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


  1. If the second wait pool run is carried out on May 23rd, will we get letters prior to the May 27th free-for-all?

  2. Hi Ellie,

    Thanks for the helpful post!! I have a question for you.

    Let's say that we went 0 for 15 and don't have a school assignment.

    Then, let's say that we change our wait pool choice to a school that supposedly has openings now (will we see a list that supposedly has openings now?) just to make sure that we have A school. E.g., let's say that there are openings at Hillcrest.

    Then, when we get Hillcrest, can we change our wait pool to something we REALLY want, like Alvarado?

    Or, do we need to wait for open enrollment to sign up for an under enrolled school? In that case, don't we risk that the currently-underenrolled schools will be filled by that time?

    I don't want to risk NOT having a school .... does this mean that right now is the time to give up the wait list dream?


  3. Ellie,

    It was my understanding that you must change your wait list school by may 9, and that you are then stuck with that decision. You, in fact, cannot change your wait list school at anytime. I hope i am wrong...

    Please clarify if you can. Thank you!

  4. Anon 11:16

    We have the same question in our household. Please post if you get answers. I'll do the same.

    Thank you.

  5. To get answers to some of these questions, I would suggest posting them directly to PPS - either through their yahoo group or through the web-site: www.ppssf.org. That is what the are there for :)

  6. 1. you can chance your WL school anytime until the 10 day count.

    2. once sfusd places you in a school you have WLed, they consider your process complete = no more changing your mind.

  7. Thank you, 7.13. To 5.51 - sometimes people need to be anonymous. But thanks, really, for that unhelpful suggestion.

  8. You're probably right, Crystal. My EPC counselor told me to change my wait list school BEFORE may 9, and that was that.

    I'll double check with PPS or EPC again.

  9. PPS sight doesn't have the wait list question on it's site, but i've left a message.

    Assume I'm wrong about the May 9 deadline for changes until I post otherwise.

    Sorry for the mis-info.

  10. I wrote this blog on March 14th in SF K Files but will circulate it again with a few additions:

    I am a physician and a Professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. My daughter attends Rosa Parks JBBP. With a visionary principal and many talented teachers who are both creative and disciplined, I can truly say that Rosa Parks JBBP has exceeded all of my academic expectations for my daughter. As a parent, it is such a joy and so important to see my child thriving in her environment. She is in spades. The sensei program is truly unique in this district as it brings in native speakers of the Japanese language to incorporate Japanese language acquisition into the Rosa Parks JBBP curriculum.

    I have started the Rosa Parks Science Discovery Project which is a collaboration between UCSF and Rosa Parks to introduce science in a fun and creative way to the kids at Rosa Parks with role model UCSF students. This UCSF-supported program is on a growth curve with the goals of making science fun for our kids and getting them turned onto science at a very young age with UCSF students as mentors. Recently, we had the Rosa Parks Science Night in which Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, UCSF Vice Chancellor Joe Castro, UCSF Associate Dean Chris Cullander, and the UCSF Science Squad (UCSF Pharmacy student)came to share exciting science experiments with the children and parents of the school. The project will only get bigger and better.

    The creative arts including music and visual arts are an important aspect of the curriculum as well. We are in the process of linking up with Yoshi’s Jazz to enhance our music program for our kids. My daughter together with other 2nd graders currently takes weekly guitar lessons after class with her 2nd grade sensei (teacher) who is a terrific musician. We have recruited Tiffany Graham, a visual artist and muralist, who has worked with Harvey Milk and Grattan schools, to come into Rosa Parks and create murals with the creative energy of the Rosa Parks children with the themes of jazz and Japanese dancing over the next two years.

    While Japanese language and culture acquisition is a unique aspect of the school that prompted my wife and I to take a look, it is the academic environment that has impressed me the most. I would encourage families to seriously consider taking a tour of Rosa Parks JBBP. Each child is unique and has different needs but this is a very special school.

    ….one more thing, there are rumors out there that Rosa Parks Elementary School is not a safe place. This is the farthest from the truth. Rosa Parks has never had any incident occur on its grounds ever. The school is conveniently located next to J-town where kids go for activities. We have openings at the K level for this coming year but also at other grade levels for those would are looking to consider. Someone in a previous blog mentioned Rosa Parks as a “hidden gem”. As one of many committed and active parents to this school, I would agree.

  11. thank you for your post, vic.

    i tried to tour rosa parks early on and left several messages that were not returned. so i gave up as i had so many others to see.

    when is a tour planned for this week? or next week? i am sure many of us are interested.

