Thursday, April 10, 2014

Breaking News! New Transitional Kindergarten Program Announced For Flynn

We heard from Parents for Public Schools and some other nice folks about an exciting new development: a new TK program being started at Leonard Flynn Elementary School.  The announcement from SFUSD is below. We are assuming this is a General Education, not Spanish immersion, Transitional Kindergarten, but if anyone out there has any more info, please let us know.

Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School will be adding a Transitional Kindergarten class to begin in August for the 2014-15 school year.  Flynn is located at 3125 Cesar Chavez St.
If your child is eligible for the TK program, you may submit a Round 2 application for the May Placement Period.  The April 11 deadline has been extended for one week to April 18 for TK applicants only.
If you have already received a TK assignment or have already submitted a Round 2 amended form, you may still add Flynn onto your list of choices by submitting a revised Amended Choice Form which will replace your previous form by April 18. You may come and talk to a placement counselor at the Educational Placement Center at 555 Franklin Street for more information.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 11th is Deadline for SFUSD Round 2

Hello all! Just a reminder that the deadline for SFUSD's Round 2 is coming up this Friday.

Here's the info from the ever reliable Parents for Public Schools:

April 11, 2014: Deadline to register at your assigned school. Application deadline for participation in Round 2 (May Placement period). To participate in seeking a higher choice school, submit an amended form for the Round 2. Application forms can be obtained at the Educational Placement Center (EPC), 555 Franklin Street, or on the SFUSD website, www.sfusd.edu/enroll

As always, good luck and feel free to weigh in below with questions and comments.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Look into San Francisco’s Education Market

Local mother and reporter Beth Weise has an interesting piece on her blog about the number of students who leave SFUSD. Please take a look and share your thoughts.

http://elizabethweise.wordpress.com/


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Public High Schools

Do you have a child heading to high school? What school placement did you receive? Were you happy with the placement?  It seems as though there is often a lot of talk about Lowell but not every child is a Lowell child...what else is out there?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rich school, Rich School: Financial Aid and Affording Private School

So you can stretch enough for next year's kindergarten tuition. What about 8th grade, if it's 40% more than the current tuition?

Historically, tuitions have increased 4% a year, as shown in the chart below. It's important to account for this when deciding if private school is financially survivable. A few formulas:
  • Tuition for kindergarten this fall = 1.04 x current K tuition.
  • 8th grade tuition for kindergartner staring this fall =  1.42 x current 8th grade tuition
  • Total cost of K-8 = 11 x current K tuition,
    assuming the same tuition for upper grades as lower grades.
Tuition Increases at SF Independent Schools, 2009-13

When doing financial planning, it's good to remember that your assets are included in financial aid calculations. This makes it hard to save for other priorities like a home, high school or college. If you own a home, part of the home value is protected. But if you've been saving up for a down payment on a home, be prepared to spend it on tuition. Started a 529 plan for college tuition? Be ready to use it on K-8.

How much do schools budget toward financial aid?

Most schools allocate a set percentage of their tuition revenue to financial aid. For example, Live Oak has allocated 17% of their tuition revenue for 72-73 students a year since 2009.  Looking at the percentage of tuition revenue or operating budget allocated to financial aid is one way to examine a school's commitment to economic diversity.

The percentage of students on financial aid can also be helpful, but at all the schools below, 70-80% of families earn enough to pay full freight, sometimes for 2 or more children.  Moreover, even as tuitions have risen, the percentage of students on financial aid has dropped at many schools, most notably Children's Day, San Francisco School, and San Francisco Day.



Here's the numbers for the data geeks out there.

