Monday, March 16, 2009

Hot topic: John Muir

An SF K Files visitor suggested that I start a new thread on John Muir:

This is Jeremy Anderson. I have been on your site very actively for the last few weeks and recently found out that I was one of the parents who was given John Muir. I created a separate blog site since there a lot of discussion going on about those of us that felt like we were given a bad deal. I felt that there was enough goodwill expressed by all the bloggers to suggest that we could get a group of committed people together a turn this school around.

I have had a fair amount of traffic, but was wondering if you could start a new thread directing the John Muir folks to this site? There were over 900 posts on the Round One letters string and it was really difficult to search for the John Muir people. The site is http://changejohnmuir.blogspot.com/

Thanks for all the wonderful work you have done in regards to creating an outlet for concerned city parents. We are feeling the same emotional tough of war that you went through last year. I would love to see my neighborhood school turnaround and I am willing to invest my time right now to rallying support.

67 comments:

  1. Uh-oh -- you know you have a Facebook habit when you try to click "like" on a blog post...

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  2. Doesn't John Muir have a lot of English language learners in a separate strand?

    That would negatively affect test scores overall without affecting your child's educational experience.

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  3. Yes, but being shot or mugged would negatively affect my child's educational experience.

    Do you think Gavin Newsom's kid will go to John Muir? Ha Ha Ha

    Did any of Pelosi's kids get assigned to John Muir?

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  4. A parent friend of mine mentioned that there is a neighborhood PTA or group that formed a few years ago to help "steward" John Muir, including non-parents in the neighborhood. Those interested in the John Muir situation might want to hook up with that group, if it still exists. Sorry my information is so sketchy but that is all I know.

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  5. Right, kids get shot and mugged at John Muir all the time.....not.

    I understand there may be issues with sending your kids there, I'm not in denial about that, but let's at least stay factual. So much fear-mongering and race-baiting on this blog today.

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  6. There was a shooting right outside Pacific Primary a few years ago and that has not stopped the stream of Range Rovers and Lexuses coming from Pac Heights to drop off their kids for preschool.

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  7. Jeremy - I commend you for taking a positive step. I was assigned John Muir after receiving 0 of 7 of our choices. Because our child is young, we will wait it out and apply again next year. Of course, it is likely we will have the same result. I hope that you are successful in rallying strong support for this school. It seems to me that one positive outcome of school choice is that it ignites strong passions that can translate into change. Best of luck with the rehabilitation. Perhaps John Muir will become a coveted school with help from you.

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  8. I applaud Jeremy for making this effort, plan to participate in Thursday night's meeting, and hope something good will come of it. I toured John Muir last year after we were assigned. I really liked the principal and felt that she would be delighted to have parent involvement and support.

    Based on stats on the SFUSD web site, I believe the school serves low income children almost exclusively, many of whom are English learners. The population is largely African-American and Latino, both communities whose needs SFUSD has historically had a difficult time meeting. I tried to connect to that neighborhood group "stewarding" the school and heard nothing back. I gather they are primarily neighborhood activists without children in the school and some in that group may have a political agenda that does not include having the school serve middle-class children. I tried to connect with other assigned parents and had only one response. The "parent liaison" I met had no children in the school and could not tell me much about it. The one person I saw who appeared to be a parent of a child in the school was a white woman with the deeply burnt skin of a homeless person, and she did not look like she'd forgotten her sunscreen when she went skiing.

    I am in the middle of "Dreams from my Father" and just hit the point where President Obama discusses the children in an elementary school near a Chicago public housing project. He says that the little kids, kindergarten and first grade, were all sweet and engaged, but by the later grades, probably around third grade, the light had gone out of their eyes. I saw those cute, engaged little ones at John Muir. I did not see the older kids, at John Muir but would not be surprised to find something similar to what President Obama saw at that Chicago elementary school.

    It will take some courage to pioneer at this school, but I think there are good teachers and a good principal. If enough people who are committed to giving the teachers and principal the support they need put their kids in the school, a turnaround would be possible.

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  9. I posted on the really huge thread yesterday to give info about the outside assistance John Muir got a couple of years ago, including organizing a PTA. The post is lost in the crowd. I'll repeat briefly.

