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.)

194 comments:

  1. Yesterday, while out on Treasure Island for a SF Little League game (Treasure Island - a big selling point for SF baseball playing families - no where else can you get such a fabulous view of our beautiful city skyline with hundreds of sailboats bobbing by on a sparkly Bay all while driving to your son or daughter's little league game.) I too had a conversation with a family we have known for years about their house hunt in Mill Valley. They have a son in elementary school and a son in high school and have lived in the city for over 25 years.

    Their son in high school has not had a great experience in the charter school he is attending and they are ready to throw in the towel and move him to a "safer" high school outside of the city. I went on, as I will, about how they could find him another school that will suit him better, but I could see that they had resigned themselves to moving out of the City. They didn't seem happy with their choice and I was unable to figure out the real underlying reason for their discomfort. It seemed that part of their motivation was that it was so much easier to go the suburban route. The city makes families work harder to insure that their kids are in an environment that is safe, challenging and appropriate. Especially as they move into middle school and high school and are looking to their peers for validation.

    For us, living in a diverse environment with so much more culture to offer a bored teenager is worth it so far, but I can see why families take the road more traveled and head out of town at the first signs of trouble...

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  2. Re high school in Mill Valley, I'm a 1971 graduate of Tamalpais "Drug Capital of the World" High. Now my friends in Mill Valley tell me that binge drinking is the sport of choice at Tam -- a serious problem in the community.

    Well, my high-schooler also attends a school (SOTA) where substance use has been known to occur; it's a fact of life in high school. But it's delusional to think it's all sweetness and light in the suburbs. It is an easier life in some ways, admittedly. (And it's sunny!) For a few years Tam had no API because so many kids boycotted the standardized tests, which is pretty cool. An urban school truly can't afford to do that.

    Oh, yesterday was 4/20, a sort of enshrined date that's a worldwide celebration of marijuana use. The Wikipedia entry on 4/20 says that ritual celebration is reported to have started in 1971 at San Rafael High.

    If we ever left the city, my family would likely be attracted to Berkeley, which has some attributes of the suburbs but still has urban diversity, and is also the world capital of any artistic or creative passion one might pursue. My jazz-playing 11th-grader admires Berkeley High for its legendary jazz programs, which have produced some superstars, and Jazzschool's programs make any music parent drool. But I've heard that Berkeley also has a school assignment system that angers parents, and I just read somewhere that it has a 50% (!!) rate of private school attendance, though I haven't seen that backed up.

    As a notorious skeptic about charter schools, I would echo your advice to urge your friends to get past their misguided fears and check out some of SFUSD's excellent traditional public high schools, but I can see you've already made that point with little success.

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  3. I ran into an acquaintance that I'd known from toddler days, who'd moved her family to Albany a few years into elementary school. She said they moved for the schools, but that in fact, she hadn't found the schools any better than her kids' public school in San Francisco. The API scores were higher, but that was only because of the relative affluence of the kids rather than the quality of the school. She liked her slightly bigger house, her kids were doing well, but she missed the city.

    On the other hand, my nephew who has mild autism, has been very well served by the Albany public schools. His mom has found them to be cooperative and pro-active in meeting his needs.

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  4. I went to Berkeley public schools, graduated Berkeley High in the 80's. I imagine it's as diverse now as then but what that meant to me as a meek white kid was that my type never but never went to a school dance on campus where gang fights were common. So what's a meek kid like me going to do at lunch time and with any free moment (which includes class cutting time)? Why go across the street to Provo Park to smoke pot, of course. And smoke plenty I did. I remember in junior high, everyone took the public transit buses that lined up outside the school and there was all kinds mayhem on those buses. Once my hair caught on fire. Once a kid was stabbed. That junior high school is thankfully no longer open.

    I think a common sentiment we'll hear on this thread is that life outside SF is not all ring around the rosies.

    NONETHELESS, we are now contemplating a move to Mountain View. The schools are actually not the driving factor as I am very excited about the immersion programs in SF. There are two basic reasons: My mom lives there (read: babysitting) and for the same price of a small house with a small yard with no garage, we can get medium house with a medium yard and a garage. And, I must admit to myself, as someone mentioned above, life is just not as hard for a family living outside SF. I am still so miffed at being told to fold up my little umbrella stroller with my near one year old who could not walk and my 3 year old in tow (and of course toting the large diaper/snack/extra clothes/small toys bag). F___ You, SF!! OK, I feel better already.

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  5. I already mentioned a Mountain View anecdote some time ago on this blog, though it's about high school.

    My son's good friend from middle school went to Balboa High School, with his parents (well-meaning but nervous nellies) kicking and screaming. The boy was fairly insistent because enough of his friends were going and he thought the programs looked really good. Well, the boy has thrived, and the parents have been won over. (The kid is white in a school that I think is about 5% white, just for the record.)

    But the mom got a job in San Jose -- Dad works on the Peninsula. The commute was grueling. Dad and son didn't want to move, but they grudgingly rented an apartment in Mountain View last summer, before the boy started 11th grade (keeping their house in San Francisco), and transferred the son to Mountain View High School.

    He hated it -- really hated it. It wasn't that the standards were higher, just that he was so not on board with the whole suburban culture thing. And he really, really missed his friends, activities and classes at Balboa. The parents took an honest look and decided they couldn't do this to their son, so they moved back to the city at semester break, and the son happily returned to Bal for his second semester of 11th grade. The parents told me ruefully that if they'd realized how hard it would be on him they'd never have tried it. Both parents hated Mountain View too, by the way, and they all spent their weekends in the city.

    Obviously there are many, many happy kids living the life of the 'burbs and attending Mountain View High. Just not that one. Just worth noting.

    (BTW this kid started K at a private school, now-defunct Discovery Center; attended Lakeshore 1-5 and Aptos 6-8; Mom is a doctor and Dad is an accountant)

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  6. i was at a seder in menlo park last night and talked with a bunch of other parents of school-age kids. apparently, there are too many kids in menlo park for the current facilities, so they have to redistrict and everyone is as freaked by the situation as people are here. (i guess people have been relocating there deliberately because the perception is that, aside from menlo and palo alto, surrounding schools -- east palo, redwood city, etc. -- are not good.) anyway, just a data point that there are grievances and troubles everywhere.

    funny moment: when i said we were holding out for an immersion program, everyone crowded around excitedly and quizzed me on the details. a woman said they were trying to start a spanish dual-immersion program in menlo but one of the obstacles was they couldn't get enough native spanish speakers (i was like, hmm, might want to open up to those precious potential applicants in east palo). it was amusing.

    i attended suburban and semirural california public schools in the 70s and 80s. what i recall was the intensity of the drug use: crystal meth, coke, pot, crank, binge drinking, shrooms, ecstasy (at the end), LSD -- you name it, we were doing it. it seemed like everyone was doing it. i don't know if it was the era, the locales or a combo of the two, but i strongly associate indiscriminate drug use (coupled with driving) with suburban upbringings and it is one of the reasons my kids will not have one (a suburban upbringing, that is). that and the fake boobs and tans (the general aesthetic, period). oh, and the conservatism. oops -- i almost forgot the car culture. and strip malls (not that i don't enjoy them, actually -- maybe i enjoy them a little too much). and the generational divisions (i.e., kids never hang with anyone older or younger than themselves).

    don't get me wrong: i think kids can thrive and make lifelong friends anywhere -- i did -- but i feel like we've built equity in a way of life here and i'd hate to throw it all away before our "investment" has matured, when our kids are just getting started here. sure, it has its problems and many systems are broken, and middle-class people are fucking second-class citizens here, but i'm willing to work on all that.

    it's true that muni needs to stand up and start treating parents like human beings. such an asshole institution.

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  7. It's all personal choice. Some people don't like cities, some people don't like suburbs, some people wouldn't live in a small country town for anything. I hate the judgmental crap that flows here. I love living in the city and would hate to have move back to the suburbs where I group up now, but I don't think the suburbs are inherently evil (or superior). Frankly, I think a lot of parents are more worried about their own comfort level and desires than their kids. And, sorry, but this is true more so of the parents who want to live in the city. It's an ego thing, and a personal interests thing, etc. There are good schools both places, there are crap situations in good schools both places. Your kid's experience is going to have some luck involved regardless of where they end up. Some kids are jerks and some aren't. P.S. Suburbs aren't anymore of a hotbed of drug activity than city schools. Drugs are all over. Don't kid yourselves.

    P.P.S. If you're talking East Bay, San Ramon schools are supposed to be really good academically, but you're out in the middle of nowhere. Foster City has some good elementary schools. Of course, Foster City--liquification and planned community vibe(re: business parks and residential neighborhoods).

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  8. My experience in suburban public schools also involved drug use, though I don't think many of us graduated beyond pot, speed, shrooms and alcohol. No ecstasy, meth, etc., at least in jr. high and high school back then--the early-mid eighties. I do remember stories about someone's older sister doing coke. Some just experimented on the weekends. Others made sharing a joint a regular after-school ritual. This was in an affluent suburb of Washington, DC, in an excellent school district. All of my buddies were college-bound (going in equal numbers to the ivies and good state schools) and fairly serious students and, with one exception, the drugs didn't seem to get in the way of these ambitions.

    As I remember it, older siblings were the suppliers, house parties when parents were away the norm. I don't really imagine that it is that much different in the city. Please educate me if you've put a kid through high school here (or were one yourself) and feel drug use was not an issue.

    We avoid the suburbs because we don't want that lifestyle for ourselves or for our kids, though there's certainly something to be said for sun, flat backyards (or any at all!). We'll revisit that option in the future, I'm sure.

    I'm wondering what those in the 'burbs are saying about the impending budget cuts. It will have to hurt suburban schools, too, when billions of dollars get cut from the state education budget, right? Reports say the numbers are looking worse now than two months ago....

    As for MUNI, we could probably go on forever about near death experiences involving babies, toddlers and moms trying to wrangle strollers and everything else as the bus speeds away. My own experiences drove me off public transportation altogether while my kids were too small to walk on the bus and hold on by themselves. Now it's mostly a fun adventure.

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  9. What school districts outside of the city are considered to be the best? Where do people move when they move mostly for the schools?

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  10. Every time I get frustrated with the city and say that we're moving cause of the schools, I have to catch myself and realize that I don't really know if suburban schools are better than ones in SF. I know the living would be more peaceful (less noise, traffic, etc.), but it would also be more boring for all of us.

    Is there any real information about Bay Area schools? API scores don't tell you anything, GreatSchools.net parent reviews are not representative... where's The Berkeley K Files or Oakland K Files blog?

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  11. This is a pretty good resource: Berkeley Parents Network.

    I have a friend with a son in high school and a daughter in elementary school. She compromised on the schools because the elementary school is close. They're not great schools, not awful. She's a diehard public school advocate, so she was sending her kids to public school regardless. She's not overly impressed with them, however. Her son bascially stopped going this year because he wasn't doing homework or enjoying the school at all.

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  12. haha, sorry, that last link was wrong.

    try this: http://parents.berkeley.edu/

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  13. And that friend story was supposed to mention that they live in Berkeley.

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  14. Thanks for your anecdote, Caroline. I attended public school in the 90s in Seattle (with a school system very similar to San Francisco). It was a big inner-city school where, as a caucasian student, I was in a tiny minority. I did very well there, went on to do very well on my SATs, got into some of the top schools in the country (UC Berkeley, Stanford). I wouldn't trade my public high school experience for anything. I learned about people from different socioeconomic groups, different ethnicities, different languages, etc. You are unlikely to get that kind of diversity in private or suburban schools. Even though my public school was big and urban and poor-performing, it still prepared me well (in most ways) for college academics.

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  15. We used to live in Palo Alto but moved back to SF. It wasn't a school-related issue; I just love the city and think it's a great place to grow up. I've never for a moment regretted our decision.

    As for the schools, we left Palo Alto before our oldest started kindergarten so we don't have direct experience. Obviously the schools are considered a huge attraction of Palo Alto. However. from what my friends tell me the emphasis on testing is VERY pronounced (not surprisingly), to the point where the weekly timed practice tests starting in 1st grade are a major source of stress for parents and kids.

    There was a lot of overflow from one school to another there, so often there were several kids who didn't end up attending the neighborhood school each year. There are 3 schools with "magnet" programs that are all very popular and are assigned through a lottery.

    One big difference between Palo Alto and San Francisco is that there was much more of a prevailing culture in PA. By that I mean that if you were a kid who liked playing soccer (and was good at it), etc then you were fine, but there were fewer options socially for kids who didn't want to participate in the few predominant activities. Whereas here in SF I think it's a lot easier to find people with all sorts of interests and fit into many sorts of communities.

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  16. "Suburbs aren't anymore of a hotbed of drug activity than city schools. Drugs are all over. Don't kid yourselves."

    This was my point too, in response to parents who think their kids will be protected in suburbia.

    Oh, and also, not on the radar of most people here -- the driving!! My son will turn 18 on Oct. 30, and he's had just a couple of informal driving lessons and isn't particularly interested. (He has to get at least a California ID card before the voter reg deadline so he can vote in the presidential election -- a driver's license or DMV ID card is required to register to vote -- he is really excited about this!)

    Not driving at 17 1/2 would be absolutely unheard of in any suburb, of course, but it's not unusual in the city.

    This does mean we drive him somewhat more than we'd otherwise have to, but mostly he takes Muni, BART, Caltrain etc. And we couldn't afford a car and especially insurance for him anyway!

    My son has one friend/classmate who also doesn't drive; this boy's family lived in ParkMerced until a year or so ago, which of course was totally Muni-friendly. They just moved to a neighborhood that's a huge swath of houses spilling down from Skyline Blvd. to Pacifica -- and now the kid is totally stranded; no transit whatsoever.

    One can see advantages or disadvantages either way, I guess, but it's a huge cultural difference.

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  17. Sorry to digress, but I have to point out another use of the weird little island that is Treasure Island. It is an exceptionally good place to take kids who need to practice their driving skills. Big, wide, uncrowded streets with stop signs, left turns and all of the features of a real city street, even the occasional, very empty, MUNI bus. Also great for learning to get the feel of street riding for young bike riders. And the views!

