhere else [to live]. They’re not looking here. It’s more corporate, and San Francisco isn’t as family-friendly as it used to be. There’s just not as many families that you used to see.”

When his children entered school, he wanted them to go to private school, but he couldn’t afford it. They’ve since attended several schools over the years, including Commodore Sloat Elementary and Aptos Middle School, six miles across town near Oceanview.

He saw plenty of differences between the SFUSD schools across town and those near his home in the Bayview.

“You can be a half mile away from somewhere, but be a world apart,” said the pastor. “We just didn’t want to deal with the foolishness at the other schools in our neighborhood. I’m very concerned about public schools here in San Francisco.”

However, he also saw that even getting into a highly-rated and well-funded school didn’t guarantee a great education.

“I don’t think they care less, but they show less care for kids of color,” said Pastor Redmond. “I thank the Lord for the teachers my children have had. But, I think because there’s a cultural difference, they don’t know how to deal with our kids. Sometimes it’s a language and cultural barrier. They don’t understand the kids, and the kids don’t understand them. It takes a special and unique individual to take the steps required to learn and understand our kids.

In most cases, they care, but not as much care is shown. Aptos is one of the better middle schools, so if we’re wondering about it academically, how are things at other schools that are performing worse academically?”

The answer is –– not good. San Francisco is currently one of the worst districts in California for low-income African American students. Across all its schools, just 10% of low-income African American students are proficient in math. Pastor Redmond’s son is currently attending KIPP College Prep, a public charter school, closer to home. He likes the strong parent involvement at the school, though it’s demanding with kids taking home lots of homework after school and on weekends.

“The problem we have with [SFUSD schools] is they don’t push them as hard as KIPP does. At KIPP, all they talk about is college, and I like that. But, I don’t see that same goal when it comes to Aptos. I don’t see them pushing kids the same way.”

39Fuller, T. (2016, July 20). The Loneliness of Being Black in San Francisco. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/black-exo-dus-from-san-francisco.html?_r=1

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