Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NPR segment

For those of you who listened to this morning's Forum program on NPR--all I can say is that it was not easy. I'm feeling as if everything I said was wrong. When a caller phoned to say that she had been assigned to De Avila and that the school needs a play structure, my response was something along the lines of "Stop complaining! You need to get that playground built! Parents can do it" I'm sorry if I came off as insensitive. I would have preferred to explain this in much more compassionate, empathetic terms, but you have to understand that Scott Schafer was signaling at me to hurry up and make my point asap. What I should have said is that I know how it feels to not get into one of your seven schools. I know that it's hard and I can't imagine how scared you must feel. But you might want to consider going to this new school because it sounds like a great opportunity and there's a real opportunity for you here to be a part of a community that will build a school from the ground up. And I can go on and on about things that I should have said. I'm not a professional spokesperson. Rather I'm just a parent who loves her school and who wants others to realize that S.F. public schools are great. Unfortunately, we have to go through the Student Assignment System to get into a school and this is a very tough, complicated, emotional process. It's not easy to be a cheerleader for public schools when you have to talk about the very controversial assignment process at the same time.

72 comments:

  1. Amy - I thought you did a good job!

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  2. Me too. It is tough, especially when you are going through it. When you are out the other side, and have worked through the fear of going to a school like JOES or DeAvila, and realize that in many (not all) cases it's going to be fine, and you get to know all your kids' classmates, then you can take in the bigger issues. No one wants to hear this though, when they are going through it.

    You did fine.

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  3. Don't kick yourself for telling the caller to stop complaining. I was cheering you. Someone needed to say it, and it had to be someone like you who enrolled her kid in an unpopular school and is working to change it.

    I understand the host's response saying not every parent has the capability or capacity to help, but I'm certain that the average Forum listener has much greater than average resources at his/her disposal.

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  4. I missed the radio, but read the SFGate post. And let me also say thanks for an amazing blog that allows so many of us air our thought, questions and anxieties. My only issue is that I really don't feel parents are complaining when the bare minimun is not being met at the public schools. I firmly believe it is not the parents responsibility to get a play structure. There are some things that should be a given at schools (books, crayons, toilet paper, etc). I get raising money for extras, but is a play structure really an extra?

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  5. Alright how can I releive some of this stress? I don't want to sit here and complain or whine, I screwed up and missed the deadline. If I had gotten it in on time, I may have been satisfied at this point. Knowing this makes my stress even worse. Okay its all my fault. NOW WHAT DO I DO?

    Its affecting my life and my children's lives right now. I am so stressed right now I can't sleep. I'm breastfeeding/pumping while at work and I can see my milk going away.

    We drove around to some of the schools that may be a possibility for us as Round 2. A few were better than I had thought (my partner is a SF native and when I showed him the list he said NO WAY but later admited there were one or two that would be okay) some were worse.

    If its in a neighborhood I wouldn't live in, why would I want my child to spend their days there?

    Sure I'm an elitest white bitch who wants the best for her child, just like you do.

    formerly worstmom2009

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  6. One thing that really irked me on the radio program was that Orla said that SFUSD was considering opening a new school, De Avila. Yet in reality many families have already been assigned to this school. If SFUSD is unable to get it together to open De Avila, these families will have to be reassigned to another school. Unless it's truly the case that De Avila is only a possibility, Orla should have used different wording.

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  7. Same with upping K class sizes. They are "thinking" of upping the class sizes or they already have? I thought class sizes have already been upped to 22.

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  8. Agreed, 11:43, but DeAvila is a special case. For those who can deal with the uncertainties inherent in joining a school at the ground floor, it is truly an opportunity to help shape the school. It will be a high-performing one, given that it will be attracting (frankly) high-performing families--Chinese immigrants. It is providing language immersion--Cantonese and then Mandarin down the road.

    Of course, not all families can deal with the scenario of building a school from scratch, but for those who can, congratulations. However, it will certainly mean being activist parents--both pushing the district for necessities and raising money for other things.

    Several school communities have raised money to replace their aging playground equipment. It's certainly not unheard of that parents do this! Kaboom has provided grant money and recruited outside volunteers to do a "barn-raising" kind of thing on several schools' playgrounds--there is a grants process.