    A non-parent community activist, Kim Knox, was taking a great interest in school issues -- partly as a political issue; she is/was a Green Party organizer. One thing she did was get really involved in working with John Muir to help improve the school. She organized a PTA, sought grants (I don't know the outcomes) and I know she was talking about starting a chess club.

    Kim's politics are not my cup of tea, but it sounded like her work with John Muir was really beneficial. She moved away -- maybe a year and a half ago? -- to the D.C. area. I have her old e-mail address and if someone can post their contact info I'll send it to you privately.

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  10. I'm always recommending that people read Elijah Anderson's "Code of the Streets," which gives a clear picture of the toxic influences that pull on students from disadvantaged communities. This is exactly what Anderson says:

    Marlowe's mom: (Obama) says that the little kids, kindergarten and first grade, were all sweet and engaged, but by the later grades, probably around third grade, the light had gone out of their eyes.
    **

    Jonathan Kozol describes it too. Some people blame the schools for that, like they've killed the joy of learning. But according to Anderson, it's that the street influences really start pulling on kids by the upper elementary grades. I've seen it with kids who went through K-5 with my kids.

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  11. Caroline, GO AWAY!

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  12. 8:11 - Please stop posting unhelpful personal comments. There are many many parents relying on this blog for information - especially now.

    Let's all do our best to keep this a constructive, welcoming space. Please.

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  13. Sorry - she just keeps writing the same out of date stories on every post!

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  14. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has taken a deep interest in Muir and at least at one point was a member of Muir's PTA. It's true that many of the active PTA members are neighborhood activists and not parents at the school -- but hey, they were willing to get involved and to help! Is that a bad thing?
    Anyway, I would encourage any group of parents seriously considering enrolling at Muir to meet with Ross; I'm sure he'd be willing to help if he can.

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. 7:40, the school you're referring to was predominantly African-American when the for-profit Edison Schools Inc. took it over, but it's now down to 20% African-American. So it's Edison that got rid of the African-American students.

    The school site in question is at 22nd and Dolores, currently rented by SFUSD to Edison Schools Inc., which operates the struggling Edison Charter Academy there. It isn't an SFUSD school but a rent-paying tenant. I have been calling for moving or evicting Edison Inc. and reclaiming the school to reopen as another SFUSD school, offering spots to the current Edison students.

    Edison used to have schools in 8 California districts, but most have kicked Edison out -- as have most of Edison's former client school districts around the U.S. So this wouldn't be some kind of unique outrage.

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  17. "but it's now down to 20% African-American"

    SOTA is only 12% African American.

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  18. The SFUSD is 12.3% African American, so what is your point?

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  19. The last few comments are completely off topic, except the question of reopening another SFUSD school in a desirable location. Please stick to posts that are relevant to the John Muir issue.

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  20. I don't think I said anything good or bad about the neighborhood group that got together to try to help John Muir, just what I had heard about them and my experience attempting to get in touch with them. I think it's great if anybody wants to organize to help a school, but if it's true (I did not say one way or the other because I don't know, it's just something I heard) that some in the organization would not welcome middle-class attendance, that would make me uncomfortable. I certainly felt that Principal Wheaton would welcome families from all backgrounds.

    At the same time, another point that I have talked about with friends and that "Dreams from my Father" re-emphasized for me is the quandary of how to bring the middle class and their resources into a school without making the school all about the middle class. Look at the 2008 SARC scores for a reputed "turnaround" school like Miraloma. The white population is now the largest in the school, far out of proportion to the percentage of white school-age children in SF. The economically disadvantaged students perform significantly below the overall school scores, and African-American students lag even further behind. I am of course not saying that white equals middle class. Rather, my point is that "turning around" a school in a truly inclusive way is a great challenge. Everyone seems to agree that parental support is the single most important factor in how a child will perform academically. It will be interesting to hear ideas about how John Muir might be able to make it logistically feasible and comfortable for parents from among all the populations in the school to actively support their children's education.

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  21. The year my daughter started kindergarten at Miraloma about 25% of the 60 kindergarten students were African American. By the time she finished fifth grade last year, about half of the students she started with had left the school, but all of the African American students were gone except two, and a number of others had come, and some of them gone, in the intervening years.

    There seems to be far more movement of African American students between schools than of other groups. This has an effect on the achievement levels of the students, but it also makes it difficult to track the achievement of these students. A student who spends only one or two years at a school contributes to that school's API scores, but can the school really take all the blame or the credit for the student's level of achievement?