    Check it out. (But look out for those 15 1/2 year olds practicing their driving skills)

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  18. Re: relocating to the suburbs. I am an east bay resident and love life here (one child, not yet in school). A few thoughts for those considering a move:

    Berkeley Parents Network, as mentioned, is a great resource regarding schools/recommendations/advice (careful, though, it can be addictive!).

    I live in Rockridge (part of Oakland). Here, many people send their kids to the local elementary schools and will look elsewhere for middle/high school. In Berkeley, there is a lottery system for elementary schools. The system is much less complex than that of SF, but you are not guaranteed to be placed in your neighborhood school. From what I've seen, many wealthier Berkelites go private, esp if they didn't get into a choice elementary school. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, just like in SF.

    People move to Piedmont in the east bay for schools. It is a small, wealthier city enclosed within Oakland. In my opinion, it is less desirable than Berkeley, Rockridge, N. Oakland (i.e. Piedmont is more traditionally suburban), but people seem to be happy there. Schools further out (Lafayette, Orinda, etc) are probably a bit better, but I would not choose to live there (much more suburban than Piedmont, which is still a stone's throw away from more culture and diversity). For what it's worth, I know many former SF dwellers (my husband included) who are very happy here BUT if I were moving from SF for schools, I would move to Marin. Again, just my personal preference. We will likely stay in the east bay and look for a progressive private school that meets our child's needs (partly because the schools Oakland aren't great and partly because I want my child to attend a school that I feel philosophically aligned with).

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  19. I think Berkeley does a pretty reasonable job integrating their schools and they do use race as one of the factors in their assignment process. Even the top performing elementary school (Oxford) is pretty balanced at least in terms of ethnicities. The overall API's are not stellar but if you look at the breakdown based on demographics, you will find the white and asian students scoring extremely well (950's!) and the latino and african american's scoring nearly 300 points lower. Based on that data (for whatever API's are worth) and some friends' stories, it seems to me that a very sound education can be had within BUSD. Also, I was very impressed with the philosophical basis of their assignment process...

    http://www.berkeley.net/index.php?page=student-assignment-plan

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  20. We're considering a move to Albany. Not because the schools are "better". I think many SF public schools are just as good. But to be in a community with kids everywhere, where kids walk to school, to live next door to people with kids, to have a backyard and to enjoy the ease of living in a kid-focused community. Plus, in Albany, kids go to the same school as their friends from K-12, and you can't put a price on those kind of relationships. If we stay in SF, we're facing the idea of driving miles to a middle school across town, and then to a different HS a few years later. As for us parents, in Albany, you can still walk to get a coffee and eat all the same food you do in SF, so I don't think I'll miss SF all that much! I find SF to be a fairly suburban city and we live in the Inner Sunset. The houses in Albany are small, but at least you can get a 3-bedroom house for under $800K! To get that in SF, it's out to Excelsior or beyond. So that's why we're seriously considering Albany!

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  21. Kate,
    With all due respect, your blog this time feels so disingenuous. You speak of wanting to convince your friends to "stay" in the city while you opt to send your child off to MCD. What sense does that make? I have to say that if you are truly committed to the city you would have sent your kid to a city school, committed yourself to immersing yourself in volunteering for a SF school (private or public take your pick!). Given your example, it is not surprising that your friends are jumping ship.

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  22. What about Alameda? I was impressed with the town on a recent visit, and have heard the schools are good. Is that true? The commute into the city would be shorter than San Ramon or Albany.

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  23. I think that there are more "good" elementary schools in SF than in Berkeley, though life is probably easier in Berkeley. Problem, of course, is getting in to one of the many good ones here. Perhaps easier to get into one of the good-okay ones there. I don't know.

    For the poster commenting about Kate and MCDS, MCDS is essentially a San Francisco school even though it's in Marin. Sounds like Kate and her family are living in the city and sending Alice to school in Marin. Much different than moving to Marin or elsewhere, at least from my perspective. MCDS is on the list of schools that a certain type of SF family applies to along with the other "big ones" here in the city.

    We've watched many friends move in the last few years, some far away. It's sad. We wonder when we'll come to the conclusion that a move would be best for our family. I hope not soon!

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  24. So far, I have to say, this is by far the best thread yet on this blog.

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  25. I think the Columbine shootings and other similar tragedies dispelled any notions I ever had that suburban schools in affluent communities are somehow safer and offer more safe & sane distractions for youth.

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  26. MCDS is *not* an SF school. It is definitely a Marin school, albeit one that attracts students from SF. With the exception of Kate, none of the MCDS families we know (and we know *many) seriously considered public school.

    I'm a huge fan of MCDS. In many ways it is my dream school.

    But I find it hard to understand how a school like that got started in a county that supposedly has such great public schools. Why *wouldn't* you send your kids to a Marin public school? If you live in Marin and make enough to pay MCDS tuition, you can probably afford to live in a good school district in Marin, no?

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  27. MCDS was around in my childhood in Marin, a time when Marin was not overall a haven for rich people. It was attended by families who are of the social class who simply had always sent their kids to private school.

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  28. RE: MCDS... given the (relatively) new head of school's background in bilingual education, do you think they'll be strengthening their foreign language program at all?

    They have a strong offering in middle school compared to other private schools, but that just means their graduates place out of the kind of Spanish high school classes that never produced a fluent speaker anyway ;-)

    My family's from Spain and I met many an AP Spanish graduate in college who could not hold their own in a conversation, though I'm sure they passed the AP test with flying colors...

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  29. Kate wrote: <(I need your help convincing my friends to stay.)>

    Why? If you send your kids to school in Marin, they'll be out of the city about 10 hours a day. Ok, they'll sleep here, and be here on weekends, but most of their time will not be in San Francisco, it will be in Marin.

    So I don't get your point about staying in San Francisco, if your children don't even go to school here.

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  30. Anon at 7:05

    What is the difference between a parent sending their child to MCDS "for ten hours a day", and going to their regular public school and attending after school until 6:00 o'clock like at least half the kids in our school do? Either way it's ten hours.

    Surely you wouldn't criticize the parents who use childcare at their school as bitterly as you're lambasting Kate? As I understand it, she has a full-time job. Whether she goes public or private, in SF or Marin, her kids will be in someone else's care for a good part of the day. Why shouldn't she choose an environment she truly loves for her children?

    I'm a big public school booster too, but sometimes we need to take a step back and see that other people's needs may be different than our own.

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  31. Feeback on Orinda schools??
    I know their test scores are amazing. My husband grew up in Marin but loves the Orinda area. I'm an east-coast, public schooled girl and want to know more.
    We looked online at houses when we got 0/7 in round 1...

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  32. One big difference, which one of the earlier commenters here noted, is that public school districts like Marin and Palo Alto do a FAR better job for special needs children. Indeed, I've had several friends move specifically for that reason. And when I compare my special needs son's experience in a SF public school versus my co-worker's experience for his kid in Marin public schools, it is very clear that there is a real difference. Special needs teachers in Marin are more proactive and, frankly, appear to be better trained to handle a range of special needs kids. I'd love to know why this is and have a bunch of theories --maybe special ed teachers get burned out with the far greater caseload of 'discipline problem' kids in SF? Maybe these other districts pay more or give special ed teachers better training opportunities? But I think this is a real difference and one that, if I had to do it all over again, would have pushed me out of the city.

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  33. FYI - If you want sun in the city there is plenty of it in the mission (lots of diversity too!)

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  34. what about facilities? The thing that really impresses me about the Burbs is not only the much higher-test score averages, but also the space... Schools actually have grass, and playing fields, not too mention other much needed things like decent classrooms with lighting, science labs, swimming pools, etc .....

    The list goes on and on... I will always equate higher API's, more affluent communities, and much better school grounds with a better overall enviorment for success when it comes to my child. I just cant get my head around the SF public school experience... I am trying hard, but as someone who grew up on SF schools, I know they lack a lot. Most of all I think its an enviorment where kids are not surrounded by a peer group which lifts them up. And also an establishment which is not resourced to enagage kids beyond what the parents put in.....

    The Burbs looks promissing .... Especially for middle and High schools

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  35. Any insight about what type of special needs kids that Marin and Palo Alto does a good job on?

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  36. "...maybe special ed teachers get burned out with the far greater caseload of 'discipline problem' kids in SF? Maybe these other districts pay more or give special ed teachers better training opportunities?"

    Both of these are undoubtedly true. A few months ago the Chronicle did some coverage of the school-age ghetto/barrio kids in SFUSD (focusing on Visitacion Valley Middle School) who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the violence that surrounds them, including violent deaths of loved ones.

    If they switched places -- Mill Valley special-ed teachers for SFUSD ones -- the Mill Valley ones plunked down in some high-need SFUSD schools would not work sudden miracles. They are working with far (massively, staggeringly) greater resources and far higher needs. It's not magic.

    High achievement correlates directly with higher incomes, which is why savvy observers refer to the API as the Affluent Parent Index.

    It's true that being surrounded by privileged kids whose parents are pushing them to meet sky-high expectations is likely to create a different environment for your kid or mine -- that's hard to dispute.

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  37. "It's true that being surrounded by privileged kids whose parents are pushing them to meet sky-high expectations is likely to create a different environment for your kid or mine -- that's hard to dispute."

    I really appreciate this post. It truly speaks to your sincerety Caroline.

    This message underlines why I can't mentally commit to SF publich schools. I know that very few if any schools in SF offer this. And those that do are almost impossible for anyone to get into.

    Then if I want the best for my child and I put them first. Why would I chose to stay in the city? Or stay in public over private?

    Is a second langauge more important than the core of your kids educational enviorment? Is high diversity more important than your kids expectations of themselves?

    These are the questions that challenge me and ultimatly have me thinking either private or Burbs...

    Most likely Marin..... I'll take my chance with a pot smoking (4 year college) kid, instead of a pot smoking (community college) Kid...

    I know my comments assume a lot, but I think my assumptions do apply to kids on avergae... Not all of course....

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  38. Sending your kid to public schools does seem sometimes like you're handicapping them from the get go. I know kids can succeed there, but is it in spite of the environment, not because of it?

    Going private alleviates those concerns much better, I think, but yeah, you are giving up diversity. After the elementary school years, though, it seems like kids splinter off by race/economics anyway, if those studies we've seen quoted here and there are accurate.

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  39. To Anon at 11:30 am -- Where the Marin special ed people excel is in their proactive approach to a kid's needs. That is, they don't wait for a problem to develop, they get in there and keep tabs to keep problems from developing. For example, in both middle and high school, the assigned special ed paraprofessional for the child I know of basically tracks him through his day, helping keep him organized, and trouble-shooting issues with each of his teachers. Similarly, at the beginning of each school year, she goes to each of his teachers and gives them a run-down on his issues. In other words, she doesn't wait for his assigned teachers to come to her, she goes out to them proactively before any problems develop. Every day he spends time with her, where she works with him on organizational tips, on tools to keep him focused, etc. By contrast, the way my kid's SF elementary school works, the special ed people just don't play that role.

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  40. earlier, someone mentioned that suburban schools are typically less inclusive of kids who are different from the norm. i think this is spot on and should not be lost in the larger discussion of resource and academic disparities. i would go further and say that there are quite simply fewer ways to be socially successful in suburban environments. pretty, athletic and slatternly are principal among them. i am not suggesting that SF is some utopia where all kids find their niche. rather, that there is a mysterious ingredient that exists in our urban schools, that it is not just the (selfish) urban parents who benefit from it and that it is as important as academics for our children's development. it's a high acceptance of difference/uniqueness and i don't think you can overstate the extent to which it does NOT exist in california's suburbs. i suspect that this social norm contributes in some way to kids developing richer, more freethinking intellects. to the occasional creative genius. and to being happier with oneself (and therefore better primed to meet one's potential without all the years of therapy and bullshit). survey your friends: how many of them liked their suburban high school experience? how many of them spent more energy managing their acceptance index than being intellectually curious?

    egad, rereading now, horrors...somebody got hit with the new-agey stick today.

    p.s. i think both caroline's and the 2:23 poster's comments were honest and brave. i don't agree with all the points, but i understand the logic. that said, re: immersion, i think classifying these programs as ones in which you learn a "second language" -- implicitly at the expense of a quality educational environment -- is to miss their import. learning and acquiring language bilingually and biculturally provides so much more than that. at the cognitive level and at the social level. i know some here have argued against this, but anyone who lives in a bilingual family or who has had a true immersion experience herself knows it to be true.

    i'm not sure how much some kids' poor performance really impacts other kids'. i mean, it seems like it would, and that the curricula would torque toward the lowest common denominator, but my friend the IRF tells me it isn't so: that, throughout the district, kids' individual test scores reflect their socioeconomic status, regardless of what school they attend. something to think about.

    on a more random note, i have been working in martha's in bernal all morning and a bunch of paul revere kids and teachers have slipped in and out during the lunch hour. they seemed like very nice, well-spoken kids. since it was our #2 choice on our amended list, we might be joining them next year. i'm tired of all the waiting and dithering -- i want to get excited about a school already.

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  41. If all the people commenting on this blog are as participatory in their child's education, be it public or private, they are going to do well.

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  42. I agree with Kim about the "mysterious ingredient" in an urban education. It's tough for me to put my finger on what it is, but it's definitely there.

    Also, I try to bite my tongue, but as the parent of several kids in public schools, find it hard not to take it personally when people assume that I am somehow handicapping my children by sending them to a public school. Just how exactly? My children are happy. My children have friends. My children have great teachers. My children even perform extremely well on standardized tests (horrors!) Will someone please explain how rubbing elbows with children who may be poorer than they are, or have a different skin color, or whose native language is something other than English is harming them?

    I know this is hypothetical for a lot of you -- your children have not yet actually set foot in a San Francisco public school -- but think about what you are conveying to your children in the meantime.

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  43. I really appreciate the comments in this thread.