    I think that was the heart of Amy's reply. It's a great opportunity--make the most of it! Or--decide that you don't want to be a hands-on parent, and look somewhere else for a school, public or private, that is already "baked." But that is the deal at DeAvila this year. If it were me, I would so be there.

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  9. Amy--

    You did fine and I don't think your comment was out of line, it's the reality.

    A play structure or lack of one is not a valid reason to choose one school over another; there are so many more important things to factor into your decision.

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  10. But there is still a major discrepancy in the additional fundraising at all of the schools. At Claire Lillienthals recent silent auction - they raised $140,000 - granted they are a k-8 and they have no title 1 funding, but some schools are lucky to raise $5000.

    The lottery system is not helping those who need it most and is definitely not helping the achievement gap...the BOE needs to make changes now and be strategic. They have been sitting on their hands for years!!! The consent decree was lifted 2-3 years ago!

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  11. 11:56, would you then support a school assignment process that locks us all into specific schools in an integrated way? If your assigned school in such a scenario was in the Tenderloin, would you be happy to send your child there, knowing that it is fully integrated and that you have a secure assignment and none of the stress of the lottery? (Assuming you had access to a bus from your neighborhood to alleviate transport issues.) That is how we would get fully integrated schools. Except, oh yeah, we would then have even worse white flight. It's complex--trying to appease the white/affluent set while serving the rest. I would not want to be a BOE member!

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  12. From what I have heard, tonight the BOE is voting on increasing class size to 22 students and the opening of De Avila.

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  13. sfmom (formerly worst mom)--

    time to stop beating yourself up. I read your blog post about being pregnant and all that. what's done is done. you are no worse off than any family that is about to move into the district from another city.

    so, you liked a couple of the schools that are possibilities for round 2? good. put those down. waitpool at a school that is at least semi-realistic--sunnyside might be one, though is climbing in popularity. what about glen park, down the street? fabulous neighborhood. i'd have that on my round 2 list if i were you. paul revere *might* open up a little. hillcrest and e.r. taylor are nice schools (seriously). joes, definitely, and sheridan is worth considering.

    trying to be realistic here. these are not bad schools. there are dysfunctional schools in the system, but these are not they. there is a difference between low-income (and therefore lower test scores) and dysfunctional. if you get one that is functional even if low-income, your kid will be okay, certainly at least for kinder if not well beyond. i think glen park is very ripe for turnaround anyway, with an upcoming change in leadership and overall middle class neighborhood around it.

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  14. Thanks, Amy. That's why Orla didn't say "for sure" about DeAvila and 22 kids--the BOE still has to vote, officially. They will. But Orla has to be correct in her language, and not assume.

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  15. I have thought of the uneven fundraising thing as well. Could the SFUSD do something like pool fundraising. Or a part of it?

    Say CL raises 140,000, 20% of that would go into a fund that would be distributed to schools who's fundraising isn't as successful.

    Is that unfair? Not really, schools who have low fund raising arn't that way because the parents are lazy or don't care. And I don't think 20% would be a deterent to schools who do rais this much.

    Another thing I noticed on tours is that some schools have 'supplies' over flowing in corridors, closets and classroom shelves while other schools have none. Can some excess at the more sucessful schools be shared?

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  16. Doesn't anyone think about what happens INSIDE of the school, be it a school that's failing or a non-existent school like De Avila? Forget about greening and play structures and gymnasiums and everything else physical in nature. Who is your child's kindergarten teacher going to be? Why are we settling for school assignments at schools where there is no staff? Would you settle for this if you were living in a small town, or the suburbs, or at decent urban schools such as Alvarado or Clarendon? In each of these cases you know who your child's teacher will be, or at least know which three teachers have been at the school for many years and that you will get one of them.

    There is no principal for De Avila, nor are there teachers, because it does not yet exist. There is no curriculum (well, I guess it'll be the same teach-to-the-test idiocy as other SFUSD schools).

    Why does San Francisco Family A get to send their child to Clarendon while San Francisco Family B gets to send their child to a school that doesn't exist, and they as parents are going to have to do all of the hard work of building the school's base?

    I can't believe that posters like 11:51 have the audacity to say that people should go to a school that "baked" if they don't want to be part of a school that needs a lot of work. Your comment is tempered by the fact that your child(ren) attend a school that is not struggling, or at least some component, most likely the immersion program, is not struggling (take a look at the General Education component to your school... would you enroll you child in it?), and you have forgotten that the reason people are reading and posting here is because they have NOT been assigned to a school that is "baked." And it is unlikely that, at the end of six months of stressing out over it, they will be anywhere other than at a struggling school.

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  17. Thanks 12:08

    Those are the schools we are considering except ER Taylor had a significant waitlist last year, so it's isn't a posibility.

    I spoke with the head of the EPC at the meeting last saturday and she felt those schools would be long shots, she expects them to be full after round 1. I specifically asked about J oretga, Sheridan and Sunnyside. The reason Glen Park isn't a good chance is that there is only one GE class (22 spots). Though its on our radar. When I first moved to the neighborhood I thought GP would be better than Sunnyside but didn't get a good feeling when I toured.

    As to 'kate's' comment: I hope the BOE approves De Avila and class size to 22, since they've all been assigned that way. Shouldn't this have been approved before they sent out the acceptance letters? How screwed up is this system? (retorical question)

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  18. I think you did a great job Amy. You told your experience and offered advice to others going through the same thing now. I think people who didn't get a school choice are stressed but you are a perfect example that if you wait it out or explore some other paths you might not have, you will find a school that you like.

    Don't apologize because some are leaving not nice comments, it must be hard to be on the spot having to respond on the radio with Scott hurrying things along!

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  19. Hi Amy,

    A couple of comments. First, you might want to change the title to KQED. Forum is a local show, not part of NPR which is the national network. It's semantics but I have worked in broadcasting and they are different entities.

    Second, I only caught the first half but I thought you sounded good. I don't know what I would have said and I have been living the process. You had a lot of empathy but -- just as here -- you also are a great support and advocate.

    Third, for DeAvila. Don't get me started. I posted this on another thread but FYI to everyone, they have oversubscribed that school because they expect some families will not be up for the uncertainty. (150 offers to fill 110 K and 1 spots) Yes, DA will be open to people to list or waitpool in Round 2 but given the number of assignments they sent out, I really am not sure if there will be much movement there at the end of the day.

    And, to all the DA parents, I understand there are real risks and concerns but honestly it seems to me the opportunity to start fresh and with a premium program like Cantonese Immersion is such a gift, I do wish they would stop complaining. I am pretty bitter about the fact that the district assigned families there based on what they put in Round 1. I don't know how else they would do it but it really feels like some people got a fast track into this new school and that it is not something that was available to *everyone*, therefore to me, very inequitable. Harrumph.

    And fourth, I was just discussing with someone the vast gap between the $100k and $200k+ school PTAs and the $1000-2000 PTAs. I am sure those parents raising money for Lillienthal and Clarendon would feel otherwise but it seems to me something like the MLB high budget cap system should be put in place. Maybe people wouldn't mind as much if there was a sister school system, where they know what school and population their funds are helping. There has been talk about helping other schools with advice, etc but why don't some of the richly endowed schools look at adopting a more needy school?

    Sigh. 10 days into this so-called process, and I guess I still have a lot of complaints.

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  20. 12:12

    No, I'm saying that some people will be up for the challenge and opportunity of a start-up school. You may not be in this group, but for some people, who really want immersion, for example, it is a huge opportunity that would otherwise be denied them.

    I'm sorry, but I just can't think that opening DeAvila as an immersion program is a bad decision. Yes, there are many unknowns. But the likelihood that it will be GOOD is very high, given the success of other, similar programs, and given the demographics of those who will be attracted to it. It's a gamble I would take, for sure. Just as some people are willing to take a gamble on a new private school (I remember when Friends first opened, for example), there are those who will relish this opportunity, and good for them. Someone has to be the pioneer, right?

