Reviewed by Marcia Brady
Location: 250 Foerster St. (in Sunnyside, between Glen Park and City College)
School hours: 8:40-2:40
Principal: Nancy Schlenke
Web site: www.sunnysidek5.org
School tours: Thurs. (not Weds. as I previously posted -- sorry!!*), 9-10:30 AM
Kindergarten size: 3 Ks of 22 each
Total student body: 300
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:
A strong focus on science, an intimate feel, an active parent base, a later start time and later aftercare, and a clean, bright building and grounds.
Class Structure / Curriculum: GE program only
Campus/Playground: Beautiful, clean 1926 building with freshly painted yellow interior and large new windows, and big sunny classrooms. Library but no computer lab. 2 bungalow classrooms housing 1st grade and a split 4/5 grade (1 more bungalow likely to come, and they have the yard space). Very large asphalt yard with new-looking play structure cordoned off with a low wall decorated with student-made tiles. New mural, gardening boxes, and benches.
After School programs: YMCA 2:40-6:30 3-5 days/week ($435/mo. for full-time, ExCel 2:40-5:40 PM M-F). After-school enrichment programs 1x/week from 2:40-3:40 in Spanish (Lango method), piano, art, and American Sign Language.
Additional Programs: District-sponsored artist-in-residence program, Adventures in Music, Creative Movement, SF Ballet program. PTA and/or grant-sponrosred Art Appreciation, Art Cart, p/t classroom music teacher, school-wide musical performance, Exploratorium Mission Science SWorkships, Zoomobile, parent workshop, "Safe Rides to School," school greening project.
PTA: From 7-81 in just 2 years; $50K raised last year in grants and funding.
Language program(s): After-school Spanish class available, 1x/week.
Library / Computer Lab: Small, bright, well-organized library with automated check-out (so it's always open) even with a part-time librarian. Computer terminals in classrooms, but no computer lab yet -- a parent technology committee is working on that.
Arts: see "Additional Programs" above; also partnership with Asian Art museum for visits, programming.
PE: part-time instructor + 3 PE interns
Recess/Lunch: AM and lunch recess, 20 mins. each. Play first, then eat. Kindergarteners have their own recess.
First, Sunnyside gets the award for most comprehensive and informative brochure! If you're even remotely interested, snag one of these, for it tells you everything you'd ever want to know, including a kindergartener's daily schedule. I actually visited based on the strength of the brochure and friends' urging, because it's not exactly on my way to anywhere.
We began in the library, which was meticulously organized and featured a book fair by SF's own Barefoot Books, with proceeds benefiting the library. There were 4-5 parents there, all seemingly very informed and able to answer questions well or defer them to the later chat with the principal if they didn't know. Unfortunately, the classroom part of the tour was disappointing, as all the K students were on field trips, and as we merely meandered about the upper-grade hallways, not really entering classrooms for any length of time. However, this did give us substantial time in the empty K classrooms, which are huge, sunny, and architecturally interesting, with built-in shelving and alcoves to separate off some of the play space (note to the district: are those radiators peeling lead paint, or do you test for that?!). The classrooms were beautifully equipped with toys, math manipulatives, and so on, on a par with most private preschool classrooms I've seen -- and the tour guide said that parents had been amazingly responsive to classroom "wish lists." There were lots of pocket charts with not only lessons outlined in them, but also things like goals: for example, one labeled "Focus Wall" for reading detailed the theme, the goals for phomenic awareness and phonics, sight words, reading strategies, composition skills, vocabulary, and listening/speaking skills. It wasn't for the kindergarteners to read, of course, but was enormously informative for a parent like me.
We finished with a meeting with Principal Nancy Schlenke, where we learned why and how Sunnyside is so science-focused. Ms. Schlenke is a former lab researcher from UCSF (she left research and taught at Alvarado for 10 years, was a Teacher-in-Residence at the Exploratorum, and served as an SFUSD science resource teacher before coming to Sunnyside). She's brought in the FOSS program; science-focused field trips; Mission Science Workshops for Grade 1; SFSU science students doing hands-on experiments wiht grade 2; Science Content Specialists from WISE (Working to Improve Science) who observe teachers, then provide feedback and lesson planning help; and teacher science training at the California Science Teachers Convention. She has also hired almost all the staff at Sunnyside within the past 5 years, and was very honest about the pros and cons of a younger staff (the pros: test scores have shot up and the school is now over 800; the cons: they might get cocky and the learning curve is steep). I thought she was very impressive. This was an unusually articulate and informed parent group who asked great questions, and she answered them with aplomb (talking about standards as the "basement" for achievement, not the ceiling, describing the Balance Scorecard System, telling us about her concern that differentiated instruction led to busywork for students not being attended to). She has also brought in lots of help, using City College's "pre-teacher" program and SF State's student teachers to bring in a total of 12 other adults every semester.
Overall: Sunnyside is charming, with an impressive set of parents, lots of enrichment, and a serious intellectual in charge. The commute would be rough for us, and it's not an immersion school, but otherwise it looks great. Apparently once the sad-sack alternative to Miraloma, Sunnyside is now a real catch!
* I usually write these up late at night, so apologies for errors. I try to go back and correct them if commenters point them out, so thank you to the person who caught this one!