Monday, March 17, 2008

K Files Council: private or public?

We applied to only one private boys school. We were not expecting to get in but then we received an acceptance letter on
Friday. We are a middle-class family and we have been offered tuition assistance at the private school.

For the public schools, we got our first choice, Sherman, which we already enrolled in last week.

We like both schools. We want to make the best decision possible but we're totally unsure which way to go.

I would really appreciate any comments.


  1. congrats on getting into both schools. that's great.

    i would choose sherman because bearing the financial burden of private education for many years will doubtless cause stress, and the greatest gift we can give our kids is our own time and attention. this is best achieved by keeping life as simple as possible, destressing and not having to worry or work as hard.

    my two cents.

  2. I agree. I don't know Sherman, but as it was your first choice, you must have liked it a fair bit. Your child can get an excellent education in a San Francisco public school! Try to put fear aside when making your decision. Congratulations for having two good options.

  3. With the public school budget cuts it's very difficult to deny the temptation of private. Tuition assistance is 'free' money. Your child would be getting the same education as those paying full price which says if youre a family that deems education a priority. Given your financial situation doesn't change - the likeliness of getting that same amount of tuition assistance, give or take inflation, would be about the same. At the end of the night, which would you choose with NO REGRETS looking back?

  4. My guess is that the one boys school applied to is Town. I cant imagine you would only apply to Stuart Hall or Cathedral unless there was a religious reason.
    I think it depends on your financial situation after the financial aide. If it will still put too much of a strain go with your first choice public. If not Town is a great school and should be very tempting.
    Your son will make friends with a very different crowd at Town for better or for worse. If your son is bright, athletic and competitive he will fit right in. In 6th grade he will start midweekly 'dances' with girls from Burkes, Hamlin, etc who I'm sure will be very different from girls at Sherman. It is your decision to make but one that will shape your son in different ways.

  5. It really depends on the school and on your son. When we were considering schools we looked at both Town and Cathedral. I really had a very strong reaction to Town as the wrong place for our son and didn't apply there. Cathedral, on the other hand, seemed like a great place for him, and if he had been accepteed I happily would have sent him there no matter what.

    He didn't get into the Cathedral and is now happily settled in first grade at a different school.

    I tell this story to illustrate two things: 1) there's no right answer for everyone because it depends on your kid and your family, and how you all mesh with the school and 2) even if you don't end up at the school you dreamed about, things will work out.

  6. Go with the private. You have the aid and it goes up to 8th grade. The only downside is your son will be well aware of how much more the other families have. This is hard for alot of kids and can have an impact. Try it, you can always switch to public if you find it was not the right decision.

  7. In the end, you have to choose what is best for your child, and your family. If you really feel that your child will fit equally well into either school, then my advice would be to choose public school.

    Add up the amount of money you will have to pay in tuition after your financial aid; don't forget to add in the "voluntary" contribution that every family is required to make at most private schools; the cost of any materials you will be expected to purchase which are not included in tuition (uniforms? musical instrument?); the cost of school meals over what meals at public school cost, if your child will be eating in the cafeteria; etc. Multiply by 9 to get the extra cost for attending just this school, and then figure on private high school as well, because I think you will find that coming from a private K-8, there is enormous pressure to continue on in private at the high school level, when the stakes seem so much higher. No guarantee of financial aid there, either.

    Add it all up and see if you think you can also put aside money for private college (a Berkeley education may not look so attractive after 13 years of private school....) and think about whether this is something you can handle.

  8. I would go with the public. Save your private school dollars for travel, and college, and retirement, (and middle school and/or High School!) Sherman seems like a very good school to me (my parents used to live right beside it) and I think having your child mix with kids of so many different racial, cultural and economic (In fact, I have heard that when admissions people are trying to differentiate candidates for hard to get into high schools and universities, that the kid who excelled in an urban school often has a better chance, just by bringing a different sensibility - that of having interacted among so many different kinds of kids, unlike the more homogenous student bodies of most privates.)

    When I used to spend the night at my parents' house next to Sherman I would awake to the schoolyard gathering that used to be held every monring (I think other neighbors complained so I don't think it's outside anymore). I could hear the principal leading the children in a wonderfully encouraging call and response. I can't remember exactly what she said now, although it used to make me tear up it was so inspiring. Like "I will try my hardest to learn and grow" and the kids would repeat, then "I will be kind and considerate to others" etc. It was fabulous. Also, my Dad once told me that the principal would start the day by saying good morning in every language that was spoken by a child in the school - something like 25 languages.

    good luck

  9. Those choosing public school to avoid money-induced self-esteem issues are really saying that they are okay with low self esteem, as long as it does not belong to their kid: Better to be rich among the free lunch crowd than to be poor among silver spoons...

  10. I can't think of two more wildly different educations than what you're choosing between. Nor can I imagine more good fortune than has been bestowed upon you. (In fact, I wonder if this is even a real question, or just public/private troll bait.) Good luck with your decision. By the way, Berkeley is an excellent school.

  11. Lucky you to have such a choice! Whatever you do, you will probably have doubts about at some time, so really go with whatever feels best for you and your family.

    Bear in mind that in private schools, the class size stays low through all the grades, unlike in most public schools. Also most private schools have a teacher and assistant teacher in each class, at least in the lower grades.

    Also, as many of the PTAs at public schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, I can only assume there's a certain amount of pressure there too.

  12. If you really think that the money you don't spend on private school will be saved for college, great.

    But be aware that a government-run education will need to be supplemented to make up for its shortfall of resources.

  13. We were also fortunate enough to get Sherman as our first choice of publics, and are waitlisted at a private girls school. One thing I haven't seen discussed re: public vs private is that the privates are K-8, while Sherman, for example, is K-5. The K-8 aspect of the privates is a very comforting thing versus having to find another school in 6 years.

    Does one find a public middle school at that point, or apply to private at that point? There must good public middle schools?

    Any opinions?

  14. >Better to be rich among the free lunch crowd than to be poor among silver spoons...<

    It doesn't feel this way to us at our small public school, because there is an entirely different ethos. There is so much diversity and a strong feeling of pitching in and doing what one can rather than angst about who has money and who doesn't. We all know that some do not have money, some do not have time, and we are grateful for those who do have one or both and a willingness to contribute. The annual auction always contains handmade items from some of the not-monied immigrant communities, and these items usually sell well.

