Saturday, February 27, 2010

SFUSD Community Budget Meetings

The State Budget Crisis: What does it mean for San Francisco's Public Schools?

Learn about the largest cuts to education funding in California history and discuss ways our district can address these cuts.

March 3, 2010/ 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Horace Mann Middle School
3351 23rd Street (at Valencia Street)
Free childcare and Interpretation available by reservation: call (415)249-9293
Free Parking/Muni lines: 48, 14

March 10, 2010/ 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Thurgood Marshall High School
45 Conkling Street (near Silver Ave.)
Free childcare and Interpretation available by reservation: call (415)249-9293

Free Parking/Muni lines: 44, 14x

March 11, 2010/ 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Francisco Middle School
2190 Powell Street (at Francisco Street)
Free childcare and Interpretation available by reservation: call (415)249-9293

Free Parking/Muni lines: 39, 8

Please call (415) 249-9293 to reserve free childcare and/or interpretation

For more information on these meeting and information regarding SFUSD's budget, go to

Sponsored by San Francisco Unified School District, Parents for Public Schools and Parent Advisory Council

Friday, February 26, 2010

SF Chronicle: Ideas aplenty to deal with cuts at S.F. schools

This from Jill Tucker at the SF Chronicle:
Anger and frustration simmered among the people in a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night at a town hall meeting at San Francisco's Marina Middle School, as parents demanded solutions rather than explanations for the severe cuts to staff and programs at their children's schools.
An estimated 860 people crammed into the school's auditorium; the overflow spilled into the cafeteria to watch a video feed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hot topic: Town Hall recap

This from a reader:
What were the highlights from tonight's Town Hall?

Registration temporarily required

Due to some recent inappropriate comments, we are temporarily requiring registration to comment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Public Education – Funding Our Future: Town Hall Event


Details: Thursday, February 25, 2010; 6:30-8:30
Marina Middle School, 3500 Fillmore St., SF, 94123

In response to the $113 million budget cut announced by San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), outraged parents are taking action to save their schools. “We felt we had no choice, we had to do something” says Holly Carver, one of the six moms who started the project and a leading member of the planning committee for the town hall event: Public Education – Funding Our Future. “We expect over 1,000 parents, from 75 different schools, representing all of San Francisco from the Bayview to the outer Sunset to the Presidio. It will be standing room only in the Marina Middle School auditorium” says Carver. “This is the beginning of parent involvement in SF like you have never seen before.”

The moms are forming an advocacy group to give voice to the needs of children in public education in San Francisco. “We were shocked at how quickly this went from an idea to a full fledge movement. Parents are passionately looking for leadership and organization” says Cece Kaufman, another member of the planning committee.

On Thursday, February 25th state and local politicians, leading education thinkers and members of the community will be joined by thousands of parents to “look for solutions to the massive budget gap facing our school district over the next two years” says parent Michelle Parker. Moderating the two hour panel discussion and Q&A session is Michael Krasny, from KQED’s award winning show ‘Forum.’ The event panelists include:

· Mark Leno and Leland Yee, California State Senators

· Tom Ammiano and Fiona Ma, California State Assembly Members

· David Chiu, President, SF Board of Supervisors

· Jane Kim, President, SF Board of Education

· Carlos Garcia, Superintendent of Schools, SFUSD

“We are talking about cuts of $1,300 per SFUSD student,” says parent Crystal Brown. “This isn’t something we can make up by organizing yet another bake sale fundraiser.” Carlos Garcia, SFUSD Superintendent of Schools, has described the cuts as “even greater than those experienced during the Great Depression.” Outlined cuts include: laying off hundreds of teachers, increasing class sizes to 30, eliminating summer school and more.

“The goal of the meeting is to give parents a voice and look for solutions,” says parent Linda Shaffer. “At one time California was an education leader, now we are 47th in per pupil spending in the United States – and threaten to be last in per pupil spending after this round of budget cuts.”

“In the short term we are looking for ways to bridge the funding gap”, says parent Erica Hunt. “Long-term we need to address the way Sacramento funds education, period. The system is broken and needs to be fixed.”

Included in the conversation will be special guests: Terry Bergeson, Executive Director of the SF School Alliance, Dennis Kelly, President of the United Educators of SF, Jim Lazarus, SF Chamber of Commerce, Debbie Look, State Legislative Director of the California PTA and Mary Perry, Deputy Director, Ed Source.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

S.F. Chronicle: S.F. school board votes to send pink out slips

This story by Jill Tucker from The Chronicle:
Nearly 900 San Francisco teachers and administrators will see a dreaded pink slip in their mailboxes next month, a mass mailing made necessary bythe district's need to brace for a $113 million shortfall over the next two years.

