Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Creative Arts Charter School

Reviewed by Wendy

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: an emphasis on arts education, including music, dance, visual arts and theater; you like the idea of a small public school with a nurturing, intimate environment; you are flexible on location; you value diversity in the student body; you are interested in an alternative to the SFUSD curriculum; you need an after-school program until 6:00 p.m. (for a fee); and an 8:30 a.m. start time will work for you.

The Facts
Web site: www.creativeartscharter.org
School tours: Open Houses can be scheduled through the Web site.
Location: 1601 Turk St., between Scott St. and Pierce, Western Addition
Grades: K–8
Start time: 8:30 a.m.
Kindergarten size: 20 students, one class; they are considering whether to add another kindergarten class for next year.
Playground: The school is moving, so the current playground isn’t pertinent.
Library: We did not get to go in, but we looked at the library through the window. It looks like fairly spacious library, with a respectable collection of books. There is a librarian there 2 full days per week.
Before- and after-school program: After-school care (fee-based) available until 6:00 p.m.; after-school clubs are available as well (language clubs, yoga, chess, arts & crafts, and play (theater)).
Language: The school offers clubs after school, including Mandarin and Spanish.
Highlights: The teachers seem truly great, and interact with the kids in a positive, upbeat way. The teachers are making space for a very diverse array of abilities by making the most of their open-ended, project-based curriculum. The kindergarten teacher is truly inspired. Two four-year-old girls on our tour became completely engaged in what he was doing with his class, and their parents had to pull them away when the time came. The arts emphasis brings the school to life. Three hours per week for every child are dedicated to arts instruction, in visual arts, dance, music or theater. There is a very charismatic full-time music teacher and a well-stocked music room full of high-quality instruments.

Wendy's Impressions
School community: This is a beautifully diverse school. The school uses the responsive classroom approach to creating community and fostering positive interactions between students. Parents are expected to volunteer 40 hours per year.
Facility: The school will be moving before the next school year begins, and the school does not know where the new building will be. So, an evaluation of the current building would not be relevant. However, the teachers have made tremendous efforts in the current facility to set up and decorate their rooms well. The kindergarten teacher had set up a painting area, a dress-up area, a reading area with books, an area for studying plants (a current theme of study), and a “loft” in the center of the room, where kids can climb up and read on a platform covered with blankets and pillows. The third grade teacher had also done a nice job with her room, decorating it with the kids work and instructional posters. It was a cheerful and tidy room, with a couch for reading (I presume). She also had some grapes and carrots in the room for snacks. All of the teachers had clearly made efforts to decorate their rooms.

Academics:
The school emphasizes arts education, and studies subjects using a project-based, “integrated” approach. Arts are integrated into the classroom as an additional way for students to access and learn the material. The curriculum is open-ended enough that the teachers can extend class subjects for more sophisticated work with talented students. The director of the school stated that if a child does not know how to read by the 2nd grade, the school has failed that child. Further, if a child does not know his or her times tables by the 3rd or 4th grade, the school has failed that child, and the child will struggle with tasks waiting for him or her in the upper grades.

Teaching: From what I saw, the teachers are talented, upbeat, energetic and committed to their work. For example, we entered the kindergarten during circle time. Each child had a chance to say something to the group. While the teacher was explaining the schedule for the day, one student began to be disruptive, while all of the other kids were eagerly answering questions. The teacher simply put an arm around the child’s shoulders and kept the child near him. This was positive, not punitive, and it completely resolved the problem without disrupting the flow of circle time. It allowed the child to regroup and focus on the discussion as well. Another example I saw on my tour was the third grade teacher, who had a fully engaged and participatory class. They discussed colors, multiplication and counting by 5’s. She was upbeat and fully in tune with her kids. Overall, I think the quality of teaching here is very good, and the parents I’ve spoken to are very happy with their school and the education their kids get here.

150 comments:

  1. Just saying: Because of Prop H, most public schools now have a full-time or almost full-time librarian. Dunno if charters get Prop H funds becaise there has been some squirrelly stuff about that but at any rate - I noticed the gushing about having a librarian 2 days a week and just wanted to point out that most non-charter public schools actually have a librarian more days than two.

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  2. Thank you for an candid and accurate review. My children are/were CACS students, one in an early grade and a second who has graduated and now attends an excellent private school. We love CACS and the way each child is respected and valued for their unique qualities and abilities by teachers, staff and peers alike. The art, music, dance and academics are first rate. The community and culture warm and welcoming. I agree the frequent moves, (4 in 14 years), can be daunting but it's a true testament to our school's strong community that CACS continues to thrive. Hoping our next "home" is one the SFUSD let's us keep for awhile.
    As for a full time librarian, I believe we share her with two other publics so while some publics may have someone full time others certainly do not.

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  3. Regarding the librarian note - 2 of 4 Richmond District public schools that I've toured recently have a librarian only 2 days a week (Sutro & Peabody), though, teachers are permitted to rotate and bring their classes to the library when the librarian is not working.

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  4. I love Creative Arts, and so does my son. Our location may be moving, but we will still all be together as a strong, caring community.
    I also love how it is a K-8, with upper grade class sizes capped at 24 children; other SFUSD classes (and private school classes too) 4th grade and up may as many as 36 children in per class. The older children are sweet and considerate to the younger children, which is endearing to see.

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  5. My child is in 2nd grade at Creative Arts and The school is truly wonderful! The teachers are so enthusiastic and that trickles down to the children in a way that I have not seen at many other schools, public or private. I highly recommend checking it out. The tour schedule is posted on their website and the application process is separate from the district lottery, so you've got nothing to loose by applying (and everything to gain :-)

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  6. CACS is a good choice if social comfort for parents and child is of paramount importance to you. The student body is far more white and middle-class than those in SFUSD schools, and the parents are overwhelmingly progressive and gay-friendly. Keep in mind that you may need to supplement the academics at home (i.e. check out their math scores and compare to other schools with similar demographics) as the rigor of their academic program is not as high as that of many district schools.

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  7. From the sfschools list, but pertains to this discussion too:

    My son, a third grader, seems to get a lot of science at Creative Arts Charter School. Last year they had visiting scientists come to class and he came home one day and told me: "I got to hold a real human
    heart today". I hope I was able to hide the look of horror that must
    have appeared on my face.

    Yesterday, he was pretending to be a rubber-guy, with no bones, and I
    asked him: "How many bones are in people's bodies?" and he said,
    without even thinking :

    "You have 206 in yours, Mom."

    "Wow! How do you know that?" I asked, impressed.

    "I go to SCHOOL, Mom, DUH."

    >^..^<
    Moggy

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  8. --The student body is far more white and middle-class than those in SFUSD schools, and the parents are overwhelmingly progressive and gay-friendly.--

    Thanks for these comments. I toured CACS and noticed the diversity (or lack thereof.) The student body was majority white. There was fairly large African American cohort and a number of kids who could have been biracial and some kids who looked Hispanic. However, I saw only 2 Asian kids in my tour, which hardly reflects the demographics of SF. All of the teachers and administrators I met were white, as were all of the guides. And needless to say, 98% of the touring parents were white.

    Because my kid is Chinese, I'm not sure I would consider CACS, even though the curriculum looks appealing. Not sure if the classrooms we saw accurately reflect the demographics of the school, but I want my child to be with other Asian kids, as well as have adult role models of color. I would also seek a parent community that represented some diversity. Hence I came away from my tour with some ambivalence.

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  9. My child is in the current kindergarten class, and I can quickly count 6 (out of 20) students that are Asian. As a charter school, CACS is 'off the radar' of a lot of parents. The administration is making real efforts to reach out into all ethnic and racial communities in the city. CACS enrollment lottery is separate from the main SFUSD one, and does not take into account language spoken at home. Therefore one of the best ways to increase diversity in the school is to increase it in the enrollment pool.

    Forums like this blog go a long way toward that goal. Tell your friends about CACS!

    More reasons I love CACS:
    1) dance class every week is like getting an additional phys. ed class

    2) Teachers organize games at recess time

    3) The older children interact and seem to really care about the K kids

    4) Start time

    5) Wonderful aftercare teachers

    6) active parent community

    7) My child is happy there

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  10. My Latino son is doing very well at CACS, and he's challenged academically. His second-grade teacher is new to the school, with a resume that includes the Nueva School, private for gifted kids in Hillsborough. She's set high standards for the class.