    In terms of curriculum, I'd guess they will use the curriculum from WP and AFY, since it is already developed and tested.

    I'm sorry that you don't like your assignment at DeAvila. I hope you get a waitpool spot at a place that is more of a match for your family's needs--seriously, I'm not being snarky about that.

    I just don't think the district can be faulted for responding to increased demand (in overall apps and for more language programs) by opening a new school. Yeah, there will be speed bumps as they ramp it up, but again, for many this will still be an amazing opportunity. Guarantee you it will fill up this year and be popular next year in the lottery.

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  21. A play structure is a consideration for my child's school. There are many things to consider: proximity, hours, teachers, principal, diversity, test scores, PTA. How can one parent say what is or isn't important to someone else. And frankly, some parents just can't be hands-on or active parents. The reasons run the spectrum. Making a blanket statement about how we all want a "baked" school is insulting.

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  22. Good luck, sfmom! It sounds like you have a handle on what is out there, and you are trying to be realistic. I think by the end of this you'll be fine.

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  23. And just to follow up my comment on spreading the wealth around, I actually have made a personal commitment that -- should I get our waitpool school (which actually isn't particularly high on the fundingraising scale) -- I plan to make a donation to the PTA of the school where we are assigned. Anyone else?

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  24. In addition to SFUSD I would place blame with Prop 13 and how it has contributed to the detriment of California's schools.

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  25. Amy - while I totally did not agree with you on the playground comment, I do appreciate you setting up this blog as it has been a great sounding board.

    The other commentators - Orla OKeefe, et al, sugar coat and say the same comments time and again, about how they know the system needs to change - blah blah blah and that you do get second chance at the lucky wheel to end up with a school. Why dont they tell the truth? I went to the counseling session on Sat, I know what my chances are for a school such as Clarendon - zero. Why should I have to settle for a school that I didnt want in the first place? If you do waitlist and hold out for the popular schools you will probably go to the ten day count - who wants to agonize for that long? I mean really entering kindergarten should be a fun time for you, your family and your child. It should not be a total nightmare that keeps haunting you!

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  26. I think it's great if people want to take a chance on building a school from the ground up. But doesn't anyone care that your Ks and 1s will never enjoy the experience of having older kids at their school?

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  27. I missed the radio interview, but reading about your playground comment reminds me of the moment that crystallized the difference between public and private in my mind. My child was her last year at preschool, and a friend of mine asked me and others in our office to pretend to be parents at her child's SF charter school and accompany her down to the school for a meeting a city bureaucrat to push for the expected groundbreaking on the schools new playground. My friend (overextended single working mom) had spent months on this endeavor, raising funds, helping to choose a design, getting city approval, etc. When they finally had the go ahead, they were informed that whoever approved the project at city hall had left, and his replacment had decided to scrap all pending projects initiated by his predecessor, and that they could forget the playground. This new bureaucrat did not even bother to show up for this school meeting, adding insult to injury.

    The philosophy of my child's preschool and the independent school we ulitmately chose is to make all decisions through the lens of what is best for the children. Despite the best intentions of the school community and principal, that just cannot happen when egotistical politicians and bureacrats are ultimately in charge.

    Big up to all the courageous and hardworking parents committed to public schools. You are truly my betters.

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  28. SFMOM, you and I are the same person!

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  29. Oh god, there's TWO of them?

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  30. But SFmamma, if hundreds of parents are requesting Clarendon, what system would you suggest that would please them all?

    Regarding playground equipment, money to provide any new/improved amenity simply has to come out of other resources. That's not SFUSD's fault; it's because of critical shortages of state funds. It does go back to Prop. 13 and the whole notion that taxes are so evil that doing without services is preferable -- I wonder what nation these anti-tax crusaders view as a model, maybe Somalia?

    But with the current situation, school communities have to set priorities or look for other funding (grants).

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  31. you did a good job-- after all I was interested enough to come to the blog and check it out. That said, I think there are a lot of issues that were not brought up and the Forum left me (another 0/7 parent) feeling helpless and more in the slump than ever. The tours were in many ways a waste of time and the city could care less about the middle income parent of a white child. If one got lucky-- great but for those of us that did not, too bad so sad. Go private or leave the city. that message came across on Forum too. The word 'Diverse' is a joke!

