Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Help Daniel Webster!

Take a Zumba class to raise money for Daniel Webster Elementary School!

Zumba is a cardio dance workout set to Latin music. It’s great
exercise and fun for all ages and fitness levels. This event benefits Daniel Webster Elementary School, a public school
in Potrero Hill, to support sports and dance programs.
There will be a class for kids (5 years and up) and a class for adults.

Certified Zumba instructors from 24-Hour Fitness Carlie
Cardona-Robbins & Alena Groopman will lead the classes.

Details: Sunday, April 18, 2010
Registration: 10am, 10:30am class start
Daniel Webster Elementary School Playground & Cafeteria
465 Missouri St. at 20th St./ Potrero Hill
For more information contact Maureen at (415) 519-1373 or
maureen@deboerpeters.com or Melissa Millsaps at millsapsmel@yahoo.com

Everyone welcome!
$20 Adults, $5 Kids (5 yrs.+)
Please wear appropriate exercise attire and closed- toe shoes.

Hot topic: Language assessment for SFUSD

This from a reader:
I am going bonkers! My daughter goes to a preschool where they predominately speak Spanish. I have visited Spanish immersion elementary schools; and want my daughter to go to an immersion school. Sadly, we are 0/7 and sumbmitted for the waitlist and Round 2. I keep getting conflicting reports about getting her tested to be bilingual. Some say it's a waste of time, others she will get preferntial treatment as immersion schools want more bilingual students to even things up because at the moment they have more non-Spanish speaking students. Does anyone have an answer? I don't want to drag my daughter to SFUSD if I don't have to! Please help me!

Monday, March 29, 2010

SFGate: Maufas' daughter took items, superintendent says

This from SFGate:

The 22-year-old daughter of a San Francisco school board member stole a district laptop and $250 from another school board member and a district staff member while her mother attended board meetings in the same building, district officials confirmed Friday.

Francesca Maufas, the daughter of board member Kim-Shree Maufas, took the laptop and $90 cash from a third-floor office of a senior staff member during the school board's March 9 meeting at district headquarters, officials said. A surveillance camera captured the 22-year-old in the hallway and entering the office, said Superintendent Carlos Garcia.

She confessed to the theft the next day and disclosed the location of the laptop, which she had stashed in the building, Garcia said.

The younger Maufas also acknowledged taking at least $160 from board member Jill Wynns' purse, which had been placed under a desk in the board's office during a late February committee meeting.

No police report was filed. Garcia said the district declined to contact police regarding the laptop theft because the computer never left the building and was returned in 24 hours.

"Had the computer been taken off grounds, I might have viewed it differently," he said.

Francesca Maufas "was very up front about it. If that hadn't happened, we would have immediately called in police," Garcia added.

He left the decision to file a report with police over the stolen money to the two victims, who so far have declined.

The money had yet to be returned.

"I think it's an unfortunate incident," Wynns said. "The superintendent told me that the district would not file a report and that I could if I wanted to, but that he was trying to work out some arrangement for restitution and to satisfy all our concerns about protecting the district and all employees."

Wynns said she was waiting for an update on that arrangement before making a final decision on police involvement.

Francesca Maufas could not be reached for comment.

SFGate: 5 S.F. school principals under fire

This from SFGate:

Five principals at the helm of struggling San Francisco schools will be forced within the next few weeks to make a gut-wrenching choice: Fight for their jobs - a battle that could cost their schools millions of dollars - or leave.

Last week, the principals found out their sites had been placed on the state's list of schools that are persistently the lowest-performing. Statewide, 188 schools are on the list, and each one can qualify for up to $2 million annually in federal grants for the next three years. But in exchange, they must undergo a major overhaul, starting with naming a new principal.

The schools have less than five months to come up with a reform plan, apply for the funding, and put everything in place by the first day of school in the fall.

It's a tight timeline that has school communities of educators, parents and students being forced to choose from a list of limited and drastic options in exchange for the cash.

San Francisco has 10 schools on the list; five can keep their principals because they've been on the job less than two years. The other five principals would have to go.

Parents speak up

Already, some schools on the list are organizing efforts to keep their principals even if it means forgoing the money. Tuesday night, a group of Carver Elementary parents urged the school board to keep Principal Emily Wade Thompson at her post.

If the principals don't volunteer to leave, the district will ultimately have to make the tough call between the community's wishes and a California law that requires the adoption of a reform plan. The state law, in contrast to the federal mandate, does not require a deadline. Waiting, however, would mean giving up the federal money.

Read the full story

Hot topic: How much does your PTA raise?

This from a reader:
I'm a parent at a school that might be considered an up-an-comer. Our PTA will raise about $60k this year. This is an improvement for us, but I know that is chump-change compared to other schools. How much do trophy-school PTAs raise, and what are your most successful fundraisers?

Hot topic: Picking public over private

This from a reader:
Would love feedback from parents who considered private independent school but went public by choice or because they were shut out of private schools. Is public school working out for your family? Is your child being challenged academically and being nurtured? Has your child developed good friendships? Do you intend to stay in SF public schools or reapply for private school? If so, what grade?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hot topic: How many teachers was your school underfunded by in your SFUSD budget allocation?

This from a reader:
I sit on our school's Site Council and the budget we were given resulted in one teacher and several support staff being unfunded. I wanted to get a sense as to what tough choices other SSC's have had to make especially as School Site Councils need to submit their budgets to the District by April 9th. Is your PTA in a position to fund any of your school's budget gap. What kinds of things have worked or haven't worked when communicating this information and submitting funding requests from your parent community?

Deleting comments

The SF K Files has always been a community where readers can post anonymously -- except for a few times I had to turn on the registration button because spam or readers' comments became unmanageable.

Readers seem to like the anonymity because they can freely express themselves.

But this also opens the door to hurtful comments and so I have always invited readers to send in emails requesting to remove comments that are incorrect or that seem like unfair attacks. Typically, I meet those requests--without any investigation.

I don't have the time to investigate the comments that readers ask me to remove and I have always figured that if they're taking the time to ask me to remove the comment then it must mean something to them.

This has never been a problem in the past. But recently, I have been criticized by some readers for deleting comments, and it might seem as if I'm taking sides on an issue, which isn't the case. I'm simply responding to reader requests.