    His class of 20 looks like this: 10 white, 3 African-American, 1 biracial, 2 Latino/a, 4 Asian/Pacific Islander. We're very comfortable with the student/parent mix and the community at large.

    The school has a very active Diversity Committee of parents and teachers working to instill diversity and multicultural inclusion in curricula, staff hiring, and enrollment/recruitment.

    Because of the "off-the-radar" issue cited earlier, the school does vigorous outreach, particularly to San Francisco's under-served communities of color and families on the East Side. (Transportation is a big factor there.)

    This kind of forum does definitely help with getting the word out, but the school is also working hard to reach families that don't necessarily do their research online, can't attend daytime tours, etc.

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  11. Can someone explain what the differences between a charter school and public school are?

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  12. Has there been anything at all definitive about where CACS will move? Any idea about what will happen to the existing building? I thought I read on an earlier thread that the building will house schools temporarily dislocated because of renovations at their facilities. But then does it not matter that the (currently CACS) building is not up to the standards that are precipitating CACS's move???

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  13. Charter schools are "chartered" by the Board of Education, operate within the School District, receive the same per-student state funding, and are held to the same academic standards and measurements. But charters are free to design their own curricula, set their own class size, hire their own (credentialed) staff in- or outside the teachers' union, and manage their own finances. Traditional public schools rely on the direction of the Superintendent and District administration, as implemented by the school principal, PTA, and Site Council. In contrast, as a community-based charter school, Creative Arts relies on its Director (principal) and Board of Directors (parents, staff, outside community members).

    I hope this helps.

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  14. I'm curious about CACS and the upper grades. There are two kids in my son's 6th grade class at Aptos who, from their point of view, felt middle school there was not an option (they said the lower grades were great, but got worse as you went up.) They are quite adamant about it - anyone know what's up with that? Did a large group of 5th graders leave (as they implied to me?)

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  15. I have heard that Creative Arts attracts a more alternative, artsy, hippyish community. Not sure how to describe it correctly and kindly but I see it as a good thing. Anyone want to comment on that?

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  16. I have also heard that the upper grades at Creative Arts are weak. We had a babysitter who went there and she loved it the first several years but said she didn't learn enough in the upper grades to prepare her for the more academic middle school experience. Though keep in mind that she's now a sophomore in high school so this was a few years ago. As we all know, schools change rapidly. This could have been the case four years ago, but not now. Anyone want to comment on the current situation?

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  17. Can any current CACS parents speak about diversity among staff? Are the vast majority of teachers/administrators white, as appears to be the case from the tours?

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  18. --I have heard that Creative Arts attracts a more alternative, artsy, hippyish community. Not sure how to describe it correctly and kindly but I see it as a good thing. --

    This speaks back to the social comfort/diversity issue. My impression from touring is that alternative, artsy, hippie, progressive, etc. does describe the community. However, by first impressions, the community also seems predominantly white and middle class. So, is that a good thing or not?

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  19. I really do not understand why we all keep demanding diversity that matches the population.

    Asian families, in general, are much more focused on pure academics and not into art curriculum. Maybe the same can be said for other groups.

    Now, outreach to educate people on the benefits of different curriculums is fine, even good, so people can make informed choices. But to say that there is something wrong because the school is 80% white or whatever, just seems that we are missing the forest for the trees.

    This country is way to focused on diversity by percentages. Maybe because of funding, politics. Stupid gov't. Shoot, lets just have damn quotas.

    And by the way, lets spread the quotas to sports. As an Asian person, I want a piece of those multi million dollar basketball, baseball salaries!! :) I'd say that blacks, Latinos are overrepresented in certain sports if we go by the population.

    So most Asian families focus on education at the expense of sports for instance. Maybe if they saw the benefits of sports, they may choose to pursue that as well. (And maybe they do know the benefits but they still prefer education over taking their chance on sports).

    All I'm saying is if we are diverse, than we have diversity in values and culture. So lets get away from just looking at people's faces and making judgements because something doesn't "reflect the population". Because that makes us all racists, when we look at skin color only. If I look at some of the Silicon Valley companies that employ predominantly Indians or Chinese, isn't that a problem too? They certainly do not reflect the population. Lets demand "justice" there too. And I'm not white, by the way. Just trying to be fair.

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  20. I appreciate the remark by Anonymous at October 9, 2008 10:30 AM. My white son, a seventh grader, went to a predominately Chinese elementary school and he is now at CACS for middle school. The culture is simply different, both academically and socially. For him, the project based approach works a lot better than the purely academic. For other kids, the opposite may be true. It depends on your child's aptitude.

    Socially, the school has been a godsend for us. He has totally blossomed at CACS. His previous school was full of very nice kids with very nice parents, but the Chinese parents do not tend to include outsiders in their social events. Even though we could get kids to come to his birthday parties, and they seemed to have a good time, he wasn't invited to participate in any of his classmates's social events, ever, until last year. It wasn't a racial thing in my opinion, just an immigrant community thing. Perfectly understandable, but not always so pleasant for the children who get left out.

    Again, CACS compared to, say, Presidio Middle School is just a different situation that may or may not work for your individual family.

    For what it's worth, I think the teachers have been very dedicated and concerned with my son's progress - they are in daily communication about his homework and their expectations. Since it is a small school, I think the upper grades can be as vigorous as the child needs them to be with enough input from the parents, since the project based learning lends itself to adding more challenges as needed.

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  21. PS - I wouldn't exactly call the upper grades lily white. I wouldn't even say 80%, YMMV.

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  22. --I really do not understand why we all keep demanding diversity that matches the population.--

    Not sure anybody is demanding anything. Often social comfort=lack of diversity. Not a value judgment in and of itself. But if I'm looking for a small, progressive, artsy, alternative school for my kid of color, it gives me pause when the school community is predominantly white. Because his social comfort is also a priority. I'm sure the white kids are mostly happy in such an environment, and it's not much of an issue for their parents, either.

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  23. I agree about exactly matching school populations to the San Francisco demographic mix seems so silly. Even a school with a pretty diverse mix (making this up: 40% asian, 10% white, 30% latino, 10% black, 10% other) can't be considered diverse because it doesn't mirror exactly, omg! A school that's 80% asian/black/latino, 20% other, however, seems to be okay with the same people who want the exact mirror. Anyway, as long as there is a mix of kids, and it's a noticeable mix, then who cares about exact percentages? If the maximum of any one group is 40%, that seems like not too bad on diversity if you ask me. Compare that to the rest of the world.

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  24. I agree that a school doesn't have to match the city's demographics to be considered diverse. However, 60-70% white dominant isn't really diverse to people who aren't white.

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  25. Whoever is not in the 80% group is not going to feel part of a diverse population. I totally get the comfort factor. There are very few schools that have a majority white population in SF however. Maybe one, two? There are quite a few(desirable) schools with large non-white populations, though.

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  26. I know this is going to sounds rather obvious, but isn't one way to increase racial diversity in a school to enroll your kid who is (pick a race)?

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  27. By the way, the school is NOT 80% Caucasian, but more like 40% (similar to the current demographics of Miraloma)

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  28. I'm a CACS parent and Hispanic. Due to some fluke of genetics my kids are both blonde. If you saw one of them on your tour of the the school, you wouldn't know that I consider them to be "of color". I simply want to reiterate the earlier comment of making quick judgments by appearances only. Culturally and linguistically, I consider my family mixed.

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  29. Hispanic is actually "white" isn't it, from the anthropological or is it racial standpoint? I get the ethncity and race mixed up.

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  30. It's all subjective from any standpoint.

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  31. Aren't most of our kids pretty racially mixed at this point? The common culture we share: American, Californian, San Franciscan, etc is the one our kids will probably most identify with anyway.

    Back to CACS: For our family, it's a wonderful fit. We wanted a small, cozy community with a hands-on, arts-based learning environment and that's what we got (and more!) Our daughter looks forward to seeing her friends every day. Her teacher is phenomenal: a truly dedicated educator who makes each child feel special and inspired.
    My daughter's passions for reading, creative writing, art, music, science are all being nurtured. The older kids take care of the younger kids (including helping in the classrooms, book buddies, etc) and seem to really care about them. We feel so lucky to be here.

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  32. --Therefore one of the best ways to increase diversity in the school is to increase it in the enrollment pool....Forums like this blog go a long way toward that goal. Tell your friends about CACS!--

    See, I think that forums like this if anything would make the enrollment pool more homogenous.

