Thursday, November 8, 2007

Is anyone tiring of tours?

This morning a friend called to tell me that she skipped out on her scheduled Live Oak tour. "I just don't think I can go on another tour," she said. "I'm so tired."

I could entirely relate.

I've enjoyed this school search much more than I ever imagined. I'm amazed by all the excellent schools in this city—they're far better than I expected. For the most part, I've felt nothing but energized and excited.

But this evening, I'm tired! Maybe it's the flu that I came down with over the weekend or maybe I'm just tired of listening to principals explain that every public school has a librarian due to Prop H. So far, I've toured 10 schools. I have about 10 more to go. Hopefully, I don't get fired at my day job for all the work I'm missing. This morning, I toured Miraloma and stayed on longer than expected because I loved the school and wanted to talk to the parent guides. When I arrived at work at 11 a.m., I raced past my boss's office, hoping he wouldn't see me. One of my co-workers spotted me and said, "If this is the amount of time you're putting into kindergarten, I can't imagine what college is going to be like." He lives in Alameda, so he doesn't understand the complicated SF school system.

So here it is 5:30 p.m. I've been up since 4 a.m. when three-year-old Sam woke up screaming. I then picked up the toys strewn about the house, did a load of laundry, made breakfast, threw together lunches for my kids, and then dropped the kids off at school. Did I shower? No way! There's no time for that. After dropping off the kids, I toured Miraloma. Then I drove around my work for 30 minutes looking for a no-permit-required street parking space because I can't afford the steep prices at the lot. Put in five hours at work (not enough to fulfill my responsibilities so I'll be working tonight), then picked up my kids. Back at home, I wolfed down a quick bowl of cereal—and now it's time to hop in the car to go to an open house at San Francisco Day School. I'm so tempted to blow it off. But I gotta go. Who knows? It could be the one.

Sorry for whining!


  1. I totally feel your pain! The last three tours I've done I've almost bailed on them at the last minute. I must say, part of the reason is because the first tours I did were not so wonderful, so I was feeling a bit hopeless, but then I went to West Portal and got some renewed energy....there IS apublic school out there that I like! Anyway, I think the flu is tipping me over the edge, and I feel bad that I possibly just transmitted it to a bunch of unsuspecting parents and children, but they really don't give us a choice do they? If we cancel a tour, there are so many to do that we can't make it up another time. Thanks for showing me I'm not the only one who is sick of it all!

  2. I've also done about 10 tours and I'm feeling ready to stop the touring as well, but it's because I have really been impressed by the schools I've seen and already have more than seven I could put on my list -- and at this point I don't want to confuse myself more and miss more work at the same time. But I hope you keep touring because I love reading your reviews!

  3. Yes, tired! Physically and mentally exhausted. So far I've only skipped open houses/coffee gatherings at private schools we've ruled out, but the temptation to skip the whole thing and move to Idaho (or somewhere else!) has been huge. Our first public school tour (at one of the very popular schools) left us depressed, but today we visited a lovely school, off the well beaten path, headed by a principal who was excited and exciting and filled with happy looking, well behaved kids. We were greeted by a group of articulate, motivated parents and the care and energy they bring to the school was obvious. We're looking forward (sort of) to visiting more public schools and hope to be convinced that this could be a good option for our family. Meanwhile trying to keep the impressive things we've seen at the privates in perspective.

  4. Please, you have to tell us which school you visited that was well off the beaten path and lovely!

  5. I am finding this enrollment process endlessly fascinating. I think I've seen 12 schools so far. I am starting to fatigue a bit and it is a lot of work but I am thinking about issues regarding community, race, class, pedagogy harder than I ever have before.

    Whilst indulging in my daily fix of googling about the web for information about sf schools, I found this fascinating article describing the current process for public school enrollment.

    Really, this article pretty much backs up all that I've discovered in our kindergarten search. There is still so much misinformation out there. At our preschool, the vast majority of the parents "say" they are considering public schools, but are really dismissing them out of hand unless they get into Rooftop or Clarendon. Everywhere I go, people are saying that this process is crazy, but I believe it's actually improving the schools.

    I'm going to dredge up one more thing from a previous thread after having read that Reason article...Caroline is a hero. I'm sorry some are finding her abrasive, but her activism is inspiring. I personally feel I owe her and people like her much much gratitude.