SCHOOL Year Percentage of students on financial
aid

Estimated
average
tuition for
students
on fin aid 
Full
Tuition
Total spent on
financial aid
Financial aid as a % of tuition revenue
CATHEDRAL 2014‑15 "about 1/3" $12,100 $27,625 1.4m 19%
2013‑14 "about 1/3" $12,000 $26,700 1.327m 18%
2012‑13 "about 1/3" $12,900 $25,700 1.147m 17%
2009‑10 23% $10,900 1.017m 17%
CHILDREN'S DAY 2013‑14 31% website $8704 $25,400 "over 2m" 22%
2011‑12 36% website $8425 $23,250 1.91m 24%
2009‑10 40% website $8709 $21,190 1.67m 25%
SYNERGY 2013‑14 30%
$16,500 K-5
$17,200 6-8


2011‑12 32% $6,400 $14,800 0.51m 18%
2010‑11

$14,100 0.57m 21%
SF SCHOOL 2013‑14 29% $9,900 $24,756 K‑5
$26,457 6‑8 
1.24m
18%
2011‑12 31% $9,500 $21,510 K‑5
$23,500 6-8
1.08m 18%
2009‑10 35% $9,800 $19,950 K‑5
$21,520 6‑8
0.9m 18%
LIVE OAK 2013‑14 27%
$24,610

2011‑12 27% $8,800 $23,550 1.07m 17%
2009‑10 website 25%
Form 990 29%
$8,300 $21,150
$22,600
0.95m 17%
SF FRIENDS 2013‑14 26% $7,500$26,000
18.5%
2011‑12 26% $7,900 $24,045 1.79m 18%
2009‑10 26% $6,600 $22,665 1.51m 18%
PRESIDIO HILL 2013‑14 22%
$23,900 K‑3
$24,950 4‑8


2011‑12 website 21%
Form 990 23%
$7,500 $22,000 K‑3
$23,295 4‑8 
0.67m 15%
2009‑10 22% $5,300 $19,985 K
$21,265 48
0.69m 17%
SF DAY 2013‑14 21% website $7,810 $27,470 1.65m 15%
2011‑12 22% $7,600 $25,770 1.70m 17%
2009‑10 25% website $7,340 $23,540 1.70m 18%
BURKE
(done)
2013‑14 20%
$26,700 K‑4
$27,750 5‑8

 11.5%
2011‑12 website 22%
Form 990 20%
$12,500 $25,000 K4
$26,000 58
1.05m 10%
2009-10 22% $11,200 $23,400 K4
$24,200 58
1.09m  11%
HAMLIN
(done)
2013‑14 19%
$28,500 website 1.58m*
2011‑12  website 21%
Form 990 22%
$11,600 $25,675
website 1.32m*
actual 1.22m

12%
2009‑10 website 22%
Form 990 19%
$10,400 $23,475 website 1.2m*
actual 1.08m 
11%
TOWN 2013‑14 19% $
$26,700 K-5
$27,720 6-8


2012‑13 20% $10,300 $25,670 K-5
$26,650 6-8
1.24m 12%
2009‑10 17%
1.10m 11%
ALTA VISTA 2013‑14 NL $ $21,000 NL NL






2011‑12 11%
$19,000 K
$20,000 1‑2
$119k 13%
MARIN PREP 2013‑14 NL $ $20,630 K
$22,070 1-5
NL NL
2012‑13 10% approx $15,600 $19,930 K
$21,320 1-5
$25k2%






* Hamlin typically spends less on financial aid than the budgeted amount listed on its website.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Private School Letters and Emails

We hear that today's the day folks will hear about independent school decisions.  Feel free to comment about your own experiences or post any questions you have. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SFUSD Enrollment Stats

SFUSD has posted the enrollment info for Round 1.

I hate the way the district breaks down the statistics.  Information such as "Overall (K-12), 82% of applicants (11,539) received one of their choices, compared to 80% last year (11,525)" is fairly useless without knowing the mean number of schools requested.  If everyone listed 5 schools,  it may be interesting, but if the mean is 40 schools less so. 

Likewise, "Overall (K-12), 59% of applicants (8,305) received their first choice, compared to 60% last year (8,506)" is not very interesting without breaking out sibling and CTIP.  CTIP info is completely missing from all reporting presented.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SFUSD Lottery Results? Private School Admissions Letters?