    Kim - you pointed out something that I found to be true of my middle class public experience - the limited categories for social success ("pretty, athletic and slatternly"). I remember the intense focus on athletics in my own high school. I was a decent athlete but even at the time I remember thinking to myself - I am never going to be a professional athlete - what is the point of all of this (i.e., 3 hours of practice a day)? Sure - it kept a lot of us out of trouble, but educational curiosity? No Way - debate, politics, financial literacy, business? None of these areas were of any particular importance at my school. Sports, sports, sports...

    I am hoping that city public schools will provide a different and more enriching experience for my kids (and if they turn into gang-bangers instead of jocks then I am surely going to hell).

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  44. Truly bilingual kids outscore monolingual kids on all sorts of measures, from abstract thinking and logic to creativity.

    A "second" language is what you get in private schools from studying a foreign language for a handful of hours a week.

    An additional "first" language is what you get when you learn science, math, history and other subjects immersed in a new language.

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  45. "I know that very few if any schools in SF offer this. And those that do are almost impossible for anyone to get into."

    I disagree with both of these claims, based on my experience as an SFUSD parent. But it is true that in a wealthy suburb, most of the school community has the same upper-middle-class hopes and aspirations for their kids. It's a social class issue, not an issue with the school. If you think your kids benefit from being around the privileged and only the privileged, your path is clear.

    The notion that Marin kids are more likely to go to four-year college is also distorted. A great number of bright, high-achieving kids go to community college for financial reasons (since I have a college admissions blog, I claim some expertise in this area). So you're praising the rich simply for being rich.

    Re tolerance of kids who don't fit the "pretty, athletic or slatternly" pattern -- my son's high school (and next year my daughter's too), SOTA, is viewed as being the place for kids who would be misfits in other high schools, even SFUSD high schools. My son says semi-jokingly that all the SOTA guys are geeks, hippies or gay (he was commenting on its not being a hot place for girls to find romance). But earlier I posted about the Balboa kid who hated his semester at Mountain View High -- I think that was about his not fitting the mold.

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  46. Some kids do fit into pretty, athletic, and popular categories, too. Some kids like organized sports. Let's not got to far and imply there is something wrong with them, and they're only suited for suburban schools. Some of those kids like art and music and drama and diversity, too.

    I don't think the person was saying publics DO handicap kids, I think they were speaking to their fears that it might. Will they get "dragged down" if they're surrounded by people whose goals might be very different from their own. I don't think it has to do with race or social class, but the different attitudes and expectations they might encounter that might hinder what they hope for.

    It was an honest response. People do think about these things when they're trying to pick a school, even when we try to rise above those fears.

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  47. **Will they get "dragged down" if they're surrounded by people whose goals might be very different from their own. I don't think it has to do with race or social class,**

    Of course it has to do with economics and social class, and those factors do correlate with race. ("It" being the likelihood of having higher aspirations for and expectations of your children, and the resources to pursue them.)

    If you talk about being honest about that, you need to BE honest about it. It is about social class, wealth and race. There are no easy answers.

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  48. I just meant that I bet that they do want diversity, and they aren't afraid of color and bank balances, per se. I know it's splitting hairs, but I hope you see what I mean. It's like, will teachers having to devote so much time to struggling groups, hurt the overall experience? Will be around influences where the emphasis isn't so much on academic success/college/etc. be detrimental? Of course, race and economics play a part in that, but color and money aren't the issues. It's the crappy situation that exists in our society. I guess this doesn't make much sense, so I'll quit.

    But I think it's hypocritical for anyone to deny they haven't had these kinds of thoughts. That doesn't mean we should be proud of them or shouldn't work through them.

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  49. I attended an urban high school in a small city. My school drew kids from every type of neighborhood and family in town. Rich, middle-class, poor, white, latino, black, south asian (very few Chinese-American kids but quite a few from Vietnam and Cambodia). Probably ~half the kids were white, and ~half the kids qualified for free/reduced lunches. So it was a fairly diverse population.

    My experience there, however, did not reflect that diversity. With ~300 students per grade, we were somehow identified by the administration as either college-bound or not. The "college-bound" kids got the better teachers and were groomed for AP classes. The other kids took remedial classes and Shop. The overwhelming majority of the "college-bound" kids were white and middle- to upper-class.

    As one of the white students on the "college-bound" track, my only exposure to the students not on that track was passing them in the halls, sitting in the same auditorium (though not right next to them) during assemblies, etc. It was widely accepted that most students hung out together based on (1) socio-economics and then (2) ethnic background. There wasn't a lot of tension around these divisions; it's just the way things were. I don't feel as though I benefited much from the diversity, since my daily experience with kids truly different from me was quite remote.

    So, although I really like the idea of my kids attending a school with a diverse student population, I wonder to what extent the "diverse" SF schools experience the same sorts of class and ethnic cliques that mine did. If they do, is that diversity really going to matter very much for most of the kids? I know it will for a few, and maybe that's better than none, but it does have me questioning my reliance on diversity as one of the reasons to stay in SF vs go suburban, at least as far as school experiences and school friendships are concerned.

    Last fall, while touring several immersion schools, I noticed on the playground that kids were mostly playing in small, language-based groups (i.e., many of the white kids were engaged with other white kids and speaking English, etc). Of course, there were exceptions, as there always are. But the overall segregation was quite noticeable. Maybe that changes as the kids learn each other's native language? I didn't tour many gen-ed schools, so I don't know how the playground might divide at those schools. Still, it has me wondering how much value to place on student diversity as one of the reasons to stay in SF. At this point, the fact that my spouse and I both work in SF and don't want to commute probably ranks higher on our list of reasons to stay.

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  50. A note on Campolindo High School in Orinda where one niece has graduated and the other is still there. They transferred there from Berkeley schools where they hung out with "alternative" crowds. The school population at Campolindo is extremely homogeneous. My nieces would readily agree that, as Kim put it so well, the kids there are spending "more energy managing their acceptance index than being intellectually curious." Sports are everything and if you are not participating in a gross number of extracurricular activities your acceptance index is low. They feel judged for living in a small condo rather than a monster home. You are not cool if you don't drive at 16, and drive a nice car at that. On the plus side, one niece said optimistically, she got to experience some of the "all American" high school experiences like homecoming dances and kings and queens being crowned.

    Different strokes for different folks.

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  51. In discussing the benefits of a diverse population at a school, I think it might be helpful to distinguish between elementary school and beyond. I think I learned a lot about schoolmates of different races in elementary school even if I didn't hang out with everyone on the school yard. After elementary school, the tension between the races began and my fear did not transform into curiosity about others. Instead, I steered clear.

    Just an interesting aside: I quizzed a black guy who grew up in Irvine which I knew to be an all white city. He said he never felt different, there was no race tension. I suppose because there was no socio-economic factor, his skin color was his only difference and this did not matter to anyone he knew. He seemed to me to be truly color blind. Whereas I feel like my experience at my extremely diverse schools left me anything but color blind.

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  52. That's interesting. It does seem supported by the research out there that elementary school kids do integrate a whole lot more than older kids. I guess that's one plug for public schools at that age--early acceptance/awareness of all kinds of people. Too bad it turns out differently in later years.

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  53. I grew up in San Francisco and went to private schools- and i can tell you that the social pressure and a narrow view of success (sports, beauty, straight hair) were all part of the picture there. And, the alcohol and drug use (lots of cocaine, in 1985) were huge. So maybe what that tells us is that wealth=sports, beauty, drugs, not really urban v. suburban. Honestly, my main concern about the suburbs (where i live with a toddler) is the driving. i hope by the time she's old enough to drive we'll all be using jet packs to get around.

    But, that said, I'd like to point out that a lot of the suburban public schools draw from a wide area, for instance Tam High draws from Mill Valley and Marin City so it's not as white and suburban as you assume. There is not as much diversity as in the city, it's true, but the ratio at tam high is 73% white, 7% asian, 7% hispanic, 6% african american. Compare that to Lowell, where the stats are 64% asian, 15% white, 6% hispanic, 6% filipino, 3% african american.

    Different composition, but equal white & asian at both.

    Tam High:
    http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/ca/other/3492#students
    Lowell: http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/ca/other/6397#students

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  54. Tam High is even whiter than Lowell is Asian!

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  55. Tam and San Rafael High schools both have a significant minority percentage. Tam was about 15% black when I went there. It DEFINITELY was a major eye-opener and cultural change for me, after Mill Valley's all-white-all-the-time K-8 schools.

    (Since I graduated in 1971, this means we had really great music -- the school and all our events were pervaded with both the Motown of the late '60s plus the Dead/Sons of Champlin/Quicksilver music coming out of the Haight.)

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  56. I wonder what the factors are that make kids start segregating in middle school.

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  57. For me, middle school was all about trying to fit in. So maybe it's not surprising that kids that age gravitate toward others who seem similar, in the most obvious ways, to themselves. Also, unless the middle school is part of a K-8 school, many kids probably stick with their friends from elementary school. So if their elementary school wasn't very diverse, their continuing friendships probably aren't, either. If their elementary school was diverse, then maybe they continue more diverse friendships. Or maybe they retreat to segregation; I don't know. I doubt that segregation tendencies are entirely absent from most elementary school cultures.

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  58. I live in San Carlos (born, raised, and lived in Noe Valley/Castro area of SF until 3 years ago). I HATE it!!! I don't connect with any of the women; there sooo "San Carlosy" LOL...Everyone is so SVU driving, gap wearing, proto types of actual people! But the schools are great. That WAS a MAJOR factor of us moving here with our toddlers! That and my hubby joined a practice here.

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  59. I went to public schools in SF k-12 graduated in the late 80's. While there was certainly some self-selection going on, and my closest friends from highschool are the same as me in terms of race, gender and economic status, we swam in a much larger pool. We dated across all lines and had many diverse friendships. Truthfully, we never really thought about it at the time though. It just was.
    When we started the school hunt a few years ago, my husband I (he's also a k-12 SFUSD grad) were a little shocked by how much it meant to us to re-create that experience for our children. I'm not sure we were aware of what an integral part of us that experience was. My life then included far more diversity then my life has in the last 15 years, even though we still live in the city. It's actually nice to be back in a public school environment as an adult for that reason.
    Also, for whatever it's worth, I know many many many happy, well-adjusted, intellectually curious, gainfully employed SFUSD graduates. I do not feel that I am sacrificing my children's education in any way by choosing a public school for them.

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  60. I am promising myself that this is my absolute last time reading this blog. Once again, I am smacked in the face by 2 Caroline posts:

    In her post on 4/22 at 5:42 pm, she writes...

    "**Will they get "dragged down" if they're surrounded by people whose goals might be very different from their own. I don't think it has to do with race or social class,**
    Of course it has to do with economics and social class, and those factors do correlate with race. ("It" being the likelihood of having higher aspirations for and expectations of your children, and the resources to pursue them.)"

    Once again, Caroline states that the DESIRE FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO DO WELL is correlated with race. That white parents are more likely to have "higher aspirations for and expectations of" their children and "the resources to pursue them." It seems that Caroline is just unable to see the distinction between race and socio-economic status. And just because you may be poor, it doesn't mean you don't value education. In fact, you may just value it more.

    Then in a later post, Caroline talks about diversity at her former public school. And how going to a school w/ a 15% AA population meant "they had really great music." What, Caroline? Did you have a really great basketball team, too?

    No matter what the topic - no matter what the thread - you have always seemed to interject this need to equate race=class=socio-economic status. It is incredibly off-putting. You have been told this numerous times by numerous people and yet you continue to do so - in even more blatant ways.

    As I type this, I realize it is a complete waste of my time. You will dismiss it and me as you have so many before. I do not think you intend to offend people. But you certainly are good at it.

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  61. I can't believe that I am defending Caroline. But I don't think her post about the composition of her high school and the great music conflated those two facts. Would take a very narrow reading to do so and I think it is unfair.

    I also don't think her post about race factors was intended in the way that the previous poster noted. I give her a Barack Obama pass misspoke mulligan here.

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  62. OMG!!! I finally agree with Caroline on something:

    really great music...Dead/Sons of Champlin/Quicksilver

    Love,
    Too-Old-To-Be-Typing-OMG
    (but not quite as old as Caroline)

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  63. Those are deliberate misreadings.

    Race DOES correlate with social class -- it simply, flatly does. It's not a 100% correlation, obviously, but "on average" it's a correlation.

    If you move to Orinda to get away from poor people who don't have high expectations for their kids, you ARE also moving to Orinda to get away from black and Latino people, who are on average more likely to be poor people who don't have high expectations for their kids. Sorry if you think it's not PC to state that.

    Regarding the music, it was a great era for music and yes, the black kids in my school brought in the cultural element of Motown soul, which otherwise wouldn't have been present. If you think it's racist to say that, I give up.

    But I think this stuff is deliberate misreading by people who otherwise don't agree with some of my comments. Since someone brought up Obama, they're "flag pin" comments. Nobody sincerely believes that Obama is a commie because he didn't wear a flag pin. (Don't forget to point out that I'm old, too!)

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  64. I went to public school here in the city from preschool to 12th grade, and even with some terrible high school experiences (the first two years at Washington) I thank God my parents didn't consider relocating us. With all the incredible resources and parents that were open to finding a good fit for me, I had a high school experience that (i think) would be absolutely impossible outside of this incredible city.

    I think the under-acknowledged programs that I participated in high school most likely saved my life. Thanks to Arlene Ackerman, one of those programs - the Urban Pioneers program no longer exists, but it's effects on my life are permanent. How many programs such as this one will you find in the suburbs? Really, I'm asking, if anyone knows please do share. I also had the privilege of participating in a semester long sail-training program called Tallships Semester for girls, and the experience absolutely shaped the mom I am today.

    Maybe I would have benefitted from a big backyard and flat streets, but I wouldn't trade it for the San Francisco EXPERIENCE my kids will be blessed with, just as my husband and I were.

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  65. Why are people so emotionally exercised about Kate’s choice to send her child to private school?

    Some thoughts:

    If the one or more of the following is true:

    • You are upper middle class and white and you are not used to dealing with inequity in the system in your personal life.

