Sunday, August 31, 2008

Any 0/15s out there?

Here's an excerpt of an email from a parent who is 0/15. She hopes to connect with others in the same situation:


"I would love to have a thread for us 0/15's out there. I am in such a desperate situation, paying month to month at a TK that I can't afford, and I'd love to have a place to share what other 0/15's are going through. I dont even know how many of us there are, and what everyone is doing. It seems like the advice everyone offered me (just hold out and you'll get a spot during then ten day count) isn't going to work this year, and that means I am losing some real money potentially for the rest of they year. The inequity of the situation has me extremely depressed, and naturally it is taking a toll on my child, my job, and my life in general."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Should I request to switch classes?

Another dilemma from an SF K Files visitor:

Ok, so here is my dilemma: I am not sure that my daughter is in the class that is right for her. There are 3 k-1 (mixed grade) classes at her school. In her class there are only 2 other kindergarten girls (7 boys). She is really a girly girl, and the gender unbalance really concerns me. She will remain in this class for 2 years. She says that her teacher is really nice, but there is another teacher there that I think would be a better fit for her (and there are more Kinder girls in that class). I am having a hard time gaging if I am being over protective or if my concerns are legitimate. My husband seems to think that I am the latter, and I should just let her work it out-let some of the 1st grade girls take her in. I am kind of hesitant to approach the schools administration with this-I don't want to come off as a psycho mom-plus I am 99% sure that I will start to bawl (so many emotions tied up with her going to kinder!). Anyways, I like the school, but I am kind of at a loss as to what to do. Should I wait and see how it pans out? Should I press to have her moved to another class? Thanks!!!!

Private school wait lists

Many of the private schools are starting next Tuesday. I thought I'd check in to see if anyone is getting in off the wait lists. Feel free to share your stories.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should we change our wait pool?

Another dilemma from an SF K Files visitor:

Having a tough time at our assigned school (not one of our choices). My child is getting picked on repeatedly and he is visibly saddened every day. Note, he starts out super eager...but the problem seems to be a tight group of kids who went to preschool together and have siblings at the school already.

We are not in the top tier of the waitpool and there are quite a few ahead of us for our top pick.

My husband and I are totally stressed out as we feel we are not doing everything we can do for our child - who is now seeming more and more insecure every day.

My question, should I change waitpool choice at this point or wait for a miracle for us to be chosen? Soooo torn and sooo unhappy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The meltdown

When the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and I walked into Alice's room, I could immediately tell that it was going to be a bad morning. Alice opened her eyes, sneered at me, and pulled the covers over her head.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy," I sang cheerfully.

"Be quiet mommy!"

"Sweetheart, you need to get up or else you're going to be late for school," I said in my nicest tone.

"I don't want to go to school!"

I tried to cuddle with her but she pushed me away.

"You need to get up if you want to get to school on time," I said in a less nice tone.

She burst into tears, and said, "Why do you have to talk in such a mean voice?" And then she let me hold her as she sobbed.

I (not to mention Alice) was paying big time for the night before. We went to dinner with my parents and Alice got to bed too late. I quickly realized that the key to happiness at kindergarten is a consistent 7:30 p.m. bedtime.

Alice was fragile and teary throughout her morning routine--and nothing was going right. Her pleated uniform skirt was wrinkled; her toast tasted yucky; and her wavy hair was uncooperative when she went to put it in a ponytail. I don't think her teeth ever got brushed.

At 7:30 a.m., I walked her down to the car since my husband, Ryan, was driving her to school, and I gave her a big hug. She broke down again and for the very first time since her last day of preschool at the end of June she said, "I want to go back to Sweet Peas!"

I asked, "Why? Don't you like kindergarten?"

And then she told me that one of the girls in her class can do the rings on the playground. "All she wants to do is play on the rings," she said. "She doesn't play with me anymore and I can't do the rings." I told her that I'd pick her up after school and we'd work on the rings--she looked relived. And then Alice hopped in the car with Ryan, and I began to worry that she would meltdown when he dropped her off.

Ryan called as soon as he got back in the car.

"How do it go? Was she OK?"

Ryan told me that he walked Alice up to the playground, where the entire school meets every morning. A group of the kindergarten girls were standing in a circle holding hands and playing "Ring Around The Rosie." Ryan worried that the girls might not let Paris into their circle. She's going to break down again, he was thinking. But then one of the girls let go of the hand next to her and she said, "Let's make room for Alice."

Is my daughter ready for kindergarten?