I would love to get some feedback from readers on how to deal with this. In the past the SF K Files community has explored the idea of requiring registration. Would this help solve the problem?

Hot topic: Parochial schools

This from a reader:
It would be great if you could start a topic on parochial schools. I'd like to know where families were accepted. Anyone got in the Big Three: NDV, St. Brendan, St. Cecilia? Were they members of the parish? Siblings? Any other schools that were especially selective this year? I'm also interested to hear from families at St. Thomas Moore.

Hot topic: Robert Louis Stevenson

This from a reader:
I'd like to ask your readers who have children attending Robert Louis Stevenson School, or who have visited, what their experience and impressions are.

El Dorado School

This from a reader:
I am writing to ask you to consider posting about the effects of the proposed budget - particularly at my school, El Dorado, but more broadly at the heavily-impacted, high-needs SE side schools (and at Dianne Feinstein, and at all the schools).

El Dorado is the school with the worst outlook: 11 of our 15 classroom teachers have been noticed, in addition to our Literacy Specialist/Climate Coordinator, our half-time IRF, and our principal. I am one of them - one of the four permanent, tenured teachers who received a notice at our site. We have already demonstrated that we are at El Dorado because we want to be and that we have no intention of leaving - and we work hard to find teachers who share our mindset.

We serve an incredibly high-needs population. Fully 80% of our children live in poverty; about 30% are English Language Learners. Half of our students live in Sunnydale. We are one of three schools with the UCSF HEARTS program because of the heavy impact of trauma on our population. Our kids experience food insecurity, unstable housing, family violence and incarceration, poverty-related health problems, and the "historic power of demographics". SFUSD has not done well by these children.

We do.

At El Dorado, we have spent four years building the adult culture that will support our students. We are regularly praised and observed by District administrators. I am one of two Prop. A Master Teachers at my school - we run open classrooms. A lot of money has been put into giving us the skills we need to meet our students' needs. A lot of our own energy has been put into building our skills, reflecting upon them, writing grants, creating a school garden, meeting our school community with openness and humility, and demanding the best from each other every day.

SFUSD apparently doesn't think that's important. It would have been possible for SFUSD to institute a skip clause to save their Hard-to-Staff schools; instead they decided to let us and our kids take the brunt of the cuts to classrooms. (And make no mistake: our jobs aren't exactly going to inspire any bidding wars. Despite there being 1200 substitute teachers in our District, we stand a 50-50 chance of getting someone to come out to our school when we get sick.) I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised - this is, after all, how educational inequity is perpetuated. The District chose cowardice over courage.

I don't think we will be able to save our jobs or our school community. Since I live in Vis Valley and this is my neighborhood school, I suppose I'm taking it especially hard. I would send my child to my school.

However, I really don't want this to happen without people knowing about it. We are a little school hidden away behind a big hill, in an under-served neighborhood. Laying off eleven teachers there isn't going to attract too much notice. But I would like people to know about it, so that at the very least SFUSD is confronted with the reality of its own decisions.

Hot topic: Tips for getting started with the private school process

This from a reader:
We are going thru this process next year for a boy. I would love any advice from those people who got in.

I am concerned because we are white, middle class, no connection but do go to a preschool that has been successful in the past with placement. I am sure that are many of people who look like "us".

Does the preschool matter or should I start "networking" to figure out connections to the schools?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot topic: Turn-around schools

This from a reader:
I hear that Junipero Serra is now looking to be the new turn around school. Are there more? What do parents think? What other school might be hidden gems to consider? Also, how about middle school and high schools?

Hot topic: High school enrollment

This from a reader:

Would you start a thread for a discussion of high school admissions?

Excitement Building for Junipero Serra!

This from a reader:
Last night we had the second meeting of 40+ parents who went 0/7 in Round 1 and where assigned Junipero Serra (JS) in Bernal Heights. This is a smart, savvy and energized group that has gone from originally being surprised and worried about being assigned to JS to now being excited and committed to going there and helping it continue to grow and blossom into an excellent and desirable school.

As for my own family's perspective, we *were* going to waitlist Clarendon (our top choice) in Round 2, but now we've decided we don't want Clarendon or any other big "trophy" school--we want to be at JS, which is a little gem of a school that we've fallen in love with. It's a small, neighborhood school with a strong community that can only get stronger with the growing enthusiasm and participation of the incoming parents.

So, if anyone out there is still on the fence about their choices for Round 2, I encourage you to consider putting JS on your list and come join us, get involved, and help us make this a wonderful place for your child and ours. If you'd like more info you can join our Google Group by emailing jake@pacificcrestlaw.com.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hot topic: Aftercare dilemmas

This from a reader:
We are assigned to Lafayette, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly until I discovered that there is already a waiting list of 10 people for the only onsite aftercare program open to K students. There is an offisite option at the JCC, but I am naturally anxious about the bus situation, although I have been told that it's all very well run.

Can anyone reassure me that this will somehow work out? I would really hate to feel pushed into our private option simply because we both work, school ends at 1:50, and our son has no guaranteed aftercare space.

Hot topic: Middle school enrollment

There has been some talk about the middle school enrollment process on the blog, so we're starting a separate thread. Please feel free to share where you're hoping to send your child to middle school. Did you get a good option in the SFUSD Round I lottery? Are you on a wait pool for a private? And so on...

Hot topic: Is Paul Revere losing its principal?

This from a reader:
Word on the street is that Paul Revere is losing its fabulous principal. Is this true? I'd love to hear from parents -- and teachers -- about the future of this school. Is this still a good Round II choice? Thanks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hot topic: Private school spots being given up

This from a reader:
Anyone planning to give up their private school spot?

Hot topic: public school spots being given up

This from a reader:
Anyone planning to give up their spot at a public school?

