Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Suggestions and preferences regarding parochial schools

Several parents have written in asking for a thread that focuses on parochial schools. Here you go!

96 comments:

  1. Is anyone touring any schools that they liked or could review? There was only one on St. Monica's a long time ago.

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  2. Definitely check out St. Cecilia's and St. Gabriel's which are a little larger and have more spots.

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  3. Zion Lutheran has an open house on Monday, November 16th from 6:30pm-7:30pm. This is a great school with a wonderful community.

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  4. We toured, applied and got a spot at St. Finn Barr last year. The facility isn't great, but the community is pretty active and welcoming and I was floored when I saw the 7th and 8th graders outside actually playing during recess. Their high school acceptance rate is quite excellent. We know several families at the school who are very happy with the place. The kindergarten seems low-key and low pressure.

    We are parish members at St. Brendan's, which is touted as the end-all and be-all to SF Catholic schools, but you basically have to bendover backwards AND donate a significant chunk o' change to get a spot - and for all that work, I wasn't too impressed by where the kids end up, not to mention its 40 person class size.

    Anyway - we saw parochial school has a hedge against getting assigned to Malcolm X. We went with our public school (not a trophy school by any stretch of the imagination) at the end of the day.

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  5. For those of you interested in parochial schools, there has been some discussion on the "tips for private school's thread" in the last week that may be helpful.

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  6. Much like 12:23 p.m. we are using parochials as a back-up to independent privates and the public lottery. I have toured two parochials thus far with one more on my list. On the whole I find them to be mediocre and some of them have very very large class sizes.

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  7. 12:35 -
    Would you share which ones you have toured and your impressions?

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  8. Has anyone toured Notre Dame des Victoires yet?

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  9. NDV is about as hard to get into as the independent privates - don't consider it a back up of any kind. Amazing school and great value, though.

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  10. I toured NDV last year, and also went to their Saturday open house and LOVED it. It would have been a great match for me as a kid, but unfortunately my energetic, busy daughter, not so much. I also worried that although there is an aid in the kinder class, there are still 30 kids - which is a large group to manage even with help, and that the dynamics of the same 30 kids throughout her elementary years might not work well for her. And then there's the issue of getting in, last year at least they had hundreds of applicants for kinder.

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  11. How does NDV compare with St. Brendan's? Does anyone know anything about St. Gabriel's or St. Stephen's?

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  12. St. Brendan's is hard to get into.
    You have to volunteer at the church, have your child participate in many activities and donate, donate, donate til the cows come home. Then, there are the politics of how many recommendation letters did that family receive. Don't forget, your child has to pass the exam that they test your child. It's a kinder readiness exam.
    I LOVE St. Brendan's as my parish, but chose a TROPHY public school over it.
    Squeezing 40 kids in 1st grade and not having a playground just isn't my cup of tea!

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  13. Academically St. Stephens, St. Gabs, NDV and St Cecilia’s are all similar. These schools do well in getting their graduates into the high schools of their choice. I think NDV graduates go on to more of the independent private high schools then the other parochial schools above. It’s hard to find any comparative information on the parochial schools. There is not central source for this information and the principles do not tout it either. If anyone has found any information to the contrary, please share or send it along.

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  14. We also toured NDV last year and attended the open house. Loved the diverse community (seemed quite GLBT friendly among other things, which may surprise some people about a Catholic school) and everything about the academic approach. We really really really wanted it, but we did not get in. These points bear repeating: (1) Go for it if you love it, but do not consider this school a backup to anything. NDV is probably as competitive, if not more competitive given the amazing bargain it represents in a tough economy, than the high-priced independent private schools. (2) Classes are large and my impression is that they want fairly tractable children. If your child is very active or strong-willed, that will lengthen the odds for you.

    And: Although the admissions don't state that they favor parishioners and they pride themselves on their diversity, it wouldn't hurt to join the parish.

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  15. Do most parochials have 30-40 children in grades 1-8. Does anyone know of a parochial with smaller classes?

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  16. Most of the schools discussed here so far have 25-30 per class. St Brendans has the most crowded classes from what I've seen and they only have one class per grade. St. Finn Barrs, St. Monica's St. Annes all may have smaller classes. The more popular the school the more crowded their classes. Most of the schools have aids in the classes up through grade 2 and then shared aids in grade 3 and up.

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  17. Has anyone toured St. Brendan's?

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  18. 12:35 p.m. here again. Yes, I have toured a few of the parochials. I would rather not name names but a simple phone call to the school will get you class sizes. Be sure to ask for the K class and also subsequent grades. Some have 30 in K and 36 in 3rd grade. I'm sorry but if I am going to pay for private school it shouldn't have 8 more children in K and 14 more in 3rd than public school. Of course, some parochials have smaller class sizes, but that may be because of other factors. As I stated we will apply to a couple of parochials, but I'm not in love with them by any means.

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  19. Octomom is probably going the home schooling route - with all that free time she has. Might have to stop going to Toys R Us for photo ops though....

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  20. oops! wrong thread!

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  21. Any thoughts on West Portal Lutheran?

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  22. WP Lutheran:

    I toured a few years ago so others may have a more up-to-date impression but it was so clearly not for us that I thought about leaving half way through the tour. They had just moved into their new building and the ONLY decoration in any of the classrooms (and it was in all the classrooms) was a long computer dot-matrix printout that said "I shall be quiet so that others may learn" - I am not joking. Art was once a week. The kids were doing math drills in first grade. The students did not look unhappy but I knew it would be a disaster for my kids. It does have a high Lowell acceptance rate.

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  23. 10:51 here again - one more tidbit - a parent asked about how they would feel if they were not part of the religious community and the headmistress said that they all were welcome but of course she hoped that "you would come to love the Lord as we do" - to me (might be my paranoia) it sounded more menacing than welcoming...

