The work Masharika Maddison does as executive director Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco impacts more than 56,000 children every day. PPS-SF’s mission is to support student success by developing effective school-parent partnerships, strong family relationships and broad community support for public education. “We represent the single largest consumer of public education and the stakeholders most intimately connected to the end user — our student learners,” she explains.
Since its inception in the late 1990s, PPS-SF has been on the front lines educating parents (in Chinese, English and Spanish) about the benefits and importance of having a public school system that families across San Francisco invest in. At the core of PPS-SF’s work is the belief that when parents are empowered and educated on how they can actively participate in the ongoing improvement of our city’s public school system, all children stand to win.
We connected with Masharika to talk about her work and learned that the PPS-SF’s first major aim this year is “to make public education sexy.”
You joined SPUR’s board of directors this year. How did you first get interested in cities?
As a child, my father sat on the planning commission for a number of years in my hometown. Hearing him talk about the intentionality with which local residents, civic leaders and business representatives planned even the most mundane aspects of our city’s infrastructure wildly fascinated me. The human power that goes into maintaining — and growing — cities is nothing short of amazing.
As a newly minted graduate of public policy school, I had the unique experience to travel abroad for two years with the Department of State. From the Middle East, to Asia, to Europe and Africa, through my excursions I was exposed to the impact that historical, economic, political, and geographic factors have on a city’s overall health.
When I moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C., I wanted to learn more about my new city, and SPUR made it incredibly easy to access information that made me more informed and engaged. I attended a lunchtime forum, and was hooked. I’ve been a member ever since — and am honored be a newly minted board member of the organization.
What’s your favorite street in San Francisco?
My favorite street is one that leads to an iconic architectural landmark; was home to the first African- American Baptist church west of the Mississippi; features secret meditation spaces, honeybee hives, and exotic plants; and welcomes children and families to a beloved community playground. Greenwich Street!
Favorite book about cities?
My current favorite books about cities are the children’s books Subway by Christopher Neimann and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. Raising a family in an urban setting is by far the most rewarding part of living in San Francisco. I’m helping to create the next generation of urbanists through texts that teach my children to appreciate the complexity of public transit systems and embrace the tenets of inclusion, equity and empathy for their fellow neighbors.
What’s one thing you wish were different about San Francisco?
I wish the stock of affordable housing in San Francisco was as plentiful and accessible as the demand for it. A world-class city like San Francisco is capable of devising a world-class solution to the current affordable housing crisis being felt across the city.