Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New kindergarten classes at McCoppin and Jose Ortega

Here's a message from an SF K Files visitor:

"I just went down to the EPC today and they told me that two new kindergarten classes were opened, at McCoppin and Jose Ortega. In fact, it's posted on the EPC/SFUSD Web site, but not being widely advertised for some reason (this was the first I'd heard of it!). They are giving people until the 16th to apply for them (put them down as their waitpool choice). I assume that if there's space left, they will open up in open enrollment as well."

I'm unfamiliar with McCoppin so please share details if you have them. I have talked to many parents and the principal at Jose Ortega and I know it is a strong, up-and-coming school. The school's ranking on GreatSchools.net was a 5 out of 10 but recently rose to a 6. There are a group of parents dedicated to raising more money for the PTA. And the principal, JoLynn Washington, is fabulous.

This weekend the school holds its annual Walkathon from 10 a.m. to noon. It's a great opportunity to meet the parent community and the principal.

23 comments:

  1. You cannot walk into Jose Ortega and not feel its great energy. The physical space reminds me of Miraloma, and the principal rocks. Check out the auditorium, with its amazing artwork of hundreds of paper cranes in graduated sizes. I can't really describe it--you just have to see it for yourself.

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  2. McCoppin -- Richmond District, overwhelmingly Asian, heavily socioeconomically disadvantaged, heavily English language learners, API hovers consistently around 800. I'm not familiar with it either but thought I'd offer that snapshot based on a glance at the API website.

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  3. The principal at McCoppin is young and very energetic. I know he pulled one of his daughters out of Alamo and enrolled her in McCoppin because he believes in his staff so much. Also, I believe Eric Mar of the BOE has a kid enrolled there. Seems like an under-the-radar good school. Normally, the GE strand is only 20 kids so it wasn't necessarily super easy to get into although it's not talked about much.

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  4. We are enrolled in JOES Mandarin Immersion program (6th on our amended choices and we included it 'cos we wanted an immersion option that we might actually get).
    We toured it and it was ok, but there was standardized tesing going on, so our access to the classes was limited. Our main concern was the lack of PTA driven funding (they raised $10k last year), which translated to fewer 'extras' than many of the other schools we saw (including ones that are not sought after). The physical space is good, it felt safe. They have a decent library and a PE consultant. It is a uniform school (blue pants, shirts, etc) and has a 7:50 start. It didn't knock our socks off but it wasn't unacceptable either.
    As of today, the Mandarin Immersion class is fully enrolled with 6 on the waitlist. I suspect that the MI program will act as a magnet drawing a parent pool that can get more involved and that JOES will do well over the next few years. Everyone seems to agree that the principal is a go getter, although she was a pretty laid back with us.
    Unfortunately, we aren't fans of the early start time and (for us) pretty inconvenient location, so we are struggling with commiting to the school.

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  5. I toured McCoppin when we were trying to get to a set of amended choices. Overall, it seemed ok. The building and grounds were not attractive to me. It (along with Peabody and Sutro) was built in the 70s as an 'open plan' school. All the classrooms lead to the outdors and are connected to one another. The yard area is good but seemed a bit too open to the public for me (unlocked gates leading onto the street behind the school and no rooms looking out onto the yard). There is no auditorium or cafeteria (kids eat in the yard or classroom or bungalow for Ks).
    The principal is enthusiastic and energetic and obviously committed to building a good school. The kids seemed happy and engaged and well behaved. It didn't make our amended list, but it seems like an acceptable school, where children can do well.
    I would highly recommend visiting before deciding, to see if you are comfortable with the buildings and grounds.

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  6. I just got a brief glimpse of Joe Ortega at the Round I counseling session but it seemed like a friendly, energetic, positive, safe environment. Unfortunately the location kept it off my Round 2 list. We're in the upper Haight and I could not imagine how to get there for the 7:50 start time, then figure out how to park and get to work in the Financial District, then get out to school after work for the pick-up. We night people will have enough of a challenge making the 7:50 start time at Rosa Parks in Japantown, which is a straight shot downtown on the 38 Geary. (We'll be able to park in the Japantown garage as a carpool for $80/month.)