    The kids seem to have a lot of appreciation for everyone's contributions, whether it is parents on field trips or in the classroom, or reading aloud in either language (we are in immersion). I have seen a lot of effort to accomodate family differences at events, birthday parties, making sure kids with no cars are provided rides home from afterschool activities, and so forth. We are aware of and try to be sensitive to the range of situations.

    Whatever. The experience of classism is a real concern at private schools, or should be, and it's hard to see why an honest attempt to build cross-class/race communities as happens in the public schools should be denigrated. These things are never perfect, and schools obviously cannot solve the inequities of our society, but I do not understand why some private school boosters feel they must put down the public school parents like this. At least we are trying on that issue. None of this is not to say that privates do not have something to offer too, because they do, but there is no doubt in my mind the publics in general do better in this area of social values.

    10:14, my children have never had more than 22 kids in a class, including in the upper grades. The PTA has paid for class size reduction since we have been there. Further on, James Lick, an up-and-coming middle school, has a new grant to keep class size to 25 starting next year.

    10:17, ANY education whether public or private should be supplemented by parents. Parents provide the best education anyway, and kids need TIME with their parents more than anything else. That's my biggest reason for going public, because my lower stress job affords me more time with my kids. I also take a portion of the money I'd be straining to spend on private and use it for an annual family trip that includes some educational aspects, plus a few specially chosen extra-curriculars throughout the year, and books and board games (we also use our library cards) for our house.

    10:51, yes yes yes! We were very pleasantly surprised by the middle schools in SFUSD and had no trouble finding seven programs to list (helped that we could apply to the immersion programs). Presidio and AP Giannini are structured and quiet and academic, feeder schools to Lowell and Lincoln basically. Hoover is also in the long-term "top 3." But now Aptos has arrived, and now even James Lick also warrants a look.

    You want full orchestra, which includes a 50-minute period of string instrument instruction every day (yes, every day) for your kid? There it is at AP Giannini and Hoover and Aptos. Great drama at Presidio, studio art and jazz band at Aptos, Blue Bear rock band and studio art at Lick. (They all have a range of art programs, but they are structured differently at each school.)

    Academically, there are Honors programs at Presidio, AP, Hoover, and Aptos that function like a private school within the school in terms of the mix of kids and their academic achievement (GATE, test scores, etc.). Alternatively, James Lick has the Spanish immersion with differentiated instruction, and is a smaller school. James Lick also offers annual trips to Costa Rica or Mexico, plus Ashland, OR for the Shakespeare. And Lick now has 826 Valencia on site to teach writing to all the kids! Lick and Aptos also have full-time librarians, and the others have staffed libraries--not sure of the hours. We hear rave reviews of the teachers at Aptos and especially Lick, and I observed some wonderful teaching over at AP Giannini.

    All the schools have the full range of sports teams: baseball, softball, volleyball, track, soccer, basketball, and PE every day.

    They also all have afterschool programs on site.

    The other bonus of middle school is that it seems relatively easy to get into your top choice. We don't know anyone who didn't get their first choice this year, though I hear tell some got their #2 pick. It's a different world at that level.

    Furthermore, all of the parents we've talked with report being very happy with their middle school choices, and their kids seem remarkably poised and articulate and together (especially for a bunch of young teens). But ask me again in a year and I'll have more to say directly about the experience.

  15. I think it depends how much you like the private for your son and how you feel about financing the remainder after the tuition assistance. I fell in love with Cathedral but we didn't get in and don't know much at all about Stuart & Town because we didn't look at them. If you really like the private school, go for it (and be sure to tell Sherman you won't be taking the slot there). There is a lot of movement so if it isn't a good match after a year or so, the upper elementary grades in public are much easier to get into than kindergarten. I know one boy who went from Sherman to Cathedral in the 5th grade so the flow can go both ways.

  16. I'm refraining from general commentaries on private vs. public at this point, so just to respond to a few points (adding to responses in some cases):

    "a [UC] Berkeley education may not look so attractive after 13 years of private school...."

    The status distinctions between public and private blur at the higher-education level, except for Ivies, in their own prestige pantheon. The top UCs (UCLA, Berkeley, Davis) are in frenzied demand by applicants from private K-12 as much as public.

    "As many of the PTAs at public schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, I can only assume there's a certain amount of pressure there too."

    In SFUSD, I wouldn't say MANY are at that level; there are some school PTAs/parent groups that raise six figures. There is a lot of pressure NOT to pressure, though -- it's extremely un-PC, and there's always someone eagle-eyed (that person was me in a situation this very day) making sure the solicitations don't embarrass anyone who can't afford to donate. So it's not comparable to the mandatory donations at private schools, let alone tuition.

    "be aware that a government-run education will need to be supplemented to make up for its shortfall of resources."

    As noted, this is often true at public OR private school. I have friends whose private schools have REQUIRED them to get private tutoring, at their own expense. My big expense has been private music lessons, but my kids got more music instruction for free in their public schools than they would have in any privates I know of in San Francisco. I would have been paying for the private lessons in either case.

    "Does one find a public middle school at that point, or apply to private at that point? There must good public middle schools?"

    I echo the comments of a previous well-informed poster. My kids got a stellar education in the honors program at Aptos Middle School (SFUSD).

  17. How many bloggers here would give an arm and a leg to have Sherman as a viable option? Knowing nothing about your child's background, the only difference I see between Sherman and the private school is the shear cost. If I were you, I'd save the dough for future educational endeavors and attend Sherman. It is a tremendous school with a courageous principal who is always child-centered.

  18. ....(In fact, I wonder if this is even a real question, or just public/private troll bait.) ...

    No. We are having the same debate in our household. We have two choices, immersion spanish at our local public or one of the more expensive private schools.

    The decision would be so easy for us to make if not for the budget crisis and the 500 pink slips issued to SFUSD teachers last week. That is at the forefront of our thoughts tonight.

  19. I have an acquaintance with 4 sons. She sends them to Sherman for elementary school and Cathedral, an all boys school, for middle school.

