Filipino Education Center and the Filipinos in South of Market
Brief history of Bessie Carmichael School / Filipino Education Center
- Bessie Carmichael/Filipino Education Center, the only public school San Francisco’s South of Market area, is originally two separate schools; it has the only Filipino bilingual program in a public school system in California and perhaps the nation.
- Built in 1954, Bessie Carmichael School was named after a former teacher and principal who advocated to retain a neighborhood school in the South of Market after the 101 freeway replaced the Franklin school site. For five decades, it has served children of mostly immigrant and working-class families just as Bessie Carmichael had tirelessly devoted herself to Franklin school’s children.
- The Filipino Education Center (FEC) opened in 1977 in response to the Supreme Court consent decree Lau vs. Nichols requiring the SFUSD to provide newcomer/English learners “bilingual-bicultural” instruction. Along with two other newcomer centers for Chinese and Spanish speakers, the FEC provided transitional bilingual education to its children.
- In the late 90’s, under the leadership of former principal Dr. Leni Juarez, the bilingual program at FEC transformed to a dual-language enrichment model that aimed to develop literacy in English and Filipino, the children’s home language. This change attracted many parents to the option of literacy development in two languages and biculturalism for their children, which resulted in increased parent involvement at FEC.
- As a culmination of nearly three decades of struggle, in 2000, a coalition of parents, teachers, bilingual education supporters and community advocates lobbied to keep the FEC open. It proposed to strengthen the Filipino bilingual program by linking up Bessie Carmichael School and the FEC, thus making it one school. At that time, with the support of the District, a group of educators, parents and community groups studied how the new school would function and develop.
- At the same time, the biggest hurdle was the construction of a new building to replace the 50-year old dilapidated temporary buildings. (There was a financial anomaly that further delayed its construction.) A New Bessie Carmichael Working Group formed in 1999 to ensure the availability of new funds and completion of the new school, with support from District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly, and the SF School Board. Finally, in the fall of 2004, Bessie Carmichael/FEC’s students moved to a brand new, state-of-the-art school building on 7th street, it current location.
- The parents and advocates of the Bessie Carmichael/FEC petitioned to expand South of Market’s only public school to a K-8 school. School board officials, led by Mark Sanchez, Eric Mar and Sarah Lipson approved the resolutions for the expansion, despite the school district’s initial doubt about its viability. The old FEC newcomer site at 824 Harrison became the home to Bessie/FEC’s middle school grades. It was renamed Bessie Carmichael School Filipino Education Center Campus.
- In 2009, the bungalow structures at the Harrison campus were demolished and a new building was constructed.
Galing Bata at the Bessie Carmichael School / Filipino Education Center
- Galing-Bata (quality children in Filipino) was the framework for supporting the parents and their children and the Filipino community in San Francisco in preserving and enhancing the legacy of a Filipino Education Center as a newcomer and bilingual school.
- Amidst the controversy surrounding the building of the new Bessie Carmichael and uncertainty of the use and existence of the school facility at Harrison Street, and in conjunction of the parents’ need to find an extended learning program, in 2001, they decided to organize the Galing Bata After School Program at the Filipino Education Center site at 824 Harrison.
The strategy of Galing-Bata After School Program was two-fold:
Against all odds, the FEC community, through the Galing-Bata framework has continued, enhanced and expanded the support system they used to have at FEC, amidst the delicate adjustment, transition and dynamics in their new school environment. The stakeholders (students, staff, volunteers, parents, Filipino community, and school community) have recognized and learned about the importance and power of their own culture and family traditions; the resiliency and bayanihan spirit (i.e. the valued practice of cooperation and mutual support).
The Filipino-American Development Foundation, a community-based non-profit agency, continues to play a significant role in providing staff time to coordinate and assist with the after-school program, as well as with Galing Bata’s program development, both as a fiscal agent and a bridge to the community and funding agencies, including the City departments and School District programs.
Download FEC History
- programmatic - to improve the quality of life of immigrant families and to help develop “quality children.” In order to realize these goals, the Galing Bata’s program components and activities are designed to develop
- quality guidance
- quality care and
- quality protection for children, families and community; and
- advocacy - to sustain and preserve the Filipino learning institution; its landmark site and excellent bilingual and bicultural programs.