Board of Education Candidates: Trevor McNeil
How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our city? Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.
Arts are the vanguard for change in so many ways. I think about the “controversy” over naming our schools after slave owners. For me it’s not a controversy, we need to create a culturally-relevant system of heroes and civic identity. You know where that starts? Murals in the mission, street theater with the Mime Troop, and café life in North Beach. I’ve been involved in these efforts – I’ve worked with the Mime Troop, painted with Calle 24, and worked to keep the Roxie theater open. Art brings people together but more importantly, operates outside the system of power that more often than not is keeping down, whether directly or institutionally-disguised silence – those very populations I teach in my classroom and are the focus of any social justice-minded school board commissioner.
How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?
Again, I think transparency is needed in the SFUSD. There are schools with supplemental budgets and activism parent that arrange for field trips, class visits, and extra materials to be donated to the schools. That’s great. I applaud all activism at all levels. But as a District I think we need to be more aware and more public about these types of discrepancies. Advocacy, political pressure for extra funding, and public-private partnerships will follow. As the only public school teacher on the ballot this fall I am keenly aware of the opportunities and challenges activating the creative potential of our city. I take students to the Asian Art museum (free) and arrange for silk screen lessons at the Mission Cultural Center. As a board member for my neighborhood association, we partnered with local businesses and schools to create fun art walks. That type of activism and that experience as a front-line arts-invested educator I think will make me a good voice for making sure that not only are the arts an crucial part of SFUSD’s students’ experiences but that ALL students are accessing those opportunities equally.
Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.
I would require that in our school classroom scope and sequences that teachers needed to identify specific activities, partnerships, and resources that were replated to the arts. Project-based learning is also a professional development area I would push.
Every neighborhood in the city has a neighborhood or merchants association. I think as political members of the SFUSD the commissioners of the board of education and uniquely placed to help our schools and principals reach out to these associations. I am on the record as being in favor of an “adopt a school” approach where commissioners take special responsibility for a percentage of our schools and are that school’s advocate on the Board (mostly as a spokesman and support system, obviously we have to look out for the interests of all our schools and neighborhoods). This approach I think could leverage the keen outreach skills our elected Commissioners have with empowering schools to identify community partners they could work with on beautification, social justice, and community awareness campaigns.
Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?
We need site-by-site breakdowns of the number of hours of arts-based learning and exploration that happens. The District touts it’s arts education but the experience of parents is different. I suspect the District is using the numbers of schools with robust fund-raising (often which goes to art and music electives) to boost their numbers. That’s why consistent transparency is so important and a major goal of mine if elected.
How can the SFUSD help retain our artists and arts organizations?
I am on record as being the pro-teacher affordability candidate. Aside from fully-funding arts programing, as a union rep and the only public school teacher on the ballot I am confident that I would represent the strongest pro-teaching platform that puts the recruitment and retention of front-line teachers the number one stated and acted on priority of the Board of Education.
Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness? Why or why not?
Yes. I’ve been active with the SF arts commission (mostly in-roads with film and the Roxie theater) and support this.