  20. I was thinking about this thread. I think it TOTALLY depends on the kid. My daughter I feel like I could plop anywhere - she is so well adjusted and easy going. She would do great at any public school or any private school, so for her the choice would likely be public. My son is a different story, more particular. I think he would thrive better in private school - but then again, it depends on which. I hear that a Cathedral would be better for him then some others.

    So I think that none of us can give you an answer. You should look at your finances, your child, your comfort zone and then go with your gut. What do we know anyway?

  21. Go with the private, especially if the assistance makes it possible. You cannot compare public with private, unless the public you got into was one of the top five, and Sherman is not that. Sherman is great, but it's not Town. It's not Stuart Hall.

    I am a big believer in public education, but unfortunately, this is not the best of Marin, this is not the best of Oakland, this is not Massachusettes, etc. Sherman is not in that league.

    I say this because you have the choice. If you didn't have the choice, Sherman would be fine.

    Like if I had the choice between a Mercedes and a Saturn, I would take the Mercedes of course. If I didn't have the choice, I'd take the Saturn and it would be perfectly fine. It's a car.

    You have the choice, which makes this a different discussion. Sherman is fine, but there is no way that Sherman would be "better" than private.

    Just like if you had the choice between Clarendon and some z-list public. There are differences and I would pick the best I could.

  22. Clarendon is a wonderful school, no doubt about that. But, the notion that there are "five top schools in San Francisco" is hopelessly outdated!

    I wonder if the poster has actually seen ANY SF public schools lately?

    However, for some children, a private school might really be better. And, some children will thrive in public school.

    I would echo previous posters. Look at your own child's temperament, and your finances and comfort level in both communities.

  23. No, my opinon is not outdated at all! I toured a dozen public schools, have given money and time to arts programs at my local under-performing public in the Mission for 15 years, where I live, and I think the public schools in this City can be great. But MOST public schools in SF are simply below-par, especially if you are comparing them to privates, and we all know that.

    At best the choice to send a child to a public when a private is available, is an admirable political social decision.

    I went 0/7 in the public lottery and would send my kid to a public in a split second if I could get one of the ones I wanted. I went 0/7 in the private schools, was waitlisted at two, and lucked out yesterday and got a slot at my first choice private.

    I will still be entering the public amended round two. If I can get an acceptable public school, I will attend there because of financial concerns. But if financial concerns weren't an issue, I would go private. The original poster said that she'd been offered financial help.

    I don't want to move to Marin. I don't want to move to suburban MA, or NJ, or wherever. The public schools are amazing in those places.

    But if I can't get into a public like Clarendon, Miraloma, Flynn, Buena Vista, West Portal, McKinley, Rooftop, etc., then my kid is going to private.

    And I will continue to support the public schools.

    YES, the SF schools are getting better. But we are a long way. And it's amazing that a city as great as San Francisco can't provide 50 amazing schools instead of 5 or 10.


    I'll say something I might get into trouble with. I live in the Mission because I love the diversity. I want my kids to attend diverse schools. The ideal public school would have about 30% each of white, latin and asian, with the remaining a beautiful mosaic of something else. There are only a few schools in SF that fit this ideal. It's hard for me as a parent to send my kid to a school where the populations are so imbalanced.

    And by the way, my private school is parochial, not one of the $25000 jobbers.

  24. Schools costing 20 - 25 thousand per year have that price tag because that is the amount it costs to provide education in this day and age (teacher salaries, materials, building costs, etc). It's not as though the private schools are turning a profit or something.

  25. The ideal public school would have about 30% each of white, latin and asian, with the remaining a beautiful mosaic of something else.

    Not enough school-age white people to go around with those numbers. 9% = 1 per class. This is the problem that people here are having! They must clump to achieve THEIR ideal picture of diversity, which DOES NOT reflect San Francisco's children.

  26. As far as what it costs to fund a decent education, just do some simple math: Public schools have $8,000 per kid. Make a list of what your public school needs (reduced class size? art? PE? music? books? classroom aides? teacher training? upgraded facilities?) and see if the shortfall doesn't come out to $12,000 per kid!

  27. It's a great dilemma to have because either way you go, I'm sure your child will receive a wonderful education. Still, it's a tough decision.

    We also found ourselves in a similar position. We too received our first choice public school (McKinley) as well as the one private school we applied to (Synergy).

    My husband and I both agonized which school we'll send our daughter to because we really love both schools. Both are close to our house, has a community feel, involved parents, friendly kids, caring staff, language enrichment, diversity (though McKinley had more obviously), and a small student body. We applied for financial assistance for Synergy, but got rejected. In the end, it boiled down to the money issue. We both are self-employed and already have a mortgage, so tacking on private school and additional after school care would be too much of a financial strain.

    So yesterday we went over to Synergy and politely declined their offer. It is highly possible that we may apply for our daughter to attend there when she reaches middle school age, which I think private school may be more advantageous during those years.

    Come fall, our daughter will be in Kindergarten at McKinley. We can even walk there!

    With $13k freed up now, we can afford to do things that would not be possible for us if we chose the private school route. We can sign our daughter up for extracurricular activities, travel, we can donate money to our public school and help our community, and of course save up for our daughter's college education.

    I understand the turmoil of public vs. private. I faced a lot of guilt from friends and family for even considering private because they simply couldn't understand why I would want to pay so much for elementary education. But you know, we're in the Bay Area. People here spend a million dollars on a house you can get for $100k elsewhere in the states. Is that any less crazy than spending money for a child's private school education?

    Like others have said, it's a personal matter. You have to do what feels right for your family. In the end, though there may be some regrets either way, you have to feel good about your decision. Best of luck to you!

  28. I think 10:04's reasons for choosing McKinley are sound. I hope I can get McKinley in the second round. If I do, just as you did, I will free up another slot in a private school.

    The original poster presented a choice of going to a good public school, Sherman vs going to a top private school on financial aid. Assuming the money issue was moot, then a top private would be better. Introduce money into the equation, and it's a different issue.

    I think that if anything is worth paying for, it's a private education. I have no judgment against somebody who wants to put their money there instead of buying something else.

    What are the moral arguments for families such as ours, who chose to take space in a public, when we could afford space in a private? That might be a good thread...