Another dilemma from an SF K Files visitor:

We got into a transitional K program about a week ago. Several kids from my daughter's preschool are going there, and I know she'd be happy there and probably thrive, grow in confidence, etc. She's a little on the young side, but not too much (September). We've put the deposit down. Our waitpool school is a nice neighborhood school that could turn into a great neighborhood school -- it seems to have a new influx of parent energy and a great proactive principal. I ironically went to EPC today to withdraw our name from the waitpool, when they told me there is a spot available. I told them I needed 24 hours to think it over and would come back tomorrow if we decided yes (and see if it's still available ...)

I'm not sure what to do. Financially, swinging TK will be so hard for us. And while I think my daughter is a little immature for kindergarten, i don't think she's outrageously unready for it. But at her school they have all been talking about their new TK school and are excited to be going. She's very happy about it. When I tried testing the waters and said, oh, well you know, i heard about this other school, which sounds nice too and we could go look at it, she gets really upset and says she doesn't want to go to kindergarten; she wants to go to the TK with all her friends. Is this a normal reaction to the uncertainty I'm now throwing at her? Other people who switched kids during the 10-day count, how did your children react? I guess I just feel sad too because I read about all these confident happy kids going off to kindergarten -- kids who've had time to get used to the idea of where they're going to school, and have met other kids through picnics, etc -- and then I see my child and how anxious she seems. But maybe that will dissipate once she makes the switch?

What if we get into our wait pool school?

Another dilemma from an SF K Files visitor:

We started our son off in our assigned school, which he now loves! It is a trek. It is a reading first school, but there is a language component. He loves the language! The school is sweet and the other parents seem very nice and involved. The principal is great. We have no aftercare, which will be a stretch this year, but fine, but our prospects will not improve in future years when it will be difficult because I will want to work more hours. The instruction (aside from the language instruction) is a bit on the rote side, and not what we were looking for. But the language is great.

Our waitpool school was our 5th choice in Round I. It is not a school we loved. We've heard mixed things about the principal and the atmosphere is a bit sterile. But we know wonderful families there, many neighbors are there and the teachers are terrific. The school has the creative components we were looking for. There is an after school language option but I have no idea of the quality. We can WALK there and our neighbors have already offered to pick up our son there when I can't.

We don't know if we'll get the call, but if we do, we have no idea what we'll do. One thing is for sure: my son will not be happy about the idea of moving at this point!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trophy school or middling immersion program?

An SF K Files visitor would like to get your input on the following dilemma:

My daughter received an 11th-hour assignment to a so-called "trophy" public. It is a school that many would give their left arm to have gotten. That said, it was not on our original list, in part because there were other impossible-to-get-into schools I actually preferred available to fill out the list. Long story short, our original intent, like a lot of families', was to get into a language immersion program, ideally in our neighborhood. That goal has not changed. So we remain waitlisted at an immersion program walking distance from our house (the "trophy" school is inaccessible by public transport and only somewhat reachable by school bus). The school we're waitlisted at...it's just feels so right for us. Simple. Neighborhoody. Not showy. Warm. Just easy and normal and nice. Our people. The other one? Nice people also, but different somehow. Less "right," if that makes any sense.

We have a successful hardship appeal and thus have quite a good chance of getting a call about the "middling" immersion school -- in terms of reputation, test scores, safety -- so I struggle with what to do. We started our daughter at her assigned school and she is absolutely bonding with her teacher, the school, the kids...in short, she loves it all. Now, I suspect she was just ready to love kindergarten and would love the other school too...but I cannot be 100% sure. Are we crazy to stay on the waitlist for this immersion school? To value bilingualism and neighborhood walkability so highly that we'd give up a school our daughter not only seems to love already, but is attaching to more every day (not to mention a school known for academic excellence and peacefulness)? I feel a little crazy...it has been very hard to commit not knowing how it will turn out. Immersion was our goal from the very beginning and only the weird twists and turns of this nutty system landed us elsewhere. Your advice much appreciated....

Decisions! Decisions!

I have talked to many parents who are still without a school--or who aren't sure if they should stick with their current school. Many of these parents have big decisions to make. If I get my wait pool school should I pull my kid out of his current kindergarten? Should we wait another year and try for our dream private? Should we move to Piedmont? If you're in the midst of a big decision, feel free to email your dilemma to thesfkfiles@gmail.com and I can post it on the site. And then others can offer up advice. Please keep the details of your dilemma as anonymous as possible; I won't be including names. Thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The drop-off

On October 2, 2007, I launched The SF K Files and wrote my first post that started with the paragraph below.

