Friends of Lowell Foundation Announces Effort to Preserve California's Oldest Public High School

Citizen foundation supports restoring merit-based admissions at Lowell High School

The Friends of Lowell Foundation today announced its formation to restore San Francisco's Lowell High School as an academic, merit-based public high school and to boost academic preparation for all San Francisco public school students.

"The Friends of Lowell Foundation is determined to keep Lowell as a magnet for families and disadvantaged students," said Friends of Lowell President Lisa Li Moye. "Lowell is a cornerstone of San Francisco's growth, creativity and inclusion over many decades. Lowell has helped generations of poor and immigrant communities. The destruction of this jewel by the San Francisco Board of Education will have terrible consequences for all San Franciscans."

The Foundation aims to prevent implementation of a February 9 San Francisco Board of Education resolution that permanently replaces Lowell's merit-based admissions with a lottery. San Francisco attorney and Friends of Lowell Vice President Christine Linnenbach has filed a challenge with the Board of Education documenting legal violations in the February 9 decision, including inadequate public notice and violations of California's Brown Act. 

"The Board of Education abandoned meeting protocol and violated the Brown Act repeatedly. Fundamentally changing a longstanding, well-functioning policy under this rushed process neither deals with systemic racism nor improves education," Linnenbach stated. "Adopting a lottery admission system for Lowell does not serve the needs of any students, especially those who are disadvantaged. The February 9 decision only removes a unique opportunity for all students in San Francisco to obtain an academically oriented education equal to any private school education."

Of the 2,880 students at Lowell, 82 percent identify as ethnic minorities and 40 percent qualify for food assistance. Friends of Lowell Secretary Lee Cheng noted that most families of Lowell students cannot afford private high schools in San Francisco.

"Lowell opened doors to the American dream for my siblings and me, as it has done for generations of immigrant San Franciscans," said Cheng, an attorney who helped organize the 1994 Ho vs. San Francisco Unified School District lawsuit that ended race-based enrollment caps. "Lowell provided me, along with tens of thousands of other students, a safe space free from actual, physical racial violence, as well as an environment where kids of all backgrounds who wanted to study hard could do so."

The Friends of Lowell Foundation has a three-part mission:

  1. Protect the interests of both current and future Lowell High School students by preserving the Lowell name and restoring a policy of academic merit-based admissions.
  2. Educate San Francisco residents about the value of merit-based public schools for the city, including benefits to the economy, inclusion, justice and reputation.
  3. Identify and develop programs to prepare San Francisco students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for entry to Lowell and other academically rigorous schools.


The Friends of Lowell Foundation is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status pending formed in 2021 to make academic merit-based public education available to as many children in San Francisco as possible. More information and donation opportunities can be found at and


Originally founded in 1856, Lowell High School is the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi and consistently ranks among the highest-performing public high schools in California. Admission to Lowell has historically been based on academic merit and available to all San Francisco residents entering 9th grade who meet admissions criteria.

Media Contact:

Source: Friends of Lowell Foundation