Thursday, October 29, 2009

Town School for Boys

Reviewed by Claire

The Facts


School tours: by appointment – 415-921-3747

Location: 2750 Jackson Street

Grades: K-8

Total Enrollment: Approx. 400

Start time: 8:30 a.m.

Kindergarten size: 2 classes of 24 boys

Library: Huge and lovely with over 24,000 volumes

Tuition: Grades K-5: $23,710.00 (plus laptop fee for grade 5); Grades 6-8: $24,650.00

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: a challenging and rigorous education supplemented by a focus on fine arts, a single-sex environment, a community which emphasizes and communicates the values of responsibility and respect, a high teacher to student ratio(1:11)

Playground: Another land-locked city school but they’ve done a lot with what they have. The play space and play structure are on the roof and they have a nice indoor gym.

After-school program: Extended Day until 6:00pm also offer an “Enrichment Activities Program” providing interest-specific classes after school.

Language: Latin and Spanish

Financial Aid: Tuition Assistance is awarded based on need (calculated through SSS and adjusted for SF cost of living.) Tuition Assistance and Admission are considered separately.

General Information:

The Tour:

We began in the Head’s office. I was late and so stood outside the room and had a hard time hearing what was happening. My bad. A parent docent led the tour and several other parents were along to answer questions and shepherd us along. We visited both Kindergarten classes. The teachers wear an amplification microphone that projects their voice around the room. It was explained that these were tools to help auditory learners. The boys in Room A were sitting in a circle and taking turns saying good morning. The boys were focused and delighted as they practiced politely saying hello to their neighbor and then turning so the next boy could have his chance. Room B was transitioning from one task to the next and the boys were having a bumpy time getting from place to place. The teacher was patient and clearly not rattled by a lot of energy in the room.

We saw an empty first grade classroom. The class was spacious, bright and cheerful with lots of art and children’s work up on the walls. I noticed there were many posters here (and around the entire school) emphasizing being a good citizen, being respectful, etc.

They use the Chicago Math system and talked about the concept of “Spiral Learning” which aims to strengthen students' understanding of basic concepts by revisiting the concepts periodically with different contexts and with increasing sophistication throughout the curriculum.

We briefly met the Coach in a spacious indoor gym. The docent showed us the outside play area – there are upper and lower Astroturfed “fields” on the rooftop. It’s a great solution for a city building. There is a play structure for the younger boys. The sports program has an emphasis on character building and every boy who wants to play on a team has the opportunity. The Coach’s motto is “A team for every boy. A league for every team.” There is daily PE along with two recesses.

We visited the large, bright, lovely art studio. The artwork the boys produce is all over the school and clearly a well-deserved source of pride.

All upper school boys have their own personal laptop (a cost in addition to tuition.) Upper school has a focus on media literacy and character education. We visited an upper school science class and peeked in a few other classrooms. Again there was a lot of wonderful student art on the walls along with examples of work. The docent pointed out a math activity using sports statistics and talked about how great the teachers were at engaging boys utilizing their interests.

We met the lower school head who explained that the boys are divided into “Family” Groups which include one boy from each grade along with a teacher. Together they work to do community service types of activities. The groups stay together throughout their years at Town.

Claire’s Impressions: The facility is top-notch and there is no doubt that the education they deliver is excellent. The boys and teachers looked happy and focused as they went about their day. The docent didn’t talk much about the single-sex aspect of the school but the literature they gave me a bit more information. A letter from the head explained that their teaching is differentiated as much as possible to meet boys’ learning needs. On the tour I saw a consideration for boys’ needs for movement and engaging their high activity level. I heard talk of “competitive spirit” and quite a lot about sports. All good things but I walked away feeling that the definition of “boy” was slightly narrow and very traditional.

I considered not mentioning this since it probably says more about me than about Town but it’s honestly my most lasting impression from the tour. We were taken though the cafeteria and the docent mentioned the locally sourced organic offerings for the boys. On the tables were loaves of white bread, jars of Skippy peanut butter, individual packs of chips and juice boxes. One person pointed and said “What’s that?” and we were told that the “family groups” were packing lunches for the homeless. Now, I don’t shop for fresh produce at Whole Foods and then hand it out at the Civic Center so I’m the last person to throw stones here but the juxtaposition of the healthy food for the kids and the crap being given away was startling to me. What was even more startling was the palpable wave of relief from the rest of the tour group and the docent’s nervous laughter as the question was answered– I felt like the only one in the room with mouth agape. I left wondering how often I might find myself in that position.

111 comments:

  1. I'll be interested to see if anyone comments on the Chicago Math / spiral learning curriculum (developed at the same school the Obama girls used to attend before their dad was elected president). This math curriculum is also used in SFUSD and caused a lot of conversation on this blog when it was introduced last year. I have liked it fine, and have found it to be a good midpoint on the pendulum swing between "traditional" math pedagogy and New Math such as I learned back in the 70's. But others may differ! It is interesting to me that it is taught in Town as well in our public schools, and wonder whether current Town parents--or other parents whose kids are learning it in other private or public schools--might comment on how their kids are doing with it. Or any teachers care to comment? Would love to hear how you feel the kids are learning math with this system.

    I found your review interesting, Claire, but will reserve comment beyond the math curriculum question as I know so little about the world you describe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review, including the comments about the food! Hopefully all reviewers will include that kind of impression when something hits home to them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "I considered not mentioning this since it probably says more about me than about Town but it’s honestly my most lasting impression from the tour. We were taken though the cafeteria and the docent mentioned the locally sourced organic offerings for the boys. On the tables were loaves of white bread, jars of Skippy peanut butter, individual packs of chips and juice boxes. One person pointed and said “What’s that?” and we were told that the “family groups” were packing lunches for the homeless. Now, I don’t shop for fresh produce at Whole Foods and then hand it out at the Civic Center so I’m the last person to throw stones here but the juxtaposition of the healthy food for the kids and the crap being given away was startling to me. What was even more startling was the palpable wave of relief from the rest of the tour group and the docent’s nervous laughter as the question was answered– I felt like the only one in the room with mouth agape. I left wondering how often I might find myself in that position."

