The San Francisco Board of Education is made of seven Commissioners, elected by voters across the city to serve 4-year terms. It is subject to local, state, and federal laws, and determines policy for all the public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District.
As of July 2018, the current members of the Board of Education are:
Former members of the Board of Education include:
In October 1849, John C. Pelton opened a school in a Baptist church in San Francisco, depending entirely upon voluntary donations and tuition for funding. It was free only to poor children. In 1850, the city council came to his assistance and adopted an ordinance making it free public school for all children, a first in California. In 1851, the school was reorganized under an ordinance providing for a San Francisco Board of Education and a Superintendent.
In 1906, the San Francisco Board of Education prohibited 93 Japanese American and Korean American students from attending public schools. A compromise was reached whereby the students would be allowed into the schools and the Japanese government would stop issuing passports for laborers to the United States.
On April 18, 1906, the morning after the 1906 earthquake, members of the Board of Education, including Aaron Altmann, David Oliver, Thomas F. Boyle, and Lawrence F. Walsh, Superintendent Alfred Roncovieri, Secretary E. C. Leffingwell, along with and all employees of the Department, reported at the repair shop of the Board of Education at corner Pine and Larkin streets to rebuild.
The group spent the next two days guarding SFUSD property, checking up on teachers, and ensuring that all of their employees had proper shelter.
Out of a total of 74 school buildings controlled by the SFUSD in 1906, 29 were destroyed by fire, and many of the remainder were seriously damaged by the severity of the earthquake. The Girls' High School, located at Scott and O'Farrell streets, was totally wrecked by the temblor. Mission High School, located at Eighteenth and Dolores streets was badly damaged as well.
The Oriental School was also opened after the 1906 earthquake to solely serve children of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese descent.
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Arlene Ackerman arrived in SFUSD in mid-2000 and immediately began cleaning up the financial affairs of a school district marred by fiscal scandal under her predecessor Bill Rojas. Her efforts resulted in arrests of alleged perpetrators who had been looting school-district coffers, as well as the exposure of alleged schemes impacting other school districts nationwide.
Her critics claimed that Ackerman had opposed efforts by the City's Youth Commission to address sexual assaults in the public schools and that Ackerman ordered staffers to not talk to the press. Due to her efforts to maintain fiscal discipline in an era of tight finances, Ackerman's relations with the teachers' union, United Educators of San Francisco, became strained.
Ackerman remained popular with community and parent leaders . The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized in support of Ackerman. "Her understated but firm demeanor -- and her focus on the classroom -- is producing results," the Chronicle said in an editorial. "A school superintendent needs all the support he or she can get. What she doesn't need is sniping and second-guessing from elected officials whose job is to set broad policies, not micromanage the superintendent's daily conduct. Tensions between school board members and superintendents come with the territory. But in San Francisco, those tensions had gone far beyond the limits of acceptability. Three board members in particular -- Eric Mar, Sarah Lipson and Mark Sanchez--need to start working with Ackerman, not fighting with her virtually on a daily basis." 
Ackerman won national acclaim for initiatives she implemented in San Francisco's schools, including extra support for low-performing schools; the "weighted student formula," in which funding followed each student in different amounts depending on the student's needs; and "site-based budgeting," which gave schools (as opposed to district bureaucrats) far more control over their own budgets.
Toward the end of her tenure, Ackerman was given a large raise, which became highly controversial in included a salary of $250,000, a $4,000 monthly housing allowance, and a $375,000 severance package, by a 4-3 vote. Ackerman could trigger by quitting whenever she wished, even though it was clear that her days were numbered. Eventually, the Board of Education was sued over the contract. Ackerman stated that the cost of her legal defense would cost the SFUSD more than her severance package was worth.
Ackerman left the district in mid-2006 after six years . Ackerman's interim successor was longtime SFUSD administrator Gwen Chan, who retired rather than pursue the superintendent's post on a permanent basis. Carlos Garcia was hired to replace Chan. Garcia has kept a low profile and has maintained good relations throughout the district, but many in San Francisco continue to resent the Green/Progressive attacks that drove Ackerman out.
In November 2006, the Board voted 4-2 to eliminate the JROTC program altogether in the entire city within two years, stating that "armed forces should have no place in public schools, and the military's discriminatory stance on gays makes the presence of JROTC unacceptable."
In December 2007, the School Board decided to continue JROTC for one more year so the JROTC task force could continue its search for a replacement program without punishing the current JROTC students. A non-binding measure called Proposition V was placed on the 4 November 2008 general ballot in San Francisco that supported the reinstatement of the JROTC program in the City. The proposition passed. In May 2009, the school board voted to reinstate the program. In June 2009, the San Francisco School board voted 4 to 3 in favor of reinstating physical education credit for students enrolled in JROTC.
On November 4, 2008, San Francisco residents elected four new members to the Board from among fourteen candidates. The candidates were:
The winners were Norman Yee, Sandra Lee Fewer, Jill Wynns, and Rachel Norton.
On November 2, 2010, San Francisco voters elected three new members to the Board from among eleven candidates running. The candidates were:
The winners were Hydra Mendoza, Emily Murase, and Kim-Shree Maufus.
The November 6, 2018 election for the Board of Education has drawn an unprecidented 19 candidates -- the most in any Board election in at least 20 years -- in part because two sitting commissioners, Shamann Walton and Hydra Mendoza have announced they will not seek re-election. Walton is running for a seat on the Board of Supervisors and Mendoza has decided not to seek a fourth term after the the passing of the late Mayor Ed Lee. Instead, Mendoza will take a position as deputy chancellor for community empowerment, partnerships and communications for the Department of Education in New York City. The remaining incumbent, Dr. Emily Murase, missed the filing deadline and became ineligible to run. She has subsequently announced that she will spend more time with family and pursuing leisure activities.
In addition, commissioner Matt Haney is also seeking a seat on the Board of Supervisors and, if successful, will step down from the Board of Education. His seat would be filled by a mayoral appointee. Some have suggested that the Mayor should appoint whichever candidate receives the fourth highest number of votes while others wonder if Mayor Breed would appoint Emily Murase.
Candidate Josephine Zhao withdrew from the race amid allegations of racist and transphobic remarks made in Cantonese. Her withdrawal, however, came after the deadline to do withdraw so she will still appear on the ballot. There are two transgender candidates running for office; if elected, either would be the city's first.
On November 6, 2018, San Francisco residents will choose three new members for the Board from among these nineteen candidates: