Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hot topic: Creative Arts Charter School

This from an SF K Files reader:
Would you mind starting a new CACS topic? Their application period is, I think, still open and I'm trying to get more info on issues raised on the (now very buried) original CACS tour blog entry. Specifically, I'm wondering if anyone has info on what's happening with the board, principal, teachers, parents, etc. It's tough choosing a school without any real info about what's going on!

97 comments:

  1. Their deadline is Jan. 29. You have to do a tour to apply. They are still offering them. I'm doing one next week. The school is moving buildings next year but they don't know where yet.

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  2. I've heard that the teachers voted to unionize and that there are real fears that CACS won't be able to survive because of that. Word was that CACS used to pay its teachers commensurate with SFUSD's unionized teacher salaries, but was going to stop meeting SFUSD teacher pay, and also that teachers were unhappy that they had to sign contracts allowing them to be fired at any time for no cause.

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  3. We have looked at CACS a couple of times over the past few years but ultimately decided not to go there. I kept wanting to really like the school, but I kept getting this feeling that the school was in a constant state of disorganization and confusion. The comments above only reinforce my concern. Admittedly, SFUSD bears a great deal of responsibility for this (the disruptive last minute decisions to move CACS, the terrible condition of its current campus, and now the constant question over where it will be next year). It is a shame, since this is effectively SF's only K through 8 charter and its relatively small size and arts-focus should really make it an attractive alternative. (I know there's Edison also which lives in some type of state-licensed gray area, but you all get my point.) The one thing I would hope is that SFUSD starts treating the school better -- giving it a good facility and good location and making that decision NOW. Then maybe CACS will start to settle down and become the great charter alternative it really should be.

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  4. Most of us these days sign "at will" employment agreements and I don't see why teachers should be any different. I am not anti-union across the board, however I don't think that the teacher's union has always been good for our public school students. That said, I don't know what is going on regarding teacher salaries at CACS (but I don't think that unionizing is the only way to increase pay). I'm hoping that a new location / building will help the school as a whole settle into a comfortable place. (I'm not a CACS parent, just a parent looking at Ks)

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  5. If the teachers are organizing to join the union, it is for a good reason. People don't join those kind of fights unless they have real grievances.

    Working conditions and real wages decline with less union density in specific industries, and with decline in unions overall. There is a reason why most of us have experienced real wage decline since the 1970's (this may not be true if you are in the professional class with family income over $110,000, but it is true for the majority of families; the move to two-income families staved it off for a bit, but now we are seeing the decline in standard of living--except for the top 15% or so of earners).

    I actually agree that there need to be big reforms in our schools that include (but are not limited to) changes related to teacher recruitment, training, and tenure. There is more and better research emerging on what makes a good teacher, and we need to follow that. And it is true that the teacher's unions have sometimes fought for principles that are more focused on protecting current employees than on improving the whole system.

    But any viable reforms will need to be made with teachers unions at the table. I can well imagine the unions trading some of their tenure rights for a significant bump up in teacher compensation, just to give an example.

    As it is now, the charter movement as a whole--I'm not suggesting that CACS is not on the progressive wing of that, because generally it is--has been been in bed with right-wingers who want to break the teachers' unions. I'd love to see real school reform that includes funding for a longer school day/year with lots of enrichment and a broad array of community and family supports onsite. I'd love to see an investment in teacher recruitment and training. I just don't think such reforms should be made on the backs of lower-paid, non-union teachers picking up the extra hours. That is a recipe for burnout--churn through the young, idealistic 20-somethings, and spit them out. That's a shortcut, not real reform.

    [Necessary disclosure: I'm not Caroline, who is something of an voice in this city against charters. I'm not opposed to charters, but I am opposed to the eroding worker rights.]

    Okay, back to the specifics of CACS now.

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  6. Where is CACS located? Why is it a 'bad' location?

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  7. CACS right now is in the Western Addition, and I don't think the parents have a problem with the location now. The problem is the building -- it is in relatively bad shape now and SFUSD is retiring that building as a safe school site for the nontemporary future. So the issue is where it will go. And the concern I have heard is that parents there don't want the school relocated far away from its current relatively central location. And CACS folks have a reason to be concerned: just over 5 years ago, they were, with little warning, sent all the way from Potrero Hill to the Western Addition. A move far away now would have a similarly disruptive effect on families' commute patterns etc. I know CACS really wanted the DeAvila location, but that is now a public school again, and, even though there's some room there, CACS can't be there too (for reasons having to do with state requirements that K classes only be on the first floor). So that's the physical plant/location CACS faces right now.