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  24. Re WP Lutheran: I toured two years ago, so my information might also be outdated, but here it goes:

    The place had a lot going for it: a reputation for good academics, a wonderful new building, a before- and after-school program that was very friendly to working parents, and enrichment classes. Also, the admissions process struck me as very transparent, and there are no evaluations of children like the privates and other parochial schools have. That last part might have changed, but the headmistress at the time said that kids sometimes "freeze" during evaluations, even if they might otherwise have a lot going for them. This rang true for my child.

    I ended up not applying, because the heavy focus on religion was not for our family. The headmistress emphasized that the school is a good place to send one's children if you feel that you want to avoid public schools because they can't teach kids Christian values. At one point while touring the science room, a parent asked whether the school taught evolution, and the headmistress replied that it was presented as a "theory," but that the school believed in a more Biblical approach to the issue. The place struck me as the perfect place for someone who really wanted to have religion taught in school.

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  25. What about Star of the Sea? Does anyone have experience with that school? It seems very familial and warm but maybe not very academically rigorous. Is that a fair characterization?

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  26. "It’s hard to find any comparative information on the parochial schools. There is not central source for this information and the principles do not tout it either. If anyone has found any information to the contrary, please share or send it along."

    The Archdiocese does do comparative testing and ranking of the schools. They're not released publicly, but possibly you might get or the principal might hint where their school was ranked (if they did well).

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  27. We toured eight parochials last year: NDV, St. Philip's, St. Paul's, St. Finn Barr, St. Anthony/Immaculate Conception, Mission Dolores, St. James, St. Brendan's, and St. Cecilia's.

    Short reviews below.

    NDV: The French is nice, and the students articulate and poised, but the middle school a bit weak in science. I'd put St. Finn Barr, St. Philip's, St. Paul's on the same plane. But excellent for at least K-5.

    St. Cecilia's: Everyone likes it, but vibe was all wrong for me. Principal felt overly controlling, (and I have a high tolerance for autocratic principals). Good extra-curriculars.

    St. Brendan's: Great school, great kids, great principal, but if you're not a long-standing parishoner, you're not going to get in. Best gym I saw in any tour.

    Mission Dolores: Good neighbourhood school, great building, diverse community, seemed a bit better resourced than St. Anthony's or St. James. Had a good afterschool space.

    St. Anthony's: Smaller classes than most parochials, friendly informal principal, but not a lot of resources. Principal anxious to raise enrollment. If a bunch of Bernal families got into this school and worked it, you could see a real turnaround, but without that, it felt budget constraints would be a real handicap.

    St. James: Lovely principal, vibrant mission community. Budget evidently constrained, but less so than St. Anthony's because of a large contribution from the Holy Order St. James' belongs to.

    St. Philip: Low key no-drama principal. Some spanish in curriculum. Very nice K class and K teacher. Classes for the older kids have very old-fashioned layout (rows of desks instead of islands), but principal still talked about differentiated instruction: go figure. Slightly more expensive tuition than is prevalent in other parochials, which probably accounts for why the principal seemed less stressed about budget and resources than any other principal I met. All grades get a Spanish class daily.

    St. Paul's: Very similar feel to St. Philip (being in the same neighbourhood), but a bit more modern feel. We have friends who are very happy there. Great gym. Strong alumni community.

    St. Finn Barr: Building is hideous, but don't be turned off by that. Principal felt very approachable. K space a bit cramped being in the parochial house rather than the school itself. Excellent computer resources. Fifth graders were doing comparative religion during our tour, studying non-christian religions: that was a plus in my mind. Principal said their got 20% of their kids into Lowell: didn't fact check this, but good odds if true. Principal talked the most about differentiated learning of any prinicipal in the 20+ schools we toured. Have an early decision schedule, so get your application in early. Higly recommended, in my mind. All grades get 1/2 hour-1 hour instruction in Spanish.

    We applied for St. Finn Barr and St. Philip, got into St. Finn Barr immediately, and into St. Philip after a week on the waitlist.

    Eight of the parochials in the Mission/Noe/Glen Park/Bernal area have banded together into an alliance for "Mission-Area" schools, both to present a unified front to the Archdiocese and to bargain with suppliers like textbook publishers. The result is that those schools are getting a bit more bang for their buck, and you might see that on tours this year.

    How and whether meals were supplied varied a lot from school to school. St. Philip's got meals from a local deli: can't remember what the arrangements were for other schools.

    Most or all of the parochials have pretty bare-bones playgrounds: no play structures, no green space.

    In the end, as we got into a trophy public, we went with the public option.

    Other that I heard positive reviews of: Corpus Christi, Epiphany, and St. Elizabeth. Don't know about St. Peter's or St. Charles.

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  28. 9:00 am here again.

    On St. Philip's and non-Catholics: from who was accepted/waitlisted in our social network, we figured that after parishoners and siblings, they prioritize non-Catholics in the neighborhood over non-parishoner Catholics.Part of their desire to be a neighborhood school. [This differs from most other parochials, which give priority to out-of-parish Catholics over non-Catholics.] So I'd imagine that the school has a higher percentage of non-Catholics than other parochials. Something to bear in mind if you're a Noe Valley parent.

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  29. 9:00 am again.

    Given that we toured a lot of publics and parochials, I thought I'd give a subjective comparison between schools in the same system.

    St. Brendan's I'd put on par with say, Live Oak for resources, and academically on par with the public trophy schools.

    St. Paul's, St. Philip's, St. Finn Barr's, St. Cecilia's & NDV, I'd put resource-wise on par with most publics, and academically on around the non-trophy but very good publics like McKinley or Moscone, and a shade above Live Oak academically.

    Mission Dolores I'd put resource-wise slightly below the publics and academically on par with your median solid public school, like SF Community or Longfellow.

    St. James and St. Anthony's I'd put academically on par with SF Community or Longfellow, but resource-wise below any of the publics I toured.

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  30. 9:00 AM

    Thanks for taking the time to write this down for us.

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  31. Have any of the parents at these parochial schools had any success in reducing homework levels, esp. at the 5-8th grade levels? Our 7th graders is reasonably academic and still spends hours each day doing a good eal of repetitive homework (e.g., 50 math problems when 10-15 would be nearly as effective). Thoughts for bringing this change about in Catholic K-8 schools in SF?

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  32. For years I had heard that St Finn Barr was on the brink of closure but I haven't heard that in the last couple of years. I'm guessing that the baby boomlet has upped their enrollment?

    I have heard nice things about St. John's.

    I agree with one of the earlier posters that NDV is stronger in the language arts area than in math/science.

    The parochial schools all take standardized tests and the results are given to the parents, including where the school rates in grade N, subject M compared to the other parochials in the city. Hopefully someone from one of these schools can post a bit of that info - it changes from year to year but would give an idea of which schools excel in which subjects. There's no quantitative way to compare them to the public schools since the tests are all different.

    St. Gabriel's has a lot of non-catholics, more than the other west-side catholic schools.

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  33. "I have heard nice things about St. John's."

    Anecdotal: at my kid's swim class once got chatting to a mom, a strapping, striking redhead with tattoos all down the left side of her body. She sent her two kids to St. John's and also taught drama part-time there. She looked more Burning Man than Catholic School mom/teacher, but was very happy with St. John's. It takes all sorts.

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  34. 10:35:

    Could someone please comment on St. John's (in Glen Park?), if they know.

    Of course, it is right across from the beautiful Glen Park playing fields.

    We went trick or treating there and all the houses around the school were totally done up, with many families out on the street drinking wine. There was a band of "monks", so I assume that at least some of these revellers are associated with the school.

    Anybody checked it out?

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  35. i too am very interested in hearing thoughts on st. johns. would love to hear all pros and cons about it.

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  36. Mt. Zion Lutheran information and impressions:

    Facts:

    -Location: Inner Richmond, 9th Avenue between Anza and Geary.
    -Hours 8:30 - 3:00, before and after-care available (approximatley $1000 per semester).
    -Tuition and fees around $7000 for 2009-2010; some assistance available.
    -Grades K-8.
    -Web site: www.zionsf.org
    -Parent volunteer hour requirement: 25 per year. A donation may be substituted.
    -Open Enrollment, priority given to applications submitted before the end of the calendar year.
    -Although this is a Christian school and students study religion and participate in religious activities regularly, fewer than 1/2 the students are from Christian families.
    -Standardized testing is Stanford Achievement Test. SSAT prep not currently offered.
    -Detailed high school admissions data (number of students who applied and number of students admitted at each HS) for the last several years are available on the school web site.
    -Core Knowledge Curriculum, developed by E.D. Hirsch, who wrote "Cultural Literacy" and "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them," is in use. A Google search will provide more information and some critiques.
    -Emphasis on project based learning, "spiraling" approach.
    -Credentialed teachers.
    -Hot lunch available for $4.50 per day.

    Impressions:
    -Orderly classrooms.
    -Enthusiastic but well-behaved students. When the teachers asked questions, almost every hand went up.
    -Lots of individual attention with teachers trained to work with different learning styles and abilities.
    -Diverse student body, majority Asian (similar to many west side public classrooms).
    -Small classes (typically around 15 K-5, slightly larger in middle school).
    -Regular field trips.
    -Playground is nothing to write home about, but at least they have a play structure. K-2 have recess separately from the rest of the school.
    -Very nice computer lab with enough computers for all students.
    -Heavy on boys.
    -Nice after-school programs.
    -Rather run-down, architecturally peculiar building, but brightened up with lots of colorful and impressive student work on the walls. Student bathrooms have been recently remodeled and look good.
    Although the halls and staircases feel a bit like rabbit holes, the K-6 classrooms are spacious and light-filled. The 7th and 8th grade classes are in a different building and feel a bit dark and cramped.
    -Quite a bit of religious/biblical material up on the walls.
    -Darling uniforms for the girls (black watch plaid jumpers); boys wear navy slacks and white shirts; all kids have forest green school logo sweatshirts.
    -Modest fundraising expectations.
    -Parent volunteer involvement welcomed.

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  37. Do any of the parochial schools have strong (or any) arts programs? An otherwise contented St. Brendan's family told me, in some distress, that theirs are really lacking.

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  38. St. Brendan's art program is not on the same level as many publics and definitely not with independents. They have a reputation for being more academic than artsy, so that is probably why.

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  39. "Do any of the parochial schools have strong (or any) arts programs?"

    Don't know abut the visual arts, but St. Cecilia's seemed to have good music and performance enrichment. Maybe a parent there can comment.

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  40. St. John's is just down the street from us. The principal, Mr. Willers,is a super nice guy and it's got a wonderful parent community. They have a lot up on their web site at http://www.stjohnseagles.com/
    Mr. Willers has told me that they're really eager to bring in families from the neighborhood, Catholic or not. He lobbied us (in a very polite way) to come there, even giving us the names of other gay families at the school. I went to a Catholic Jesuit high school but even so they were a little Jesus-heavy for my taste (I say this as a non-Catholic - your mileage is bound to vary). But by all accounts is a sweet school community. And having been there for a few events, it's got the hardest-baking parent group ever, the coffee layout was seriously amazing!

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  41. St. Cecilia's has an amazing music program. It's fully integrated into the school day, with music lessons twice a week. I think they have something like 12 instruments to choose from, and when the kids get older they have smaller bands and jazz quartets and such that play and perform. It also has an excellent theater, public speaking, and debate program (keep in mind, it's K-8). We just started in K and LOVE the school. The parent community is super involved, and has a wonderful, welcoming culture (Dads especially, are more integrated and involved than I have seen at any other school). The academics and teaching is top-notch. We toured the whole gamut last year - public, private, parochial - I don't think we would be happier in any other school. Also, the before/after care program is wonderful - great for working parents.

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  42. 2:58- Thank you for the St. Cecilia's review. Does anyone know why St. Brendan's gets better reviews than St. Cecilia's? Can anyone review St. Brendan's?

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  43. One big difference between St. Cecilia's and St. Brendan's is that St. Cecilia's has two classes per grade whereas St. Brendan's only has one class per grade---making St. Brendan's a lot harder to get into with fewer available spots. Generally, St. Cecilia's has one full K class of siblings so usually there are 20-25 spots open for non-siblings.

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  44. I just have to say . . . this must be the most civil, useful thread I've seen on this blog. I'm getting some good ideas about schools we'll want to look at. So many thanks to all the people posting here.

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  45. 6:27:

    Star of the Sea seems to be off the radar, at least judging from this thread. I too have heard that academics, or more precisely test scores, are not as good as some of the other Catholic schools. That said, we toured and thought it had a nice feel. The kids were articulate and seemed to genuinely like the school. The building is old and needs work. But, we were impressed with the families we met, mostly of K and 1G kids, and there was a nice sense of community. The parents we met were enthusiastic, and they all seemed to LOVE the K teacher. Maybe this school is gaining some momentum from the new-ish (and very nice looking) preschool?

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  46. St. Thomas More School?

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  47. Someone asked about arts programs at parochial schools... If you're looking for a parochial school in the Richmond, check out Zion Lutheran. My oldest child attends school there. It has strong academics and a great fine arts program. They have a new music teacher this year (the old one just retired), and Ms. Shishko is young, energetic, and is great with the kids. I think they only learn the recorder during the school day, but after school they have on-site piano, trumpet and violin lessons available. The children get plenty of drama experience by putting on little 'plays' for chapel, and in springtime there is a fairly serious musical production - they did 'Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.' last year. They don't have an art teacher, but the teachers do a decent job of teaching art, and integrating it into their curriculum. My daughter's making perspective drawings right now, because they're studying the Renaissance; perspective drawing originated during that timeframe. And another class just finished making papier mache masks in support of her Native Americans unit - although many of them looked more like Pokemon characters than Native American masks!
    Anyway, it's a great school with strong academics, small class sizes, and a really nice arts program.

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  48. St. Brendan's is a great school, but I have to wonder what all the hype is about. Their students go on to the same high schools as students from other parochials and they don't have a full day kindergarten.

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  49. St. Stephen's is a wonderful school and we are very happy there. We are just about to open our new gym and banquet facility. It's a very exciting time. The class size is large, but I feel that with the extra teacher in the room, and a separate computer and science teacher it is manageable.

    The St. Stephen's community IS OUTSTANDING!!! The parents really pull together and it makes for a very comfortable feeling at our child's school.

    St. Stephen's was the perfect fit for our family. I've never looked back.



    We toured St. Brendan's. The principal is a lovely person. It seems that the academics are strong. It's a good school. However, we just didn't feel there was enough diversity for our family. Being a bi-racial family, this was very important to us.

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  50. Man, I'm glad someone else mentioned the utter lack of diversity at St. Brendan's (89% Causasian). When I realized that we would get more ethnic diversity by moving to Orinda or Hillsborough, I couldn't push too hard to get a space there.

    I had some other issues (I think their college track record is pretty lame - my kids at a lousy public SF High had better places to go than the children of privilege there) that made me wonder what was up with that place.

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  51. Not sure about the previous poster comparing St. Brendans college entrance stats w/ a SF high school's stats... are you aware that St. Brendan's is K-8?

    ANYWAY. St. Brendan's seemed like a fine school, but of all the parochial schools I was most impressed with NDV. The principal, Ms. Ghisolfo (?) is amazing, the community is open, warm and diverse (in terms of ethnicity, socio-economics, geography and family structure) and the academic program is great. It was the only parochial school I saw that really employed differentiated learning. In most classes the kids were split up into three smaller groups which is great considering the class sizes in parochials are pretty big. I thought it was a great school, but as previous posters said, should under no circumstance be considered a back up option. Very competitive admissions process.

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  52. It sounds like someone has a bone to pick with St. Brendan's.
    We toured St. Brendan's and loved it. The principal was lovely and welcoming. The students we met were well spoken and polite. Great science and computer programs, but as other posters noted their art program is lacking. It is predominantly white, but there were a lot of asian students. My only issue is class size. Some of the classes seemed overwhelmed with student.

    At the tour, the principal encouraged everyone, even non parishioners to apply. She was very candid about the process and who has preference. We are going to apply, though we are not parishioners and see what happens.

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  53. Does anyone know how St Anne's compares to St Cecilia's, St Brendans and St. Gabriels? And my second question, which if any of these schools have dedicated science teachers and or science labs?

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  54. Thanks to Beth for the information on St. John's.

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  55. A common critique of private and parochial schools is that they are somehow not held to the same standard as public schools because they don't do the same standardized testing. One should be aware that most (not all, but most) private and parochial schools do engage in standardized testing, but they use different tests. The ones I am aware of are the Stanford Achievement Tests and Iowa Basic Skills Tests. Results are made available to parents. If you are interested in a school and inquire, my experience has been that they will tell you how their kids do in general terms.

    I have heard (and welcome correction on this) that the public schools in California have an exclusive contract for the STAR tests. The private schools have a choice of using STAR tests that are a year older than what the public schools are giving and for which answers are available on the Internet, or using different test providers.

    I am not sufficiently expert to say whether the tests are equally valid measures of achievement. However, I did want to point this out for families who may be concerned about issues such as private schools "marketing" their schools with inflated grades or who find standardized testing a valuable measure of whether their kids are where they should be academically.

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  56. "At the tour, the principal encouraged everyone, even non parishioners to apply. She was very candid about the process and who has preference. We are going to apply, though we are not parishioners and see what happens."

    She did the same on our tour last year, but last year there were 86 parishoners applying for 38 slots (less siblings). Friends of ours who were active parishoners since their kid was a toddler did not get in. AFAIK they did not get in off the waitlist (but they got into Clarendon so they did more than OK).

    Because of the parishoner preference, if you're a non-parishoner the odds are worse than getting into a trophy public or getting into Hamlin or Burke needing financial aid.

    It's a great school, but you need to be realistic.

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  57. Here's my bone to pick about St. Brendan's - I'm well aware that it's K-8. They gave the information about where their graduates were heading off to college, and like I said, it wasn't that impressive (other schools we checked out on the parochial circuit didn't give out that info, but the privates did). I look at private school like any investment, what's the return? The end game in our family is college and having my kids wind up at City or SF State would be a big disappointment, given our financial resources and the caliber of schools we attended. Maybe I was wrong about the types of people that are sending their kids to St. Brendan's, but they appeared similarily privileged and educated, so it was a bit of a surprise. There was one kid who had gone off to Berkeley and that was it. While I don't live and die by the US News and World Report rankings, I would expect that a school that touts how high performing its kids are would send more onto colleges that have competitive admissions processes.

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  58. Just wanted to note that one thing that was very appealing on the NDV and St. Brendan's tours were that the tour guides were the 7th and 8th graders, who were very poised and articulate - so you got to see the product, so to speak. St. Brendan's kids were particularly impressive in how disciplined they were, and how they helped to make the school run smoothly doing chores, etc.

    St. Cecilia's did the same trying to use kids as tour guides, but to be honest as their kids weren't comfortable in the role, and it felt very forced, leaving a negative rather than a positive impression.

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  59. "They gave the information about where their graduates were heading off to college, and like I said, it wasn't that impressive (other schools we checked out on the parochial circuit didn't give out that info, but the privates did)."

    Well, some who go through a strict Catholic education flounder a bit when they get to levels where they have to be more self-directed.

    I have a friend who went to a strict Irish Catholic School (where they still used corporal punishment), and then went to an elite university in the UK. He said colleagues who went from that school to the same elite university uniformly f**ked up at the college stage - they had a good enough education to cruise the first year staying mostly in the college bars, and because of the strictness of their earlier schooling, hadn't learned the self-discipline to get their sh*t together in later years: if there wasn't the threat of a priest with a strap, they lacked the motivation to put the necssary work in.

    My friend pulled his college career around, but unlike his colleagues he wasn't a heavy drinker, and so had an easier job of getting himself performing up to snuff. Others underperformed relative to their potential.

    DOn't know if that is the case with St. Brendan's students, but it is pattern with some alums of Catholic institutions.

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  60. 10:44-oh please. I am the product of an Irish Catholic education as are most of my friends and we did just fine thank you (Seven Sisters for me and a top 20 law school and my best friend from the Irish Catholic education went to Princeton undergrad and Yale for law---and no I don't want to start the whole Ivy League argument, thank you very much-I am only using these as an example). The pattern that you describe is true of a certain percentage of any high school students who go off to college after living at home until 18. It has nothing to do with whether you are Catholic educated or Irish Catholic educated.

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  61. 10:44 - You might make a better case if your posting didn't use multiple swear words and asterisks. This is a kindergarten blog... let's use appropriate language.

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  62. "10:44-oh please. I am the product of an Irish Catholic education as are most of my friends and we did just fine thank you"

    Bully for you. One of the individuals in question had been was the equivalent of valedictorian at his school. Won championships at the national level on general knowledge. Absolutely stellar. I met him, and he was as indeed sharp as a whip.

    He got a third-class law degree at Cambridge. It was a sharp fall.

    "You might make a better case if your posting didn't use multiple swear words and asterisks."

    You're so delicate on this side of the pond.

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  63. I think all state schools offer a quality education for a good value. It's sad to see statements from parents who would be disappointed if their child would attend one. SF State, CAL, UCSD, to name only a few, all have great programs.
    I know this is a kindergarten blog, but I just had to throw in my two cents.
    People attend schools for different reasons. It's doubtful that the parochial school they attended had much influence if any on that decision.

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  64. 10:22- Did the school tell your friends if their child passed the entrance exam?

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  65. "10:22- Did the school tell your friends if their child passed the entrance exam?"

    I don't know for sure, but I'd think so. The kid's bright, and had no trouble with the exam for St. Finn Barr.

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  66. At least at NDV, the entrance screening has three components: intellectual, behavioral, and kindergarten readiness, conducted in two parts--a personal screening and a play date. Our kid did well on the intellectual and kindergarten readiness components, but not so well on the behavior. I think NDV and St. Brendan's set their bars quite high because they have hundreds of requests for very few non-sibling K spots. This is not meant to diss St. Finn Barr's or the kid in question at all--I've heard positive things about it and have no personal knowledge of it, but I don't think it has as many requests per available space.

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  67. Does anyone know anything about Holy Name in the Sunset? Hasn't been mentioned yet and I am curious what the impression of this school is.

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  68. "I think NDV and St. Brendan's set their bars quite high because they have hundreds of requests for very few non-sibling K spots."

    NDV and St. Brendan's are able to handpick their students, if you want your child to attend these schools you should make sure they are ready for their evaulations.
    From St. Finn Barr's website:
    "We also perform a preliminary assessment with each application to get a sense of where your child is developmentally so we can tailor instruction for that child."
    I doubt St. Brendan's and NDV do that.

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  69. What about St. Brigit?

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  70. ""What about Star of the Sea? Does anyone have experience with that school? It seems very familial and warm but maybe not very academically rigorous. Is that a fair characterization?""
    NOVEMBER 4, 2009 6:27 AM

    Part 1 (Holy Name and Star of the Sea)

    For the above poster and the poster inquiring about Holy Name, I have cut and pasted my reflections about those two schools originally posted on an earlier thread. (There are actually several previous threads on parochial schools that may be of interest to those just starting out..)

    http://tinyurl.com/yg28f55
    SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2009
    Hot topic: Catholic schools

    "M said...
    We only actually visited two Catholic schools- Star of the Sea and Holy Name- but this was for sixth grade not KG. Non-Catholics are willing to give Catholic schools a shot for various reasons, but the reasons that attracted us the most were: K-8 (I think that’s a major attraction for many families who choose either parochial or independent); Mandarin after school; low cost compared to independents; and (fairly) reasonable proximity. (Uniforms are a minor “plus” to me, too… though not sure my son would see it that way.) The two schools we visited also had a great sense of community and many other attributes, but those can also be found at many publics (if you can get in) and independents (if you can get in and afford the tuition).

    

My 5th grader attends CAIS, but we didn’t think we could afford it, anymore (we later received additional financial aid), so we were looking at publics and Catholics where we thought he could get at least some Mandarin instruction before or after school. For publics, that meant Giannini (3 levels of Mandarin every day for an hour before school) and Lawton (only one or two days a week after school, but one of the Mandarin teachers at Giannini has a private program in her home right across the street from Lawton). For Catholic schools, we think that mainly means Saint Monica (4 days a week after-school), Star of the Sea (5 days a week after school), Saint Anne’s (or are the Chinese classes just on Saturdays?) and Saint Mary’s in Chinatown. Holy Name has an afterschool Chinese program, but only two days a week. (As I recall…) And I think there are other Catholic schools with one or two days a week of Mandarin. 



    Nobody seems to be talking about Holy Name, but it’s in the Sunset, and not that far from Saint Anne’s and others being mentioned. Even though we wanted more Mandarin, I toured Holy Name, anyway, since my son has soccer teammates there. (Very nice kids.) I really liked the principal, a very engaging woman who has worked there for years (first as a teacher) and lives nearby... and who seems to have a real passion for the school and the students. My tour guides were two very articulate and personable 8th graders, and I must say, they were the best possible "ambassadors" for the school. Nice school!



    My son did two “shadow” days at Star of the Sea, and liked the school a lot. Everyone was very welcoming (and quite happy to have a potential basketball player for the team!)… and he made friends and “fit in” right away. (He would have had to cut his hair, though…) .…
    APRIL 14, 2009 12:32 PM"

    "M said...
    At Star of the Sea, half the kids are non-Catholics. (I can’t remember, but think there may be a similar situation at Holy Name.) Star of the Sea doesn’t mention any preference for Catholics or parish members in admissions, but I would assume that could give some advantage if spots were scarce. In terms of tuition, they don’t give a break for parish members (as some schools do), but instead take off $1000 for “Participating Tuition” vs. “Non-Participating tuition. “The participating family rate requires that a family perform a minimum of 30 hours of service during the school year.”
    APRIL 14, 2009 4:02 PM"

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  71. http://tinyurl.com/yg28f55
    SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2009
    Hot topic: Catholic schools

    Part 2 (Holy Name and Star of the Sea)

    "One last call (plead, really): does anyone have any insights about Star of the Sea? Is it one of the more academically rigorous parochial schools?"

    "M said...

    

Here are my insights, but we were looking for 6th, not KG... I think the principal said they score in the top 25-30% on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. (Or whatever the test is the Catholic school kids take.) But as people have often mentioned here, how kids score on achievement tests is strongly correlated with family characteristics, so not a reliable indicator of academic rigor.

    In the Lowell Band 3 list I posted earlier, Star of the Sea is not listed, so a fair percentage of its students must make it into Lowell. The school informational material says that middle schools kids who need acceleration are assisted in taking advanced long-distance learning courses through John Hopkins, Stanford... and Berkeley? My son was really interested in that possibility, and also very much enjoyed his two “shadow” days (including his teacher, the principal and especially the other kids), but did say he felt the work was less challenging than at CAIS. However, he REALLY wanted to stay at CAIS, so he could have been trying to “persuade” us using the argument he thought we would find most compelling…. plus, I think CAIS actually does have a reputation for being one of the more challenging schools in San Francisco, and, of course, the regular school day at CAIS includes half the day in Chinese! (A challenging language…) So, all that should be taken into consideration when evaluating his perceptions (based on his limited time there).

    

Star of the Sea has 5 days a week of after-school Cantonese and Mandarin (one hour a day each… but the kids don’t have to go every day). There are other after-school options, too, and this school would work for families without any stay-at-home parents.

    

The third grade teacher spontaneously volunteered how much she LOVES the school, the kids, the families and her colleagues. She seemed extraordinarily passionate and committed, and was a great “advertisement” for the school since her enthusiasm was infectious. 



    I also e-mailed with the president (or maybe she was co-president) of the PTA (or equivalent), and she responded right away and was very helpful and welcoming. (I found that contact info on the school website, and it might be helpful for you, too, if you'd like the point of view of other families.)

    

I think Star of the Sea is a great school, well worth checking out. We were fortunate enough to receive additional financial assistance at CAIS, so are staying put, but I think my son could also have flourished at Star of the Sea... or our public school option, Giannini MS. (Prefer K-8, though.)
    APRIL 16, 2009 8:06 PM"

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  72. Can anyone comment on the schools that are more heavy on religious studies and those that don't. Or schools that have more non Catholic students?

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  73. 3:49 PM

    That has been discussed above. St. Philips and St. Johns were mentioned as schools that have many non-Catholics at the school. Several others were mentioned.

    Someone also mentioned the Lutheran parochial school.

    There was some discussion of topics like whether and how schools taught evolution and science. Several Catholic schools were mentioned as being LGBT friendly.

    Quite a few people have taken the time to put up the information in this thread. If you are interested, there do seem to be some parochial schools that are open minded and quite tolerant.

    I'm speaking as a non-Catholic, rather secularly minded person. Remember, us secular types shouldn't be too religious about our secularism.

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  74. To 10:44 from Thursday:

    "Well, some who go through a strict Catholic education flounder a bit when they get to levels where they have to be more self-directed."

    Oh, like Robin Williams.

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  75. Robin Williams did not have a Catholic education, just for the record -- though he probably wishes he did, since it's such great fodder for comedy.

    By the way, among my adult friends who are parochial school alumni, one common thread is that they all say they got zero arts education whatsoever. A couple of them stand out as obviously talented musicians who had to learn to read music as adults, having had no music in their schools at all. Has that changed?

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  76. St. Cecilia's has a very good, established music program. St. Stephen's offer music classes as an extra curricular after school for an added fee.

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  77. You are right, although he self describes himself has having had are rather restricted religious high school education, according to a Terry Gross interview in did a few years ago. Turns out that was Episcopal, not Catholic.

    There are many flavors of Catholic, as you know. I don't think we can't paint all Catholic education as being "strict."

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  78. You'll have to check individual schools, but the limited research I've done so far indicates that many parochial schools have expanded their arts offerings in recent years. I don't remember there being a lot of visual or performing art in Catholic or public schools elementary when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the more arts-integrated curricula are a relatively recent development.

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  79. Funny, I thought Robin Williams attended one of the public high schools in Marin County. It is true he was raised Episcopalian (he joked about the Episcopal Church when he gave one of the eulogies at Herb Caen's service at [Episcopal] Grace Cathedral about, what, a decade ago?). Does anyone else remember that....or am I just getting old?

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  80. Well, yes, I remember when Herb Caen died. It was shortly after I moved to the city. I didn't go to the service.

    Robin Williams discusses his educational development in this Terry Gross Fresh Air CD, Fresh Air Stars of the Stage and Screen. Make sure you get the recording with Robin Williams on it. A great interview:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/
    ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fresh+air+stars+of+the+stage+and+screen

    Yes, Williams finished highschool here in the Bay Area. Before that, he attended an Episcopalian private school in the Midwest. Check out the wiki page. In the interview, Williams is quite revealing about how his education shaped his career.

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  81. I didn't go to the service either, but it was televised and replayed, which is where I remember the comment from. Glad I'm not the only one around here who remembers it.

    I did check the wiki page and it says he attended the *secular* Detroit Country Day School in Bloomfield Hills (whew, swanky), and then Redwood High School in Marin County when they moved here. That doesn't sound like a religious school in either place, but when I have a chance I'll listen to the interview. Presumably what he says himself is more accurate than a wiki page.

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  82. I'm trying to remember the interview.

    One of the things he mentioned was that in his private school days, he had gravitated to the history and english lit classes (hamlet, tragedies.) He said that he had stuggled, especially as a shy kid, with this rigorous education until one of his teachers helped him see that tragedy was not just in a lit book, but all around him. It kind of freed him up to see the bigger picture.

    I still remember when I first saw him in a movie: "Good Morning Vietnam." The movie captured and challenged me in a way that a mainstream Hollywood movie rarely does.

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  83. "CAIS actually does have a reputation for being one of the more challenging schools in San Francisco, and, of course, the regular school day at CAIS includes half the day in Chinese! (A challenging language…) So, all that should be taken into consideration when evaluating his perceptions (based on his limited time there)."

    Does CAIS only do half of the day in Mandarin? Or is this just in the upper grades? Just surprised as the practice in the SFUSD immersion programs is to go from 90% in kinder to 50% by Grades 4/5.

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  84. "Does CAIS only do half of the day in Mandarin? Or is this just in the upper grades? Just surprised as the practice in the SFUSD immersion programs is to go from 90% in kinder to 50% by Grades 4/5."


    Yes, CAIS is Mandarin half the day until middle school when it goes down to about a third. On the other hand, kids can’t come into CAIS in first grade unless they already have a certain level of Mandarin… and CAIS has an hour longer school day. CAIS is also like AFY in requiring English proficiency for admission. (Of course, that is basically the situation in the SFUSD Mandarin programs at this time since there are so few native Mandarin speakers enrolled… and maybe they tend to also speak English?) Another difference is CAIS uses traditional characters.

    Last January, we had our (then) first grade daughter tested for Mandarin proficiency by the SFUSD (when we were planning to enroll her at Starr King for 2nd grade), and she was deemed proficient. (Not sure how that would have played out in the classroom with kids who have been immersed for 80-90% of the day- and are using simplified characters- but on paper she was ready.) Also, my husband got the impression that the language proficiency test results are valid for more than one year… so if we want to enroll her in SFUSD Mandarin immersion next year, she doesn’t have to retake the test? (Not sure if he got that right.)

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  85. The art & music teachers at St. Monica's were really impressive from what I remember of our tours last year. The kids had done drawings of each other without having looked down at the page. The results were amazing. They had also made mobiles from found objects and the room was full of pastels and paints, posters of modern and classical art - looked like an art studio rather than the typical school art room. The teacher was young and very enthusiastic. We were really impressed. The school is large so as I remember they had separate rooms for piano and violin lessons as well as a music room.

    The kindergarten teacher was also amazing - would highly recommend touring.

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  86. Anyone have any experience with Saint Thomas the Apostle in the Richmond

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  87. Friends have been there 4 years now, so they must be satisfied. They are practicing Catholics and have a boy. They have mentioned feeling a bit overwhelmed by the volunteer expectations, but they seem inclined to step up when people ask for help.

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  88. "CAIS is also like AFY in requiring English proficiency for admission."