  29. Im torn about the whole concept of sending my child to private now or savign money for private later.

    I'm sure this will be unpopular but I think the SF public middle and high-schools are at a serious disadvantage to private schools or public in the Burbs. There are a few good ones but for the most part schools on avergae are underachieving. Furthermore when we compare California public education to other states the real problem presents itself. Our great schools are probably avergae when compared to all US public schools.

    Here is my dillema.. I strongly believe kids develop when they are young. By the time my kid is 12 and ready for 6th grade the game is over. If I want my child to have a passion for education and a personality that thrives on meeting high expectations then I need to introduce that now.

    In my mind privates offer more than what $$ pays for in extra activities. Privates offer an enriched enviornment. Where my kid not only gets well funded education but also is surrounded by kids who are achieving and participating at school in those enrcihed activities. My kid will do dance, drama, art, music, sports, outdoor trips, etc ...... with her actual classmates.. therefore building an enviorment with high expectations, high participation, and competition for positive attention.

    Public schools are under funded and dont offer the same level of community enriched learning. Also at some point as kids start getting older they find that most attention is on negative behaviour. And that negative behaviour is coming from their peers. This isnt a positive building block in my opinion..

    So where should the money be spent?

  30. I assume that the deadline has passed -- what did you decide?

  31. On the points raised by anon at 10:53, I have to agree that I'm not totally buying the argument that extracurriculars can make up for the difference between what's offered in public and private. With so much emphasis on testing in some public schools there's not much room left for other learning - and my concern is that this is not optimal for kids to develop a love of learning and positive feelings about school. Also, having the "extras" built into the school day opens up greater possibilities for integrated learning.

  32. Just noting in response to Anonymous 10:53 that my kids have had all these for no tuition in SFUSD schools:

    My kid will do dance, drama, art, music, sports, outdoor trips, etc ...... with her actual classmates.. therefore building an enviorment with high expectations, high participation, and competition for positive attention.

  33. This might be off topic, but another issue about privates, money, emotional, social, etc. is, what kind of private?

    There are the crazy expensive privates, like Hamlin, French American, Katherine Burke, Town, Presidio Hill, etc. $20K to $30K. Top schools. Then there are also some amazing parochial schools like St. Brendans and Notre Dame des Victoires. Around $6-7K. But these two are also top schools. Asking a family to pay $600 per month isn't such a bad deal. It's a car payment. (For most middle class SF dwellers, I disrespect intended for the ones who can't afford that.)

    Huge difference. $2K per month. Or $600.

    My friend sent her child to French American and after several years, saw the awful effect the pressure it was having. Many of those schools are indeed difficult social settings. She moved the child to Notre Dame des Victoires, and the education there, she said, is much better, in her mind. The child is thriving.

    This is San Francisco, so the religious element is consistent with our city's values, it's not far-flung right wing or anything. And I've heard many people say the best education in town is at either one of the parochial schools I named.

    While I do want to send my child to a public school, I went 0/7, and I feel blessed that I got a spot at NDV. I turned down another top girls school for NDV. I'm happy with the decision.

    I'm surprised NDV and St. Brendan's haven't gotten more chatter on this blog. They are really super.

  34. Caroline,

    I have seen many posts by you throughout this Blog. You have very good points and observations that you have shared along the way.

    Could you expand your perspective in the last post you made. Are you really saying that your kids public schools have the same level of enrichment and community as say Hamlin or Burkes?? I find this really hard to imagine just from the shear funding difference not to mention what I saw on my own tours of schools.

    I dont argue that public schools cant offer a good balanced education. I just find it very hard to believe they offer the same enriched experience as a Hamlin or Burkes...

    Given your knowledge of public school funding and in how California schools compare to other states as a whole where do you pull such confidence that your kids are well educated?

  35. Thank you for the post about parochial schools. I too am surprised that there has not been too much discussion about parochial schools on this blog. Given that parochial schools generally do not have the same building/rent/mortgage costs that privates have in SF, I am not surprised that they are able to offer a high quality education at a much lower cost. My daughter is being raised jewish, and even though I understand that many are not heavily religious, parochial schools are not an option for our family. Is anyone aware of lower cost jewish schools (Brandeis Hillel Day School is very expensive).

  36. May I suggest that if you are at all tempted by public education to follow through with it? Why? Because that is what is best for everyone. Everyone benefits when motivated, involved parents send their children to public school. Everyone.

  37. This is a really interesting dilemma--I wish we had it. Our son has told us he would love a boy's school, and not that we'd take a five-year-old's judgment over our own, but we'd love to send him because we think they would cope with his learning style extremely well. Unfortunately we felt it was financially impossible so we did not even try. We're being forced out of our current private that we love for financial reasons. We went 0/7 in Round 1, are frantically trying to visit schools by Friday for round 2, and regretting that we only applied to one parochial, NDV, which did not accept our son.

    If money were no object, I'd choose the private hands down. You have no worries about finding another school for 9 years (I could probably have paid 2 years' private tuition with all the work I've missed on the public school process). You have no worries about public school budget cuts. You'll have small classes all the way through, and if your child thrives with a lot of attention as mine does, that's a real bonus. If your child is confident, money disparity between your family and other families at the school should not be an issue (our relatively low financial status was never an issue for our somewhat under-confident daughter at Convent). BUT if you're worried that your financial aid package is not comfortable or may not be renewed (it does generally require an annual application), that's a significant consideration. If you are forced out of private school for money reasons or find you don't like it, you may not get as good an assignment as Sherman the next time around.

    Another consideration is whether private is more important at the elementary or high school level. There's arguments on both sides. The early years are critical in terms of laying the basic skills foundations. The high school years are critical because they're the college preparation time and that's when peer pressure sets in. If I had to choose between public elementary school and public high school (assuming I had that choice at all), I'd be inclined to go with private high school. The greatest academic foundation can be lost with "the wrong crowd" in a high school where some kids are on an academic track and others are not. A small private school should provide excellent one-on-one college counseling, high-level academics, and lots of mentoring. As a parent, I can monitor and supplement my child's elementary school work at home, but by high school, the math and science would be beyond me.

    I agree that less stress and more time a wonderful gift we can provide for our children, but at the same time, the thing my parents did for me that I value the most was my private education, and we did without other things, like vacations, to pay for it. Before I had kids, the fine education that my parents provided gave me the intellectual foundation and earning capacity as an adult to travel and live a very culturally rich life. That's one person's perspective, but you know your child, your family and your values and I would encourage you to trust your own instincts.

