The San Francisco Public School District, which recently suffered a recall election fueled by its controversial priorities, said it would remove the word “chief” from all job titles to avoid offending the Native American community.
Gentle Blythe, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Unified Schools District (SFUSD) told the San Francisco Chronicle that the word “chief” will no longer be used in job titles because of its connotations with Native Americans.
“While there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team has agreed that since Native American members of our community have expressed concerns about the use of the title, we will no longer use it. “, said Blythe, reported The Chronicle. .
The word “chief” entered English via Old French and shared the same Latin origin with words such as “capital” and “captain”. In the 17th century, English settlers began to use the word to describe the leaders of native American tribes.
The SFUSD website lists a dozen officials who have the word “chief” in their titles, including Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd, Chief of Staff Jill Hoogendyk and Chief General Counsel Danielle Houch. Since May 26, these titles remain unchanged on the site.
The school district, which has about 10,000 employees, has not yet decided which senior officials will be called in place of the chiefs. Blythe clarified that the name change does not mean a demotion.
“By changing the way we refer to our division leaders, we are in no way diminishing the much-needed contributions of our district central service leaders,” the spokesperson explained.
The decision comes about three months after a recall vote that decisively ejected three members of the San Francisco Board of Education. According to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, voters were frustrated because the school district had focused on things other than its “fundamental job.”
“It was really about the frustration of the school board to do its fundamental job, and that is to make sure our children are educated, that they return to the classroom,” Breed said in February on the NBC programming. . “This does not happen.”
As an example of the school district’s misplaced priorities, Breed pointed to a now-discontinued plan to find alternate names for 44 schools that weren’t even open at the time.
In January 2021, SFUSD unanimously approved the decision to begin replacing the names of schools named after prominent figures believed to have ties to historical injustices, such as slavery, oppression of women and “the inhibition of societal progress”.
Namesakes who were to be dropped, in addition to U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, included two-time Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, American revolutionary Paul Revere, and Francis Scott Key, the author of the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner”.
The plan was met with immediate opposition from neighborhood families and the general public. The backlash continued until council president Gabriela López announced that the district would focus on reopening those schools instead of finding new names for them. López was ousted in that year’s recall election.