Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hot topic: Clarendon

This from an SF K Files reader:
I don't see a review of Clarendon here, though lots of people mention it as great. I also can't find their website (they really don't have one??). So, I'm wondering: has anyone actually toured Clarendon? What are you impressions as a prospective school parent? Thanks!

53 comments:

  1. I toured Clarendon a few weeks ago, and was actually surprised by how much I liked it, as I expected it to be "all hype" based on comments I have read on this blog. I have toured 5 public schools and it was by far my favorite. The bungalows aren't nearly as bad as others say, it is a very diverse community, and the parents seemed very nice and involved.

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  2. Cindy from SE sector of SFNovember 18, 2009 at 8:52 PM

    My husband and I toured Clarendon a couple years ago. It was actually our first tour. Although I liked it overall (thought the academics and extras seemed strong), we did not list it for several reasons:
    1) The school felt extremely large to us and we were looking for a much smaller school community
    2) We live in the SE sector of the city and the commute would have been a little too far for us
    3) I know this is picky, but my kid is very artistic and I felt the art room was a little dank and depressing
    4) I wasn't really wild with the whole "Tribes" thing.
    I've never actually seen this discussed in this blog, but it just felt really, really forced.
    5) We fell in love with several other schools that were much closer to our home.

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  3. I was going to say the opposite. I toured it thinking I was going to love it, but I didn't. I thought it seemed fine. I think it has a lot going for it - lots of enrichment, full-time consultants, lots of PTA money, lots of GATE kids, high test scores - which are good reasons to like it. The kids all seemed focused and happy.

    But when I was actually there looking around, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I know it's very subjective, but if it weren't for it's reputation, it wouldn't have stood out to me compared to several other schools I've visited. The bungalows and classrooms in general seemed dim, cramped and messy. I didn't see any displayed student work or classrooms that stood out to me. The teachers I saw seemed nice, but so do lots of teachers at other schools. I didn't think it was very diverse racially for a public school if that matters. I just didn't fall in love with it.

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  4. A current year review would probably be helpful but in the meantime I wrote a review of the school in 2008. It is here:
    http://thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/2008/11/clarendon-alternative-elementary.html

    Kate has not indexed or linked or tagged all of the past school reviews. If you look in the Oct-Nov posts from 2008 there are a number of other school reviews that are hard to find any other way.

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  5. I toured today. Tons of enrichment, which the PTA funds (full time librarian, art teacher who has her own classroom, PE teacher). I agree it was a large school - 5 K classes this year, so over 100 Kindergartners - and the bungalows aren't so attractive. But the teachers seemed great, parents were all over the place, and the kids looked happy. One of the Japanese program 4th grade teachers was leading her kids (on the piano) in a Gold Rush song, and then talking with them in Japanese - way cool. I am tempted to list it, although I know it had over 1000 requests last year. Since it is so large and is not an assignment area school, it actually seems like it might be a better choice than Alvarado to include on the list. Any thoughts on this?

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  6. 9:11 if you were impressed with the japanese, you should check out Rosa Parks. It has a much stronger japanese program with native speaking sensei for an hour a day. It is also extremely diverse with small classes. I listed Clarendon JBBP as my 1st choice last year and RP JBBP as my second choice and now that I'm there, I think everything worked out for the best!
    Good luck.

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  7. The school has websites.
    For the JBBP program see
    http://www.clarendonjbbp.org
    For the 2nd Community program see
    http://www.secondcommunity.org

    It is a large school but since it has 2 programs, it is like 2 small schools on 1 campus. Each program maintains the small community feel but at the same time both programs support each other by sharing funding and costs.

    Clarendon parent

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  8. I know the school has an impressive fundraising capacity. Does anyone know if the two programs pool and share their fundraising budget? Do they fundraise together or separately? How does that work?

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  9. re fundraising - some of our events are joint (Walk-a-thon is the primary one and a really fun event) but both programs also have direct giving and their own auctions that bring in a good portion of the money. Second Community receives a grant annually for Italian which helps fund that consultant. Both parent organizations have independent budgets for consultants but most of the consultants are used by both programs (art, PE, computer use the same consultants and music has different consultants in each program) and the programs sometimes subsidize the school site council budget to keep class size down or pay for a staff member or librarian. Both groups work closely together and with the Site Council to budget for enrichments and other essential items. The school also has many joint fun events such as Halloween Carnival and Arts & Science Day.
    My kids are in JBBP and I love that the classroom teachers can teach Japanese whenever they want throughout the day (unlike a scheduled consultant). One a field trip while waiting for the docent to show up our teacher had the kids stand up and practice various commands (stand up, go to sleep, turn around, etc - the kids were coming up with the commands). As a parent I really like that kind of flexibility.
    There are clearly nicer physical schools out there but the location in the eucalyptus trees is great with newly renovated city park down the block although it is a very foggy location at times! I like that we have 3 distinct yards so that the kids are only ever out with their same grade at recesses.
    I have been really pleased with the education my kids are getting but don't come if you aren't prepared to be very involved either with your time or money or both. We get the bare minimum for all programs. Rosa Parks gets their senseis paid for out of site funds while we have to fundraise for ours as our demographics result in very different weighted student formulas that are used to fund the site budgets. There are quite a few good schools out there. Hopefully you will find a good fit for your family at one of them or maybe even ours. Best of luck to all the families in the lottery! You definitely should consider proximity as one of your criteria in schools as well as start time.

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  10. Meredith is right. I haven't tagged all the reviews. I started to go through them all awhile back but haven't finished. I wish the site were more organized. Working on it! This comment helped to nudge me a little!

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  11. Kate -- while I have your attention, someone posted really informative "mini-tour reviews" of four middle schools in the posting below about the October 27th event PPS put on about middle school enrollment. It would be great if you could put that stuff up on a new string about middle schools and encourage others who are touring the other middle schools to add their reviews of those. (I think the person only did 4 for some reason.)

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  12. "but don't come if you aren't prepared to be very involved either with your time or money or both."

    See, this is the stuff that really puts me off this place. As a working single mom of quite moderate means, reading something like this makes it clear my kids are not welcome here. And it pisses me off. I know they send these not-so-subtle messages to low and moderate income families who tour as well. Ugh.

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  13. "but don't come if you aren't prepared to be very involved either with your time or money or both."

    Thank you Clarendon parent for clarifying what has always been hinted at but never explicitly stated.
    A look at Clarendon's lack of diversity backs up the above statement.

    To all of you touring schools at the moment, if the amount a PTA raises is important to you please ask how that money is raised. All those great silent auctions and direct appeals can raise large sums of money, but this money is coming from the pockets of the parents. Some schools are looking beyond the school gates and are going out to the local communities to help them fund-raise.

    The role of the PTA is not purely fundraising it there to build communities, not divide the community.

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  14. I think the idea that public schools are "free" is the biggest misconception. You may come into a school that has art, music, PE, etc... but when funding is reduced, kids either lose those programs or the funds come out of the parent's pockets to keep them. Sure, there are some parents who choose to not to donate anything... but many parents find that public doesn't equal free.

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  15. Clarendon parent here. My family is financially unable to give anything (in terms of $$) to the school and I feel very welcome there. I also look at my daughter's K class and see racial diversity (the only other schools I toured where I remember seeing similar diversity was sunnyside and harvey milk) and in getting to know some of the children/parents there appears to be a wide range of socioeconomic levels (of course i have no real way of knowing.)
    There are tons of ways to be involved for someone like me who can not donate $ and with 2 other small children still at home does not have much time either. I coordinate the email list serv. for our classroom. I help the teacher recruit volunteers for field trips, etc (all can be done at home via email or phone). When the teacher needs supplies, I help with the less expensive requests if I can (i.e. tissues)
    We have some parents in our class who seem to live at the school and are very thankful for them...all of our children benefit - and then there are others who no one has ever seen or heard from. My assumption is that they are simply busy working 1,2 maybe 3 jobs!

    I think we all get that this is a public school and with that you are going to get a range of folks, thats the beauty of a public education.

    I love the fact that my daughter is at a school where there are so many parents who are able and willing to give. I feel very lucky and have been thrilled with the school so far.

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  16. 12.50
    The problem is Clarendon does not have diversity. 11% free or reduced school lunches, SFUSD has 60% of children receiving free or reduced lunches. Other very popular schools West Portal at 35% and Rooftop at 29% are not high, but significantly higher than Clarendon. Simply put families from lower socio economic backgrounds are not applying to this school. If they were the diversity index would give them almost guaranteed chance of getting into the school. Why is this the case? More importantly does the school want to address this?

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  17. Poor people don't care to be the in minority either.

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  18. Amen to 1:56.

    People in the minority don't want their kids to like a "don't have". We want people who can relate to our life.

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  19. The privates get eviscerated for lack of economic diversity, but Clarendon gets a pass because poor people don't want to be there anyway? You people crack me up.

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  20. The point is that the lottery was designed to get poor people to good schools. Instead it got the middle class people scrambling to stick together.

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  21. Scrambling to stay together and worse still coming out with comments like: "but don't come if you aren't prepared to be very involved either with your time or money or both." Saying to parent who may not have either - you are not welcome.
    A parent body esp. a PTA needs to be very careful what kind of attitudes and assumptions they are projecting.

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  22. Another Clarendon parent here. Based on what I've seen so far, I'm very satisfied with the education my kindergartener is getting. His teacher is loving, firm, humorous and absolutely committed to her students, and there is a lot of good parent involvement in terms of classroom presence, committee work and yes, fundraising.

    It is a big school, 528 kids. It doesn't feel huge to me though. In part this is because they keep the older and younger children separated. Plus, there are almost always extra adults in my son's classroom in addition to the teacher--for example, volunteer parents, special ed teacher, student teacher--which reduces the student-teacher ratio. The kids go on a lot of field trips, they are exposed to Italian and Japanese culture and language, they do well academically, there's great after care, and there's a tight parent community.

    All schools have problems, of course. It depends on what your priorities are. You might be turned off by the size, the state of the physical plant or even the fact that there's been a lot of administrative turnover lately. Maybe you value having a higher percentage of free/reduced lunch kids. All of this is valid, but for me none of it outweighs the good things about the school.

    Regarding the poster who wrote "but don't come if you aren't prepared to be very involved either with your time or money or both" -- that is an unfortunate way of saying what I think is not controversial: kids whose parents are more involved in their schools generally have better outcomes than kids whose parents are not. It seems reasonable to want all parents to get involved. Of course some parents will not be as involved as others, for lots of reasons, some honorable and others less so. In any event, parent participation at Clarendon comes from all socioeconomic backgrounds, so let's not turn it into a class/race thing.

    Finally, to 10:14--get over your inferiority complex. All children are welcome. The truth of the matter is closer to this: "from each according to his ability." Any parent who would make you feel otherwise is unrepresentative of the majority.

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  23. "Maybe you value having a higher percentage of free/reduced lunch kids. All of this is valid, but for me none of it outweighs the good things about the school."

    Well said. The fact that Clarendon has a strong and proven academic program, with deidicated faculty, and a host of fun and challenging enrichment opportunities for its students is what should be discussed here.

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  24. Re diversity:
    I haven't looked at the busing maps to confirm this, but it's my understanding that an important driver of diversity at certain schools in hard to reach neighborhoods is busing. I know that there are buses from the less affluent (SE) parts of town to Rooftop, and if there aren't similar school buses serving Clarendon that might explain the differential levels of kids eligible for free lunch at those two schools. I think neither school is otherwise very easy to get to from poorer neighborhoods on public transportation....

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  25. It's damp, messy, crowded, and the bungalows are unhealthy for children.

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  26. I haven't yet toured Clarendon but may be interested in the JBBP. Are all of the teachers Japanese is this program or is there more diversity in the teacher set?

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  27. Not all the JBBP teachers are Japanese. However, all need to speak the language.

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  28. "Simply put families from lower socio economic backgrounds are not applying to this school."

    But the families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds at Clarendon do very well, based on their test scores. Rooftop does a much poorer job with their low-SES students, again based on test scores.

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  29. To 9:02 re whether Clarendon is served by buses: Yes.

    To 9:10 re "dirty damp crowded bungalows": You make it sound like something out of Dickens. How is that helpful? Are you the same poster in the Mommy Files blog who said that at Clarendon "you see children forced to sit on dirty concrete ground after school" like it was some kind of POW camp?

    Extremely subjective (and mean spirited) comments like this aren't based in reality and really aren't helpful to parents struggling to make an informed decision.

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  30. The negative campaign just makes me laugh. Maybe it's a parent who desperately wants to get their child in Clarendon and is trying to increase the odds anyway they can? ;-)

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  31. Not everyone wants their child to go to Clarendon. Some people are probably just being honest about their opinions and are maybe tired of all the hype about it. (just a guess)

    Personally, I thought the school was just "okay" but we didn't fall in love with it. On the other hand, even though it's not a good fit for us, I see no reason to bash it for others.

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  32. Are all the teachers in Clarendon JBBP fluently bilingual? I always wondered about this. I know at RP they have native Japanese teachers in the classroom in addition to the class teachers. If the teachers are not bilingual than how can they teach the Japanese?

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  33. It is my impression that all the teachers are bilingual, though I have not met them all.

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  34. Re: lack of diversity

    The freestyle 9:30 start time is impossible for most working class families, but a cushy bonus to all the free-lancing, telecommuting privileged parents. Also, it's pretty inaccessible to the more economically depressed parts of the city considering that even *poor* people don't want their five-year-olds to sit on a bus for hours every day. Elements like the start time make this school extremely self-selective.

    And yes, everyone's toured it. It's crowded and dingy, but you'll see lots of white kids dancing around with peacock feathers in the creative movement class. Aces!

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  35. 10:49 - you are ridiculous. i happen to work and get my child to clarendon early and she attends the childcare program until class starts. she also goes after school. where in the world do you get your ideas from? everyone who can go to a 9:25 start time school is privileged? puhleez.

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  36. The reason so many people apply to Clarendon and the reason it is such a great school is because there is strong emphasis on contributing. For some it's money, for some it's time, for some it's both. No one is keeping tabs, but yes, that is the culture there. Nothing wrong with it, and we are honest about it. Again, it is the school it is because of the parent community. How can anyone see that as a negative part of the school?

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  37. Why is the second community program at clarendon called GEN on the SFUSD application instead of Italian?

    Isn't it an Italian language program?

    Can I schedule one school tour and see both programs?

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  38. 9:44: yes, one tour for both programs. On the tour, there will be parent rep from each program and you will visit classrooms from both programs.

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  39. Over-crowded and foggy. Yuck.

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  40. 4:56 -- you are put off by overcrowding and fog? What the h are you doing in San Francisco?

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  41. Can anybody comment on the Italian or the second community program? Why is it just called GEN on the SFUSD form? Is it b/c it's not a full immersion or bi-lingual program? It's just a little bit of Italian?

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  42. yes, it is just a little bit of Italian. 3 times a week for 30 minutes. not bilingual or immersion.

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  43. Re: Are all the teachers in Clarendon JBBP fluently bilingual?
    No, they are not. Last year I toured Clarendon and I talked to one of the JBBP Kindergarten teachers in Japanese. She did not understand my simple question.
    I often hear from Japanese community in SF that Clarendon's JBBP program gets weaker and weaker every year since they kicked out native teachers.
    Choose Clarendon for high scores and late start time, but not for JBBP. For real JBBP, there is only one address: Rosa Parks.

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  44. Re JBBP teachers. No Rosa Parks is not the only place to get real teachers and no one was "kicked out". Definitely tour both and make up your own minds. The middle school teachers said Clarendon kids came out more willing to speak the language and JBBP West (pre-RP days) kids came out with stronger grammar. All the teachers are classified w/ district as "bilingual" on their paychecks. All have some level of Japanese but we do have a new teacher that is working to improve her Japanese. Several of our teachers are native speakers and others have been speaking it for a long time and have spent time in Japan and have Japanese family. Some are more learners themselves (typically those teachers are Japanese heritage but grew up in the USA). Most of our teachers who are not native speakers continue with their own language learning with our Japanese Coordinator (a full time native speaker) or otherwise. Our Coordinator (sensei) does go into a couple of classes several times a week to supplement language instruction where needed. My 4th grader is writing Japanese pen pal letters - in Japanese. Yes they learn Japanese.

    I always find it laughable when people claim there isn't "diversity" at Clarendon. I looked up stats for school, district, and city last year. Our racial stats closely mirror those of the city but do not identically mimic those of the district (find me a school that does) and the district does indeed have a really large free lunch population that is not mirrored at Clarendon. I do think our geographic location has something to do with that. Our school isn't very well served by public transportation although we do have some families and staff that take MUNI to get to school. We do have school bus lines all over the city but not as heavily into Hunters Point as say Harvey Milk. There is a chicken and egg problem - can't get the kids until there is a bus and you can't afford a bus line until you have enough kids to warrant it. We do a great job of making sure any of our struggling students (economically disadvantaged or not) receive all the extra support we can muster. Even in the JBBP program I can list at least 5 kids in one class alone that speak a home language other than English. We have an incredible richness of cultural and racial diversity in all our classes. We have a real diversity in family structures and also economic status although we don't have as many "poor" families as many district schools. We are an inclusion school and the inclusion of special ed kids in our classes also adds to the diversity.

    Are there "nicer" facilities out there? Yes. Does our facility meet the needs for educating kids? Yes. I really like that we have 3 separate yards so that the kids are only out with their own grade level at recess. I like being up in the eucalyptus trees. Yes is it foggy at times. There is a nice public park down the block and it is easy to park which is great.

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  45. You are referring to JBBP West before Rosa Parks. The impression that Clarendon's Japanese is getting weak is for recent years.

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  46. I am curious..
    How are those bilingual teachers qualified for teaching at JBBP? Are they tested by the district or just by the school?

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  47. Do most of the parents live in the neighborhood?

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  48. Do most of Clarendon's families live in the neighborhood?

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