Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jefferson Elementary

Reviewed by Meredith
(toured 9/23/08)

Location: 1725 Irving St @ 19th, Sunset District) map
School hours: 8:40-2:40 (breakfast at 8:15; yard monitor at 8:20)
Tel: 759-2821
Fax: 756-2806
Principal: Victor Tam (since 2006-07; prior principal retired after 16 years)
Web site:
School tours: Self-guided tours M-Th from 9-10am or 1-2pm. Starting in October some Tuesdays and Thursdays will have Q&A by the principal, Victor Tam at 10am.
Grades: K-5
Kindergarten size: 80
Total student body: 476

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:

a calm and inviting environment; an emphasis on arts (visual, theater and music) and on environmental issues; a gardening program; and strong academics.


Separate play yards for Kindergarten and upper grades; both will be upgraded with new structures as part of ADA upgrades. Funding for full-time PE teacher included purchase of PE equipment as well.

After School programs

Jefferson CDC (onsite) has 45 kindergarten spots, as well as spots for grades 1-5; before-care starting at 7:30 .m. and after-care until 6 p.m.; programs on sliding scale (free for qualified income earnings otherwise tuition based $12-22/day)


Active PTA and SSC with a number of volunteer activities for parents including in classroom, office and admin, beautification and gardening, and in the art program.

Language program(s): After-school Mandarin

Tour Impressions

As soon as I popped my head into the classrooms at Jefferson school, it felt like there was a lot to take in. The classroom and hallway walls are covered with student artwork, self portraits and drawings. Wandering the halls on our self-guided tour I overheard a Kindergarten class talking about weather and calendar, a 1st grade class doing addition of multiple numbers, and a 5th grade class studying fine art paintings for a writing activity. All of the classes seemed incredibly orderly, despite the fact that the school is undergoing a year of construction for ADA improvements.

The ADA improvements will also bring updates and new play structures to the Kindergarten and upper grade playgrounds. Since 2007 a full-time PE teacher was hired (thanks to Prop H) to provide two PE sessions per week to all grades. In addition, a program for directed physical activity is offered from noon-12:30 every day.

The school includes a focus on Arts Education which includes working with visiting artists in a particular medium (e.g. drama, ceramics, poetry). In addition a program Art Knows allows parent-led art activities in the classroom. Instrumental music instruction is offered to the 4th and 5th grades in the Auditorium. According to the website all 5th grade students are in the school choir.

A garden is being re-installed in the Kindergarten playground on the Irving Street side of the school, the garden and any educational programs tied to it are strictly parent-led at this point. The school has a pleasant and clean cafeteria in addition to the auditorium.

We were not able to view the library due to the construction but according to the website there is a full time librarian and each class visits the library once a week. We also noted the school is next door to the Sunset branch of the SFPL.

The active PTA raises about $50-60k per year to fund the 5th grade overnight field trip for environmental education, as well as other school resources.

(I’m trying to discover answers to some other questions such as what else the PTA funds, whether the garden is for beautification and by parents only or by the students as well, and a few other details I was not able to observe.)


  1. How many days/week is the after-school Mandarin program?

  2. They started the program last spring, but I don't believe they currently have after school Mandarin. I asked at the enrollment fair and they said they couldn't do it this year.

  3. My son is a kindergartner there right now and we really love this school. We do not do afterschool program so I don’t have a lot of information about afterschool program. We have many great activities/programs and kids go to a lot of field trips. My son did over night camping at Audubon caynon ranch two weeks ago (tons of fun!). It is a great school and you should at least tour the school to get the feel for it.

  4. I have a son in kindergarten there now. The teachers all seem very caring. My son is in aftercare, and he seems to like it. There are structured activities until 5 with a teacher, and then "free time" until 6.
    My son hasn't had homework per se. Instead, there are guides that are sent home to parents on how to incorporate math and reading into every day activites. Also, once a month his teacher sends home a sheet with thirty activities, like write your name 5 times, write a story about what you are thankful for, draw a picture of what you had for dinner, count by 2's to 10, with the goal of doing at least 3 activities a week. Each activity can usually be completed in about 10 minutes or so.
    Extracurricular afterschool activities, such as piano lessons, chess club, etc., were suspended this year because of the ongoing ADA construction, which is suppose to end before fall 2009. So as not to disrupt the classrooms, most of the "loud" construction activities occur after school ends until about 6pm. The principal decided it would not be fair to have some of the after school fee based programs if students would not get full value because of all the construction noise and activity.
    The garden right now is being spearheaded by one parent, and one Saturday a month volunteers (parents and students) help out.
    The specialty art, music and dance teachers (which I think are funded by Prop A) seem to cycle in for 6-8 weeks. There was just a dance performance by the kindergatners, which was held at the end of the dance cycle (and was very charming), and a singing concert is scheduled for next week.
    There is a lot of parent involvement, for example, there is a book fair/spaghetti feed coming up in December. But the school could always use more volunteers and more contributions (I am in awe of schools like Clarendon that raise over 100K a year).

  5. Schools like Clarendon raises over 100K a year because they ask a lot more than Jefferson does. I know for fact that Clarendon asks about $800 per child for PTA donation. Jefferson asks 5% of that. It is great if you can afford to donate that much money but not everyone can.

  6. It's illegal for schools to require parents to donate. Some push it by treating anyone who can't donate the "suggested" amount as an exception.

    Both the demographics of those attending the school and the culture of the school have an influence on the amount that parents are likely to donate, and then it feeds itself. If there's a perception that you can't go to Clarendon unless you can donate $800 a year, you're less likely to even apply to Clarendon, and thus the parents whose kids go to Clarendon are far more likely to expect to donate $800 a year.

    It's a great thing for Clarendon. It's not necessarily a great thing for equity or for public education overall, because it could be seen as sending the message that it's OK to underfund schools because the parents will make it up.

    The national, state and district PTA emphasize that the PTA isn't primarily a fundraising organization, by the way. It's an advocacy organization for all schools, children and families. Clarendon's is a PTO, a non-PTA parent group.