The school board approved the layoff notices Tuesday night, with district officials saying they hoped to rescind many of themas soon as possible, but given the dire budget situation,the cuts to programs and staff are bound to be massive.

The layoff notices must be sent to teachers by the state's March 15 deadline notifying them that they might not have a job next year. The notices could be rescinded in the spring or summer when the district has a clearer understanding of it budget situation.

"I do not want to sugar coat this for anyone out there," said Superintendent Carlos Garcia. "The reality is when everything is said and done there will be some layoffs this year."

In the meantime,318 teachers, 98 principals and assistant principals, 10 librarians and all other district employees who receive a layoff notice won't know whether they'll be back in August. Teachers with the lowest seniority are at greatest risk.

At El Dorado Elementary, 12 of the 15 teachers are within their first three years teaching in the district and likely will get a pink slip, said Principal Tai Schoeman.

"It's devastating," he said, adding that not all teachers want to work with at-risk students, but his do. "It's a great place to work because everyone looks out for one another. It took me a long time to get to that place."

District officials hope other cost-saving measures - increases in class sizes, furloughs, early retirements and cuts to salaries and benefits - will reduce the number of layoffs. Some of those efforts require union approval.

For now, the district is operating under a worst-case budget scenario, accounting for the huge number of layoff notices being sent out this week. The layoff list includes full- and part-time workers representing 800 full-time jobs.On Tuesday, parents railed against the layoffs and state funding of education.

"It's like a crime scene," said Crystal Brown, a parent at Sherman Elementary. "You can't just sit back anymore."

Brown, with six other PTA moms at Sherman, have organized a town hall meeting for Thursday at Marina Middle School to address school funding issues.

What started as a small gathering has ballooned into a massive meeting with 1,000 people expected, including state and local elected officials.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Stratford School Tour

Reviewed by Debbie

What?! A private school tour this late in the game? I had been happily settled in what we had done so far in the public school application process and had been calmly awaiting the arrival of the assignment letter. I had only toured three schools, and all of them had been public. THEN, a week or so ago, a friend of mine tells me about the Stratford School tour that she recently went on and how amazing the school was. I had seen a flyer about the Stratford School, and it’s relatively close to our house, but I hadn’t heard much about the new San Francisco campus (opened Sept 2008) so it didn’t really hit our school tour radar until my friend’s recent glowing review of it. So after a few days of thinking, coupled with the realization that we don’t really have a back-up plan, I reluctantly dusted off my school tour notebook and went on a school tour….a tour that would rock our world.


Date of tour: 2/19/10
Location: 301 De Montford Avenue (Ingleside area), 415-333-3134
Principal: Mr. Kelly Woods
School type: Private
Parents’ Club: “Parent Committee”
Tours: Call to schedule a tour
School day start/stop: 8/8:15am – 3:15/3:30pm
Grades: K – 8 (currently just K and 1st, but next year will have 2nd grade and will add a grade every year)Total enrollment: Currently, one kindergarten class and one 1st grade class
Kindergarten size: Max ratio is 1:14, currently has one kindergarten class of about 22 with two teachers, will have two kindergarten classes this coming fall
Before/After school care: Fee-based before and after school care and enrichment programs


Let me first start out by saying that I loved everything about this school, and it started with my first call to the school to schedule a tour. A very nice and friendly lady, Josie, answered the phone and made every effort to schedule a tour that was convenient for my schedule. She gave me directions and told me where to park. The school is located next to a church, and the school building itself looks kind of church-like so at first you’re not sure this is the school until you see the Stratford School sign.

If school security is important to you, you’ll love this. There is only one main entrance/exit door, and it’s locked from the outside. There’s an intercom and video camera so the office staff can see who’s at the door before deciding whether or not to buzz them in. All parents of attending students receive a code so they can enter without having to be buzzed in. The main office is located to the left immediately after you enter the building so the office staff can see everyone who enters and exits the building. All the other exterior doors in the building lead to the outdoor play area, which is completely fenced in. If you’re in the outdoor play area, and there’s an emergency, you can exit through gates (normally locked but all staff have keys).

Even though this is a private school (about $14,000/yr), I saw nothing extravagant or showy - just a simple, clean, neat, organized, open and airy feeling facility, in the hallways and classrooms. There are three floors. The first floor has all the pre-school and pre-K classes. The second floor has five rooms, but only two are currently being used – one kindergarten class and one 1st grade. The third floor classrooms are not currently being used. Next year, they will have two kindergarten classes, one 1st grade class and one 2nd grade class. Each year they will add a grade, up to 8th grade. They have plenty of unused space in this building to add classes.

