After nearly a month of waiting, Mayor London Breed swore in new school board members, all of whom are women and parents with children in public schools: Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi and Lisa Weissman-Ward.
“These are three very strong, capable women, who I am confident will do what is best for our children, for our educators and for the school district,” said Breed at a ceremony at Galileo High School Friday morning.
The women replaced the three school board members recalled in the Feb. 15 election. Voter anger over the board’s actions during the pandemic, including its attempt to rename schools and decision to upend Lowell’s merit-based entry requirements, led to the ousters.
Hsu and Motamedi have said they would like to see Lowell’s merit-based admission standards return, despite the view of the district’s legal counsel that such a move is not compatible with California law.
Calling the appointments the “hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make as mayor,” Breed said her picks could change the future of education. That remains to be seen, as all three will have to run for election in November if they want to remain on the school board beyond 2022.
Breed now has four allies on the seven-member board. In addition to the three new members, her former education adviser, Jenny Lam, is the board’s president.
“I hope that these appointments are ready to roll up their sleeves and work to address the real opportunity gap that has impacted black and brown students for decades,” said Tracy Gallardo, a legislative aide to District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton and a leader on the Latino Task Force, a coalition of nonprofit organizations that works with the city to support Latino residents. “They have a hard road ahead with the budget cuts, and I am confident they will put schools first and prioritize our most neediest students.”
Gallardo said she was pleased that all three new members were parents of children in public schools. She added that it was also a plus to have someone on the board like Weissman-Ward who has done a lot of work on immigrant rights.
Hsu is a Chinese American who was born in Beijing. She has worked in the technology industry for more than two decades, including 13 years leading her own company. A mother of two high school boys, she helped mobilize the city’s Chinese voters during the recall campaign, and has served as president of the Galileo High School parent association and chairperson of the San Francisco Unified School District Independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
Breed said that Hsu’s business experience is “one of the biggest reasons why I thought she’d be perfect, especially as we deal with a major budget deficit.”
Hsu called her new role “daunting.” “I’m now not just responsible for my own kids. I’m now responsible for all the kids of San Francisco.”
Hsu also said that she wants to “lift up the voices of the Chinese and Asian communities and represent them, and work with all the different communities represented by our students in SFUSD.”
Motamedi, a native San Franciscan, recently completed a four-year term serving as the co-chair of the Public Education Enrichment Fund Committee, which oversees how tax dollars are spent for school sports, music, and art programs.
According to Mayor Breed, Motamedi “listens to the parents and the feedback from the people who are going to be most impacted to make the right decisions about resources that go to our children.”
Motamedi describes herself as an advocate for accountability and transparency. “I saw a need for a great deal more transparency into what is being funded, the trade-offs being made, and to honest conversations about what is working for students, what isn’t, and what our educators in schools need to best serve our students to achieve their dreams,” she said.
Weissman-Ward, a fluent Spanish speaker, is an attorney and the associate director of the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. She lives in the Mission with her family.
Breed told reporters that Weissman-Ward “cares deeply about immigrant rights, and has dedicated her career to supporting immigrant families through legal channels, and resources.”
Weissman-Ward said, “The challenge of learning loss, mental health, the opportunity gap facing many students of color, and the district’s finances are real, but so too is our sense of hope and commitment to turn things around.”