Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guest blogger: Parents for Public Schools Executive Director Ellie Rossiter

I spoke with the Director of the EPC today and here’s what he told me. Due to the increased number of Round I kindergarten applicants (300 more than last year), nearly all schools filled up in Round I, and most applicants registered for their spots. Therefore, there wasn’t a lot of movement or new assignments in Round II.

If you know you are not going to attend a public school, please release your spot as soon as possible. Send a letter to the EPC and the school site requesting to withdraw your child.

Here is some additional information about the letters and next steps:

• There were several Round II assignment letters, depending on your situation in Round I and Round II:
o Letter 1: you got your wait pool school. Register by May 9.
o Letter 2: you accepted your Round I assignment, but you didn’t get any of your waitpool or amended choices in Round II. Your child is still enrolled at the school you registered in, and you remain in the wait pool you requested.
o Letter 3: you did not register at your Round I assigned school, and you didn’t get your wait pool school or any of your amended choices in Round II. Your child is unassigned, and you remain in the wait pool you requested.
o Letter 4: you received one of your Round II amended choices, but did not receive your wait pool choice. Register by May 9. You remain in the wait pool you requested.

• Regardless of your letter the process is the same:
o If you were assigned a school (Amended or Wait Pool) you should register at that school by Friday, May 9, or you will lose your spot.
o If you did not receive your wait pool school, your name remains in the wait pool you requested, and it will not be removed unless you inform the EPC.
o You can change your wait pool choice at any time.
o Your Round I priority cohort remains the same throughout all runs regardless if you received a new assignment (e.g. amended choice) or not.
o Your amended school choices will not be run again.

• New wait pool data reflecting the number of applicants in the wait pools after this current assignment round is available. Go to www.ppssf.org or www.sfusd.edu.

• The next wait pool run is on May 23. Submit any wait pool changes before then. Additional wait pool runs occur regularly through September.

• Open Enrollment begins on May 27 – any school that has an opening (and no wait pool) at that time is up for grabs (first come; first serve).

• Hardship and Medical appeals have been considered and are only considered once. If your appeal was denied, there is no further appeal process.

• The EPC is very busy. They receive over 500 phone calls per day; however, we recommend that you find a time to create a relationship with a counselor there to check in on occasion and get up-to-date information so you can make up-to-date decisions about wait pools.


Ellie Rossiter

Guest blogger: Karen Capraro

So, my husband and I were sitting around the other night talking about what we should spend our tax rebate on: Big-screen TV? New clothes? A trip to Mexico to drink pina coladas?

Then we started thinking about what we would have preferred our government to have spent that money on. Quite frankly, we feel like we don't really "need" it. And we don't really buy into the 'it'll stimulate the economy' concept. But that's another story.

So we decided to set up:

The Web site encourages people to donate some, or all, of their tax rebate to public schools. The money can be used to stimulate the minds of the future.

We find it sad that our public schools are so stretched financially. California cut $4.5 billion dollars from schools this year, and in April laid off more than 10,000 teachers. You only have to look to what teachers are requesting donations for, to get an idea of how difficult these cuts have made it for schools. They're things we took for granted having at school, anything from crayons to computers, chairs for the library, new dictionaries, projectors, a rug for kids to sit on...the list goes on and on. You'll also see requests for creative, yet simple projects that seem crucial if teachers are really to engage students: like weaving Native American baskets, or field trips to nearby farms. These all seem more like basic needs to us, something that teachers shouldn't have to be scrambling around for, even often buying supplies with their own money.

And all of this public school need in a wealthy progressive city like San Francisco.....well, It's kind of embarrassing. Luckily, San Francisco also is a caring community that is ready to help when asked. So please, check out our Web site, send it to your friends, and donate, even a tiny amount, of your rebate. Because investing in the minds of tomorrow will pay off. Thanks! stimulateminds.org

Guest blogger Karen Capraro is a parent of one preschool child, soon to delve into the public school world.

SFUSD wait pool list

SFUSD just released its wait pool list. You can find it at http://tinyurl.com/6rbww4.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Private school wait lists

An SF K Files visitor requested that we start a thread on private school wait lists. Great idea.

Here are some questions to get things started:

Has there been any movement on private school wait lists following Round II? Has anyone gotten a call about a spot recently?

