Circle the Schools gives SF students the tools they need to succeed

By Bob Linscheid, Kimberly Wicoff and Steve Sarner

The 57,000 students who attend schools in the San Francisco Unified School District deserve the richest and most fruitful education The City can provide. Yet our schools, as we know, have limited resources. It’s up to The City’s business community to supplement the resources to give the next generation the tools they need to succeed.

To this end, the SFUSD, the San Francisco Education Fund and the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation ( took a giant leap in the right direction last year by launching Circle the Schools. Local tech companies partner with schools using the adopt-a-school method to “circle” them with services and opportunities that are not otherwise available.

Our city’s tech companies have circled 32 schools. Some offer field trips to company offices and provide mentors in the classroom. Others have organized cleanups and fundraising efforts. Approximately 500 employees from startups to major tech firms have joined in the effort.

At Thurgood Marshall High School, one of The City’s most underserved schools, tech company if(we) helped host a sit-down dinner for the senior prom and donated classroom smart boards, a high-tech replacement for a chalk board. But the exchange is a two-way street, as the students are also helping if(we) with market research for their new social messaging apps. Students have participated in focus group sessions to help the company improve features in its planned app.

Circle the Schools members have been primarily tech companies — until now. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has joined Circle the Schools and, in addition to circling its own school, will work with its 1,500 businesses and organization members toward the goal of circling all 117 San Francisco public schools.

As the largest business organization in The City, we believe we can leverage the diversity of the business community with the participation of the Chamber. Our students need and deserve access to the opportunities that our booming San Francisco economy has to offer them in their future careers. Similarly,
businesses from across The City are eager to invest in San Francisco’s rich communities and unleash the full potential of new and local talent. Circle the Schools is a tangible and effective way for our business community to show students a clearer pathway to success, whether that comes by learning a trade or learning to code.

“I think it opened my eyes quite a bit,” says Nick Dias, a student at Mission High School, in a video about an office tour of Dropbox, one of our Circle the Schools partners.

These partnerships show the business community’s commitment to be true, long-term stewards of our schools, and recognize that our students are the talented, diverse and engaged workforce of the future. We are committed to building lasting and productive relationships between business and education that bridge the gap between students and professionals in San Francisco.

We urge you to check with your employer to see if your company is involved with Circle the Schools. For more information, visit

Kimberly Wicoff is the executive director of the San Francisco Education Fund. Steve Sarner is vice president of marketing at if(we) and a member of’s board of directors. Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

This article originally appeared in the June 4 edition of the San Francisco Examiner.