It's March 14th. SFUSD letters should be mailed today. You may also be hearing from independent or parochial schools. Please share your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams, your fears in the comments, but especially any useful advice you might have for other families.

Parents for Public Schools will be hosting Round 2 enrollment workshops for families who aren't happy with their Round 1 assignments (or perhaps families who just moved to town or were not in Round 1 for some other reason). Here's what we hear from PPS:


March 24 9:30am-11am: PPS-SF Enrollment Workshop Navigating Round 2 (Spanish, Chinese and English)
This informational enrollment workshop on SFUSD Student Assignment System is an opportunity for you to learn about options and strategies for navigating Round 2 and beyond.
Attendees will:
  • hear about the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Student Assignment System Round 2 options
  • receive advice, tips, and strategies from experienced parents
  • learn about key dates and your next steps
Location: Hoover Middle School | 2290 14th Ave @ Santiago St
No Registration required.

March 25 6-8pm: PPS-SF Enrollment Workshop; Navigating Round 2.
This informational enrollment workshop on SFUSD Student Assignment System is an opportunity for you to learn about options and strategies for navigating Round 2 and beyond.
Attendees will:
  • hear about the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Student Assignment System Round 2 options
  • receive advice, tips, and strategies from experienced parents
  • learn about key dates and your next steps
Location: Presidio Branch Library | 3150 Sacramento Street cross street Lyons Street

Both events are for all grades, TK through 12.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Parent Request: Advice on Possibly Repeating Kindergarten?

Hi folks. Once again, a parent has written in with a dilemma. Let's see if we can help, shall we? 

Last year, applying for kindergarten, the mom who has written in felt that several of San Francisco's all-girls schools might be a good fit for her daughter, who can be a bit shy and get intimidated easily. The daughter (we'll call her Mabel) has a late summer birthday, and ended up on the waitlist for two single-sex independent schools. At the same time, Mabel was assigned to a well-regarded SFUSD neighborhood school, and her parents sent her there for kindergarten. It sounds like kindergarten has gone pretty well and Mabel has done great, but Mabel's mom still thinks single-sex education could be a great fit for her daughter long-termHere's the rub: the schools would want Mabel to repeat kindergarten. Mabel's parents are wondering if she might be bored or develop some issues if she spends all of next year relearning things that she's already covered this year. What say you, parents? And as long as we're at it, are there any parents willing to share their recent experiences with Hamlin and Burke's? 

Thanks much!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Live Oak Almost Doubling In Size?

It can be stressful for parents this time of year as some wait for the SFUSD lottery results and others for admissions decisions from the independent schools (and some for both). But this year at least we hear some interesting news on one front: Starting in Fall 2014, Live Oak School is apparently beginning an effort to almost double in size, moving from its current model of one class in the early grades and two classes in the middle school to an expansion that will include two classes each for the early grades and three classes each for grades 6-8. This will surely open up some spots for families interested in Live Oak (or indirectly, other independent schools) and, according to a letter from Live Oak School, provide for a stronger financial position for Like Oak itself.

What else have you heard? Any other developments out there? Good luck to everyone waiting!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Readers, Post Your List!

Hey Readers.  Now that the deadline has passed for Round I at SFUSD, post your list!
Let the other readers know which schools you choose for your child and why.  And to everyone - Good Luck!

1/23/2014:
Having trouble posting your lists? Email kfilesblog@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't Get Caught Up Crap Creek: SFUSD Investigates Addresses

Recently, a friend who lives outside of SF idly wondered if she should have used her mother-in-law's address to try to get her child into Alice Fong Yu.  I told her that since AFY is in high demand, even if she'd gotten in, there was a good chance that her address would have been checked, her child kicked out of AFY, and she would have been up crap creek a week into the school year.

OK, I didn't say crap creek.

One reason SFUSD switched to the new lottery system is because addresses are easier to verify than things like mother's educational level or race. In early 2011, SFUSD posted a position called "Address Fraud Investigator."  The 2012-2013 and 2013-14 SFUSD budgets allocated $37,000 to Address Fraud Investigation, on page 210 of the SFUSD Central Office budget.