Guest blogger: Rachel Norton

When I was in high school, one of the teachers I most adored was Ms. Pensky (pictured), my 10th grade biology teacher. She was only a few years into her career, and she had a genuine passion for her subject. She took 20 of us on a weeklong field trip to the Mojave Desert, and taught us how to find the incredible natural beauty and biological diversity in that seemingly barren place. It was such an amazing experience that I went on the trip a second year, when I wasn't even in her class!

My experience is not unique. Studies show that a skilled teacher is the single biggest influencer of student engagement and achievement, and yet in San Francisco we have a real problem recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Consider these facts:

--San Francisco has the 2nd highest cost of living of all U.S. cities, and yet 13 other school districts in California alone pay teachers more than we do;

--One in five of our teachers leaves San Francisco in the first three years of teaching. There are two basic reasons for this ñ newer teachers need the most support and are often assigned to the most challenging schools, a combination which leads to early burnout; and teachers can earn more money and pay less to live in other areas.

On June 3, San Franciscans have an opportunity to address this problem and take a very concrete step towards improving our schools: Voting YES on Proposition A, the Quality Teacher and Education Act.

Proposition A institutes a $198 per parcel tax on property owners (business and residential alike). Many districts are resorting to parcel taxes because of chronically inadequate funding from the state of California. Such taxes give cities more control over their annual school budgets and open up an additional source of revenue. No one likes taxes, but Proposition A's $198 per year comes out to about $16 a month, and is quite modest compared to parcel taxes passed recently in nearby districts:

--Albany, 2005: $225 per parcel

--Lafayette, 2007: $313 per parcel

--Kentfield, 2008: $774 per parcel.

What do we get for the money?

--Competitive salary packages to recruit and retain the best teachers;

--Teachers in 25 schools designated "hard to staff" will receive extra stipends for extra work beyond their school day, in order to induce teachers to transfer to and stay at those more challenging schools;

--Teachers in high-need areas--math, science, special education--will receive stipends;

--Newer teachers and those who need to work on their skills will receive mentoring from experienced teachers;

--Computers and other technology will be updated or replaced.

No one likes additional taxes, but virtually every elected official and community leader in San Francisco agrees that Proposition A is essential. Vote YES on Proposition A June 3! Every Yes vote is essential because this measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

For more information, go to: www.voteyesonpropa.com. To learn how you can help pass Prop. A, go to the PPS-SF web site.

Guest blogger Rachel Norton is a parent of two children attending SFUSD schools and is a candidate for school board in November 2008.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Round II

So we actually did receive a letter yesterday. I was confused by the mail because when I checked it in the afternoon there were several fliers in the mailbox and I thought that was our mail. It turns out the papers were election fliers and the real mail arrived later in the afternoon. Last night my husband noticed that there was stuff in our mailbox--and pulled out the SFUSD letter. We did get a school assignment. I wish that I could share the information but this has become a delicate issue and I have to think about our situation off-line. I will report back soon. This Web site is great in so many ways but in the past few months it has made it difficult for me to share my complete story. Please hold tight and hold off on your comments speculating our situation. I promise to get back soon. I'm not going to drag this out or hold onto a spot that I don't intend to take as I know that there are a lot of you out there who need a school. I'm so sorry for those who didn't get an assignment in Round II. Hang in there. Something will work out in the end; it's just so unfortunate that you have to go through all this stress and uneasiness to get to that end point. It really isn't fair.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alice, what do you think kindergarten will be like?

So I thought I would lighten things up a bit.

Last night I asked Alice, "What do you think kindergarten will be like?"

"I won't have to take naps," Alice said. "I'll get to do more art projects. The teachers will probably read more books to us. And I really hope that I learn how to properly take care of a goldfish."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not another private vs. public school debate!

The last thing I want to do is start yet another private versus public school debate but this evening I stumbled across an interesting article from 2007, "Study Examines Public, Private Schools," by an AP education writer. Nancy Zuckerbrod reports on a study that examines students who go to private and public schools.

In the study conducted by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy researchers found the following:

"--In reading, family income, parental discussion, parental expectations, parental involvement and eighth-grade scores all positively affected 12th-grade reading scores. Scores weren't affected by the type of school a student attended unless it was a Catholic order school.

