Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Try out the new SF K Files forum

As you know, the SF K Files is working on launching a new Community site. The highlight of this new site is a forum where readers can start their own discussions. Please take the time to visit the new site and try out the forum. I'm specifically interested in getting people to respond to the Forum thread asking readers for feedback on the new site. We want to make changes to the site over the summer as the goal is to have the Community up and running by fall when the next round of school tours starts.

The URL for the new Community is community.thesfkfiles.com. The password is pan*cake.

Thanks!

Hot topic: Anyone without a school?

This from a reader:
What are people who are still without a school planning to do? What tips do you have for those who are still waiting to get a public or private assignment they like?

AP: More school districts struggle with money problems

This from the Associated Press:

California education officials on Tuesday reported a sharp jump in the number of school districts that are facing severe financial stress because of the state's budget crisis.

A record 174 districts may not be able to meet their financial obligations over the next two years, a 38 percent increase since January, according to the California Department of Education, which released the semiannual report on district finances.

"The economic picture for our schools regrettably is bleak," said Jack O'Connell O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction. "This clearly is a result of inadequate funding of our schools. The lack of funding is hurting our children, our schools, our neighborhoods and our future."

The 174 districts on the state's fiscal early warning list represent about 16 percent of California's 1,077 local education agencies. The number of listed districts grew from 126 in January and 108 in June 2009.

Fourteen of the districts received a "negative certification," which means they may not be able to pay their bills in the current or next fiscal year. The other 160 districts received "qualified certification," which means they may have trouble meeting their obligations in the next two fiscal years.
Read the full story

Hot topic: New report proposes innovative way to evaluate teacher performance

This from a reader:
SF K Files readers might be interested in a new report from Stanford University by an independent group of experienced teachers that lays out an innovative way to evaluate teacher performance

http://nbrc.stanford.edu/act/reports/a-quality-teacher-in-every-classroom.html

Summary of the report, and issues surrounding teacher perfromance on educatedguess.com blog http://educatedguess.org/2010/06/28/smart-report-on-teacher-evaluations/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SFUSD Press release: Board of Education Adopts Budget for 2010-11 School Year

June 23, 2010 (San Francisco) – Last night the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved its budget for the 2010-2011 school year.

Facing an estimated $113 million deficit from the state of California over the next two years, district officials have worked with its unions, staff and community since January to draft a budget that cuts across the district in several areas including four furlough days, reduced central office expenditures, and delayed repairs to some facilities.

Board of Education president Jane Kim thanked the SFUSD community for their input. “The public really pitched in - they attended our forums, organized their own forums, and gave us really great input, recommendations and even research that helped us tremendously.”

During community budget forums to discuss how to deal with the cuts, district officials learned from parents and guardians that they did not want to see class sizes increase, a cost-cutting measure chosen by many other school districts facing similar budget crises. Instead, SFUSD and the teachers union (UESF) negotiated four furlough days for next year, when schools and district offices will be closed. These unpaid days off, which will save the district approximately $5.7 million, shortens the school year to 176 days. Central office administrators and principals will be taking an additional unpaid day.

Other cuts include staff and non-personnel cuts in central office, fewer paid professional development days for teachers, reduced summer school classes, and a reduction in bus transportation. (See following pages for a summary of cuts.)

Because of these and other cuts, layoffs for teachers and administrators were reduced from a possible 700 to under 200.

Some schools will see less funding for arts and physical education classes because this year the state allowed those earmarked funds to be redirected to the general fund. However, thanks to the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF), which is a separate voter-approved fund, most schools will keep some arts and physical education staffing in place.

“This has been by far the toughest year I have ever had as an educator and administrator,” said Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “We’ve been dealt a bad hand from the state, but we got this done.”

Garcia, several other school districts as well as students and parents recently filed a historic lawsuit against the state of California requesting that the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the state.

A little 'Daily Show' humor for those Chinese immersion families out there

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-june-7-2010/socialism-studies

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot topic: Next wait pool

This is a comment pulled from another post:
Friday was another waitpool change deadline. The next letters get mailed out June 30 and they should post the updated WP numbers. I'm not really expecting a letter, but do hope my WP numbers go down.

I know one family moving, saw another post here of someone giving up a trophy public for private. I sure hope there is some more movement. I'm really curious to see the WP posting on Aug. 6 right b/f school starts. That will be after they make everyone confirm they want to stay in. Hopefully that will clear a lot of people who have moved on. Fingers crossed for a K placement in 2010. Are there others out there with no school? Are you thinking about it all the time?

