Monday, September 22, 2008

Make a pitch for your school

Tour season is in full swing and parents are starting the kindergarten search. Please use this thread to advertise your school, tours, and other events.


  1. Okay, I'll start us off. My son is a kindergartener at Starr King Mandarin Immersion. He loves it and I do too. The principal, Chris Rosenberg, is smart, involved, knows the kids by name and rumor-has-it is good at getting want he needs/wants from the district. The two Mandarin Immersion kindergarten teachers are fantastic. Very loving with the kids, animated and organized. The general Kindergarten teacher also seems fantastic. The parents have been an interesting and engaged group and I am enjoying getting to know them. There are a lot of parent volunteers and a committee to green the school is starting this year. I'm excited to be a part of what feels like a very dynamic and committed group. It's a thrill to hear my kid singing, counting and speaking in Mandarin already. If you're interested in a very diverse school with language immersion and activist parents and principal, I'd recommend that you check out Starr King. I think the tours will be Thursdays at 9:30, but call the school directly to confirm: 695-5797.

  2. Starr King: we just started at SK Mandarin Immersion. Admittedly on a honeymoon. Still, I have to report that I think the school is great. Mind you, my first choice school was Synergy with Rooftop as my first choice in the publics. I feel so incredibly lucky to have not gotten either of my first choice schools.

    The atmosphere at SK is joyful. In the morning the principal wheels an amp out on the blacktop and plays music while the kids hulahoop, play on the structures, jump rope, play basketball, what have you. It's great fun. The teachers in all four programs (Spanish bilingual, Mandarin Immersion, Autism Spectrum and General Ed) seem engaged, caring, lively and thoughtful. They are out on the blacktop, too, at the beginning of the week so one can see them interact with "their" kids. One of the teachers conducts a books with breakfast program so kids can eat breakfast and read, and win books. He seems to have quite a following and is someone the kids want to hang around as a cool dude.

    The student body is extremely diverse. In the incoming kinder class of 40 kids there are Latino, African American and Black, Asian including Chinese, Chinese American and biracial and Caucasian kids. There are several kids who were adopted. The parents and families are diverse too with lower income families, very successful business owners, 5 or 6 attorneys mostly in public interest, at least one physician (also public interest--perhaps that's a theme), several parents in computer-related businesses, several parents who work for the City, a City Commissioner, a newspaper reporter, and these are just the folks I've met so far. There are several two mom families and at least one one-mom family. I'm not sure if there are any two-dad families. Do people care about this stuff? I think they do.

    The kids in the MI program seem to be picking up a lot of the language. It was suggested that we create a "word wall" so we have a kitchen door covered with Chinese characters from homework. I've written the little pronunciation next to the character but my kid doesn't need that, she knows them on sight now. My kid loves school. She adores her teacher who is Ms. Chang, the one who has been in all the media. Ms. Chang is extremely charismatic and seems to truly love her job and the kids. I know folks recommend checking out the upper grades and that in the 3d and 4th grade the bloom is off the rose. That very well may prove true for us here, but we don't know it yet since the first MI class is in the second grade. Which leads me to the PTA.

    The people running the PTA rock! These are largely from the pioneer class and I suppose it's no suprise that they would be leaders. They run efficient meetings, assign out tasks, and move on. I facilitate meetings and run projects for a living and I'm extremely impressed by these folks. There are plans in the works to green the school (it needs it), art and music is being augmented so the littler kids get it too.

    The principal, Mr. Rosenberg, has the reputation of being a fighter for the school and within SFUSD. Personally, I haven't warmed up to him yet and find his style a little prickly. But I remember one tour when he said that sometimes kids act out and get sent to the principal's office. He said sometimes they need a call home or some discipline, but sometimes they just need to spend the day sitting on my lap. He definitely has the kids' interests in mind and that's worth a little prickliness, I guess. He's also extremely accessible, talking or emailing. The parents who have been around longer than I love him.

    Safety. People can have strong reactions to the fact that the school backs up to the Potrero Hill Housing Development. I've read on this blog that people say it looks scary and one thinks bullets might come flying onto the school property. My concerns weren't assuaged by the parents or principal's responses to the safety question so I did some research. I checked out My suggestion is to run first your own neighborhood and then the school's. My neighborhood (near Flynn) showed more activity than the 'hood of SK. Next, check out the city's website SFPD's District reports. Next, check out for registered sex offenders. IMHO the latter is more of a concern. Again, more in my neighborhood than the school's. Then, I called the Captain of the district (Bayview). I also called the officers who staff the SFPD office on site. There's actually an office in the housing development. I learned that there's way more violent criminal activity in my 'hood and the Mission District than around the school.

    One poster said on another thread on this blog that the general ed program is worth a look and I agree. The teachers in that program are very impressive, experienced, warm and I could totally see my kid in that class. I think this blog has made clear that we still have a long way to go with our own race issues. If you are afraid your Caucasian kid is going to end up with a non-white friend, this is NOT the school for you. My kid (we are Chinese) is great buddies with an African American girl in her class. I love that but I know (from this blog for sure) that not everyone would think that was so wonderful.