    Let me get this straight, Town is giving food to the homeless and instead of you applauding their effort (or at least keeping your mouth shut) you are complaining that what they are giving away is "crap". By the way Thomas Keller uses Skippy peanut butter at the French Laundry so don't dine there because he is going to serve you "crap" too. What an asinine comment.

    Note I'm not a Town parent.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Claire, I'm sorry that because you are generous enough to post honest reviews of schools you're touring and they happen to be private, you are going to get a lot more unkindness than you deserve, hidden behind anonymity. I doubt that will happen to the public school reviewers in quite the same measure.

    As to the homeless, the SF Food Bank routinely distributes healthy, often organic, food to pantries and shelters. Town could easily picked up food there that is closer to what their own children eat for lunch. At the public schools, parents and principals are working to ensure that all kids, including the ones who get free lunch, are fed healthier meals -- not "organics for those who pay, crap for those who can't." So Claire's response seems eminently reasonable to me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's nothing reasonable about her or your position. One's charity need not be equivalent to what one consumes. You and Claire are claiming that it is wrong if one who wears couture goes out and buys 30 generic winter coats to give to the homeless. One who purchases fresh, wild, line caught salmon does wrong if that person then donates a bunch of canned salmon to a food bank. Your claim is absolutely absurd.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 6:56/7:10, it's quite possible to disagree -- even very strongly -- without hurling epithets like "asinine."

    It's not unreasonable to apply a standard that if the school culture supports healthy food for the students, it should apply the same standard to the food it distributes as charity.

    It's not the same as an off-brand winter coat, because junk food does harm -- and especially to low-income people who have less access to healthy foods and tend to have a far higher incidence of obesity and the ills that it causes, plus less access to health care. By contrast, the wearer reaps the same benefits from wearing a Target winter coat as from wearing a designer winter coat, with no harm.

    Still, one could disagree with that standard. But there's no need to be so nasty about it, or to treat the viewpoint as outrageously unfair to Town.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think the bigger issue for me would be the sense of noblesse oblige that that scenario might engender in my son. We volunteer regularly at a food pantry distributing bags of groceries (where the food supplied by the Food Bank is indeed quite reasonable and healthy). This is in our longtime neighborhood, and we know the regular volunteers, who are also guests of the pantry, as well as many of the regular guests. There is a great camaraderie, joking around, conversation. What I don't know is if there is interaction, or a relationship, between the sandwich-making kids at Town and those who eat the sandwiches, but it seems to me there is benefit in building that sense of being part of a community, or having a relationship with real people, when it comes to service projects. I can hardly fault any instinct toward generosity, but I'd like to cultivate that sense of community in my child.

    Also of note, there are several schools in the district that are sites for food distribution as part of the Food Banks network of neighborhood pantries. Paul Revere is one that I know of. This is to ensure that the kids and families are adequately fed beyond the free breakfasts and lunches. So is it community service when it is within and a part of your own community, and not some distant others'? I think so, but the dynamics are a little different.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have found every independent school tour I have been on this year full of hypocrisy (except one.) I am trying to be open, but they all leave me feeling a bit ill. Wish I could come away with different impressions.

    ReplyDelete
  9. 6:41 and 7:10: First of all, please be civil. "Absurd" and "asinine"

    Second of all, I believe that you should not give to charity what you would categorically refuse for yourself (as opposed to what you do not need anymore, or would not want in the first place for personal rather than health reasons). Otherwise, you are de facto considering needy people as less human than you are. I don't agree with people giving broken lamps, moldy toys, or torn-up clothing to the poor, any more than I agree with people distributing unhealthy food they would not eat themselves. It's insulting.

    And I too thought about noblesse oblige -- what are you teaching when you say to a kid, "Here, pack a lunch for someone that I'd consider inferior for your own consumption?" This is not a message I would want my child to get--and it's the biggest fear I have about private school. We work at a food pantry, too, where the people who need the food have names and faces, and my daughter eats a big breakfast with the volunteers, most of whom are also shopping at the pantry too. I feel a lot better about that than I would about junk food lunches sent to faceless others.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oops, sorry: I meant to write that "absurd" and "asinine" are offensive words to lob at another person.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Your statement that Town's definition of "boy" was a bit narrow captures my feelings about the school, spot-on. It seemed like a fabulous place that many boys would be lucky to attend, but a horrible match for my own son.

    In contrast, I absolutely loved Cathedral and felt that they really saw boys as *people* with all sorts of characteristics. I loved Cathedral and still to this day am sad that my now-3rd grader didn't get in- even though we absolutely love the school that he attends! I would highly recommend checking it out.

    ReplyDelete
  12. hmmmm...I actually love Skippy peanut butter and that's what I buy for my family, even though I know it's not the "correct" choice.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree with 6:41am. And I'm appalled with the reviewer's criticism of the school's effort.

    ReplyDelete
  14. At least some people self select (or self destruct) during the admissions process...

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Charity isn't when you give a dog a bone. Charity is when you're as hungry as the dog and you share the bone."

    --Joys of Yiddish

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jeez, people, when's the last time any of you made a sandwich for a homeless person?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Um, yesterday, 9:54.

    ReplyDelete
  18. We liked Town it just wasn't for us. It seems great for that aggressive sporty boy's boy but not so much for those outside that mold. I recall an incident where a town baseball team was playing another team and a child fell going to second base and was hurt. The cheer on the town side was "That's right, you can't take extra bases on us". Some dad's were echoing the comment. OK, I realize we live in a competitive world but that seemed a bit, much. So I think Town is great to hone that competitive spirit and aggresivness boys may have. Ours isn't like that and I suppose is just a bit softer. Cathedral seemed the opposite and was more geared toward the softer type. Stuart Hall was somewhere in between. Just an opinion.
    Oh and I agree, if they are helping out, I'm stunned that you are tearing them down for quality of the help. Keep in mind, they also could very well have given. . . nothing. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 9:54, not sandwiches but grocery bags, once a week.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I seem to recall from an earlier thread that the private school "reviewer" is going to be looking at both public and private schools. Might it make more sense to have the private school "reviewer" for the site be someone who's actually committed to private school? Maybe then we could avoid wasting bandwidth on criticizing a private school community for helping to feed the homeless and have a more relevant analysis of which schools may be the best fit for our families.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, because everyone knows that people who are really committed to private schools would never say anything critical of them.

    ReplyDelete
  22. OK, you guys are being ridiculous. So they can either make sandwiches using organic peanut butter from Whole Foods at $6 for a 16oz jar (.38/oz) or with Skippy peanut butter from Costco at $8.88 for two 48oz jars (.09/oz). Skippy is four times cheaper. They can either feed 100 people organic sandwiches or 400 people Skippy sandwiches. Are you seriously going to complain about that? Ask the people eating the sandwiches. I'm sure they aren't complaining.

    ReplyDelete
  23. 11:51 AM - A reviewer who is critical of feeding the homeless? Completely unacceptable.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 10:36 here again--

    And mostly not homeless people, who attend the soup kitchens at St. Anthony's, St. Martin's, etc. That is a serious set of needs there (mental illness, addiction, vets with PTSD) and they do need to be addressed.

    But there is another set of hunger-related needs in this town. The pantries supply grocery bags for people with homes who are nonetheless hungry or at risk for hunger--working poor, under/un-employed, single moms who 15 years ago would have had AFDC, undocumented elders who do not have access to social security. The Food Bank has set up a network of neighborhood pantries to provide groceries that can be used in the home, since many of those who are food-insecure do have homes. This is better because food can be stretched through the week, cooked at home in a culturally appropriate manner, and folks seem to think it is more dignified than the soup kitchen experience. These food pantries have been expanding throughout the city, and as another person mentioned, several SFUSD schools have them on-site once a week. Many of them welcome volunteers, and we have found that it is a good experience for a family.

    One more thing, the Food Bank gets a lot of its food from farmers who are over-supplied and whose food would rot. There are funny items that come through, but there is usually plenty of decent produce, bread, even some upscale items depending on what has been dumped/donated to the Food Bank that week. (It is also interesting to see the cultural differences in terms of who wants what kind of food--one of the elements is that people get to pick and choose what they want in their bag as they go through the line).

    ReplyDelete
  25. This thread is destined to become a public vs. private discussion.

    Look at the past few posts for public and for privates and the number of comments:
    McKinley -- 1 comment
    Town -- 23 comments
    Lafayette -- 8 comments
    The private school process -- 326 comments

    The public thread comments are ALL about how lovely the school is. The private school threads are mostly about bashing private schools.

    Advice to those of you against private schools -- go to the public school threads and write about how much you like them, the parent community, etc, and maybe you'll get more people to sign up for the tours if they see lots of good info in the comments. Please stop wasting time writing about how horrid the privates are though, because some of us are genuinely interested and you aren't going to change our minds.

    ReplyDelete
  26. This is incredibly relevant to people's choice of a private school, 11:51. I am a big fan of independent schools; I went to one, taught at one, and, if we could afford it, would strongly consider one for my child.

    But I would not send my child to a school, public or private, that sent the message that my child was worthy of organic healthy lunches and other people/their children were not. Period. Why not have the kids give up a lunch of their own and pack it for a hungry child? Or feed the Town kids Wonderbread, chips, Skippy, and Kool-Aid while the needy kids got the organic food? It would send a *very* different message.

    ReplyDelete
  27. 12:11 PM - Good for you. This has nothing to do with my review of the school.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It is setting up a straw man to criticize the reviewer for slamming them for feeding the homeless. That's not the issue she raised, is it? She didn't criticize the community service, but more or less the feeling of noblesse oblige around it. And I think that is a real issue for parents to consider, and one in which there may be real differences between the private schools--say, Live Oak versus Town, or as others have said, Cathedral versus Town. I think the point of these reveiews is to tease out these differences, some of which are not quantifiable but are real.

    I've posted elsewhere on this blog about my own experience in private middle school coming from the wrong side of the tracks as one of a couple scholarship students. The school did its community service in *my* neighborhood, and it was dripping with noblesse oblige in terms of how they went about it. It was very awkward for me!--these were my friends, this was my 'hood. Very different from the community involvement we had in my local elementary school growing up, or in my church, which was more like mutual aid and we all knew each other.

    It may be that Claire's impressions are not fair--I tend to think that one tour does not tell the whole story, for any school, and it is easy for one incident to color one's views inaccurately. But if this "noblesse oblige" issue is not really the case at Town, I would love to hear a description of how it is different from that. Similarly with the "boy's boy" atmosphere she describes.

    FWIW I'm also interested in the math curriculum discussion as SFUSD and others are using Everday Math now as well.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Is there any way to have the "public school mafia" stop commenting on threads re private schools?

    ReplyDelete
  30. 12:14--

    Apparently others ARE interested in this sort of description, including those who are considering private school for their child/ren like 12:11. They evidently do grapple with the ethical/social issues around private schools, both in general and at particular schools, which is why the topic gets so much attention. It just wouldn't last as a topic if it didn't hit some buttons.

    However, if it does not interest you, then skip over it, and ask questions that do interest you, or write your own review that focuses on the positives or on other qualities / negatives that seem more relevant to your search. If that pushes buttons too, then it will get a response as well. No need for defensiveness (which won't work anyway)--steer in another direction and see if that helps.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I feel the need to clarify that the anonymous post at 12:14 wasn't made by me.

    ReplyDelete
  32. mafia? like people are threatening to break your kneecaps or something? it's a blog!

    kate could delete comments i suppose, but she has always allowed the free-form disucssion. it's what makes the blog so addictive (and exasperating).

    but seriously, why do you let it get to you? it's just anonymous people. most of us use our own judgment and roll our eyes at the stuff that is over the top. you can always pass that over and move on to the comments that address what you are looking for. i've seen plenty of good advice offered over on that huge private school thread.

    ReplyDelete
  33. So this is what we're to expect from the"Private School Reviews"? Essentially, I guess, useless.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Evidently no there isn't. And I second your request that the public school mafia/criticize the affluent for even breathing the air in San Francisco class hatred purveyors stop cluttering these kinds of threads.


    ***

    The reviewer criticized Town for using Skippy peanut butter and other what she considers crap food in the free meals Town was preparing for the homeless. That's not a straw man argument: that was her argument (she didn't like the noblesse oblige feel either but that's a different point). Its a ludicrous criticism that not surprisingly has drawn some criticism of its own.

    ReplyDelete
  35. 12:34 -- good thing you are not paying for this service. If you were, maybe you could sue for breach of contract.

    Makes me wonder, is there a pay-for-service gig out there that would help all you guys who don't want to wade through the comments from the hoi polloi? Some consultant could make a lot of money doing that, I bet.

    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Is there a thread for those of us who are interested in independent schools, and consider these small details potentially very telling of the attitude our children might grow up with? Who would choose a school that carefully thinks through its attitude toward the less fortunate over one that does not? Because I thought this *was* that thread.

    I went to private school on financial aid. I got a hell of an education I'm grateful for, but I and my fellow students were told in many subtle ways that we were better than other people, and we absorbed it. Financial aid kids like me waited tables at the annual auction, only to overhear parents sneering about how bad the "service" was, not realizing that we were unpaid labor singing for our supper, or about how "they paid" for our education, my self-defensive reaction being that we were actually there to make the school look academically better than it really was so their children could get into a decent college. None of the school's extras came with the aid package, so every field trip, uniform, class camping week, etc., came out of grocery money and we ate, yes, Skippy and crackers for dinner those weeks. When a classmate asked me, years later, if anyone had "discriminated" against me for being on financial aid, I gaped. I said no, no, no, of course not. It was the oblivion, the excruciating oblivion of most of my classmates that sent me home crying at least once a week. Oh, she said.

    Worth it for middle-class parents, who will feel poorer than they really are? Whose kids may feel inferior rather than comfortable? Or conversely, whose kids may in fact imbibe the sense that they are more worthy than others? Quite possibly. A private education is an amazing gift to get --mine got me to the upper end of the middle class, among other things. But if you are not well off, don't fool yourself that it doesn't come at an emotional price for you and your kids.

    ReplyDelete
  37. This blog has gone seriously downhill. Either a scythe needs to be taken to it to bifurcate the public/private and mass delete posts or it will swiftly denegrate to what it is becoming. . . boring, repetitive and uninformative.

    ReplyDelete
  38. If you find it boring, repetitive and uninformative then I suggest you stop reading it. Apparently a lot of other people don't agree with you, so leave us to our small pleasures. Really, what difference does it make?

    ReplyDelete
  39. Claire - I have to agree that the whole scene around the food is an important "moment" that can indicate the culture of the school.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I suggest none of us apply here in protest! Seriously, please commit (so my son has a better chance of getting in)!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Seriously, it might not be a bad idea to have a separate SF K Files II or to review private schools. I think it's too bad and a bit silly, but all this is turning into is a venue for public vs. private and while it might be entertaining to some, it's not entirely useful to those of us who are stressed out enough as it is with this insane SF K process.

    ReplyDelete
  42. This thread doesn't appear to mention public vs. private -- it turned into a debate about the significance of the Skippy peanut butter moment. Claire posted an observation that she found legit, and defensive private-school advocates leaped on her, causing others who think Claire was valid to raise the point to respond.

    Where's the public vs. private issue in all that?

    Actually, things would be less repetitive if the same person or persons would stop repeatedly call for banning viewpoints they don't agree with from the thread or the blog. Obviously that's not going to happen, and it just makes the would-be censors and their viewpoint look bad, so what's the point? And if that person or those persons want a discussion that consists entirely of positive comments about private schools, why not start their own blog, with moderated comments? You just go to www.blogger.com.

    ReplyDelete
  43. people, this is a FREE service, provided by the generosity of Kate and the guest bloggers - I agree with other sentiments - don't read the posts you don't agree with. furthermore, would the K Files II for private schools monitor who posts? who has time for that? do you?

    ReplyDelete
  44. Getting off-topic much? The comment about the peanut butter and white bread was honest and interesting and subject to picking apart, just as are most comments on this blog, including mine. It says something about the school, but not everything. This place sounds very interesting. For example, I have never heard of (no pun intended) the use of a microphone for auditory learners. Several people have told us Town would be "perfect" for our kid. It's a bit rich for our blood, but I have to admit we've thought about it, so Claire, thank you for your review. I would love to hear more about Town and some of the other boys' schools. I would love to hear more about different pedagogical approaches to math and reading.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I'm so glad we can't afford private school. This post only makes me more sure about our decision.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Choosy moms choose Jiff!

    ReplyDelete
  47. It's unfortunate and is in no way Kate's fault but this blog has become increasingly agendized. The reviews of the public schools are much more generous than that of private schools. A lot of the criticisms of privates in the comments are highly negative and many sweeping generalizations are made. Not to say private schools are perfect and that we shouldn't be critical consumers of them, but there is no balance here. (I am not a Town parent.)

    The only positive that may come out of this is that perhaps readers won't take anything on this blog very seriously, and will instead do their own research.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Thank you for your review. We're crossing Town off our list for the lottery.

    ReplyDelete
  49. They use the microphones at Friends, too. When they started using them for kids with hearing, learning, or attention challenges, they found that all of the kids were doing better - so they installed systems throughout the school building.

    Sometimes public schools have these systems as well, if there is a child in the classroom who has an IEP that calls for it. If the child wears hearing aids they will have little receivers and the other kids don't get the amplification, but if there are no hearing aids involved then there are speakers and all the kids can benefit.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I don't know... if some kids at a public school were making Skippy sandwiches for the homeless you'd be delighted no doubt. And this is different because... that's all they can afford? ...that's what they eat at home? ...that's what the school serves? ...they like Skippy and don't know any better? Hell, I eat Scharffenberger chocolate at home but I drop Snickers in the Halloween bags because I-I-I (oh who am I fooling?) because I'm worth it and you're not...

    ReplyDelete
  51. This is pretty silly: "The only positive that may come out of this is that perhaps readers won't take anything on this blog very seriously, and will instead do their own research."

    The main reason this blog instantly took off when Kate started it is that parents are overwhelmed trying to get information on their own and are desperate for as much additional information as they can get. Even though it won't happen, calling for cutting off that information because it sometimes includes opinions you don't agree with is pretty weird.

    And anyway, the notion that the private school reviews are particularly critical doesn't hold up at all. Last year Kate gave glowing reviews to a number of private schools, and openly fell in love with Marin County Day School. Just scroll a little way down to see a pretty glowing review of Waldorf. Commenters immediately burned up the comments section with their opinions of aspects of Waldorf that the original review hadn't mentioned -- it could have, but it didn't.

    The notion that there's a bias just doesn't stand up at all. It appears that private school advocates are just highly sensitive and easily offended by scrutiny and by any comments that aren't enthusiastic praise. But when you're talking about a product that costs $15,000 a year and up, how can you not expect smart consumers to scrutinize it carefully?

    If you think the information about certain schools isn't accurate or complete, respond with your own view rather than calling for the stifling of other views or the elimination of the entire blog. And yes, if you only want to read views that agree with yours, start your own blog.

    ReplyDelete
  52. It's because they made a big deal out of the fact that the food that the Town kids eat is local, organic, blah blah blah - and because the parents were all relieved that the Wonder Bread and Skippy were not being fed to the Town students (who would probably be thrilled to get to eat it rather than the food that their parents make them eat instead).

    ReplyDelete
  53. 2:48 it's been like that since the beginning (were you around for, or have you read since, the huge discussion that ensued when Kate posted her review of MCDS 2 years ago?). How is this any different? This blog has always leaned public. I for one don't think that is a horrible thing--there are huge resources out there for those who desire/can afford private school, and not so many for those seeking to consider/understand the public process. PPS does a lot but of necessity cannot be as free-wheeling as this blog, which is why this blog has been such a hit.

    And for private-seeking parents, there is plenty of information here too, and maybe some information about how schools are perceived (in general and in particular) that is eye-opening. They can ignore it if they disagree wtih the premise. But I bet there a lot of families like 12:54 who are attracted to the educational possiblities but want to consider other issues too. That's probably the biggest group of folks on this blog.

    What is really that threatening about having at this conversation? It's just talk, anonymous talk at that--talk is cheap. We all know how to evaulate these things, I hope. Of course we should check everything out for ourselves! I say, have at it, and let us decide for ourselves when the dust settles. I doubt Town will lack for applicants despite Claire's doubts about the peanut butter sandwiches and noblesse oblige.

    ReplyDelete
  54. It's just that if she already has her undies in a bunch about something like that, then she is likely to have way deeper issues with private school in general. Which is fine. But it would be nice to read reviews of private schools from people already on board with the concept.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I'm not against the blog being public-leaning either, but feel like the balance has skewed recently (like 12:10).
    I just think the comments are taking an increasingly strident and unpleasant tone. There is so little discussion, if any, about trifling things like teacher quality, curriculum, diversity of student body and lots of convos about evil and peanut butter (which I think was valid to point out but enough already).

    ReplyDelete
  56. I'm a private school parent, I don't have issue with private school - but the PB "situation" would have bothered me, too.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I disagree with the assertion that the reviews are skewed positive for public and negative for private. Marcia Brady, whose reviews I am coming to love, posted a mostly positive review of Glen Park, but with some questions about who it serves best with its traditional approach; and today she asked some pointed questions about much-loved Spanish-immersion grandaddy Buena Vista. I mean, she was kind enough to ask for feedback from that community, but clearly this was not a rosy picture for her with regard to those items. I felt the same with June's review of Alamo (I am also coming to like June's reviews, but her tour schools are out of my neighborhood). Their tactful honesty leads me to read their much more positive reviews of Webster, Flynn, J Serra, Lafayette, Peabody with a more interested eye. And their discussion of all of these, but especially J Serra, was quite nuanced, I thought--focus on curriculum elements, for example. Hardly a rah-rah for all public schools, but a real discussion of the particular elements that make this school or that school shine (or in some cases not).

    We've only had two reviews of private schools so far, one fairly positive and one a little negative (though you could hardly call the whole Town review negative). The Waldorf response was entirely to be expected--it's controversial. The Town response--well, Town is Town. Veteran private school parents will acknowledge it as one of the most elite and traditional of all of them, right? The vibe Claire got is probably exactly what it is trying for. It will be more interesting to see comments on a school like Live Oak, if that comes down the pike, since Live Oak is striving to serve more middle class kids with a more casual vibe.

    There's so much defensiveness on the private school threads! These are voluntary reviews, and one person's observations that hopefully stimulate further discussion. Opinions will vary as to what matters most. Values differ. Read them wtih that in mind, do your homework, consider the arguments, and make up your own mind! Or, don't read this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Last year Kate gave glowing reviews to a number of private schools, and openly fell in love with Marin County Day School.

    And then the public school mafia beat her down and she settled for Ortega.

    ReplyDelete
  59. you are suggesting there is a secret society whose members take a blood oath to beat people up if they don't send their children to public school? one-third of the city must be quaking in their boots right now from fear.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Why can't we just say the peanut butter incident was ironic, and leave it at that? Why read so so much into it? IT'S JUST PEANUT BUTTER! Not the hallmark of insidious classicide.

    ReplyDelete
  61. My kid goes to Town (I'm a dad). He loves it there and he's definitely not from the "aggressive, sporty, boy's boy" mold. In my experience, I haven't found them to have a narrow view of what a boy should be. It's been just the opposite and that's very important to me. But it's understandably hard to get the whole picture on one of the tours (especially as you're being elbowed out of the way by an overzealous parent - hint - that doesn't help get you in).

    I've always appreciated how much the boys really seem to care about each other. The "family groups" mentioned in the review are groups of kids from all grades. It starts with 4th grade buddies who help the kindergartners find their way around throughout the year. The families build out from there. I'm sure other schools have similar groups.

