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San Francisco Board Of Education Set To Reverse Controversial School Renaming Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) -- A day after they convinced their superintendent of schools not to resign; the embattled San Francisco Board Of Education will meet Tuesday to reverse a controversial decision to rename 44 schools and to also hear pleas from middle and high school students begging to return to in-person instruction.

Just over two months ago, the city's elected board voted to strip schools of the names of historic figures including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson. A school named for longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein is on the list as well.

They claimed the names were linked to racism, sexism, slavery or other injustices.

Parents, students and elected officials blasted the board for some of its targets — and its timing. The decision in late January came while all of San Francisco's public classrooms were closed because of coronavirus restrictions. They still are.

Mayor London Breed, among others, called it "offensive and completely unacceptable" for the board to focus on changing school names rather than getting children back into classrooms.

Some of the city's youngest students are expected to begin returning to in-person instruction this month after more than a year of distance learning because of the pandemic. There is no timetable for middle and high school students to return.

On Tuesday's agenda was a time for students in those grades to voice their pleas to return to their schools.

The meeting comes 24 hours after SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, who fought a successful court battle with city officials over his reopening plan, announced he was delaying his planned resignation by a year until at least June 2022.

Matthews, who became superintendent in 2017, had announced he would step down in June 2021. But after discussions with SF Board of Education President Gabriela López, he has agreed to remain serving as superintendent for another year.

"Right now, it's time for the San Francisco school board to focus," Lopez said in a news release. "It's still our goal to get all of our students back to in-person learning, and stabilize our budget as soon as possible. Far from shying away from this challenge, we are ready to do this."

"SFUSD needs stability at this time. We agreed that an inclusive community process for selecting the next superintendent could take up to a year. With that in mind, I asked the superintendent to delay his retirement by another year. His commitment to the wellbeing of our young people has shone through."

The renaming effort has also been criticized for shoddy research and historical inaccuracies. A renaming advisory committee wrongly accused Paul Revere of seeking to colonize the Penobscot people. It also confused the name of Alamo Elementary School with the Texas battle rather than the Spanish word for "poplar tree."

Feinstein Elementary made the list because when she was mayor in 1984, she initially replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a longstanding display outside City Hall.

Amid the outcry, Lopez said in February that the process would be paused until all children were back in school. Lopez acknowledged in a statement that mistakes were made in the selection of schools and said that when the board returns to the issue, it will engage historians for a "more deliberative process."

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