Stevon Cook: The San Francisco Story
Stevon Cook is a Commissioner on the San Francisco School Board, and a local leader who has dedicated his life making sure more kids have the opportunity to succeed. He is fighting for a San Francisco rooted in community-driven values – with affordable housing so more teachers, first responders, and families can live in the city where they work.
Stevon is a fourth generation San Franciscan. His family moved to Hayes Valley in1947 when it was a majority black community. His great-grandfather Luther Harris purchased a home on Oak Street where Stevon and his sister would be later raised by his grandparents, Alvin and Dorothy Cook.
Early on, his family taught him the importance of education, community service and awareness you had to have navigating America as a black man. Stevon’s father graduated from McAteer, his mother went to Lincoln where she dropped out of school at age 16, but later got her GED at John Adams on Masonic Ave. At the age of ten, Stevon moved in with his grandparents and attended public schools graduating from Thurgood Marshall High School in 2003.
Witnessing Inequity in Our Public Schools
His interest in public service and local government started in high school when his school went through a traumatic experience on October 11, 2002 when a militarized police force took over his campus in disproportionate response to a student fight. Not one gun was drawn by a student, but it was the largest police presence on a school campus since Columbine.
At the time, the school was called “The Black Lowell” because it was sending more students of color to four-year colleges than any high school in the city. After the incident, the school’s enrollment dropped from 1,100 students to 450 students. The school had nine principals in seven years and its reputation was then called “Thug-good.”
During the school’s downward spiral, Stevon was attending Williams College, where he majored in American Studies and became active in social impact ventures and small businesses. He participated in Hurricane Relief efforts post-Katrina and began his interest in storytelling by directing short films.
Stevon always felt compelled to come back to the city he loves and play a role in connecting low-income communities to life-changing opportunities.
Giving More Kids Educational Opportunities Like He Had
Upon graduating college in 2008, Stevon returned to San Francisco to participate in the City Hall Fellows program where he worked in the finance department in Public Works. He saw firsthand how local government works, but felt the need to return to education to play a role in improving the school that changed his life.
Stevon became an Academic Advisor at Thurgood Marshall, running college exposure programs, academic tutoring and parent workshops for students 9th through 12th grade. He served as Co-Chair of SFUSD’s Public Education Enrichment Fund and became a founding board member of San Francisco Achievers.
Directly working with students was pivotal for Stevon. It showed the deep – and growing – inequities facing students in San Francisco.
Stevon was recruited to become CEO of Mission Bit, an education nonprofit committed to offering free coding courses for underrepresented students. Stevon grew the organization from San Francisco to other cities in the Bay Area, including Oakland and San Jose.
Mission Bit became the largest after-school coding provider for youth in San Francisco. To address the deep lack of access to technical education in public schools, Stevon brought together large tech companies, community-based organizations, public schools and workforce development initiatives. It was then he truly saw the power of uniting people for real progress.
Serving as President of the San Francisco School Board
In 2016, Stevon decided to run for Board of Education on a progressive agenda that focused on building a school system that decreased barriers for all families. He won and immediately began on addressing issues like reducing chronic absenteeism for black students, pushing initiatives to make the district more responsive to families and reforming our student assignment system.
As President of the Board of Education, Stevon never backed down from making our schools better for every kid. He visits school sites every week and serves as a mentor at John Muir Elementary in the Western Addition. He has fought for the school district and city to have an equity lens when it’s considering its policies. Stevon has:
Helped raise teacher salaries to incentivize teachers to work in the southeast side section of the city
Passed policies to create teacher housing and pursue rental assistance programs
Fought for the continuation of the Stay-Over program for homeless families
Fought for more money from ERAF to come to the school district
Supported the closure of Juvenile Hall
Reformed San Francisco’s school assignment system
Created a Blue Ribbon Panel on School Name Changes
Reduced the over testing that happens in schools
Advocated for state-wide changes to computer science access
Advanced diversity hiring initiatives to engage more families of color
Reformed Dual Enrollment to allow students to take college courses in the 9th grade
Advocated for an expansion for Free MUNI for Youth
Created more opportunities to showcase astounding achievement for students of color
Protected our schools from privatization and corporate sponsorships by voting against every attempt to brand schools with private companies
Authored resolutions to ban e-cigarettes and reforms to Prop 13
In addition to his leadership on the School Board, Stevon currently helps nonprofit leaders maximize their impact in the community, especially for communities of color. Long term, Stevon is working to fulfill his Great-Grandfather’s legacy of building small businesses and being an advocate for his community.
Stevon also serves on the Board of Students Rising Above, as an Ambassador of Aim High and is active attendee of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley. He is also a former fellow of the New Leaders Council – San Francisco. In his spare time, he enjoys going to the gym, reading, traveling, practicing Muay Thai and spending time with his partner, Saba Ghebreyesus. Stevon lives in Hayes Valley, has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies and his favorite rapper is Nipsey Hussle.