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  8. The location is fine, very central, on Turk Street between Divisadero and Fillmore in the Western Addition (not far from Rosa Parks), with plenty of parking and on commute routes from the avenues to downtown. The problem is that the buildings are in bad shape. The community tries to keep them up, but it's a sisyphean task.

    The school has been told it will be moving this year to another location, but they won't find out where until next month, I believe.

    It won't hurt you to apply, though. It's a separate process that generates a waiting list by lottery. If you get in, you can decide based on the new location. You'll have a separate offer through the lottery to weigh against it. Who knows, maybe the new location will be perfect for you....

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  9. There's also a chance that we won't move at all until the year after (2011). They might offer us the same site again, as they did last year. I sincerely hope that, like the poster at 11:30, that SFUSD treats us better in the future and secures us a permanent site. We love our unique school, but the constant upheaval and uncertainty is really bad for our community morale and our kids' sense of security.
    I really hope you're listening, Rachel Norton!

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  10. I too really wanted to like Creative Arts Charter but have to say that I did not. The stated mission and description of their teaching methods on the website is very enticing but it did not translate to what I observed on the tour. I just walked away thinking the place was simply too chaotic and the director seemed to evade questions she did not like which was a red flag in my opinion. That said, a tour is just a glimpse and I did see some bright spots at the school in terms of the teaching staff and the parent participation.

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  11. "And CACS folks have a reason to be concerned: just over 5 years ago, they were, with little warning, sent all the way from Potrero Hill to the Western Addition."

    That was an odd decision, as the East side of the city is short on school capacity.

    My impression is that the odds for CACS are pretty good, with a lot of movement on their waitlist. It's worth a shot.

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  12. I liked it when I toured this fall. Admittedly, I didn't get to see many classes in action, but I walked through many classrooms (while kids/teachers were at recess or whatever...timing was off and I couldn't stay later)--the classrooms looked like engaging places to learn, with good educational materials on the walls and around the rooms. The class I did get to see had a very dynamic teacher and kids seemed to be happy. The arts focus is great. The issues with the administration/unionization issues and with the facilities are a concern, but I'm definitely going to apply. It's a separate lottery, for crying out loud! Another chance to get in somewhere! It seemed like a nice community, one that we'd probably be happy with. I'm sure all the schools will appear in a new light when those letters go out in March, depending on what assignments we (and everyone else) get(s). In other words, unless your kid really dislikes art or the logistics are impossible, I can't see why anyone wouldn't just send in an application to CACS as a backup option.

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  13. I attended a recent CACS community meeting where parents were asked for input as the board considers restructuring the school administration to support an increased emphasis on fundraising, and to further improve retention of middle school students.

    We were given no specifics to answer your questions yet, Kate, but the process we are going through further supports my sense of CACS as a thoughtful, open board and a committed, enthusiastic principal working with involved families.

    There were some doom and gloom projections about the fiscal impact of unionization bandied about by opponents to the move. Right now I don't hear anyone saying that the school cannot survive the unionization. There are real fiscal challenges, to be sure -- and I see the school working hard to meet those challenges.

    I don't doubt that different people have different experiences with the principal but my husband and I have found her to be straightforward, energetic, and a fine leader. Great confidence in Liz was voiced repeatedly by parents at the meeting.

    I do think that you should apply -- it doesn't impact the other lottery application and much of the turmoil about location and administrative structure may have been resolved by the time your child starts school.

    My child is thriving at CACS, and is learning a lot, and is learning to love learning. That to me makes the uncertainty worth it.

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  14. I want to address the first 3 posts-

    10:23 am:
    No one knows for certain if CACS is moving buildings next year. We will find out on Feb. 1 IF we are moving. We may well stay in our current location for another year. The District decides.

    (10:40am):
    "I've heard that... Word was that..."

    Stop the bus. This poster is passing on rumors and innuendos. Please consider their comments with a huge grain of salt.

    11:30 am:
    "I kept getting this feeling that the school was in a constant state of disorganization and confusion. The comments above only reinforce my concern."

    Please do not use misinformation and rumor to re-enforce your opinion of CACS. It's fine that you don't really like CACS, but base that assessment on your own perceptions and not on unsubstantiated rumors.

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  15. This is 10:40. But, 6:46: Tailypo, who is or claims to be a CACS parent, appears to confirm that the unionization "rumors" were accurate. The third paragraph of his/her post treats that information as part of the situation. Are you now saying that's not accurate? Now whom do we believe?

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  16. Tailypo here -- I think that 6:46pm was referring to 10:40's rumors/innuendo about why the teachers unionized and whether the school can survive. I agree that post is inflammatory and should be taken with a grain of salt.