    Also, as a sort of aside, an east coast friend (her kids are grown) said she thought that California public schools were lousy, but the California privates weren't much better. Not that test scores tell everything (or even much) but I think it might be that says how children do state-by-state on national skills tests. California's kids are pretty low on the totem pole, as befits our position as a state that spends almost the lowest amount per child in the U.S. on education. The message of those scores is that if you want reliable public schools, go east.

  38. To Anon post from 2:12. I completely agree with you that there is lack of discussions regarding the parachoial schools. St. Cecelia is also top notch - a bit smaller class size than St. Brendans and offers 2 classes per grade. That seems to really pull in the families with twins as they can split up their twins in the classes after kindergarten. They are also one of the main feeder schools into St. Ignatius and tuition with full time afterschool care is less than $700/month for one child. Major draw back is no foreign language program.

    In fact when I went through the school evaluation process a few years back it was next to impossible to find any forum or blog that discussed the parochial schools - Its either high end privates or public.

    Thanks for your comments!

  39. "Also, as a sort of aside, an east coast friend (her kids are grown) said she thought that California public schools were lousy, but the California privates weren't much better."

    Is she a new yorker? New yorkers feel any private elementary outside of NY isnt as good and there is some truth to this. There is nothing comparable in prestige to spence, brearley, collegiate, dalton, chapin, st bernards, buckley, trinity, horace mann, riverdale, ethical-fieldston, nightingale, etc. outside of NYC.

    Is she a new englander? Then she must be talking about high schools. It tough to compete in name recognition with exeter, andover, choate, deefield, groton, hotchkiss, etc.
    However we've been there and if you take away international prestige and name recognition the local privates are just as excellent in my opinion.

  40. Anon asked me:

    Are you really saying that your kids public schools have the same level of enrichment and community as say Hamlin or Burkes??
    Regarding enrichment -- I honestly can't say how the quantities compare, but my kids have had all the opportunities that particular poster listed -- sports and the full spectrum of arts.

    Both my kids are most involved in instrumental music. They started with the weekly instrumental classes in SFUSD grades 4-5 (this is a pullout option in every district school). In middle school they had daily band as their elective, part of the curriculum. (Their middle school has free loaner instruments). Along the way we started paying for private lessons too. I don't know if any private schools have as much music as they got in their public schools; I'm assuming I'd have paid for private lessons if they'd been in private school too. My kids' cousin, an Adda Clevenger (performing arts private school) student (about 7th grade at the time), asked my trombonist daughter, "Which one is a trombone again?" Not a lot of exposure/enrichment there for a performing arts school.

    Right now my son is most of the way through a three-week run of "Beauty and the Beast," the spectacular musical production at his high school, SOTA. He is playing in the pit orchestra, either first trumpet or, when there's an additional trumpet player available, flugelhorn on the second French horn part (it's a score heavy on French horn and there's only one actual French horn player available). We're kind of living and breathing that production right now. We don't feel too deprived of enrichment. (Last three shows this weekend -- tickets and info )

    Sense of community? I also don't know how to compare. We know families in many SFUSD schools who have crossed paths with ours in one school or another. Maybe that's the case in private school too -- though didn't someone just mention a lot of "have your nanny call our nanny to set up a playdate?" in those high-end schools? We certainly don't feel any lack of sense of community. Three separate friends who are not SOTA families called to say they're going to "Beauty and the Beast" this weekend and ask if we'd be at any of ths shows. I'm coordinating the cast/crew dinner between the Saturday matinee and evening shows (a parent -provided potluck), with my 8th-grader helping. My husband is working the concession and selling raffle tickets at the Friday and Saturday evening shows.

    And in response to:

    "Given your knowledge of public school funding and in how California schools compare to other states as a whole where do you pull such confidence that your kids are well educated?"

    Well, I have numbers. I'll share some since you ask.

    My son is a junior. His SAT: 2300 (that's 99th percentile.) His ACT composite score: 34 (also 99th percentile). He refused to take any SAT or ACT prep courses, BTW -- he thinks they're corrupt because they give an advantage to the wealthy. He passed the California High School Exit Exam in 10th grade with a perfect score (it's easy, so that's no big). He has only taken one AP test so far, in music theory -- scores: Two 5s and a 4. He has two more coming up, so we'll see, and hasn't taken SAT subject tests yet.

    Both kids' scores on the California Standards Tests are in the advanced category in all subjects. I don't know enough to know how to use that to compare to private schools, but my son's scores are pretty definitive. Yeah, he's smart, but you can't exactly tell me he'd do better if we had spent $300,000 on his K-11 education (so far).

    So what is it you think you're getting for those hundreds of thousands of dollars again?

  41. Sorry; I know it was snotty to post all those scores. But I was asked.

  42. So what is it you think you're getting for those hundreds of thousands of dollars again?

    Well obviously not the smug feeling that you have.

  43. Caroline-

    FYI, most private schools have twice-weekly music classes starting in K for kids. Your kid doesn't have to wait until 4th grade to start getting to enjoy music during the school day.

  44. I was responding to a sharp challenge, if indeed I WAS smug (to paraphrase Elizabeth Bennet). I didn't make that little speech until I was prodded to do so.

    My music lessons are better than your music lessons? That I don't know. My kids' elementary school, Lakeshore, had chorus and other arts options as part of its cafeteria menu of enrichments, at all grades. I can't say about other SFUSD schools, except for the weekly instrumental music in 4-5. But my point is that they had ample music, and we supplemented it with private lessons as we would have if they'd been in private school.

    I guess I should clarify that my son attends (and my daughter will start) SOTA, to which there is no comparable private school in the Bay Area, which is why many kids apply to it from private K-8s.

  45. Caroline has every right to feel proud. Her son is extremely accomplished! What a success story! Please be reminded that she was asked a direct question.

  46. Thanks, Anon. I do feel like I was asked a direct question, in a challenging tone, and then was insulted when I answered it.