Hot topic: Address fraud re-assignments

This from a reader:
Of the 80 students that were kicked out due to address fraud, I've heard that included assigned kindergarten spots (younger siblings of current students). Does anyone know if those spots have already been re-assigned? The article came out May 27 (but it seems like the parents were notified earlier). I'm wondering if those spots have already been taken, or is there a possibility that there will be movement in June 30 round based on the release of the fraud spaces.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Visit the new SF K Files Community site

Several readers have visited the new SF K Files Community site and now I'd like to extend the invitation to the greater community. I'm excited about this new section of the Web site as it has a forum where readers can start their own online conversations. There's also a database of schools so it's easy to track down school information and find past blog posts related to that school.

The URL is community.thesfkfiles.com. The password is pan*cake

Please visit the site and offer feedback by sending an email to thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

f you choose to visit the site, here's what you can do:

1) Go to community.thesfkfiles.com then click "sign in," in the upper right of the page to get started creating an account.
2) Create an account
3) Your account activation will be sent to your email; click on the link; the password is pan*cake
4) Now you can log in
5) Welcome to the new Community site!
6) Check out the Forum. Try starting a new forum topic and responding to some of the questions there.
7) Go to "Schools." Search for your school; try looking for a few other schools.
8) Now go to your school and try editing the content on the page--or adding to the content. The school database is like a "wiki" so people can add to it, update info, correct errors. (Make sure that the info you enter on this page is factual!)
9) Now on your school page, near the bottom, tell us "why you love your school." We're allowing parents to add reviews but we're asking them to offer praise in an effort to keep things positive (as we all know that there's plenty of negativity in the comments section of the site).
10) Browse the site noting what's working and not working.
11) Send an email with feedback to thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

Thanks so much!

Close the loophole

This from Matthew VilleneuveOrganizer, Close the Loophole:

Reforming Proposition 13 will take much more than a short-term political campaign. Restoring justice to California’s property tax system requires the kind of sustained communications and organizational effort that will last past the next election cycle and change minds over the long haul.

That’s why San Francisco’s elected Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting and a number of other leading advocates for tax justice have formed Close the Loophole, an organizing campaign designed to identify, educate and activate 100,000 Californians to be the backbone of a sustained drive for
reform.

While both public and private polls show there is currently majority support for Proposition 13 – that support is inflated by a misunderstanding of how Proposition 13 really works. Once voters understand that Proposition 13 contains a loophole that gives a massive tax break for big corporations, support for the 1978 initiative diminishes rapidly.

Close the Loophole will lead the process of changing the public consciousness and building a broad-based, enduring coalition around reforming Proposition 13.

An estimated 7.5 billion dollars are lost every year because of business tax loopholes in Prop. 13 – yet there is not an active organization with the singular purpose of reforming the initiative. In what will most likely be one of the worst budget years in the history of the state, 2010 presents our organization with an ideal opportunity to build a long-lasting coalition around meaningful structural reform. That’s why we formed Close the Loophole – to create a central organizing structure that can help sustain this important effort, educate Californians and support other organizations that begin to work in this arena.

Close the Loophole’s proposal is to create a Split Roll, a system that will leave current Proposition 13 protections intact for homeowners but allow commercial assessments for corporate landowners to rise so they reflect actual valuation. Estimates from the State Board of Equalization show that once a Split Roll is fully implemented, up to $7.5 billion in additional tax revenue will be available annually to repair the state’s budget crisis and fund vital services, like K-12 education.

We have a strong story to tell. Within a week of publishing Close the Loophole’s first opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, thousands of Californians signed up to join the campaign on Facebook and on our website. Since our launch, we’ve published over a dozen pieces in prominent newspapers and blogs throughout the state. We’ve held events and leadership meetings throughout the state. Over 300 Californians have already offered to volunteer their time to Close the Loophole. By organizing 100,000 trained and motivated storytellers, we will create the type of infrastructure that will change minds and draw long-term support for this important cause.

We’ve already organized 10,000 Californians around closing corporate property tax loophole in
Prop. 13. Will you join us?

Please learn more about our efforts at
www.CloseTheLoophole.com or on
www.Facebook.com/ClosetheLoophole
and www.Twitter.com/Close_Loophole.