The tour was led by Kelly Woods, the principal, and there was one other prospective parent who joined us in this tour. We went to the second floor first which is where the kindergarten and 1st grade classes are. The kindergarten class has two teachers – not one teacher and one assistant but TWO teachers. The maximum ratio for their kindergarten is 1:14 – the current kindergarten class was 22 children I believe. 1st grade maximum ratio is 1:22 so in 1st grade they have one teacher.

When we entered the kindergarten classroom, we were greeted with a handshake and a “Welcome to room 208” from a little girl who was the “greeter of the week” (very sweet). The classroom was clean, open, bright, and uncluttered. The children were sitting in a circle and reading from a book. Yes, reading. Mr. Woods explained how most of the children couldn’t read when they first started. I noticed one of the assignments on the walls – several full sentences written about a topic with a picture drawn by the child on the top of each sheet of paper. Mr. Woods explained the assignment that I was looking at on the wall: with some guidance from the teacher, each child wrote sentences on a topic then drew an associated picture. I was impressed. In the classroom, the children then got up and went to their individual desks, and each child took turns getting up in front of the class and reciting a nursery rhyme. Public speaking – wow. I realize that schools put their best face forward when doing a tour, but I couldn’t help but be blown away. I also couldn’t help but compare this to what we saw children doing at the other schools we toured - I remember one class in particular was working on a worksheet and trying to identify brown objects on the worksheet. I also remember thinking that was not going to be very challenging for our daughter (I'm really not trying to brag, but she started reading when she was three). At Stratford, however, I could picture our daughter there, and she would thrive.

We went to the library which was neat but sparse. Mr Woods explained that they just finished up a book fair so they had many more books waiting to be placed on the shelves. The cafeteria/multi-purpose room was on the basement level. Not much natural light in the basement but it was a big clean open room so it seemed more than adequate. Mr. Woods also explained that there’s a catered lunch option available for purchase ($4.50 for lunch) – a fresh organic meal. Over 50% of the children eat the catered lunch, and the parents can pre-order the meal online.

In addition to the regular curriculum, kindergarteners also get music and PE. 1st graders (and up) get music, PE, Spanish (2x;/week), and Computer classes. There are two big events each year: the musical (where every child has a speaking part), and a science fair.

There is a volunteer “Parent Committee”. There is no fundraising. When Mr. Woods first said there was no fundraising, I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly. Every parent that I know who has a child at a private or parochial school is always talking about the fundraising requirements and/or expectations. Mr. Woods said that everything is paid for with the tuition and why would he expect parents to fundraise when they were already paying tuition. I liked everything that I had seen and heard so far on this tour, and this statement was the icing on the cake.

We also saw the play yard. It was large-ish with one play structure. More than adequate.

When Mark and I walked out of this tour, we both turned to each other and said, “I wish we hadn’t ever seen that”. Our world was rocked. Not only were we impressed with what we saw in the classroom in terms of what the children were doing, but it just felt good being there. Mr. Woods was so warm, friendly, knowledgeable, and so generous with his time, and every staff member we met was the same way – warm and welcoming. Everyone seemed happy to be there. I also really liked that there was nothing fancy at this private school. All the money seemed to go towards things that directly impact the education of the children. Somewhere in the middle of the tour, the school switched from being a potential back-up plan to being my #1 choice. But first we’ll have to see if our daughter is accepted at Stratford, and also see to which public school she’s assigned. Then we’ll potentially have a very difficult decision to make. Then there’s the money thing. $14,000 a year for private school is less than other private schools, but it’s still a big chunk of dough, and add that up for eight years and factor in tuition increases each year, and….you get the picture.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Stratford School states that they consider applications on a first come first served basis. Does that mean that you’re accepted as long as they have space, and they keep accepting on down the line until they run out of space? Or does it mean that you are “considered” on a first come first served basis but someone applying after you could be accepted before you? I really have no idea, and I probably should have asked that during the tour. I’m assuming that they still have space since they’re still giving tours, they accepted my $75 application fee, and we have an appointment for our daughter to be assessed this week.

Needless to say, this has brought all of my school anxiety back to the forefront. I even had a dream about it last night. In my dream, I received the public school assignment letter, and it was a flyer for an event at Commodore Sloat. What? (My dreams never make sense.) The letter didn’t say anything about being assigned to the school so of course I was stressing out in my dream.

I’m posting this tour for main two reasons: 1) To keep you all updated on my school application process story, and 2) Let anyone who’s interested in a private school know that there is another GREAT school out there, that isn’t as expensive as most other private schools, and they’re still accepting applications. I realize that there is much public vs. private debate on this blog, and I may take some heat for this post, but that’s okay. When I started this, I promised myself that I would keep it real and honest so, for whatever it’s worth, that’s the latest.