    BTW, was anyone at the Clarendon tour last Wednesday? Oh my God. What a zoo. There must have been 150 people there.

  6. I did the tours last year for my now kindergartener and remember how tiring it became. But, I too, found it all fascinating. So much so that I am re-living it for another year by reading your blob. I remember being very late for work at least once a week. Fortunately, my work at the time was fairly flexible. Not all families are able to accommodate so many tours and this makes the process inaccessible to many.

  7. i agree with the poster who called caroline a hero. it's the uncompromising and unflinching who change the world (and drive the rest of us mad in the process, but what the hell?).

    i've attended about 10 tours too. the thing about it that wears me out isn't the touring itself, it's the self-doubt that creeps in when you start accumulating too much data and can't even dredge up the feeling you had a particular school (why you liked it, why you didn't, why you wrote "principal...almodovar character?" in your notes).

    that said, i think part of the problem is that i've actually liked so many schools for one reason or another. what's tripping me up is it's always a different reason, so instead of choosing the shiniest apple, i feel like i have to choose between apples and oranges (a lot harder, but not a bad problem to have, really).

    another thought re: equity and our "choice" system: the system is only potentially equalizing insofar as you have (a) independent wealth or all the time in the world to take off work and tour; and (b) a car (both to tour and to drive your kids across town to whatever bastion of educational excellence they get into. i'm not so sure about the school bus/kindergartner thing myself).

    that said, i'm actually enjoying the process hugely and, not being particularly political generally, am also liking the provocative nature of the whole thing. it's got me thinking. i have a sneaking suspicion this will change our family for the better in some undefinable way.

    and we ARE going to public school, no matter what.

  8. We were also on the Clarendon tour and were not impressed with the school but liked the principal. Maybe it was the mob--at least 150. Now a firm believer in the idea that there are good schools out there and that they are not necessarily the ones we may have thought of initially. Also agree with the poster who wrote about apples and oranges: it's going to be a matter of choosing strength against strength in the end.

  9. Sorry to hear that Kate (and others) have been ill with the flu.

    Kim's point is well taken. One of the reasons the schools may be resegregating since the consent decree ended is that some families have the resources to choose to send their kids across town, whereas others may not--either to look in the first place or to transport the kids there throughout the year. Our choice-based system is still probably less segregated than if we based it all on real estate, but there is certainly inequity.

    PPS has focused on this issue in recent years in terms of recruitment. Also, there are buses that take the kids across town, but the routes were drawn up long ago and may not conform to current, or potential future, patterns. Definitely an issue to be addressed in the battle for equity.

    It's a tremendous balancing act, keeping middle class families in the system by offering a menu of increasingly attractive choices, while keeping things equitable and accessible for the poorer kids. That's why I too regard Caroline as a hero (true heroes and saints are not always the easiest people, by the way).

    Speaking of buses: My kids have taken the bus since kindergarten. FWIW, we are the only white family at the bus stop; it has been a great way to get to know other families. I rode with the kids during the first week of school, and then they went on their own. Their ride is only 10 minutes and has been fine. They go right off the bus and onto the school yard. Also, they have seat belts now in those buses, a far cry from the ones I rode as a kid! I know of other families who send their kids to SF Community from Noe Valley; Claire Lilienthal from Fairmount School; Yick Wo from the Mission. The kids can do it; it was a mark of independence for mine. Amazing how fast they grow up.

  10. The lovely school was Sunset. Biggest downside is that it is not on the way to or from anything unless you happen to live in that neighborhood.

  11. What a great blog. Just stumbled upon it with a general google alert for San Francisco public school. i love the balance and honesty of the posts and comments. Wonderful! I happen to be at one of "those" school that no one can ever get into, but also now realy believe there there are tons on wonderful schools out there, but SF public school just get a bad rap. I'll pass this on to friends who are in the process.

  12. FYI, touring schools isn't mandatory if you're going public. A friend of mine needed to put in a SFUSD application at the last minute when financial aid fell through at the private school where her daughter was enrolled. She listed 7 schools recommended by her various friends and organized them by proximity to her home. She actually got her first choice (Alvarado general ed), and her daughter is thriving there.