Update from the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee

On behalf of the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee (SNPAC) , I want to share with you some of the many positive things that have happened this year in the area of school food, some of which represent the culmination of years of effort, and all of which move the SFUSD closer to our goals. Student Nutrition Services (SNS) has done an amazing job this year!

In 2004, SNPAC became aware that SFUSD was one of the very few school districts operating cafeterias without a Point of Sale (POS) system The POS uses electronic technology to check students’ eligibility for free meals, to enable swipe card payment for those who must pay for their meals, and to track sales and inventory. The manual system SFUSD used allowed errors of the type that caused SFUSD to flunk the state program review in 2008-09; as well, it made it easy for an onlooker to see which students were being given free meals and which were paying cash. While not considered to be “overt identification” of low income students, this kind of system nonetheless leads to a stigma for poorer students, who, by middle school, sometimes feel such shame at being identified as poor that they begin skipping lunch rather than bear the stigma of poverty. After many years of fruitless searching by SNPAC for funding for a POS system, new Superintendent Carlos Garcia promised in 2007 that he would find the money to fund a POS; in June 2008, voters approved Prop A which contained a portion of fund for technology, and the POS project was greenlighted. Installation was to have begun last fall with a timeline of two years to get all SFUSD schools up and running, but due to the incredible effort put out by the district’s IT department and SNS, it is thrilling to report that by the end of the current school year, all SFUSD schools will have been wired for the POS, and the system will be operating district wide when school reopens in the fall. Given that virtually every school needed to be completely rewired to accommodate the POS, the installation timeline, which in spring was completing 6 schools per week, is truly an outstanding accomplishment.

In conjunction with the POS installation, SNS has begun using the Meal Pay Plus system, which allows parents of paying students to add money to their child’s meal account online. In addition to this added convenience for parents, who no longer have to scramble for lunch money each day, the system can completely eliminate the handling of cash at school sites, saving all cash-related expenses (such as courier fees to collect cash from sites, and excess deposit fees from the bank.) Meal Pay Plus also enables SNS to track cash shortages by school and by family.

Additional focus on the importance of getting every family to fill out a meal application, resulted in a large increase in returned applications and, as expected, a significant jump in free lunch eligibility district wide, from just over 54% in 2008-09 to about 58% in 2009-10. By the end of February, 44 school sites had received completed applications from at least 95% of their students; that group included 3 middle schools (Roosevelt, Presidio, and Francisco) and Newcomer HS. As a result of better meal app collection, some high schools, such as Lincoln, showed numbers of students qualified for free lunch over 50% for the first time in years. Even Clarendon Elementary, which has long been viewed as the most affluent school in the district, with just 11.6% of its students qualified in 2008-09, jumped to 15.6% this year - an increase of almost 35% in just one year - with 98.6% of families turning in the meal application. This goes to prove what SNS and SNPAC have long maintained, that when all families routinely fill out the form, more families will qualify for free meals, and that there are pockets of previously undetected poverty even at the most seemingly affluent schools.

More great news is the rollout of the Super Choice menu at 3 pilot middle and high school sites. Designed to help eliminate the stigma poor students feel which keeps them from accessing the free meals to which they are entitled, Super Choice replaces the a la carte sales previously located in cafeteria Beaneries. All Super Choice offerings are full meals, not snacks; all are proven student favorites such as sandwiches and rice bowls, accompanied by fresh vegetables and fruit; and all are available to any student, regardless of whether they qualify for free lunch or pay for their meals. The Super Choice menu has nearly doubled the number of students choosing a school lunch at the pilot sites (Francisco MS, Balboa and Lowell HS), and students are enthusiastic about the new menu offerings like the pesto, tomato, and mozzarella sandwich. Super Choice will be rolled out to every middle and high school in the fall. Using their swipe card or PIN number with the POS, any middle or high school student will be able next year to get a meal from any lunch line, and no one except the cafeteria worker will ever know whether the student gets free meals or not.

More good news - Grab n Go breakfast has expanded to seven high schools (Balboa, Galileo, Mission, O’Connell, Wallenberg, Lowell, and Burton) and has doubled or even tripled the number of students who now start the day with a healthy breakfast at those schools.