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  32. Amy should practice pronouncing the word TOURS.

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  33. Since the SFUSD is not forthcoming when asked about the chance of getting one of the school when sibling is not considered, I have come up with an estimation myself. My math is not perfect. So please point it out if you notice any mistake.

    The official number is 81% get their top 7 choices this year. People are questioning this number as a good portion of them are siblings that are assigned preferentially.

    Let's assume 30% of family has one child, 50% have 2 and 20% have 3. And I assume the number of families with more than 3 children are very small. For 100 families, there will be a total of 190 children. 30 are the only child, 50 are older sibling in a 2 children family and 20 are the oldest child from a 3 children family. 90 children will be younger siblings, which makes up 47% of all children.

    With this number we can look at the SFUSD figure again. And I can break it down into finer level. 47% gets their top choice because of their older sibling, this leaves 34% who are the first child to score their top choice, and 19% failed to get any of their choice. The actual success rate, taking the younger sibling out of the picture, is 34/(34+19) = 64%. That is about 2/3 success rate.

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  34. March 24, 2009 1:23 PM

    I didn't get the message to go private or leave the city from Forum. I know it must be disappointing to not get a school that you wanted. But is the school you got assigned to so bad that you would have to leave the city? What about it is so bad? The test scores? The demographics? The people that make up these schools are the people you live with in the city. So why feel angry and entitled to go to a "better" school that does not accurately reflect the city you live in?

    Sorry if I sound insensitive. I guess I just don't really get all the anger towards SFUSD when people don't get into the oversubscribed schools. Waht are they supposed to do about it? Sure there are ways the lottery could probably improve. But everyone can't all fit into the top 20 schools. To make the under performing schools better, people do need to get in there and do some work. I know some people can't. But when people complain about all the work that needs to be done and they feel it should already be taken care of for them, it just doesn't make sense to me. The top performing schools are probably like that due to all the parental involvement and work that went in in the past. The top private schools also rely on and require a lot of parental involvement.

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  35. Okay Amy-

    Here goes - I don't appreciate your interview or article in SFgate.
    I can't describe to you how unhelpful it is to continually get false and misleading information from people saying - "the schools are all good" or 80% of parents get their first 7 school picks. In my community - the number of parents 0/7 are 80.
    The information in your article is simply not accurate - and you do a great disservice to struggling parents going through an insanely stressful time to get a lot of false information thrown at them.

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  36. To 2:38 pm -- I'm afraid it is so much more than "just work" involved in turning a public school around. I have two kids at a supposedly "up and coming" elementary school in the city, and, after four years of being on the PTA and being fully involved, I've come to the conclusion that the school just can't be turned around. And it can't be for a variety of reasons --we've got a principal who is simply tone-deaf when it comes to dealing with parents; and we've got demographic issues that can't lightly be changed either. And, no, turning around a public school is not "like" parental involvement at a private school. The principal at my kids' school would not last one minute at a private school. But in the crazy bureaucracy that is SFUSD, she has not only survived, but thrived. We've had PTA member after PTA member give up and pull their kids out after trying to deal with her. Just to give you all one real world example of a bone-headed principal at work: she recently vetoed a PTA plan to publicize an upcoming fundraiser by sending a notice to Kate to put on this blog. Why, you ask? She was worried "too many families" might come to it! What happened? Not enough kids came and it was a financial disaster for the PTA. For every step forward the PTA tries to make, we get two steps back from that type of behavior. Nothing parents do is going to change that type of school.

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  37. My family and I recently went through the school lottery process, and very much appreciate the willingness of Amy and others to discuss their experiences online.

    It is clear to me that we have a concerned and motivated parent population here in SF and I am excited to be part of that. But there's no doubt that the school assignment process is broken. What seems to be lacking in this and other conversations about the SF school system is inclusion of, and petitioning of, the politicians who can actually help to affect meaningful change in the public school system here. We need to insist on that. These are our children, and our tax dollars, and we deserve so much better than what we have today. I like the new playgrounds that have sprung up during this mayor's term in office, but that's all bread and circuses compared to what's going on with the school system.