    • You feel that, deep down, private school would actually be a better education and the more comfortable choice for your family but it is unavailable for some reason.

    • You actually liked Kate from her blog writing and felt that she shared your viewpoint and values.

    Then you may do the following:

    • You cannot reconcile Kate’s evil choice with your former viewpoint of her, therefore you reject her as an apostate to the cause.

    • You lash out to parents who decide to send their child to private school as YOYO elitists.

    • You tout your own choice as being actually better than any private school.

    • You bask in your moral superiority as a politically correct individual in San Francisco.

    To be fair; I also offer up the following:

    Why are some parents people so defensive about sending their kids to private school?

    • You are upper middle class and white and you feel guilty about being a separatist and not living by your expressed values when it comes to your own family.

    • You are worried about being judged negatively on the playground when people ask you where your child is going to school and you will only be able to go to playgrounds in the Marina or the Presidio.

    • You think that you really aren’t getting that much more for 20K a year and you are a chump for paying it.

    • You think you are becoming your own parents which you swore you would never do when you moved to bohemian San Francisco.

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  66. I really don't want to get into another argument on a whole unrelated topic, but I will still note that it's not fair to bash Arlene Ackerman for shutting down Urban Pioneer. It was plagued with very concrete problems.

    1. 2 kids died on a school wilderness outing due to clear negligence by the school.
    2. It was in financial shambles, with teachers going unpaid.
    3. It was graduating students with far fewer than the required credits, violating the law.
    4. Its test scores were rock-bottom, 1-1 on the API.

    Under the district's responsibilities overseeing a charter school, it could not keep the program open under those circumstances.

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  67. My wife and I moved to Marin County on the mistaken belief that the high school in Mill Valley would be better for our children. Our son did not particularly like it there. We eventually moved back to San Francisco (kicking out our renter) and found places for the other two children at Washington High School in the Richmond District.

    All three did equally well on the SAT test and matriculated in universities that they liked.

    In short, I think parents overemphasize the ability of schools (whether public or private) to enhance their children's learning. In reality, you, the parent, make or break your child in educational terms.

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  68. They were not misreadings, Caroline. Perhaps to you they are, as a white woman. But to a person of color, the read loud and clear - at least to me. And I can only speak from my own heart - as you have from yours. Please do not ascribe my feelings to a "misreading." Your post incited something in me. Deal with it. As for the poster who said the music comment was perhaps miscontrued, read Caroline's defense of it - that, without the "black kids" the Motown influence wouldn't have been brought into her school "otherwise." Cause heaven knows only black people listened to Motown. Funny how many people I know who grew up in nearly all white neighborhoods grew up listening to Motown, too...hmmm....the thing I don't get is how you still can justify your statement that blacks don't WANT as much for their kids. That is WHAT YOU SAID. Not just that they can't GET as much. That they don't WANT as much. It is in black and white - no pun intended. Seriously, I am now REALLy out of here - I can hear you clapping from here - I just hope that in my own life when people try to tell me that something I've said or written has hurt or offended them, I take stock in what I did - and consider what I could have done differently. I think this is what is most infuriating of all - your complete inability to even CONSIDER that your race=class comments can touch on raw nerves.

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  69. Yeah, I grew up in Southern California (what I call "lo-cal") in a mostly white surfer town and we all listened to Motown.

    Just ignore her, she's known as "constant comment" on other discussion lists because she just seems to have to say something about everything, even if it is something she knows nothing about.

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  70. Americans are more comfortable talking about and addressing racism than they are talking about and addressing classism.

    Yes, there is an overlap... but classism is even stronger than racism. That's why it is un-PC to tell "N" jokes, but okay to make fun of "trailer trash"...

    It is why no one has an issue with their child going to school with Denzel Washington's son, but no one wants their kid hanging out with kids from the projects.

    It is about social class.

    But while AMericans acknowledge their racist history, they cling to the myth of the American dream, equal opportunity and a classless society.

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  71. I absolutely agree with the last post. It is about social class. I am most concerned with influences that arise from low-income living situations, including; violence, disrespect and neglect.

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  72. The music industry part is kind of trivial, but I think it's generally accepted that there were Motown hits on popular AM radio, but only a selection, and lots more on the soul stations (KDIA in our day) -- plus we listened to the underground FM stations. In my experience the AA kids at my high school spurred lots more interest in soul music than there would otherwise have been at our particular school -- but whatever.

    Regarding the deeper issue: I'm reading a sociology book, "Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life," by Annette Lareau. Oakland's Perimeter Primate blog posted a good summary of that book, so I'll just post a link here instead of describing in detail:

    http://tinyurl.com/227pel

    One key point is that the parenting style of middle-class parents develops a sense of entitlement in their children, while the parenting style of working-class/poor parents develops a sense of constraint in their children. In fact, middle-class parents DELIBERATELY cultivate that sense of entitlement.

    (It's not just a dis on working-class/poor parents, either -- the book focuses on some of the advantages conferred by the working-class/poor parenting style.)

    The book made a point of studying poor and working-class white families as well as black, and middle-class/upper-middle black families as well as white. (It only focused on black and white families for some reason.) A key point is that the middle-class characteristic exist equally in black middle-class families, and vice versa, so it's NOT about race.

    So what this boils down to is: I'm saying that African-Americans (and Latinos) overall are more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged, on average, than white people overall. That seems kind of beyond argument to me, so I don't know what to say. It's wrong, it's bad, it's unjust, it needs to be changed, but it still seems to be the situation.

    The other characteristics under discussion -- which I'll boil down to a sense of entitlement -- go along with being middle-class and up, as opposed to working-class/poor.

    Unless the entire situation studied in the Lareau book is also being debated, it just doesn't seem that outrageous to me. Low-income people are less likely than rich people to be steering their kids toward Harvard (it's that sense of constraint) -- they simply view it as out of reach. Harvard IS much further out of reach to low-income people than to high-income people. How is that a controversial or outrageously racist statement?

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  73. And I do apologize for hitting nerves.

    My point was not that low-income families don't WANT the best for their kids, but that, constrained by reality, they don't have the same sense of ENTITLEMENT to the best, and thus are less likely to expect it.

    In Orinda, you will be surrounded by families with high hopes and expectations of getting their kids into an Ivy League college. Would anyone disagree? By contrast, in Hunters View or Sunnydale, you will find far fewer families with high hopes and expectations of getting their kids into an Ivy League college. At least, that's my view -- I just don't think it's that wildly outrageous. Families in Hunters View and Sunnydale are worried about getting food on the table and keeping their kids safe from the violence outside and don't have the luxury to contemplate the path to Harvard.

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  74. It is about class, not income, Caroline. Don't make the mistake of equating the two.

    The low income kid of a college educated non-profit grant writer and a former teacher now stay-at-home parent might be in the same income bracket, but not in the same social class as the child of an uneducated janitor and a bus driver.

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  75. This article came out today in The Examiner....
    http://www.examiner.com/a-1355298~Students_are__Beating_the_Odds_.html

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  76. This conversation seems to be taking bizarre turns. I guess the poster above is accusing Caroline of being a racist?!? As is plainly OBVIOUS to everyone, Caroline is an advocate of diverse urban public schools. She and others like her, urge parents (esp. middle class) to support public schools such that all children should be lifted. If she believed the assertions that 1:07 made, I think Caroline would have high-tailed her family back to Mill Valley or gone private... And I don't think Americans have an easy time talking about race. Talking about race is like walking around a mine field.

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  77. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Caroline, it should be noted that she is one of only two people leaving comments on this blog who have enough guts to use their real names, who don't hide under the protective covering of "anonymous." Obviously, I fall into the latter category too...but I think some of the swipes I've read are unfair and cowardly when done anonymously. 1:07, I'm not talking about you; 1:23, I am talking about you.

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  78. I'm not going to get personal here, because that is what I hate about blogs.

    What I am hating about schools in general is that my husband is about to get laid off due to the state budget cuts. Good luck finding a job anywhere as a teacher if everyone is making cuts. He is a fantastic teacher (as his multiple awards and acknowledgments can back up) at one of the top 2 high schools in SF, and he is getting laid off because he's only been there for 3 years.

    It seems that most people are not very concerned as to how this affects the classrooms - or do I know only because of my husbands situation? I personally am worried about my SFUSD elementary school kid - with less teachers there will be more kids packed in the classrooms. Yikes. Private school may have its downsides, but your tuition does account for something...

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  79. "...some of the swipes I've read are unfair and cowardly when done anonymously. 1:07, I'm not talking about you; 1:23, I am talking about you..."

    Oh, well, that poster isn't anonymous to me -- the same person who sometimes posts "shut up!" as a bold riposte -- but what can you do. Flames are part of the world of online discussion.

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  80. 2:28-

    I think the degree of uncertainty about budget, resources, etc from year to year is a huge downside of public schools. It's something that makes me very uncomfortable about the idea of sending my kids to public school.

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  81. I still cannot fathom how education is still so low on the totem pole of local, state, and national government. (And voters, apparently.) It's simply mind-boggling to me.

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  82. I'm new to this but - don't elementary (at least the early grades) have legal class size limits, where as private schools do not? At least from the people I know, the kids at Privates (religious?) seem to be in classes with many more kids than the publics I know.
    That is in no way to lessen the impact of teacher layoffs, or the eventual knock-on effect of those, just as an explanation of the perceived apathy. When I speak to my friends with very young kids heading to public kindergarten or in K already, they feel protected by class size legislation so it is not the thing that most concerns them, at least not right now.

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  83. Oh, well, that poster isn't anonymous to me -- the same person who sometimes posts "shut up!" as a bold riposte -- but what can you do.

    Hey! I'm the "shut up" poster and definitely not the same poster as any others in this thread. Don't make stuff up.

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  84. Wow, there are two of you. Well, the "shut up"/"constant comment" poster isn't anonymous in other forums, and it's probably understandable why I didn't think there were two participants who view "shut up!" as an effective response in a discussion.

    I stand corrected!

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  85. I didn't think there were two participants who view "shut up!" as an effective response in a discussion.

    Sometimes it's all you can do when someone blathers on.

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  86. I don't know how everyone is feeling, but i should do know that i am so ready for the next round results, reading this blog everyday has kept me going through the whole 0/7 however my daughter and i are really ready for once and for all to know where we are going to be going to school! if we get nothing in the next round we are bailing from the public system and going to Catholic school.

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  87. Here's a thought, let's discuss schools, instead of one person's insensitivity regarding race.

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  88. I'm new to this but - don't elementary (at least the early grades) have legal class size limits, where as private schools do not? At least from the people I know, the kids at Privates (religious?) seem to be in classes with many more kids than the publics I know.

    Yes and no. Union contracts control how many children are placed in a classroom (with some variance - a class can be overstuffed, but then the district would have to pay that teacher an extra per diem per child).

    California also has an optional "Class Size Reduction" in K-3. If districts participate, classes are held at 20:1 (overall - I think it has to average to 20.4:1 per classroom over a year). SFUSD has committed to CSR for at least the next year, but then all bets are off.

    Some education researchers, many of whom are also charter fanatics and/or privatization marketeers, have produced studies showing that CSR doesn't "work". Of course, these studies rarely if ever take into account the fact that wealthy districts generally have always had classes around 20:1 and poor districts have not, or the fact that the CSR program started when the California content standards became more rigorous (reading became a K skill, among other things).

    @2:28 - I feel for you and your husband. My situation is similar and I'm really frustrated about how the layoffs are being ignored. People seem to assume everyone will have a job eventually, which doesn't really help any when you have to plan for the worst.

    More generally on this thread, I think there's an assumption that not only are the aspirations that upper-middle class whites have for their children different from everyone else's, but also that they are better than everyone else's. While class, race, ethnicity, etc. may impact what one sees as best for their child, I believe that all parents and caregivers want what they believe to be best for theirs. A blanket judgement/assumption that some aspirations are better/more worthy than others should be questioned.

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  89. "Some education researchers, many of whom are also charter fanatics and/or privatization marketeers, have produced studies showing that CSR doesn't "work"."

    Actually, many charter elementary schools across the country DO have reduced class sizes in 4th grade and up and fight to keep it that way. Please don't lump all charter schools together. They are each different and run by different groups with different ideas and focuses.

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  90. Some parent groups have raised money to keep class sizes low in public school upper grades, too..

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  91. What does your husband teach?

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  92. Anyone mind sharing how much they spend on public schools per year--through donations, fund raisers, whatever? I'm curious how much of an additional financial outlay is required in the SF public schools to provide the things we want. I'm sure it's less than private school, but it is something to consider.

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  93. Suburban private schools look awfully good to me when the kids from Washington HS & Presidio MS get on the bus in the afternoon. I admit I do not want my kids going to school with kids like that.

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  94. ... I know; the weird eyebrows & black lip liner on the girls freaks me out.

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  95. I probably give on the high side for public schools, and I give $100 per month automatically through my online banking. I also buy probably $200 in other "stuff" for miscellaneous fund-raisers (raffle tickets, auction etc.) during the year. I also buy Rainbow scrip, but that's not really a cost since I pay face value. So all told, $1400 at most, for two kids.

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  96. Actually, many charter elementary schools across the country DO have reduced class sizes in 4th grade and up and fight to keep it that way. Please don't lump all charter schools together. They are each different and run by different groups with different ideas and focuses.

    I didn't say that charter schools DON'T have smaller classes and didn't intend to imply that.

    However, I very much meant to imply that the supporters of charter schools have various and at times nefarious reasons for their support. There are some charter schools of which I think very highly, using incredible models. But the charter movement overall - particularly its leadership - I don't think it's been very good for public education. Nor do I think - and study after study shows this - that charters have been more effective than public schools.

    Here in San Francisco, I think the biggest supporters of charters are more interested in union-busting and privitization than education. I'm thinking of Don Fisher and his ilk.

    That said, I don't want to start an argument about charter schools - I know people who teach at charters and who are excellent educators. And as I said above, some charters are remarkable and innovative.