    The food service is new this year which is probably why it was highlighted. The kids seem to like it. In year's past it was pretty ho-hum. Sorry, but I can't comment on the Skippy. Enjoy your debate on that one. I kind of like Adams myself.

    For reference sake, I'm not a private school advocate, didn't go to one (my parents would've laughed) and didn't really picture my kid in one. Town won us over though. In fact it was the only private school we applied to.

    ReplyDelete
  62. "The teachers wear an amplification microphone that projects their voice around the room."

    Grattan, a pubic school, made these available to the teachers who felt they needed them. The PTA and a grandparent donated them.

    ReplyDelete
  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  64. 3:52, I love you. Yours is a voice of reason and intelligence. I am gathering that it is hard to say negative things about the publics because they are doing with so little as is, and need support in the form of enrollments and parents willing to pitch in. And hard to say anything about the privates because it could directly affect your kid's admission! So I'm grateful for the bravery here.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Thank you, 4:33 PM, for adding some value to this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  66. "There's so much defensiveness on the private school threads!"

    And none on the public school threads!

    ReplyDelete
  67. More to the point on the sandwiches: where do they take them to be passed out? Many places can't take sandwiches made off-site for liability issues. That's the first thing I thought of when reading this.

    ReplyDelete
  68. these little observations make a big difference on the tours. It's like dating a wonderful person whose hygene is a little off.

    My peanut butter moment came on a Hamlin tour a few years back. There was a board of art where the girls were asked to draw and write about a difficult experience they had.

    One girl talked about forgetting her johdpurs (sp?) when she went to a horse show. (fancy tight riding pants).

    Really. No joke. I hope the teacher gagged too when the kid turned this in.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I pray for the day when something like that is EVERY child's worst experience. Don't you?

    ReplyDelete
  70. "There's so much defensiveness on the private school threads!"

    And none on the public school threads!


    Everyone is anxious and defensive, it seems; there is plenty of that to go around.

    But looking over the school-specific threads--Lafayette, McKinley, Webster, Flynn, Junipero Serra, Buena Vista, Town, and Waldorf--some of which included negative as well as positive comments, and several reviews were less stellar than others--yeah, I am seeing more patterns of angst and defensiveness on the private school threads. Look at Buena Vista from today, and McKinley. Comments are mixed, but pleasant, and most importantly, focused on school specifics--what's it like being near the freeway? how does the behavior/card system work? Etc.

    I don't have a horse in this race, just noting it.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Right, because many people who choose private school are fine if you don't. But many more people who choose public school are not fine if you don't. At least 'round these parts.

    ReplyDelete
  72. "Look at Buena Vista from today, and McKinley."

    As of now, 7 comments and 4 comments on those threads. I think that shows more of a lack of interest than anything else.

    ReplyDelete
  73. "I'm so glad we can't afford private school. This post only makes me more sure about our decision."

    You decided not to be able to afford private school? What a luxury!

    ReplyDelete
  74. Yes, 6:49. who cares about all those stupid SE San Francisco schools or the parents who live around there and will need to consider them if we go to zoning? Or working parents with limited time for tours, who may need a short list of second-tier schools in the NW? Or the reviewers who are dumb enough to spend hours of their time going to the schools and writing up reviews when they could be flaming the public/private wars? What a bunch of losers. I say let 'em all rot, and let's enjoy PeanutButterGate.

    ReplyDelete
  75. I am a public school parent, and our school would gladly accept those white-bread-peanut-butter-sandwiches any day of the week. Anything is better than the hot meals served by the schol district--talk about *crap*! When you look at what we feed the disadvatage In our schools, then we are in no position to ridicule Town...it was Brand-name Thomas-Keller peanut butter for Pete's sake. And a log scale better than the district food. I bet there are kids and parents jumping for joy when those sandwiches arrive. Just thinking about it makes me want to eat a PB&J on Wonder bread with a tall glass on non-homogenized whole milk. Yum!!! Is everyone on this blog too young to recall the midnight munchies?

    Oh, and by the way, our public elementary school uses microphones and Smart boards.

    ReplyDelete
  76. And I bet those food items (white bread, PB, chips, & drink) where chosen with love by children for children. It's probably exactly the stuff they'd like to eat themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  77. " Just thinking about it makes me want to eat a PB&J on Wonder bread with a tall glass on non-homogenized whole milk. Yum!!! Is everyone on this blog too young to recall the midnight munchies?
    "

    No. I remember. Please add honey.

    ReplyDelete
  78. SFUSD has less than $1 per student to spend on lunches, based on the federal subsidy for low-income students minus the cost of labor and other fixed costs of running a cafeteria. And SFUSD has working kitchens in only a tiny number of schools. The National School Lunch Program used to provide funds to maintain and upgrade school kitchen equipment, but that was ended by the Reagan administration.

    Also, school cafeterias are required by law to include milk with every meal, which currently costs 30 cents of that less than $1 -- so you can see that there's less than 70 cents left for the food.

    So, just adding that piece of information to comparison of SFUSD's lunches to the lunches Town School was donating to low-income people. Also, peanut butter is forbidden in SFUSD cafeteria lunches due to allergy concerns.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Yes that would be the worst possible thing to ever happen to a child.

    ReplyDelete
  80. To give a more complete picture, SFUSD is required by law to run the school meal program, to feed low-income children. 56.3 percent of San Francisco public school students qualify to receive free or reduced-price lunches, based on the definition set by the National School Lunch Program -- which is actually cruelly low in high-cost San Francisco.

    It's the government subsidy for feeding those students that amounts to the less than $1 per meal that I mentioned. In addition, students who don't qualify as low-income may buy meals. The price of meals for non-low-income students must be kept low because the official definition of "low-income" so so unrealistic.

    None of this is applicable to private schools in any way. So that's just to clarify the general situation.

    ReplyDelete
  81. Look how much more effective a bunch of little boys making peanut butter sandwiches is than the SFUSD's system.