Last year, the BOE passed the “Feeding Every Hungry Child” resolution, which formalized what had been a longstanding SNS practice of allowing students who showed up in the cafeteria line with no money, but also not qualified for free meals, to eat at no charge. This practice makes good academic sense, since hungry children can’t learn, but it carries a high price tag - in 2008-09, the cost to “feed every hungry child” was about $877,000. The good news this year is that, thanks to the robust return of meal applications, more students were qualified for free meals, and the deficit generated by the need to provide every student in line with a meal, regardless of whether they qualified for free, decreased to about $645,000.

However, the cost of “unclaimed” meals - meals which were purchased by the district but not consumed by students - is rapidly increasing. Meals are “unclaimed” when teachers take students off campus for field trips or activities, and neglect to give notice to cafeteria staff in sufficient time to reduce the lunch order for that day; when teachers and other adults are allowed to eat for free, instead of paying the adult price for their meal; when adults and non-SFUSD siblings join their students for breakfast in the school cafeteria without paying; and when meals are ordered but not served due to other food being made available to students in competition with the meal program, including class and school wide pizza parties, and unauthorized food sales which violate the district’s Wellness Policy. The cost of these unclaimed meals was $539,000 in 2008-09, and will be even higher this school year.

For next year, an event which will give students and parents an opportunity to sample new menu items and discuss the state of school food with SNS Director Ed Wilkins, is in the planning stages; more details as they become available. The new school year will bring even more good news about the quality of the food served in our schools, as SNS moves forward with bringing all schools up to the “gold standard” under the HealthierUS Schools Challenge of the USDA, and with a possible involvement in the Chefs Move to Schools program. We look forward to sharing that news with you.

For more than you ever wanted to know about school food, please visit www.sfusdfood.org

Dana Woldow

Bay Citizen: SF's Prop A Extends School Parcel Tax

This from the Bay Citizen:

A 20-year-old parcel tax to fund capital improvement projects for the San Francisco Unified School District is set to expire this year — but not if Proposition A can help it.

Proposition A is on the ballot for Tuesday’s general election with six other propositions. It will extend a special tax originally approved by voters in 1990 while modifying it to allow for inflation adjustments.

The tax was originally used to support school retrofit and maintenance projects after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

According to a statement by City Controller Ben Rosenfield, the tax would add $6.8 million to the coffers of the school district its first year and up to $16 million in future years.

The proposed adjustment for inflation could not exceed 2 percent annually. Meanwhile, funds would only be available for capital improvements but not for debt service.

Proponents of the proposition include Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco League of Young Voters and Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco. In a letter included in the 2010voting guide signed by various supporters including Newsom and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, advocates stressed the importance of the extra funding and the fact that the proposal was not a tax increase.

“Prop A makes sure our children and teachers don’t suffer even greater cuts at the expense of mandatory earthquake and fire safety work,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, there has been little public opposition to the measure, although the San Francisco Republican Party, Doo Sup Park, a Republican candidate for state Senate and Terrance Faulkner, chairman of Citizens Against Tax Waste, all came out against the measure. In a letter included in the 2010voting guide, opponents argued that the proposition should not be passed until local schools were improved.

Read the full story

SFGate: Teacher layoffs undermine school reforms

This from today's SFGate:

E.R. Taylor Elementary's third-graders worry that McClaren Park's weeds will go wild because of unexpected rain. These park stewards take their responsibilities seriously.

Virginia Dold, Taylor's principal for nine years, worries too, but not about weeds. Most of San Francisco's second-largest elementary school's third-graders won't become park stewards next year. Their beloved science teacher - and one of two remaining reading-recovery specialists who'd made half the Latino students proficient readers - was laid off.

Stability drove the success of Dold's school. "I have an incredible staff," Dold says. "My teachers don't leave, unless they retire or move." On her watch, E.R. Taylor Elementary became a National Blue Ribbon School, one of just 25 in California, and one of 300 in the United States. How? Dold led her entire faculty to collaborate to catch struggling readers early. Three reading-recovery specialists ran 120 intense, daily half-hour lessons for every struggling first-grade reader.

"Six years ago," Dold recalls, "just 17 percent of our Latino students were proficient readers. Now 50 percent are. It won't stop there."

Or will it? Ask the state Legislature, as Dold and her Blue Ribbon teachers debate restoring a reading recovery teacher - by sacrificing their only tech teacher.

"We know how to do it," says Dold, one of the UC Berkeley Principal Leadership Institute's first graduates, as she describes turning struggling Latino students into English readers. "We just need the resources."

Their reward for such inspiring results? The last bilingual paraprofessional? