Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hot topic: SFUSD school assignments and Round II

I dropped by the SFUSD administrative offices today—just to make sure they're on track to mail school assignments on time. Indeed, they're going out Friday night so you should receive your assignment in the mail on Saturday, Monday, or Tuesday. If you haven't received anything by Wednesday you need to visit the office at 555 Franklin Street and bring two proofs of address.

Many SF K Files visitors have already been asking about Round II. The Parents for Public Schools web site offers a clear rundown of the process. If you have questions or additional information, please share. Thanks!

I've got my fingers crossed for all of you! Hang in there!


  1. My fingers are crossed for you, too, Kate!

    Now let's see if I can get my toes to cross...

  2. Kate, by "they're going out tomorrow night" does that mean they are being sent out in Friday's mail, or Saturday's?

    Just wondering whether we should be waiting by our mailboxes this Saturday or not. Ughh, the wait....!

    Good luck everyone!

  3. We got our letter on Saturday last year (they were mailed on Friday). Best of luck everyone and please post where your kids were assigned and whether you plan to accept!

  4. can anyone verify whether principal karling aguilera-fort of fairmount school is indeed moving on before the 2008-9 school year? (loved him, but, hey, you can't have everything...certainly not a dealbreaker at fairmount.) if so, any news on who might be recruited as principal?

  5. Hi everybody -- In all the permutations of the SFUSD assignment process, I've urged parents who are in the wait pool for a school they really want to POLITELY but relentlessly contact the EPC (SFUSD Educational Placement Center) every day or two to say nicely, "We still want the spot at XX. We are waiting by the phone and can be contacted easily at this number." Be brief and POLITE but incessant.

    I've always thought, "You just never know." Now I have heard some inside info that confirms my view that that might make a difference.

    Think about the EPC staffer calling the name that just came up. What if they get a busy signal or a "call failed"? What's their protocol for how many times to call back? What about waiting for a returned call, or a response to a letter? And you're right there saying "we want that spot and will answer our phone live and in person..."

    A trivial aside: the Camp Mather application responses arrived yesterday. After going for 10 years, we're waitlisted for the first time. (I will put my own advice into practice.)

    I was thinking how cruel it is to send those out the same week the SFUSD letters go out -- and I believe private school responses too. My 8th-grader is in the tiny category who already know their high school placement (that category is SOTA applicants accepted on the first audition who are not holding out to wait on Lowell or privates but instead have accepted SOTA). But what a funky week it could be for some families.

    Good luck to all!

    Kate, I actually might suggest posting the advice (waitpoolers should call the EPC daily or every other day) as a blog post of its own to make sure parents see it. You don't have to attribute it to me, of course.

  6. if you choose to submit an amended application with up to seven schools in round 2, are you only allowed to list underenrolled schools? if not, is there any point in listing any but underenrolled ones, since overenrolled programs doubtless have big waitlists?

  7. Has anyone received their letters yet? I am almost positive that I heard a co-worker talk on the phone to her husband about how their letter arrived.

    They may have been talking about preschool, though - I think those letters went out last week.

  8. Press release from the district in regards to enrollment requests.

  9. vali et al -- if you read the district's press release, you'll see that flynn had a two or threefold increase in applicants this year! good job, flynn!

    tell me this: they attributed the decrease in applicants who received one of their round 1 choices (from 87% to 82%) to the increase in total applicants (300+ more). if the increase had been absorbed by a broader selection of schools, might this not have happened? (that is, can we infer from this that the same old schools are getting all the applicants still?)

  10. Kim, from here it looks SOOOO different! I am not exaggerating about the "only five good schools" article of faith in the '90s. And there are popular schools this year that were still viewed with fear and loathing four of five years ago.

    I've already posted this elsewhere (skip this, impatient ones -- it's for the newcomers). I know only one family, ever, who has gotten absolutely nowhere getting into the only school they wanted. This is for a child now in 4th grade, so it was 2003. They'd been a Buena Vista family. The gap between their kids was one year too wide for them to get sibling preference at BV. They were assigned to a scary, unpopular school shunned by every middle-class family and they just could not get anyone to budge and let the child into BV.

    So finally they decided they'd just grit their teeth and bear the horror for a year and try again. But now they are very happy with what at the time was viewed as a scary, squalid, horrifying pit of danger -- Leonard Flynn.

    The number of in-demand schools has expanded and expanded over the time I've been an SFUSD parent. I myself am finishing my sixth straight (and final) year as a parent at "dirty and dangerous" Aptos Middle School.

  11. From the handout at today’s press (3/7/08) conference for school year 08/09 for Elementary
    The top 20 schools (name, openings for non-sibs, total requests):

    1. Rooftop GE 30 1055
    2. Clarendon GE 13 986
    3. West Portal GE 39 875
    4. Lawton GE 52 741
    5. Lilienthal GE 35 708
    6. Alamo GE 52 595
    7. Fong Yu CN 30 550
    8. Alvarado SN 21 525
    9. Feinstein GE 55 519
    10. Grattan GE 41 508
    11. Clarendon JB 26 483
    12. Miraloma GE 29 453
    13. Lakeshore GE 45 448
    14. Argonne GE 42 434
    15. Alvardo (ES) GE 27 432
    16. Jefferson GE 50 395
    17. Buena Vista SN 38 391
    18. Ulloa GE 37 387
    19. West Portal CN 16 375
    20. Sherman GE 30 374

  12. To the poster of the request data, thank you. I did some quick calcs on the #s, and based on available slots to number of requests, things look a bit grimmer than past years for these often-requested schools. A 1.3% chance of getting into Clarendon Second Community (13 slots for 986 requests). Yikes!

    Based on the 7 we ranked, using the Adams Dudley spreadsheet (based on last year's numbers), we had roughly a 59% chance of getting assigned in round 1. Using this year's numbers, that percent dropped to 39%! Our fault for putting these mostly popular choices, I know. But needless to say I face our mailbox with even more nervousness, if that was at all possible! :-)

    1 Rooftop GE 30 1055 2.8%
    2 Clarendon GE 13 986 1.3%
    3 West Portal GE 39 875 4.5%
    4 Lawton GE 52 741 7.0%
    5 Lilienthal GE 35 708 4.9%
    6 Alamo GE 52 595 8.7%
    7 Fong Yu CN 30 550 5.5%
    8 Alvarado SN 21 525 4.0%
    9 Feinstein GE 55 519 10.6%
    10 Grattan GE 41 508 8.1%
    11 Clarendon JB 26 483 5.4%
    12 Miraloma GE 29 453 6.4%
    13 Lakeshore GE 45 448 10.0%
    14 Argonne GE 42 434 9.7%
    15 Alvardo (ES) GE 27 432 6.3%
    16 Jefferson GE 50 395 12.7%
    17 Buena Vista SN 38 391 9.7%
    18 Ulloa GE 37 387 9.6%
    19 West Portal CN 16 375 4.3%
    20 Sherman GE 30 374 8.0%

  13. I did the same thing 3 years ago. I put down all the popular choices and got none. I was able to get into Grattan easily in round 2. Grattan in now #10 on the list of requested schools. Moral of story – there are hidden gems out there to be found.

  14. Think about the EPC staffer calling the name that just came up.

    From what I can tell from the info at the sfusd site... it is a pool, not a list. The pool is stratified into 10 priority groups and each priorty group is stratified into neighborhood and non-neighborhood. There is no indication that a time stamp further defines your position within a group. Maybe you end up on an alphabetical, non-prioritized list within your group. I think it really might be up to the clerk at that point!

  15. I'm not truly sure what the logistics of the wait pool are. But at some point there's a name and a clerk has to make the contact, by phone, e-mail, carrier pigeon etc.

  16. I'm really hoping someone can answer Kim's question - I assume you can't list any of your original 7 - or can you? - does it make sense to? Does the second round "trump" the waitpool? I.E. if places free up because people drop out, change their mind etc do they get allocated in the second round and then go to waitpool? I just can't imagine that there are enough places for everyone to end up happy, like Caroline has "promised". I'm confused about the process and I have a sinking feeling about the letter - my fear is that we will luck out and get one of our choices but it will be number 6 or 7 and then we will be really torn...

  17. I'm sure there wouldn't be enough places for everyone to end up happy if they ALL listened to me and hung in there. But a lot of them don't! So that leaves enough places for those who do.

    That's based on 12 (and 13 as of today/tomorrow!) years' experience with SFUSD enrollment lotteries and the many people I know who've gone through them.

  18. The PPS site that Kate linked to seemed to indicate that the "wait pool" choice was the true "number one" choice of the "new 7" but I have a feeling that the letter we receive will clarify that. It's worth a call into the SFUSD to clarify that if it is not clear from the letter.

  19. I just saw on

    That the 82 percent number, of people who received "one of their choices" actually represents K-12.

    Was there a breakdown of the percentage of K requests that received one of their top 7?

    Given my list and the breakdown of odds, it appears EXTREMELY dire.

    And no, Caroline, I don't have the time or energy to do waitlists and every day calls and all that. If letters and daily calls are what is necessary to get a school of your choice, how does it really differ form the "dark old days" (and from private schools, for that matter)?

    I guess I'll see what the mail holds, and maybe I'll be proven wrong.

    But somehow I doubt it.

    Sign me,
    Unable to make daily calls or even regular calls
    so apparently shut out from the SFUDS system

  20. More budget discussions. Off topic here, but too important to get lost.

    From the March 6 School Beat column in BeyondChron:

    What does this mean for San Francisco? A lot. About $40 million was the estimate provided to a joint committee between the school district and the city. To provide a mental image of just how disastrous that cut would be, consider that that amount was compared to laying off over 500 teachers or increasing class sizes for 4th through 12th graders to 61 students.


    Rainy day fund money for next year? What about the year after? Even with the money the city might kick in, this is just not acceptable.

    Whether you are a public school parent, private school parent, or wannabe to either category, please make some noise about the unacceptable direction budget planning is going.

  21. I am not saying it's necessary to make daily (or every-other-day) calls or that you're "shut out" if you don't. I do think it's a good idea, though. It takes 5 minutes a call for possibly a few weeks.

    That said, I know families who had already gone off to private school and forgotten all about it who have gotten the call even on schools like Clarendon.

    The current system is still far less subject to total domination by assertive, empowered, advantaged parents than the one that was used when we applied for K.

    Specifically? The appeals process then was open to all for any reason, and if you could write a really great letter or find some way at all to make your case, you won. It was an open invitation to the assertive to work whatever angles they could -- often very elaborately and with great resourcefulness and cunning.

    And of course that's completely different from private schools, which have scrutinized you, your child, your family, your income etc. inside and out and made a personal decision based on that thorough assessment.

    At least a low-income, limited-English family that has a phone and can find 5 minutes a day can similarly make the calls I'm suggesting. All I'm saying is that this extra effort at the point of the wait pool can't hurt and may help.

    Good luck, everyone!

  22. I think the percentage quoted is very misleading - as well as being K-12 it also includes siblings ! A true percentage chance of getting one of your seven choices in Kindergarten would include ONLY kinder applicants and exclude all sibling applicants who are applying for already (almost) guaranteed places.
    Anyway, we've decided to keep our weekend stress free and not check our mailbox until we come home from work on Monday.

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  24. Well, this morning we were quite optimistic about getting 1 of our 7 choices (we applied to some popular ones, as well as others that were less popular like Sunset and Lafayette. Our chances were supposedly 98% of getting in to one of the schools). We got our letter this morning and got none of our 7 choices, but instead were assigned to Sheridan (which is nowhere near where we live, in the Parkside). We did not apply to private schools.

    I supposed I was prepared for this possibility, but I can't tell you how stunned and disappointed I feel. I do not know much about Sheridan, other than that it does not have a good reputation. Did anyone out there tour this school?

    We will go to the counseling session this Thursday and be submitting a Round 2 application, but I can't say I feel good about things right now. I have a bit of experience working in public schools and I will not send my son to a school which is unsafe or does not meet certain basic requirements in my mind. I know most outcomes are good in the end, but right now I just feel so powerless! I toured 17 schools this fall and early January, and really made it a part time job to do all of the research. I can't believe it all come to getting none of our 7 choices!

  25. I've been a lurker on this list for a while. So, it's my first post.

    I got my letter and got NONE of my choices, and I'd listed a couple I thought were shoo-ins. I was wrong. I got assigned to Chavez, which is a block away from where I live, but a "no way" option. I often dream of parents like myself locking arms and going into Chavez and making it a great school, but there is just no there there. And I hate the segregated feel of that school, and so many others in the City. Diversity is a must have for me, and that means a nice mix of EVERY race.

    I mean, how is it possible that Chavez, Moscone, and Bryant have virtually no white kids, when the Mission is 38% white? Ok, I said it. Don't hate me. The fact is, I really want a mosaic of different kids, and it's silly that some schools are all one thing or another. I say, bring back affirmative action!!

    I have applied to seven private schools. I've gotten wait-listed so far, and the rest of the news comes this week. I can't really afford private school, as I have a second child coming along which would put me over the edge. And I don't think the privates are much better than the publics, especially at the k-5 level. But I really want to stay in the City. No. Make that I MUST stay in the City. I will do anything.

    But I didn't get a school, and they assigned me to a bad school. So....

    My question to anybody out there is, do you have to go the counseling session in order to submit the Amended 2nd round list? Is there any way to know which schools have openings without going to the sessions?

    Ok. I'm off to return to my state of shock. I honestly think the percentages are way misleading. And I think we must return to neighborhood schools, as this lottery is just too unfair to too many people. I know I may be a sourpuss today. But I'm mad. This lottery is designed to offer options. Great. But I honestly think it would be easier to just move across town to a good neighborhood, as a renter, or live in a teeny dark studio with five people if it means free quality public school, than it is to endure this stupid system. Sorry. My two cents.