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  38. The actual success rate, taking the younger sibling out of the picture ... is about 2/3 success rate.

    Now... take out people who applied to, and got, schools the people here wouldn't touch with ten-foot pole. What would be the SFK Files success rate?

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  39. Oh please, 3:19.

    Amy herself stated on the radio that pushing the 80% figure (with sibs) was somewhat misleading and over-encouraging of the concept that it is easy to get a popular school. She acknowledged her own mistakes in believing she would get AFY last year. Even Orla O'Keefe, while not being forthcoming with non-sib rates, didn't try to say that the 80% figure doesn't include sibs. She was factual, even if she dodged the underlying question.

    I'd be shocked if the 80 people you know who went 0/7 didn't apply to mostly the same schools with terrible odds.

    I know, I know--you all hate to hear that. It makes you mad to hear that. But denying it doesn't change it. You knew the system, you knew what happened last year. You knew you were much more likely to get a school if you looked farther afield. There are odds involved, and it doesn't take a genius to read them. Parents have *some* control in this process, probably more than they do in the insane private school app process where it seems incredibly arbitrary who gets picked (unless you have big money, duh).

    Anyway, Amy was incredibly balanced on the show today. More than Jane Kim, who did seem to suggest that "all schools are good." I know that's not true, and Amy knows that's not true. It's just that more of you would not get assigned to the truly challenging places like John Muir if you would just add in a couple of schools that are good and promising, and not limit yourselves to the rock star 20.

    Of course it would be great if everyone could have their exact pick of schools, but it is not the reality in front of you. Even neighborhood systems are overrun--there is an article in the New York Times today about kids being booted from their neighborhood school. There is no fair way to allocate choice spots; you can only work to make more choice spots. By which I do not mean you have to accept John Muir, but you do have to look at more promising places in between Clarendon and John Muir, if you want a realistic shot at not going 0/7. If you do choose only the rock star spots, then suck it up and stop complaining to the rest of us that were willing to consider more diverse schools for our children.

    If you will accept nothing less than the rock star spots for your special snowflake, then you can wait it out in the waitpools like everyone else who didn't hit the jackpot; go private; or move. But this is your choice, just as it was your choice to list only bad-odds schools to start with.

    The assignment system has its flaws, but it is trying to do an impossible job. It is not at all clear how a new system would address the basic contradictions in trying to shoehorn too many parents into too few "acceptable" schools. Railing at Orla, or, especially, Amy, doesn't solve the problem. The real issue is with fully funding the schools and this will take people of incomes greater than 250K to pay higher taxes (as suggested by Obama), or a like tax reform.

    grrr....so steamed that you are yelling at Amy like that, when she has been through it all herself and does us all a favor by maintaining this space with a fair amount of grace.

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  40. While I understand the angst families are experiencing, it reminds me of my tween when she doesn't get what she thinks she deserves. I understand her dissapointment and angst, particularly when it is an experience that is new to her and given that she doesn't have the benefit of experience to know that she will get through it just not the way that she imagined or expected.

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  41. 3:23--

    so sorry to hear of your experience. yours is a very good example of why a key element of a turnaround school is the principal, including openness to change and parent involvement.

    you wouldn't care to share the name of the school, would you? totally understand if not.....

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  42. Amy does maintain this blog with grace, but your posts are sarcastic and condescending. Amazing how even anonymous posts can be instantly recognizable by their tone.

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  43. Thank you 3:47 for a humorous lift to my day.

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  44. Even with a great principal and active and involved PTA, publics are too easily hog-tied not only by bureaucrats, but teachers unions that thwart administrators from doing what's best for kids -- canning ineffective teachers, for exaample. I'm all for unions except in schools -- kids need to come first. (And when kids come first, caring administrators place a high premium on attracting, rewarding and obtaining the best possible teachers, obviating the need for a union, in my opinion.)

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  45. I agree about Amy's maintaining this blog with grace. It's out of line to blast her, though it wouldn't be the first time that an angry parent has snapped at a volunteer fellow parent for offering support and help.