    My first impressions of the school were that the dominant culture (based on the active parent community and the make-up of teachers/administrators) is white, middle class, progressive, artsy and crunchy. Clearly a lot of parents love the culture of the school, but it just struck me as non-diverse. And it's alienating to be told repeatedly that my impressions are simply wrong.

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  33. CACS is 45% "white". That means the majority of students who attend are from one of the other groups one can check off on their forms. This is very similar to the make up of Miraloma and other S.F. schools. I think the judgement here is not that this or that school is not diverse but that it's not diverse for you personally as a white middle class person. Alice Fong Yu is 65 % asian. Is that a diverse school?
    This criteria seems to get more nonsensical with each year. Also, artsy yes, crunchy not so much.

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  34. CACS is definitely more than 50% white in the ES grades. I would imagine that the vast majority of the "DS" (Decline to State) kids are white.

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  35. That stat came from Great Schools.net and the SFUSD break down. If what you say is true for CACS then it is probably true of ALL schools. Alice Fong Yu is more than 65% asian, Miroloma more than 43% white, Cobb over 65% african american and so on. So, what's the point? Diversity goes way beyond ones physical appearance. And FYI both my kids classes really are less than 50% "white", have a mix of gay, lesbian, single, married and unmarried parents and other guardians both immigrant and native born. Don't be so quick to judge with a glance what isn't always visible.

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  36. To the people or person who keeps insisting that CACS has a minority white population: I'm really talking about something more subtle and pervasive than district stats. I'm talking about the culture of a school, which can't necessarily be measured by the ethnic break down of the student body alone. I don't have any stats or studies or proof to back up my observation, and I'm surprised by how much my observation has been challenged. I get that you love your school. That's terrific! But my observation was simply that the culture seems white dominant. This is measured by more than just the visual cues that apparently keep rushing me to judgment (though using visual cues, there were no adults of color that I saw among the school staff, volunteers or 50+ parents touring, with the exception of 1 Asian prospective mom.) Really, I think the adults in a school community (parents, teachers, administration) determine the culture more than the kids on the playground.

    How would I define culture in this sense? It's obviously subtle and fluid, but it's in the language, the values, the music and art choices, little things like the classroom rules and conventions. It contributes to an overall sense of how the school is run and what the community is like. That's really why we go on these tours, right? Stats, we can get off websites.

    I would also point out that using the stats you provided, there are still 4 times as many white kids as any other ethnic group (45% white vs. 1-12% in any other group. It's quite striking if you look at the graph.) That's not including the second largest group, "declined to state."

    Lastly, no I wouldn't consider Alice Fong Yu diverse either. What does that have to do with anything?

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  37. "Creative Arts attracts a more alternative, artsy, hippyish community"

    and people attracted by that culture tend to be mostly white.

    I guess my point is, OK, it is predominately white. It's student population, by ethnicity, is similar to some private schools. Students are not assigned there, the parents have to seek it out and enroll separately. The majority of those who apply are white.

    The person's observation is simplistically correct, no point arguing with the person if he/she wants something more "diverse".
    I just wonder why the person is so determined to go out of their way to trash our school, based upon how we "look", based upon what races he or she "thinks" we are. No one is making them send their kid there. Fine, don't apply.

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  38. @8:34 a.m. Based on your definition the lack of diversity at schools like Miraloma, Alice Fong Yo, Cobb and many others in the distict is relevant here because you seem to be singling out this school out for special criticism when in fact it is no more or less diverse than a great many other schools in San Francisco. I would beg to differ that the culture of the school is euro centric, but that's my opinion based on years of having children attend and not one mornings tour.

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  39. @8:34am:

    Would it make you feel better if more of the faculty were racially diverse? I am a CACS parent and I do understand the concern.

    As far as the student body goes there is a huge effort currently underway for outreach right now. As many have already stated, increasing the diversity in the pool from which the lottery is drawn would help increase the diversity in the school.

    As far as the culture of the school goes, yup, it's artsy.
    But, so what? Artists and creative people come in every color so I think that's a silly criticism to say that an "artsy" school culture primarily attracts whites.

    The beauty of a city such as SF is that we have every flavor of school: language immersion, parochial, academic focus, science focus, arts focused, single sex, Waldorf, Montessori, etc, etc...
    If this particular school is not a fit for your family, I'm sure there is one that will more closely meet your own criteria.

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  40. Also, just as an aside: I can only speak for myself, but I am getting a little tired of being lumped into the category of "White" which is really a very broad definition of vastly different cultures and people.

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  41. As a prospective CACS parent, I am far more concerned about the weak academics than the large number of white, middle-class families. Does anyone know how CACS kids do in HS (or MS if they transfer out earlier)?

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  42. @6:33p.m. CACS 8th grade graduates from the last 4 classes are currently attending the following high schools : SF School of the Arts, Gateway, Lowell, City Arts and Tech and Washington for the publics, Lick Wilmerding, Urban, Jewish High School of the Bay Area and The Bay School for private. These are only the ones I'm aware of so have undoubtedly left some out.
    As far as I know everyone is doing very well to great.
    Can't help you with anyone who left for middle school as the few I knew who did just started this year.

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  43. I just toured CACS this morning. It was my 18th school tour and this school was distinctively the worst I have seen. I have been much more impressed with the arts provided by all the other schools I have visited. The principle was not even aware that the SF Ballet does a program in schools... They think they are doing something special, but they need a big reality check. Other schools are doing so much more. I can forgive a run down building, but discarded food wrappers littered the playground and stairwells. I picked up a piece of gum from the floor where we were meeting. Work displayed was not of a great standard and the display boards were sparse and ripped. This was also the first school I have toured where discipline issues have stared me in the face. I saw one kid in a "time out" 2 kids in different classrooms getting up from their desks and whispering to one of their classmates while the teacher was addressing the whole class and one kid being openly derisive during the whole school meeting. And this was all within the hour tour!! I really wanted to love this school. Too bad.

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  44. Elizabeth (who has yet to write a full review!)November 25, 2008 at 9:19 PM

    @ Nov. 21 1:38

    I sadly have to concur. I was on a recent tour and really wanted to fall in love with the school, which sounded fantastic, but the lack of discipline in the upper grades was off-putting. I thought the younger grades were well-behaved and I liked what I saw for their project work, but the middle schoolers were unruly and not respectful of the teachers.

    The other issue of concern is that the school will move next year, not sure of the location. That coupled with the lack of a before care program puts it out of the running for us.

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  45. 1) Yes, the school culture is "hippy-ish." If it would give you pause to know that some of your fellow parents went to Burning Man every year (and come to back to school night with their brightly colored hair and fuzzy clothing) then it might not be for you. :-D

    2) The academics in the upper grades are about getting the kids to learn how to do projects indpendently and take responsibilty for their learning, not about drilling to do well on the standardized tests. If what you're looking for is your kid to ace the SAT at age 12, then you're probably going to be disappointed. If you're looking for them to actually enjoy school and learning, then it's for you.

    3) There's always going to be a few unruly children in the middle school years - all those hormones at work. Just know that CACS is a MUCH safer enviroment than a large traditional middle school such as Roosevelt or Marina. My eldest had his locker broken into multiple times at Roosevelt, and lived in fear of the 8th graders his first year there. No such thing happens at CACS where everyone knows each other and the troublemakers are dealt with on an individual basis.

    If you want a small, community based school with lots of individual attention, the upper grades are actually pretty great at CACS.

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  46. PS - If you don't want to hear a 7th grader be on the verge of tears because is sick and doesn't get to go to school and do the history project he was looking forward to doing, then don't send your kid to CACS.

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  47. Alot of talk about the school moving next year. Anyone know where the school will move?

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  48. Unfortunately, we CACS parents are as much in the dark as all of you. The district is supposed to offer us a site at the end of January, but I have little faith that they will. Like everything else they have done including this summer's "Flynnarrado" snafu, SFUSD seems to be better at alienating and frustrating parents rather than helping them.

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  49. Why I love Creative Arts Charter School:

    today we have an all-school clean-up event ...

    107 people showed up and most worked all day

    107 out of 150 or so families at the school ...

    Wow!

    A few years ago, at my son's previous school, (Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy) they had a clean up day and only 6 parents showed up.

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  50. For anyone curious about CACS's location for 2009/2010 it looks like we're staying put for another year in the Western Addition.

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  51. I never knew that 'artsy/hippy' was a "white culture." You mean there are no black, asian or hispanic people who are 'artsy/hippy.' types?

    I think, from my experience with CACS, that the lack of 'diversity' has more to do with class than race or ethnicity. But even there, it seems a pretty diverse school.

    And singling it out for criticism because it's not 'diverse' seems a bit strange frankly. I've toured at least 12 schools over the last two years and looked at stats for many more. CACS has no majority race (45% 'white'), yet there are many SF schools with majority races (Asian, Hispanic, Black, White) so by that standard CACS is quite diverse in comparison to many, most?, SF schools.

    Is it because the largest portion, though still not majority, is 'white'? or because the culture is 'middle class artsy SF'?

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  52. Is it confirmed that CACS is staying at its current location for another year? I thought SFUSD HAD to offer another site in January. (Of course, the state HAD to have an approved budget last summer, too!)

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  53. @3:40, yes it is confirmed. CACS will be staying at it's current site for one more year.

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  54. So where is it going to go in August 2010, after the one-year extension ends?

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  55. We got 0/7 in the standard lottery, but got into CACS. My concern is: my son is shy and doesn't like too much noise. The school seemed somewhat noisy and chaotic, and I don't know what it would like for him in K to be around 6th-8th grader and all that they bring. Anyone familar with the school able to comment?

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  56. "So where is it going to go in August 2010, after the one-year extension ends?"

    I'm a CACS parent, and I believe it goes something like this:

    The district has a deadline in 2010 to offer CACS a site which they can accept or reject. If the board decides to reject the site (as it did with a site in HP a few year's back), the district has to offer them another site, which the school must accept. Believe me, if we knew where we were going, you would know, too. :)

    Your shy Kindergardener will have very little contact with middle schoolers with the exception of all-school meetings on Friday mornings for about 20 minutes. Other than that, a middle schooler might occasionally help out in the classroom. We've found the middle schoolers to be pretty respectful of the younger students-almost nurturing, in fact, as many of them were once lower school students there themselves. Recently, this year's K class led the all-school Friday meeting and the other students were incredibly quiet and attentive listeners. Of course, there is quite a bit of noise in the hallways between classes, but that would be true with most schools that don't enforce strict silence. Clarendon, BTW, was incredibly noisy and chaotic during our tour!
    (not a criticism, just an observation)

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  57. ^ PS: Just to add: Our school's charter was just renewed for another 5 years. The vote from the SF BOE was unanimous in favor of the renewal.

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  58. Hi, we just got into CACS for an upper grade. We liked the school a lot, but I want to be honest and say that I've been a little off-put by some of the negative comments about the school at Great Schools.net. The comments that bother me the most claim that bullying went on without check. And I really want to see if the CACS parents might be able to comment about what may have been going on with respect to bullying in the past and what goes on now. The second largest group of negative comments seem to revolve around a sense that the school is disorganized -- there are comments about lots of teacher turn-over, about chaos in the administration. Now I understand some of the chaos is caused by SFUSD's idiotic method of not telling the school about where it might be moved to -- and I don't really need to hear from parents about that. But what about the issue of teacher turn-over and chaos in the administration? Are these real issues or fake ones?

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  59. Hi,
    Welcome to our FANTASTIC school!

    This is my son's 2nd year at Creative Arts and I've never heard about a bullying problem in the upper grades.

    My son is in 3rd grade and I've always seen the staff deal with any hint of bullying or aggression immediately and in a sensitive manner. They follow a RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM approach, and they don't tolerate kids being unkind to each other.

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  60. Poster 10:38:
    Please don't believe everything you read on greatschools.net

    All it takes is one disgruntled parent to post repeatedly as if they were several different people to give a school a bad reputation.
    (Note: 3 or 4 negative comments were posted on the same day back to back.)

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  61. Yeah, I know who that parent is too, and her problem was that her child had big issues that she wouldn't look into. HER kid was violent and uncontrollable, yet she said everyone picked on HER kid. Parents tried to get the woman to get help for her son, but she was in total denial that her kid needed help. It was a sad situation.

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  62. I'm the person who asked. Thank you for the responses.

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  63. With all due respect, could the person who is posting in Mandarin please perhaps provide an English translation or maybe just a summar in English. That would really help those of us who do not know your language. Thanks!

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  64. Maybe all the people posting in English could provide translation into Mandarin :-)

    As a probable Kindergarten parent for next year, I do have some questions for any current parents:
    I thought the school was great when I toured it, better for our family than any of the other publics (other than the location and the building, of course...). So: why is it that this school is so off the radar of most SF parents? That's the one thing that makes me worried that the "Wisdom of Crowds" knows something I don't. Can anyone comment? Thanks!

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  65. Let me suggest that you should ignore the views of the "crowd." I can see how the herd mentality comes into play. For example, this website has comments that talk about some city public schools as if they were perfect heavens -- even thought I know parents who've recently taken their kids out of them because of problems. Current parents have no incentive to be honest; the school district is playing a game of trying to "pump up" certain schools in order to turn them around; and then you've got newbie parents who are ill-informed and susceptible to such marketing efforts. On top of that, you've got a school district that has been historically hostile to charter schools. This is the one and only K through 8 charter in the city, but the district has every incentive to not pump it up, as they lose money every time a kid goes the charter route. If Creative Arts looks like it will work for your kid, you should go there. It is K through 8, a great plus given SFUSD's penchant for large warehouse middle schools. (And as someone with a kid nearing middle school age, no they don't get less scary as your kid gets older -- they REALLY are scary!) It is, contrary to some of the odd comments on this thread, a relatively diverse school. It has a committed parent group, and a director who is charismatic. Everyone is there because they WANT to be there -- which is a big plus. Admittedly no one is happy about the likelihood of a site change in the near future, but the school seems to be trying its best not to be sent far away from its current location.

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  66. Our child started Kindergarten at Creative Arts last week and I have been exceedingly impressed by what I have seen over the summer and during the first week or so of school.

    (Over the last year I toured about 15 public schools in the city and on the peninsula and 5 private schools. Our aim was to find a school that would challenge our child academically, foster creativity, and support the social development of its students. We also wanted to avoid a pressure-cooker or overly standardized learning environment.)

    Some of the things that I have seen and learned that I am especially pleased about:

    -- Our kindergarten teacher has created a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the classroom, is highly engaged with the kids, and is clearly enthused about their learning. She will be our child’s teacher for K and 1st grade.

    -- The kindergarten teachers are conducting home visits for those families that are interested in which they spend time with students in their homes getting to know them one-on-one. They are also scheduling separate goal-setting meetings with parents.

    -- Every 8th grader is a “buddy” to one of the K-6th grade classes. I appreciate that my child’s class will get to know 8th graders, which will help the kindergartners feel more safe and comfortable around “big kids” at school. Moreover, I value that the school sets a clear expectation that all of the 8th graders are leaders in the community. (The kindergartners will also have individual reading buddies – 3rd or 4th graders - later in the year.)

    -- The first weekly assembly was dedicated to welcoming the kindergartners to the school community. As the kindergartners filed into the room through an archway made by the 8th graders, the rest of the students cheered. The 8th graders gave each kindergartner a flower to welcome them. The music teacher led the community singing of “Lean on me” to close the assembly.

    -- The communication from the administration, the board, and the family association has been copious and useful. I appreciate, for example, that the most recent board packet – including detailed budget info and the CVs of the newly hired staff – is available on the all school listserv/website. Board meetings, including committee meetings, are well publicized.

    -- The parent community seems well organized and energized. For example, the Family Association hosted a breakfast / orientation for the new families on the first day of school. The sense that I get is that families love the school and are working hard. It’s not a community that is just chugging along – there is a “lets all roll up our sleeves and get to work” energy in the air.

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  67. If anyone is still reading this thread at this late date: I am the parent who wrote above: "my son is shy and doesn't like too much noise. The school seemed somewhat noisy and chaotic, and I don't know what it would like for him in K to be around 6th-8th grader and all that they bring."

    We are now at Creative Arts for Kindergarten, and my son just loves it. He is so disappointed if we go out of town and he has to miss a day of class. And though the upper grades clearly need some work, the younger grades have little to do with the middle school kids, and what few interactions they've had have been very sweet.

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  68. And for the record, CACS is NOT the only K-8 charter school in the district. San Francisco Community school is both K-8 and charter.

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  69. Actually not -- SF Community has never been a charter school. It's currently a K-8 "small school by design" under the District's oversight (previously, I think, it had the District's old "alternative school" designation). It doesn't have a charter that's renewed every 5 years by the SF Board of Ed.

    Edison is also an elementary charter in SF but answers to the state.