Why I love Starr King

This from a reader:

i just came back from the welcome breakfast at starr king. i am a first grade parent of a mandarin immersion student. i often take parents on tours as i did today. every time i do, i become even more proud of our little school.

in our yard today, incoming parents who were assigned starr king - because they wanted it or not - looked on as our community came together for monday assembly. we sang happy birthday in four different languages, listened to our principal call up one child from each classroom and heard about what that child did to excel last week, and celebrated the kids who came to school early to read. as all this was happening some mothers were selling home made tamales to raise money for the pta. (they raised $600 on friday, but sold out, so gave us another chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor.) we also learned that the pta has raised over $40,000 in our emergency fundraising drive. a goal reached in less than two weeks!

the incoming parents had breakfast and enjoyed some witty banter from principal rosenberg and then we set off on a tour. we saw classrooms full of kids from all backgrounds who were ENGAGED in their learning. wether it was a general ed teacher teaching in english, a mandarin teacher teaching in mandarin, or a mandarin teacher teaching in english (hard to keep it all straight!) the kids were all engaged. we then went on to the caffateria where members of the symphony played for small groups of children and went in to our garden where the kids are growing corn, snap peas, and all sorts of leafy greens. (the garden was conceptualized and executed by our amazing parent community.)

today, through the eyes of prospective parents, i saw a diverse student population, engaged learning, incredibly involved parent community, a funny and caring principal, and a truly great teaching staff.

and then..... i hear that there are 0 for 7 parents out there who were assigned starr king general education who won't consider sending their kids here; who were so upset by their assignment that they didn't even want to attend the welcome breakfast. parents who would prefer to move out of the city than to send their kids to starr king. i want to extend an invitation to all of those parents to come and tour starr king this thursday, 9:30. i would love the opportunity to show you all the wonderful things about starr king that i see.

sara foster
mom to grace at starr king elementary.

Hot topic: How are private school parents feeling about public school budget cuts?

This from a reader:
I know this would be a contentious topic, but I wonder how some of the private school parents are viewing the disastrous budget cuts and the SFUSD teacher and parent efforts to address the cuts and try and improve the situation. It felt odd to march down Valencia Street on March 4th with the kids at Friends looking curiously at our group through the metal fence.

I am sure it feels safe to have your kid in a school not facing budget cuts but how about beyond that? Do private school parents hearing about the crisis facing the public schools feel the urge to come out in support, to donate money, to move their kid to a public school so they can bring their resources with them? What do they tell their children who hear about all the problems facing the schools that kids who may be their friends and family attend?

It is a little different than hearing about kids with money problems on another continent or in another country--these are the kids in our city, our community. I would like to read some good things here from private school parents, because right now a part of me feels just sick about the divide just growing and growing between rich and poor.

Junipero Serra parent meet-up

This from a reader:
Approximately 50 parents that are in the 0/7 JS club have been meeting as a group to discuss the viability of accepting our spots a JS. Almost all of us have now toured the school and met with the principal, Eve Cheung. Parents living in the Noe/GP/BH area that have been assigned to other schools (Sunnyside, Flynn, Caesar Chavez and Bryant) have expressed an interest in joining the dialogue. Our group is meeting again this Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. and if others would like to join us, please have them e-mail me at jake@pacificcrestlaw.com so I can let them know the details. Ordinarily, I would just post the time and place but we need to be respectful of the meeting facility due to space limitations.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

AP: Could school bus ads save school budgets?

An Associated Press story:

SEATTLE – School distrits have imposed all sorts of drastic cuts to save money during the down economy, canceling field trips and making parents pay for everything from tissues to sports transportation.

And some have now resorted to placing advertisements on school buses.

School districts say it's practically free money, and advertisers love the captive audience that school buses provide.

That's the problem, say opponents: Children are being forced to travel to school on moving media kiosks, and the tactic isn't much different than dressing teachers in sponsor-emblazoned uniforms.

"Parents who are concerned about commercial messages will have no choice," said Josh Golin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "Parents won't be given the option to send their kids on the ad-free bus."

Washington lawmakers considered the idea of school bus advertising this year, and the concept is also being tossed around in Ohio, New Jersey and Utah. About half a dozen states already allow bus advertising — including Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas.

The idea can be traced back about 15 years, but budget woes have led to a recent resurgence.

"This issue comes up on a regular basis when funding gets tight and people are looking for alternative ways to fund school transportation," said John Green, supervisor for school transportation at the California Department of Education.

Green has a long list of reasons California has not sold ads on its school buses, despite the regular onslaught of creative parents and lawmakers who suggest the idea to him and other state officials.

Read the full story

PPS: Wait pools

This from Parents for Public Schools:
There has been some discussion about whether assignments from the wait pools or the amended choices are random or not.

In my discussions with the EPC this morning I learned that they are not random. That the same algorithm used in Round 1 is used in the wait pools and amended choices. They may appear so since the applicant pools, particularly in the wait pools, are very similar to each other and the size of the pools are much, much smaller but the same algorithm is used.

Hot topic: Marin Prep

This from a reader:
Would you please consider starting a thread for families admitted to/attending Marin Prep? We were accepted, and are seriously considering the offer but somewhat hesitant since it is a brand new school.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hot topic: Immersion schools/Round II

This from a reader:
Today I spoke with the principle at the Immersion school where I had hoped to send my daughter (We were 0/7). I was trying to get an idea about how many places may open up that were saved for native speakers. He said that the spaces saved for native speakers are not released until after round 2. This is not what I have been hearing from folks on the board. He said that a couple of principles have been trying to get the board to release the spots sooner but as of now the spots are not going to be released until after Round 2. I have no ideahow to stratigize. It doesn't make sence to waitpool a school that doesn't have openings. What did people do last year? Is there anyway to talk to someone in EPU without going down there (cant go til next wenesday).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Private school letters

Feel free to share your news...and please let's keep this section focused on readers sharing details about the letters they receive from private schools. If you're interested in bringing up another topic, you can email theskfkfiles@gmail.com, and I'll start another thread.

Alvarado Auction

This from a reader:
I’m sure you are overwhelmed with fundraiser information, and that school assignments is a much hotter topic at the moment, but wanted to pass on the info about Alvarado’s auction this coming Saturday night.

FWIW, the merchant donations have really stepped up this year. I’m not sure if it’s the auction team, or just the recognition among the merchants how dire the fundraising situation is. For whatever reason, donations this year have well exceeded last year.
Here are the details:

Saturday, March 20, 2010
6:00 pm to 11:00 pm
http://www.alvaradoschool.net/auction2010.html

The Janet Pomeroy Center
207 Skyline Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94132
Tickets are $26.50, and available at: http://acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaID=197484

Are there any Lakeshore parents out there?