    Well, I could go on and on and like I said, I don't know how I'll feel about academics in later grades. I may find myself wanting to transfer to a private school afterall. But for now, I'm happy and extremely impressed with the school.

    One last note, there is apparently only one kid in the SK waitpool. So, perhaps it's still a hidden gem afterall.

    Good luck to those of you starting the trek. It's a tough one and I hope you wind up someplace that you feel inspired to write about this time next year!

  3. 9:08, I loved your post, but I have a bone to pick with your comment:

    "My kid (we are Chinese) is great buddies with an African American girl in her class. I love that but I know (from this blog for sure) that not everyone would think that was so wonderful."

    That's just not true. Every last person on this list, I imagine, would love their child to be best buddies with a child of a different race. That's cool! That's why we love San Francisco!

    It's hard for any kid to be the only one of a certain tribe. Inasmuch as we all love diversity, I am sad that the schools don't reflect more balance. I think it takes balls to send your kid to a school where you'd be the only one of whatever it is that you are. I'm not so sure it's all that great for the kid.

    It's sad that only five or six schools in this district have a healthy balance of all races. Would I send my white kid to Star King? Sure I would! (I went 0/15.) But I imagine it would be a constant struggle not to feel like a token.

    Not really "on thread" but that comment really jolted me.

  4. Yet there are people on this blog who have made the argument (more than once) that relationships with kids from a different socioeconomic class wouldn't work. I remember someone writing sarcastically about a playdate in the projects. So there really are people out there, even among the assumedly educated gang on this blog, who would not be so psyched about this friendship. Good for 9:08 for being blunt and honest.

  5. Highly recommend JOES. It is a small, safe, well-run school. The principal is committed and caring and knows all the kids by name. The teachers are engaged and the kids are enthusiastic. At the Friday morning sing-along, even the older kids join in and they also help with the curbside drop off in the morning. The PTA is samll but growing. The diversity is increasing (you can see that in the Friday morning sing-along - as the kids get younger, the diversity increases). The Stonestown YMCA started an aftercare program there this year and it is terrific. Our kindergartner has done great there.

  6. "Yet there are people on this blog who have made the argument (more than once) that relationships with kids from a different socioeconomic class wouldn't work. I remember someone writing sarcastically about a playdate in the projects."

    As someone who was bused into an all Black housing development in 1972 to go to Kindergarten, I will tell you that the relationships work fine when you are younger, but as you get older there are a lot of external/social factors that interfere and do make it very difficult.

  7. Yet again. It's CLASS not color. Not all black people live in the projects, just as not all white people live in the wealth.

    I am not white. I was never socio-economically disadvantaged. I own a house in San Francisco. I have advanced degrees from an Ivy league college.

    I went to public school.

    I'm sending my children to public school until the time I feel they are at a disadvantage and would not be able to attend an Ivy league college.

    Money is power. The color of your skin might make others feel they are better than you (I went to K in the 60s, I lived that experience!) but it's an illusion. Education gives you the ticket to go wherever you need to go , regardless the color.

    Relationships are usually based on class (unless one is a bigot, both white & 'colored' as they used to call us..)

  8. anyone who wound up in Flynn Gen Ed willing to make a pitch for their school?

  9. I know a Flynn gen ed parent who is ecstatic about where they ended up. Really happy.

  10. 10:40 -- there are actually quite a few white kids and biracial, latino kids at Starr King. I do not think your child would feel like a token.

    It is hard for anyone to be different, esp when we as a society, seem to stress race so much.

    Yeah to the poster who recognizes it is class and values that determine what most people want.

    Who wouldn't want their children to go to school with a roomful of classmates like Barack Obama's kids? Only a bigot would not. (Its just an example, I think his children attend private school, not sure)

  11. I remember someone writing sarcastically about a playdate in the projects."

    That wasn't sarcastic; that's a fact. As a white female who has accidently driven into the Potrero Hill projects near my house, I can tell you that I would NEVER EVER let my child play there, for starters because I would never again drive or walk through there if I could help it. Let's just say I was not greeted with open arms. Or rather I was, but not that kind. I am not exaggerating when I say I hear gunfire weekly and cross my fingers that our house is out of range. A two year old was shot and killed less than 200 yards from our window. I don't care what color or socio-economic class my kid's friends are, but I do care if they are playing in a safe environment. If you have a child that you take to play in those projects, tell me about it.

  12. Yick Wo Alternative Elementary School (Jones & Lombard)will be hosting its Fall Carnival on Sunday, September 28th from noon - 4 pm. Great opportunity for prospective Kindergarten parents to view the school, talk with other parents and have fun - special Carnival area and Jumpy
    House for pre-school age children.

    Come and see for yourself if the hidden gem post is true(September 21 8:19 PM).