Hot topic: SSC Summit

This from a reader:
Yesterday was the District sponsored SSC Summit where all schools received their site budgets and the District had a chance to review the budget scenario, proposed cuts, and answer questions, etc. I'm wondering what were people's impression, what were the takeaways, and initial reactions to site budgets?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Saturday, Feb. 20, 9am - 12pm

Music by the Melees

Delicious choice of whole grain buttermilk pancakes or wheat-free,
dairy-free banana oat pancakes (kid-approved!); bacon, vegetarian
sausage, fruit, great coffee and more

$5/person, $3/ kids 12 and under, $15/ family

SF Community School, 125 Excelsior St. (1 block east of Mission St.),
2nd floor. 469-4739,
all proceeds to benefit SF Community, a small alternative public school

Hot topic: Acceptance letters from parochial schools

This from an SF K Files reader:
I've heard acceptance letters have come out from parochial schools. Has anyone received a letter? Aren't they sending them out earlier this year? Why? Please share your news if you got in. Thanks!

Rachel Norton: Delving into the student assignment proposal, Part 2

This from Rachel Norton's blog:

Continuing on from last night’s post, I’ll try to give more detail about where the assignment proposal stands. Instead of taking an A to Z approach, I’m going to try to do this as an FAQ, answering questions that seem to be coming up most frequently in the policy discussion:

I heard the Board is going to return to neighborhood schools. Is that true?
Yes and no. The policy currently before the Board would re-introduce proximity as a factor in school assignment. As part of the work of redesigning our student assignment system, new attendance area boundaries would be drawn for every school (the old boundaries haven’t been updated in almost 20 years, and many addresses in San Francisco are not currently located in an assignment area for any school). Every address in San Francisco would be located within the attendance area for an elementary, middle and high school. Depending on what grade applicants are entering, and what schools they are applying to, applicants would have some degree of “local preference” for the school located in the attendance area for the applicant’s address. (I know that syntax is tortured. Read it over once more and I think you’ll get it).

Okay, so how much weight does “local preference” carry?
It depends. For applicants entering Kindergarten, here is the proposed order of preference (except for citywide schools, which I’ll discuss later):

  1. Younger siblings of currently-enrolled students;
  2. Pre-K students who are enrolled in a Child Development Center program in the school’s attendance area — the board is asking for more information about how this would work, and how we could align the current centralized enrollment system for district preschools (which primarily serve low-income students) better with our district goals;
  3. Applicants who live in the attendance area of the school;
  4. Applicants who live in CTIP 1 census tracts (those in the lowest two quintiles based on average California Standards Test scores by census tract);
  5. All other students.

For students entering 6th grade, the preference order would be a bit different:

  1. Students who live in the attendance area of the middle school. This is highest so that the district can send assignment offers to all students already enrolled in SFUSD elementary schools. This should boost our participation rate significantly.
  2. Younger siblings of students currently enrolled at the middle school;
  3. Students who live in CTIP 1 census tracts (see above);
  4. All other students.

For students enrolling in high school, the preferences would be different yet again:

  • 40 percent of seats would be set aside for students who live in CTIP 1 census tracts. Within that group, younger siblings of current students would be placed first, and then all other CTIP 1 students.
  • 60 percent of seats would be set aside for students who live in CTIP 2 census tracts (the top three quintiles, based on each census tract’s average score on the California Standards Test). Within that group, younger siblings of current students would be placed first, and then all other CTIP 2 students.
  • A big question: what if, after the first round of applications are placed, there is a waiting list for one group and empty seats for the other? Should the board release any empty seats to the waiting list? Or keep them empty if and until other students from the target group request them?

Tell me more about “city-wide schools.” What does that mean?
City-wide schools are schools that do not have any local preference. We will still draw attendance areas for all schools, because the system should be flexible enough to re-designate schools as needed. But schools that are designated city-wide schools will not enroll students based on where they live. Right now, the working list of city-wide schools is:

  • Language programs, such as immersion or bilingual programs. These programs have eligibility requirements that must be met before other preferences kick in (more about that in a minute);
  • Other programs with eligibility requirements (e.g., Montessori);
  • K-8 schools.

Preferences for city-wide schools (assuming eligibility requirements are met) would be:

  • Younger siblings;
  • Students who attend an SFUSD Pre-K program at the school;
  • Students living in CTIP 1 census tracts;
  • All other students.

How can I tell what attendance area I live in?
Right now, you can’t. Once the Board approves a new policy, the staff will get to work drawing new attendance areas. For elementary school, they will be contiguous, but your attendance area school will not necessarily be the closest school to you. The Board has asked for more clarity on what criteria the staff will use on drawing boundaries. Boundaries could change from year to year, but would be subject to the criteria as defined in the Board proposal. Families would be told what attendance area they reside in before submitting an application.

