Thursday, March 25, 2010

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.

41 comments:

  1. Great news, Jake.

    Based on watching this happen at other schools in the past, I urge folks considering this option to take it in R2. Two years ago, Sunnyside filled up when a similar movement occured, and others later wished they could get in via waitpools or open enrollment--but couldn't. Get on the google group and check it out. I suppose with this much energy there is not guarantee, but there will most likely be openings for Round 2. This is a school that is relatively convenient to many who went 0/7--certainly those in the Mission, Bernal, Glen Park, and Noe, but also anyone who commutes downtown from the SW part of town, or who heads out of town on the 280via the Guerrero Street corridor. This is your chance to jump on before the train leaves the station. This is the path taken by Alvarado, Miraloma, Grattan, Sunnyside, Peabody in the past.

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  2. Um, wouldn't it already be full if all the assignees sign up?

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  3. I would add that since this school will be a Bernal neighborhood school under the new system, it is likely to continue to see lots of parental energy (and PTA fundraising efforts) in coming years. So while this group might be the trailblazers, there will most likely be wind at your backs.

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  4. Many will, from the sounds of it, but not all. Until it attains trophy status like Miraloma there will be those who still waitpool for Clarendon. So, my bet, less room than usual, but there will be spots. Well worth a R2 pick or waitpool. This was the deal with Sunnyside in 2008--it filled up in R2 and a lot got in. Then it was closed. It went from "Oh no I got Sunnyside" to "How do I get in" within one month. But still more movement in R2 than Clarendon. This is the time to move on it.

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  5. Last year I attended a meeting about DeAvila. Before going into the lottery, nobody even knew the school district was going to offer another Chinese immersion option. People discovered they were assigned there (and that it would exist) after they got there assignments. Many, many people were initially upset to be assigned to a school that hadn't even existed when they put in their applications. I went to the meeting, not because we got assigned there, but hoping to switch there -- hoping to jump on what was clearly going to be an exciting ride. The same thing happened there -- parents who were assigned there bonded together, formed a group, started a PTA, got excited and going together and created (with the district) something really exiting. They were deeply involved from the start, including some of the shaping of the program. Ultimately, we didn't get in, but we were inspired by what we saw, and by what an engaged group of people can do. I hope you all do as well with JS!

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  6. Just so folks know, the poster of this message is another parent. Our family is getting used to the idea of committing to JS, too.

    Jake Schwarz

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  7. Thanks for the clarification!

    My guess is there will be a core from the original assignees (such as the writer of this original post), along with another core that comes in during the next stage. Inevitably there will be some who waitpool out, but that's fine. There will be a strong set of new families coming in from 0/7 placements like Chavez and Bryant, and others who live nearby who suddenly see a viable option for a walkable school--these things will sort themselves out.

    And as the other person notes, there will be wind at their backs via next year's neighborhood assignment process. Bernal is such a well-organized community, with the renovated library and playground its hub, as well as Good Life Grocery, Holly Park, the Neighborhood Center. It will be easy for this pioneer group to advertise and host meetings about JS next fall when the initial assignment areas are posted.

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  8. I have been a part of the JS meetings, and I can tell you that it is a fabulous community of people. Usually in these big group settings there is always one person that you wish would just shut up. I haven't seen any of that. Instead, its a bunch of terrific parents who want to not only give their kids the best education possible, but also want to lift up an entire school.

    Most importantly, we included current JS parents at our meeting last night. They, and the teaching staff, seem incredibly excited about our participation at the school. Everyone has been very respectful about supporting the needs of the current school community. There is talk of adding a Spanish language component, perhaps afterschool, which would really help to merge the populations at the school. This particular idea is one that the current administration seems very supportive of.

    This seems like a great opportunity, particularly because it will become the neighborhood school for Bernal next year. This is the year to be the ringleaders....

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  9. O joy! Principal Cheung deserves the resources and energy of parents who also respect what she's done with the school and its existing population. It will take some work and there will be growing pains, but it's a great thing.

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  10. 2:05, I love this report, especially the good thinking about how to work well the existing community.

    McKinley has a strong afterschool language program (both Spanish and Mandarin) that you might want to inquire about.

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  11. This is how it happens. I have shivers going down my spine because it looks like the critical mass is forming as we speak! Well done, parents. If you would like me to attend one of your meetings and listen to how the district can support the work you want to do at JS, I'd be more than happy to do so.

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  12. Good for you guys. Get that PTA up and running and you'll be on your way. What a wonderful thing for our neighborhood. I'll be sure to support you as a neighbor!

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  13. We live in Bernal, and although we'll be attending an immersion school, I still get shivers of excitement over what's going on at J Serra. Many of my son's friends are thinking about attending and even though we won't be there, another strong school in the neighborhood can only add strength to the community! Yeah!!!

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  14. "This is how it happens."

    Yes. All you need is a critical mass of parents with money and education to request the school, and the parents who don't participate in the lottery will be pushed out. (Believe it or not, those people do exist.) The number of free-lunch kids will decline, the test scores will rise, and the district and the new parents will say "We did it!"

    Yay!

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  15. It's off to Chavez and Bryant for them!

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  16. 5:46 and 5:53

    Not a bad point. However, doesn't JS have a CDC, which gives preference to low-income families? Won't they have preference in the lottery? Won't the CDC push families to apply on-time? And I assume the district will be drawing new maps for JS that include both the wealthier Bernal side and the poorer Mission St. side, in terms of attendance area. Yes, it is still work to get families to apply, but less confusing than the old lottery. So, hopefully JS will be able to maintain a nice mix into the future.

    I'm sure that other schools may struggle with this. I'm just more optimistic for JS.

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  17. The last two comments, though true, are not helpful. So a group of strongly motivated parents of assumed earnings and education are supposed to go where, do what, contribute to the solution how? Please offer something constructive.

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  18. choose your neighborhood school

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  19. 6:37
    right and that's what these families are doing, so why with the snarky folks? More of the 6:12 info less of the 5:46/5:53 bile please.

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  20. Bernal is a diverse neighborhood with a variety of incomes, so if the middle class Bernal families start attending JS, it would reflect the whole neighborhood. The vast majority of the families attending the JS meeting were from the 94131/94110 zip code. Not everyone will be able to walk to school, but it's not a trek (Upper Noe, Glen Park). Also, these are families who are trying to turn something that was initially into a disappointment into a positive.

    I don't understand the motivation behind the snarky comments. What is the right thing to do? I feel like this is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. You're accused of being scared of poor people if you insist on a Clarendon or private school, but now you're accused of pushing out poor people if you attend an under the radar school. Snarky comment people: I'm curious about what choices you are making that entitle you to these comments? What do the high and mighty do?

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  21. 5:46 here, and my snark was aimed squarely at Ms. Norton, I imagined that the quote I used would have made that more clear. For Ms. Norton, a BOE member, to state that "this is how it happens" is just sad. This is how we improve a school? By changing the demographic? While on the one hand I do understand that evening out the percentages of high-needs students may improve student achievement, it's unrealistic (at best) to think that's going to happen at most of our "poor performing" schools.

    Is "this" going to happen at Muir? Chavez? Malcolm X? What's the answer for those schools? Does Norton have any ideas for them?

    It's all so easy when the "critical mass" forms. What is the board doing for schools that don't have the benefit of a PTA that brings in 5 or 6 figures every year? Or will we continue to throw them under the NCLB bus?

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  22. Look, 5:46/9:25, it's pretty simple. Granted all schools should be funded equally, and better. Nobody would disagree with that. It's even arguable that we gung-ho PTA types are playing into a more general statewide plan to privatize public education by shifting the burden of support onto individual families (see: the UC system). But in the middle of the big fight are the little battles -- not only where the hell to send your kid to school, but also how to divvy up the resources a bit more equally on a micro-level. Which does involve changing the demographic. An active PTA funds enrichment for ALL the kids, not just the middle-class ones. That's something. It's better than pulling out of the idea of public education altogether.

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  23. Great comment, 9:47.

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  24. I was bristled by Rachel Norton's comment as well. Investment in J. Serra (and many others in the SE) happens In Spite of the district and the board.

    In my opinion, there is nothing that Rachel Norton can do to help this effort, only to hurt it. The immersion families, many of whom have committed fully to under performing schools over the years, have been burned continually by the EPC and the board. The rules continue to change during the game, without notice, and without even the smallest amount of appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears that these families have invested in these schools.

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  25. I, too, was excited by the comments of an even STRONGER community forming around JS. Show me where kids were pushed out of a school like this? At Miraloma, no one was pushed out - but enrollment increased from 245 to max out at 360. It was filled in. And the resulting increase in support for teachers and students helped everyone - those already there and those that were new to the school.

    More families and more investment in our schools -wherever they are - is only a good thing.

    Kudos to those ready to join. You'll be so happy you did.

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  26. Sorry if my comment offended people. I meant only two things: one, that Bernal as a neighborhood is more diverse than JSerra, so it's only good if a more representative sample of the neighborhood goes to that school.

    Second, I was STRUCK by the fact that the prospective parents took pains to include current parents in their meetings with the principal. That showed some awareness on the prospective parents part that there is already a community at the school -- they are trying to join, not take over.

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  27. Here is the handbook for English speaking immersion families...

    Invest in the PTA - fight for the money and the programs

    Create a new afterschool program that will accept your child, since the existing programs will not

    Sell your school hard - convince your friends and neighbors to list your school #1, even if they will most likely go 0/7 and then look at you scared as they get various responses from EPC as to when "slots" will open - round 2, right after round 2, never

    Accept Flynnarado - The EPC made a mistake and sure - it's ok to take away family placements in June/July before school starts at the end of August

    Believe in your school - even if you really need a broader after school program and even if your family might need a different school since immersion is not going to work for your younger child - Believe hard in your school since transfers are not possible and are guided by an unpublished rulebook that no English speaking parents have access to...

    How much longer are immersion parents going to keep up this charade?

    In my opinion, foreign language acquisition is not worth being treated like a second class citizen by the EPC and the board. I will tell my friends and neighbors - go to McKinley - go to a great GE program - You deserve better.

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  28. 12:39
    J Serra is not immersion.

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  29. Yes, for goodness sake check your facts. The rant about immersion parents isn't relevant to what's going on at Serra. Serra offers a good neighborhood GE program to Bernal -- Paul Revere is all SI.

    And in terms of brain development and a challenging K-2 experience for kids who have had good preschooling, foreign language acquisition is indeed worth the trouble. It's not for everyone, but it's not a "charade," EPC or no EPC.

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  30. "Paul Revere is all SI."

    No, there's a GE program at Revere also.

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  31. 8:09 AM here: note to self: check facts before telling others to check facts.

    Mea culpa.

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  32. I'm a private school parent, and entered our daughter in the lottery a number of years back when "race" was the determinative factor for school assignment. But I'm thrilled with what is going on at JS. I applaud the parents assigned to JS for what they're doing – you're going to build a great school!

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  33. I know that JS is not immersion and I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled with the momentum behind JS. The SE needs solid GE schools and this is great for the SE community.

    I posted the immersion comment because I saw that Rachel Norton was reading this thread and honestly, it often feels like no-one is listening. My comment came from the heart... and at times, my heart breaking. Families have put their heart and soul into these schools yet are often treated like second hand citizens.

    The EPC/Board should provide clear and consistent rules surrounding immersion admissions and transfers. And then follow those rules - for all families - native speakers, bilingual speakers and english speakers

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  34. I have registered at JS today. We live in Noe Valley so no, this is not my neighborhood school or a school that was on my list.

    However, I feel lucky to have been assigned a school around which there is so much momentum.

    We have waitlisted our immersion choice, so we'll see what happens. Either way, I think we'll be happy. The growing JS community is engaged, energized and having fun!

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  35. Hmmm... I am also excited about this momentum at J. Serra. I do think the enthusiasm and good will is beneficial for EVERYONE. One thing the district might stand to gain from it is NOT so great for equity, social justice, trust, and transparency.

    API scores may very well rise and the school may improve its program in certain ways that attract more diversity (read middle class) WHILE AT THE SAME TIME those students who were not achieving before continue to not achieve. Now these children are masked and hidden in a "subgroup" category OR, WORSE YET so small a number, in comparison to groups, to be labeled "statistically insignificant." WOW! Won't that be great? We can now hide all those kids who aren't achieving and say we have closed the achievement gap!!!

    Though this is not an individual parents' problem it is a district and societal problem. It should be addressed. My feeling it will only be addressed if people like those taking their momentum to J. Serra know about it, think about, and work with wonderful Ms. Eve Cheung to make sure it is on everyone's radar.

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  36. Good point, 10:42. We need to be advocating for ALL children and families- A Soon to Be JS K Family

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  37. As one of the families that will be joining JS in the fall, we're also excited about the energy and momentum building. As many observed at the last community meeting, JS isn't a school that needs "saving." It's a wonderful little community with some amazing leadership and solid test scores. Much of what we're doing in these meetings is figuring out how we expand the community in a sensitive and productive way (yes, that means adding overnight a bunch of middle-class kids who have had 2+ years of preschool to the demographic). We hope that if it turns out the PTA can now do more fundraising, as we expect it will, that the whole community will be working together to figure out how best to use those funds at the school. All the children going there will benefit from this support. I hope others watching our progress and/or following on this blog will be more sensitive to the fact that we're trying to do something good for this school, for our community, for our individual kids, and for all kids at JS. Also, for those who might not know, JS has a bilingual strand as well, so even an influx of middle-class Bernal and Noe families would be filling *at most* only half the slots in years with 2 k's and just a few more perhaps in years with 3 k's. There's really very little danger that we'll be pushing out the families that currently attend. And based on the current parents who came to our last meeting, they're very excited to have us come.

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  38. I love it. This is so wonderful. You are truly making lemonade out of lemons! Continue on! Best of luck.

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  39. I'm very pleased that so many young parents are rallying around Junipero Serra.

    All the best to you! I'm sure you will succeed!

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  40. While I am encouraged by all the Bernal parents rallying arround JS, I have to say that it does seem unfair to neighborhood parents who really worked hard to build up SI programs at their local schools (i.e. Marshall, Daniel Webster, Flynn) to not have ANY neighborhood advantage in the new assignment system. Perhaps this is something that could be revisited.

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  41. 7:15, I couldn't agree more. I'm wondering if there was more or less neighborhood preference in the "old" system we are in now. In other words, are parents who worked on SI programs before their kids were K age actually at more disadvantage than they were? Or just the same level?

    Anyway, the only good thing about all this is that maybe the SES split between immersion programs and GE programs might begin to close as people invest in non-immersion schools like Serra.

    Serra parents, keep us posted about how it's going, would you?

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