    Email off line for more information

  13. "Yeah to the poster who recognizes it is class and values that determine what most people want. "

    Sure class is a big factor, but we leave in an incredibly racist country, most of it is not overt, it is subtle and institutionalized.

  14. Well as bad as we are in this country, there are places where people will take a machete to you just for being in the wrong group... or where the actually specifies certain ethnicities or races cannot hold positions in government, regardless of how many generations your family have lived there (or substitute cannot own land) etc.

    Over time, one would hope that racism becomes less as groups intermarry, etc but in the end, it comes back to pure economics or something that makes people want to separate along race or religion and I suspect it has to do with resources, money. (look at Yugoslavia/Serbia/Bosnia Herzegovnia sp?).

  15. Are there any public kindergartens that are more play-based, less focused on worksheets?

    What about kindergartens that are known for better differentiated instruction?

    I've heard horror stories of early readers in kindergarten being stuck doing the same worksheets as the children just learning to identify each letter -- just being given more of them. That seems so boring to me, even if it does keep them quiet.

  16. My kids did worksheets in kindergarten (2 went to St. Paul's and the other to Miraloma) but they did lots of other things too. I've only heard of a couple schools that use worksheets oppressively in the classroom. A lot of people complain about homework, but that's a separate issue.


  17. I don't know that there are any schools without worksheets, but I've been happy with the balance at Grattan. I think most public schools use the same math and language arts curriculum, which includes a workbook for both subjects starting at 1st grade. It's pretty uninspired, but somewhat necessary in my opinion and our teachers have worked very hard to supplement with more interesting work in both subjects. The new "Everyday Math" curriculum we started using this year is supposed to be better, but I'm not that experienced with it yet. The Piedmont School district uses it and from what I hear from teachers there it is a great program.
    I also like to Foss science kits that we use. They've got some good hands-on experiments and the corresponding worksheets seem to ask good questions.

    It's kind of hard to compare with other schools though b/c I'm not sure what they are doing. I will say that you can tell the difference when you have a sub and the worksheets come flying out of the closet.

  18. It seems that this thread only delas with public schools. Are there any good blogs/threads out there that anyone knows of that go over the privates?

  19. Flynn GE - My son is really happy and I'm just thrilled with the school, class, parents and teachers. The K classes are doing a huge art project right now in conjunction with the first Inquiry-Based Learning Theme. It's so much fun. Flynn is also about to submit an application to become an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program school. The whole community worked very hard on this over the last couple years. I've been really impressed. The teachers are very committed and most of them have been trained already on inquiry/project-based instruction. They have also introduced a foreign language component into the GE K class. My son will get ~40 minutes of Spanish language instruction every day. There is a great library with a wonderful full-time librarian and a new garden. The school community is super warm and engaging. I already know almost all the diverse kids and parents in my son's class and I chat and swap emails with the teacher surprisingly often. The best thing is that my son lets out a big cheer every Monday morning when he finds out it's a school day. Tours are Thursdays at 9am.

  20. Have the Flynn tours started yet? Can one just show up?

  21. The first one is tomorrow, Oct 2.

  22. i toured flynn yesterday and the parent leading the tour informed us that a rough count of incoming english only siblings in the spanish immersion program was 17. that means only 3 slots available. this is very valuable information for touring parents. it would be great if parents leading tours at other schools could also give a rough estimate of expected siblings so we could get a sense of how realistic we are being when we fill out our applications.

  23. But I think Flynn has usually had two Spanish immersion kindergarten classes -- 40 spots total, which are SUPPOSED to go half to English-dominant kids and half to Spanish-dominant kids. Presumably some of the 17 siblings are Spanish-dominant and some are English-dominant -- did they give any kind of breakdown?

  24. 1:33 here, just read the previous comment more carefully. Sorry.

  25. For the Flynn tours you can just show up - They are on Thursdays at 9.

    There is a great GE program as well and all the Kinder teachers work together to present the same program in both languages.

  26. Monroe Elementary School is having its annual Fall Fun Festival on Sat. Oct. 18, 2008 from 12noon-4p. Bring the whole family for a fun-filled day including a cheerleading demonstration, fire truck, bike obstacle course, haunted house, pumpkin patch, face painting, food, games, arts and crafts and much more. Come in costume if you like! Admission is free. 260 Madrid Street at Excelsior, San Francisco.

  27. Let me preface by saying that we were forced into a private since we didn't get a school we could deal with in the public lottery.

    that said, if anyone is interested in Katherine Michiels School, i'm available off blog to discuss.

    consider this school for preschool/2 year kinder.

  28. You should all learn this now. ALL sf school have the same core curriculum--it's state mandated. all involve work sheets that teach the kids to test well beginning in 2nd grade (damned standardized tests.)

    My opinion (and you'll hear controversy about this) is that the amount the PTA raises, and what extra curricular (music, etc) they spend it on is what makes the school different.

    This, start time, before/after school care, student body make up, location.

    Also, the teachers & Principal are key.

    Good luck