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  97. "That's interesting. It does seem supported by the research out there that elementary school kids do integrate a whole lot more than older kids. I guess that's one plug for public schools at that age--early acceptance/awareness of all kinds of people. Too bad it turns out differently in later years."

    When I started K in the early 70s the busing movement was at its peak. I (a white middle class urban girl) was bused across town to a new school that was adjacent to a mostly black housing project. The school was elementary K-5, a city school. The classes were deliberately integrated 50/50 black/white (which were by far the dominant races in my east coast city at that time). I had a GREAT experience. I was also exposed to civil rights history in a way that impacted me to this day. HOWEVER, as I got older we got "tracked" into different classes by "ability" - since these abilities were measured by testing, including IQ testing (known to be culturally biased) - I became separated (and segregated) from most black students. I think that testing and tracking can really contribute to "self-segregation" that occurs as students get older - if you're not in class with kids, you don't necessarily have an opportunity to get to know them.

    I also think that class and social differences, as much as race, start to have more of an impact as kids get older. We also live in an incredibly racist society and it is impossible to keep that out of school - especially for kids of color who live with it every day in school and out, and see their parents and family members struggling with it.

    All of this said, I do think my elementary (public) school experience was extremely beneficial for me, but middle and high school (also public) were a bust - as I wasn't academically challenged, and was pretty much a social misfit as I actually LIKED school, yet this was not a dominant value of many of my school peers. As for drugs and alcohol there was for sure SOME in my public mostly working class high school (alcohol and pot mostly, some coke - but I was a "goody goody"), there was definitely sex, DEFINITELY teen pregnancy.

    It's a very complicated issue. Yet I wouldn't trade my elementary school experience for anything.

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  98. Don Fisher---what an interesting character...
    thanks for the education.
    I love Wikipedia!

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  99. 7:57

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I could relate to what you were saying even though I came from a homogenous suburban system. It gives me hope for putting my child in school here.

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  100. My family has been grappling with this issue for the past few years--whether or not to move to a "lite" suburb such as Albany or Berkeley or to tough it out in SF. For us, it's apples vs. oranges.

    Here's my perspective:

    Positives about the city: Diverse groups of kids, cultural mecca, large # of unique educational opportunities

    Negatives: Large amounts of competition, harder to shlep kids around, urban issues always in your face (homelessness, crime, drugs, etc) lack of greenery

    Positives about the suburbs: Trees, kid-based culture, high test scores in many schools, perception of a "safer" environment for kids, easier life, quieter

    Negatives about suburbia: Homogenous environment, drug use, isolation, more driving, less stimulation


    We are staying in the city and hoping for the best with the public school we got. If it doesn't work out, maybe we'll move...there's always options.

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  101. California also has an optional "Class Size Reduction" in K-3. If districts participate, classes are held at 20:1 (overall - I think it has to average to 20.4:1 per classroom over a year). SFUSD has committed to CSR for at least the next year, but then all bets are off.

    Does this worry anyone else? I wonder why it is that we can go on and on about race (not to say these aren't interesting digressions), but seem to ignore the real elephant in the room, school finance. One of the reasons we will consider private school for our child is that we can't stomach the uncertainty that comes along with the California budget beast.

    Dedicated younger teachers will lose their jobs in the next few years. I worry that those left, though more experienced, might be be burnt out by their working conditions and less capable of motivating and inspiring young students as a result. Those younger teachers, when laid off, might have to abandon their careers in education. The older teachers will retire. Then what are we left with?

    The potential for larger class sizes in the younger grades is also worrying. I haven't read the research, but common sense tells me that especially the little ones need more individual attention. This need is greater in classrooms where some kids have had preschool and some have not, some kids are ESL students and some are not, some are four and some are five, etc.

    Then there's the issue of resources. Even if each family gave $1,200 as the poster above commented that she does, would that be enough to keep things going at the not-quite-enough level we've got now--arts, pe, after-school enrichment?

    Where are our schools headed? Can anyone point me to discussions (teachers blog?) on this topic?

    Anyone else worried about this?

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  102. Yes, I am. It's hard to trust SFUSD for that very reason. I can deal with the other factors, I think, but if money and resources and staff are quite likely to disappear, that's a serious concern. I want my kid to have guaranteed P.E. and music and art, and basic classroom supplies and curriculum, and a mix of teachers. I don't think those are unreasonable wants. I don't trust California at all to provide these things at this point.

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  103. To Caroline, et. al. - Can't wait to hear how you explain this away as an aberration...

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/23/MNPC10AK04.DTL&tsp=1

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  104. oh, god. truly heartbreaking. :(

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  105. OMG please let my kids get into a private school!!

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  106. Can someone do the tinyurl as I can't find that page? What is the article about?

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  107. I can't get that link to work; I assume you're talking about the Oakland bullying story. It is horrifying and heartbreaking.

    If it were the norm for kids to get their skulls fractured by bullies after school, we would all know many kids who had had their skulls fractured by bullies, and the Chronicle wouldn't consider it news. By definition it's an aberration -- a really ugly one.

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  108. No, it is not an aberration. I have neighbors (yes, white) whose daughter couldn't go to the bathroom alone in the 6th grade (SFUSD), she would get jumped & mugged.

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  109. You know, it's worth it to me to spend 10K-20K a year and know my kid won't get mugged in a bathroom. I just feel badly for people who can't afford it.

    I keep wavering between public and private. But safety is my number one issue. So...

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  110. I know a child in one SFUSD "up and coming school" who was harassed DAILY during and after school. Older kids were knocking her down, taking her lunch, pushing her into the wall, calling her ugly names, etc.

    I'm talking about a kindergartener.

    The administration at her school did NOTHING.
    Her teacher also called her an ugly name and made her sit in the corner for crying every day in class.

    This family finally pulled her out and transferred her into a private where she is now thriving.

    I had considered this school for my list until I heard this story from the parent of this child.

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  111. Which school was that, please?

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  112. Unfortunately, it was Sunnyside.

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  113. 10:58

    Was this recently? That is certainly disturbing. If I were an incoming parent, I would ask the principal how many suspensions there have been in the past year. And, what plan the principal and site council has to reduce bullying (and thus the number of suspensions, since they seem highly correlated.)

    There are many systemic things schools can do to reduce bullying -- separate out recess and lunch, etc. At our school students are only released to their parents. If they are not picked up within 10 minutes they have to wait in the office. It sounds like one of the problems at this school in Oakland is lack of supervision after school.

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  114. Please don't think that private schools are a haven from bullies. All three of my kids attended privates (youngest is still there) and we're just now hearing stories of how the oldest was bullied in elementary school. Nothing as dramatic as a skull fracture, but he did have a hot slice of pizza thrown in his face, and he suffered other indignities.

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  115. I don't think private schools are free from bullying. I do think they are much more free from physical violence, especially serious physical violence. Sorry, but it's true. That kind of thing won't be tolerated long at privates.

    Do I think verbal and psychological abuse exists everywhere? Yes. I feel better to equipped to deal with that. I don't want to get a call from an emergency room. I'm completely helpless in that situation. I may not get a second chance to fix things.

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  116. i am confused as to why berkeley, oakland, alameda, albany are being called "homogenous environments." my sons go to preschool in oakland and their environment is not in any way homogenous. they have learned from their sri lankan teacher and adopted african classmates. there are children from several different ethnic backgrounds and family types.

    i lived in SF for 20 years before moving to the east bay. i am amazed at how, on a day-to-day basis, i interact with many, many more people from different classes and ethnicities here in the east bay. i love SF, but found that different groups of people cling together, claiming to love diversity from their isolated lives (not everyone, but many).

    diversity in the mission? yeah, you get to go to a salvadorean restaurant and see latina women loading their children onto muni. but do you KNOW any of these people? interact with them? go to their BBQs? that is what i saw lacking in SF.

    take a walk around lake merrit one day - you will wnd up conversing with many more different types of people than you would walking around stow lake.

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  117. wow - piedmont elementary is one of those hidden gems the local parents are trying to make shine. it is on piedmont avenue in one of the best neighborhoods in oakland.

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  118. We all hear about incidents, public and private. They're still aberrations, not the norm.

    Private has the easy option of tossing out the perp, except in cases where the perp is from a family with clout. That's probably why Town School tolerated a serial molester (big-boy-on-little-boys) in a large-scale case in the '90s that was initially covered up but is now kind of legendary. The kid did get tossed out eventually.

    A gang of white boys from Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius jumped an Asian boy a few years ago at 19th and Taraval and beat him badly; it was charged as a hate crime, and string-pulling attempts to deflect criminal charges and cover it up were part of the story. (As I recall, one SH kid -- a St. Francis Wood boy -- did some time.)

    In the past few years there was an ugly sexual assault in the restroom at Raoul Wallenberg, an SFUSD high school, and there was an ugly sexual assault in the restroom at Brandeis. Guess which one made the newspapers and which one didn't, surprise surprise.

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  119. I'm totally down with a violent kid getting thrown out of school. Hopefully, he'll get therapy, too, but he won't be there to hurt my kid.

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  120. Caroline, public schools still have a greater incidence of violence than the private schools. And they have a worse record of handling it overall. Period.

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  121. Gah, I think I'll home school.

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  122. I find it interesting that this blog has now moved on to discussing bullying because I think it is a bigger issue in urban public schools than in private schools or suburban ones. I do think that there is a legitimate concern of parents that their kids will be more bullied in a SF public elementary school than in a private school or suburban public school. And I mean the physical kind. When I first went through the lottery here four years ago, I went to tour Miraloma, hearing that it was "up-and-coming." At the tour, the parent volunteer handed me a school newsletter that had the results of a survey of students about various things. Well, on that survey, 69% of students surveyed said that their number one concern was that they did not feel physically safe at the school! I was flabbergasted, and got even more upset when another parent volunteer chided the parent who had given me the newsletter, saying "Oh my God, she shouldn't have given that to you." I know schools change, but frankly this is why I find myself terribly skeptical of all the claims I hear about public elementary schools in the city getting better.

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  123. Wow. Parents hiding that kind of information from other parents is sick.

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  124. just curious... Where did you end-up enrolling?

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  125. We live in San Francisco, and I agree that the East Bay seems more integrated in many ways than SF. In the East Bay we get the sense of more racial diversity in the middle and upper middle class. When we go to a birthday party or activity in Berkeley, we are almost never in a group of all white families, or just white and Asian. It seems more international, too. It's true that forming relationships with people who are not like you racially is a very different thing than just seeing them on the street. The East Bay has always struck us as kind of like London in that way. People are self-sorting more by activity/interest than by race. And also seem to know and spend at least a little time with their neighbors.

    If it weren't for the fact that we work in SF--and feel safer here--we would probably move to the East Bay.

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  126. OHMYGOD.

    69% said they didn't feel SAFE at school?

    That is so awful. The main thing a kid has to feel about his or her school is that they are SAFE there.

    How depressing.

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  127. To Anon at 10:05: We ended up getting into a a "second-tier" public on the westside of the city. No rock-climbing walls, but at least my kid hasn't ended up with a rock side his head yet!

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  128. "Caroline, public schools still have a greater incidence of violence than the private schools. And they have a worse record of handling it overall. Period."

    They're apples and oranges in 12 million ways. Public schools have to accept all kids ... they are far more constrained in what they can do (in terms of tossing kids out and other forms of discipline) .. etc. etc.

    I'm just pointing out that these incidents ARE aberrations and that private schools and suburban schools aren't free of them either.

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  129. Hi! I'm a Miraloma parent. Based on that 69% number, Miraloma made some drastic changes. Everything from changing lunch/recess times, adding adults on the yard, hiring a PE Coach who also supervises and starts games at lunch, to TRIBES, to adding adults on the yard at recess and lunch. The Coach was originally funded through Sports For Kids, but now is funded by the PTA. We attacked the safety issue on a number of fronts.

    We just had our student survey this spring, and I think the number of kids reporting feeling unsafe is down to 10%. 10% is still way too high, but just to point out that systemic changes can work wonders.

    But you have to have the courage to ask the hard questions and then deal with the answers. Our school has that courage -- not every school does.

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  130. Anon at 10:10 - thanks!

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  131. Caroline, it doesn't matter if it's apples and oranges. When making a decision, and safety is a primary concern, what matters are the bald facts--in general, less chance of physical violence where? Privates.

    It sounds like some of the public schools have begun trying to address these issues. But of course I can't guarantee I'll get into one of those.

    And before you say I can't guarantee I'll get into any privates, well, it's not a lottery. And I don't have to worry about which one I get into because the ones I apply to will all have programs I approve.

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  132. San Francisco has always felt very segregated to me, too. I came from NYC and there is much more mixing along interests rather than other factors. SF seems really backward in some ways, more like a Pittsburgh, PA (highly tense between the haves and have nots) when it comes to race/class relations. I don't like it, and it's good to hear the East Bay is not so uncomfortable. Where can you live there and feel safe? Just Berkeley? Not Oakland? Anywhere else?

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  133. i've worked in many sfusd schools as an itinterant special ed person. the kids i work with are at higher risk of being bullied. i can't compare to current private schools but from what i have seen in this district there is much less bullying (verbal and physical) than in the suburban and rural schools where i grew up.

    teaching your kid what to do when bullying occurs is really important...you can teach this at home and also as part of a pta promote school programs like tribes and caring communities.

    i don't know why i keep reading this as we are pretty much stuck here in sf and don't have private as an option. whatever school we end up in we are just going to make it work.

    i agree that the episode in oakland was a terrible fluke, but, like most parents, it makes me worry about my own child.

    about all this stuff on this blog--VOTE. vote to give more money to people who need it. bother everyone you know to vote this way too.

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  134. Test scores, language immersion, art classes ...

    I'm sorry, but those things don't count for much if you're kid doesn't even feel SAFE.

    What kind of learning can happen if your child is afraid to even be in the school?

    It is great that Miraloma was brave enough to ask the kids that and also how much progress they've made making the kids feel more secure now.

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  135. just a painfully obvious point...wouldn't a good start for being a more integrated community be sending more kids to our public schools??