    I met a cute sixth-grade African American girl the other day at a San Francisco middle school and asked her where she had gone to elementary school. She had spent a couple of years at Sanchez, then went to Treasure Island, and then to a school in Vallejo before coming back to SF. I don't know many middle-class white kids who had that kind of elementary experience.

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  22. If anyone would like to join me, I was able to get a last minute tour of John Muir at 11AM on Thursday, 3/19 with JM's Parent Liaison.

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  23. OT, but in response to 11:20, a point of information:

    The movement of students in and out of schools is tracked as the "mobility rate." High mobility tends to (on average, overall) correlate directly with low income. Obviously, high-income families move too, but low incomes tend to go hand-in-hand with unstable living situations.

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  24. Hi, can someone provide the deatils for the Thursday (3/19)evening meeting at John Muir? Time? Room? Agenda? Parking (on school yard)? Are there any other meetings or tours? Thanks!

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  25. Marlow's mom, I agree with you about the need to approach bringing in the resources of what the middle class can provide to a school community with great sensitivity. I posted elsewhere about this very briefly. But I have to say, the tone of some the posts, in terms of banding together as a change agent at Muir, sounds a bit disturbing. While I think its wonderful that people are open to the idea of bringing their skills and resources to enrich what is already there, the school is made of up real people, probably many from the surrounding neighborhood who have worked long and hard after enduring a merge 2.5 years ago in orger to regain a sense of stability. A school is not a corporation so following a model of corporate take over, so to speak, is not a particularly wise or respectful approach to take.

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  26. The principal is a major problem at JM-just looks at how performance and test scores have dropped during her tenure. It's not the neighnborhood that's the problem, it's an administration that serves it's own needs rather than kids' needs.

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  27. The fact that the school is in THE PROJECTS IS A PROBLEM too. Just not the only one.

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  28. Ask Mrs. Wheaton about the K class that was without a full-time teacher for the first couple months of school last year. I saw that class, and the day I was there, the kids didn't even have crayons. I was told they did have some, but they destroyed them and threw them around so they were taken away. Not sure when they finally got a permanent teacher, and while it happened because the regular teacher went out on medical leave, I can't begin to understand why they didn't take better care of those kids in his absence.

    It pains me greatly to post this because I know it will only scare away parents who might be able to effect real change at JM, but you should know what you're up against.

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  29. ---reputed "turnaround" school like Miraloma. The white population is now the largest in the school, far out of proportion to the percentage of white school-age children in SF. The economically disadvantaged students perform significantly below the overall school scores, and African-American students lag even further behind. ----

    Yes, Miraloma has an achievement gap (as does virtually every single school in the country) - but test scores of subgroups (i.e. English Language Learners, Latino and African American) have jumped up the past two/three years - along with the change in demographics (more middle class) and higher overall test scores.

    This would seem to support findings in educational research that disadvantaged kids do better in schools with larger mixes of middle class kids.

    Also, people should note that among the large number of the 'other white' Miraloma families that are in that category are the large number of Palestinian and Brazilian families, along with the many European (Swedish, German, French) families at the school. Sometimes the stats don't really tell the diversity of a school.

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  30. re: Miraloma: How can anyone knock the racial make up of students at this school? All students were put into that school via the lottery, and race is not a question on the lottery form. You cannot beg, scratch, or claw your way into SF schools (although it is possible to lie your way in by submitting false data on the application form, filing false hardship appeals, etc). Race has nothing to do with it.

    re: John Muir. The racial make up of the current kindergarten class isn't necessarily the racial make up of next year's class, especially if all the assigned families and some 0/7's decided to attend. With marketing and good PR (a la PPS), the next K class could look just like, well, San Francisco. I admire the families who are considering JM and wish you great success. One day, I predict, people will scream and holler when they cannot get in. Think about it. It has a great start time (8:40 AM), after-school care, and about the best location in the City on a main commute corridor to Downtown.

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  31. The problem that I have with Miraloma is that the principal and parents who I've spoken with do not seem to see the declining enrollment of African American kids and other kids of color as a problem. In fact, there seems to be a lot of energy going into promoting that school in white middle class circles -- which I don't really understand, given that it's already impossible to get into.

    By contrast, the principal at Harvey Milk said, on my tour last year, that when the enrollment of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds started dropping there, they started doing outreach at subsidized preschools, etc.