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  7. Here's a link to the Jose Ortega Web site: http://joseortegaschool.org/

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  8. Kate, I bet if you register at J. Ortega today, dozens of wonderful families would follow your lead, and YOU could create the next Miralimo. All the pieces are there, but many well-intentioned families are looking for a "spark" to ignite their imagination for "what could be" for this little gem.

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  9. Fat chance of that

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  10. Wow, I am always amazed at the snarkiness of people towards Kate. Why do people think she has a duty to follow some path they approve of, regardless of whether Kate thinks that path is best for her children. Are these same snarky people going to make their own children guinea pigs in the cause for the greater good? (For the record, my child is enrolled at a public school.) People who are jealous of the choices Kate has available could have started their own blog. Kate is the one who put her own time, energy and resources into this blog, and I think a lot of families have benefited from having a centralized area for information.

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  11. Kate would be wise NOT to attend Jose Ortega. There is no PTA at Ortega. Those who do attend the PTA argue and finger wag. Parents who do want to make a difference just get frustrated and transfer out. In the three years I've been a parent at Ortega nothing has changed. Now the Mandarin program is getting all the attention, so if you are assigned to General Ed kindergarten at Ortega, good luck.

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  12. Anyone out there go to their child's school orientation and leave it feeling like it is not the place???
    We are enrolled at our "backup school" and still dream of getting into our number one....sigh.....

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  13. I want to offer a rebuttal to that last posting...the reason the MI program is getting all the attention is that those are the parents getting involved to make JOES a great school for their kids. The GE kids can't help but benefit from a stronger PTA and even if the first priority for those active parents is MI, the greater attention is going to draw more active parents to the GE program. The way to make a better school is to join with other families committed to change. JOES is going to be a wonderful school.

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  14. I also find it extremely obnoxious that people are so judgmental about where Kate chooses to send Alice to school. This blog is supposed to be about sharing resources, information and experiences in finding a kindergarten for YOUR child in a city where doing so is an extremely complicated, stressful and unpredictable process. There have been extensive discussions comparing privates to privates, publics to publics, and privates to publics. Different families have strong and valid reasons for their preferences. Every kid is different, every family's hopes, expectations, needs and tastes are different.

    Realistically there is virtually no parental choice or control in SF because you can't choose a neighborhood based on school, the public school assignment process is random, and privates have no obligation to take any particular child. All you as a parent can do is try to get your kid in school you'd like them to attend and that works for your family. If it doesn't work out, you choose between what you've got or moving. It's ugly but it's reality if you've got kids and live in San Francisco.

    This blog has been an incredibly valuable resource to me and many parents and has widely expanded the universe of schools I'm willing to consider. Kate deserves credit, not judgment or anger. She's lucky to have a choice like MCDS and it's not like she set out to hurt anyone else. When you've got more demand than supply, not everyone's going to get what they want. Would you complain if publics were as well-funded and nice as MCDS? I've got a Canadian friend and he says religion is the only people send kids to private school there because the public schools are uniformly very strong. Unfortunately that's not the United States. Getting the required majority of people in this country to vote to tax themselves is like asking them to volunteer for root canals. And guess what, you get what you pay for. I think it's a wonder as many SF public schools are as good as they are.

    If you don't like the fact that public schools lose money for every child who doesn't enroll and for every day an enrolled child misses, that's a legislative, tax and budget problem, not the fault of Kate or any other parent who chooses private. I don't begrudge Kate if she's holding a public spot either. I'm sure she and her husband have a lot to discuss between about whether they can handle the expense and commute for the next 9 years versus their perceptions of the relative quality and suitability for Alice of MCDS and their Round II public assignment. I would do the same in their place. I have no doubt they're acting in good faith and will release one spot or the other once they've made a decision.