    My post doesn't contradict 6:46's argument. We are in agreement. If you need to choose who to believe, believe us, our kids go to CACS and we have the most invested in knowing what is going on.

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  17. Although I should also mention that I was late to the meeting and missed the first 10 minutes where they discussed the union vote. My understanding is that the teachers are going forward with unionization. Every admin person I spoke to was respectful of the teachers' right to choose union, and as a union member myself I agreed.

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  18. 6:46 here

    I'm not disputing that the CACS teachers have voted to unionize (like all the other SFUSD teachers.) What I'm disputing is the following conjecture,

    "Word was that CACS used to pay its teachers commensurate with SFUSD's unionized teacher salaries, but was going to stop meeting SFUSD teacher pay.

    I try to ask myself 2 questions when reading blogs: Is this true? And how do you know this is true?

    I'm an active parent at the school and I have no knowledge of this. Unless one is a CACS board member, I don't see how one would know this is true.

    Look, I'm not trying to be defensive about our problems. Peel back the surface of any school and you'll find them. The state and district budget crisis amplifies things. But to say that the Board was planning on taking our teachers off the district scale is a pretty strong statement, yes, even inflammatory.

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  19. I'm a neighbor of CACS (live across the street)/, and I can confirm that the families that go to CACS are an excellent group. My kids go elsewhere (also public), but they didn't get in (twins, which can be more of a challenge in terms of school acceptance...though I think the school district is getting better about managing multiples) They have great playground celebrations/festival, happy parents/kids, a really engaged make Kinder teacher, and regular field trips to nearby Alamo Square. Lots of happy kids in the playground.

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  20. meant to say great male Kinder teacher!

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  21. 11:30 am again -- wow, and to think I was actually trying to be helpful in getting folks reading this blog to sympathize with CACS and push SFUSD to treat you all better! I'm finding the comments of some CACS parents a bit too defensive here. I would really like CACS to have a stable home so that it can serve as a true charter alternative. And I do think this "Damocles sword" of SFUSD all of a sudden moving CACS with little warning has had an impact on the stability of the school. But obviously there's more going on there . . .

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  22. But isn't it valid to check out reports, scuttlebutt and rumors via this blog? Posters here do it all the time. Why not just provide the information if you have it, and set the record straight if the report is wrong, rather than objecting to the question?

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  23. agreed. I'd just like to know what's really happening. I'm beginning to get the feeling (not just from CACS, but from a number of schools) that ppl (principals, parents, etc) are knowingly hiding things so that more ppl apply. I'm one for knowing what I'm getting into, good and bad, and would appreciate some sunshine.

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  24. @8:59/11:30: (sigh)
    I'm not the person who got upset, but I just wanted to say that as a CACS parent It's hard not be in defensive mode when your school is getting hit from all sides: the charter critics on the one side are constantly bashing you and hoping for your demise, the district treats you like the black sheep and shuffles your school's location at will, internal conflicts between some members of the board and the administration, rumors flying around unchecked... Top that all off with a huge budget crisis which affects all public schools and a community who are tapped out doing fundraising and helping in the classroom and maybe you can understand why many of us CACS parents might be feeling a bit weary and defensive these days....our school has many wonderful qualities, but sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

    Personally, I thought your observations were valid and I appreciate you sticking up for us for more stability. Here, here.

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  25. But all our political leaders love you -- from the far right as far left as Obama. Promoting charters is a key goal of the Obama administration's Department of Education. The critics are small potatoes by comparison.

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  26. 9:59: Your post reeks of snark

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  27. Is the post inaccurate, 9:00?

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  28. Obama is far left? In whose book?

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  29. I read it again -- just as far left as Obama. No further.

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  30. 11:30 again -- I do appreciate the sense of frustration that CACS parents have about SFUSD's behavior toward them. So I hope these posts will galvanize folks reading this blog -- nonCACS parents like me -- to contact school board members and push for SFUSD to treat CACS fairly. Look, SFUSD can't have it both ways: they can't keep re-extending CACS' charter as they just did, while keeping them in suspense on something as basic as where they are going to be located for the nontemporary future. The message should be clear: CACS is a longstanding charter that has been repeatedly re-chartered by SFUSD. It plays a valuable role in SF's community. It should be given a nontemporary home NOW, not in April or May after everyone reading this has made up their minds on where to send their children to (and most definitely NOT in July/August like was done to it the last time). That home should be generally in the same area CACS is in now -- the central areas of the city. Again, no huge traipses to the furthest extremes of the city.

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  31. Thanks, 11:30/3:38! I wish you were on the SFUSD School Board!

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  32. Re "far left" -- our district is not particularly fertile territory for charter schools, but the left/green/progressives on the school board have been the most charter-friendly.

