What do you do when you're 0/7 for SFUSD public schools? Tour more schools, of course. Hunt for that hidden gem.
This past week, I furiously set out to track down that up-and-coming school with a fresh coat of paint, a fabulous principal, peppy teachers, and a PTA with potential. Here's a rundown of what I found.
This was my assigned school. It's actually within walking distance of my house and sits right on Holly Park. I was thoroughly impressed with it and I give the principal, Eve Cheung, and the teachers a standing ovation. They are truly dedicated, hard-working, highly intelligent, and they've poured their hears into this school. A few years ago the teachers—not the parents—at this school raised some $37,000. The teachers and principal have helped bring up the test scores. There's a computer lab with shiny new Macs and a full-time computer teacher. That said, we decided not to accept the assignment because we're set on immersion if we go with public.
This Spanish immersion school in the heart of the Mission (Capp and 15th) has a lot of spirit. When I walked through the door a group of kids were doing capoeria in the cafeteria. Colorful mosaics and tiles adorn the school's inner courtyard. The kids in the classrooms are cheerful and clearly excited to learn. In first grade, a little boy guided us around his classroom, telling us—in both Spanish and English—about the tadpoles swimming around in a dish, the plants growing in the cups, the students' ice cream chart on the wall. The school is tiny and cozy and there are plans to rebuild the playground and renovate the bathrooms this summer. The neighborhood might seem a little sketchy but the school is a safe haven.
I wanted to shout, "Eureka!" as I walked through this school's hallways. It's truly the hidden gem that I had been searching for. If you want Spanish immersion and you're interested in getting involved in an on-the-rise school, this is probably the one. The reasons are endless: big, beautiful building with fresh coat of paint; K through 8; small classes (around 20 students) all the way through eighth grade; paraprofessional assigned to each classroom (meaning each classroom has a teacher and an additional teacher); Spanish immersion (2 SI classes and one GE); uniforms; huge library stocked with books and a fabulous librarian; IRF coach who helps all the teachers become even better teachers; young, vibrant, dedicated teaching staff; 50 new Macs and 60 Dells; teacher professional development programs; three full-time counselors (one for elementary, one for middle school, and another working with the entire student body) . . . and the list goes on and on. The PTA is small yet growing and waiting for parents who want to become more involved.
I took a brief tour of this school when I attended one of the district's counseling sessions. The school introduced a Mandarin immersion strand last year. I met the kindergarten teacher and she's lovely and animated. A parent told me about her kindergartener counting to 80 in Mandarin. The principal is warm and friendly, and motivated to continue to improve the school; she's open to parents' ideas. It's near San Francisco State and sits atop a hill offering gorgeous views of the surrounding city and ocean.