    Lighten up on Kate--nobody is making you hang out on this blog. She's a stronger character than I am to put up with some of the nasty comments here.

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  15. We are trying to decide between public and private just like Kate. I must say that we find more support from our private school friends than our public school friends. I get why our private schools friends understand our conflict, but I'm amazed by the responce on this blog by the snarky public school supports (ie fat chance above). This makes me question the public school community. If you have money and goto public school does the snarky attitude towards people who could have gone private stop?

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  16. Well put Marlowe's mom.

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  17. Did anyone go to the Walkathon at Jose Ortega? Can you report back?

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  18. to 8:42pm:

    I think it's unlikely that the anonymous rude comments of a small number of public school parents are indicative of that demographic, at large. My experience in this process of Kinder-searching has led me to many very supportive, reasonable, and respectful parents. Don't let a few bad apples...

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  19. Having been on the singed end of quite a number of flames by private-school advocates stung by my comments about the social impact of private school, I'm just pointing out that unrestrained vitriol and lapses of civility come from people with a variety of opinions at times. I considered trying to convince everyone that the jerky comments directed at Kate were actually from private-school double agents trying to make public schoolers look bad, Limbaugh-esque, but I'm not really sure I can make that case stick.

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  20. As a Jose Ortega parent, I strongly disagree with the post who advised Kate not to attend this school. My child attends Jose Ortega because I know she's receiving the best of academics from a group of dedicated and honorable educators. She loves and respects ALL of the teachers, the rest of the hardworking staff who shower her with positive attention, and Principal JoLynn Washington. And one more thing to admire about the faculty and staff is that they get along with one another in an exemplary way. I believe the Mandarin program is helping to attract positive attention to a school that has always been a great school with great kids, parents, caregivers, grandparents, etc. I'm pleased to see that it is already drawing active people to our community and that two of the parents from the Mandarin track ran for PTA president for the upcoming school year. I hope this positive advancement will attract committed parents into General Ed and all the education tracks at Jose Ortega.

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  21. I realized I should have said: "It's a wonder and a reflection of the hard work and dedication of teachers, administration and the public school parent community that as many SF public schools are as good as they are."

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  22. I'm working on a new project, a "don't-call-it-a-blog" forum on www.examiner.com . They're doing what they simply call Examiners on different topics, and mine is -- ta-da -- San Francisco schools. It's been up and running for about three hours now. One of the posts is an update on the K process that links to this blog and Vicki Symonds' recent post. (The other is on school violence.)

    http://tinyurl.com/5yb3aa

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  23. My child is currently a 4th grader at Jose Ortega and has been there since Kindergarten. I too put all the top immersion schools on my 1- 7 choices and didn't receive not even one of my selections. We ended up in a Daly City school with no diversity and no real since of community. Needless to say we where gone by the 3rd day of school and at Jose Ortega. I choose NOT to do private school because I have family who attended and it failed to make them well rounded and ready for the REAL world. My son started Ortega and felt the nurturing love and support from day one. We absolutely LOVE this school. The mandarin program was started because of my suggestion as an SSC member a few years ago. This is the first year of MI and we have about 12 kids in the MI. So... I don't possibly see how they pay more attention the 12 in MI versus the 200+ in GE but whatever there are unhappy people everywhere. And yes we have had some issues with the PTA parents not always being a cordial as they should, this happens EVERYWHERE and the trouble maker is leaving. I have seen MUCH worse at other schools amongst just the staff. Most of Ortega's staff have been there at least 15 years if not more and that says more than anything about a school. If the staff is happy they work well together and when they work together your child only benefits, and that goes for ALL schools. We have one more year at Ortega and I wish we could stay until 12th grade. Oh well, it's back to private schools for middle school. Good luck in your search.

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