Thursday, January 14, 2010

S.F. public Montessori program to relocate

Jill Tucker wrote a piece for the SF Chronicle about the Cobb Montessori program getting a new home:
San Francisco's public Montessori school program will get new digs in the former Newcomer High School in Pacific Heights in the fall, the school board decided Tuesday night in a compromise that settles an emotional battle over the fate of Cobb Elementary School.
The vote means the district will shoulder additional costs required to reopen the closed Newcomer site at 2340 Jackson St. and the added cost of maintaining both campuses at less than capacity for at least a few years. District officials said it could be a short-term fix to accommodate both programs in the fall.
The decision will allow the Montessori program, now housed in four of Cobb's classrooms, to expand into a comprehensive elementary school offering preschool through fifth-grade classes. Cobb couldn't accommodate both programs.
Supporters of both programs jammed the school board chambers Tuesday night to argue their case. The issue had drawn emotional public protests, and while the school board voted to keep the peace and satisfy both sides, the final vote wasn't unanimous.
"It is fiscally irresponsible to open up a new school when we have been having discussion raising kindergarten class size to 30," said board member Sandra Fewer, the only vote against the move. "The cuts will be very painful this year. I cannot be part of opening a new school."
Initially, school officials believed the traditional program would be the one to go, given available space at nearby Rosa Parks and John Muir Elementary schools. Cobb's regular program has been underenrolled in recent years.

47 comments:

  1. Kindergartens with a class size of 30?? Does anyone know the likelihood of this actually happening?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cobb general should have been eliminated. Its been a terrible school for years and deserves it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sure. Most parochials are already at 30 kids per K and some are even above it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 10:55 a.m. If what you are saying is true, why didn't they just move the GE program to Rosa Parks rather than move the Montessori program to the new Pac Heights. It seems like this would have made the most fiscal sense. I did read though that some in the GE program felt that they were being encroached upon by those in the Montessori program.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am really thinking (hoping) that this foreshadows a move of CACS to the Newcomer building in a split campus. Two small but growing alternative-ish programs operating out of the same building; if one folds they could be merged; the Montessori could serve as a 'feeder' into the CACS 6-8 grades (where CACS has been losing students)it is in the same zipcode for both programs. This makes a LOT of sense to me. If it doesn't turn out to be the case I will be flabberghasted.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Montessori program is a fast growing program and will use the building space rather quickly so empty space is there for only a short time. We are talking one, maybe two years. I don't think any program wants to be put in temporarily WITH another and then be bumped out again. As we all know from this last year's experience that is definitely a recipe for disaster. No one has the appetite for those type of growing pains again!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I also believe that there was mention that the Montessori is designed to eventually reach a Prek-8th grade grouping, so transitioning the children into an entirely different type of program wouldn't make sense. Alternative means not the same old, not that it is identical. This Montessori program is very clearly defined. It is accredited by an outside educational agency.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Okay, I was wrong. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Does anyone know how many K classes the Montessori program has and if they plan on opening up another one? Also, if they are,how can we apply for 2010? I am curious why this decision was not made before the enrollment cutoff?

    ReplyDelete
  10. You can find more info on the Montessori program at: http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am going to post this comment on both threads, as it appears there is an organized effort to portray the Montessori move as some kind of preferential treatment. It’s not a question of “preferential treatment,” it’s a question of what building could accommodate the program. The situation between Montessori and GE had deteriorated to the point where they were not going to be able to co-exist, and no one on the Board thought that Cobb GE should be made to move. So once the decision was made to move Montessori, we needed a facility that could offer seven ground floor classrooms, because it is a Pre-K as well as a planned K-5 (the fire code requires that PreK-2 children be housed on the ground floor, or have a dedicated exit stairwell). Jackson St. was the only location staff could find that would accommodate that many young children on the first floor.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "10:55 Most parochials are already at 30 kids per K and some are even above it."

    And that's the difference btwn. public and private, most parochials can also decide who comes in and stays in. Elilmination at the door. Not public. That's how an elite class is born as well.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Rachel,

    If it is a question of what building could accomodate the program, please respond whether the Jackson Street location (the old Newcomer high school location) could have accomodated CACS. If so, since CACS is already an established Charter with a proven track record and enrollment almost to capacity, why not move CACS to Jackson Street and the Cobb Montessori program to CACS's current location. CACS's current location offers seven ground floor classrooms to accomodate the Montessori's pre-k-2 children. If the Montessori program is a success, they can research other viable options in the future. I feel it is important for the community to understand that the old Newcomer High School on Jackson is 13 blocks north of CACS's current location on Turk. A very viable location for CACS. Please shed some light on how CACS's annual request to the school district for a new building (that was submitted last November) was disregarded at Tuesday's School District meeting? What happened?

    ReplyDelete
  14. The CAC campus was looked at by district officials last spring. It does not have the right conditions for housing a preK program which needs to follow stringent licensing codes. The Montessori is a long planned district program that has come to fruition after years of growing and groundwork. Pitting programs against each other competitively for housing in the district is playing a very dangerous game with families. You could see at Cobb GE the desperation driving folks to launch a burn the earth campaign against the Montessori. Mixing CAC into the Cobb question is taking this a little far.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What disturbs me is that this idea of moving Cobb to the Jackson Street location was flatly rejected as false rumor by Rachel herself and now, after the enrollment perod, it has in fact happened. I personally no not see why anyone associated with CAC would advocate that the Montessori program move into its building a move again so that CAC can move to the Jackson St location. Frankly, if SFUSD was inclined to move CAC to the Jackson St location it would have happened last year. CAC started out in Portrero, it has no guarantee of location. The Cobb Montessori folks are closer to the Jackson St location and when they signed up had no idea that they faced a possible move, unlike the CAC folks. Its like comparing apples and oranges.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Lots of typos, let me try again.

    What disturbs me is that this idea of moving Cobb to the Jackson Street location was flatly rejected as false rumor by Rachel herself and now, after the enrollment period, it has in fact happened. I personally do not see why anyone associated with CAC would advocate that the Montessori program move into its building and then move again to make way for CAC to move to the Jackson St location. Frankly, if SFUSD was inclined to move CAC to the Jackson St location it would have happened last year. CAC started out in Portrero, it does not have a guarantee of location to its students. The Cobb Montessori folks are closer to the Jackson St location and when they signed-up, they had no idea that they faced a possible move, unlike the CAC folks. Its like comparing apples and oranges.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear post at 8:20--if you are knowledgeable about the stringent licensing requirements for a prek program, I would appreciate if you would please share why CACS's current location did not have the right conditions to house the Montessori program. And to clarify, there is no pitting one program against the another and I am sorry you see it that way. The issue is that both programs requested building reassignments. One is a fairly new request and the other is several years old.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hey Rachel, any idea what they'll name the new school (or program)? Seems like the name "Cobb Montessori" will be dropped soon. We need to know the name to find it on the Round 2 lottery form. Don't want to be like the poster on another thread who wanted DeAvilla and couldn't find it on the lottery form, so didn't put it on their list Apparently, they didn't know the official name was Chinese Immersion School (at DeAvilla)! In any case, we should probably stop calling it Cobb Montessori.

    ReplyDelete
  19. If you do not want 30:1 Kindergarten classes in SFUSD, the time to attend budget meetings and advocate for different cuts is now.

    I think that class size increases, particularly enormous ones like this, are incredibly short-sighted. Reputable research shows that class size reduction increases achievement, particularly among underserved students. Moreover, the current state content standards became more rigorous after CSR (a factor poor research doesn't mention, by the way). Do California school districts moving away from class-size reduction actually believe that students will meet these standards in overcrowded classrooms?

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have a great deal of respect for Rachel Norton and other school board members, and I think they were stuck between and rock and a hard space. However as an SFUSD teacher, I am extremely disappointed with this outcome.

    Most posters seem to be missing what I think is the biggest problem here; this decision was extremely fiscally irresponsible. We are facing massive lay-offs, huge class size increases. Even now some programs are operating on unsustainable budgets-and the projection for next year is even more dire.

    I can't get an ink cartridge for my printer, which means I can't print out IEPs-and this is the least of my funding problems. The idea that SFUSD has committed to funding two half full schools when the budget is such a mess is unconscionable. I know that Rosa Parks and John Muir are both very under-enrolled and could have absorbed Cobb students.