"Every few nights my sleep gets disrupted by a recurring nightmare. I go to drop my daughter off at school on her first day of kindergarten. It's our dream school--the one I ranked first among the seven on my San Francisco Unified School District enrollment application or the private school where I'm certain my daughter will thrive. We walk up to the front door, I'm holding her little hand, and the school suddenly grows legs and runs away from us. We chase after the school, running as fast as we possibly can, but we're unable to catch up. Finally, we give up, our tired bodies flopping down onto the ground."

I'm happy to say that when I dropped Alice off at Jose Ortega this morning the school didn't grow legs and sprint off. Instead it reached out and gave our family a great big hug. In fact, Alice's first day of school was near perfect--and it was truly one of the happiest and most memorable days of my life. People kept telling me that there's an end to the school madness, and now I finally believe them.

***

The alarm clock rang at 6:30 a.m. I went into Alice's room and cuddled up next to her in bed. She opened her big dewy brown eyes.

"It's the first day of kindergarten! Yeah!" she squealed.

Alice popped out of bed and put on the navy jumper she picked out at Children's Place. (Of course, she rejected the cute second-hand dress I bought at Chloe's Closet.) While Alice was getting ready, I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. I'm almost certain she said honey and peanut butter toast with cinnamon. But when she walked into the kitchen, she screamed, "I don't want peanut butter! I said only honey and cinnamon!" And then Alice stormed into the living room, flopped down on the couch, and burst into tears. No day can be entirely perfect, right?

Somehow we made it out the door at 7:30 a.m.

We found a parking spot at the bottom of a steep hill several blocks from the school. Alice spotted some of the girls we got to know at summer play dates. She raced up the hill and I trailed behind. Sam and Ryan were left in the dust and Sam started wailing. JoLynn Washington, the principal, stood in front of the school, greeting students: "Hello, Alice! Hi Kate!" And then JoLynn hollered, "Is that Sam I hear crying?" Sam came huffing and puffing up the hill, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Is that Sam crying? Hello, Sam!" My little guy immediately perked up.

We gathered in the cafeteria. The school typically begins the day on the playground but it was wet and drippy outside so the party moved inside. We mingled with a group of kindergarten families, who we got to know at summer events. After only a few play dates, a school picnic, and a school clean-up, I already felt like these people were family. We exchanged hugs and words of congratulations.

JoLynn got up on the stage and welcomed us all. She apologized for the weather and went over some logistics. And then she ended by saying, "Don't worry. Your kids are safe with us. We'll care for them and we will love them."

Love? Love? Did she say love? Her words stopped me. I spent the past two years on a serious hunt for the perfect kindergarten. I analyzed schools' academics, studied playgrounds, closely observed teachers. I looked for schools that were outstanding, high-scoring, creative, ecofriendly, cutting-edge, well-funded, beautifully landscaped, innovative. I dreamed of going to one of the city's top public or private schools. And then I ended up at Jose Ortega, a school that I now think is the most outstanding school in SFUSD, but it's certainly not one of the big names (based on wait list numbers).

At this moment, it all clicked and I finally realized why I was attracted to the school--it's loving. Yes, it sounds corny, but Jose Ortega is a warm, fuzzy place that seems perfect for young kids adventuring off into the big world (not to mention parents who are excited yet sad about their little ones growing up). It's nurturing, comfy, and intimate.

As JoLynn declared that the school was going to love my child, I had all of these flashbacks. I remembered when I nervously enrolled at JOES and the school secretary grabbed my hands and said that she understood how scary it is and that everything was going to be alright. I remembered when Alice met her kindergarten teacher over the summer and her teacher gave her a huge hug. And I remembered when a returning student raced down a hallway and jumped into JoLynn's arms at the summer clean-up. Jose Ortega is full of caring, good-natured people who welcome everyone with open arms. They are people who I know will love my daughter and when I was actually dropping Alice off at school that seemed to be the only thing that really mattered.

Alice's teacher held up a sign, and her students along with their parents lined up behind her. We marched to the classroom in a far corner of the labyrinthian school. We remained in a line outside the door as the kindergarten teacher greeted each student individually and brought them one by one into the classroom. When Alice's turn was up, I broke down into tears and she wiped the drips off my face. "It's OK Mommy," she said--and then she was off.

I walked away, holding Sam tightly in my arms and crying. An older lady in the hallway stopped me. She gave me a hug and asked if I was OK. She told me that she used to teach at Jose Ortega and I guess she was there helping out on the first day, providing support to kids and parents. Just another one of the warm fuzzies at Jose Ortega.

Please feel free to share your drop-off stories.

First-day-of-school slideshow



I'm collecting photographs of San Francisco children on their first day of school. Please email your pics to thesfkfiles@gmail.com. As I receive photos, I'll add them to the slideshow. Thanks! Best, Kate

Please email your first-day-of-school pics

An SF K Files visitor suggested that we start a gallery of first-day-of-school photographs. Please email your pics and I'll post them in a gallery on the site. No need to include names of your kids--let's keep it anonymous. Also, families who are starting private schools after Labor Day can email photos to me next week and I'll add them to the gallery.

You can email photos to thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

We made it!


This morning's drop-off at Jose Ortega went perfectly. I'll offer up more details later today. Please feel free to share your stories.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good luck!

For those sending their kids off to kindergarten tomorrow, congratulations! And for those still waiting, best of luck. We'll all be thinking good thoughts for you in the weeks to come.

Finally, please feel free to share your stories about getting ready for kindergarten. Are you putting your child down for bed earlier than usual? Are you making a special dinner? Do you plan to start any first-day-of school rituals? One mom told me that she always takes a photo of her child in front of the same school mural. This way she can see how much he has grown over the years.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Final wait pool run

Please feel free to share your news if you got into a school in the final wait pool run. And then we'll move into the 10-day count.

MIRALOMA PLAYDATE & BRUNCH TO WELCOME K FAMILIES

Miraloma PTA and first-grade parents are hosting a play date and a welcoming brunch for new kindergarten families. The play date is this Saturday (Aug. 23) at 10 AM – noon in Sandy Park, which is on Omar Way next to Miraloma ES. Bring a snack; refreshments will be provided. The brunch is on the first day of school, Monday (Aug. 25), in the library, immediately following morning circle. After you walk your child to their K class and help them get situated, please come to the library to enjoy an array of savory treats and beverages. Meet and mingle with the wonderful families at Miraloma. Get a group hug from former K veterans. Kleenex will be provided.

After-school care for wait pool kids

A question from an SF K Files visitor:

I am wondering what parents are doing about aftercare for their waitpool option. We are assigned to Ortega MI and got into the YMCA aftercare program that is starting there this year. Unfortunately, Ortega's location and start time make it a real challenge for us to stick with it.

So, we are in the waitpool for Stevenson, which has a reasonable start time for us and is closer by. I have been totally unable to connect with KEEP, the ASP for Stevenson and have been told that I won't be able to talk to them until school starts. So, I have no idea if we can even get in, never mind when.

This is adding to my level of stress over this whole process.

I am wondering if parents have any insight on how hard it is to get into an ASP after school starts? Also, are there are other options, if we can't get into the ASP for the school we end up at?

Thanks!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Steady growth shown on California Standards Test

According to an article in today's Chronicle, "The state's public school students improved yet again in reading, writing and mathematics, marking five years of near-steady growth on the tough California Standards Test, according to results released Thursday by the Department of Education."

"But the good news came paired with bad, as state Superintendent Jack O'Connell declared that the education of black students has reached a crisis stage: Overall scores remain well below those of white students, and English skills generally match those of students just learning the language."

"'I am acutely concerned about our African American st'dents,' O'Connell said, noting that low academic proficiency and a high dropout rate "indicate a crisis in the education of black students.'"

For the full story, click here.

Also, The Chronicle has a feature that allows you to check schools' scores. Click here.

JBBP Rosa Parks Open House

Welcome, Kinders to JBBP at Rosa Parks Open House
Saturday, 8/16
11am-2pm, rain or shine
350 Page between Laguna and Buchannan
at the home of Norrell and Laura, and their JBBP kids (incoming 2nd and K)

Meet Dr. Monica Nagy, the Rosa Parks Principal
Meet Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Lisa Tsukamuto
Meet other families & make friends!

Jump in the jumpy house

Eat some snacks (bring a side dish if you can)

Wear your uniform (navy pants/skirts/jumpers/shorts and white or navy collared shirts). Siblings welcome.

Please RSVP 415-621-5672 so we have a good count for food

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Frustrated with the lottery system? Speak up in a survey.

The letter below is from SF K Files visitor Abigail Marks, who has put together a survey aimed at quantifying the opinions parents have about the SFUSD's public school lottery system. Marks has a social science background, and she plans to pass her survey results on to the district.