    3:59, whom did you have in mind as "instantly recognizable"? I'm probably the target of most of that kind of speculation (sometimes accurately but often not), but the "special snowflake" post wasn't mine. -- Caroline Grannan

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  46. "When they finally had the go ahead [PLAY STRUCTURE], they were informed that whoever approved the project at city hall had left, and his replacment had decided to scrap all pending projects initiated by his predecessor, and that they could forget the playground."

    We had the same problem at Sherman Elementary School in 2002.

    The parents had raised money for a play structure and even got one donated from the Presidio.

    But the bureaucrats at Franklin St. kept delaying construction.

    Finally, a parent got a TV station involved (KRON). The station came down and filmed some second-graders standing around on the playground wishing they had their new play structure.

    The district went into action after the TV report.

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  47. It was a tough situation and you've done better than I would have. Thanks for the support.

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  48. Truthfully ... Amy, I think you would be sad if you were assigned to a brand new school that "shares" a space with City College adults that can come and go as they please. In fact, any adult can go on the premise without looking suspicious.

    This is a BIG problem.

    Your pie in the sky attitude really negates the problem.

    SFSD doesn't do a good job at delivering high quality academic and safe schools.

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  49. March 24, 2009 3:19 PM - You are so right on! I am so sick of hearing how wonderful blah blah it is for my little girl to be 0/7 John Muir. ^%$@#&^% you, I am NOT sending my little girl to school in THE PROJECTS.

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  50. which, of course, is NOT what Amy said today or anytime, but whatever, don't let that stop you from ranting on about it.

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  51. To 3:49 -- I'm the person who commented at 3:23 pm. I understand wanting to hear commenters talk about specific schools that they are dealing with, but I'm afraid identifying schools is only going to make people affiliated with the school feel bad. See, for example, the Lauren Smith letter about hurtful comments related to Muir. And I know Kate has asked several times that folks hold back on identifying schools when criticizing. My comments were really meant to be illustrative of situations that all schools face: lots of schools have principals that are tone-deaf about how to work with parents and it doesn't help to identify which specific school it is. Rather, I'd love it if SFUSD folks saw my postings and said, you know, there's a constructive criticism -- how about let's do a seminar for principals, bring in the PPS folks, and sit around brainstorming on "best practices" for how to build PTAs, Site Councils, etc. Good practices, bad practices. Hell, I'd love it if PPS could just do a do's and don't and email it to SFUSD to give to all the principals. Or maybe if principals start reading these comments and, rather than get defensive because their school is being attacked, read constructive posts like mine and say, geez, you know, maybe I could change the way I work with MY PTA. So that's why I'd rather keep my comments non-specific.

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  52. What happened to the following? Why was it pulled from the SF K Files site?


    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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  53. I just finished listening to the program. I understand everyone's frustration with the system. (I'm 0/7, and I feel like I'm going to scream if I hear one more time that "everyone who got nothing put unrealistic choices on their list." Hm....maybe it also has something to do with the fact that there were 400 additional applicants this year? I had schools on my list that would have all but guaranteed my child a spot just last year, let alone 2-3 years ago. I don't think it's a character flaw that I also put my popular neighborhood school that's three blocks away on the list.)

    I'm truly baffled, though, that people are directing anger at Amy, who has given us such a gift with this blog. She pointed out the frustrating parts of the system. I'm hoping her positive attitude rubs off on me as I tackle Round 2...and beyond!

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  54. Why did Amy remove Lauren's post?

    It was blunt, but rang true.

    I hate censorship.

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  55. I agree. Put Lauren Smith's post back and re-open the forum.

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  56. I am not mad at Amy/Kate, I am angry with the school district & the bizarre position of being accused of elitism/meanness/etc if I don't want my gentle, shy child going to a school in the projects, esp. one with such appalling stats & kids who don't speak English. How much of a teacher's tome is spent dealing with language issues? What does that do for the kids who already speak English & can sit still?

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  57. OK, so is it Kate or Amy who is doing this blog? Is one or the other a pseudonym. I'm now very confused.