    I don't have a thing against Miraloma, and I hope I'm wrong. But diversity is not just about having kids who are from different countries and speak different languages. It's also about equity and opportunity. I agree it's best to have a mix of kids -- and would be best to have a better mix at all schools -- but the kindergarten numbers for 2007-08 listed on the SARC report say that the class was 67% white. In a school district with about 10% white enrollment, and a City that where only about 23% of the school-aged kids are white, that's out of whack.

    If the school leaders said, "Yes, as we've gotten popular, it's pushed out some of the kids who have historically gone here, but we're working on it," then I would not fault them. But instead the school seems to be doing more marketing to more upper middle class groups.

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  32. Hear, hear 12:05

    I heartily believe that a school should strive to educate all its kids. However, if you have a good thing going, be brave and market that good thing to kids who can benefit from it a lot. Not just the families whose demographics are the easy route to ever-higher test scores.

    Harvey Milk is a wonderful school, by the way.

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  33. Miraloma has been doing outreach in the south-eastern part of the city but has not had a lot of success. Remember that the school leaders at Miraloma were behind the big PPSSF push to get more AA families to participate in Round I. This is a 7:50 start time school in a pretty out of the way neighborhood. It was one of the least desired schools in the city and used to get a lot of late, open-enrollment applicants who didn't have much of a choice. There is no displacement, if anyone who has any points on the diversity index wants Miraloma they're going to get it. Remember that those organized Round I parents who have diversity points can also get Lakeshore, Clarendon or another late start time school so that the bus pickup isn't at 6:40 AM! It's easy to criticize, but you're picking on the wrong school.

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  34. "Harvey Milk is a wonderful school, by the way."

    We left that school because half the classroom time every day was spent on crowd control. Very upsetting.

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  35. Sorry you went through that, 7:37.

    I have good friends at Harvey Milk who are very happy there. I haven't heard those stories--the opposite, in fact. Maybe they had a different teacher?

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  36. This is totally OT, but re Miraloma: It formerly had a large number of students who were bused from two zones in the Bayview that were designated Miraloma "satellite" assignment zones. The school was very low-performing (and unpopular, shunned by those aware enough to check out schools).

    So the situation was that kids from a disadvantaged neighborhood were, by default, bused pretty far out of their neighborhood (at great cost) to a very low-performing school. Who benefits from that?? So the question of whether the former students were "pushed out" is complicated. As the students who had been bused there moved on to middle school, they were not replaced with an equivalent number also being bused there by default -- I'm not clear whether that busing still happens at all. But did those students benefit from being bused out to Miraloma?

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  37. Miraloma is almost impossible to get to by public transportation (via the highly unpredictable 36 MUNI route). That takes it out of the running for many families without other transportation.

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  38. I urge parents to take a careful look at JM. Walk by the playground during a day when parents aren't invited to visit JM (notice the teachers yelling at the kids and the perennial abscence of the principal). Talk to former teachers. Look carefully and notice that the school is unclean and allowed to fall apart. Notice, too, that the school has NOT met it's NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND GOALS since she started at the school.

    I urge you all task hard questions when you visit John Muir and don't believe everything the principal says.

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  39. For what it's worth . . . Current private school parent seriously considering John Muir for a blond 1st grader after last night's meeting with principal and PTA members. The school felt much better this year than it did last year when I toured after K assignment. Though money is not irrelevant, I'm not entirely motivated by economics either. Positive parent involvement is increasing and they've got some exciting new academic and other programs on the immediate horizon. The school has significant community support and a partnership with SFPD for safety. The parents I met made me feel very welcome. I think our child could thrive there and our family could make a meaningful contribution. I am going to try to observe a day in 4th grade to get a sense of older kids who will influence mine and 1st grade to get a sense of the teachers. More involved families would be even better. There was something wrong with my URL and I could not post on the separate John Muir blog so I'm posting here.

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  40. I thought this from a Newsweek article by George Will this week would be good for this thread:

    But in 1966, the Coleman Report concluded: "Schools are remarkably similar in the effect they have on the achievement of their pupils when the socioeconomic background of the students is taken into account." That was a delicate way of not quite saying that the quality of schools usually reflects the quality of the families from which the students come. One scholar estimated that about 90 percent of the differences among schools in average proficiency can be explained by five factors—number of days absent from school, amount of television watched in the home, number of pages read for homework, quantity and quality of reading matter in the home and, much the most important, the presence of two parents in the home. Government cannot do much to make those variables vary, but Duncan correctly thinks that we actually know how to make schools effective anyway. The keys are time and talent.

