Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't forget: tomorrow is the public school enrollment fair

Tomorrow's the SFUSD enrollment fair. It's from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, near City Hall. Every school in the district should have a booth where you can talk to the principal or teachers. It's a great opporuntity.

Note: The San Francisco Police Department has informed the school district that there will be a planned anti-war protest on Saturday at Civic Center Plaza, near the building where the SFUSD Enrollment Fair will be held.

Take BART or MUNI if possible!


  1. It was helpful to attend the fair. We got to chat with principals and parents at schools that interest us. We also ran into a few friends from our child's preschool who are also getting ready to enroll their first child in kindergarten. It was nice to see them, as we didn't feel like we were the only people we know well who will be applying to public school.

    Despite the utility of the SFUSD Enrollment Fair, it also made us feel a bit anxious and sad. We got our hands on a map of the district. We drew a circle around our home and commute routes, and then looked at the schools in the circle. We ruled out the ones that had start times we didn't think would work for us or that didn't have before-school or after-school programs that would work. When we then looked at what remained, we were disheartened to learn that all of the schools that were left were horribly oversubscribed. Thus, when walking around the school fair, we had this nagging feeling in the back of our mind that we can't fall for any particular school, as it is very unlikely we would be offered a slot. Attending the fair was like shopping in car showrooms for an entire morning, knowing full well that we can't afford anything we are seeing.

    Thus, overall, the fair was helpful but also rather draining.

  2. I had the odd experience today of volunteering at the school fair (at the SOTA table, not on the radar for incoming K parents). I was also there as a consumer, with my 8th-grader, though we have a pretty good idea of her high-school path.

    Then later in the day I took my 11th-grader to a college fair (speaking of not on the radar yet) -- for the record, the Visual and Performing Arts College Fair at Masonic Center on Nob Hill. 'Tis the season.

    We saw so many great-looking options. My son is not a candidate for certain colleges because his grades aren't perfect and he refuses to do the marketing, packaging, product-placement crap that applicants have to do these days for the big prestige names. But that still leaves a lot of appealing choices. Then we have to deal with the fact that some are unaffordable, and the financial-aid /scholarship situation for any of them is unknown till you're well into the application process.

    So that makes me realize how foolish it is to fixate on and fall in love with one particular college, as opposed to applying to a number that are appealing and deciding based on which ones accept you and turn out to be affordable. Also, we know a number of older kids who fixated on one particular college and found that it didn't work out as well as they'd hoped. The disappointment rate there is much higher than with SFUSD schools, among our friends at least!

    So I think you're right that it is a bad idea to fall for any one particular school -- but I don't see why falling for one school is inevitable. If there are a lot that you like, you don't have to fixated on one. In this case it's the SFUSD lottery that makes the pick (and don't worry, if you're one of the tiny number who don't get one of your seven picks in the lottery, you'll get one before school starts -- more stressful, but it always works out).

    If it was private schools, the question wouldn't be the lottery but which school would accept your child, unless your child is so perfect they all want him or her. When it's college time -- soon for us, someday for you -- you're also at the mercy of the college admissions offices. But if you have a range of good options, it'll work out!

  3. We haven't really fixated on any one school. I'm just saying that any list of 7 we make based on the criteria that I described above generates a list that is filled with highly oversubscribed schools. Thus, the real possibility exists that we'll list 7 and get none, and we could be assigned to some place that just doesn't work for us as far as ease of drop-off pick, start time, or before/after school programs.

    Despite this, I have to also state, that we are not even considering private school. We couldn't afford it even if we wanted to send our child to private. In addition, none of the private secular schools we might even consider are anywhere near to our home or commute routes. Lastly, we want to support public education. We attended public schools, have family who are public school teachers, and believe that supporting public education is critical for the health of democracy.

    Despite all of this, it's still frustrating to do all this research, visit all these schools, endure the chaos of the enrollment fair, and in the end, still not know with any certainty where one's child will attend school next Fall. I understand and support the reasoning behind the current system, but it still causes a fair share of anxiety, and, unfortunately, no amount of trying to reframe our thinking seems to help lower the anxiety level.

  4. You'll get one of your seven! I repeat myself often on this. In my 11-plus years as an SFUSD parent (21 kid-years), I have counseled and advised a lot of families through the process over the years. It's a volunteer role I took on because in our day the process was so based on assertiveness, persistence and empowerment, and I felt that was so inequitable. (Now it's much less like that.)

    In all that time, I have never, once, not ever, seen a family not wind up with an SFUSD school they were happy with IF -- IF IF IF -- they stuck out the process and didn't bail out for private school early on. (Cynics often come back to this and cite some family or other, and it always turns out they bailed after the first lottery round. Of course, that cost them $250,000-$300,000 and up per kid over the K-12 years -- for unclear benefit -- a pretty high price to avoid a few stressful weeks of bureaucratic hassles.)

    So honest -- it'll work out! Plus if you have 20 schools you think look appealing and only list seven, you can even turn to one of the others during the "expanded choice" process if you don't get one of the seven in the first lottery round.

    Remember, the initial "assignment" (they call it placement) is not something you're stuck with. Orla O'Keeffe (former head of this procses with SFUSD) said: "It's an offer -- the start of a conversation."