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  58. Trying to stifle negative comments about John Muir as Smith is trying to do is despicable. Furthermore, claiming that any parent who voices her or his displeasure at being assigned to John Muir is a racist is deplorable. Smith should be ashamed.

    Talking about problems in an open manner represents the essence of democracy. Parents have every right to be inflamed that their child has been assigned to John Muir, a school that falls so far below the median of San Francisco public schools. My child didn't get sent to Muir (although we got one almost as bad) but if he or she did then I would be vocal as well. Absent people clamoring for change vocally - and change is so obviously needed at John Muir - then no substantive change will occur.

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  59. 8:19 pm ---

    i was at the meeting about de avila last night. i just do not understand the huge concern over city college and the dangers of haight street.

    if you do not feel comfortable with the location of the school, you should not send your children there. this is what the principal of starr king told parents on tour. it's simple and true. no one can convince you that it is safe if you do not believe it so. there are some people who feel comfortable leaving their children at john muir, rosa parks, starr king and a number of other schools in neighborhoods with public housing projects. and, there are those who just don't.

    i have taught at city college john adams since 1996. i cannot speak for all the students, but from my experience with hundreds of them, i can say they are very respectful and mature. i have had NO problems with john adams students ever. you probably have the same chance of another parent or staff member at the school being dangerous around your children.

    i am a protective parent but i am starting to feel like there are some paranoid parents around here who are assuming the worst. remember that kinders are almost always with their teachers and should always be supervised. (funny, they follow the rules better than all the older kids and this makes it easier!)

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  60. 9:08 PM - Thank you!!! I am so sick of the political correctness overriding obvious reality; John Muir is NOT good school. It is in a bad neighborhood. The people who work there & the students characters/feeling are not at issue. It is a bad school in a bad neighborhood = facts.

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  61. Jennifer, are you drinking the PC kool-aid? Honey, I'm sure ALL of your students are perfect angels. I just don't want my 5 year old (or 6 yo, or 7 or 8...) near them when they are "hanging out."

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  62. 8:19 -

    one more thing. from my experience, adults can walk on to many sfusd campuses unchecked. i've done it myself while researching schools.

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  63. no, i'm not drinking kool-aid.

    my students don't hang out. they are working adults with jobs and school. you should come and spend some time at the campus while they are there.

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  64. Jennifer, honey, take grad level class in logic. Just b/c some SFUSD schools are not secure means that it is OK for DeAvila to be full of Adult Learners around small children?

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  65. Jennifer, if I go to DeAvila tomorrow I won't see any CCSF students hanging out/swearing into cell phones/smoking?

    Are you serious?

    PS I live on Frederick Street. I know d**n well what I am talking about.

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  66. 9:19 -

    i guess if you are uncomfortable with the set-up, you will choose a different school. i was just trying to give my perspective. i warned you that i could not speak for ALL students, just share my experience.

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  67. 9:11 - I couldn't agree more. Not wanting your child to go to the 5295th ranked school in California (out of 5335) is NOT middle-class entitlement. It is human entitlement. Schools that are performing THAT low should not even be choices - they should simply be closed. My child was assigned to John Muir. He won't be going there.

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  68. 9:19 here -

    I, and many others CANNOT CHOOSE a different school. This is part of the problem. And, frankly, so are your sullen, obsfucating, illogical, and unhelpful attitude and comments.

    Just because YOU SAY all of your adult students are wonderful hard-working sweethearts doesn't make it OK for very small children to be in a school full of them.

    FYI - go you REALLY think a class of 22+ students are all supervised all of the time?

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  69. 9:32 PM - Thank you! It seems to me quite obvious! Why would anyone be OK with John Muir?

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  70. I don't understand how you can not think your comments are mean and elitest. The people that work or live in a school or neighborhood are real people with feelings. Their neighborhood or school does not define them. Why do you deserve better than them? And why do their feelings not matter? There can be informed constructive criticism without ranting on about the "badness" of a school or the people in them.

    I don't think Smith was trying to stifle comments but remind people to proceed with a little common decency and respect regarding the people who work and attend the schools that so many people on the blog are upset about being assigned to.

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