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  33. another question re CACS: when will we (non-CACS parents) be able to find out what the new location of the school will be? thx!

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  34. The district will give us a response to our request for a new space in early February and it will be posted here on this thread. It is very possible they will offer us the same site we are in now, as they did last year.

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  35. I know that people on this string are mostly talking about the building, but I think prospective parents should also know about problems with the arts program at Creative Arts. This year is the first year that my child has had any real arts education, and all because of the newly hired head of the arts program. The old teacher is now doing 4-8 so parents in my grade are looking down the road and worrying about going back into the same old, same old lifeless program with no artwork coming home, no group projects, no gallery trips, no significant exposure to different media or cultural traditions or artists, no school shows, no CACS representation in citywide shows. The fabulous new k-3 winter show this year was like being at a different school. And it was organized by the new teacher who is also a working artist who can share her own work and experience with the kids.

    It sounds crazy based on how the school is advertised but the best arts education my child received before this year was led by parents and the classroom teacher. I know families in the upper grades that are very unhappy with what their students are getting now from the old teacher. We shared our concerns in the past but the school never gave us much of a real answer about why kids we knew at other schools seemed to get more art with less resources. The great new k-3 teacher comes from another public elementary school. (New Traditions, I think.) She's what we were expecting but she's the exception in our experience. Ironically, when we were looking for K, my husband and I worried that the school's focus would be too much on the arts!

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  36. I love the school, and my kid loves the school. The only thing wrong with it now is there are several mean-spirited people on the Board of Directors, but there's an election coming up.

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  37. "The only thing wrong with it now is there are several mean-spirited people on the Board of Directors"

    would you mind elaborating? mean-spirited in what way?

    also, I see in the cobb thread that CACS isn't getting a new bldg; is this true? I thought the school had to move b/c the bldg is unfit??

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  38. Would the space at Cobb being vacated by the Montessori program be large enough to accommodate CACS? If so, that might be a good option given its proximity to the current site.

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  39. No, the Cobb general ed program is staying there, the montessouri school is moving.

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  40. Thanks for validating our impression of the weak arts program. When we toured, we were amazed at how little art was on view throughout the school and most of it seemed to be classroom projects. We wanted to love it, but my husband felt that the program was a "sham," his words at the time. Part of his job relates to teacher training, so he has strong opinions.

    We were very turned off by the art teacher's low energy and seeming disconnection from the kids in her uninspiring art room. We enrolled at Sunnyside, and our son had a piece in the DeYoung show of public school artwork last spring. I don't think Creative Arts was part of the show, but I could be wrong. Our school doesn't have a dedicated art teacher or art room or anything close to the money that must be spent on this area at Creative Arts, by the way.

    Someone wrote a comment that their charter was renewed recently. Who's evaluating the quality of their arts program that's supposed to be their core?

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  41. Instead of relying on people who disliked our school (based upon one tour) ask parents of kids at the school how WE like it ...
    my kid LOVES this school, he isn't bored like he was in another one of SFUSD's typical elementary schools.

    And by the way, "arts-integration" means that much of the art IS done in combination with the work being done in the classroom.

    It's great that person likes Sunnyside, but why do some people feel such a need to go out of their way to trash other people's schools? Bizarre.

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  42. I have to second 5:46's comments about our amazing new Art Department head. She and our new dance teacher have brought new energy and excitement to our school this year. My daughter comes home excited every day showing us new dance moves and telling us about the artists she's learning about including mexican muralists and printmakers. When I look at our school I see an incredible lower school with dedicated teachers and caring staff. I know we are going through a rough patch right now and that our middle school needs some TLC but I have faith that our strong community will prevail, as we have in the past.

    Please, just give us a new building!

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  43. The District should give CACS the Edison site ...

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  44. RE: the Cobb site, my understanding was that they did have extra space when it was just the GE program there (which is why the Montessori program was sited there). Does anyone know whether they would have enough extra space for CACS? If so, this might be a good site for CACS given its proximity to their current site.

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  45. Do you mean share the Cobb campus?

    Nope, not enough room, and we are a K-8.

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  46. 11:30 again, a non-CACS parent: First, SFUSD moving the Montessori and not dealing with CACS is totally unfair. And, Rachel, let me repeat -- I am not a CACS parent but I and many others like me would like to have a real K through 8 arts-based alternative charter in this school district. Second, I hear the concerns about the CACS current situation and I'm sure there are tons of issues with CACS, but, at the end of the day, isn't the real problem that SFUSD, by jerking CACS around for nearly a decade now and keeping a Damocles Sword of impermanence over its head, has permanently handicapped CACS compared to public schools. I'm mean, a runner ain't going to do a good job in a race if he's got a ball and chain wrapped around his leg. And he's going to look mighty clumsy -- he's going to slip and slide and fall all over himself. Yes, it's fine to say that there are problems at CACS, but, at the end of the day, isn't it really mostly about the constant instability occasioned by SFUSD's failure to give them a nontemporary GOOD facility in a central location? It makes it hard for CACS to fill all its classes up; and the instability makes for teacher turnover (I mean who wants a job when they are not sure what is happening to it?). Want to see what a good arts-focused charter COULD look like in SF if SFUSD treated CACS right? Look at the Oakland Arts Academy in downtown Oakland. I have friends with kids there and the charter is simply skyrocketing in popularity. Good facility and good location makes for more parental interest and support which in turn brings and keeps better teachers which in turn makes for a stronger school. It is a cycle of constant improvement feeding on itself. What SFUSD has done is straightjacket CACS into a death spiral.

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  47. District 5 needs to keep its few remaining schools, and Creative Arts is one of them.

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  48. Happily the education children are receiving at CACS has never been better. Our new arts co-ordinator, who also teaches K-3 is a gift from above. The teaching staff, ( admittedly with one or two exceptions), is first rate. The mood in the classrooms, up beat and lively.
    Just some clarifications: the teachers and staff at CACS voted last fall to join the educators union. They are still in the process of sorting out their piece of the initial collective bargaining process. Last year in light of the budget crisis there was talk of TEMPORARILY freezing teachers salaries. This option was strenuously opposed and rejected. The union option was brought in by two teachers whose ongoing poor performance has made them both vulnerable to being asked to leave. FYI the vote to join would not have passed if limited to teachers only. It was only with the inclusion of after school staff that it got the wide majority needed to pass. CACS will most definitely survive unionization, and this move may in fact prove beneficial in the long run. Re: the board of directors, many of those serving are thoughtful caring people but unfortunately they are currently outnumbered by others with an obvious and divisive agenda. The one bright spot in that is all but 3 of the 12 board terms are over in June.

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  49. thank you, 11:06, for the info. a question re unionization: so these couple poor performing teachers are now going to be there for the long haul?

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  50. I am by nature optimistic so let's hope not. ;-)

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  51. The posting just above that explains what lay behind the unionization (the two under-performing teachers spreading fear etc) is all accurate.

    Just one point of clarification: the Arts Program Director is definitely a gift from above, but not from heaven. She's one of several excellent new hires made by our fabulous school director, Liz Jaroslow. And the restructure of the Arts Program to raise its standards was her work, too. Now we just have to keep her on board in spite of our snake of a Board president and his cronies with all their devious attempts to force her out.

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  52. Good Christ. I am REALLY glad that I listened to my gut on this one and gave up our spot. The school is a wonderful idea but it seems to prove Satre's statement that Hell is Other People.

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  53. Re: "The union option was brought in by two teachers whose ongoing poor performance has made them both vulnerable to being asked to leave."

    Since employment had been at will at CACS, why weren't they asked to leave?

    It does seem like that's the standard line of labor opponents. That's not very liberal or progressive and puts CACS is a pretty bad light.

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  54. I have to agree: it's awfully convenient that poor teachers were pushing a union because they were vulnerable to being terminated...but hadn't been.

    I thought the idea of charters was that they would quickly move to remove underperforming teachers who were not able to better their work.

    I don't know why a union vote is less valid because the entire school staff votes, either. It seems straightforward that many CACS teacher would be not terribly interested in a union since they work at a school without one. An organizing attempt is not easy or simple. The truth may be just as you say, but rarely is it that straightforward and one-sided.

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  55. To 5:15, I am progressive and don't think that supporting poor performing teachers is a good idea. I don't think that it is open minded to keep on folks who aren't measuring up and who do not improve; that isn't open minded, it is deluded. Did everyone read the piece in the Atlantic? Very interesting. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/201001/good-teaching

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  56. Last year was the new director's first year and chance to run our school to her vision. She became interim when the previous director bailed for another job in February two years ago and then became permanent last year in the fall.

    Liz is focused on academics, staff development, new programs where the previous director was not. He's an administrator, not an educator. Liz raised the standards and pushed our teachers to do their best work. She gave all of them a chance to rise to the new standard last year. I met with her last year over some concerns with our classroom teacher, and I know that she was working to support and guide her. This is the fair way to go.

    The two teachers who led the union push focused on bringing in the union rather than on the students (read the posting above about the art program). They ignored the fact that teacher unions oppose the whole idea of charters at the core and that mom-and-pop charters like ours can scarecely afford the legal representation required for collective bargaining.