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  70. 8:23pm:

    Comment FAIL

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  71. I'm writing here a year after the review as it seemed the most appropriate place to give my feedback.
    I toured the school yesterday and was excited to see and learn more. I was ready to fill out the sppication on the spot just based on the philosophy. However, I left the tour early, as did many, many others on the tour, as I was simply horrified by what I saw. I have never seen parents simply leave, and many of us did.
    Here's some of the main problems:

    1) no security. The gate, which has a code was just open and all the doors to the school were open. Anyone could wander in or wander out.
    2)the school is FILTHY. By far the most dingy,dirthy and run down facility I've seen. In the bathroom between 1st and Kindergarten were huge trash bins blocking the toilets, garbage, and crap. How depressing.
    3)Huge discrepency in classroom environments. I saw a horrible kindergarten class and a wonderful one. Gee, which one will my kid get? Not worth the risk. The horrilbe classroom was dark, kids inattentive, disruptive, no way any learning or growing was going on.
    4) I witnessed several kids just being plain mean to one and other and no one doing anything. Not OK.
    5)I was in a 4th or 3rd grade class and the kids were totally not listening to the math lesson, bickering and fighting with each other at their desks. No learning was going on, nor could it go on.

    Way to loosey-goosey, no cohesion from class to class or sometimes in a class. The whole place seemed chaotic and unsafe. ANd for an Creative arts school, there was almost no art on the wall. Other schools have a lot more art.

    High points: music teacher seemed outstanding. One great kidergarten teacher, Liked the couches in the classroom, Lots of racial diversity, The assembly program of was nice. I think the school has a lot of love for itself, in a good way.

    I know folks love this school, but I didn't feel the love at all. As it turned out, everyone at my pre-school, which is a co-op, felt that way and no one is applying.

    I hope someone at Creative Arts reads this and cares enough to make some changes. I repeat, I was horrified, and I'm not easily horrified.

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  72. @10:39 a.m. well it seems the answer is a simple one. Don't like the school, don't go there. There is no need for exaggeration, the school is old and run down but it is not filthy, not even close. The two kindergartens are not horrible and wonderful , they are both delightful. Yes, our music teacher is outstanding but he's one jewel among many. If you came on the tour and could not see any joy or genuine engagement or messy sometimes unruly real learning going on that's okay, it's not the school for you. Please don't flame to justify your feelings. I doubt that: you would have written that review if you could not hide behind anonymous, you are not easily horrified.

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  73. I for one appreciate 10:39s comments and don't see this as flaming. S/he didn't like the school and gave anecdotal evidence to support the opinion. So you disagree and maybe you have a different standard of filthy. Good for you.

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  74. There is a big difference between reporting what you find not to your liking and exaggerating what you didn't like to justify the extreme nature of your comments. The difference between writing " the children sat attentively at desks set in rows waiting for the teacher to begin" or " the children sat frozen automaton like at their desks which had been placed rigidly in tight rows waiting in tense silence for the teacher to begin." You get my point. Screaming a school is filthy is not the same as saying you think it could be cleaner. Writing that two classes are horrible and wonderful after spending 5 minutes in each because one is on the south side of the building and the other north is just plain silly. Something about this school really pushed 10:39a.m. buttons. That much is clear.

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  75. I was also on the tour this past Friday and had a very different experience from 10:39am. So much so that I wonder if that poster is trying to throw folks off-track to have a better chance of getting in.

    I went in to this tour skeptical. I'm all for the arts (I'm a professional musician) but don't want to sacrifice academics. I'm also not thrilled about the neighborhood (though understand the school will be moving).

    Anyway, I left the school excited to have found a school that I actually like (the first one I've felt this way about and I've toured lots)!

    I'll go through 10:39am's points one by one:

    1 - the gate was open when we were arriving and was then shut (locked with a code). this school actually felt a LOT safer to me than others I've toured (where I felt building was distinctly unsafe).

    2 - I didn't find the school to be filthy. certainly, it is old, but the school seems to do very well with what they have. again, they'll be moving so we'll see what the next facility is like.

    3 - my impression is that there was a nice continuity between classrooms (again, I'm wondering about 10:39's interest in throwing people off because my experience was so opposite). I like the responsive classroom setup and the flexibility within each classroom for children doing related but different tasks at different levels.

    4 - I didn't witness the meanness so I can't comment on how it was handled. I have seen this at other schools, tho, and admit it is always off-putting. my sense at this school is that the children are generally kind to one another and the responsive classroom format facilitates this.

    5 - math lessons. I saw math in a few different classrooms and, again, didn't see whatever incident the other poster did. I saw math in the elementary grades and in the middle school grades. math is a sticking point for me because I love math and often bemoan how it's taught in schools here. in elementary school, I thought the math curriculum was working well. in the middle school class, I felt that the slower students were really dragging down the class. I learned from one of our tour guides that students working ahead will actually take math with a different grade, so at least there's that. I've had the "dragging down" issue with all schools I've toured, but at least at CACS they're small enough and self-contained enough to allow for more individualization.

    -I saw lots of art on the walls. not simply visual art but also poetry.

    - I agree the music teacher seemed outstanding.

    My child is not at a co-op preschool, so maybe that makes my perspective different from 10:39's, but really I loved the school. The principal/director was great (don't think 10:39 stayed long enough for that), spoke eloquently about the school, answered questions with ease, and is a former parent at the school.

    All in all, I found it great.

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  76. to 5:50

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion that the original post was not an example of flaming.

    "I hope someone at Creative Arts reads this and cares enough to make some changes"

    Cares enough? The author is clearly implying that parents at CACS do not care. The comment is sanctimonious, condescending and mean-spirited. So much so, that it nearly vitiates the other, substantive complaints.

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  77. I always find it fascinating how folks seems to have either a really strong positive or negative reaction our school.
    So it goes.

    For the record, we love our school and care deeply about our community. We are proud of our amazing arts staff who do incredible work with our kids on a teensy budget, our hard working teachers and our revitalized and enthusiastic parent group.

    If you just simply cannot get past our gritty (+ temporary) digs, this would obviously not be a good match for your family.

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  78. Hi, 10:39 here.
    My entry was not intended as a flame, but if some see it as so, then sorry. How is one to say negative things? I was truly concerned when I left the school. I know people love this school, and chose it, and I was expecting to like it as well. I didn't. Like I said, many people left the tour I was on and in discussing my tour with others later, many folks shared my impressions.

    I care that the walls were dirty, marked, peeling. I care that there was crap stacked in the bathroom with toilets blocked. I care that anyone could wander onto the campus. I care that the school was cold.

    Safety was a concern for me because the gate was open when I arrived and when I left. 10:50, I closed the gate behind me when I left so that may be why you found it closed. And no, I am not trying to throw people off this school for myself!

    This forum is for folks to express opinion. And of course your opinion of my opinion counts too. My opinion, like it or not, is shared by others. Others do not share it since clearly folks seek this school out and care about other things than I do. I am a easy-going parent, but it was too loosey goosey there. Classrooms were really disparate in their quality. And there was less art/poems etc than in other public schools I've toured.

    My wish that people at the school take my comments seriously was intended to mean that my concerns are real. I have no desire to tear a place down, but I was truly disheartened by what I saw: lack of safety, disruptive classrooms, meanness, disparity amongst teachers, etc. Maybe it was just my bad luck to witness that, but I did.
    I also pointed out the good things which I saw as well.

    Good luck to the school and I wish it well.

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  79. I'm quickly learning that the school search can get very personal. I have a friend who is afraid to actually share her impressions of schools for fear of offending someone. I understand why so many of these posts are anonymous now...

    Just a few reactions:

    1) I saw Creative Arts Charter school last week and for the first time was really excited about a school. In particular, the music teacher/music room was magical and completely lured me in. I was also excited to see the range of art on the walls and to know about their dance program.

    2) The gate was open when I arrived and closed when I left. That didn't really bother me as there were parents outside greeting parents when I walked in.

    I've been to many schools with open/unlocked gates and have been told that often the gates can't be left open because of fire codes (you want your kids to be able to get out if there's an emergency). I know that gates were open at Miraloma and Sunnyside when I toured those schools...but parents may not notice if the landscape/layout of the school makes it feel more enclosed/safer.

    This was actually the first school that I toured where I noticed a gate locking access to the campus.

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  80. I have to respond to the 12/5, 10:39 a.m. reviewer's post. My daughter attends Kindergarten at CACS and I have to say we wouldn't be anywhere else. In fact, the SFUSD offered us our waitlist spot (Claire Lilienthal) 8 weeks into the school year and we declined.