    Full article is here:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/189237

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  41. As one of the parents that started promoting Miraloma 7 years ago I'd like to address the comments above.

    Miraloma has done a lot to try to reach out to diverse families: We have participated in PPS enrollment events in the Bayview almost every year they've been held, we do tours in Cantonese and Spanish. We have worked hard to try to reach out where we can (recognizing that it is all volunteers. We are at all the same events as Harvey Milk!

    Miraloma was underenrolled when all the recruitment efforts started: At that time, the school had 250 kids with capacity for 360. Only 15 students had applied for 60 slots. It would have been on the school closure list had we not worked to increase enrollment. We were just working to get ANYONE to come to the school. But as has been the case with schools across the district, Lawton has gotten more Chinese, Buena Vista more Latino, Drew more African American, and schools like Miraloma, more "other white". Whether you consider it a 'problem' or not, when given a choice, parents seem to gravitate to schools where you see people 'like themselves' - this goes for ALL parents (as data in SFUSD is showing.)

    Schools in the Bayview became more desirable: We lost a lot of African American families to schools closer to home. For example, when Drew became a Dream School (with more resources and support for kids in those schools) we lots a lot of kids who wanted to be at a school with more African Americans and was closer to their home.

    Transportation is a problem for Miraloma: The school used to be entirely bussed in from other locations. Many of these families (especially Chinese) who lived in Excelsior stopped coming to Miraloma to go to schools with higher API scores about 5 years ago (i.e. to Lakeshore and Rooftop.) We are seeing many come back now that the scores are climbing higher. Also, we've had a very hard time getting families to come to the school from the Mission as it is so difficult to get there by public transport - only one bus (36) which is famously unreliable comes to our school, limiting access to the location from many parts of the city.

    Percentages can be misleading: The 260 students at time were largely minority. The additional 110 families that are there now are disproportionately "Other White" - although the schools overall balance is closer to that of the City's children (but more other white than SFUSD.)

    As I visit my 4th grade child's classroom and afterschool program, I see a diversity of children that represent SF.

    Could we do more to attract a wider variety of families? I suppose so - but we worked hard in those early years just to fill seats, and later invested a great deal of energy towards recruiting more diverse families (which, too, has been successful.) I imagine soon it'll be more based on neighborhood, which I fear will make it even less diverse.

    I find the criticsm of Miraloma recruitment efforts to be a bit lopsided and reflects a lack of understanding of the enrollment dynamics happening in the city over the past decade.

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  42. ---The problem that I have with Miraloma is that the principal and parents who I've spoken with do not seem to see the declining enrollment of African American kids and other kids of color as a problem.---

    This is not a Miraloma-specific problem, it is a San Francisco problem. African American enrollment is declining throughout the City because families are leaving the City. It is well documented by DCYF.org and there have been countless articles in the Chron about it over the past 3-4 years. Miraloma enrollment reflects this, and other dynamics, in enrollment trends.

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  43. The problem with Miraloma's lack of diversity is not Miraloma's fault ... it is the fault of a ridiculous lottery assignment system ...

    since so many African American families do not even enter the lottery in round 1, all the spots at Miraloma are GONE.

    Until all families enter round one, the lottery will remain unfair and lopsided.

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  44. I keep checking back hoping to get more thoughts about John Muir. Suddenly it's all about Miraloma. I hope this thread can focus on whether people are willing to give Muir a shot, and if and how test scores and other performance indicia can be improved in a way that includes rather than displaces current families, many of whom seem to live nearby.

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  45. For potential John Muir families from a long-time Miraloma parent, I encourage you and am thrilled to hear that so many families are willing to get past their initial reactions (especially the reactions or misinformation of others) and consider this school for their child.

    Muir is, like Miraloma was, a school with wonderful assets to promote, a community to join and help grow, and a school waiting to serve an even wider diversity of kids and families in SF.

    Happily there are far fewer schools that have a reputation hurdle to scale, and with the families that we've heard from on the list that are thinking of signing up, we can make it even fewer!