    They received heavy coaching and support from UESF, staging pizza parties etc. The faculty were very naive.

    To "Good Christ" above, I hate to say I'm starting to agree with you. I've entered my child in the lottery after several years of hoping the dramas would die down at Creative Arts. Many other parents are also in the lottery this year. If we leave, we'll be explained away as malcontents or something similar, I've seen this before. But we've really loved the school. Losing Liz will be the end of the road for us.

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  57. OMG. Is Creative Arts Charter a school or a dirty laundry factory?? Waiting for our K assignment next year and totally turned off.

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  58. I'm actually happy that the CACS issues are being discussed here. With other SFUSD schools, I just have no idea what's going on behind closed doors. I loved Liz on the tour and hope that she sticks around

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  59. @7:52 do you honestly think your assigned public school won't have conflicts and dramas ? Let me assure you it will but your awareness and recourse will both be severely limited. Trust.

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  60. After reading this, I look forward to the limits. All this fighting is WAY beyond what I've heard in frank insights from friends at other schools - people I "trust." This is CRAZY. I have to jump off this string and focus on other things. Good luck. Seriously.

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  61. 8:36 pm's warning is very true -- it is a very wise comment and I'd suggest the newbie parents here listen closely to it. I've been at a public elementary now five years. Plenty of dirty laundry. People entrenched in positions for decades who are absolutely uninterested in constructive advice or helping the kids. And little if no chance at making changes. At CACS, at least, it sounds like there are efforts to change things or at least have discussions about doing so.

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  62. I have a question about CACS at the middle school level. There are more than a few CACS families that left at 5th grade and came to our public middle school. From them, I've been given the impression that things fall apart at CACS. What gives? I know of at least 5 families from CACS that transferred - strange as it is a K-8.

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  63. RE:MS I was wondering the same thing as I saw MANY CACS parents on my MS tours this fall.

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  64. Many K-8 have kids leave around MS..or at least look at other possibilities. Sometimes it's just a matter of wanting to be with a lot more kids and have more electives offered. That said, I also agree that the CACS middle school is weak. This is a problem that is currently being tackled by the Director and the Board, though.

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  65. I'm the parent of a child who STARTED at CACS in middle school along with 6 other classmates. Middle school is a natural time for transition. My child and his classmates all did extremely well at CACS and have gone on to continue excelling in high school. I agree that the program could be stronger in some areas but there are also advantages inherent in being one of a class of 26 as opposed to 1 of 500. For us the benefits of a small school far out weighed those of a large one. It really all depends on your child and where they will thrive.

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  66. "From them, I've been given the impression that things fall apart at CACS. What gives? I know of at least 5 families from CACS that transferred - strange as it is a K-8."

    Hmm. Spoke to a CACS parent at a b-day party today who said that they sent 5-6 kids to Lowell and a similar number to SOTA last year. As it's a pretty small school (I think 30-40 kids a grade), those aren't bad odds.

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  67. "Look at the Oakland Arts Academy in downtown Oakland. I have friends with kids there and the charter is simply skyrocketing in popularity."

    Well, Oakland's a different kettle of fish. Neighbourhood assignment, but unless you're up in the hills (Montclair, Trestle Glen) the schools are poor. So it's no wonder a charter school would be popular in Oakland. However, in the city we have more options and a lottery/choice system, so CACS is going to have a harder time distinguishing itself.

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  68. Does this discussion refer to the Oakland School for the Arts, which is a middle and high school? But it's a very different situation. It's an audition school, like S.F.'s non-charter School of the Arts.

    As Oakland School for the Arts is a charter school, the public has no information on its popularity (the number of applications it gets), though it's a well-thought-of school.

    It takes in a huge amount in donations -- but that's a controversial issue, because of the fact that the school was and still is the pet project of Jerry Brown. Brown started it when he was mayor of Oakland, but now that he's state attorney general, there have been prominent press reports of political donors who need to be in the attorney general's good graces making large donations to the Oakland school. Many casinos have made those donations, for example.

    Brown also sent recruiting letters for Oakland school for the Arts to every Oakland family on his attorney general stationery.

    So that school's situation really isn't comparable to CACS for many reasons.

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  69. how do sfusd's budget problems effect creative arts charter?

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  70. But what about the location? Will it be moving next year or not?

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  71. What about the location? Will it be moving next year or not?

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  72. Not moving next year, but the year after, we think.

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  73. Seeing as how yesterday was supposed to be the day CACS found out its new location, and seeing as how there was no announcement yesterday, methinks CACS has been told to stay put another year.