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  136. If the degree of physical violence in that news article were that common, it wouldn't make the news.

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  137. If the degree of physical violence in that news article were that common, it wouldn't make the news.

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  138. Anon at 10:32, my credo is always that parents need to do what they feel is best for their kids. I jumped into this conversation because someone stated that the case of the kid with the fractured skull is not an aberration and challenged me to disagree.

    But it IS an aberration.

    By the way, there's one complexity in the reporting about the bullying rates at different Oakland schools in that article. The reporting deems schools with higher suspensions for violence to be more dangerous. But each suspension is an individual decision. Is a school that tolerates acts of violence WITHOUT disciplining the perps safer than a school that reacts decisively to any act of violence? And if a school with higher suspension rates is publicly branded more dangerous, is that going to discourage school administrations from imposing suspensions for acts of violence?

    The issue of before and after school is also complicated. Both Lakeshore and Aptos emphatically and repeatedly urge parents to ensure that their kids aren't at school before the schoolyard is supervised, which is I think 15 minutes before school starts. (Lakeshore has before-school care, but not drop-in.) Same with after school.

    In some cases, trouble-prone kids DO seem to be the ones likely to show up early and linger around late.

    The cost of supervising the schoolyard longer before school and longer after school comes out of other school needs. So there's not an easy answer to that quandary. If you provide resources to supervise the yard for 30 minutes before and after school, what about the kids who are there 45 minutes before or after school?

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  139. what day do they mail the round 2 letters? friday or saturday? we need something new to talk about :)

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  140. When was that bullying incident at Sunnyside?

    From talking with the principal, the staff has turned over significantly within the past three years, so it's really important to know whether the "unresponsive admin" happened within the past three years or not...

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  141. I thought someone asked:

    K-12 Education Funding Comes From Several Sources

    http://www.edsource.org/sch_fin_fund0405.cfm

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  142. Caroline, some of your comments border on slander. What you label as "sexual assaults" at certain well respected private schools is completely unfounded and very damaging to the people involved. Maybe it was not reported in the news because it was not the way you believe.

    I support a lot of what you say, but when you go off on your crazed vendettas against certain private schools (Friends, Adda Clevenger, now Town and Brandeis), I find it extremely disconcerting. There are human beings involved and you toss bold accusations around as if your gossip is truth.

    Perhaps you can tone down your comments to something more believeable: "A friend of mine told me that ... " or "The gossip around my neighborhood was ... " or "I heard from a person I believe that ... "

    But to state something as obvious truth detracts from your credibility on all matters.

    And really, I'm not asking you for more information on the alleged incidents. Everyone knows that no school is free from incident. There have been reports of bullying at every tony private school. The problem that most people are pointing out here is that due to lack of supervision (because of a smaller number of teachers per student), many public schools (not all) have problems. I can't for the life of me see how you would disagree. AFter all, you said yourself that you wouldn't send your kids to Miraloma over your dead body at the time and moved mountains to find a better assignment for you.

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  143. Credibility?

    Thanks for the laugh.

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  144. I disagree.

    "Caroline, some of your comments border on slander..."

    I mentioned no names whatsoever, gave no details, impugned no individuals in any way. It's not possible to slander a school.

    Why aren't you making the same complaints about people posting anecdotes about Sunnyside and Miraloma? Why aren't you objecting to the fact that I also mentioned a sexual assault at Raoul Wallenberg?

    I have opinions and information. That's not a "crazed vendetta."

    I haven't made any accusations of any kind against Friends - I have none to make. I don't know where that came from.

    I'm quite familiar with Adda Clevenger, and am reporting information and anecdotes just as others here report information and anecdotes on public and private schools. Is my information the only information you object to? The whole basis of this blog was to post information about schools.

    Regarding Town School, I do feel it necessary to give more information. The molestation situation was a big scandal, but the Chronicle actively covered it up for a time because the family that then owned the Chronicle, the Thieriots, were a Town School family. Then-Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, also a Town School parent, decided to be the one to speak up -- in Town's defense -- because the scuttlebutt was growing louder. What he wrote was that the incidents were by mutual consent, so they were not assaults. It raised eyebrows -- put it that way.

    Since I know that some representatives -- paid employees, that is -- of the private school community are posting here -- and the private schools have an economic stake in their schools' public image -- I assume that's what the objections stem from. Otherwise an ethical person would obviously be raising the same objections to anecdotes about public schools posted here.

    It's a fact on the Internet that it's pretty impossible to suppress information, though.

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  145. private schools have an economic stake in their schools' public image

    and public schools don't?

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  146. Caroline is posting using her own name, so has a "personality" on this blog that those of us posting anonymously do not. While I do not agree with her all of the time, and in fact will be sending my child to private school, I do respect her viewpoint and appreciate the discussions that have evolved thanks to comments she has made. I also appreciate the fact that her kids are older, so she has a different perspective than most of us. She's sharing information.

    What a boring place this blog would be without the Caroline's, Kim Green's and other regular and not-so-regular anonymous posters. I am so grateful that we all have a place to swap information and tales about schools in SF, positive and negative. I just want to be informed, and sometimes entertained!

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  147. "private schools have an economic stake in their schools' public image

    and public schools don't?"

    Not in the same way. Marketing is a top priority for private schools; it SHOULD be more on the radar for public schools, but as extensively discussed here, it usually isn't.

    And public schools and districts are far more transparent; it's much more difficult for them to engage in coverups.

    In any case, no one from the public school community has tried to
    bully, shame and intimidate me (or anyone) into shutting up as Mr. or Ms. Private School Spokesperson just did. So the thing really speaks for itself, doesn't it?

    By the way, a correction on the details of the Town School molestation coverup. After the Thieriot-decreed coverup at the Chron, the Examiner broke the story (Carla Marinucci, now a Chronicle political reporter), and that was what provoked Herb Caen to try to defend Town by claiming that, basically, there's no such thing as rape because the victim agreed to hold still. This was all in the early '90s, pre-sfgate.

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  148. Agreed! Also - please try not to be offended. The reason I read this blog is because people are all brutually honest. If all comments were edited to be politically correct, this blog would not be interesting or revealing.

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  149. Jeez, I have to jump in here. Caroline finds it a "coverup" that a molestation scandal at a private school was not reported in the Chronicle. But isn't it a similar "coverup" that PTA members at Miraloma, up until the shockingly frank admissions of Anne C here, failed to tell incoming parents that, just a few years ago, 69% of its students went to school in fear for the physical safety? And, just to nail this down, why should I believe Anne C. that the fear level at Miraloma is now down to 10% when her PTA wasn't upfront with parents years ago when that level was not so low?

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  150. Anon 1:51 has a valid point that that's a coverup too. OTOH, students' perception (while shocking) is not quite at the severity level of serial sexual assault -- would you not agree? If you were a news editor, how would you weigh those two stories in degree of importance?

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  151. Back to the original topic: "What are schools like outside the City?" This is all anecdotal; I don't know what else it could be, but for what it's worth.

    East Bay East of the Hills: Our daughter went to public elementary and middle school in Lafayette. The middle school was a California Distinguished School and a Blue Ribbon School. She did not do well in that middle school. The science teacher had a big poster up in his classroom with spelling and grammar errors, not to mention content that put down his students as self-indulgent brats. Her writing skills were abysmal. We sent her to private in SF for high school in the hope that they would work closely with her so she could write something resembling a credible essay to get into college. Now that she's in college, she says high school was more intellectually challenging than in college. She loved living in the City. Even though she missed her middle school Lafayette friends a lot, she did not see how they could tolerate the boredom of suburbia. She's very art-oriented and not a mall-rat. Some kids who went to her same Lafayette middle school did really well though.

    A friend went to public high school in Orinda and did great and the surburban lifestyle always suited him. He liked the space and the trees and, to be honest, probably the homogeneity (sp?). His younger sister (they were both adopted) dropped out pregnant at 17.

    East Bay West of the Hills: A very old friend has two kids in Oakland public school (Sequoia for elementary). The older son has special needs (Down Syndrome). The stories she used to tell in the early days about the battles she and her husband fought to get his needs met were horrific, but in the end, she's got great things to say about the teachers at Sequoia.

    Another family I know got caught having their kids in Berkeley schools when they lived in Oakland, so I think they moved to Berkeley rather than stay in Oakland schools. They lived in lower Rockridge.

    Friends with kids in Berkeley High had a great experience with their son and a disaster with their daughter.

    Marin: This is where I've heard the greatest number of recent anecdotes. I've known and met several families with kids in Marin public schools, elementary, middle and high school, and one family that did partly private, partly public.

    One family was at our daughter's private high school and the mom said they'd pay any price to avoid having their daughter become the f---ed up druggie basket case that their son became at Tam High. This is a couple of very caring, involved parents with a stay-at-home mom, but they were not able to overcome the peer pressure to which their son chose to subject himself.

    There are a number of kids in Marin who have way too much money, too much time on their hands, and parents who are far too absorbed in careers, relationship dramas, etc. to pay attention. Even if you're a vigilant parent, the opportunities for your kids to meet and become involved with other kids who fall into the former category are substantial.

    One Marin County friend with family money and parents who were very self-absorbed at the time has two brothers who went to Marin public schools. The oldest is 40, has never had a legitimate job and is wanted by the police on two continents. The next brother is 39, never finished high school, has never had a legitimate job, and is a meth addict. Their sister, my friend, went to private high school and she's a great person, but there are a lot of other issues that come into play besides school. It's partly personality and partly family ethnicity. Her grandmother and mother come from a culture where boys get a blank check and an indulgent wink no matter what they do, but girls are expected to take care of themselves.

    Other friends sent several kids through Marin public schools, including Tam High, with results any parent would be proud of: good college admits, good careers, really nice, interesting kids. One family had their daughter in a Marin private school for a while (sorry I cannot remember which one but I think it might have been Branson) but she was making herself sick with stress, so she transferred to public and ended up doing very well. (The horror stories make for more dramatic telling, don't they?)

    A pair of twins I know went to Redwood, from a dysfunctional divorced family with a career-absorbed mother and a playboy father who likes to date girls younger than his daughters. One twin has a great education, a great marriage (so far), and a successful career as some kind of financial analyst. The other twin married someone abusive, got pregnant right away, and is now a divorced early morning drunk who lets her kid go to sleep sucking on baby bottles filled with fruit juice--but she's literate. That girl writes the sweetest thank--you notes you ever read.

    What do I think one can conclude from all this? Schools, public or private, can only do so much, no matter where they are located. One person will thrive in an environment and another will be miserable, even within the same family.

    I have to wonder, if the parents are unhappy living in a place because they perceive the schools to be better for their kids, is that really going to be good for the family dynamic. Kids are pretty self-absorbed, as they are designed to be, but I don't think they like the way it feels if their parents are always giving them the idea, verbally or not, "We're making this BIG SACRIFICE for YOU!" Overall, are kids better off in school and other ways if their parents are happy? I'd expect so.

    I personally always feel torn. I love living in the City with my short commute and being able to do most of my shopping and recreation on foot or by public transit. At the same time, I look at the pretty houses up in the trees in Marin (I was at Baywood Canyon in Fairfax over the weekend) and it seems so bucolic and beautiful and soothing, and I think, "Why do I put up with all the noise, dirt, traffic, crazy people AND school uncertainty in the City?"

    Based on my own experience and the experience of friends who now have kids growing up in a very small-town environment, I'd have to say I'm not thrilled with that idea. Friend in a beautiful upstate NY community say meth and crack are a big problem and there's just not enough for kids to do. I went to an all-12-grades-in-one-building for a while, and the high school kids thought it was fun to get the elementary kids high.

    As I see it, the main advantage to City schools, based on our experience with our daughter and her classmates, my own combination of rural, urban and 'burb schools, and my years-ago college friends who grew up in big cities like NYC and Boston (admittedly all in private HS), is that no matter what trouble you're into in a big city, there are always lots of other fun and interesting things to do and you don't need a car to find them. In the 'burbs or country, for too many kids, too often trouble is the ONLY interesting thing happening. Maybe that's just because all the anecdotes I know of kids from educated middle class families falling off the rails come from suburbia. I am sure middle-class kids in SF schools, public and private, get messed up too. That's really all any of us can go on really, I suppose, is our own experience and judgment.

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  152. marlowe's mom has said it all...can we have our round 2 letters now?

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  153. Marlowe's Mom probably talks waaaay too much. Like Kim, we're anxiously awaiting our Round 2 assignment.

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  154. RE: Miraloma... Is it a cover-up if it is published in the school's own newsletter? That's not what most people trying to cover up news would do. I should know. I work in PR.

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  155. I really enjoyed the Marlowe's mom post. I have limited knowledge of bay area schools and no friends with older children. Thank you - it was very interesting to me.

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  156. One other anecdote I could not resist sharing: One of the families we know at Adda Clevenger moved from the City, which they loved, all the way out to Antioch where they bought a house. They made the move ONLY for a public kindergarten that they thought would be perfect for their daughter, not because they had any desire to live in Antioch. Once they got the girl enrolled and found out what really went on (a great deal of TV-watching and very little else, if I recall the mother's story correctly), they were desperate to get her back out. They found Adda had space and the other took a week's vacation to sit on five full class days and fell in love with the school. (As I've said in previous posts, Adda is not for everyone but its partisans cannot be dragged away from it by a herd of wild elephants.) Of course the real estate market meanwhile tanked and they went upside down on their equity, so they're stuck in Antioch. They now drive two hours each way, every day (Adda's a year-round school), AND pay private school tuition. It's an extreme example, not like they just popped over to Mill Valley and rented for a few months, but it certainly illustrates the potential folly of a school-driven flight to the suburbs.

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  157. Marlowe's mom, you should write a book. Or a soap opera script!

    Good luck w/Round 2, everybody.

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  158. I think people in SF are way too caught up in how cool SF is...I mean come on, it's a small city with a lot of suburban attributes (driving the Subaru wagon to TJs etc.). So if people want to live in the burbs, so be it. I don't think we should try and find a whole bunch of reasons why they suck for making that choice. Marin, Berkeley, Albany, Oakland really aren't that different than SF -- Antioch and Vallejo, ok, but the inner burbs are very similar to SF. I know, because I grew up in Marin, went to UC Berkeley and now live in SF with two kids. We live in SF and are making the best of it, but we know four families who moved to Albany and are thrilled. They absolutely love it and they all told us that they don't miss SF at all, because they have all the same food, cultural stuff, diversity etc, but they never, ever have to worry about playing the lottery to get into a top-notch school again. Before we bash the burbs, realize it's a great choice for many families!

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  159. My daughter who goes to Hoover acknowledges that there can be fights at school but has never felt the least bit unsafe. Why? Because as she astutely has observed troubled kids seem to seek out other troubled kids. No one should ever be bullied or threatened or physically hurt by anyone else anywhere.... including at school, in their neighborhoods in their own homes etc. But often choosing your friends carefully is what keeps you safe. I am always scepticle of news stories of this type. I would love to get the full story.

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  160. Anonymous at 5:11, I hope you did not take my post as an insult to people who choose suburbs, it was not intended that way. The point I hoped to make was that perhaps a making a permanent move to a far-away community based on perceptions about a school rather than actually liking the new community may not be such a great idea.

    However, I've lived in the Bay Area since '85. I've lived in Berkeley, Oakland and SF, and also spent a lot of time in Marin. I find them to be all different from each other. Not that I don't think some people who live in SF can be pretty smug about the City, or some people in Berkeley can be pretty smug about how enlightened they are, and some people in Marin (esp. southern Marin) can be just plain smug. Oakland is not so high on the smug meter, which is one of its many positive attributes.

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  161. What's so great about Adda Clevenger?

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  162. hey -- i meant that i enjoyed your post, marlowe's mom. i think we all like real-life stories the best. they're addictive.

    re: another thread going here...i have to agree that the east bay is more "integrated" than SF. i went to berkeley too, lived in oakland and berkeley for many years...many more interracial friendships, relationships, a more diverse middle class, etc. i have to admit being a little shocked at the state of things in SF when i first moved over in 1991.

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  163. 11:31:

    I'm the one who posted about the bullying incident at Sunnyside.

    To answer your question, the incident happened about 2 years ago, so hopefully the teacher who was making fun of the child for crying is no longer there. I really hope so.
    I don't think the aftercare program has changed much and that was a big problem--the kids who were being bussed in were some of the ones doing the bullying.

    For the record, I was really impressed with the principal at Sunnyside and the parent group seemed really energized. I was ready to list them as my 2nd choice until I heard this story from the mom.

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  164. thank you person who posted about the sf burbs being ok. God, truly, they're not all that different than sf, and in some cases, much less smug and pretending to be something they're not (white upper middle class in sf, living in diverse place but not really having any interracial friendships). SF is a weirdly unmixed city, and it seems to me that many of the people i know living there really value most the farmers market, the great restaurants, the nightlife and the stunning beauty but don't really have any meaningful relationship to the diversity. totally agree that oakland and berkeley are much more integrated in a real way. and the constant assertions that marin is just an evil, suv driving, career-obsessed, men dating younger women, white place that spits out drug-addled teens is just annoying. it's not the case and it's ironic because the accusation shows the kind of narrow-minded, stereotyping way of thinking that the marin-judgers might attribute to the people of marin. people live in marin, berkeley, albany, burlingame, for a lot of reasons, including yards, greenspace, good (and free) schools. maybe they live there because they like sunny summers, or they work nearby, or maybe they love cities, but don't love SF (true for many people i know). you can't know, but it's not fair to assume that they don't care about cities, or value diversity, or have interracial friendships. they're just living their lives the way they want to. that's all.

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  165. Thank you 5:11 and 3:03. I woke up in the night (pathetic) thinking I had to post in defense of the suburbs, to which we do not all "flee" out of terror of the big, bad, diverse City. San Francisco, where I grew up, is not exactly East St. Louis. If you love it, STAY!!!
    If you don't, look around!
    The whole idea that there's some noble virtue attached to raising your children in Noe Valley over Mill Valley really seems silly to me.
    Yes, Marin is more homogenous than San Francisco. But it's not all cookie cutter blonds in SUVs rushing from waxing to Pilates to Chardonnay dates with their fatuous girlfriends. I think there may be some of that -- it's certainly fun to think so -- but the people I know well are almost all EXACTLY like the people I knew well in San Francisco. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.
    As for the schools, my two children go to Tam Valley Elementary. It's been great for us. Lots of green space, good teachers, my kids are very inquisitive and engaged in learning. That's basically it, and that's enough. I think we would have been happy with a lot of schools. I do not notice my 5th grader imbibing any "bad" suburban values yet, and she is certainly a much happier child than I was taking the Muni to school in 1977. But that's just who she is, not a factor of where we live.
    We live two minutes from both the Middle School and Tam High school. She will be able to walk to both, which is a GREAT plus to living here. I do know there are drugs etc. at Tam High because I see kids smoking pot on this little trail near our house sometimes in the middle of the day. Lovely. But there were plenty of drugs at my SF high school and I remember precisely who carried them to school in their lunch sacks. I remember where you could buy alcohol underage in SF.
    Place only matters so much.

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  166. I'm not disputing Jennifer, but just pointing out that my kids have had a MUCH happier middle-school experience at Aptos in SFUSD than I did at Edna Maguire Jr. High (pre-Mill Valley Middle School). My sister, 2 years younger, went to MVMS -- I was one of the last years before it was built -- and was miserable. So it can go both ways.

    My closest Marin friend (not counting my parents and sister, who live in Mill Valley) has two kids; the oldest went through Old Mill/MVMS/Tam but had kind of a rough middle school experience. So she sent the younger to Marin Horizons (private) for middle school . Then they moved to San Rafael and the younger is at Terra Linda High, though they liked Tam; that's not the reason they moved.

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  167. I was the poster at 5:11 who defended the burbs -- and I don't even live in one! I live in Cole Valley -- one of the richest, most white places on the planet. Ha ha, so much for diverse San Francisco! Wherever people decide to live, it's the best choice for their family. San Francisco is a great town, but it's not really a city in the sense of New York or Paris (where I lived for 8 years and had my kids, and, there, I definitely preferred the city over the burbs). I guess after a few years of renting a small flat here and my kids in a nice public school, I just don't find the idea of buying a house in Miraloma enough of a city experience to justify the prices for homes, the school uncertainty down the line etc. So we're open to moving in a few years. In fact, I laugh because I have lots of friends who do live in Miraloma, Sunnyside, Excelsior etc who ask me "but how could you ever think of leaving the CITY?" If we move to buy a home somewhere else, it will probably be in Albany, where you walk to everything and don't really need a car, which is not the case in many of the "city" neighborhoods where lots of our friends have bought homes. Just be open minded to other places, that's all I was saying.

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  168. Last night I was at a party with a number of parents who live in the Penninsula suburbs. One mother told me that she is COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT over schools right now. She lives in the north part of Palo Alto, north of downtown, and her neighborhood assignment school is Addison. Unfortunately, there were 95 Kindergarten registrations for Addison for Fall, and only 60 spots. The current parents are fighting against creating a 4th kindergarten there because they think it will reduce the quality of the school. Meanwhile, Addison is the only school in walking distance for her family, and the other 3 closest schools, Walter Hays, Duvenick and Escondido, are also overrolled, in some cases by even more children.

    Palo Alto is planning on opening a new elementary school in North Palo Alto (N of Oregon Expressway) but it won't open for 2 years. And, the three alternative programs are also overenrolled. Apparently there were only 8 openings in the one Spanish immersion school in the entire district. My friend won't find out what will happen to her daughter until August the earliest.

    FWIW, they own a 3-bedroom 1700 square foot home that is currently worth more than $1.5 M. All this money and no public school.

    I prefer San Francisco!

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  169. I don't see what school experiences in Mill Valley from almost half a century ago have to do with school experiences in modern day San Francisco.

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  170. That was in response to Jennifer's comparing her school experience in her own day in SFUSD to her kids' in Mill Valley today (or were those comments directed at her too?). I followed her lead.

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  171. Regarding this:
    At the tour, the parent volunteer handed me a school newsletter that had the results of a survey of students about various things. Well, on that survey, 69% of students surveyed said that their number one concern was that they did not feel physically safe at the school!
    --------------

    I was probably leading the tour at Miraloma at that time. We subsequently started asking students additional questions about safety on the yard vs. safety in the classroom and found that in the classroom kids felt fine and that what we had was a problem during recess/playgroud. Additionally, we were surprised that when we asked about safety on the yard that 'being hit by a kickball' was one of the biggest things kids were complaining about (flying/kicked balls from kids playing.) In the last four years we have done a great deal to address yard safety: staggered lunch/recess times so fewer kids are on the yard at any one time; added more adult supervision (A PE Coach, hired staff and more parent volunteers.) Sports4Kids provided an additional benefit of helping teach kids new games and such and you see kids self-organizing games and activities in a way that didn't happen years ago.

    A lot of the 'safety' concerns of students, when subsequently probed, were about kids not using 'mutual respect' (word) or being a good friend. Like the other isses noted above, a great deal of focus has been put on increasing TRIBES across all areas of the school day.(It was a fairly new program 4 years ago.)

    I wish the district would do a district-wide survey (through the annual Site Council academic planning process) so that it was possible to compare schools across these measures.

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  172. Lorraine from Miraloma here:
    ---
    Miraloma is now down to 10% when her PTA wasn't upfront with parents years ago when that level was not so low?
    ----

    All information was shared at public School Site Council meetings and posted in minutes. No cover up then or now.

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  173. the not integrated nature of sf is on my mind through this thread. it takes more time to become close friends with people who are not externally like you (language, appearance,style, skin color). in sf so many people are coming and going. i think that for those of us who stick around with our kids, we will find ourselves in a more integrated group of friends, neighbors, and co-workers. i hope so.

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  174. 8:07 -- i've been thinking about this too. like, if we do get into a spanish immersion program, how will it feel to be the sidelined parent who doesn't speak the dominant language? what a luxury to only have to worry about such a thing in a narrow context, instead of all the time.

    i have lived overseas twice. both times, i only had a smattering of the local language. not feeling like i could communicate to my usual extent made me feel like half a person, and i know people perceived me as such. it was humbling.

    i plan on taking spanish, but let's be realistic: it won't be like being a product of true immersion (grin).

    p.s. my cousin who lives in menlo park just applied to K for her daughter (10 mo older than mine). they applied to the (sole) spanish immersion program there (the one that only had 8 seats available, apparently).

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  175. "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."

    Kate...I'm sure you really feel that way, but by signing up for Round II while planning on private, you're not being part of the solution. I think you have every right to participate in Round II. You're doing what's best for your family. But if you really hated the thought of losing a single family, wouldn't you have withdrawn your name from Round II so another family had a better chance of staying? This blog is built on integrity...Can we cut the BS and say, "I hate the idea of SF losing families, but I'll do whatever I can to make sure mine can stay and my kids get the best education possible"?

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  176. It's a beautiful sunny day outside... why so glum?

    Because we just got our Round 2 letter... and went 0-for-7 again! We even put undersubscribed schools on the list, schools that we probably wouldn't really stay at... and we got squat.

    Now we know what is worse than going 0-for-7...

    Anybody know when the waitpool numbers will be released... adn where?

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  177. To anonymous on 4/24 at 5:41, asking "What's so great about Adda Clevenger?"

    For our child, these are the great things: (a) Lots of variety. Different teachers and classrooms for each subject. He likes a lot of action. (b) Individualized instruction. With a teacher and an assistant in each class and no more than 14 kids in each class, they can really work with each child. Our child is learning quite well even though he's a cut-up who can't sit still. (c) Caring, competent teachers, even though I'm sure several of them don't have a credential. I don't really care about a credential if the person can convey the information in a way that the children learn. (d) Visual art every day. (e) 8:30-4:30 school day with relatively inexpensive aftercare ($100 per month for 5:15 pickup, $200 per month for 6:15 pickup) and a total of only 11 weeks of vacation for the entire calendar year. (f) Directed physical activity every day, with PE 3 days a week and dance 2 days a week. (g) Lots of opportunities for creativity: acting, story-telling, creative writing. (h) Emphasis on building a strong academic foundation at the elementary level: phonics, spelling, math, handwriting. (i) A class called "Civility" three days a week in which kids are trained in good manners and mutual respect, which they are expected to carry with them through all their school time. (j) Kids who stay through 8th grade are amazing public speakers. (k) No fund-raising. Volunteer work from parents is seldom requested and there's never any pressure or guilt-tripping if you choose not to do it. (l) Kids learn teamwork through musical shows they put on several times a year. (m) Observed 6th grade level kids reading Shakespeare out loud with very impressive expression. I did not even try Shakespeare until 9th grade. (n) When our child was having a particular behavior problem in one class, teacher contacted us and we were able to work out a mutual support system and our son is now doing much better in that class. (o) Teachers are not stuck with a cookie cutter prescribed curriculum and love the freedom to teach in whatever way they feel works for individual students. They don't do standardized testing so are under no pressure to teach to the test. Given that quite a few public principals I met on tours complained bitterly about "No Child Left Standing" as one called it, I view this as positive. (p) Contrary to other posts, the school now provides in-house no-extra-charge prep for the SSAT.

    Shortcomings: (a) No financial aid. (b) Improving parent communication, but still not as strong as a lot of families would prefer. They tend to say "We'll let you know if there's a problem" (which in our experience they have done) rather than regular communication about how your child is doing. (c) No lunchroom. Kids eat in the parking lot, which is also where they play at lunch and recess. (d) Not all kids are as academically advanced as the school would like you to believe, though I think they strive to give each child the best education they can given the child's abilities. (e) Long school days do not leave a lot of time for outside extracurricular activities. (f) No school board or opportunity for parent oversight or input. The school does what it does and you can take it or leave it. I don't really care as long as my child is learning, but some people find that really disturbing. (g) People who run and teach in the school are very negative about public school. Founder is associated with anti-public-school Cato Institute. This fortunately does not seem to have rubbed off on our child--his best friend goes to public. (h) You have to pack a lunch and a snack every single day.