    CACS has so much more to offer our daughter and family. We see their project-based curriculum in action on a daily basis and our daughter loves her teachers. When she comes home from school, she is costantly asking questions related to what she learned during the school day (i.e. "how do trees and plants grow?"--she wants to understand the molecular structure part of--she gets they are fed by water, etc.) Our daughter is definitely engaged, excited and challenged by her teacher. And, she is a student in the classroom the reviewer describes as "The horrible classroom was dark, kids inattentive, disruptive, no way any learning or growing was going on." You really can't make these conclusions based on five minutes of observation. My daughter's teacher gives an amazing amount of effort and love while teaching her students and creating their curriculum and it is obvious!

    Regarding the facility, it is an older building. CACS teachers and parents put a lot of effort into the facility and I am sorry the reviewer did not observe or mention this. Just a few examples of collective efforts include murals, displays of other visual art, and class projects (inside and outside of the classrooms), garden beds in the yards, as well as new playgrounds and climbing walls.

    I also have to mention that I just returned from CACS's K-3 Winter Exhibit of Fine Art, Music and Dance this evening. And yes, we do have art!! The projects our children have been working on all semester include self-portaits each created after studying artists like Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall, Khalo, Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as Expressionist Self-portaits. The kids also created printmaking projects on cityscapes which were also proudly displayed. Tonight was a great celebration of what our children have been learning and creating throughout the semester. This is a special place.

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  81. I had already scheduled a tour at Creative Arts when I read 10:39's post on Saturday. I was ready to skip it, but I went anyway this morning. I am so glad I did. The all-school meeting was just lovely. The amazing music teacher ran it. ALl the kid (K-8) were attentive.

    I saw some good things in the classroom. I was in the "dark" kindergarten, and YES- there were some challenging students. I thought the teacher managed them very well.

    THe arts curriculum seems to be actually integrated into the class room. The cafeteria was plastered with self-potraits and prints from the younger grades.

    But,in all honesty, the art program (as lovely as it is) was not that sold me on this school. It was the fact they they have autonomy to determine their own curriculum and teaching methods. I happen to agree with those methods, so I'm on board. The director is inspiring and passionate.

    I'm so glad this school exists as an alternative in the district. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the independent lottery.

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  82. We liked what we saw on our tour earlier this fall even with the ugly building. We LOVED the principle when she talked and answered our questions. I agree with the previous parent that she is passionate and inspiring. But now I hear she's leaving.

    Our neigbors with a 2nd grader there kind of freaked out when I asked if this is true. They said the principle is being pushed out by some parents who are trying to run everything. They also said that some families have been moving their kids to other places.

    Combined with them maybe moving and the stuff we were told about the weird infighting, Im getting a bad vibe and don't think we're going to apply now. Sad because it was one of the top choices from our list after the tour.

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  83. @3:11

    Please don't spread rumors about our school until you hear something officially announced. To my knowledge, the Principal has no plans to leave. Unfortunately, rumors can have a tendency to take on a life of their own.

    -parent of 2 at CACS

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  84. I said “now I hear she's leaving" about your fantastic seeming principle. I didn't say it as a fact and the way you answer isn't so reassuring.

    Sorry but what parents at the school are saying is important for our search. It's hard to see what's going on in any school from just the tour. I learn a lot from other parents who are already there and parents who are searching like me. And now it sounds maybe divisive and needing better communication at your school.

    I don't want to enroll my daughter and then get too late any offical announcement that something big has changed. especially a reason that I picked in the first place.

    If parnts can't talk about what we're hearing than kfiles should get unplugged.

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  85. @7am

    I'm sorry to have snapped at you, but this rumor really rubs me the wrong way.

    I can tell you what I do know: There is ONE very vocal parent who has a personal vendetta against our principal. He is what I would classify as having a narcissistic personality disorder. He acts as though HE is in charge and has done much damage through through his emails and actions during and after his time serving on our board. (He was booted off the board last year). He may have a personal wish to get rid of our amazing principal (I don't really understand it myself), but it carries very little weight as many see him as a blowhard.

    If you are someone who needs certainty and stability, though, this might not be a good choice for your family. I really love our school, but like many others in the district, we face numerous challenges.

    I can't address the rumor about the Principal (since, honestly, this is the first time I'd heard it) but it saddens me that there is a rumor out there floating about. As I said, this person who created this situation has been very toxic to our community.

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  86. Thank you so much for writing again.

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  87. I was cc'd on an e-mail out of the blue between current CACS parents and as a former CACS parent was curious as to what was going on recently at CACS. I have to say, its the same ol' same ol' I removed my children due to lack of services for one of my children and due to the level of animosity amongst the adults; administration, board, teachers and parents.

    My other child is an easy kid and I had no worries. I did not know how bad her education had been until she was half way through the first year away. Her tests scores went up over 100 points in both math and english (and there was no drill, drill, drill at the new school - they did less test prep than at CACS) Her study habits improved tremendously and she gets free music lesson (clarinet) at the SFUSD school.

    My other child left CACS three grades down in math and still struggling daily with her deficits.

    I say good luck to you at CACS. the will is there, but you have to stop bickering and work together and work on curriculum.

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  88. If you can ignore the politics, CACS has many great things to offer. My child (3rd grade) is thriving here. Like any other school, much depends upon the teacher and the class as a whole.

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  89. My kid is thriving there too. There's an ugly situation going on now, a power-hungry Board of Directors that wants to mess everything up, (they mean well, but are clueless about what the soul of the school is) but parents and teachers will not allow them to ruin everything. If we have to, we'll hold a special meeting and vote off the Board and stop the divisive politics.
    The Board president has resigned and taken her kids out and put them in a school with 1% African American students and 3% Hispanic students.
    Yes, ignore the politics (these battles happen at every school) and look at what a great job the teachers there do, and how happy the kids are.

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  90. Yes, we'll put a stop to the divisive politics, just as soon as we finish completely misrepresenting the situation and insulting the outgoing Board president (who pulled her kids out because of continued unresponsiveness of the school to serious behavior problems in her kids' class). I think this is called irony.

    Anyways, great school with some growing pains. The bulk of the parents and staff are reasonable people so I am sure solutions will be found to the current fiscal and administrative problems. But there will always be people who want to inflame any situation because they thrive on drama.

    There are lots of CACS families (those who have stayed and others who have voted with their feet) who love the school but want to see things improve and don't appreciate constantly having their loyalty called into question because of that.

    Good luck with that recall election.

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  91. Yes, we'll put a stop to the divisive politics, just as soon as we finish completely misrepresenting the situation and insulting the outgoing Board president (who pulled her kids out because of continued unresponsiveness of the school to serious behavior problems in her kids' class). I think this is called irony.

    Anyways, great school with some growing pains. The bulk of the parents and staff are reasonable people so I am sure solutions will be found to the current fiscal and administrative problems. But there will always be people who want to inflame any situation because they thrive on drama.

    There are lots of CACS families (those who have stayed and others who have voted with their feet) who love the school but want to see things improve and don't appreciate constantly having their loyalty called into question because of that.

    Good luck with that recall election.

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  92. I'm curious as to which direction the Board is trying to take the school and "what the soul of the school is" that parents and teachers supposedly won't give up. I'm sure this is a very simplistic perspective on the current issues at CACS, but I'm interested. I liked the school's pedagogy and the principal when I toured.

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  93. Although I have never set foot in this school, I know several graduates of CAC that have a strong love of learning and appear to have benefited greatly from their education there.

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  94. 9:46 AM, I'm curious as to what the Board is trying to do and what the "soul of the school" is. I'm interested in CACS but hearing vague talk about infighting is rather off-putting. I'd rather know what's really going on so I can make an educated decision, rather than going in blind.

    "The Board president has resigned and taken her kids out and put them in a school with 1% African American students and 3% Hispanic students." I'm not sure what this is supposed to illustrate: that the Board issues no longer exist because the president left? That parents at the school are prejudiced against a higher percentage of Asian/Caucasian students and prefer more African-American/Latino students? Though I liked a lot of things on my tour, the above issues make me wary of sending my children. Insight appreciated!

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  95. I don't see how smearing the outgoing Latina Board president by insinuating she removed her kids because she didn't want them around kids of color is somehow putting a stop to divisive politics. In fact it's just (another) sign of how uncivil the discourse has become. The BoD is not "power hungry" -- it is trying to exercise its' legal role as overseer of the school. If you don't want to be part of a parent-run school that's your choice.