Presumably the investigator and SFUSD have gotten more savvy about uncovering address fraud with each school year since 2011.   Last fall, another K-files blogger told me that her child's class at Clarendon had 6 missing children at the start of school. She'd heard that 4 were kindergarteners who were not allowed to enroll because of address fraud.

The first part of the Address Fraud Investigator job description is below for those want to know more about how SFUSD investigates student addresses. The full link is here.

Round 1 applications can be revised up to the deadline on 1/21.




Logo
Department of Human Resources

Address Fraud Investigator,SFUSD (#2963) 

$0.00-$0.00 Hourly / $0.00-$0.00 Monthly / $0.00-$0.00 Yearly 



Definition
Under general supervision, manages and conducts address verification checks for new SFUSD student applicants, transitioning and randomly-selected students; manages an on-going investigative caseload related to verifying or disputing residency claims for the purpose of school enrollment; and assists in the development and/or maintenance of an investigative case management program.  
Distinguishing Features
This classification is specific to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) because of the nature of the work which is investigating school-related issues.
Supervision Exercised
SUPERVISION EXERCISED: This class does not supervise other professional employees, but may coordinate the work of clerical/technical personnel.
Examples of Important and Essential Duties
1. Manages an investigative caseload.  Notifies parents/guardians of the opening of an investigation, and investigation results; assigns case numbers; documents and tracks actions taken; ensures documentation is on file; maintains summary notes; monitors and responds to hotline messages; produces reports as required; and identifies follow-up actions as appropriate.
2. Coordinates and conducts the preliminary verification process through Internet searches, property ownership records, phone number listings, and other public records.
3. Coordinates and conducts field investigations through personal calls, interviews, school and home visits, professional surveillance, and attendance record checking.  Randomly checks transitioning students’ addresses, and verifies their change of address claims.
4. Gathers and analyzes data; and determines the standard of evidence for reasonable suspicion and probable cause.
5. Collects, compiles, preserves, and analyzes evidence; and prepares written reports for follow-up and notification letters.
6. Acts as liaison with SFUSD’s Legal Office, District Attorney, or City Attorney; prepares and engages in additional investigative action as needed; pursues criminal or civil prosecution or punitive damages, as appropriate; and establishes partnerships with City agencies, and residential utility and service providers to verify address claims.
7. Conducts trainings related to address fraud investigations for staff.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Middle School Review: Aptos Middle School

A parent of a fifth grader contributes this review of Aptos Middle. Other reviews of middle schools welcome!

Aptos Middle School is a beautiful Art Deco building in a lovely neighborhood. It’s located just off Ocean Ave. in the Monterey Heights neighborhood. The school has about 1,100 students. The principal, Mr. Hannon, thinks that is just at the edge of too big. “Our school is getting rather large. We’re trying to strike a balance” between making it accessible to students who want to go there and keeping it workable and a good school. The class size is 33 students. School begins at 9:00 a.m. except on Wednesdays when it starts at 9:40 a.m. because teachers have a planning period. Students may arrive on campus no earlier than 8:30 a.m., when staff oversight begins.

“This has been a very strong, traditional middle school,” is how Hannon sums it up. It’s big, it’s got lots of opportunities and possibilities for students from every part of the city and with all interests. There are sports, orchestra, band, jazz band, drama and clubs galore. There are academically challenging classes and classes for students who struggle. “We have kids from all walks of life. They’re all going through puberty and trying to form their own identity.” The schools is there to help them do it, Hannon said.

Aptos’ feeder elementary schools are:
Carver
Feinstein
Jose Ortega
Sloat
Starr King

Hannon said that he didn’t know exactly what the odds would be for a student who wasn’t from one of those feeders to get into Aptos. However “historically Aptos has had the longest wait list of any of the middle schools.”

API
The school’s overall API score is 818 (in a range of 0 – 1,000.) The API breakdown for 2012-2013 was:

African American: 649
Asian 909
English Language Learners 732
Filipino 838
Hispanic 706
Students with disabilities 553
White 943

Principal Hannon
The tour was led by Mr. Hannon. This is his first year as principal,. though he was assistant principal before that. He began his career as a special education teacher. He is a San Francisco native and attended Presidio Middle School and Lincoln High School. “I’m dedicated to being here. This is my calling,” he told the 30 or so parents and 5th graders on the tour.

Mr. Hannon is a young, energetic and very dedicated principal. He knew many students in the hallway by name and clearly is a strong presence. He seemed very much in control of the school. He has had the opportunity to hire 15 new teachers this year, which is allowing him to choose people he feels can work well to create the kind of learning environment he envisions.

“I lost 12 pounds coming to this job,” he said. “I told my boss I lost 12 pounds of ego.”

Easing 6th graders in
Each grade has its own floor. This helps students, especially 6th graders, feel a little more connected and less like they’re part of a very large school. Aptos works hard to nurture and support 6th graders as they make the transition to middle school. It uses a “core” model where a cohort of students has two teachers that they stay with all year, so that students can build relationships. This means that an incoming 6th grader would always have English and Math class with the same classmates for the entire year, but would be with other students for other subject. It gives them a social base.

There are six pairs of teachers for the 6th grade, so there are six cohorts of students. There are approximately 400 students in the 6th grade but students spend most of their time with the same 60 students.

The school has two lunch periods to accommodate all the students. The 6th graders have their lunch separately, at noon. Students have four minutes to get between classes. “So you’ll learn time management,” Hannon told the 5th graders on the tour.

Staff
There are two assistant principals, Mr. Alcantar and Ms. O’Neal. There are also four counselors, one for each grade as well as a head counselor and a full-time social worker. Assistant Principal O’Neal is working on implementing the new Common Core standards at Aptos, as is the entire District (and most states.) This involves a great deal of training for teachers and staff. This is a complex year “because we don't know what it will look like yet” she told the tour.

Assistant Principal Alcantar is in charge of the schools student community. He works with the counselors and other support personnel. One program is called “Tiger Stripes” and involves students getting a note “when they’re caught being good.” They can use this for things like going on the elevator (students normally must use the stairs.)

The school uses a Restorative Practices model to deal with conflict, in which all parties are brought to a mediation. You can read more about it here:
www.sfusd.edu/en/programs/restorative-practices.html

There is a half time on-site nurse. Mr. Hannon’s mom, a retired nurse, also volunteers.

The building
Aptos has two gyms and a gorgeous Art Deco auditorium that should be in the movies. Actress Carol Channing attended Aptos and she was one of the donors that made the auditorium’s renovation possible.


Class schedule
There are six periods each day at Aptos. The classes are:
Math
English
Science
Social Studies
Physical Education
Elective

PE is every day. “Physical exercise is crucial at this age,” Hannon said. Remember there is no recess in middle school. There is a girls and a boys locker room. Students were a gym uniform and showers are available. “Your children are changing, they’re starting to sweat,” Hannon told the parents on the tour. “I know it’s hard to believe, but they will. PE uniforms are a very good thing.”

Sports
Aptos has quite a few sports teams.
Boys
Basketball
Soccer
Baseball
Track

Girls
Basketball
Soccer
Softball
Track
Volleyball

The teams are competitive. There are tryouts and there are cuts. “It’s brutal,” Hannon said. Much like life. He would love to have intramural teams that would take all students but needs more parents to volunteer to help create them.

Afterschool Program
There are 230 students in the Afterschool program, which is run by the YMCA and is sliding scale. It give preference to single parents and families with two working parents. There is always a waiting list. It offers academic supports and enrichment. Tutoring is also available after school and is open to all students, not just those in the after school program.

Electives
Aptos is known for its strong arts electives. The school has an orchestra, a band and a jazz band and a drama program as well as a visual arts course. In addition there is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) elective that includes computer coding and environmental teaching and a college prep course called AVID for 7th and 8th grade whose “mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society,” according to the Aptos’ web site.

Note: students in the Mandarin immersion and English Language Learners tracks DO NOT get to chose an elective, as their electives are Mandarin Language Arts or English. Some parents have spoken with Mr. Hannon about creating a seventh period so that the MI and ELL students could also do an elective but it is cost prohibitive and not likely to happen any time soon.
Lunch clubs
Aptos has dozens of lunchtime clubs for almost every possible topic. They meet once or twice a week, led by a teacher, and allow students to form friendships around a shared interest. For example there is an Anime club, a Knitting club, an Italian club, a Magic Club, a News Crew an Asian club and a Computer club, among others. Any student can start a club if they can talk a staff member into leading it.

Honors and GATE
There were many questions about Honors and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) by multiple parents. There has been a lot of buzz about the District trying to do away with honors as inequitable and difficult to implement, to be replaced with differentiated learning. Hoover made the shift last year. However Hannon said that Aptos’ program would remain intact, though it would change. Currently about 50% of the school is in Honors, Hannon said. Next year he plans to make the requirements more stringent as he notes that it’s slightly ridiculous to say that 50% of the school has been tagged as “high potential.”

He said he has staff attending the California Association for the Gifted conference in February as well as a GATE Symposium. With the knowledge gained at these conferences Mr. Hannon hopes to “provide a research-based and rigorous program to all students. My goal is to make it more rigorous.” He said that Honors will change in 2014-2015 but he doesn't’ yet know what it will look like,

He said that while the District is talking about honors and equity but “I haven’t received any directives from the District. He said the decision whether to have honors is up to each individual school and Aptos will continue to have honors classes. The school also has GATE clusters for Math and Language Arts. I couldn’t tell what GATE actually meant in middle school. You can read more about the requirements here:
https://ams-sfusd-ca.schoolloop.com/gatehonors

Algebra in 8th grade
According to SFUSD, algebra will be available to all 8th graders in the coming years. This doesn’t appear to be in place yet in the district as far as I can tell.
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2012-13/ms_students_brochure_2012-13_rev_EN.pdf
“Algebra for All (8th Grade) The vision of the district is that all Grade 8 students will take Algebra at Grade 8. It is critical that middle school students have access to 8th Grade Algebra in light of the new high school graduation requirements for the class of 2014 and beyond. Students will be expected to complete 3 years of mathematics in addition to the prescribed course of study in high school.”

[Side note: I spoke with one parent whose child’s school feeds to Everett Middle School, which does not have honors but instead uses differentiated learning. She said the day they toured her daughter told her that the 6th grade math class was doing math she’d learned in 3rd grade.]

Science
Aptos has a “very strong” science department, Hannon said. It holds a yearly science fair and the winners go on to the Randal Museum’s annual San Francisco Science Fair. Thus far at least 15 students have won awards there and seven went on to regional competitions. The day I toured they were having a run through so all the 6th grade science fair projects were up. I recently saw a 6th grade science fair at the Chinese American International School and I must say that the two very comparable in terms of how well and how in depth the projects were. One of the Aptos students was isolating DNA, for example.

Mandarin Immersion
SFUSD’s two Mandarin immersion programs, at Starr King and Jose Ortega, both feed to Aptos. The program so far has reached 7th grade because the first class of MI students just got to middle school last year. Currently it is small because the beginning classes were small. Eventually when full classes begin to come in from the elementary schools it is estimated it will be between 200 and 300 students in the MI program in the school, depending on attrition.

Students in the Mandarin program do not get to take an elective because their elective period is used for Mandarin Language Arts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year!

We did it.  We have officially submitted our SFUSD kindergarten application.  I have a full blog post in my head on our school choice strategy that I will be posting later in the month.  I actually submitted our application on 12/31/13 in hopes that 2014 will be more stress free. I find this process in may ways cruel and unusual -- and I now fully understand why so many people simply leave the City when it comes time to enter kindergarten.  There were many times when reviewing schools online turned into a search of house costs in neighboring suburbs.