Read Rachel's full post

Rachel Norton: Delving into the student assignment proposal: recap

This from Rachel Norton's blog:
I’m pretty much whacked after tonight’s three-hours plus meeting and lots of new information. Essentially, the board got an opportunity to hear much more detail about the staff’s proposal for a new student assignment system, but I have to say that the presentation left me with more questions than answers.

Let me start by saying that there are a lot of things I like about the proposal, from a simplicity perspective and from a predictability perspective. I think it will make many more families happy than our current system does, at least those applying for elementary school. I like that it uses slightly different mechanisms for K, 6 and 9th grade assignment, taking into account the different needs of students and families at each level. I *love* the emphasis the system places on simplicity and non-wastefulness (in other words, creating a simple system that is user-friendly and works best when people are honest about what they want). I like that it is flexible and can be “tweaked” in various ways to maximize particular outcomes (e.g., diversity in schools).

But I’m worried that the proposal relies too much on forcing students in lower-income neighborhoods — many of whom now choose schools that are far away from those neighborhoods — to attend their local schools, hoping that we will improve the system on their backs. That doesn’t seem fair, even though I know that increased enrollment and involved parents (the ones who opt for different school choices out of their neighborhoods!) are all we need to make schools like Visitacion Valley Middle School really soar.

70 percent of public school families in Bayview-Hunters Point choose schools outside their neighborhood, and what this proposal would do is instead give them strong incentives to stay closer to home (and remove the current incentive the choice system gives them to leave). The influx of new, more empowered and aware parents will almost certainly lift achievement at the schools in the Bayview, but only after the first class or two of “pioneers” is forced by lack of other choices to enroll. Again, does that seem fair? Any fairer than forcing families to leave their neighborhoods through a busing-based policy?

The answer to this problem is supposed to be the CTIP — Census Tract Integration Preference (which desperately, desperately needs rebranding, but I’m too tired to come up with any alternatives). CTIP is derived by calculating the average score on the California Standards Test (CST) for each census tract in San Francisco (there are about 150 census tracts city-wide). The census tracts are then arranged from highest average score to lowest average score, and divided into quintiles (fifths). The highest three quintiles are designated as CTIP 2; the lowest two quintiles are designated as CTIP 1. CTIP 1 students do receive some level of priority in the process, higher or lower depending on whether those students are applying to high school, middle school or elementary school. In the end, CTIP 1 is supposed to “level the playing field” for students who are educationally-disadvantaged based on where they live.

Read Rachel's full post

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hot topic: Last night's B of E meeting on student reassignment plan

This from a reader:
Could you put up a new string on your blog about the student assignment redesign planning meeting last night (the 17th) at the Board of Education? Rachel Nortion said that SFUSD staff put a lot more meat on the Superintendent's February 9th proposal on her website, but didn't put down any new details. I couldn't attend last night and am wondering what those who attended thought about the meeting and if they had more of the details. You have the string about the February 9th Super announcement, but it has gotten long (over 200 posts) and, ahem, kind of off-subject (they are talking about illegal immigration for goodness sakes!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hot topic: Private school process 2010

This from an SF K Files reader:
Many applying to private school for kindergarten have been asked to read last year's messages, which were very helpful. And, some questions for 2010:

-- Any updated information on spots available for any private schools from any parents (i.e., number of girl and boy spots after siblings)?
-- Any advice on what happens when letters go out?
-- Any ideas on what to do if we get a very poor choice for public school but have younger kids who may get good "neighborhood" school - would our older child be able to switch?
-- What areas of the blog are best to look at for last year's private school experiences? I am worried we will get all wait listed at privates and go 0 for 7 and would love to read what others did in that situation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot topic: With SFUSD budget cuts will more families go private?

This from a reader:

We applied to public and private and in light of all the budget cuts, I'm a little worried about public. could you start a hot topic that would be about how parents are feeling about private schools and how the process went this year? I know a lot of parents gearing up to do public and private for next year and I know I could learn a lot from other parents and offer some tips also I do not know anything about what happens march 18, or whenever we hear if we get in anywhere and I'd love some perspective on that and how it works. Thanks so much for your great blog.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SFUSD press release: Superintendent Presents Proposal for New Student Assignment Method

February 10, 2010 (San Francisco) –Superintendent Carlos Garcia has presented a proposal to the Board of Education for a new way of assigning students to San Francisco’s public schools.

The recommended policy would allow elementary and middle school students who live within the attendance area of a school to receive an initial assignment to attend that school.