  47. You're right Caroline, smug wasn't the right word. Defensive was what I was looking for.

  48. We got 0 out of 7 of our public school applications, and were waitlisted at all three of our private school applications. We got in today to one private school (CAIS) which were are really excited about, but are struggling with whether to just commit psychologically to that school, or continue with the painful public school lottery process. A sense of closure would be awfully nice, but so would saving $20K a year.

  49. I am glad about the parochial thread, too.

    My daughter will be attending Notre Dame des Victoires next year and I couldn't be happier. It was my top choice over the other far more expensive schools.

    The principal has an iron fist, is quite eloquent, she runs the place like clockwork, the facilities are amazing and "look" like a school. The teachers get to teach, they all seem to be professional and loved by the kids. Not a bum one among them. The setting is really great, the kids look happy and well groomed in their uniforms, the discipline is great, there aren't any bullies, the kids form extremely close bonds, the academics are top notch, and they teach French. I love French. Whatever happened to French?? With NDC, there is history there.

    Most important, the kindergarten teacher is a legend. She's a gift. I just hope she'll be around when my son follows in a few years.

    There are several gay families, some real diversity, several non catholic families, jewish families, etc. I fell in love with NDV.

    I was willing to pay the big bucks for the other schools, but I never felt the sense of community I felt at NDV. I've been going to events because a friend sends her kids there, and it's the community I've looked for in this City.

    The kids who gave the tour were so down to earth and kind. The kids who gave the tours at the more expensive schools were aloof and smug. I know, I know, it's the luck of the draw. But still.

    I felt I was seeing the best school in San Francisco.

    I also felt the same thing at Clarendon. Go figure.

    Sometimes I wonder: does anybody ever get into Clarendon? I never meet them. Is it an urban legend?

  50. I actually don't see what I have to be defensive about. I was pressed to explain how I know that my kids are getting a good education in SFUSD schools, and I answered.

    It's obviously anyone's right to spend $20,000 a year per kid on school if they want. I'm just telling you that it's not necessary, and backing it up.

  51. anon 9:56pm -- we are in the same position (different public school though). we thought we might be able to put down on a deposit to hold our spot and take the chance of forfeiting it if and when we get the public we want. but this private makes you liable for the FULL tuition if you withdraw after may 1. so we will proceed with round 2 but if we don't get what we want, we will have to go private because we can't take the chance that september will roll around and we won't have anywhere to go (the assigned school is not an option). it's sad -- we want to go public but they have made it so darn hard on us!

  52. So what is it you think you're getting for those hundreds of thousands of dollars again?

    caroline, this is the only part of your post that i found objectionable which up until that point, merely stated the facts. perhaps i am misreading this comment, but it seems like you are mocking the people who do opt for private, as though they are fools and are throwing their money away.

  53. Sorry, Anon at 10:09 -- you're right. I apologize. That was snotty of me.

    I was reacting to the long series of posts that seemed to assume that vast superiority over public schools was just a given. Even the post retorting that private-school kids get more music lessons than public -- well, for $20K/year vs. free, I would expect that.

    And, as you can see, my detailed response was to a skeptical question asking if my kids were REALLY getting a good education in SFUSD.

    In my opinion, observation and experience, the difference is in the trappings and extras, but not the substance.

  54. we are fortunate enough to have the same dilemma, and we have now registered at both schools and will endeavor to make a final decision in a few months' time when we are a in a better position to see whether our september-born boy is 'ready' for K at our great neighborhood public school, or seems like he'd best attend the great independent pre-K program he got into. we are of course grateful to have such choices to make, but finding the decision really difficult -- his preschool teachers advocate waiting a year, but it seems profoundly unlikely we'll have such options again.

  55. How much more information will you really have in a few months' time that it's necessary to hold 2 desirable school spots and wait to release one until it means that someone is scrambling to decide whether they want to fill a late-opening position? Go with your gut. Chances are that your son will thrive either way.

  56. Yes. Please don't hold two spots. I was on the verge of signing a lease on a rental in marin when the phone call came giving me a spot in the private I'd wanted.

    People are making plans to change their lives. If you hold a spot, people aren't able to do what they need to do. Do you really want a family leaving san francisco, or settling for a public school they didn't want, because you were greedy and held a spot?

    I don't mean greedy in a bad way. But people are scrambling out there. It just doesn't seem fair.

  57. St. Brendans and NDV are great, but small and hard to get in to, especially if you are not Catholic!

  58. we are fortunate enough to have the same dilemma, and we have now registered at both schools and will endeavor to make a final decision in a few months' time when we are a in a better position to see whether our september-born boy is 'ready' for K at our great neighborhood public school, or seems like he'd best attend the great independent pre-K program he got into. we are of course grateful to have such choices to make, but finding the decision really difficult -- his preschool teachers advocate waiting a year, but it seems profoundly unlikely we'll have such options again.

    this infuriates me. while it's certainly your right to be indecisive and selfish, please keep it to yourself -- most of the people on this board have NO spots.

  59. To the person who asked where my East Coast friend who thinks both public and private school in California are not very good: I believe she grew up in Connecticut, and she was saying California schools, public or private, do not stack up well compared to East Coast schools, public or private. Her kids went to CA public school because she and her husband did not think the privates out here were "better" enough to justify the expense and she was not about to ship them off to boarding school in the east, though she & her husband are quite high income. (Their daughter went so far off track at Berkeley High that I think they may now regret that decision, though their son did just fine.) She's a very fair and analytical person and was certainly not comparing legendary NY and New England prep schools to the average California public school.

  60. Quote: this infuriates me. while it's certainly your right to be indecisive and selfish, please keep it to yourself -- most of the people on this board have NO spots.

    It shouldn't be any parents' faults that you are infuriated. It is the lottery system's fault. Some people have choices to make and others don't. The system is: round 1, round 2, and waitlists. The private school system is accept, waitlist, or reject - some people getting nothing, some people getting multiple accepts, some people getting waitlisted.

    I've just talked to some parents that said kids were coming and going in their school's kindergarten class up until DECEMBER last year. You do have a right to be infuriated for process, if you feel you need a school right now rather than later. But direct your ill feelings toward this system that strings out school placements for half a year (or more!).

    That said, we are also fortunate enough to have a choice. And we are going to make one before round 2, in consideration of other families. We know a lot of families that went 0/7 and yes, they are totally stressed out and angry. How do I feel about that? Guilty of course. And, fairly helpless for them. I have only one spot to turn over to one (random and unknown) family and I know something like 10 that need them.