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  178. I've gotten slapped before for making overly revealing comments about Adda C., with which I'm very familiar because two families close to us went through it (total 5 kids over a period of many, many, years dating back to the 1980s).

    I don't think it's out of line to give a full view of a school, since that's what this blog was created to do. So I'm going to proceed despite the anticipated objections.

    I wouldn't disagree with Marlowe's mom's list of good points, but I do think it needs to be mentioned that the school isn't accredited, for what that's worth.

    (This doesn't seem to have any material effect, but people do want to know that.)

    Also, it's a for-profit. Ditto with the above, but FYI.

    I've been at parties that were all Adda C. veteran parents of kids nearing graduation age -- all going "Thank god we're outta there!" And some have told me that no parent has ever gotten through their kids' school career without at least one screaming match with the headmistress.

    Yet they mostly did keep their kids there, and it is clearly a close-knit community.

    The school claims flatly that all its students are "two years ahead" of public school students, but that is totally untrue. One AC student transferred at 6th grade into my daughter's public school class -- we were already close friends; I drove them to school daily and was able to get a very clear idea of where he was in relation to the kids coming in from public school. He did fine, but he was not any notable amount ahead -- and this is a really, really smart kid, too. He tested into algebra a year early, but so did my daughter and a number of other kids who had been in SFUSD since K -- that was pretty much kids who had native smarts in math and a decent math education.

    I know two other AC kids who went to Lowell -- they're doing fine but again weren't ahead of kids coming in from SFUSD in any notable way.

    The theater productions are really, really fun and, again, the community seems very close-knit. (The parents are united in bemoaning some of the extreme eccentricities.)

    An AC graduate told me that P.E. is dodgeball every single day. I haven't checked that further.

    It's a big issue for some of the families that there are no team sports and they can't do club sports because of the mandatory long hours.

    OTOH, the kids learn ballroom dance and seem to be into it, so that's exercise!

    The Cato Institute is really, really, ultra-far-right, so that's a point that's hard not to notice.

    I'm completely open to being corrected, Marlowe's mom, though in anticipation of the folks who flat-out object to ANY negative portrayal of any private school, I disagree -- I don't think it's out of line to give a complete picture.

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  179. Well, since I was invited to reply to Caroline, I will.

    I have observed PE on several occasions and it's definitely not daily dodgeball. Maybe a new teacher? Maybe they're showing off because I'm watching? Anyway, they do gymnastics, stretches, run races, do some calisthenics--seems like a good workout. They don't have space for a big variety of team sports, and if your kid wants to do after-school sports or be on sports teams, this school would not be a good choice.

    Dance, we have been told (though I have not personally watched) includes ballet, tap, and modern. Our son enjoys tap but thinks ballet is too girly. They don't start ballroom until about 5th grade. I've seen him do some basic steps at home and though I know nothing about dance, he seems to be learning something.

    If you read the web site and listen to the teachers and administration carefully, I don't think they say that all kids who attend are categorically two years ahead of their peers in other schools (though I've heard some parents spout that rhetoric). I'm sure many public school kids are also ahead of grade level in many subjects. When I was in 4th grade they said my English skills were at 10th grade level. BFD. They do say that all kids are encouraged to to capacity and pushed to stretch themselves, and that's been true for our son so far, but obviously we've just had less than a year of K, so I can't say beyond that.

    Like most libertarian groups, the Cato Institute is far right on some issues where I disagree with them (taxes, schools) but would be probably considered left-Democrat on others (end the drug wars, end the Iraq war). Not that I belong to the Cato Institute or have any interest in defending them, but I think it's intellectually dishonest to imply that they're pure "far right" as that term is understood in today's mainstream political discourse.

    My post was not intended to say "It's all great" and I don't think it did. The school is very clear in telling prospective parents that they're not for everyone.

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  180. "I don't think they say that all kids who attend are categorically two years ahead of their peers in other schools..."

    Carol Harrison said this to me, flatly, once when I was asking her about the school.

    I give you full credit for being honest -- definitely not accusing you of glossing over anything! I just had some points to add.

    Oh, also, the headmistress reportedly WILL NOT LET students apply to SOTA even though AC is an arts school. An AC alum now at Lowell told me that she requires them all to apply to Lowell, though, because in recent years they've had bad luck getting their alumni into private high schools. Disclaimer that that info came from a kid. There are a few AC alumni at SOTA, but they started at other high schools and transferred.

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  181. "I don't think they say that all kids who attend are categorically two years ahead of their peers in other schools..."

    Carol Harrison said this to me, flatly, once when I was asking her about the school.

    I give you full credit for being honest -- definitely not accusing you of glossing over anything! I just had some points to add.

    Oh, also, the headmistress reportedly WILL NOT LET students apply to SOTA even though AC is an arts school. An AC alum now at Lowell told me that she requires them all to apply to Lowell, though, because in recent years they've had bad luck getting their alumni into private high schools. Disclaimer that that info came from a kid. There are a few AC alumni at SOTA, but they started at other high schools and transferred.

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  182. AC now has SOTA on their list of "recent high school acceptances." (See the web site.) It seems peculiar that would they post it on their "high school brag list" if they "prohibit" kids from applying there.

    Do they push kids hard toward applying to certain high schools? I would not doubt it, as they imply that they have good relationships with certain HS admissions directors and the culture is that they like to say they get their students into PRIVATE high schools, or Lowell (odd that they would push that one public school, don't they object them on principle?). I remember when I was in high school, and in our daughter's high school, there was definitely some pretty strong college application "steering" going on from the different college advisers. But I don't see how they can control it either. If a family wants to apply to a school, they can apply to a high school. The current school's blessing is not required to do this. If a family does not want to apply to a school, are they going to hold a gun to the family's head and say, "Apply to this school"? I rather doubt it. Maybe that's a source of the screaming matches you refer to?:)

    Some students on Great Schools and similar sites say the AC's high school admits are not so much about academics (though some kids say they got a great education at EC) but because AC students stand out by winning lots of speech tournaments (among private school peers, they don't compete against publics) and having a fair amount of experience with singing, dancing an acting. Most high schools need students to be in the plays.

    Another point about Cato Institute I thought of last night, is what's really objectionable to me about them and other libertarian groups, is they arrive at their positions, whether they fall to the left or right on the mainstream political discourse spectrum, from a strictly YOYO place, at least as far as government involvement is concerned. I think 30 years of government YOYO has brought our society to a very sad and desperate place.

    This has gone way off topic, since AC is in Noe Valley/Mission, not outside SF. Oh well:)

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  183. "It seems peculiar that would they post it on their "high school brag list" if they "prohibit" kids from applying there."

    This is what a number of AC families and students have told me, though. There's one Lowell freshman AC alum who is not that happy at Lowell and really wants to be at SOTA; I have had quite some extensive discussion with the student and her mother about the fact that she was flatly told at AC that she could not apply to SOTA. They were talking to me as a SOTA parent about the process of getting in at higher grades. It's probably someone you know, too, Marlowe's mom.

    I know that in past years AC families were just told that SOTA was a crummy school ("it's chaos" is what one AC mom I'm very close to was told). I'm not really clear whether they were firmly told they couldn't apply or just firmly discouraged.

    I would assume that it's still recognized that SOTA acceptances are a marketing asset. I wonder if that list includes the ones I mentioned who started at another HS and transferred.

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  184. And I agree with your assessment of the Cato attitude, BTW, and that you're correct; it's not strictly far right. Though I think that YOYO/f***-the-needy attitude sits much more comfortably with the far right than with liberals/leftists who have a libertarian streak.

    A strong performing arts background is definitely an asset to a private high school application (and SOTA, and in some borderline "Band 2" cases Lowell), and same with that oratory competition AC students enter every year. (I actually think it might be open to publics, but not on the radar amid the many demands on public school teachers and administrators.)

    Fun trivia: In Lowell's recent production of "Les Miserables," the entertaining Master of the House part (not looking up the actual name at this moment) was alternated between two talented AC alumni actors.

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  185. Marlowe's Mom wins. Caroline: back to your corner now.

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  186. I don't want to win. I think Caroline has brought up some good points about Adda Clevenger that parents should be aware of, though where her information did not seem accurate based on our experience having a child there now, I wanted to say so. The school has been good to us and good for our child. That's not to say that other schools, private or public, would not also be very good for our child. We have no idea because we've only been in one kindergarten.

    BTW, we don't know any alumni families. We found Adda Clevenger on the Internet in July 2007 when our son's preschool teacher said he needed to move on in the fall. It was the only place that would take him on short notice for K last fall with his late December '02 birthday. Public was out (state law prohibits admission with birthdays after December 2), all the other privates had far earlier birthday cutoffs, and every pre-K program I called was full with a waiting list. So there he is, challenged and engaged, and when we pick him up at the end of the day, he's all smiles.

    Wouldn't it be great to have this kind of back & forth dialog about lots of different schools, public and private, with separate threads by school name? On the playgrounds, on tours, at any function where kids and parents are gathered, it's fascinating to hear the sometimes wildly different perspectives of parents in the same schools. It came up a little bit early on with respect to schools that Kate toured, but it would be nice to expand the discussion to other schools as well. A lot of the comments on "Great Schools" seem like they're either posts by PTA boosters or else people with major axes to grind. I like the back & forth and the way people are mostly open to different perspectives on this blog.

    I wonder if the anonymous at 5:41 who asked "What's so great about Adda Clevenger" even read this last bit of discussion.

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  187. Want it or not... you did win because you brought another school to the table for consideration by folks who might have otherwise dismissed Adda Clevenger out of hand due to Caroline's relentless attack on it throughout this blog.

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  188. I disagree that I have made relentless attacks. Quite a while ago there were comments or questions posted about AC that invited the sharing of further information, so that's what I did. If it's wrong to share information, then this entire blog is wrong. And I have mentioned its good points.

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  189. Oh, and BTW, there used to be a private school discussion on a Bay Area Private Schools website. I used to lurk on it sometimes. The entire discussion board was suddenly taken down, and it appears to me that was because of negative and very specific comments about some schools by parents or former parents in those schools.

    I can see the moderator's point, because there were actual teachers being singled out by name.

    So you can see the issues that might arise! I do get the sense that lots of folks feel like public schools are fair game but how dare you breathe a negative word about privates, but oh well.

    Some of the criticisms I recall were a series of comments about public drinking, including by heads of school and teachers, at parochial school festivals -- well, hell, yeah, that's part of the fun! You are literally not allowed per the state Ed Code to carry a sealed bottle of wine onto a public school site, including giftwrapped or in your grocery bag. By contrast, I've attended a couple of parochial school festivals, and yes indeed, they do party hearty.

    Also, there were comments about how Dickensian West Portal Lutheran is. That school doesn't seem to be discussed here, and maybe that's why.

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  190. The alcohol prohibition extends to overnight public school trips too, which can be *little* sad for the parent chaperones after a long day and evening with boisterous 4th and 5th graders, but really--it's the right call for lots of reasons.

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  191. Following up the comment about parochial school partying, Convent had catered hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer at every evening event I recall attending (2002-2006)--the school plays, the welcome receptions, etc. They served mimosas at the mother-daughter brunch and fashion show too. Why do you think people bid so high at the fundraising auctions? :) Nobody embarrassed themselves or had accidents driving their kids home. There were enough parents and teachers around to keep a close eye on the students. Catholics have communion of the cup with real wine after all:-)

    Parents at Adda Clevenger organize a sale of wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee and snacks at the plays with food and drink contributed by the families. Money raised helps defray costume and production costs. Pre-play and intermission double as a social for the parents.

    I'm not actually much of a drinker, but I find it unfortunate that the Education Code is so prohibitionist. But I suppose the potential liability is so great for a public school (a plaintiff's lawyer looking at an alcohol-related accident on school grounds would view the State of California or a school district as a VERY deep pocket), they really have to be careful.

    Question: can you hold a public-school related function (e.g. a social, a fundraiser) off school grounds and serve alcohol? Do people? Could the school potentially be held liable if a privately-organized off-site function is intended to directly benefit the school?

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  192. Yes, public schools can hold fundraisers offsite with alcohol -- I was just at Lakeshore's silent auction a couple of weeks ago, and there was a wine-tasting. (That definitely ups the bidding! We had an onsite, evening silent auction at Aptos, and the best we could do was serve good coffee, free. I swear it helped too, though.)

    I am not totally clear on the liability issues. PTA schools have liability insurance through the state PTA, but I'm not 100% sure how it covers the question you raise even though I attended a workshop on PTA insurance once. I think there might be a "don't ask, don't tell" element...

    Seems like private schools would have the same issues. What about those parochial-school festivals? I'm sure there some massive body of case law on this.

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  193. California actually has pretty broad protection for servers of alcohol. (Civil Code Sec 1714(b) and (c).) "The furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person. No social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages." There is indeed a boatload of case law on this topic.

    I am pretty sure there are exceptions to this broad immunity when the serving of the alcohol is itself illegal. For example, I believe a liquor licensee who serves an obviously intoxicated minor is committing an illegal act and can be liable if that minor causes injury. If a person who obtained liquor at a function held on public school grounds hurt somebody, some industrious plaintiff's lawyer would no doubt argue that because it was illegal to serve liquor on school grounds, the party that served the liquor is liable for the injuries. Even if the immunity statute won out, the defense costs alone could be staggering, and would probably have to be borne by the party serving the alcohol (school or PTA) because insurance companies typically will not cover insureds who engage in illegal conduct. Because private schools are not subject to the Education Code provision, the same argument would be less likely to be asserted against them. LEGAL INFORMATION PROVIDED FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY. NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS ESTABLISHED. IF LEGAL ADVICE IS DESIRED, A LICENSED ATTORNEY WITH RELEVANT EXPERTISE SHOULD BE RETAINED.

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