This is a shift from the current system, which requires families to submit up to seven choices and participate in what is called the diversity index lottery. The current system has had limited connection to where students live and has resulted in racially isolated schools, the dispersion of students throughout San Francisco, and under-enrolled schools in certain areas of the city.

The high school assignment process will be simplified, but will remain a choice process.

Staff, who spent over a year working with researchers and gathering community input to develop the superintendent’s policy, say the proposal allows for predictability and reduces the amount of parent effort required to enroll children in school while maintaining a degree of choice for families who may not wish to attend their neighborhood school, and provides an opportunity for the district to use multiple strategies to create diverse learning environments instead of relying on student assignment alone. The increased predictability also provides the district with an opportunity to more cost-effectively create instructional coherence from preschool through high school.
“This proposed method is simpler for families,” says Special Assistant to the Superintendent, Orla O’Keeffe, who leads the redesign initiative. “All you need to tell us when you sign up for school is where you live and where you want to go to school. This will require less time and effort for parents. If they choose to, elementary and middle school families can participate in a choice process that will allow them to apply for city-wide schools and programs in attendance areas other than their own.”

The Board of Education established three priorities for the redesign of student assignment: reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school; provide equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students; and provide transparency at every stage of the assignment process.

Creating a policy that met these goals was difficult. After months of conducting simulations for more than six different options, staff concluded that different choice systems are limited in their ability to reverse the trend of racial isolation — and the concentration of underserved students in the same school — because the applicant pools for individual schools are racially isolated. In addition, not all families have the same opportunity to understand which schools they might like and submit their choices on time.
Neighborhood schools are similarly limited in their ability to reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students, although some schools may become less racially concentrated than they are today, and many schools would have a more robust enrollment.

After thoroughly investigating the options and consulting with national experts, staff concluded that to reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school through student assignment alone, the Board of Education would need to assign students to schools they have not historically requested and to schools far from where they live. For example, some students living on the west side of the city and in the north of the city would need to be assigned to schools on the east side of the city and the southeast side of the city, and vice-versa.

Instead of taking an aggressive approach that would not take parent choice or proximity into account, the proposed policy is designed to work with other initiatives that will encourage families to enroll in schools where they will add to the diversity of the school.

“A new student assignment system is one part of creating educational environments in which all students can flourish. Making sure every school is high quality is the most important concern for all of us, and a student assignment system alone cannot ensure school quality, although it does have a role to play,” says Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “We believe that this investment in neighborhoods is a strategic use of limited resources and will enable us to assure more quality schools in every neighborhood.”

O’Keeffe says that the policy provides a framework that can be modified over time.

“This is designed to be flexible and easily monitored and adjusted if it is not accomplishing the Board’s goals,” says O’Keeffe.
All schools, except those designated as city-wide schools, will have attendance areas, which will change over time. Current attendance area boundaries will not be used. The superintendent will identify programs and schools that will not have attendance areas, and these will be designated city-wide programs or schools.

Elementary and middle school, transitional year students (incoming kindergarteners and sixth graders) will receive initial assignment offers to their local attendance area school or, if their attendance area school does not have sufficient capacity, to the nearest attendance area school with openings. For elementary and middle school students who enter the optional choice process, if there are more applicants than seats, the choice process will give preference to applicants in the following order: 1) younger siblings,
2) students who reside in Census Tract Integration Preference (CTIP)1 areas, and 3) all other students.

Students will not receive initial assignment offers for high school. High school enrollment will be exclusively through the choice process.

Immersion schools, K-8 schools, and language programs will be designated as city-wide and will fill up through the choice process. There will be no local preference or initial assignment process for city-wide schools or programs.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend the Board of Education’s Committee of the Whole meeting on student assignment in the SFUSD Board Room on February 17, at 6:00 p.m. The board is scheduled to take action on the superintendent’s recommendations on March 9, 2010.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SF Chronicle: S.F. school board OKs new gay support program

This from the SF Chronicle:
The San Francisco school board added to the district's massive $113 million shortfall over the next two years by voting Tuesday night to fund a substantial increase in instruction and services related to gay and lesbian issues.

Though the district is facing layoffs and significant program cuts, board members unanimously agreed that the estimated $120,000 annual price tag was worth it to support gay and lesbian students - children who are more likely to experience bullying and skip school because they are afraid.

The resolution calls for adding a district position to manage "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning" youth issues. It also requires the district to keep tabs on harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and distribute educational packets every year to parents encouraging them to discuss sexuality, gender identity and safety with their children.

Don't miss: Town hall meeting on budget cuts

PTA members have organized a Town Hall meeting aimed at letting local and state legislators know that the current public school funding situation is unacceptable.