This from a reader:

I was wondering if there were ways for parents to connect with other families who have been assigned to the same school. We got Lakeshore and are eager to make some Kindergarten friends before school starts. I would be grateful if you would consider posting this, as I am not sure how else I can reach out to other new parents at the school.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Get your 0/7 T-shirt


Cafe Press
is selling T-shirts for losers in the San Francisco Unified School District Lottery. If you've gone 0/7 in the lottery then these goods are for you! Get your loot and join the club! (Of course, all proceeds from your purchases will be donated to SFUSD!) Click here to purchase: http://www.cafepress.com/0for7club

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunnyside meet and greet

As of our PTA meeting last night, Sunnyside has not received the list of assigned Kindergarten families. The PTA is sponsoring a Meet and Greet in the school library on Saturday, March 20th at 10:00am. We look forward to meeting the new families and answering questions about the transition into Kindergarten

Hot topic: Are people ready for private school letters?

This from a reader:
Now that everyone has heard news regarding parochial and public schools, how are people feeling about private school letters coming out this Friday? How was the experience up to this point?

Hot topic: After-school programs

This from a reader:
I'm trying to find out about the apparently "super tough to get into" after school programs, particularly those that serve the mission district. The programs offered through the SF Child Development Centers take the poor children first leaving no space for middle-class families. The man at the CDC basically told me my kid didn't stand a chance. The Boys and Girls Club has a 6 year-old age requirement. Where do people send their kids and how much does it cost?

Hot topic: Round II advice

This from a reader:
You've probably already gotten this request, but can you start a thread on Round II? I've been using the thread from last year, but it would be really helpful to start one for this year. I am especially interested in how the dynamics may be different if spots open up due to class size increases.

DeAvila Update

This from SFUSD:

Thank you for your e-mail and request for clarification in regards to the Round 1 Enrollment Process Results for DeAvila Chinese Immersion School.

Listed below is an official data set for final capacity used and demand results for Round1 School Year 2010-2011.

School

Grade

Program

Capacity 2010-2011

Total Requests 2010-2011

1st Choice Requests 2010-2011

CHINESE IMM ES

K

CN

44

156

52

I
In order to provide effective and continuous Dual Language Immersion pathways, the District is required to assign an appropriate balance of English learner students (CN) who are proficient in the target language and English Fluent students (CE) per grade level and classroom.

In a class capacity of 22 students that balance is 13 (CN) and 9 (CE) students. For a school capacity of of 44 that would be 26(CN) and (18) CE students.

It is important to note that of the 18 English speaking spaces, 15 of them were taken by siblings, leaving only 3 spaces for the assignment run.

The District has reviewed and verified Round1 data with the site principal and has increased the capacity in K Immersion to 66 total capacity.

In the new school capacity of 66 the balance will be 39 (CN) and 27 (CE) students allowing for an additional 9 spaces in CE.

· In order to provide equity for all families requesting the program, we will conduct a new assignment run today just for the applicants who requested the school and were designated or received a lower ranked school.

· There are a total 66 families in this category that will be reviewed for the 9 new spaces that will be made available by noon today.

· The 9 families who have been assigned to CE will be called today to inform them of the assignment approval.

· Assignment letters will be mailed home and faxed to the school

June's Story - Our Assignment Letter

If you read my comment in the "Round I Letters" post, you already know we did not get good news on Saturday. Even though we felt we put down a balanced list (in my opinion much more balanced than many of our friends who got an assignment) we went 0/7 and were assigned Cobb GE.

Johann and I went through many emotions this weekend. Anticipation, excitement, anger, disgust, frustration, sadness and were left feeling slightly numb. We went into this process hoping to make it work for us, knowing we would not be able to stick it out till the 10 day count. So now we had some decisions to make, and they were forced decisions. We do not have a back up private or parochial and we will not enroll Madison at Cobb.

We decided we will wait until April 30th when the waitpool is drawn. We will waitpool the school we feel has the best odds and re write down the rest of our choices for round II (and yes I know this is pointless, but who knows, little of what happened round I makes sense to me), possibly adding New Traditions. If the letter comes without a school from our waitpool or list we are moving to Walnut Creek. We do not want to leave SF, but we have little choice. We would move to Antarctica if it meant our children will get a good education.

Please do not tell me "if you just wait it out it will generally work out" or "you will get something that works for you in the end". I don't want to hear it any more (I have already heard my share of it - all from people who got one of their 7 choices). I can not go into the summer knowing my child does not have a school for the fall, wondering if it will work out. Unless someone can guarantee us our waitpool school - I do not want to hear it.

We are working on the assumption that it will not work out at the end of April, and are already researching Walnut Creek so we are ready to move. Anyone who knows good preschools, swim schools, gymnastics etc there your input is very welcome!

For those of you who got a choice this weekend - I am very happy for you, really I am! For those who did not, I feel your pain. I hope whatever decision you make it works out for you in the end.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Debbie's Story: Our School Assignment

We couldn't believe our eyes, but we got our #1 choice - Commodore Sloat. We're very happy and relieved. I don't know if it was our strategy or if the sun and moon just aligned right for us. Whatever it was, I'll take it.


As some of you may know, we did a late tour of The Stratford School and loved it (and we were accepted). However, upon much thought and deliberation, we've decided to have our daughter attend Commodore Sloat. It's our neighborhood school, it's a great school, and it just feels like the right choice for us. I'm looking forward to getting involved (and have already emailed the Parents' Club!) and doing whatever I can to make this school even better.


Even though my application process is over, I know that many of you are in the thick of it. I read through most of the comments in the "Round I Letters" post, and there's a lot of great advice out there. Take the path that feels right to you.

Advertise your tours!

Many schools are hosting special tours for families who went 0/7. Please feel free to advertise your tours and events in the comments. Also, feel free to make pitches for schools that might make good choices in Round II.

Hot topic: Turning around a school

This from a reader:
Many Noe Valley families who went 0/7 were assigned to Junipero Serra. A group of us is considering accepting our spots and trying to do what other parents have done at schools such as Miraloma. What does this entail? Is it worth it? What are the pros and cons?

Hot topic: preschool preference

This from a reader:
Does anyone have any light into how preschool preference will work next year. I just got off the phone at Grattan and they have 48 kids in preschool with a max of 6 paying tuition. Will all of those kids have preference over the neighborhood kids? My thought is that with sibling and those in the preschool, there will not be any spots left for the neighborhood.

Hot topic: When one kid is in public and the other private

This from a reader:

I have a potential scenario where my two children (elementary school aged/one grade apart) would attend different schools...One private, One public. I would like to get input/advice on pros and cons."

Don't miss: Budget meeting, March 16

This from a reader:
I know that everyone is focusing on the acceptance letters right now--- but it is also a critical time in the budget process for next year. Can you please let everyone know that there is a full school board meeting tomorrow, Tuesday March 16th at 6pm at 555 Franklin that will be focused on the budget cuts. Everyone should try and come!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Round I letters: 2010

Please share your news...but please be sensitive about how your share it. We have all poured tremendous amounts of energy into the school process and some of us will be delighted today by the letter they receive, while others will be disappointed. Let's support one another. For those who are unhappy with their school assignment, please reach out to the community and let us know how we can help out. We're all in this together and the ultimate goal is for everyone to land in a spot where they're happy. That said, please, please let us know if you got one of your seven. It makes us all happy to hear your good news. We love it, and want to congratulate you. Plus, it gives those of us who went 0/7 hope.

Jose Ortega: The movie

Some fabulously talented parents at my daughter's school, Jose Ortega, helped put together this video with Gopher Hole Productions. Enjoy!



Also, check out our school's freshly designed Web site: joseortegaschool.org.

Highlights of Round 1: 2010-2011 School Year

SFUSD released Round I data today.

Here's a pdf with a summary:

http://portal.sfusd.edu/data/epc/Highlights2010-2011.pdf

Here's the overall data:
http://portal.sfusd.edu/data/epc/5yearDemandData.pdf

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hot topic: How is your school coping with budget cuts?

This from a reader:
All of us are just finding out what the impact of the budget crisis will mean to our public school. I'd love to hear how different schools (and their PTA/PTOs) are responding. Can you create a new conversation topic so parents can share what scenarios their principal is presenting and how their school community (parents and staff) are preparing to respond? For instance, who's cutting teachers (and how many), who's investing all PTA funds to keep teachers and maintain smaller class sizes, who's doing a second fundraising ask to all families, any new/creative ideas, etc.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SFGate: S.F. adopts new school-assignment system

This from today's Chronicle:
The San Francisco school board Tuesday adopted a new system for assigning students to schools, a hybrid plan that immediately came under fire for failing to pick a side in a long-running battle between neighborhood schools and diverse schools.

The new system was years in the making, as district officials attempted to sort out a way to balance the demands of parents and lawyers on both sides of the debate given the de facto segregation across city neighborhoods.

What emerged was a compromise. It gives children living in census tracts where students post the lowest test scores - typically low-income and minority communities - priority to attend high-demand schools. Those in the school's attendance areas would be next in line, followed by other students who want to attend those schools.

District officials said they hope that in the long run the new plan would help diversity, while giving parents and their children both school choice across the district and preferential status to neighborhood schools.

As controversial as the district's school assignment system has been over the years - including a history of lawsuits, a consent decree, years of debate and dozens of community meetings - the board's final decision Tuesday night was unanimous.

Yet even before Tuesday, a group of parents wanting access to the school down the street joined forces to buck the new system, saying they would bring the issue to the ballot if the board didn't adopt a neighborhood schools plan.

"The school district should be focused on education, not commuting," said parent Omar Khalif, in a statement for the newly formed group, Students First.

At the same time, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area chastised the board for considering a plan that would contribute to a system of separate and unequal schools.

"A student assignment policy which fails to reverse and remedy racial isolation is not only out of step with the Board's legal obligation to desegregate, but the Board's stated goals for the redesign process," said staff attorney Kendra Fox-Davis, in a letter to the board Monday.

In a separate issue, the school board voted Tuesday night to close Newcomer High School despite an outpouring of support from teachers, students and parents. Newcomer, which offers a one-year transitional program for nearly 170 new immigrant high school students, will close at the end of this school year.

District officials said the Newcomer students would be better served at four to six comprehensive high schools and not be required to transfer after a year as they are at Newcomer.

Hot topic: Last night's B of E meeting

This from a reader:
Could you start a new topic on the school board meeting last night? Iwas there and was pretty pleased with it, in spite of myself (and the fact that we are applyign for K now, so won't benefit from the changes)

Hot topic: Round II and how it works

This from a reader:
I was wondering if you could please start a new topic about the process should we get 0/7 this week. I have looked at the the SFUSD booklet and I still don't really understand the process.Is there a whole new lottery with seven schools plus a waitpool school? Any advice would be appreciated.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hot topic: Coping with a tough school yard

This from a reader:
My son is a Kindergardener at a public school that is challenged with a low income population and a large student body. The play yard is rough at times. He was held down and punch by another Kinder student. He ended up with a bloody lip. When he reported it, it went nowhere. When I followed up with the office, it went nowhere. I have written to the Assistant Superintendant of the district and heard nothing. Do any of your readers have any suggestions on how to cope with a tough school ground?

SFGate: Tough choices for 12 S.F. schools in bottom 5%

This from today's Chronicle:
Across California, 188 schools got the news Monday that they were the lowest of the low-performing schools - a designation that will require them to be closed, converted to a charter school or be subject to a complete overhaul of instruction and staff, starting with the principal.

Dozens of Bay Area schools, including 12 in San Francisco, landed on the state's 5 percent lowest-achieving schools list - a ranking required by the federal government.

The schools on the list serve predominantly low-income students and, therefore, receive or are eligible for Title I funds. The formula used to rank them was primarily based on standardized test scores.

Each school on the list will be eligible for up to $2 million in federal funding annually for the next three years to help the schools improve - but only if they initiate one of four major reform strategies starting in the 2010-11 school year. The grant money is separate from Title I funding.
Reform choice

The reform choices are:

-- A turnaround model: Replace the principal and retain no more than half the existing staff, giving the new principal flexibility to hire and to set the school calendar and the budget.