  12. For anyone interested in taking a look at Rosa Parks JBBP, please contact (415) 749-3519 AND ask for Nanayo. She would be happy to set up a tour for you.

  13. Since I don't see Robert Louis Stevenson in the Sunset on the wait list, I assume that means that there are still K slots available at that school. Both my kids go there and I would just like to highlight what a good school it is. It has wonderful teachers, a good PTA that does a good bit of fundraising, two different after-school programs (one paid and one free), free dance classes after school, and a Mandarin language class after school offered by the PTA. Test scores are really good there and getting better! Folks who are interested should really check it out. If anyone has any specific questions or concerns about the school, please post here and I'd be happy to answer any of them.

  14. Is the SFUSD site accurate in that RL Stevenson 72.71% Asian?

  15. I'd say it could even be higher, i toured it and saw 2 white kids in 1 class and not much else.

  16. which is still less segregated than every private school except, I think, synergy. also this is the reality for kids of color in non-urban districts all across america.

    i'm not asian nor are my kids (though my husband is) and i would definitely consider rl stevenson for my kids if i didn't have a school at this point in the process.

    agreed that integration is very desirable, but it's a nice school with solid achievement, and given that some of the nicely integrated options, such as immersion schools, are already taken, i can't see why it would be all that bad for my kids to be a minority in a majority school at this point. might even be good for them. this is what they would get if we could ever afford a year abroad (not that it will ever happen)--an interesting cross-cultural experience.

  17. i have a friend with a child at francis scott key and they have been very happy there. she is caucasian and in the minority, but both she and her parents have formed friendships with other non-caucasian families.

  18. I hope people don't mind if I post this question again as I didn;t get a response. Folks here have alot of knowledge and experience so I'm hoping someone can help.

    "If the second wait pool run is carried out on May 23rd, will we get letters prior to the May 27th free-for-all?"

    My point is will we know if we have received a waitpool slot (or if hell has frozen over)before we have to go to Franklin Street for the sure-to-be chaotic Open Enrollment.


  19. will EPC be updating and making public the waitpool list of 4/28 all the way until the 5/9 deadline? will they, if we come in next week, tell us more accurate waitpool numbers so we can better change our selection?

  20. We go to a school in the Sunset that is heavily Chinese and are not Chinese ourselves and our kids have had no social problems of any kind. They have lots of friends and get to do lots of different activities. I also feel that the school is quite safe. Frankly, a lot of the postings on this blog are talking about schools (including some of the big "buzz" schools) with a great deal of bullying and discipline issues, issues that we simply don't have to even think about at our school. And that is a big plus. I also saw a concern on a posting here that maybe non-Chinese kids would have academic issues at a majority Chinese school and I haven't seen that either. One of my kids is more academic than the other and yet each is doing fine and getting lots of attention from the teachers.

  21. We have always sent our daughters to public schools in San Francisco with predominantly Asian-American demographics. The kids are almost always well behaved, study hard, and live at home with both of their parents. And my kids have never experienced any prejudice or ostracism over the years.

    Wow, great things are happening at JBBP Rosa Parks! Thanks, Doctor, for the information. If I we had an incoming kindergartner, this would be my choice.

  22. The issue of caucasian kid as a minority in a majority asian school has been a constant for us. On one hand, I think it is good preparation in life for a child of the dominant culture to learn what it feels like to be in the minority culture. On the other hand, it has meant that my kids have had little social life outside of school. The asian families have their kids in after school chinese programs as well as tutoring programs and a few other after school activities and don't participate in playdates. My daughter who is graduating from Argonne has 1 friend after 6 years. I transferred my son to a more mixed school for this reason and he is doing much better socially at Claire Lilienthal.

  23. To Anon at 10:40 -- I think the comments above about the positive aspects of schools on the westside of the city must be understood in the context of the available choices for people who are now stuck on the waiting list. If any of the people on one of these waiting lists could get a slot at a wonderful public school like Claire Lillienthal, they'd jump at the chance. (I know I would.) But these folks are looking at a variety of, frankly, less safe schools on the eastside of the city. And my point to them is that there are some good places on the westside where your kid will do quite well that you need to look at too. I faced the same situation as these folks three years ago. Claire Lillienthal was not on the table; even an Argonne was not on the table for me. I was looking at going to either a sketchy school on the eastside or taking my chance at a majority Chinese school on the westside. And I'm glad I went for the westside school. Many of my friends who went to the eastside schools three years ago (some of same ones that are now viewed as the great schools here!) have now pulled their kids out of those schools because of safety issues and are in private school. We couldn't afford that option, so we really had to get a safe public school. And we feel we've done pretty well given our admittedly limited choices.

