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Synergy revolutionizes SFUSD

by Alan Lew

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In the digital age, software becomes obsolete very quickly.  For several years SFUSD used Edupoint Educational System's Student Information System (SIS) for their data management.  Technology evolved, and the district upgraded to Synergy.

            For two years, a SFUSD panel researched and decided on a new operating system.  Synergy was chosen, and the plan was for it to be implemented for the 2013-2014 school year.  The former software was not problematic, but Synergy is thought to be more appropriate going forward.  The upgrade is similar to buildings being retrofitted for an earthquake.

            Synergy is capable of a lot more and has potential for growth.  The software is designed to work jointly with other school data.  With Synergy, teachers will be able to take attendance on the computer.  Also, when a student switches or drops a class, they will automatically be added or removed from the attendance. 

            Previously with SIS, vice principal Shari Balisi had to hand write the master schedules detailing which teachers taught which classes during which period.  Synergy eliminates the task altogether; the master schedules are automatically created in the software.

            Problems arose during this first year of use, but as with all new things, these problems were expected.  In the beginning of the school year, problems existed with teachers not getting class rosters on time.  Also, some students experienced issues with their schedules: multiple classes per period, holes in the middle of the day, missing classes, etc.

            Recently, teachers blamed the new system for the fall semester report cards arriving late.  In actuality, Lincoln turned in its grades on time.  The reason for the tardiness was in the district offices.

            Some of these problems were due to human error.  Counselors were not trained with the new software until a week before school started due to time constraints.

            "Anything brand new in life, there's going to be kinks," Balisi said, "...this is the first time all of us are using it."

            Although the future is promising for Synergy, counselors find it a nightmare.  “I don’t like it at all,” 12th grade counselor Betty Hom admitted.  When changing classes, several windows need to be opened.  With the previous system, “ [I could] manipulate a puzzle on one page,” Hom explained. 

            There may be problems for counselors with Synergy, but there are also positives.  Counselors can print an entire homeroom’s transcripts with one click instead of having to do it individually.

            “We [counselors] want to go back to SIS,” Hom pleaded.

Lincoln reforms discipline and community with restorative practices.

by Hans Oberschelp

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This school year Lincoln High School got a new staff member. Greg Brown, ALHS's new restorative practices coach, is working to establish a culture of restorative practices at ALHS as part of SFUSD's ongoing effort to reform disciplinary systems. Greg jokes that he is “Peer resources for the faculty.”
    Implementing restorative practices was agreed on at a district level three years ago as a way to combat inequality. According to Greg, significantly higher percentage of black students were disciplined relative to other races, and this sparked the urge to reform.
    Every week after school the Restorative Practices Committee meets at ALHS to decide how to implement the new policy at ALHS. The committee, made up of Greg, various teachers and two students, and a parent liaison, is responsible for deciding how to establish restorative practices.
    Sasha Rodriguez is a senior in conflict mediation class and member of the committee. Rodriguez mentions that the Lincoln policy is still being worked on and will hopefully soon expand from a policy between a few teachers to a school-wide regulation.
    Joel Balzer, ALHS's dean asserts that ALHS has been practicing restorative practices since before they were mandated by the school district.
    Both Balzer and Greg clarify that restorative justice is just a component of restorative practices. Restorative justice is only the disciplinary side of restorative practices. The other side includes community building, building trusting relationships between students and staff, student voice and teaching, and affecting (with an a!) communication skills. In fact, everyone, including students who have never gotten in trouble once will be involved with restorative practices through workshops and activities.
    According to "The Restorative Practices Handbook," restorative justice is achieved through a both highly controlling and highly supportive environment. The book, used by the dean's office, urges administrators to avoid controlling and unsupportive environments that deal punishments “TO” students and instead work “WITH” students to jointly achieve a sense of well-being.
    According to Balzer, the key to stopping crime is bringing enemies together. He says, “In reality what brings long term satisfaction is belonging.”
    Balzer uses the example of theft. A person is less likely to steal from a member of their close-knit community out of a sense of loyalty. Hurting others in a community is like hurting yourself. Restorative practices seek to prevent misbehavior by building strong communities.
    Rodriguez elaborates, “Restorative practices helps avoid the problem as opposed to simply solving the problem.”
    Greg similarly states that a goal of restorative practices is to “repair rather than [deal] punishment.”
    ALHS will keep Greg as a coach for a planned five years. Ideally by then, restorative practices will be ingrained in the school's culture, and a coach will no longer be needed.

 

Vacant student store may soon be used

by Christine Ong

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The name plate says “Student Store,” but nothing is sold there. Attached to the New Building, adjacent to the North Gym hallway entrance is the Student Store. The absence of a store brings up the question, “What is it being used for?” and “Is it being used at all?”
The truth is yes, it is being used: for storage. The Associated Student Body has used it for events like Halloween gram sales and ID sales. In March, the leadership class plans to use it for a clothing drive.
According to Barnaby Payne, the school principal, the Parent Teacher Student Association is planning to turn the Student Store into an actual store. They are still discussing the details of what items to sell and how profits are handled and have surveyed other SFUSD schools’ student stores.
“With this path, our first step is to survey a few teachers to find out which of their next few class projects will need office or stationary supplies and list of supplies,” says Lily Mok, Hospitality Chair of the PTSA. “We would like to begin with these few items to sell at the student store.  This will help the students, though maybe in a smaller scale; however, it is a beginning for us.”
Helping students is the PTSA’s prime mission. “This project is more to gear towards supporting student academic success with having some school supplies more accessible to them,” says Mok.  “We all forget what we need for our work sometimes, so PTSA wants to help.”
Money from the store will make its way back to the school and will help pay off some of its expenses. “For now, profit will go into investing into more products for sell to the students. Besides, supplies will probably not be marked up much more than PTSA spent on them. In the future, profits will still go back to the PTSA.  As you know, all the donations and money the PTSA receives goes back to funding grant requests by the teachers, clubs, and sports teams,” says Mok.

But why has the store been vacant for so long? The New Building was built back in 2010, and with that came the renovation of the Cage.
“The reason why it’s not being used as a student store is because ASB is in the habit of using the Cage. And at the same time, during the construction project that ended in 2010 here at Lincoln, the Cage was refurbished as well,” says Payne. “And we’ve used the Cage at Lincoln forever, you know. As long as anyone can remember the Cage has sort of been the student store, so as habit we’ve continued to use the Cage.”
    In addition to its history, the Cage is also the most convenient place for ticket sales. Located near the intersection between the new building and the main building, it witnesses the heaviest foot traffic in the school. If both the Cage and the Student Store were used to sell tickets, twice as much security would be required. Security must regulate long lines to keep students in place.
     Planning will continue in the PTSA, and soon the Student Store may change from a vacant space to a vital part of Lincoln.