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  96. "Board president (who pulled her kids out because of continued unresponsiveness of the school to serious behavior problems in her kids' class)."

    It is irresponsible to blame the school for her departure. The Board President has pulled her children out of schools several times, none were good enough, the children are now going to their 4th school and are only in 4th grade. It must be very hard on her children.

    CACS has no more trouble with behavior issues than any other public school.

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  97. Yes the former board prez pulled her kids and left. It will be the 4th school they've attended in 5 years. There's always two sides to every story.

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  98. This debate about why the former president pulled her kids would not be so intense if it had not happened in the context of a whole bunch of other families pulling their kids from the school over the past year. Simply burying your head in the sand or pretending this was an isolated incident doesn't help. Nor does it help the school's image to try to demonize a departed family.

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  99. There's drama and weird politics at every school.

    I love Creative Arts Charter School, my son is getting a great education there.

    What I also love, is, that with the budget crisis SFUSD is facing, class sizes at regular public schools are unfortunately going to become very huge, whereas at CACS, they will remain smaller than all other public schools. (21 kids in Kindergarten instead of 30).

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  100. Any word regarding whether CACS will be moving to a new location?

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  101. "If you don't want to be part of a parent-run school that's your choice."

    I would love to have a parent-run school. That is not what we have now. What we have now is a Board that wants to replace the director despite the fact that almost all the teachers and a majority of parents want to keep the director. The Board is not even bothering to take a poll of parents to ascertain what most think. It's appalling.

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  102. CACS was supposed to have received an offer letter from the District on Monday so we should all know soon. Re. class size it is not at all guaranteed that CACS will be able to maintain this -- depends on where the Administration and Board chooses to make cuts (and there's no doubt cuts will have to be made).

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  103. @6:21 a.m. She left because the grass will always be greener for her somewhere else. As to 9:57 a.m.'s summation re: the current boards agenda and refusal to listen to the community majority: too true.
    Hardly a debate or a head in sand situation. I'm hanging on and working for the best because both my children are incredibly happy and thriving at this school. As others have pointed out weird politics and diva drama are strangers to no school.

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  104. 6:21

    You are doing far more damage to our school's image by spreading rumors about "a whole bunch of other families leaving the school".

    If you cared about the school, you would not be spreading these rumors on this forum.

    Families have left, for varying reasons. 3 families I know of moved out of the country, and their departure was not because they were displeased with the school.

    I agree that speculating upon why the previous Board president's family left is not considerate, but when you bring it up first -- and claim that it was all because of discipline problems, others have a right to respond.

    For everyone posting, please remember that prospective families look here while deciding which schools to send their children to, none of this sniping is helping, and if you care about the school at all, please don't spread rumors or make our school look bad.

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  105. CACS Update: Looks like we're staying put in our current location on Turk Street for another year.

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  106. Creative arts is staying put at the same Turk Street location for the coming school year.

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  107. "I agree that speculating upon why the previous Board president's family left is not considerate, but when you bring it up first -- and claim that it was all because of discipline problems, others have a right to respond."

    For the record the first mention of this was on Dec. 20th by someone implying that she left because she didn't want her kids mixing with kids of color. Check your facts.

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  108. One of the things that makes Creative Arts so special (besides an incredible group of dedicated teachers) is our awesome community.

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  109. To those of you about to make your kindergarten decisions, and because so many of you asked about this on our school tours, I want to let you know that based on a vote of the Creative Arts Charter School Board of Directors, I will no longer serve as School Director of CACS, effective June 10, 2010.

    While we agreed in many respects about the challenges facing our school, it became apparent over time that the BOD and I have different views about addressing them.

    I am proud of the focus and dedication that my faculty, staff, and I adopted and of the progress we made toward increased diversity, educational equity,and a much improved arts program.

    Moving forward, I hope that the Creative Arts community will continue to look to SFUSD schools as models for soliciting authentic voice and working towards more equity in our schools.

    As for me, I plan on remaining engaged in San Francisco public education both professionally and personally, with my children attending McKinley Elementary (one in 2nd, two coming up for K).

    Good luck to all of you entering SFUSD schools-so many terrific choices out there.

    Liz Jaroslow

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  110. To those of you about to make your kindergarten decisions, and because so many of you asked about this on our school tours, I want to let you know that based on a vote of the Creative Arts Charter School Board of Directors, I will no longer serve as School Director of CACS, effective June 10, 2010.

    While we agreed in many respects about the challenges facing our school, it became apparent over time that the BOD and I have different views about addressing them.

    I am proud of the focus and dedication that my faculty, staff, and I adopted and of the progress we made toward increased diversity, educational equity,and a much improved arts program.

    Moving forward, I hope that the Creative Arts community will continue to look to SFUSD schools as models for soliciting authentic voice and working towards more equity in our schools.

    As for me, I plan on remaining engaged in San Francisco public education both professionally and personally, with my children attending McKinley Elementary (one in 2nd, two coming up for K).

    Good luck to all of you entering SFUSD schools-so many terrific choices out there.

    Liz Jaroslow

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  111. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  112. The director of CACS is a mixed bag, and as good as she is in some ways, there are valid reasons for choosing to move forward without her at the helm, though she could have chosen to stay on as assistant director or to apply for the new directorship in a fair and transparent process.

    Her supporters have intimidated others into silence and continue to malign our hard working, committed board of directors, threatening to continue to sow division, It's sad. However, the vast majority of CACS parents have not been involved in the drama at all. and most who were are now moving forward and working to rebuild our unity. So wether or not you as a (prospective) parent at CACS get involved in this kind of drama is really up to you.

    The good news is that all of this drama has been conducted between adults and has not affected the children. It's true that some of our parent community are a bit challenging, but the kids and the teachers, and the school culture are amazing and although i have been stressed out by our governance process over the past few months, my child has continued to thrive and learn and love school. Even the worst of the drama makers have had the good sense to not play it out in the presence of the kids.

    My advice to prospective parents?

    remember that the heart of a school is never just one person. Liz was only the director for 2 years, and while the process around her departure has been hard, the school is the same school, same vision, all the good things about the school are still there.

    And although thing are still a bit tough, certain parents are either going to leave the school, or realize we need to unify and move forward. I predict the drama will be over and done by the time school starts next year; so while it looks rough right now, remember that the folks perpetuating the drama are actually a very small number of people (how many posts by anonymous are the same person over and over?) and the vast majority of parents at CACS are committed and moving forward.

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  113. I think this quote from a poster on another thread sums it up perfectly:

    "The arts integration, project based learning, small class size, and excellent teachers are in place and they are why we are there and why we are happy and plan to stay regardless of who the director is and regardless of who is on the board."

    As a fellow CACS parent, I wholeheartedly agree!

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  114. the drama at CACS is optional; that is, many parents are not involved in it and it does not affect the kids. many of us are feeling really good about moving forward.

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  115. While touring MSs this fall, I spoke with several CACS families who felt trapped--they didn't really like the CACS MS, but their kids STAR test scores were mediocre, so they wouldn't qualify in Honors classes in the comprehensive MSs. Although they realized that CACS didn't "teach to the test" they were concerned that perhaps their kids were not getting the best possible education at CACS. This is something to keep in mind.

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  116. It's interesting that while many are eager to point out the many wonderful aspects of the school few if any seem to realize how all this came about. I'm a long time parent, it was not always this way. The amazing lower grades art and dance teachers are new as are the Responsive Classroom management strategy and attention to teacher development. The majority of new hires on the reaching staff are stellar. This is to a huge extent the work of the departing director and as any seasoned parent will tell you the vision of the director/principal shapes the school more than any other one factor. I'm not saying no one else could do a good job in this position I am saying watch out. There is already talk of huge changes in lower grades art and over all school philosophy. This will come as welcome news to some and not so much to others. Unfortunately it affects us all.

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  117. I agree, 1:13. It's a sad time.

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  118. @1:13

    Can you please be more specific? What kind of changes to the lower school art and overall school philosophy? Are these rumors you are feeding or is this discussion actually on the table?

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  119. Like every school, CACS has its issues and internal dramas, however when it comes to education, I don't think CACS can be beat. And we tried. Our daughter transferred into CACS after attending another great SF pubic school.

    We transferred to CACS because:
    - we wanted a warm and gentle kindergarten environment (and beyond) where kids through play, not by sitting at a desk;
    - we wanted a school where the pressure to test (kindergarteners) constantly was off;
    - we wanted a school where the teacher had the time to get to know the kids and their families;
    - AND we wanted arts: music, visual art, and dance. Many schools simply cannot and do not offer any real art programming.