    I understand the political fall-out here and believe that the district probably did a poor job of reaching out to AA families in the Western Addition. But the bottom line is Montessori worked in Milwaukee, it can work here, and when your district is falling apart because there's not enough money to go around, you make the fiscally responsible decision.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Rachel or others who were at the board meeting:

    Since the pre-k program is moving to Pac Heights, will it still be required to servw a certain % of low income families form the Western Addition as it always has?

    Also, how did the AA community feel about the preschool resource moving to the new location? Will it still be perceiced as a resource for Western Addition families? Or something "over there" in Pac Heights? Was the larger AA community (not just existing families) represented?

    And finally, related to the above, did the AA community ultimately find the pedagogical approach of Montesorri not a good fit for AA kids? I'm curious in general if the strategy of providing alternative, evidenced based strategies for increasing AA student success will be in effect rejected by the AA community. I wonder why the AA families didn't see the program as: "Wow, this is great! I'm going to let my community know that they can get into this great pre-k program and have access to a wonderful educational program!"

    ReplyDelete
  22. I would like to know if the Montessori K and 1 classes will be increased to 30:1 if other district classes are.

    If not, I think the Board should explain how they aligned lower class size ratios for programs whose demographics do not match the District's with the aims of the Balanced Score Cards.

    ReplyDelete
  23. 11:19, thanks for your comments and I want to address directly your worry that this was fiscally irresponsible - it wasn't.

    The most conservative option, from a fiscal perspective, would have been to somehow force Cobb and Montessori to co-exist in the same space. This would have been difficult because of the tremendous distrust and antipathy between the two programs, but even if that had been surmountable, Cobb is scheduled for major ADA construction next year. We would have had to constrict Montessori, a growing program, AND shrink Cobb, which would have meant further upsetting the Western Addition constituency AND consolidating teachers at the school.

    NO ONE on the Board supported that option, and indeed, no one supported making any changes to the GE program. Once we had made that decision, the only options left were to either:
    a) move Montessori to Jackson St.;
    b) move Montessori somewhere else.
    Despite the protestations of some Board members, moving Montessori ANYWHERE would mean a cost of around $200k, give or take. So at that point, you might as well move the school to Jackson St, which is only six blocks away, could accommodate its space needs and which would avoid displacing any other school community.
    It is possible the Board will move Montessori somewhere else after next year, but I fail, at this point, to see how THAT plan makes fiscal sense. Why spend more money moving the school a second time?
    So while I guess you could argue that making the move decision cost us money, in the end, failing to move the program would have been penny wise and pound foolish.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "NO ONE on the Board supported that option, and indeed, no one supported making any changes to the GE program."

    This is a disappointing situation, though, Rachel. I can understand your frustration w/ the Montessori program, who evidently didn't do enough of a job selling their vision to the community they were to serve.

    However, it feels like the board has been bounced into giving support into extending life support to a failing underenrolled GE program.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "I did read though that some in the GE program felt that they were being encroached upon by those in the Montessori program."

    Certainly the GE staff would, as the Montessori program was threatening to replace them. So, you go out and politically agitate to preserve your job. This is a really discouraging decision.

    IMHO one of the benefits of the choice/lottery system is that as poorer schools/programs drop in enrollment, as the money follows the student, those failing programs become financially unviable, forcing the district to Do Something About It. But if we can't shutter a failing GE program like Cobb, it's difficult to see how we can make progress.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "But if we can't shutter a failing GE program like Cobb, it's difficult to see how we can make progress."

    7:35 AM here again. Also echoing the SFUSD teacher at 11:19, that the additional cost of splitting the programs is vexing at a hard time.

    But like 11:19, I can't see what other decision the board could have made this week, given the community opposition to the closure of the GE program and the toxic atmosphere. But Cobb GE is going to return to the board's attention in the next year or so, especially if the Board decides to opt for neighborhood assignment in the upcoming redesign.

    But I think it's a sign that introduction of a magnet program won't always solve the problem of a failing school.

    ReplyDelete
  27. 7:29 and 7:35, I had assumed in the past that Cobb was failing as well - I was concerned enough about some of their achievement numbers to ask our research dept. to do an in-depth analysis of academic achievement at the school. What they said was that low API notwithstanding, there was evidence that Cobb was doing a better job with African-American children than most of our schools. Is it good enough, since the school has a 700 API? No. They need to do better, and originally the idea of putting Montessori there was that it was a curriculum that could help them do that. We all know how that turned out.
    The teachers at Cobb have a good point when they say they had been without leadership for the past few years, because the leadership of the school was mostly focused on implementing Montessori and phasing out GE. GE at Cobb has been allowed to languish, because the assumption was that it would be gone soon anyway.
    After our district leadership spent time with the GE community, they came away feeling that there was value in the program, and with constructive help from the district, it could thrive.
    They've spoken clearly that their community wants something other than Montessori, and once we had acknowledged that there was potential in the GE program, we had to be respectful of that wish.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Why do people keep associating Cobb's two programs (now one) as being designated for the african-american community? San Francisco does not have local schools (it should but it doesn't). As such, all of these concerns re Cobb serving minority students is completely immaterial. Cobb is simply a school that serves the entire city. If it stinks (and it does Norton's frankly rather fantastic claims to the contrary notwithstanding - note this was essentially admitted to me by the principal when I interviewed her re the appropriateness of the school for my child some time ago) and is under enrolled it should be closed. This decision is pure politics at its most venal.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "What they said was that low API notwithstanding, there was evidence that Cobb was doing a better job with African-American children than most of our schools."

    Scanning the CST numbers, there's a lot of variation from grade to grade at Cobb: e.g. for math, Grade 2 has <10% proficiency, then up to 72% proficiency in Grade 4, then down to <30% in Grade 5.That's a really puzzling pattern.

    ReplyDelete
  30. What bothers me about this is that while the Montessori program may be good and growing - it is not an option for the majority of incoming kindergarten students as it is REQUIRED that they have previous Montessori experience. Besides the students in the Cobb CDC and kids at the few private Montessori preschools around the city that eliminates most of SF's children. How can there be a public school that requires this? Will this change now that they are moving (and is it an option then for round 2?) or is SFUSD putting all this extra funding into a program most kids are not eligible for? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend $$ on a program that is available for all public school kids?

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'd like Rachel to address the possibility of K class size being increased to 30 students. In fact, I'd like to invite her and the rest of the board and Carlos Garcia, etc., to come visit my classroom and explain to me exactly how I'm supposed to fit 30 children into the space and have any room left for anything but their desks. We certainly won't have a "playhouse" center anymore. The rug the district provided seats 20, where do I put the other 10?

    How does the Montessori program, regardless of where it is housed, benefit SFUSD at large? That's my biggest question.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I agree with 8:24. I'd also like to hear how SFUSD plans for K teachers to meet the current California content standards, which were developed assuming CSR. These standards are much more rigorous than the ones current in 1995.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Ok, let's get this straight: the decision about the Montessori is NOT the reason why Kindergarten class size may go to 30 for SFUSD. An $83 million dollar deficit is why. The shortfall in funding education by the STATE is the reason. We should all be focusing on Sacramento and what they can do to save education in California. Parents in California should be up in arms and in the streets.

    ReplyDelete
  34. No, Montessori is not the reason. It's in relation to the Montessori story that comprises this post, though: Sandra Fewer is quoted on the topic.

    And if Montessori is not a 30:1 program but the rest of the District becomes so, there is a significant equity issue given SFUSD's stated aims vs. the demographics of the Montessori program. It's not a major financial point, I grant you, but it would be a clear signal that there is no actual intention of going "Beyond the Talk".

    And yes, parents should be in the streets. We all should be. I hope that SFUSD stakeholders will be very active on March 4th, a national day of protest against California's education cuts.