    P.S. I hate everything about the idea of moving to Marin. But I'm asking myself, can I go through this hell all the way to September, only to end up with nothing? I have to educate my kids. This is getting scary.

  26. A view from the other side. Yesterday, by coincidence, a dozen or so fifth graders from our school were at the Destination Imagination tournament in San Jose. While we were hanging out at Kelley Park, in the lag time between the competition and the awards ceremony, every few minutes someone's cell phone would ring. "Kayla got Aptos!" Everyone would cheer. A few minutes later "Margaret got James Lick!" more cheers. "Jimmy got Hoover!" more cheers. Kids running around having a great time, all in support of their classmates. So far everyone has gotten their first choice school.

    This is in marked contrast to six years ago when basically NONE of these families got a school at all. They all held their breath and settled for Miraloma, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. And most of those families are still there, and Miraloma has turned out to be one great school. It was a bittersweet day. Happy for all the kids and their excitement, tinged with sadness that this idyllic time is drawing to a close.

    So for those of you unhappily assigned to Junipero Serra, John Muir, Jose Ortega, etc. take a look. You might just discover the next "hidden gem."

    I would also add that for those willing to wait it out, the process really does work.

  27. Hi Girlbird -- most of this conversation is going on on the other post, of course.

    I'm sorry you have to go through this, of course. That said, I'll respond to a couple of minor points:

    ***how is it possible that Chavez, Moscone, and Bryant have virtually no white kids, when the Mission is 38% white?***

    I didn't know that figure for the Mission, though most of the white people I see there are hip young things, probably not parents. But the segregation of Chavez and Bryant (both about 85% Latino) does reflect both parental choice and the fact that they enroll largely neighborhood kids. White families aren't choosing them; Latino families are; and the neighborhood is predominantly Latino.

    Moscone, though, is 55% Latino and 33% Chinese, so it's in a different situation -- and it's quite a high-scoring school, well ahead of some of the popular schools parents on this blog are struggling to get into. I'm not clear how it has become so different from the nearby schools.

    ***I really want a mosaic of different kids, and it's silly that some schools are all one thing or another. I say, bring back affirmative action!!***
    But that's what the much-derided Diversity Index is about, and going further with mandated ethnic mixes (aside from the fact that it was banned in the Ho decision) means taking away parental choice.

    I definitely urge all parents to attend a counseling session. That's where you learn about your option, and also where you see and be seen. IMHO, skipping it causes your chance of getting what you want to plummet.

    ***And I think we must return to neighborhood schools, as this lottery is just too unfair to too many people.***

    What would your neighborhood school be?

  28. Good questions!

    First off, I have to proudly say the Chavez would be the neighborhood school! And that would be great if all the neighborhood kids knew they'd get to go. If next year's class looked like our park at 23rd and Folsom, we'd all be overjoyed. What a great mix.

    To answer your other question, there are tons of white kids in my neighborhood, along with lots of latin, african american and asian kids too. Lots and lots of mixed. All the nursery schools and preschools in our neighborhood are (unfortunately) most all white. So again, why does Chavez have mostly Latin. I am flummoxed as to why this is. I do know that parents seldom "chose" Chavez.

    And btw, I put Moscone as one of my choices, and I didn't get in. It's a great school because they have uniforms, the teachers are real masters, and the parents care. I think it comes down to teachers and principles. I don't hear anything special about the teachers and principles at Chavez, but I'm sure they're fine.

    Today at the park, all the neighborhood parents were actively talking about their situations, and NOBODY got a single choice school. Some got assigned to strange far off places. Strange. One parent got Clarendon of all places, and she said it hadn't been on her list. We all had fun with that one.

    Finally, I liked the old policy where no one group could make up more than 45% of the school.

    I am a newbie to public schools, so forgive me for my ignorance. I'm just talking gut instinct here.

    I am happy to hear that if I stick with it, I will get an acceptable school. I sure hope so.

    Does anybody know if you can get the list of available schools without going to the counseling sessions? I have work out of town this whole week and won't be able to attend. I am heartsick at that. I really wanted to go the sessions. I honestly didn't think I'd be in this situation. I thought for sure I'd get one of my seven choices.

    My fallback two schools were Harvey Milk and Moscone. Little did I know.

  29. To girlbird--
    You are wrong that people do not choose Chavez! It's actually among the MOST popular schools among the Latino community because they feel a strong sense of community there! Former principal, Lance Tagamori (now principal at Paul Revere) started language classes for adults which became a huge draw and really started increasing demand from the neighboring community. I know of several Latino families who WANTED it and couldn't get in.

    It's all in you perspective - but please don't call it a 'bad' school. You are wrong.

  30. ^^Thanks!!