-- A restart model: Convert to a charter school.

-- School closure model: Shut down and send the students to a higher-achieving school.

-- A transformation model: Replace the principal, reform instruction, increase learning time and provide operational flexibility.

State law allows schools to hold off on choosing a reform strategy, but they must choose one by this fall or they will be ineligible for the Title I School Improvement Grant money - part of the Obama administration's stimulus funding.

California law requires that at some point each school on Monday's list will have to pick a plan, with or without the extra money.

"I would not have a school think they can just ignore this and not have to implement," said Theresa Garcia, executive director of the state Board of Education. "If you really want to have money to do it, you need to apply for the (federal) grant."

The state is eligible for up to $416 million of the $3.5 billion pot of money.

The funding could pay for staff, supplies, longer school days, training, textbooks or whatever else local officials think could help turn test scores around.

Parents, students and community members need to be a big part of that conversation, said Alberto Retana, director of community outreach for the federal Department of Education.

"The folks who have the most to gain and the most to lose are the critical part (of) this effort being successful," he said. "We need a strong and aggressive community to be behind these efforts."

Districts and schools opting to participate in the federal grant funding will have to have a plan within the next few months - giving them little time to prepare.
Read the full story
The following is a list of S.F. schools that were classified Monday as persistently low-achieving - a group that falls in the bottom 5 percent statewide.

San Francisco Unified - Willie L. Brown Jr. Elementary; Bryant Elementary; Cesar Chavez Elementary; Everett Middle School; Carver Elementary; Horace Mann Middle School; John Muir Elementary; Paul Revere Elementary; John O'Connell Alternative High; Mission High; Burton Academic High; Thurgood Marshall High

Monday, March 8, 2010

SFGate: Vote on S.F. school assignment plan Tuesday

This from SFGate:
After years of debate, delay and endless controversy, the San Francisco school board will vote Tuesday on a new student assignment system - a hybrid plan that offers choice, prioritizes proximity to a school and addresses the needs of struggling students.

It's a compromise that gives a nod both to parents who have asked for a choice in where they send their children to school and parents who want a spot in the school down the street.

"I think we've tried to meet everybody's needs in some way," said Superintendent Carlos Garcia. "I think it's the best we could do."

The proposal on the table, however, would do little in the short term to address de facto segregation in district K-12 schools, a high priority for some school board members, but not necessarily for parents.

Forcibly desegregating the city's schools would require busing students across town in both directions - something the district did for nearly two decades under a consent decree. It's not a popular option among parents today.

"A decision that wouldn't make anyone happy is the district deciding where you go to school," said Orla O'Keefe, special assistant to the district superintendent.


Read the full story.

SFGate: Why did California fail Race to the Top test?

This from SFGate:

Why didn't California win a finalist position in the federal Race to the Top program?

The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that 15 states and the District of Columbia were finalists for the first round of funding from Race to the Top, a competition worth $4.3 billion in federal dollars. Despite a hard-fought victory to pass important educational reforms through the Legislature, California was glaringly absent from the list.

This is unsettling news. States that seemingly hadn't made reforms at all - like Kentucky, which doesn't permit charter schools, and New York, where the state Legislature failed to repeal a charter school cap - were among the finalists.

Not California. What happened?

We won't know for sure until April, when the feds will explain their reasons for rejecting California's application. But if we had to hazard a guess, it would be that the Race to the Top officials chose to pay more attention to the education squabbling in California than they did to our application.

Fortunately, there are some state legislators who remain passionately dedicated to reform, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is too. State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who authored some of the hardest-fought reforms, insists that the state will still compete for the second round of Race to the Top funding. That application is due in June, which doesn't give California much time to figure out what went wrong this time.

One thing that definitely went wrong was the attitude of the state teachers' unions. Union leaders fought the reform legislation at every turn and managed to water down the package that eventually passed in January. Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, even said he wasn't sorry that California lost the first round. And in part because of these kinds of feuds within the education community, lots of California school districts opted out of participation in Race to the Top. In Kentucky, every single school district signed on.


Read the full story.

SFUSD press release: Vote Imminent on New Student Assignment System

Vote Imminent on New Student Assignment System
for San Francisco Schools

March 5, 2010 (San Francisco) - This Tuesday, March 9 at the San Francisco Board of
Education’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Board is expected to take action on a new policy on student assignment. These recommendations would replace the current system with a new system that primarily uses a family’s home address and their school requests to assign students.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia says this is just one part of a multi-part strategy in the district’s strategic plan to make sure every school is a quality school.

“The more we studied this issue, the more we realized how complex it is. Urban districts across the country are grappling with the same issues and no one has figured out the perfect assignment system. We’ve been fortunate to work with some very knowledgeable people from across the nation in developing this new system and I’m hopeful that it will help move us closer to our goals,” says Garcia.

Last month, after several years of gathering data and community input on the topic, the Superintendent submitted a specific proposal for first reading to the Board of Education. On February 17th and February 24th, the Board of Education held public meetings to discuss his recommendations. From these discussions adjustments were made to the initial proposal.

Unlike the current system, the new system would be applied in different ways at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Families would be able to choose from all schools in the city and, when a school has more requests than available seats, the proposed system would have a new series of preferences which aim to meet the Board’s goals of reversing the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school; providing equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students; and providing transparency at every stage of the assignment process.

At all grade levels, the assignment system would take into consideration the census tract area in which a student lives. Standardized test score data would be computed for each combined census tract, and those combined census tracts would be divided into quintiles based on average scores. In the policy this preference is called Census Tract Integration Preference “CTIP1” and “CTIP2”. CTIP1 tracts would be the quintile with the lowest average CST scores, and CTIP2 tracts would be the four remaining quintiles.

Following adoption of this Student Assignment Policy, SFUSD staff would develop
administrative regulations, which includes working out several details, including the number of school choices a family can submit. The superintendent would conduct an annual assessment of the student assignment system.

The new policy would take several years to fully implement and would begin with students entering transitional grades in Fall 2011. Here is how the majority of school assignments for Kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade would take place under the proposed new system.

Elementary Schools Families would submit an application form that includes their home address and the names of the schools they would like to apply to listed in order of preference -- the assignment process would try to assign students to their highest ranked school. All applications would be processed at the same time, and all applicants would receive a single assignment offer. Students would be assigned to schools using the preferences listed in order below; students who are not assigned
to one of their choices would be assigned to their attendance area school if it still has openings after the choice process, or to the school closest to where they live that has openings.

1. Siblings - younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and would be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance.
2. SFUSD PreK - students who live in the attendance area of the school and are also
attending an SFUSD PreK program in the same attendance area.
3. CTIP1-students who reside in CTIP1 census tracts.
4. Attendance Area - students who live in the attendance area of the school.
5. Densely populated attendance areas - students who live in attendance areas that do not have sufficient capacity to accommodate all the students living in the attendance area.
6. All other students.

Middle School
All elementary schools would feed into a particular middle school. At the beginning of the enrollment process, SFUSD fifth graders would receive an initial assignment offer to a middle school based on the elementary school they attend. Students would have an opportunity to accept their initial assignment or participate in a choice process. Students who participate in the choice process would maintain their initial assignment unless they get an assignment to a higher ranked choice. Students would be assigned to schools using the following order of preferences:

1. Initial assignment – students who received an initial assignment to attend that school.
2. Siblings - younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and will be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance.
3. CTIP1 - students who reside in CTIP1 census tracts.
4. Attendance Area -students who live in the attendance area of the school.
5. Densely populated attendance areas - students who live in attendance areas that do not have sufficient capacity to accommodate all the students living in the attendance area.
6. All other students.

High School
Families would submit an application form that includes their home address and the names of the schools they would like to apply to listed in order of preference -- the assignment system would try to assign students to their highest ranked school. All applications would be processed at the same time, and all applicants will receive a single assignment offer. Students would be assigned to schools using the preferences listed in order below; students who are not assigned to one of their choices would be assigned to their attendance area school if it still has openings after the choice process, or to the school closest to where they live that has openings.

1. Siblings - younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and will be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance.
2. CTIP1 - students who reside in CTIP1 census tracts.
3. All other students.

Although every family would have an attendance area school, some elementary/K-8 schools would not have an attendance area and would not offer a local preference to students – these are called city-wide schools.

For more information about how students would be assigned to city-wide schools as well as language and special education programs, go to www.sfusd.edu/studentassignmentredesign.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hot topic: Anticipating letters

This from a reader:
Letters are coming out soon. How is everyone feeling?

Share your photos from the march and rally

A reader had a great suggestion that we start a slide show featuring photos from last week's march and rally. You can email your images to thesfkfiles@gmail.com, and we'll put together a slide show.

Paul Revere Rummage Sale

Paul Revere K-8 school will hold its Spring Cleaning Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, at the school located at 555 Tompkins Street, San Francisco, 94110.

We will accept donated goods for the rummage sale on Thursday and Friday March 11-12 after 3 p.m. at the school. For anyone wishing to rent space on our yard to do their own sale that day, the cost is $40.

We're also inviting local organizations to participate by providing fun activities for children and families alongside the rummage sale. Or they may come to distribute information about their programs, such as summer courses. This is a chance for them to showcase themselves with our families.

For more information, please contact Lorraine Orlandi at lorraineorlandi@yahoo.com, or (415) 516-6127.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Conference for families of children with disabilities

A free conference for families of children with disabilities, the professionals that work with them, and the community at large.

2010 Information & Resource Conference
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

★ Saturday, March 20, 2010 8:30 a.m - 3:30 pm ★
★ John O'Connell High School, 2355 Folsom St. San Francisco, CA ★

Free Breakfast, Lunch and Caregiving
provided with advanced registration


REGISTER ONLINE!
http://www.supportforfamilies.org/resourcefair/
The Event is free.
There is a suggested donation of $5 to $25 per person.

You may register for workshops on the day of the conference from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Harrison Street or Folsom Street Registration Tables.
Please note that there is no drop-in care giving available for children.
If you have any questions, please call Open Gate at 415-920, or e-mail at resourcefair@supportforfamilies.org

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't miss: March 4: Public Education Day of Action

March 4th will be a statewide Day of Action to reorder the state's priorities and save California's future. Adequate funding for ALL public education (from pre-K through university) is an important part of this.

Organizing the event: unions, community groups, teachers, staff and students from K-12, community colleges, the CSU and UCs. Plans are still underway but the idea is for folks to organize locally (on campuses, at school sites etc.) during the day and converge at the Civic Center in the late afternoon for a rally at 5PM.

Here is the plan for from Excelsior, Mission and other southeast area schools. Schools from other areas of San Francisco are invited and encouraged to join in or create your own march to meet up at Civic Center at 5pm.

3pm - Parents, educators & students from Excelsior, Mission and other southeast area schools meet at 24th and Mission.
3:15pm - March to 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.

It would be very powerful if students, staff, teachers, and parents from individual schools participated in contingents with the names of their schools, the amounts slashed from their budgets and the students with signs that say things like "I am the future of this state," I want to go to UC-Berkeley," I Have Dreams," etc.

Hot topic: Will private schools raise tuition?

This from a reader:
I will be looking at private independent SF schools next year for our daughter who will start kindergarten in 2012 so I am just starting to learn about the expense, admission process and grim realities. I noticed there is only 1 older blog post on private school tuition. An article in yesterday's Examiner by Ken Garcia talked about the scary financial future for many of the independent schools. It has really got my husband and me worried. It sounds like some of these schools way overbuilt and overspent during the go-go 1990's and now they are grappling with how to make ends meet without continuing to raise tuition which is already exorbitantly high. It seems that these schools have become even more segmented with only the very wealthy able to comfortably afford the tuition and the people who get tuition assistance. That leaves the middle class (like me) who don't qualify for tuition assistance, scraping by. When I read in the Examiner that Katherine Burkes School is paying over $700K in interest expenses on their debt it scares me! All these fancy buildings the independent schools built over the past couple of years don't sound like they have done much to improve children's education. Are test scores any higher? I doubt it. From the Examiner article it sounds like they are just marketing tools for attracting wealthy families. This sounds like a school in trouble...without a simple solution like tuition increases to meet their financial commitments. The author of the SF Magazine's Schools Gone Wild article from a few years ago really did a great job characterizing the problem. Now that the economy has faltered these schools are paying the price for their lavish spending habits. I would welcome a discussion on the topic of the how independent private schools in SF are going to fare in the realities of the new, bleaker, economy.

