Tuesday, May 4, 2010

June's Story - Assignment letter - take two

It has been a long road to this moment; I never thought a month and a half could feel so long. Since we got our Round I letter, going 0/7 and assigning Maddie to Cobb GE we have been busy.

Knowing we were unable to wait any longer than the first waitpool draw, we decided to play it safe and list our 2nd choice school, Lafayette, as our waitpool choice. When turning in our application initially we debated whether to put Peabody or Lafayette first. We loved both schools, and could see Maddie at either, Peabody won out only because of the later start time. This time around we figured Lafayette would have less waitpool demand – increasing our chances - and additionally many of Maddie’s friends were going to Lafayette, so it would be nice for her to go to school with them.

At the same time we were hoping for a small wait pool and enough openings, we were also preparing for bad news. After all we did not feel we had a risky list in round 1, so we could be deluding ourselves again. We drove all over the East Bay looking at neighborhoods, researched school districts, questioned why we want to stick to SF at all and spent many anxious nights wondering what our future would hold – all based on the results of the letter that was to go out April 30th.

I checked out the waitpool cohorts nervously on April 30th, Lafayette had no one left in our 0/7 pool. Dare we hope? Or could the EPC had made a mistake; there was one in the sibling pool, which should have had priority over us. I dared not get excited till I had the letter. And the letter that was to arrive on Saturday, did not arrive. Then on Monday it did not arrive either! I knew, reading here that everyone was in the same boat, but I felt like I was going to loose it! My family’s whole future was riding on that letter!!! Today I waited, and waited, and waited – for our mailman who always comes after 4pm. Finally I had it in my hands. I ripped it open and…. WE GOT IN!!! Lafayette, our waitpool choice school!!!

I am soooooo happy, I can’t even describe the relief. I can finally make plans again, know we will not be moving, not need to begin a frantic search for a new place to call home. We can stay in SF, can tell Maddie where she will start Kindergarten, who she will see on the play-yard. I can breathe again.

It is just too bad my joy comes with such a sour feeling towards the placement system. This long drawn out process totally sucked, that is all I can say about it. And for many people who did not get a good letter today, it sucks even more. They may decide to upend their lives and move, they may decide to wait again and again for another letter that may or may not bring better news. If you are in that spot I am sorry, I am so so so sorry. I hope whatever you do it all works out and you will be happy very soon. I also hope that the new system will be easier for K applicants next year, that middle school will be easier for us in 6 years, but call me a pessimist - I will not believe it till I see it.

58 comments:

  1. Congrats June! I felt your sigh of relief as you ripped open that letter that you had to wait an extra 3 days for. I can only hope for the same.

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  2. Congrats, June. Glad for your happy ending--and Lafayette is indeed a good school.

    I do think the new system will be less sucky in the sense that it provides more certainty, although those who are placed (by neighborhood) in a school they hate will probably not want that certainty! But at least they will KNOW back in the fall what they are dealing with. You folks out in the outer Richmond will be fine, anyway--it's those of us on the margins of wealthy/poor neighborhoods who willing be sweating the new maps.

    Re middle school, I'd be shocked if Lafayette didn't feed into Presidio--or at least Roosevelt. Both excellent schools academically and in many other ways. I think you'll be fine for middle school. And you'll have plenty of warning anyway.

    I realize you are a pessimist because of this recent experience though--and who can blame ya.

    Again, congratulations. I hope Maddie has a wonderful K year.

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  3. June, I'm so happy for you! Lafayette is a great school. The only reason it is not more popular is b/c of the location. Everything else is top notch.

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  4. "loose it" ???

    Ahem. LOSE IT.

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  5. What's wrong with Lafayette's location? Wish I could afford to live in that neighborhood!

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  6. 6:41, I think people just mean it's pretty far out in the avenues - not that central so it's hard for people from other parts of the city to get there.