    AFY parent here. This "AFY requires English proficiency" keeps coming up in comments, and it is not correct. AFY has 19% ELLs. There is no test for English proficiency before admission.

    This might have been the case back during the old OER/alternative school system, but it's not now.

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  89. "Yes, CAIS is Mandarin half the day until middle school when it goes down to about a third. On the other hand, kids can’t come into CAIS in first grade unless they already have a certain level of Mandarin."

    SFUSD has the same policy on entry to immersion programs post-first grade.

    "Last January, we had our (then) first grade daughter tested for Mandarin proficiency by the SFUSD (when we were planning to enroll her at Starr King for 2nd grade), and she was deemed proficient."

    I'm impressed.

    Because my kid (now in a Cantonese immersion program) was three years at a Spanish immersion preschool where the %age of Spanish dropped from near 90% to 50% in the pre-K year (because they wanted to make sure the kids would perform OK in private school interviews). I noticed a real drop in my kid's proficiency with Spanish with the change from 100% immersion to 50% immersion. So I was a bit skeptical that you'd get a rapid enough take-up of the language at 50% immersion.

    "(Not sure how that would have played out in the classroom with kids who have been immersed for 80-90% of the day- and are using simplified characters- but on paper she was ready.)"


    Ah, she'd have done just fine.

    Would the simplified/traditional distinction be that important at that stage? I wouldn't have thought we'd be talking about a huge number of characters learned at the end of 1st grade, anyway - maybe 200 or so?

    Personally, I liked Ortega a bit more than Starr King, but they're both good schools in my mind. Ortega's first MI cohort (in second grade now) have only 12 kids in that class, so if you're considering defecting over to the publics, that might be an even more attractive option than Starr King.

    Never visited CAIS, so can't make the comparison between private/public.

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  90. "AFY parent here. This "AFY requires English proficiency" keeps coming up in comments, and it is not correct. AFY has 19% ELLs. There is no test for English proficiency before admission."

    Sorry if I am spreading misinformation. Maybe it is more correct to say AFY is "one-way" immersion (like CAIS), as opposed to the "two-way" immersion programs that (theoretically) have 50% native target language speakers and 50% native English speakers... so AFY doesn't have half the spots saved for native Cantonese speakers?

    [Also...sorry to hijack the parochial school thread!]

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  91. " Maybe it is more correct to say AFY is "one-way" immersion (like CAIS), as opposed to the "two-way" immersion programs that (theoretically) have 50% native target language speakers and 50% native English speakers... so AFY doesn't have half the spots saved for native Cantonese speakers?"

    Yes, although I'd say that maybe 30% of the intake, at least in this kinder year, are proficient in Cantonese. But it's not two-way with desired 50/50 mix like the other SFUSD immersion programs.

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  92. There was definitely art in California public schools in the '60s and '70s -- it was a high priority. I went to school here and my mother-in-law was a public school music teacher.

    At THAT time there was definitely not art in Catholic schools. Maybe that has changed.

    Redwood High in Marin, Robin Williams' alma mater, is public.

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  93. If anyone is interested in Star of the Sea the last tour of the year is Thursday Nov. 19th at 9:00 am. The office # is 415-221-8558.

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  94. "Robin Williams did not have a Catholic education, just for the record -- though he probably wishes he did, since it's such great fodder for comedy."

    This thread is probably dead, but gotta get in my comparative religion joke.

    Marx said religion was the opium of the people. As laudanum (opium) isn't legally sold as a therapeutic any longer*, this statement needs refinement and updating.

    Episcopalianism is, obviously, the Tylenol of the People. Might redcue the pain a bit, but not gonna get you high.
    Buddhism is the alcohol of the people, because if you do it seriously enough you reach oblivion.
    Hinduism is the marijuana of the people as it makes you say inane things over and over and over again.
    Judaism and Catholicism are the LSD of the people as you get flashbacks all through your life!

    [Ever wonder about all those Victorian stories about sickly pale wan kids who are bedridden. Some of it was TB, but a lot was the mums or caregivers giving them laudanum. They were childhood opium addicts. Coca-cola was invented by John Pemberton to wean himself off laudanum, although given that his recipe contained cocaine it might not have been much of a tradeoff).

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  95. St. Anne's
    K-8
    2 K classes - sizes are 28 - 32 with a teacher and teacher aide (who is really more like a second teacher)

    2 science teachers (one for upper grades and 1 for lower)
    Music class & library once a week
    Technology integrated in classrooms/curriculum
    Artist in residence for upper grades (or some similar art program)
    PE - 2x per week (I think)
    Hours are 8:10 - 2:50 with extended care on campus

    Also have a WONDERFUL Chinese program after school and on Sat.
    65% of families are non-Catholic, however, religion is large focus in curriculum and top of the school identity.

    This is a true community school with most of the students being from the surrounding neighborhoods. Student population predominately Asian or Filipino.

    Huge focus on reading and developing the whole person.

    Students are also given assignments over the summer that are due the first day of school such as book reports and community service activities.

    The principal is very engaged and students are encouraged to particpate in all aspects of school and community -- upper grades coordinated Halloween carnival for whole school, rotation of classes sponsoring PTA meetings, one class is organizing book drive for flood victims in the Philippines.

    Mandatory parent participation

    I believe a large number of students were accepted at Lowell last year.

    Great gem of a school

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  96. About St. Thomas the Apostle in the Outer Richmond:
    This was a gem that has really lost it's luster since the new principal came on board. She is all whistles and no substance. We're on our way out of the school soon with our eighth grader, but feel badly for younger age families. The newer hired teachers seemed inexperienced,weak on academics and the whole school feels chaotic with newly admitted kids who are poorly behaved and a bad influence on our kids who want a safe environment. I've heard St. Monica's and Star of the Sea (the other two Inner Richmond Catholic Schools) have wonderful principals, strong academics and great families. I'd look at these two if I were starting out again.

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