Here is a link to the Examiner article

SF Examiner: Sherman elementary school's green schoolyard is a success story with a few chills

This from the SF Examiner:
"This is lettuce!" says Saul Jaugeri a kindergartner. With Ms. Dominguez' class, he is standing by a planter box in the green schoolyard at Sherman Elementary School. Ten minutes later, his class mate Seth Adelman digs out an earth worm and shouts, "Ms Myers, can we make a worm farm and have it as a pet?" Meanwhile, Abigail Parker, same class, pulls on Ms. Myers' sleeve and asks if she can take a few leaves home for her new guinea pig. Linda Myers is the garden educator at Sherman elementary school in the Marina. An hour earlier, she was addressing a class of 4th graders by the schoolyard's water fountain. "You will be tested on your geology and you have all the rocks around you," she said of the granite, basalt and quartz boulders the 10-year-olds were sitting on. This is a green schoolyard: part classroom, part educational garden, part urban junior ranger program. However behind the postcard scene is a world of PTA meetings, endless debates, dissensions and weekend work days in the yard that require a lot of dedication. For some parents, the space would be better used as a mini soccer field. For others, it is the reason why they chose the school. What's really behind such an undertaking and does the end justify the means?

Fundings were there but the school was not ready

In 2003, Prop A set aside $2.3 million to green 16 school sites in San Francisco. Sherman E.S. received $80,000 and an idea was born. "When my son started at Sherman," says Terri Fellers, mother of a 5th grader, "there was no greenery at that point, it was just a sad sea of asphalt." Back then, the Franklin-side yard had basketball hoops and a painted basketball court, four 4-square areas, hopscotch and other painted areas. It was also used as a PTA parking lot which was convenient for parents during school events. The Gough side had three asphalt lots, two of which were connected by a set of stairs.

The school had a small parent committee for the school's greening but things were slow-going at first. "The committee was composed of a variety of people with different views on what a green schoolyard should be," says Kent David, one of the committee members. "Concerns ranged from 'where will we park for PTA functions?' to 'where will the kids run around?' to 'how will we handle the dirt?'" Whatever choices were made resulted from open discussions and dissensions and in the end, received everybody's approval. For accessibility reasons and because it was the sunniest yard getting sometimes too hot for the kids, the Franklin side was selected to become a green schoolyard. It could be designed as a green space with a ramp.

Read the full story

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

NPR: School Economic Diversity Program May End in in Raleigh, N.C.

This NPR story about a school district in North Carolina seemed relevant to SF parents and educators:
The school district in Raleigh, N.C., may vote Tuesday to end what is hailed as a national educational model. Administrators use socioeconomic status when assigning students to schools, but that has angered some parents.
Listen to the story here.

CACS's Heart for the Arts Annual Benefit Auction and Film Festival

Creative Arts Charter School is pleased to announce its Heart for the Arts Annual Benefit Auction and Film Festival on Saturday, March 20 from 6:30-9:30 pm at Star Wars Lucasfilm Premier Theater in the Presidio. Experience a rich evening of film shorts by Creative Arts students including a Student Art Exhibition, & Silent Auction. Please join us to celebrate the many accomplishments of the Creative Arts Community while helping to raise needed funds for our stellar arts programs. Special thanks to Lucasfilm Ltd.! Purchase $20.00 tickets at www.creativeartscharter.org under Fund Raising.

Monday, March 1, 2010

LA GRAN PACHANGA!!!!! Buena Vista fund-raiser

A night of fashion, art, food and music for a great cause!

Complementary Food by:
Lolo Restaurant
Blowfish Sushi
Specchio Restaurant
Sweets by Heartbaker
+ more

Live Music By:
Bang Data
Vomito Liriko
Divasonic
Xavier Toscano
Jerusalem

DJ’s:
Dj Mei-lwun
Terbo Ted
Russell Vargas
Irene Hernandez-Feiks
DJ Deevice
DJ Felina
Rondo Brothers
Dylan Mahoney

Live painting by:
Rob Harris
Rachel Zenrold

Over 250 pieces of art, clothing , jewelry, spas, restaurant certificates, services for auction

Surprise Celebrity appearances

100% of the proceeds will go to Buena Vista Elementary School
(www.escuelabv.org)

When: March 19, 2010
8:00pm-2:00am
Where: 111 Minna Gallery
Cost: $15 Minimum donation at the door
Must be 21 + ID

Daniel Webster fund-raiser: Eat at Kasa Indian Eatery on Tue., March 2

Need a break from weeknight cooking and like Indian food? Tomorrow night Kasa Indian Eatery http://www.kasaindian.com - in the Castro is hosting a fund-raiser for Daniel Webster Elementary School. Either eat-in or take-out and 15% of the proceeds will go to Daniel Webster's PTA.
The food is delicious and the prices are great! Have a look at their tasty menu: http://www.kasaindian.com/indianrestaurantsf/kasa-menu/
Details:
Date: Tuesday, March 2nd
Time: 5-10pm
Address: 4001 18th St. @ Noe
Phone: 415-621-6940
Website: www.kasaindian.com

Hot topic: Your schools' budget cuts

This from a reader:
I'd like to hear how individual schools are dealing with budget cuts.

Hot topic: split classes

This from a reader:
Despite all the great work going on to increase funding for our schools, as a SSC member of my children's school, we have been told to prepare for the layoff of one teacher. That will mean another split classroom, e.g. 3rd and 4th graders in the same class with one teacher. I would like to hear creative ideas about how others deal with current split classrooms across SFUSD, e.g. using parents, paras, PTA funds, volunteers, community based organizations. My daughter is currently in a 4th/5th grade split and it is not the worst thing in the world, and my mother reminds me that when she grew up, she was in a one-room school with 1st-8th graders and one teacher. When given lemons, I prefer to make lemonade, and I would like to hear some successful "recipes."