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  7. 6:36 here. 6:53 is correct. I live in the Richmond and love it. I only meant that Lafayette is far out in the Richmond, making it inconvenient for many people in other neighborhoods (for exp., it is the opposite direction for those who commute downtown). Nothing wrong with the location, just logistically inconvenient for many.

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  8. betty westbrookMay 4, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    That's great news, June! We also got Lafayette (in Round 1) and are excited to start K in the fall. I look forward to meeting you. (If we ever get past our pen names.)

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  9. Isn't it sad that so many of us (including myself) would never send our kids to certain high poverty schools? Where is our outrage about the system as a whole? Yes, of course we want the best environment for OUR kids, but what about those kids with families who can't/won't advocate for them? Why is it OK for poor kids to go to low performing schools, but unacceptable for the middle class? Why do we as a City allow this to continue? We're all really good at bemoaning the "undesirable" schools- and we put a ton of energy into navigating the system for our own families- I wonder what would happen if we all put as much thought into changing the system for everyone.

    Just a thought. I'm as guilty as anyone else for not taking any sort of big action on this.

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  10. What big action could anyone take? As others point out, no school system anywhere in the world has succeeded in "making all the schools good" and closing the achievement gap between privileged, white and Asian students and low-income black and Latino students. If you know the secret, you could change the world.

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  11. The secret is parenting.

    I am Latino and was raised in a low-income household in a low-income neighborhood with underperforming schools where parents, mine included, did not emphasize education. I was lucky that I somehow made it out of East LA. Today most of my friends are higher income whites and Latinos of all income levels who come from households where education was a huge priority.

    What I’ve learned by observing my very large extended family and those of many friends is that parents who care about education have children that succeed; where the parents are not involved, the results are grim. We spend millions of dollars improving school facilities and shrinking class sizes, yet there is zero emphasis on parenting programs that teach people how to help their children succeed academically. Until we aim our tax dollars at the right people—parents, we are not going to help disadvantaged children get ahead. Teachers and school systems will help some kids, like me, but for the most part they are not going to overcome what is happening at home.

    Btw, we’re 0/14 on K Spanish immersion.

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  12. Agreed, 9:48 -- I should have asked what action schools, or activists (as 8:10 implies), could take to close the achievement gap. They can't make people parent.

    Sorry you're 0/14 -- best of luck!

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  13. June, I am so glad for you. This process looks grisly and stressful. From where I live, it beats neighborhood schools, but there's no doubt that our state's whole educational system needs help. I wish you and your family all the best!

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  14. Congratulations - Lafayette is a fabulous school!

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  15. 9:48

    Did your kid test Spanish-dominant?

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  16. Bravo 9:48,

    Finally someone admitting to the correct problem. I wouldn't mind sending my child to a low income school but I want one that has parents that are involved and that care about education. Otherwise, school is just babysitting, not even day care where kids are learning.

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  17. Amen to 9:48. I know wealthy white people whose kids are barely-literate jailbirds due to poor parenting. We all know the Chinese paradox: a school can be around 70-90% free and reduced lunch and have a Great Schools ranking from 7-10 if the majority population is Chinese because of the cultural emphasis on education. Occasionally a bright child from a poor parenting environment will really take to school and do well, but the odds are stacked against those kids.

    June, congratulations on Lafayette. We're one of the families for whom the way-out-in-the-avenues location doesn't work, but we have friends there and it sounds like an awesome place.

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  18. Congratulations!

    I'm sure you will be a great asset to Lafayette.

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  19. 9:08 AM, a good example of a school with low-income kids and good results is ER Taylor. Another is Moscone, a school in the Mission that really beats the demographic odds. Sheridan on the SW side is another one with high test scores and mostly low-income kids (and not all Chinese either). I'm surprised more middle/upper class parents from the east and south sides of town don't look at these schools.

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  20. I think that some of the schools you mention don't have before and after-care, which can be an issue for middle-class families where both parents work and there is no nearby extended family to help with child care.

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  21. "I think that some of the schools you mention don't have before and after-care, which can be an issue for middle-class families where both parents work and there is no nearby extended family to help with child care."

    Moscone has limited childcare (there's a CDC round the corner for low-income families), and I think some families from there go to childcare at Flynn. Don't know about E.R. Taylor or Sheridan.

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  22. Sheridan only has aftercare for low income kids.

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  23. Newsflash to SFUSD - You can't integrate the schools if you only provide aftercare for the low income kids!!

    I am stuck with this problem right now - I have no aftercare for my child - yippee!

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  24. Congratulations and welcome to Lafayette! We love it!

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  25. 1:30pm, agreed. Bringing GLO afterschool care to Fairmount was what made it possible. It needs to be standard!

    There are a few major providers of care in town (YMCA, GLO, etc.). Worth asking them about expanding. Or talking to the school about providing bus service to another site while it can be worked on at the first site. Monroe buses to Buena Vista, I think.

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  26. When did GLO come to Fairmount?

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  27. I am just learning about the public school enrollment process now, and the biggest shock of all has been the after-care situation. I had just assumed that every school provided after-care for any child who needed it. Pretty naive, I guess.

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  28. "When did GLO come to Fairmount?"

    I think in 2002 or 2003. It was then called West Portal Care Inc., as that is where it originated. Name change was a few years ago. It had earlier expanded to AFY and Alvarado, and then Fairmount came on board. It is has since further expanded, though I can't remember now where as we are no longer an elementary school family.

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  29. Way naive. Even most trophies don't have guaranteed after care. Most popular after-school programs have waiting lists, and you might get a school but not a program, or a program but not a school. As with the lottery, something eventually works out for most people, but depending on your family and job situations that uncertainty can be a deal-breaker. We have no nearby family who can help and we don't know any SAHPs with whom we could make arrangements. After-care program stability was one reason we ended up private. I have not heard of any private schools that don't make after-care available to all families at the school who want it.

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  30. "you might get a school but not a program, or a program but not a school"

    OMG. So, how early do I need to get on the waiting list for an aftercare program? Is it like fancy preschools, where applications are accepted "in utero"???

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  31. No, not in utero. Call as soon as you have an assignment to get on the list.

    Also, it's quite as dire as is being suggested. You may have to ask around to see what other families are doing. For example, when GLO at Alvarado maxed out and had a waiting list, several families went with the latchkey program at Douglass Park, and others went to the program at St. Aidan's Episcopal up on Diamond Heights (there is school bus service from Alvarado that drops the kids there). There is a latchkey program at Glen Park as well. Many schools have bus service to off-site programs at YMCA, Boys' & Girls' Club, other schools' after school programs, JCC, etc.

    This may not be ideal, but can suffice until a spot opens up at the on-school program. They often open up midyear as families' needs change. You will certainly get a spot the following year. Heck, the cost of hiring someone to do afternoon care for one whole year would be far less than paying private school tuition for six years, so it should not become "the" reason to go private.

    Other families I have known have been able to stagger their work so that one parent is on for the morning and the other for the afternoon. Granted that takes job flexibility.

    The point is, ask parents at the school site what they are doing. You are not the first to confront this issue. It may be time to build after care at the school site, but in the meantime, other families are doing *something.* What is it? You can contact parents through PPS ambassador program.

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  32. Do any kids get picked up after school? Not after after care? I was the opposite of the other poster. I didn't know any schools had aftercare. I thought I needed to make my own arrangements (parent, grandparent, babysitter, etc.) I'm looking for a carpool b/c my babysitter doesn't drive and we of course couldn't get in the school w/in walking distance. I'm just wondering if I'm going to have any luck with an after school car pool. Sounds like all the kids stay at school til 5 or 6.

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  33. Some kids go home right after school gets out but I think it's pretty rare.

    Lack of after-care was not the only reason we went private (my husband said "absolutely not" to the school we got even though many parents like it and I thought it would be OK), but it was certainly a factor.

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  34. a side note--has anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here? Often when they haven't done the legwork to tour, read about them, get under the statistics to understand that test scores track demographics, etc.? And a corollary--those same husbands are almost always citing test scores above all.

    A sociological phenomenon....I wonder if/how that works in lesbian and gay families, but that is my (anecdotal) observation about het families: the women are willing to be more adventurous in their picks.

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  35. Yes, absolutely. I think for a lot of men, certainly my own DH, if they don't perceive a school to be "the best" or at least pretty far up the food chain, they feel like they have failed as providers. My husband did at least go to the school we were assigned and spend several hours there. Seemed like lots of moms were going "it's neat, isn't it honey, we can really make a difference here" and the dads were nodding politely in the building and shaking their heads once they left. I think guys are more likely to want to find a way to afford oranges rather than make lemonade out of lemons. I am painting with a VERY broad brush here of course.

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  36. That absolutely fits my husband. We can afford private, and he was pushing for that. When we didn't get the privates we wanted (being rather picky, in the East end sense of the word), he was impossibly upset, even though we got a public that many would cut off their right arm to send their kid to. Now he is "tolerating" it, and plotting for the next round of private applications. sigh.

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  37. I think most men leave the rose-colored glasses at home. I count on my husband to provide the gut feeling -- the one before the brain kicks in. Not saying he gets his way, but he is sometimes right.

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  38. 9:08 My son was accepted at moscone and I had to switch him in round II because there are no aftercare options for a kindergartner. No buses to Buena Vista or Flynn, no opening at Las Americas (CDC) for families that will pay, and the Boys and Girls club is only for 6yrs and up. 4 or 5 children of various ages walk UNSUPERVISED down the street to a depressing looking gymnasium with a sweet caregiver, but I wasn't comfortable with my 4 yr old doing that. The receptionist had no info or contacts to help me either. So, I'm a middle class mom who tried to give Moscone a chance, but got burned. Until they are able to at least help new families connect with other incoming parents to coordinate childcare they will not meet the needs of the middle class, and I felt like they didn't have any interest in doing so. Plus the Principle left on maternity leave and we never heard back about who was going to take over. The playground is terrible, not a tree or ounce of shade, it is on top of a parking garage! I really wanted to like it.

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  39. 5:14 - Did you get a hardship or a new school on your R2 list?

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  40. I have an almost manic instinct to want to take on projects. Visions of a beautiful school community where housing project kids beat the odds and go off to college because we've joined the team at their elementary. Talk about delusions of grandeur. My husband has to tactfully remind me that I really don't have time, and our family cannot afford for me to take the time since I am the primary breadwinner, to help turn marginal school X into the next Miraloma.

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  41. 5:26 - That is hilarious. That is exactly the same as our family except I am the one saying we don't have the time, my partner always wants to take on new projects!

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  42. "...has anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here?"

    This was my husband when we were looking at then-downtrodden Aptos Middle School in 2002. We were lucky in having a native guide, parent activist Dana Woldow, whose son was already there. She took us on a tour of the school and used reverse psychology on my husband. She told him: OK, you're going to see the most disgusting thing you've ever seen -- if you can handle this, you can handle anything. Then she sent him into the boys' locker room. He came out saying cheerfully: "Hey, it's just like my junior high school locker room!" (Palms Jr. High, LAUSD, about 1964-66, for the record.) That did it.

    Also, my son was absolutely insisting. He had been impressed by Aptos institution Russ Addiego, then the GATE coordinator, on an earlier tour, and was absolutely not willing to consider glossier Hoover or Giannini. I guess when the kids are old enough to be in the mix, that complicates things for the naysayer husbands.

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  43. My child loves Mr. Addiego in social studies! Even though (um, maybe because?) he can be really outrageous. But he also teaches the material and the kids are expected to learn it. I think the outrageousness has to be a mark of teaching middle schoolers since the mid-1970's.

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  44. "a side note--has anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here? Often when they haven't done the legwork to tour, read about them, get under the statistics to understand that test scores track demographics, etc.? And a corollary--those same husbands are almost always citing test scores above all. "

    Probably depends on the type of husband. Alpha males, yep.

    Me, I went into male geek data collection mode, visiting 30+ schools, and being able to rattle off the APIs for non-low SES kids for most publics in a 2 mile radius of our house.

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  45. Blogger ate my comment last night but -- my alpha male but technically female partner wants only the very best private school for our daughter, despite our thuddingly middle-class income. So it's been me who has had to tour the publics and conjure up magical visions of change wrought mostly by others, because I am the breadwinner and have a killer commute and she hasn't seen the places. Some comfort for the straight women in the audience, maybe?

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  46. "a side note--has anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here?"

    Agreed!! I've noticed this along with the fact that it's the dads who spend a lot of time railing against the assignment system. Lots of comments like, "Back when I was going to school in the [1960s/1970s] in [small Midwest town], everyone just walked to their neighborhood school. So why can't we do that here?" Whereas the moms work like mad to figure out the system and make it work. I know one dad who couldn't believe that we were considering West Portal because it had such a bad reputation...back in the 1970s, when he was in elementary school in SF.

    Obviously this is painting with a broad brush, as someone said, and I must say that my husband was incredibly supportive during the entire (two-year!) process, but I definitely have noticed gender differences in the approaches.

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  47. on the gender gap view, is it because you are SAHM, and want to keep it that way.

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  48. Um, no. I commented earlier. I work full time, and have done so ever since my maternity leave ended when my child was less than six months old. I don't think the comments were meant to start some sort of gender/mommy war. Just some random observations.

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  49. 9:37, uh, yeah. I'm a full-time working lesbian mom, and when it comes to schools I'm living the gender gap with my sweetly clueless, SAHM butch partner. Your point about SAHMs and the gender gap is what, precisely?

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  50. "a side note--has anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here?"

    Interestingly enough, it was the exact opposite in my family. Hubbie comes from a well to do family and attended some of the best schools in the east coast area and even went to Phillips Exeter Academy.

    I went to S.F. public school all the way from K-12. I HATED the idea of sending my kid to public. I was a child of the dreaded and nonfunctional "Social Experiment." I went to a school that most all people here would shutter to send their precious children. I wanted to go to private. Hubbie insisted on public. Luckily, we got into an acceptable school that is getting better by the year.

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  51. 9:05, I suppose the grass is always greener!

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  52. 9:24,

    That is assuming there is or ever was grass around. I can tell you that there wasn't any at the school I went to that gave me such horrible memories of SFUSD.

    Shuttering at the reflections of those times,

    9:05

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  53. What was the social experiment?

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  54. 11:46,

    Busing and ensuring that kids, that were not socially disadvantage, were assigned schools in the ghetto as often as they could.

    I can offer a good guess that around 50% of the children I went to school with, at the disadvantaged school, are either dead or in jail.

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  55. Yes, it turns out that diversifying educational environments alone does not mitigate the effects of shoveling public monies upwards (as in deregulation and the bailouts) and starving the majority of people out of basic social services.

    A shame, that. The real social experiment was trickle-down economics for 30 years, and it clearly hasn't worked. Neither busing nor a lottery can fix the gigantic hole where a decent middle-class existence used to be.

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  56. "as anyone else noticed it is almost always the husbands saying "absolutely not" to a variety of schools around here? Often when they haven't done the legwork to tour, read about them, get under the statistics to understand that test scores track demographics, etc.?"

    I attribute this to the insular world where many upper-middle-class and wealthier men dwell.

    Women are out on the street more. They mingle with people of different social classes more.

    Men stay hunkered down in the cubicle/office world, where they divorce themselves from the Real World as much as possible.

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  57. Me Tarzan, you Jane. Men from Mars, Women from Venus.

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  58. Our prayers have been answered! Alamo here we come! We are so excited to get into that school, and sooooo looking forward to August!

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