The event takes place Thursday, February 25, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Marina Middle School. More info:

Hundreds of parents are expected to gather to join in a discussion with local legislators such as Assemblymembers Fiona Ma and Tom Ammiano, SFUSD superintendent Carlos Garcia, SF Board of Education President Jane Kim and others. Michael Krasny, host of KQED's radio show "Forum," will moderate the discussion.

The dialogue will focus on creative funding solutions to pending budget cuts, smarter long-term budget reform, and local and state-wide parental advocacy efforts.

Here, PTA members Holly Carver and Crystal Brown talk about their advocacy plans in a Comcast Newsmakers interview:

SF Chronicle: S.F. schools consider costly gay support program

This from yesterday's SF Chronicle:
With everything from art classes, summer school and jobs on the chopping block this year, the San Francisco school board will decide this week whether to greatly expand school services, support and instruction on issues of sexual orientation.

The decision could cost the school district, which is facing a $113 million budget shortfall over the next two years, at least $120,000 a year - enough cash to cover the salaries of two classroom teachers.

The school board is expected to vote Tuesday on the fiscally controversial resolution calling for San Francisco Unified to add a new full-time staffer to manage "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning" youth issues in the district's Student Support Services Department.

It also would require the district to track harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and distribute an educational packet to parents, encouraging them to discuss "the issues of sexuality, gender identity and safety" with their children.

That commitment probably would cost about $90,000 a year for the staffer and maybe another $30,000 for the rest.

San Francisco school officials have long backed education and support of gay and lesbian support services and recently created the nation's first school district Web site for gay youth.

That's in contrast to some other school districts. Last year in Alameda, for example, a torrent of controversy was unleashed over plans to introduce a 45-minute lesson on gay and lesbian issues. The lesson was eventually adopted by that school board over the objections of some parents who said it violated their rights to teach their children their opinion of such issues.

That's not the issue in San Francisco. Money is.

Current lesbian and gay services, including the Web site and sexual orientation curriculum, are funded by outside grants that aren't guaranteed year to year.

But it's not enough, said school board member Sandra Fewer, who wrote the resolution with help from the Student Advisory Council and the city's Human Rights Commission.

"It's not like we don't have any money," she said. "It means we have to prioritize our monies."

With the district's looming $113 million shortfall, few district programs or services will survive unscathed.

"There's not enough money in the general fund for the general purposes," board member Jill Wynns said. "Just add (this) to the $113 million deficit."

Having said that, Wynns said she doesn't know how she'll vote Tuesday.

"I don't want to vote against it," she said.

Read the full story

Hot topic: Lycee La Perouse

This from an SF K Files reader:
I am interested in learning more about the Lycee La Perouse and was wondering if any parents who follow your blog know anything more about the school. Would this be a good "Hot Topic" for discussion on your blog?

Yick Wo Silent Auction

The Yick Wo PTO announces the:
2010 Yick Wo Art Show and Silent Auction
Live Worms Gallery | Thursday, March 11 | 4 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Fund North Beach's future by supporting
enrichment programs at Yick Wo.

Beat the crowds, admire the art, and bid early
Café Sapore | 790 Lombard Street | February 1 - 28

SF Chronicle: Revamp simplifies S.F. school choice

This from today's Chronicle:
A school assignment system that for nearly a decade has failed to desegregate San Francisco's public schools while frustrating parents in its complexity is about to be replaced.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hot topic: Language classes

This from an SF K Files reader:
My children have asked to attend a Spanish language class on the weekends because they have been watching Dora and Diego since they were 3. They now want to expand upon their knowledge. Do any parents know of any great after school and weekend language classes? What are the hours and costs? I would love to hear about great programs for different languages (i.e. Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Russian) as well.

March to save public schools

Join us on March 4 to save our schools!
Statewide Day of Action to Defend Public Education

San Francisco schools are facing $113 million in budget cuts over the next two years. All schools will see layoffs and class size increases. It's time to say enough is enough!

Thursday, March 4, 2010:
3pm - Parents, educators and students from southeast area schools meet at 24th and Mission
3:15 - March together from the Mission to the State Building at Van Ness and McAllister
4pm - Rally with UESF at the State Building (505 Van Ness), march to Civic Center
5pm - Mass rally in the Civic Center with pre-K through college level students, parents, educators, families from all over the city

Our message to Sacramento: Fully fund public education - reform the state budget process and Prop 13! Cut prison spending, not schools!
Our message to SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia and the Board of Education: Stand with educators and families! No Cuts! No Layoffs! Emergency Funding Now! Defend the Classroom!

Let us know if your school will be coming - or for more information:; 415-706-4004
Come to our next planning meeting: Monday, Feb. 8, 5 - 6 pm at San Francisco Community School, 125 Excelsior St. (one block up from Mission), 2nd floor.