  24. can someone please elaborate on what you would consider safety issues? and where, exactly, they might occur?

    is it violence near schools? or bullying within? haven't many schools dealt with this via tribes programs, etc.?

    i'd love a new post about school safety. kate?

  25. I think many of the westside schools are great, and if some of them have openings I would think parents would be leaping on them. They are good educational options, and while there may be commute issues that make them less attractive than some of the Noe/Bernal schools for many families on this blog, well, unfortunately so do many of the parochial and private schools that still have openings. At least they are good schools, and they are free, and they available! A way to end the anxiety and despair.

    That said, I have to say that my kids and most of my friends' kids have always gone to eastside schools, including several, such as Marshall, that perhaps are the ones the previous poster is referring to as "sketchy." I just want to emphasize that we have not experienced bullying or behavioral problems.

    Look, one or two kids in every class have their problems. You see it a lot when kids are going through something at home like divorce. This is true in private and parochial too. Or something just flares up, like a bad reaction to losing a game because one kid thought the the other kid cheated, so they had words and then he shoved the kid. Okay, full disclosure: Yeah, MY kid did that (no, at home I don't allow him to hit or shove). So, the teacher was on it immediately and my kid apologized, the two kids also talked through the cheating issue. Oh, and they were back to being friends by the end of the day. I was informed of all this at the end of the school day. More disclosure, my kid is white and the other kid is Afro/Latino.

    Occasional acting out like this has always been handled immediately and with grace and concern. The kids are physically safe in the sense that such violence is not tolerated--when it does happen, the teachers are on it. The kids have learned how to be with each other on the playground, even across cultural norms that can be disconcerting at first, with different rules for the same games, different ways of handling disputes. The teachers and afterschool people care and they are on the ball. They help the kids figure it out.

    No doubt someone will now cite this or that incident they've heard about. I'm just saying, I've been in the eastside schools for over eight years and this is not a normal occurence for my kids or my kids' friends. I think it is a big fear that gets blown up, an urban legend, or one incident that becomes the touchstone for a whole social circle as to why these schools are somehow "sketchy."

    Again, I think it's great that many westside parents feel good about their schools and their schools' atmosphere and culture. And yes, there are cultural differences. I don't think we need to put each other down, though. I could say something about AP Giannini Middle Schol being totally boring and way too structured to the point of rigid, but I know that for others it seems safe and a wonderful learning atmosphere. For me, I prefer James Lick with its wonderful creative and artistic spirit that blends Latino culture and eastside San Francisco bohemian sensibilities. I think both schools are quite reasonable places to send one's child, without implying that others are making a poor choice by calling it "sketchy" or "crappy" or "crummy" as is frequently said here.

  26. Anon at 11:15 again -- I'm certainly not backing down on the sketchy reference. On the issue of safety, I have no need to spell out anecdotes, because the statistics are publicly available for all to see. Also, other strings on this blog have talked about safety issues at specific schools, some of which are now the "buzz" schools. The fact remains that many of the schools talked about on this blog are more likely to have bullying issues than ones on the westside. And I find the silence about many of the good schools on the westside here speaks volumes about the intentions of some of the posters on this site.

  27. "because the statistics are publicly available for all to see."

    Where? Can you provide a link to these stats?

    "The fact remains that many of the schools talked about on this blog are more likely to have bullying issues than ones on the westside."

    That's your assertion, not a fact. Please back up this statement with evidence if you wish to characterize as fact. There are second-hand bullying anecdotes on this blog about lots of schools, including, just today, about some so-called "top" privates.

    "I find the silence about many of the good schools on the westside here speaks volumes about the intentions of some of the posters on this site."

    I honestly do not know what you are trying to say or imply here. My post at 11:55 was quite positive about the educational quality of the westside schools. I am sometimes frustrated at some of the comments here that there are no available good schools left, when there seem to be openings at several fine schools on the westside.

    It is also my guess that many on this blog live closer to Noe and Bernal and Potrero Hill and the Mission, and that the westside schools seem pretty far away out in the avenues, out of sight, out of mind. It would be great if current parents at those schools would post more specifics about them, as the Rosa Parks folks have been doing.

  28. May 1 at 2:05 pm -- Talk about positives of some westside schools with open slots was exactly what was happening when posters started making comments about how many white kid heads they counted at a particular westside school and how Chinese families don't do playdates. I'm not being pollyannish here. There is a concerted effort going on to "market" certain schools on the eastside of the city. This blog has extensive examples of those efforts. I have no problem with saying positive things about those places, but the marketers need to recognize the negatives as well. And no one wants to do that. The end result is what I view as omission of material facts or deceptive advertising about certain eastside schools. And what has happened is that this whole marketing effort has now gotten so out of control that you have perfectly good schools on the westside that have kindergarten slots going empty, while parents rush like lemmings to eastside schools with serious bullying issues that have been hidden by the massive marketing efforts of their PTAs.

  29. Does anyone know if you can change a waitlist choice if you received a hardship appeal? Or is it tied to the school we originally listed in Round 2? At this point, with no assignment, we want to increase our chances of a spot and the school we wait listed has several other folks in the appeal wait list pool.

  30. May 1 at 3:08, agreed that the right-off-the-bat comments about RL Stevenson being Asian with few white faces were strange. There are obviously many families who do not have a problem with sending their kids to the many private schools whose percentage of white kids is even higher than that. I liked the comment/response at 5:53 very much.

    Yeah, there is definitely hidden or not-so-hidden cultural prejudice and even fears about Asians among whites in this city. It's different from prejudice about other ethnic groups, but it is there. I'm with you so far. It's a damn shame. I hope that we (collectively) can overcome this. Mixing it up in schools would help, I think. Get to know people you don't know.

    I don't know about a concerted effort to lure people away from the westside schools. I believe PPS and others have encouraged parents to look at historically underenrolled schools. Mostly, these have been on the east side of town, and west side schools are frequently full enrolled. If that is changing, perhaps PPS, and parent groups on the west side, will have to undertake a more vigorous marketing strategy. I do think that a lot of folks on this blog are east side parents, though (Noe/Bernal/Potrero/Mission). If so, there is a geographical thing going on as well for this blog.

    Finally, you again make your assertion about "eastside schools with serious bullying issues that have been hidden by the massive marketing efforts of their PTAs." Again, I challenge you to back up this assertion. I agree with you about there being a certain amount of anti-Asian prejudice going on among white parents (as in, I don't want my kid attending an Asian-majority school), but I disagree with you about the extensive bullying on the east side that you keep mentioning.

  31. As an Asian, I take offense with10:40 a.m.'s comment about your daughter had only one friend because the Asian kids allegedly refused to socialize with your child. Have you ever considered that maybe, it was your kid? Or, God forbid, you? Don't put your child's lack of friends on some sort of reverse racism by the Asians.

  32. i think there is a real range of skill and experience down at epc. i met with one woman who really knew less than i about the process, was very very nice, and gave me awful advice. i then met a really smart and knowledgeable counselor--problem is i'm not 100% with his name, but it think his last name is kornfield. first name something like sam. but not sam. he was really helpful.

  33. It's Shem, not Sam (counselor at EPC).

    So I got an unofficial list of the schools with openings. Here it is:

    Brett Harte
    Bessie Carmichal
    Junipero Serro
    El Dorado
    Starr King
    Rosa Parks (GE and JBBP)

    They also said they expect Jose Ortega to have spots in open enrollment, though it doesn't now.

    They over-enrolled Sunnyside and McKinley --there may still be spots, but some families will have to not enroll before they open up even one space.

  34. i assume starr king only has openings in its gened program. let's just say i'm not surprised that the schools on this list have openings.

  35. I have an important question about waitlist...

    Does anyone know...for example...if I stay on my current waitlist (with 20 other names) and we dont' get in, but 4 more people add their names to the list after this waitlist round, do we get any priority since we were on the list first? I mean separate from the other priorities given.

    I'm concerned that if we change our waitlist school to one with a small waitlist, 7 other people will do the same thing, and suddenly we'll be on a crowded waitlist at a school too far away for us, anyway.

    So, does our original waitlist date give us any advantage to late adders? AND will the EPC give us real current numbers up to May 9??

    We currently have no assignment, so this is crucial for us getting a school convenient and livable.

    I can't believe that all my hard work has come down to convenient and livable...

  36. If I were you all I would jump and run fast for rosa park jbp, this is a great school. I had it on my list for number 4 but I got my number 2 school.. I can't belive they have openings this school will be one of those schools everyone is talking about next year.