--In math, parental discussions and involvement had no effect on achievement scores. Parental expectations and family income did have an impact. Prior eighth-grade test scores were heavily correlated to achievement on the 12th-grade test. Again, attending a Catholic religious order school had a positive effect on the math scores.

--In science, income affected test scores but the other family characteristics did not. Prior test scores had the strongest impact. None of the school types had an edge over public high schools in boosting scores.

--In history, parental expectations and parental discussion had an impact on scores, as did achievement on eighth-grade tests. The only kind of school that had a positive impact on scores was a Catholic religious order school.

The students in the study were all poor and fit the demographics of those who would be eligible for the kind of private-school voucher programs or other school-choice initiatives generally favored by conservatives.

However, what the study shows is that family involvement matters more than whether a student goes to public or private school, said Jack Jennings, the president of the center."

The story does go on to quote someone who disputes the study:

"Andrew Coulson, an education expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said this one study shouldn't sway public policy.

'The overwhelming body of research favors private schooling over public schooling,' he said.

Coulson said he hadn't read the study but said one concern is that it looks at 12th-grade students. He said kids who enter 12th grade in many urban public schools are a higher achieving subgroup than a school's larger student body, because of high drop-out rates in many inner-city schools.

The new study did find that students at independent private schools, not the religiously affiliated schools, got higher SAT scores than public-school students."

Anyway...it's all very interesting.

SFGate reports on bullying incident in Oakland

An upsetting story, "When school bullies get out of hand," ran as the featured item on SFGate.com this morning. Chronicle staff reporter Nanette Asimov tells the story of a 7-year-old boy who is severely bullied at an Oakland public school.

Asimov writes:

"Anthony Cataldo of Oakland first raised concerns about aggressive bullying at his son's elementary school last year after Zachary lost four teeth on the playground - but he said he received only a verbal assurance that things would change.

Cataldo said he complained again when some boys at school kicked 7-year-old Zachary in the stomach three months ago but got no response.

Now - two days after an older student slammed Zachary against a tree, fracturing his skull and sending the first-grader to intensive care - Cataldo is hiring a lawyer, and school officials are paying attention."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What are the schools like outside the city?

Tonight, I met a friend for a glass of wine. She's the mother of one of Alice's dearest friends. I was sad to hear that she is monitoring neighborhoods outside the city. "Not seriously," she assured me. "I've only been looking at homes online."

Our conversation was familiar because just this morning I was talking to some neighbor friends who were on their way to Berkeley for an open house. They have a young child who will be going to kindergarten in a few years, so they're thinking ahead.

Our city is deprived of children and I hate for it to lose a single family but the reality is that some people will leave. So maybe it's time to talk about school districts outside the city. How does Mill Valley compare to Lafayette? And what's the difference between Lafayette and Orinda? And what about Albany--is it the hidden gem? Are there any affordable Bay Area towns with excellent schools? And please feel free to make a sales pitch to those who are thinking about leaving. (I need your help convincing my friends to stay.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

K Files Council: what makes a PTA on fire?

Here's my question:

During the school search, I felt like I was choosing a school as well as choosing a PTA. I fell in love with Flynn since the PTA was on fire. The parents were enthusiastic, had similar priorities as I do, and were getting things done.

Unfortunately, Flynn was one of the few schools where I managed to get a grasp of the school AND the parents.

What makes a PTA on fire? Paul revere, like Flynn, has had an immersion program in place for the same number of years. Things are happening at PR, but it wasn't as hot as Flynn. Starr King as well—two years of new parents on board, but not the same fire.

Many of us may be facing a school with low scores, a new or no PTA and fear being one of those 3-4 parents taking on all the load. What makes a playground go up in a day? Planter boxes get built and filled? PE teachers get hired? And what stands in the way? the principal? Rifts in the new vs old (immersion vs GE?) parents? What can we, as incoming parents in schools that we want to improve, be planning for, looking for, or seeing as challenges?

I want to be enthusiastic about more schools than Flynn. I went 0/7, have twins, want immersion, and am feeling nervous about the prospect of trying to overhaul a struggling school. Any thoughts?