Superintendent Garcia has announced an increase in K-3 class size to 25-30; a wage freeze and furloughs for all district employees; and other drastic measures to make up the State's $1,500 per student cut. The politicians and administrators say there is "no alternative" to the cuts. But if there's money for wars, bank bailouts, and prisons, why is there no money for public education? Why is California, the world's eighth largest economy, now at the very bottom of U.S. states in education spending? On March 4, students, teachers, workers and families from all levels of public education, pre-K through university, and all over our state will be walking out and taking action to say NO to budget cuts, class size increases, tuition increases, and privatization, and to demand adequate funding for public education, our human right. Please join us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hot topic: Fund-raising ideas

A reader has suggested that we start a thread where parents can share creative fund-raising ideas that they tried at their school and that were a success.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tech Scavenger Hunt benefits Alvarado School

Get Your Geek On!
@ Tech Search Party

February 6, 2010 - 5:30 to 8:00 pm
Noe Valley, San Francisco

Here's your chance to show off your mad geek skills while trekking around San Francisco's Noe Valley with your friends and phone.

It's a scavenger hunt-meets crossword puzzle-meets street party.

It works like this:

Arrive on time at the auditorium at Alvarado Elementary School (entrance is on 22nd between Douglass and Eureka). At 6:00 pm sharp participants will be given a map with some challenging clues to decipher. Solving those clues will lead you to various locations in Noe Valley. When you arrive at the mystery location, you take a photo of the answer with your phone and email it back to an address provided at the beginning of the event. The first team to solve all clues is the winner.

Why: For fun, mostly. And for prizes. And also because all the money raised goes toward improving technology for students at Alvarado Elementary. That means your ticket price is tax-deductible.

Did you say prizes? Why, yes. Geeknet has kicked in gift certificates, which means the Tauntaun Sleeping Bag is up for grabs. Electronics Arts has donated a wide variety of games. The folks at Metromint and David Rio are providing a selection of mint water, tea and chai to participants. And courtesy of the Sarah & Vinnie Show, we have an Alice gift pack including two tickets to see Bon Jovi (Feb. 22 in San Jose).

Cost: The fee is $50 for a team of up to 4 and $75 for a team of up to 6. A bargain for memories that will last a lifetime. Don't forget to come up with a great team name. Be creative; you might get bonus points.

Rules: You’ll need a phone that can take a picture and send email. Be on time, or you’ll be screwed behind your fellow competitors. Teams have to stick together and stay on foot. Bring a flashlight (or flashlight app). Charge up your phone batteries. Respect the neighborhood.

The Tech Search Party will conclude at the Dubliner on 24th near Church. The winning team gets a free round of drinks; each team gets one free drink; and everyone gets to see the answers.

More info

Monday, February 1, 2010

NY Times: Administration Outlines Proposed Changes to ‘No Child’ Law

This from the NY Times:
The Obama administration said on Monday that it would ask Congress to raise education spending by about $3.5 billion, a 7.5 percent increase, for the 2011 fiscal year, even as it sought to limit other categories of domestic spending.

In outlining its budget request, the administration also said it would seek an extensive rewrite of the main federal law governing public schools, known as No Child Left Behind, and would seek to replace the law’s much-criticized system for rating schools based on student test scores.

The administration proposed replacing that system, known as adequate yearly progress, with a new accountability system that officials said would more fairly characterize schools’ academic progress.

“We want accountability reforms that factor in student growth, progress in closing achievement gaps, proficiency towards college and career-ready standards, high school graduation and college enrollment rates,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in announcing the proposed changes. “We know that’s a lot to track, but if we want to be smarter about accountability, more fair to students and teachers and more effective in the classroom, we need to look at all of these factors.”

The administration asked for $49.7 billion in discretionary spending increases for the Department of Education for the 2011 fiscal year, up from $46.2 billion in the current year. Those figures do not include mandatory spending on programs that require no annual Congressional appropriation, a category that includes Pell grants for college students. The administration’s budget includes an additional $34.9 billion request for Pell grants.

A total of $1.3 billion of the additional money requested for the department would finance a third round of Race to the Top, a competitive school improvement grant program. The department said the rest of the increase, about $2.2 billion, would go toward, among other things, efforts intended to intervene in failing schools, encouragement of charter schools and programs for teacher recruiting and training.

About 40 states are competing in the first round of Race to the Top, and a second round begins this year. Congress has approved $4 billion to finance those two rounds.

The adequate yearly progress system issues the equivalent of a pass-fail report card for every school each year. Critics say the system fails to differentiate among chaotic, chronically failing schools, those that are helping low-scoring students improve, and better-scoring schools that may, nonetheless, be failing to help raise some students’ achievement.

Read the full story