*****

Hi:

I just put together a survey meant to evaluate the experience of those of us who participated in the San Francisco public school lottery this year, to get a sense of what aspects of the enrollment process need to be changed, and to poll people about their preference for some sort of neighborhood component to the assignment process.

Here is a link to the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=I5MUhfoq_2bchh4XyVGeg64w_3d_3d.

The survey is an informal one, and by no means comprehensive. It is not official in any way. It's meant mostly to get a pulse of what people are thinking about the process, and to point a way to some possible changes for the future. Responses are anonymous. We will share the results with the District and with as many families in the community as are interested. Please forward it to as many people as you can! The more responses we get, the more reliable the data we collect will be!

Thanks!

Best,
Abby

S.F. assistant principal held in brothel case

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, "A Galileo High School assistant principal was arrested late Thursday for his alleged role in the operation of at least two San Jose brothels, police said. Gerald Courtney, 57, who has worked at the school district since 1988, was booked on charges of felony pimping and pandering. Police said no minors or other school officials were involved in the prostitution case."

Read more by clicking here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flynn/Alvarado placements

Flynn/Alvarado families, feel free to share your placement news. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A letter from the superintendent

Parents for Public Schools forwarded me the following letter from superintendent Carlos Garcia:


August 6, 2008


Dear families in the SFUSD wait pool:

I have heard and understand your concerns regarding the effect that the district’s recent re-assignment of 23 families from Leonard R. Flynn and Alvarado Elementary may have on the wait pools at other schools. Thank you to all of you who have contacted us and offered suggestions regarding ways to ameliorate this difficult situation.

Based on your requests, we have decided to extend the wait pool runs for kindergarten
families to November 7, 2008. This extension is only for kindergarten families as this is the only group that may be impacted by the district’s re-assignment process of the 23 Flynn and Alvarado families.

The 23 re-assigned families from Flynn and Alvarado will be given until 5:00 p.m. on
Friday, August 8, to accept their new assignment offers. Once we know where these
families are assigned we can assess how wait pools at other schools will be affected, and we will consider whether or not we can minimize the impact. Increasing class sizes to 21 is costly; this decision was made to accommodate the unique hardship our error caused the 23 re-assigned families. In light of the state budget crisis, we are closely monitoring to see if the state may allow more flexibility of increasing class size as an option.

Finally, I am excited to announce that the Spanish Dual Immersion Program at Daniel
Webster will begin this year regardless of whether any of the 23 re-assigned families
select this program. Now more families will have the option to enroll in a Spanish
Immersion program this year. Families who are interested in enrolling their child in this new program can contact the Educational Placement Center at (415) 241-6085.

I thank you for your dedication to our schools, and I look forward to working together
with you to make all our schools worthy of your children.

Sincerely,
Superintendent
Carlos A. Garcia

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A letter from Carmen Chu

Note: This letter was forwarded to me by an SF K Files visitor.

Hi:

I wanted to invite you to attend a meeting on Thursday, August 7th to speak
on legislation I introduced at the Board of Supervisors, urging the School
District to reconsider its current school assignment process and
incorporate geographic considerations when assigning students to schools.

As you know, many students have been placed at schools far away from their
homes due to the current school assignment system - which was originally
designed to increase diversity in schools. However, after several years of
this system, a recent Civil Grand Jury report found that our schools are
not actually more diverse and are still segregated.

The school district currently takes into consideration a student's:
- socioeconomic status
- home language use
- academic achievement score
- extreme poverty level
- Academic Performance Index rank of the students' previous school

None of these criteria include considerations of where a student lives in
relation to the school that they are being assigned to. I am asking that
the School District at the very least consider incorporating one additional
component to the list of criteria, which is a student's home location
relative to their school assignment.

On Thursday, August 7th, this legislation will be heard in City Hall, Room
263 at the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee at 1:00 PM.
If you are a parent or know of anyone who has experienced any difficulties
with their child's school assignment, we encourage you to share your
concerns during the public comment period at this meeting.

-----------------------
Legislation urging school district to reconsider school assignment process
at City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee
Thursday, August 7 @ 1:00 PM
Room 263, City Hall
http://www.sfgov.org/site/bdsupvrs_page.asp?id=85787
-----------------------

Please feel free to contact my office if you have any additional questions
at (415) 554-7460


Carmen Chu
SF Board of Supervisors
District 4
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl.
SF, CA 94102
(415) 554-7460
www.sfgov.org/chu