    We were caught off guard by just how welcoming the faculty and parents were - and by how devoted everyone is to making the school work. Very cooperative, very lovely, and my friends with older kids say that their kids are getting advanced scores on the standardized tests that come later.

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  120. Don't kid yourselves that the children aren't affected by the drama. They hear the adults speaking and are fully aware of what happened. Also, CACS has had drama since I've known about the school.

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  121. i just returned from my third grade conference and was--as usual-- blown away. I am reminded how fortunate my children are to be taught on so many levels, in such innovative and interesting ways. Our school shows such care and committment to EACH child, reaching the child at their level and moving them forward in such thoughtful and exciting ways. I feel really grateful to have my children at this school. I encourage everyone to take a closer look at Creative Arts.

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  122. Good riddance to Liz!
    As an upper middle class parent, she always made me feel unwelcome at the school, as if she were disappointed that the current student body (particularly in K and 1) didn't match her ideas of diversity and social justice; her own crusade seemed more important than tending to the families who are actually there. Plus, she told all prospective families two years ago that the school would "defintely" be moving next, and then, ho hum, turns out we're not. We have a lot going for us at CACS, a new prinicipal will just keep things going in the right direction. Once we finally get a new building, all will be well!

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  123. As an outgoing parent who did the co-op nursery school thing and is therefore no stranger to the power squabbles among certain types of parents, I agree that it's true that the drama is completely optional.

    I'll concur with the observation that Liz's performance has been a mixed bag and leave it at that. As far as I can tell, she has not been victimized by the board by any means, but has gone out of her way to present herself as having gotten a raw deal.

    The school isn't perfect, but it has some very dedicated teachers and a unique opportunity to move forward to create an exceptional school, if enough parents with leadership ability are willing to join in.

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  124. The school is great, but a faction of the Board of Directors has been incredibly divisive and destructive, and has essentially ripped our community apart.

    It is going to take some time to heal the wounds they have inflicted upon the school community, but we will heal, and we will vote the vindictive people off the Board.

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  125. 8:55:
    Enough already. As I see it, it is a more nuanced situation and both sides are to blame for fanning the flames.
    Can we please move on? These vengeful public comments are not helping our school.

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  126. I have been a parent at this school for six years. Next fall my family will be leaving. In over 20 years in education l I have never seen anything to equal the behavior of the cabal that controlled this years board of directors. Just this week they held a poorly noticed "emergency" meeting at which they placed the out going director on administrative leave complete with gag order and appointed the new this year 6th grade teacher as acting director leaving his class in the hands of a green student teacher. I have no interest in furthering these peoples vision of the school and certainly no intention of aiding them in attaining it. Best of luck to the families who can't get out. Good riddance to me and mine!

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  127. @ April 2, 2010 10:35 PM

    I too am a long time parent at the school and I received the communication from the Board of Directors. Nowhere in it was there mention of a gag order. If it's true there is a gag order on the director, then it appears by the existence of your knowledge of it that the order has been broken. Perhaps a lack of professionalism, exemplified here, is the reason the board felt the director wasn't the right fit to lead the school?

    With all sincerity, best of luck to you. Please don't assume, though, that the families who aren't leaving next year "can't get out" and are somehow stuck here. Many people are very happy at CACS and look forward with hope and optimism to the school's future.

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  128. Yes. Nothing quite says "transparency" like a GAG ORDER.

    Don't leave. We don't need to let them do the things they are doing.
    We just need to get the destructive people off the Board, and that is not so hard to do if we all come together.

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  129. It is not a violation of a gag order to say you are under a gag order, but I realize that the creepy board members who imposed it would like nothing to be said about anything.

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  130. " If it's true there is a gag order on the director, then it appears by the existence of your knowledge of it that the order has been broken. Perhaps a lack of professionalism, exemplified here, is the reason the board felt the director wasn't the right fit to lead the school?"
    Interesting you would assume I learned of the gag order from the out going director. Not so. Your comment however does exemplify the type of attitude on the part of the board that has entitled them to ignore the schools fiscal health in favor of waging a year long fatwa on the former director. I hope both those board members who haven't resigned and yourself are pleased with the current situation you've either created or abetted and now must remedy. In all sincerity, best of luck to you.

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  131. The outgoing school director had some merit.
    Overall she was not great.
    The picture of the house on the witch from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind
    This school is back on track. Great teachers. Great energy. Lots of laughing.
    Lots of kids who have been there from K class.

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  132. We're an arts school! Of course we're gonna have our share of drama, but my kids love CACS and we wouldn't have it any other way. Thank God for democracy!

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  133. Fatwa? Really? I'm not really sure what you're trying to imply (aside from the fact that you apparently know nothing abut Islam).

    The "outgoing director" is only outgoing because she chose not to interview in an open process for the job, or take a guaranteed (i.e. no interview) job as the Assistant Director. Somehow that has been twisted into the belief, held a amongst a very few vociferous supporters, that she was "fired" It's disgraceful, really.

    The school is moving on. If you don't want to, fine. There are "so many terrific choices out there" in SFUSD. Go check them out, and stop trashing our school.

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  134. Can't we all just get along?

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  135. The person is not "trashing our school", they are trashing a vindictive, short-sighted board of directors for making awful decisions that are harming the school we love.

    In a recent batch of papers sent home with the school newsletter, the totalitarian creepy faction was suggesting that no parents be "allowed" to comment about our school on public listserves, and that no parents be "allowed" to have yahoo groups. Not only is that ridiculous (how could they STOP us?) but it projects a very creepy message. I am not going to teach my child that when you disagree with the message, you silence the messenger.
    The school is amazing, the current board is horrible. We can change that in the upcoming board elections, with the "transparency slate".

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  136. @April 29, 2010 6:36 AM

    What communications are you referring to? I don't recall seeing anything like that but I might have missed it.

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  137. @4/29 6:26a.m. Transparency slate ?!? I see the names of the 13 parents running for the 6 open seats and am hard pressed to find even 4 that can be trusted to rise above their personal agendas and not allow their personal prejudices to compromise their every perception and action. Sorry but strife and self interest are on the menu until the day CACS is NOT governed by a board of directors whose majority membership is comprised of current parents. Until then it's drama du jour at CACS. Can your child attend and not be affected ? What do you think ?

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  138. 11:31, I agree entirely.

    There are 4 candidates, though.

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  139. I am not a board member, but It seems to me that much of the drama seems to have been generated by the outgoing director. I am certain that the next director will be a lot more stable and MELLOW.
    The candidates are looking good.

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  140. It's getting so totalitarian around there now that they want parents to sign agreements to not make any comments about the school anywhere on the web. (shudder)

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  141. good lord give it a rest!

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  142. @May 12, 2010 8:19 AM

    What the heck are you talking about? The school hasn't asked anyone to sign any sort of agreement, nor would they.

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  143. "...they want parents to sign agreements to not make any comments about the school anywhere on the web. (shudder)". OK, so now it's come down to just making stuff up out of thin air. I

    s that you, Moggy? You want to provide some evidence for this complete and total fabrication?

    I didn't think so.

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  144. Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It's getting so totalitarian around there now that they want parents to sign agreements to not make any comments about the school anywhere on the web. (shudder)

    May 12, 2010 8:19 AM

    ====

    Uhm, what? I have not seen or heard of any such thing. /8th grade parent.

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  145. Anonymous said on May 12, 2010 8:19 AM:
    "It's getting so totalitarian around there now that they want parents to sign agreements to not make any comments about the school anywhere on the web. (shudder)"

    While I generally think it's a bad idea to respond to anonymous comments, this is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact whatsoever. It is beyond my comprehension what the intent of a post like this is other than to smear the school and hope that people will not come and see for themselves what a great school and community we have. As Sen. Moynihan said long ago, "You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts."

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  146. Hey 8:19AM--Paranoid much?

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  147. Yes, Ross, it is beyond your comprehension.

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  148. The Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Paul Greenwood as Director and Fernando Aguilar as Assistant Director. For more details see:
    http://www.creativeartscharter.org/news/index.asp
    Check our website in August for school tour dates!

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  149. We just hired an impressive new Director!

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  150. The Board of Directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Paul Greenwood as the new Director of Creative Arts Charter School. For more details please see:
    http://www.creativeartscharter.org/news/index.asp

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