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  46. Easy on the playground comments. Not the best way to judge a school. The majority of up-and-coming schools have had to deal with playground problems. No organized activities and limited supervision = trouble.

    This problem is typically addressed through a combination of internal and external resources, such as Sports for Kids, Y programs, parent/neighborhood voluneteers, and additional staff (funded through grant writing and fund raising) to keep kids focused on playing rather than fighting.

    JM is no different than any other school with limited resources. An incoming class of enthusiatic, dedicated parents can correct playground problems pretty quickly.

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  47. 4:12 - I think the Miraloma comments are really just trying to address misinformation posted earlier so that you can get those ideas and apply them to future efforts at Muir.

    I also appreciate the sensitivity and perspective parents are noting here about making sure a school serves all kids - including the group that has recent history there.

    So many schools in SFUSD have gone through a similar transformation (from a middle class perspective) of 'can't go' to 'is this possible' to 'I want to go THERE!'

    Seems Muir will be one of those schools, too!

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  48. When I talk about playground problems, Im not talking about the kids. I'm talking about teachers who scream, bark orders, berate students. I'm amazed that this behavior is allowed to go on.

    Muir IS different than other schools with limited resources. Look at Las Americas and Jose Ortega. Involved principals make all the difference. A principal who screams, does not know her students, and isolates teachers who don't agree with her? That has nothing to do with resources, nothing to do with the population she serves, and less than nothing to do with the neighborhood.

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  49. 8:50 pm, I am familiar with John Muir and I will second your several comments. John Muir is a deeply troubled school, but not because of the population it serves-because of the principal. I want to see John Muir turn around, but an administration change will need to happen. Do look at the playground, parents-adult behavior is unacceptable. Ask around, see how poor teacher retention is at John Muir, and how unhappy those teachers are that remain. Look at the state of the building-the lunchroom is filthy, pigeons are allowed to fly in and eat off the floor. Please, change this school, but make sure you change the right things! This can turn into a Miraloma or Jose Ortega, but only with the right leader!

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  50. 9:09. There are actual birds in the lunchroom? That's got to be some sort of health code violation. I'm starting to wonder what else goes on at JM.

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  51. And the sad part is those K kids are just bright eyed kids (yes, some are not, having seen way more than someone their age should see)...

    the innocence fades rather quickly.

    and so sad to think, no one is advocating for them.

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  52. I can tell you from firsthand experience that pigeons fly into lunchrooms at some very desirable city schools as well. Maybe they get chased out faster someplaces, I don't know, but the rats-with-wings do get around - they know where the food is.

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  53. All theses negative comments about the principal - are they coming from one person?

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  54. From a disgruntled teacher, no doubt.

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  55. Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. How do you know the principal? Are you a parent? Teacher? Staff? Is your experience current or have you been gone from JM for some time? In order to know how to weigh your comments it would be helpful to understand your perspective. Thanks.

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  56. 9:09 pm here-I commented once, but I see other comments corroborating what I wrote. I don't want to reveal my identity, so I will only say I am very familiar with the school as it is now, and I am not disgruntled. I am thrilled to see so many parents agitating for change at John Muir, and I want to point those parents in the right direction. This school has huge potential-a beautiful building, a location that lends itself to the creation of a truly integrated school, some young and energetic teachers already in place. The neighborhood is not as dangerous as people report it to be. Change the trajectory of this school, but be educated about what you need to do to effect change. People in the know about this school will certainly agree with my analysis of the poor leadership as the main problem.

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  57. I posted at 7:26, and I'll just say that I saw that K class with my own eyes - and I'm not on staff, nor have I ever been. I'll also add that JM has a history of unfortunate principals, that the one who was there for a couple years before Wheaton came in had no idea what she was doing, and left the district as far as I know.

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  58. I'm neither a teacher nor parent. That said, I've had a long and ongoing relationship with JM and several other schools in the district.

    I've spent considerable time at JM and, let me tell you this: teachers are disgruntled and afraid for good reason. Listen to those teachers; they are not crying wolf.

    Visit the school on days when they haven't made it bright and shiny for the fancy white people who probably won't send their kids to JM anyway (which, BTW, is why JM isn't diverse). Look closely. Check building reports and other ongoing indicators of site quality.

    Take a look at Wheaton's record; did you know that another school--Golden Gate--was shut down under her leadership?