We were however impressed overall with many of the schools we visited and could see there appeal.  We never found the holy grail of our full wish list in a single SFUSD school, but we found many that hits most most of our must-haves.

So now we wait, wonder if we ranked our schools in the right order, and hope to hit a jackpot.  I wish everyone peace as they finalize their rankings and submit their applications.

PS:  Remember to try and submit your forms early to avoid the crunch at the Educational Placement Center.  There was no line at all when I went, but I can easily imagine the waiting rooms filled to capacity in the coming weeks!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

DadintheFog - Dianne Feinstein Tour

We received the best Christmas present ever a few weeks early this year:  We have completed all of our kindergarten tours and can now chill over the holidays.  Between my husband and me, we toured 17 schools and attended multiple open houses, teacher panels, school events, and kindergarten strategy meetings.

In the end, our neighborhood school – Dianne Feinstein – was quite possibly our favorite public school.  Without a doubt, Dianne Feinstein is one of the nicest buildings in the district.  The building is only 8 years old and replaced the former Parkside Elementary.  The space is extremely green in design, with natural light throughout.  The day of our tour was dark and stormy, but inside the space still felt bright and welcoming.  The building and classrooms are large, with a beautiful multipurpose room (including stage), art room, huge outdoor play area and a modern library complete with large computer lab.

Principal Michelle Chang has been at the school since it opened and hired all of the staff.  She spoke very eloquently on her vision for the school.  The school utilizes the Caring School Community curriculum in addition to Restorative Practices and Kimochis (feelings based role-play) to help develop their intellectual and emotional cores while engaging the students directly with the school.  They are already in their first year of implementing Common Core for English, with teachers gaining more freedom in their daily lesson plans.   The school focuses on differential learning and she often spoke of ensuring that all kids at level or above.

Principal Chang was a scientist prior to becoming a teacher and brings her love of science to the school.  All of the upper grade teachers are “Wise Trained” in science via collaboration with UCSF.  Several teachers have also engaged with Stanford on science and writing course.

The school has a strong arts program and kids are offered 16 weeks each of visual art, music, creative writing, dance and movement.  They have an outdoor/garden instructor.  Overall, the school looked great, felt great and hit most of our requirements.  The parent tour guide obviously loved the school and felt it met her family’s needs.

My only concerns for the school stem from the aftercare and after school enrichment.  GLO provides the aftercare and offers several options for enrichment classes.  The PTA also provides enrichment through a Mandarin program (no language requirement) and a Russian Heritage program (must be fluent in Russian). For our family, we would love to see Spanish as an option. However, as with all of the other schools on the West side, Spanish is not offered.  Additionally, we heard rumors during our tours of division within the PTA between the two programs.  But when questioned directly, those providing the rumors never could provide specifics.  (If any current parents have info, please add your comments …)

I really wish we would have been able to tour this school earlier in the process.  The tour season started at Dianne Feinstein later than at most other schools, and by the time the sign-up was available online, we were left with a fairly late date.  If we would have seen our neighborhood school earlier, we probably would have trimmed our tour list substantially.

DadintheFog Statistics:
4 Kindergarten Classes (88 spots, around spaces 39 taken by siblings)
School Enrollment:  520 students
Times:  7:50 am to 1:50 pm  (7:30 am to 7:50 am drop off)
Aftercare:  GLO, PTA managed Enrichment programs
Total Requests (Fall 2013 Start, Round 1):  656  (117 in 1st Choice)
API Score (Growth 2013):  892
Ethnic Breakdown (from API):             
                African American                                          4%
                American Indian/Alaskan Native:              0%
                Asian:                                                           35%
                Filipino:                                                         3%
                Hispanic/Latino:                                          10%
                Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander:             1%
                White:                                                           35%
                2 or More Races:                                           5%
English Learners:                                           21%
Free/Reduced Lunch Eligible:                     34%
Parents Completing College/Grad School: 43% / 30%
PTA Raised (per Charitycheck):  $150,986 / $470 per student