  37. Does anyone know how they handle the Spanish immersion schools?

    My understanding was that they tried to balance Spanish speakers, bilinguals and English speakerks...

    But do they just take parents' word for it?

    I've met lots of parents on the playground who claim their kids speak Spanish, but whose kids really only speak ENglish (except for maybe a few words and a song or too)...

    I know they used to test the kids years ago, and that if your kid truly was bilingual, you had a great shot at getting in... but someone told me they don't have the funds to do that anymore, so those who lie have an equal shot with those who are truthful about their kids speaking Spanish already.

  38. fyi - we went to EPC to ask for "real time" waitpool numbers yesterday afternoon and were given a the 4/28 list.

  39. What I've heard is that you are not given any priority for being in a waitpool longer. This gives you freedom to change (or change back) at any point, but can be frustrating when other people have overpopulated your previously small waitpool...

  40. 7:08 It's pretty clear on EPC's website and on all the enrollment forms that they will make you take a language assessment test in the target language. I don't know if they've stopped doing this.

  41. 10:26, Shem is not only a good counselor, he is also an active parent in the district.

  42. Marlowe's MomMay 2, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    I don't speak from any personal knowledge, but Sheridan and Redding seem to have OK test scores and I've heard nice comments about both.

    I've now made five visits to Rosa Parks and feel very comfortable having enrolled our son in the JBBP kindergarten today. Almost all of the Rosa Parks aftercare programs have space available too. There were a number of undecided families at the new parent welcome last night . . . act now before it fills up! They're still giving tours and there are several current parents who will be happy to share their experiences with you.

  43. Harvey Milk,

    Has anyone visited Harvey Milk? small waitlist...

    great neighborhood, a very peaceful school. i had a private tour with the parent liaison this morning and she was really great.

    clean, and very sweet. they are greening the yard this year.

    Who has seen it? I'm curious about opinions. I'm seriously considering it, but would like your impressions...

  44. I know two families at Harvey Milk who like it a lot. For one of them it was their 6th choice a few years back and they have told me they've been very pleasantly surprised. I visited it last year and was also favorably impressed. What most stands out was the very caring vibe of the school.

  45. Parents have been talking a bit about diversity on this thread. I have to say that my daughter's K class at Rosa Parks JBBP is really diverse, at least racially (b/c I don't know the details about people's financial background of course). It's about 30% Caucasian 30% African American 30% Asian; there are a couple of kids of mixed race as well as one Latina girl. Of course I could be wrong, as it's based only on what I see - but it is quite mixed - and it's a great class of kids.

  46. I toured Harvey Milk on a whim and it ended up being one of only two non-immersion schools on my list. The best teacher/class discussion I saw on any tour was a 5th grade class at Harvey Milk. I have heard the principal is a very strong leader and she seemed great, very committed to diversity and the school's civil rights theme, and to making sure all her students would achieve to their potential. Parent community seemed inclusive and involved. Since touring, I have met a parent there (who has also had kids at two other SFUSD schools) who loves it. Also the after school program is staffed by teachers -- hard to beat that.

  47. I also had Milk as one of 2 non-immersion choices on our list last year. My niece and nephew are in Kindergarten there now - one in each class, and their whole family is very happy there.

    I liked the small size, what I heard of the principal (she wasn't there when I toured), the community feel, the neighborhood (if you have to go somewhere twice a day have it be somewhere you can also visit a park or a grocery store...), the Civil Rights focus, the diversity and decent test scores, the greening to come, and I especially liked Ms Whit, one of the K teachers.

  48. My understanding is that the waitlist will be run May 23, and again in June and August. Do we have those dates? And, what is the first day of school?


  49. First day of school is Aug 25.

  50. Marlowe's MomMay 5, 2008 at 9:51 AM

    I dropped in at Harvey Milk not on tour and liked it a lot. The parent liaison was great, the principal seemed committed but also no-nonsense, the curriculum suited my taste, and the kids seemed like a great mix--my child would get to know every kind of kid in town. My reasons for not wait-listing it for round II were the 9:30 start time which gets us to work awfully late, the logistics of getting our kid to school, and concern that because it was already full, we would not have a school until September. We had 3 years at preschool of driving one way to drop off our kid and back the other way to our parking permit area to look for congested street parking and catch the Muni downtown, then drive out to school at night for pickup and then back home to look for congested street parking again. I want to be able to park easily near school and catch transit downtown from there. I have been able to do this last year in our private K and find it makes a huge positive difference in my stress level and my patience with my child.

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