    We were trying to be smart and strategic with our two spots, of course. There may or may not be a great huge budget cut to public school funding. We wanted to wait until we knew more about that. But, we've learned this week that the school budget from Sacramento to SFUSD might not be released until July or August even (so we need to decide without that very important information).

    And, so yes, you are right in your point that we won't know anything more in a couple of months than we do now and need to make a decision so that this system works. That is absolutely true. But, please, don't be mad at us!!

  61. This statement will come out all wrong, but because of the recent comments about east coast prep schools, I have to say it:

    I have never, ever, not once met a person who "prepped" at one of those schools who was worthing knowing, unless the person attended on scholarship.

    I've dated them. I married one. I worked with them. I went to a prestitious public undergrad and an Ivy Leage Grad school.

    Those schools, in general, create in later years one heck of a neurotic unbalanced unhappy adult. For ever dollar spent at those schools, the poor fools end up spending two more on psychotherapy.

    I haven't had that experience with the CA preps. They seem far more balanced.

    I am serious. I am not trying to be cute. I traveled in those circles and was seldom surprised. Same same same.

  62. I don't think it's a good thing to hold two spots, as one post said. I mean, I'm holding my private spot unless I get a public spot in the 2nd round, but once I do, I will let go the private spot. And I feel guilty enough. The majority of my friends, both private school bound and public school bound, have NOTHING.

    NOTHING. And they are no different than I am.

    I think we can afford to be generous if we are lucky enough to have gotten two good options.

  63. To the poster holding two spots:

    The "system" seems to have nothing to do with why people are annoyed that you're holding two spots. No matter how schools are allotted, holding two spots until any time up until the schoool year starts inevitably creates a ripple effect of unsettlement when you finally do decide which spot to release.

    Also, it's not really logical to make your decision based on this year's public school budget at the state level. The budget is going to change every year and this is a constant question in public school. In my mind, that's not an acceptable risk, which is one reason we chose to go with private school instead.

  64. "I have never, ever, not once met a person who "prepped" at one of those schools who was worthing knowing, unless the person attended on scholarship.

    Those schools, in general, create in later years one heck of a neurotic unbalanced unhappy adult. For ever dollar spent at those schools, the poor fools end up spending two more on psychotherapy."

    I "prepped" (as you choose to call it) at one of THOSE schools and am very glad they've I've never met anyone who thought I was "not worth knowing" based on where I went to school. Actually, maybe I have, but fortunately was unaware of it. Perhaps it's because I'm such a "neurotic, unbalanced adult", as you describe me.

    Thanks for pointing out, though, that if I ever do choose to go into therapy I can spend twice as much on it as the tuition cost - I'm such a "fool" (as you so knowledgeably stated) that I might not have figured that out for myself.

  65. I've dated them. I married one. I worked with them.

    maybe you're an enabler -- should look into therapy...

  66. My circle of friends in college consisted largely of people who boarded at very expensive New York and New England prep schools, not on scholarship (I did not). A couple were basket cases and a few were, looking back, not very nice people. But the majority of them turned out to be really decent people in solid relationships, raising nice kids, and taking advantage of family financial security to pursue lower-paying service-oriented careers such as famine relief and environmental advocacy. By no means all but a noticeable number of the public HS grads in the same college had strictly materialistic values.

    It's easy as we're all caught up in this to over-emphasize the role of schools in how people turn out as human beings. A school's primary function is after all to educate and, if you're lucky, instill passion for learning. Inborn personality, immediate and extended family, community, faith (if any), culture, etc. all are factors not related to school that play significant roles in who we become as people.

  67. Thank-you, Marlowe's Mom. That may be the most flat-out sensible comment I've read in all the many months I've been reading -- with fascination -- this blog.

  68. To 1:44 and 1:48...

    Your posts sorta prove my point, don't they? ;-) My original post, exaggerated and true at the same time, was offered with humor, apparently lost on you. You sound a little defensive.

    As I said, the scholarship kids turned out fine.

    And when you indeed do prep at one of those schools, you know that 'prep' is a commonly used verb. When I was at Princeton (full scholarship/poor kid) every pick up line at every party began with, "So... Where'd ya prep?"

    An enabler? Hmmm. Dunno. In my day, Prep Guys always seemed to be attracted to the independent adventurous homegirls from the wrong side of the tracks, who made it on their own merits, not the bankbook or birthright of daddy.

    My experience doesn't have to be yours.

    Now, if the Public schools here in California equalled the public schools back East, we'd be really really lucky.

  69. Your post was offered with HUMOR? I don't think so. And I'd like to see how you would react to someone who refers to you in the kind of terms that you used for me and other who attended east coast prep schools.

    I see nothing wrong with defending myself against someone who insults me without even knowing anything about me. Just FYI, the gracious thing to do would be to apologize for such a gratuitously belittling post once you saw how it looked to others.

  70. 2:53 -- I just finished reading your comments and the comments from1:44 and 1:48 re: your supposedly humorous post. I did not "prep," but I did attend Yale, and I never once attended a party or any other function where someone asked me (or anyone around me, for that matter) where I prepped. I dated a guy who attended St. Pauls, and even when I was around his friends from St. Pauls, no one ever asked me where I prepped. As I said, I did not "prep" and yet I still fail to find the humor in your post. What was your point? Why are you feeling the need to insult people under the guise of misguided humor. It's really amazing how this process brings out the ugly in some people.

  71. Sorry, I did not mean to get everyone (including myself) off-topic with the East Coast schools comment. The person who made the comment to me is a very intelligent observant person who loves kids. I posted it because I thought it was an interesting opinion that might shed a different light on the public v. private question.

    (Another aside: I found the National Assessment of Educational Progress Report that showed, state-by-state, what percentage of public school students were performing at or above proficient in 4th grade reading using national tests in 2007. The best performing state was Massachusetts with 49% proficient or above. The only other states at or above 40% were Connecticut (41%), New Hampshire (42%), New Jersey (43%), Pennsylvania (40%), Vermont (41%), and Department of Defense schools (40%). California was among the lowest at 23%. Only Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and the District of Columbia were equal to or lower than California. Might be useful in your letters to state government saying we can't afford to cut public school funds!)