    ReplyDelete
  82. The "bunch of little boys making peanut butter sandwiches" doesn't meet the requirements of the National School Lunch Program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture under the congressional Child Nutrition Act -- in a vast number of ways. So that wouldn't be an option for SFUSD.

    ReplyDelete
  83. You know it's possible to both think the SFUSD lunches are unacceptable for your child (for those of you relieved not to have to send your children to a place where such food is served), and to go to the school, with an acceptable solution. Provide your child with his or her own lunch, and make it as healthy, organic, free-range, sensitively sourced as you'd like. It works well to just send the lunch, because then you an include some snacks as well, because kids inevitably get hungry sometime during the day other than lunch.

    Also -- just because one's child goes to public school or private school at one point (say K), that hardly brands you as in one camp or the other (a private parent or a public). It simply means at the moment that that particular choice makes most sense and/or is feasible for your family. That's why you find "public" parents reading and commenting on "private" threads.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I'm the last poster, I meant to say it's possible to both dislike SFUSD lunches and have your child attend a public school.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I'm sharing some basic information about the SFUSD school lunch program, just to clarify the situation, in response to criticism of SFUSD school food.

    I'm a longtime member of the SFUSD Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, but speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the committee.

    1:58/2:00 made good points.

    My reason for commenting is not to discuss Town School and its sandwich program but to clarify misconceptions about SFUSD school food that were coming up on this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Interesting that Town offers Latin. Haven't seen any of the parochials offering Latin.

    ReplyDelete
  87. There is another thread about SFUSD school lunches. They are completely off-topic with regard to Town.

    I wanted to comment on the "family groups". Most of the other indepdendent schools have some kind of buddy program, but Town is the only one with the groups that include kids from each grade. I think it sounds great - it was actually the thing I liked most about Town when we toured.

    ReplyDelete
  88. Thank you to 4:33 on October 30 for providing parent insight into Town. We will be looking at this school.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Read the two articles from the paper on the food being served. Yuck, I'd rather have the Peanut Butter sandwich. Yes yes I know, allergies, now allowed, etc. Still sounds better than that prepackaged microwaved stuff. PB&J and a glass of milk seems much more filling. Do most public school moms on this site brown bag their kids?

    ReplyDelete
  90. I'd be interested in hearing more from Town parents or others who know people who have sent their boys there. What's the vibe at Town? What sets it apart from Cathedral and Stuart Hall, besides the obvious? What personality type (boy, not parent) would fit in best?

    ReplyDelete
  91. Back to the topic: We knew a nanny whose son was a full scholarship kid at Town (her former employer hooked her up). While Town would not have been a good fit at all for our child (or our budget), I do have to say they went all out for this really sweet kid. The school took care of most things (on top of the tuition) including extra tutoring, a computer, ...etc. and the parents of his friends would do other helpful things without it feeling like charity to him. His friends' parents would go suit shopping for some concert or whatever with their kid & bring him along and get suits for both. He socialized plenty with lots of boys from all over the city & there was always a ride offer in case he needed one. The only negative story I heard was that the soccer coach was overzealous and made the kids cry. The mom felt like a fish out of water at school events but what really mattered was that her son was very happy and was getting a great education.

    ReplyDelete
  92. I thought Live Oak also had a "buddy" program with kids from all grades. They call them "groves" or something like that. The youngest gives a flower to the oldest at their graduation etc.

    And every public school parent I know pack their kids' lunches.

    ReplyDelete
  93. And every public school parent I know pack their kids' lunches.

    In my experience, most do, but some kids really do love those lunches. Fortunately they have improved somewhat over the years, at least nutritionally--the chicken nuggets are actual whole pieces of meat that are baked, not fried, just as an example, and this is thanks to the work of the student nutrition committee led by Dana Waldow and others--but in terms of taste, the comparison to airline food is apt. The schools with salad bars are obviously better off! That committee has some great ideas for improving food and efficiency (e.g. a POS system), but it will take capital investment and improved subsidies. 75 cents doesn't buy a great lunch, it turns out.

    Since my oldest went off to middle school the landscape has changed. Aptos, like most middle schools, offers the beanery options, and also terrific scratch-cooked soups a la Rosie, the caf worker. My kid happens to love soup, and prefers a hot meal, so this has been a great option for us most days, unless our dinner leftovers are particularly fabulous. Chicken noodle or chicken rice, plus veggies, or minestrone, are particular favorites these days. Each middle school has different options, so ask about that on when on tour.

    The school lunch program began when the U.S. Army saw that so many of its inductees were malnourished. It is an important tool in fighting hunger and malnourishment in our nation's children, and that is its main purpose. In the wake of a generation's worth of processed bad food, it would be great if the U.S. Congress would allocate funds to help support health issues beyond hunger (especially with obesity a significant problem). Fresh fruits and veggies and locally cooked meals would cost more, but would alleviate public health care costs down the road.

    Obstacles include the various industrial food interests who sell surplus commodities through the USDA to the school lunch program; and deficit hawks in Congress who were happy to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but not to provide healthful meals to our kids. Everyone should feel free to write to our senators and reps about this problem. It's not really about the kids like mine, who get 3 squares a day, even those who take the school lunch as a preference. It's about those for whom this is the main source of food for the entire week.

    ReplyDelete
  94. I am the parent of a child who attends a SFUSD K-5 school, and he happily eats a lot of the school lunch offerings. He eats in the school cafeteria about 2-3 times a week, on average.

    Yes, yes, yes, I realize that my comment has nothing to do with Town or private schools, and I apologize to everyone who finds my comment as annoying and misplaced as the Chinese spam. I just didn't want to leave anyone reading this thread with the impression that "all public school moms" pack lunches all the time. I personally know other parents whose children happily eat many SFUSD offerings in elementary schools.

    ReplyDelete
  95. I love peanut butter sandwiches myself, and feed them to my kids. But a PB&J and a glass of milk doesn't meet federal regulations for school lunch -- there are specific components required. So essentially instead of providing a simple one-course meal for that less-than-$1, SFUSD student nutrition has to provide multiple courses for the same amount -- it's required by law. So you can see the compromise to the quality when you are required by law to serve a specific protein, a veg, a milk, a fruit and a grain.

    I echo 3:22's apology, but it's in response to those who brought up SFUSD lunches.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Let's get back on to the topic of entitlement vs Skippy!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Hey, 4:22, this one's for you --

    I see no problem whatsoever in being relieved that the PB&J the kids were packing up for the homeless was not what the cafeteria was serving the students. If I'm paying $20K++ a year for tuition, you'd better believe I want my kid eating something healthy. Besides, PB&J is what I feed my son when I have to make lunch!! ;) (and yes, it's his favorite!)

    ReplyDelete
  98. "there are huge resources out there for those who desire/can afford private school"

    What are those resouces? Can you list other links, websites, books? This is a seriuos question. I don't know where to go.

    ReplyDelete
  99. You go, Claire! Thanks for your review. These people criticizing YOUR opinion are annoying. I happen to think it was a good point mentioning that the school could probably do better with their efforts to help the community, in the same way they strive to do well to feed the children that attend the school. Why do people take it so personally that she mentioned something that wasn't totally perfect about the school in her opinion? I can only believe the comments are from people shelling out the big bucks to go there, or people who are chomping at the bit to get in. No school is perfect people!

    ReplyDelete
  100. Some opinions are just wrongheaded, in ~your~ opinion, and ~you~ know one when you see one. Gay marriage, abortion, health care, libertarianism, accordions... Doesn't mean you keep quiet...

    ReplyDelete
  101. Was that english?

    ReplyDelete
  102. The admissions director at Town kept us waiting for 20 minutes before our parent interview last year, and didn't offer an apology or explanation. It became a school we had serious doubts about but decided to see the process through anyway. There's not been a moment of regret that we were waitlisted.

    ReplyDelete
  103. There's really no excuse for that type of rudeness which basically says "My time is more important than yours." Lame.

    ReplyDelete
  104. Lots of censorship going on in this blog. Totally inappropriate imo.

    ReplyDelete
  105. Kate makes it clear that she will remove offensive posts upon request.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Question we have re: Town as it wasn't necessarily answered in the tour though the counseling director did get miffed when one person asked what they are looking for in a five-year old boy and she kept it to "they're looking for sociable boys", how do they/do they address bullying and is the school hands on to deal with the issue or just let the bullies be? We've heard how the school has changed over the years, but we can't put our finger on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  107. This question about bullying was answered by a Town parent over on the general "Private Schools for Boys" thread. You might find that thread helpful if you're considering Town and other boys' schools.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Not quite sure why I had to wade through all the posts about SFUSD's lunch program for a discussion about Town.

    ReplyDelete
  109. Our two sons were at Town in the lower school, but we moved out of state recently. I found this blog on a Google search of K-8 schools. I have no personal stake in this discussion, but I do want to add my thoughts.

    Town was a wonderful school for both of our boys, who have different personalities. One is more physical, and other is quieter, more cerebral, and more sensitive. One of the reasons we chose Town is that the school recognizes that all boys are different and caters to different styles and personalities. The head of school says that it is not a "jock school." The first time I heard this was at his talk during the admissions tour (which Claire wasn't able to hear, according to her post). This attitude allows the boys to express their individuality without being ill-at-ease or subject to teasing if they choose to engage in arts, music, or quiet activities. Since there are no girls, the activities are not divided according to gender stereotypes.

    That being said, many of the boys are interested in sports. The curriculum caters to the interests of many boys and includes units on dinosaurs and insects, and many of the stories are related to adventure.

    The lunch program used to include junk food until a couple of years ago, when the head of school had a health scare and realized that it was important to educate the kids about healthy eating. I don't know much about the organic and locally-sourced food, which started just this year, but I don't think that the menu excludes other types of food.

    Claire provides a surprising example of providing Skippy and white bread to the homeless. Although it is generous to provide food to the homeless, this does seem hypocritical. But we are all hypocritical to some extent. Anyone who sends their children to private school is choosing something for themselves that they think is superior to what the public school student receives, and most of us are not willing to pay much higher taxes to provide every student with a similar education -- or even with a good education. This is clear, because we allow many students to attend poorly performing schools. We are willing to pay high prices to live in a "nice" and safe neighborhood, but we let needy children live in public housing in high-crime neighborhoods.

    In any case, whatever it means, the food episode is simply an anecdote that has taken a larger part in the discussion than it deserves.

    Town School is not defined by that episode, though it made an impression on Claire, any more than San Francisco is defined by Gavin Newsom's affair a few years ago. It happened. It's not appealing. There's more to the essence of San Francisco (and to Town School) than that.

    Town is a wonderful school with committed, dedicated teachers, high academic standards, and a strong extracurricular program. If it is a good match for your son, consider it by all means. If not, there are many other great schools - public and private, and I'm sure you'll find a good one. Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  110. Town is a big gay (happy) school. We just love it!!

    ReplyDelete
  111. You'll be getting a new Head of School for the boy's lower school, and you're welcome to her. Rigid is her middle name. Her first year here she alienated everyone---teachers and parents alike with her arrogance. In a small town full of casually dressed, easy-going internet entrepreneurs and multiple-doctorate families, she insisted upon being called "Doctor." She was unapproachable to students and scared them with bossypants attitude. She was condescending to parents and arrogant to the teachers. When she refused to give tenure (and in fact pink-slipped) to two exceptional, unbelievably talented and popular teachers, the town parents (and teachers/staff alike) rose up and confronted her. Grass roots meetings at parents houses. A 100 + parent attended meeting at the school. The Teachers Union became involved. It went before the school board, and ultimately, those teachers were retained and given tenure. To her credit, I do believe she made a diligent effort to address these things once they were forcibly brought to her attention----everyone noticed when she started dressing more casually, and she did seem to try to "come down" to everyone else's level, but I've got to say, she continued to alienate THE most involved parent volunteers (both extremely successful attorneys! Women!) to the point where one left the school council and the other started her own school. Hope she fits your environment better than she fit ours, because there's no love lost here. (In fact, a bunch of teachers went out for drinks the day her resignation came out).

    ReplyDelete