K Files Council: Donating money to public schools

I'd like some advice:

My son will be starting kindergarten at a public school in San Francisco this fall. I would like to give my son's teacher $100 a month to use for supplies, class trips or whatever. Any suggestions on how to do this? Should I just offer it to the teacher? Should I approach the principal? Do people think its more constructive to just donate to the school PTA? (I would also donate money to the PTA during the year.) I'm leaning to just offering it to the teacher as I would like my son to benefit from better supplies in his class, etc., and I keep hearing how teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets. But, I also want to make sure I will not be violating any school policies. And, since taxes are due next week, anyone know if this would be tax deductible?


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Applying to kindergarten for 2009-2010? Here's your chance to get started.

Kindergarten Information Night at the JCC for NEXT year 2009-2010

Please join the Claude & Louise Rosenberg Early Childhood Education Program for this annual event, provided free as a community service to the public. This is a great opportunity for parents with children ages three and older to gather information from over 60 representatives of Bay Area public and independent schools about their kindergarten programs. This event is for adults only. No registration necessary.

Wednesday, May 7
6 p.m.-8 p.m.

For more info: http://www.jccsf.org/content_main.aspx?progid=2222&catid=104

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hot topic: bullying

The recent comments on this site about bullying led Ryan and me to discuss this topic after the kids went to bed tonight. It turns out my husband has a horrific story about some mean kids throwing him into a garbage can when he was in junior high. I can remember being teased in elementary school. I was a quiet, bookish child with only one friend. We walked around the schoolyard hand-in-hand, and we always wore matching outfits. The cooler kids definitely had some things to say about us.

I specifically remember an incident in about second or third grade when I was sitting on a bench with my legs crossed. An older girl dug into me for this and said something like, "Don't you think you're cool with your legs crossed!" A group of kids were standing around and I was humiliated. Even though her mean-spirited comment was quite benign, I still sometimes think of it when I'm wearing a skirt and crossing my legs.

I can't imagine how upset I would be if I found out some kids were bullying Alice or her younger brother, Sam. I would only hope that all schools are clued into these issues and would be proactive in stopping any bullying that goes on. I'd love to hear from parents with kids who are already in school. How do your schools deal with bullying? Any advice for parents headed for kindergarten?

Hot topic: summer camp

It's hard to imagine even thinking about summer camp at this point but a few parents have requested that I post this topic. People are looking for ideas for ways to entertain their kids this summer. Please feel free to offer up suggestions and tips. Thanks!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Kate, did you participate in Round II?

Recently, I've gotten this question a lot, and honestly I'm trying to skirt the issue. But for the sake of integrity, I feel that I should answer the question. Yes, I did turn in a Round II enrollment form. Gosh, I practically had the thing filled out the day I got my letter for Round I. I poured a ton of time into the public process and I wanted to finish what I started. I included only immersion programs on my list. That said, at this point my mind is set on attending Marin Country Day School and I think our chances are slim for getting into an immersion program in Round II. We're not going to participate in the SFUSD process beyond Round II, and we have no intention of keeping our name on a wait pool list.

I've long debated whether or not to disclose this information. I've asked everyone I know what to do and everyone has a different opinion. I finally decided that this site has long been based on honesty and so I decided to provide this information. I apologize if it's discouraging to anyone.

Poll revisited: should SFUSD change the lottery enrollment process?

Last October, I posted a poll asking parents if SFUSD should change the lottery enrollment process to guarantee families their neighborhood school. Thirty percent of people responded yes; and 69 percent responded no. Now that we're further along in the process I'm wondering if people would vote differently—so I'm introducing the same poll once again. You'll find it to the right.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kate's absence

I apologize for my recent absence on the site. I've been going through a major job change. Last Friday was my last day at my job of nine years and this week I dove into a new one. Lots of emotions. Very overwhelmed. I promise to get you some updates soon. I have a lot on my mind regarding schools but I'm not sure how to share it all. Because of the popularity with this blog, I feel like I have to be careful with what I say. And I think the blog is in a delicate transition phase. I'm not sure exactly where to take it next. Anyway, I appreciate all the chatter that's going on in the comments section. That's what is keeping The SF K Files up and running. Thank you, thank you—and I'm always open to your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.