    The original poster asked for comments about whether they should choose a private school with financial aid or her first choice public school. A discussion about whether or not East Coast prep school graduates, with or without scholarships, can be well-adjusted people is not really germane, as nobody on this blog has been considering such schools, particularly for kindergarten! Perhaps we would do well to get back to sharing perspectives that might help the original poster make a decision.

  72. I must say I am really surprised to hear such sweeping generalizations made by people-be it about prep schools, private schools, public schools or otherwise.

    Everyone should be given a chance as a human being, and not categorized for what type of school they're in, and parents should be respected for looking out for the best interest of their children,and not judged for what type of school they choose.

    One of the things we have loved about living in the city is the diversity and the feeling that as parents we're all in this together to raise happy, healthy children in an urban environment. These types of comments only cause divide and prejudice, and are disheartening to hear. Based on all the challenges we are ALL faced with in this city to find a great school, we need to come together and support eachother for our kid's future here.

    As a child of a father who went to an east-coast prep school, I took it very personally as I feel so fortunate to have a father who I consider to be one of the most kind, hard-working men with great values that he has instilled in me and his grandchildren. 'nuf said.

  73. I apologize if this post is somewhat, ok way, off-topic, but i noticed a few mentions in this thread of suburban new jersey having wonderful schools. can anyone tell me where (which county/city) these schools are? i ask because my husband just found out his company is transferring him to new york this summer. (we were a 0/7 family, with a spot at Hillcrest. after weathering the system here, i don't have the wherewithall to figure out new york city schools). we will still submit a waitlist/ammended choices list, because you never know what might happen, but it would be great to get some leads on places in nj, or elsewhere in the greater new york area, if anyone has some. thanks.

  74. New Jersey famously has exceptionally high school funding (by U.S. standards, anyway -- this is not a high-priority expenditure for our country). Any upper-middle-class community will have the kind of schools you envision , unless you're looking for something really specific (like language immersion or a dedicated arts school). There's no magic; wealthy communities that don't serve high-need kids. in a state with high school funding, will have good schools.

  75. I have friends that live in Montclair - they don't get to pick their school, they are assigned to one (of four or five?).

    So, it seems you don't always get your closest school, but you'll always get a very good one. Then again, you'll also pay a TON of money for property taxes.

  76. nj poster -- i'm in a similar position as you, in that we might be moving to nj too. i was looking into a town called maplewood, because the schools look pretty good, and it also seems like a somewhat diverse community for a small town. from what i understand, a lot of people have moved there from the city and brooklyn, as it's got some of the amenities of urban living with more space. and it's relatively close to new york. but, as someone else pointed out, the property taxes are tremendous.

  77. thank you to those who responded to my nj post. i appreciate it.

  78. Sorry, this is totally OT:

    Re property taxes in New Jersey -- we need to realize we can't have it both ways!

    My parents' generation, and really my my grandparents' too (say those born between 1905-1935?), were the big boosters of 1978's Prop. 13 (of course the big corporations were really behind it).

    While those generations lived through major hardships -- world war and Depression -- they also have their lives transformed by massive government programs, the GI Bill and the New Deal. Somehow they got disconnected from the fact that they had wound up with the good life thanks to those programs, and decided that government and taxes were BAD BAD BAD. There was a line I think in Newsweek once aimed at them -- "What'll it be -- that round-the-world cruise or your grandchildren?"

    I feel like my generation, the Baby Boomers, were really victimized by that -- we're the first generation whose kids wound up in public schools that were pathetically underfunded and under constant attack by privatizers and general bashers, and we also wound up paying many times the property tax as the old geezer next door in the identical house.

    I think it's safe to say that practically everyone reading this blog is in a post-boomer generation, and I honestly have hopes that your generations can reverse this trend -- the "your own your own" (YOYO) vs. the "we're in this together" (WITT) philosophies.

    But you do have to realize (and IMHO accept) that those property taxes are the price you pay for those schools. For that matter, I drove a rented car down New Jersey's Garden State Parkway last summer, from just outside NYC into Pennsylvania, and the road was in such great shape that it was almost unearthly to a Californian. It was like "where are all the cracks, ruts, bumps and potholes?"

  79. I think the "WITT" strategy is fundamentally un-American, which is one of the major problems with this country.

  80. Anon at 1:15, I don't know your age, but if you're born after (say) 1970, you haven't experienced anything BUT the YOYO culture. But as I mentioned, previous generations embraced the New Deal and the GI Bill -- the essence of the WITT culture. So I'm not convinced that America can't shift back to that, after seeing what the YOYO culture has brought us to. Those things weren't that long ago! My generation (I was born in 1954) was raised in homes bought through low-low-interest VA loans, by dads college-educated by the GI Bill.

  81. The "WITT" strategy is no more un-American than FDR or LBJ. Granted that our nation has a long history with competing views too, but there is no basis for calling these views unpatriotic. Caroline and others here who are advocating greater public support of the schools are well within the mainstream of political thought, and it's obvious they care deeply about our country and our city. You can disagree with the strategy of course, but do that instead of tossing insults like "un-American."

  82. Anon at 4:41, I actually didn't take that as an insult but rather as a comment on our society. Perhaps I read it wrong.

  83. To the NJ poster--this information may be badly out of date, but when I was in college (early 80s) I met a lot of kids from Bergen County, NJ, who said the county had great public schools and a relatively easy commute to NYC.

    Re the comment about WITT being un-American, and that being the problem: perhaps I'm seeing through my own lens, but I took the comment to mean that the problem is that WITT is un-American, meaning that WITT is inconsistent with the American rugged individualist tradition. I think the commenter was trying to say that the US would be better off if we were WITT instead of YOYO.

  84. Sherman is a fabulous school. It is actually the oldest public school in California, dating to 1856. The facilities are excellent, and the teaching staff is dedicated for the most part. The principal, Ms. Matsuno, has turned Sherman into one of the best elementary schools in Northern California.

    I think you should have accepted the place. By the way, public schools have some major advantages over private schools, foremost being that your children will befriend and learn to understand children for vastly different economic and racial backgrounds.

    People who attend private schools develop a film noir mentality. That is, everything outside the gated community is potentially evil.