    Pay attention when you talk to folks; are they saying what you want to hear or do they admit that JM has room to grow? Can they back up their claims with evidence? Are they as friendly when they're not compelled by the principal to make nice?

    Remember, too, that there are a lot of great people at JM. This school is in trouble, but there's plenty of room for change.

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  59. I've noticed that few people have posted to the new JM blog. Perhaps it wold be more popular if anonymous posts were allowed?

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  60. What happened to this "hot topic", posted by the VPof John Muir's PTA?

    My name is Lauren Smith and I am a vice president on the PTA of John Muir School and also a parent of a student there. In light of the comments that I've seen recently, here and on "the SF K Files," I would like to say a few things.

    First, I think it's unproductive and entitled to sit around on the internet and snipe about a school real children go to-- a school my child goes to, and a school that real parents are working at-- parents whose children actually go to the school. It's offensive and publicly devalues the work people are actually doing, and gives a false sense of superiority in what the internet complainers are doing to help. (Nothing.) Storming a school and attending a meeting in a place where you are unfamiliar is really the epitome of white (middle class) privilege. In fact, so is creating a blog to "turn around" a school you haven't spent any time at. Neither anonymously commenting nor storming the meeting were or will be productive or helpful for anyone at John Muir.

    As a parent of a student at John Muir, I have concerns and critiques of the school and constructive criticism to offer the staff and administration. I actually spend time at this school, know teachers, students, fellow parents, administrators, and involved community members. My critiques are real. The critiques of those who drive by the playground, look at statistics on a website and judge the demographics and neighborhood of the school are not based in reality, they're based on reactionary attitudes and for some, in prejudice. I will continue to work to better John Muir from the inside, in what I truly hope is a non-patronizing, positive way. And if anyone else is interested in working to make John Muir better, they are more than welcome to register with SF School Volunteers and come to school and get to work.

    Folks who complain about things on the internet lose sight of the impact of their words. They're shielded by their homes and computer screens from the consequences those words inflict on others. Some staff and parents at John Muir feel like the school is under siege. The things that people have said on the internet have created an incredible amount of stress for many of the people who are working at John Muir. Some of the criticism directed at the school might actually be valid, but it is lost in the mire of disgusting classist comments and race baiting.

    On "Turn Around John Muir" I see comments about the imbalance of ethnic groups at John Muir. First of all, The entire San Francisco Unified School District has a huge problem with racially segregated schools. This almost ALWAYS happens at the disadvantage of students of color. God forbid somebody's white kid should be the one who has to be different; God forbid your child should have to experience something that children of color have been experiencing in predominantly white schools for oh, well- ever. It smacks of white entitlement that people are actually demanding the SFUSD to increase the number of white students coming into John Muir next year. I'm sure if you make a bunch of demands on your blog, other people's blogs, and in emails to the school district that there will be BIG CHANGE following. It seems that whenever white people get all up in a tizzy about "demographics" the people that suffer well, they aren't white. So this line of "action" deeply concerns me.

    I feel slightly ill about the fact that that I am afraid to write the above without adding that I am a white, working class parent, because I know that doing so will calm fears of "reverse racism" because of my white privilege and working class status.

    I sincerely hope that the parents of incoming kindergarten students at John Muir this fall will be more respectful and humble than what I have seen on "the SF K Files" and "Turn Around John Muir." Otherwise we will end up with a lot of unproductive conflict in the coming school years.

    Thank you,

    Lauren Smith

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  61. Lauren Smith - you rock! Seriously, thank you for speaking out, and thanks to the anon who saved and reposted this.

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  62. To the prospective John Muir parents, good luck with that list of demands for the district. Do you really imagine you're going to get SFUSD to match PTA contributions, or to move to change the "racial balance" at the school based on your threats not to enroll your children there? Sorry, but I think this is a pretty good example of how not to approach the situation. Is there any school that gets it's PTA contributions matched? I've never hard of such a thing. And I don't know that it would even be legal to mandate population changes based on race.

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  63. Thank you Lauren.

    Kate removes entire threads if she doesn't like what is written about her and she links to her SfGate blog because she gets 2 cents every time anyone visits the link.

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  64. Amy, could you address us directly? Why do you remove so may comments and threads? Whay hasn't the John Muir poat been put back up?

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  65. Just read on Jeremy's blog that he is taking his kid private. This has got to be the shortest school turnaround on record. Er, uh, I mean about face!

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