    While upstart Cobb Montessori gets Newcomer.

    Sigh.

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  74. Does anyone know the status of whether the Director is staying in 2010-11? At our tour she didn't know, said the Board was voting on it in January. Anyone know how the vote went?

    Thanks CACS parents, for commenting on here--I really liked what I saw when I toured and applied, but am definitely still weighing all the political/geographical factors.

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  75. @Feb 5, 1:10pm

    The Board will be voting on whether to renew Liz's contract at their closed door session next week.

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  76. As I understand it the Board will be deciding whether to offer the current Director one of the newly created positions or ask her to apply for one of them. One thing that has been lost in all of the controversy (which IMO has been generated by a very small number of families) is the fact that the Board has access to a lot of confidential personnel information that the rest of the school community does not. Although I don;t know many of them very well this Board does not seem like a group that would make such a drastic decision without some very good reasons.

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  77. @2:15
    I don't see it that way. This Board clearly had an agenda from the beginning which was to oust the Director. The way they are doing this is by redefining her job description and then making her apply for it. Awful.

    The bright side is that a large number of families (at least 60) as well as teachers came out and spoke in support of the Director and her work. This is not a "small number of families" but included many very popular teachers, and some heartfelt members of the community who love the school. Our community is strong and caring and I hope we will be able to rise against this ugliness to be the amazing school that I know we can be.

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  78. Can anyone update by now anything about the school's location??

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  79. @1:54
    CACS has been offered the same site location for the 2010-2011 school year

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  80. Is there an update on the status of the director? Greater understanding of the intent of the board would also be great to hear

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  81. Hi,
    I'm a CACS parent and most of these negative comments are heresay. Please don't believe the negative slant from some folks. All schools have "inside issues" but for some reasons ours have become more interesting to postulate on, possibly because we have a lot of parent involvement (which helps the CACS children greatly!). I can honestly say (and I'm in the educational field), that our school strongly supports my children's intellectual, creative and social growth by differentiating challenging curriculum, encouraging children to think critically and develop prosocial behaviors from very competent and dedicated staff. We offer a very nurturing community for all and yes this year has had it's stress, but I believe it's made us stronger and more consistent in terms of accountability and equity. See for yourself what an amazing community we can be for you!

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  82. Dear Colleagues:

    On March 9th, 2010 at a regularly scheduled meeting of Creative Arts Charter School's Board of Directors, the Board unanimously approved the following statement:


    The mission of Creative Arts Charter School is to provide K-8 students of San Francisco with an innovative, high-quality education that focuses on an arts-integrated, hands-on curriculum, with the overall goal of giving our students a lifetime appreciation of learning and the development of their unique talents and abilities. This is a mission we are passionately committed to regardless of changes at the staff or board level.

    We would like to remind readers that anonymous posts about our
    staff and school – from whatever perspective -- are only one person's opinion. We also would like to state that comments from individual staff on these forums reflect their opinions and version of events and in no way reflect official school policy. The Board, for legal reasons, cannot engage in a public discussion on the status of current or former employees.

    What we can say is that we are truly fortunate to have some of the most talented and committed teaching staff in all of San Francisco who come to work each day with an unparalleled passion for and commitment to progressive education. We see this love and dedication reflected every day in our childrens’ joy of learning, their inquisitiveness about the world around them and their deep and enduring friendships. We also have an extraordinary community of families who truly make CACS a unique school in the district.

    We welcome prospective families, partners and funders to come visit our school and see for themselves why Creative Arts is such an incredible place.

    Creative Arts Charter School Board of Directors

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  83. My understanding is pretty different, and I am a parent at the school. According to a communication from the Board president the Board offered the Director the Assistant Director job *and* invited her to apply in an open hiring process for the Director job. That approach was apparently endorsed by a majority of the Board (which is a bit different than a "faction"). I have not heard anyone refute these basic facts. She subsequently declined both which is totally her prerogative, but a bit different than the claim that she was forced out, fired, etc. In any event it is still a great school, and I'd encourage anyone in SF to come see for yourself what makes it so special.

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  84. @ 6:53/12:43

    I realize that you're frustrated and angry, but this type of public venting does nothing but hurt our school.

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  85. The school is great, but a faction of the Board of Directors has been incredibly divisive and destructive, and has essentially ripped our community apart.

    It is going to take some time to heal the wounds they have inflicted upon the school community, but we will heal, and we will vote the vindictive people off the Board.

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  86. As stated in one of the comments on the review thread, the drama is completely optional. I don't feel like my school community has been "pulled apart" by any means.