    ReplyDelete
  35. What I do not understand is that the Board completely ignored that no school is a neighborhood school but listend to what??? in making their decision. The general ed was under-enrolled and as such it should have been closed if the Montessori (with a long waitlist) was succeeding where the general ed did not. Just like everyone else, the Cobb Genral Ed children can go to any school in the district. The better solution, in my humble opinion, was to give the general ed kids a priority to move to another school of their choice and assign another nearby GE underolled school as their designated school (e.g. Rosa Parks)

    ReplyDelete
  36. 7:21, it's politics, pure and simple. The Western Addition had already lost 2 schools in the last round of school closures (John Swett and deAvila), and there would have been protests from District 5 residents and politicians if another were closed/merged. The BOE clearly didn't have the stomach for this sort of controversy and decided to take an approach that would please all but those aware of the budget woes.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I am a parent at Rosa Parks. So far, I've read at least twice in the local papers that moving the Cobb GE program to Rosa Parks (and Muir) was one of the options under consideration by the District. If there is anything to learn from the Cobb story, its that the District cannot simply play musical chairs with programs and families without potentially disastrous outcomes, lest there be a thoughtful, concerted outreach and communications effort at minimum BEFORE decisions like that are made. How else can there be an understanding of the history and context of a community's situation, nor input and discussion about impacts?

    Imagine what some of us thought reading about it in the papers without hearing so much as a word from the District?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I also heard on several occasions that Cobb GE might be moved to Rosa Parks. With that uncertain factor looming at Rosa Parks, we decided not to put it on our list of 7, even though we were very interested in the Japanese program. (For the record, we also weren't excited about the early start time and it's not super close to our flat.) But the possibility of moving another school there, with a lot of unhappy families involved, was the deal breaker. I know keeping everyone happy is impossible, but the continuing lack of information and transparency is how the district hurts its schools.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Cobb is not in the Western Addition. It is in Pac Heights--but I'd venture to guess that no Pac Heights families go there. Instead, it's families from the Western Addition who are closer to it than Rosa Parks or get assigned there for some other reason. And we can all pretty much guess who will be going to the Montessori program after it moves...

    ReplyDelete
  40. The Montessori debacle is laughable (disturbing is perhaps a better word) on so many levels. A public elementary school that only lets kids in who had a specific kind of education starting at age three. A specific kind of education that is unaffordable to many of the families in our district, and even if you can afford it, you're in no way guaranteed a spot at any of the private preschools in this town because they have limited space. This, in a district that makes it a goal to give kids special preference in the lottery if they didn't go to preschool so that they can rise above their circumstances. (Nobel, if it weren't so darn exploited.)

    And now this new exclusive public elementary school will be conveniently located in one of the priciest zip codes in town, using precious public funds to get it up and running. All I can say is, the Montessori advocates must be pretty darn persuasive to have gotten their way at so many turns. I wish I'd known all this when I was pregnant with our son.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Cobb is in the Western Addition not Pacific Heights. The dividing line is California Street. North is Pacific Heights (although its a few more blocks to get to the genuine Pacific Heights; just look at the property maps and you will see many properties located north of California Street that are designated as being in the Western Addition). South of California Street is the Western Addition. Cobb is south of California Street. Cobb is a Western Addition school not Pacific Heights.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Cobb is ON California Street, and while this may be the technical dividing line between the Western Addition and Pacific Heights, the point is is that it is located in a Posh neighborhood. A single house takes up half the block that the school is on for goodness sake.

    The new Montessori location is located on Jackson and Webster which is a straight shot from central Western Addition and on several public bus lines.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Given the budget cuts, I can't believe they have the audacity to start an exclusive public school and then move it, costing precious money. It's mind boggling.

    ReplyDelete
  44. 4:36

    "And we can all pretty much guess who will be going to the Montessori program after it moves..."

    We don't have to guess. Sixty percent of the slots are reserved for low income students. Many of whom will come from the FREE TO LOW INCOME Montessori CDC.

    ReplyDelete
  45. 4:36, the low-income AA parents have made it clear that while they're happy to send their kids to the free Cobb Montessori CDC, they largely prefer a traditional education for K-5.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Does anyone know the student ethnicity breakdown of the current Montessori program? This information is usually posted on Greatschools.net but is not available.

    ReplyDelete
  47. From their website:

    "Currently, among our 75 enrolled Montessori students, 20 identify as African American, 15 as Latino, 19 as Asian American and 21 as Caucasian. The languages spoken by our families at home include Afrikaans, Cantonese, Mandarin, Igbo, French, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Telagu, Thai and Wolof."

    http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/?q=who-we-are

    ReplyDelete