    Frankly, the school does seem like it has had a lot of leadership problems through the years, whether this is this is Liz's fault or the parents, I have no idea. But Liz made a point of writing the entire school community to complain about how she had been treated, which doesn't make me feel like giving her the benefit of a doubt.

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  87. 11:47
    Nothing quite says "transparency" like the GAG ORDER the Creative Arts Board has imposed.
    Until we get the little Napoleons off the CACS Board, the transparency problems will continue.

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  88. 6:58 am:

    So easy to sit back and criticize others. Have YOU ever served on the Board?
    Now I'm not saying I agree with all the decisions they made this year or how they handled this one, but I also don't think the director was entirely an "innocent victim" either. There's 2 sides to every issue, you know.

    I'm looking forward to a lot less drama and a much more stable school in the upcoming years.

    Our children are happy, growing and thriving at CACS and that's what really counts.

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  89. We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Facebook page at:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/San-Francisco-CA/Creative-Arts-Charter-School/104292155025?ref=ts

    We hope that the Facebook page, as well as the new Twitter status updates on our homepage (http://www.creativeartscharter.org) will be a great way to find out about all of the unique things that are going on at the school.
    Come see for yourself what a great school CACS is!

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  90. I am a CACS parent and have been for many years. CACS is a great school and is heading in the right direction now.

    The Middle School is getting a whole new focus. The Board seems to have heard us and is acting.

    The current interim Director has changed the whole tone of the place and made it downright inviting and pleasant to be on campus. Parent are involved like in the old days. Morale is up.

    We had an amazing film festival at the Letterman Center.

    The Arts Program is being revamped and we have art on display at the DeYoung Museum! We don't do production art but attempt to really work the art out from the inner spirit of each kid.

    The school is financially very solid. (How much in reserves does SFUSD have?) CACS has 25% of its annual operating budget in reserve! CASH! Yes they are working on solving the difficult structural deficits caused by the state cuts but it is nice to do so with a BIG cushion. The Board is being very responsible and proactive.

    CACS has traditionally paid 1% OVER SFUSD payscale. Yes all things were discussed when it came to budgets but I believe they are on-scale now.

    We could use more help from Supervisor Ross M. to find a facility and stay in his district.

    You will notice a trend with a few parents that like to bash the "Board" and claim that the upcoming elections will be the time to clear out people they don't like. In reality we are having elections soon and out of 13 seats, only six are up for renewal. Of the 12 candidates only two were part of the group unhappy with the recent changes in Administration. many are Middle School parents. So no matter what, the Board will remain the same and the school will continue on its path to renewal. There is no instability or impending change in the balance on the Board and most people feel we are well on our way to being the best school in SF.

    So if you are scared by hearsay and believe what a very small (but loud) group of anonymous grumpy people say then stay away. If you want a great K-8 experience where your child will become a part of a real family/community of parents then try to apply. It doesn't take one of your SFUSD spots.

    Maybe the best validation is that because so many parents stay and send their younger kids here you probably can't get a spot at our school. With 20 slots open I think there are 11 siblings so only 9 openings in Kinder. Good luck and I encourage you to try, but you will truly be one of the lucky ones if you get in.

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  91. "a very small (but loud) group of anonymous grumpy people say"

    to dispel all the misinformation:

    over 140 parents signed a petition to keep the director

    18 of the 24 staff people wrote a letter to keep the director

    the board didn't listen...

    But yes, it's a great school and there is a long waiting list for Kindergarten spots! Even we "grumpy" parents love the school; we just hate what the Board has done.

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  92. @May 12, 2010 7:36 AM

    It's disingenuous to imply that the numbers you present reflect the feelings of the community presently. Feel free to take a poll. It really is only a "a very small (but loud) group of anonymous grumpy people" who continue to harp on their unhappiness. I'm not sure what you're trying to achieve with your posts. You've said it over and over (and over, and over) that you don't like the Board's decision. We get that. Do you have anything positive to offer?

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  93. 8:08 is an example of the name-calling mean-spirited parents the school could really do without.

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  94. "Do you have anything positive to offer? "

    The person (7:36) said it was a great school and how parents love the school, how is that not "positive", 8:08?

    Seems some people at the school are entirely intolerant of any criticism about how the school is run, and that is disturbing, and that will certainly turn more parents away than complaints about the Board of Directors.

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  95. Get a life and give it a rest already. Jeeez!

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  96. The Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Paul Greenwood as Director and Fernando Aguilar as Assistant Director. For more details see:
    http://www.creativeartscharter.org/news/index.asp
    Check our website in August for school tour dates!

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  97. The Board of Directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Paul Greenwood as the new Director of Creative Arts Charter School. For more details please see:
    http://www.creativeartscharter.org/news/index.asp

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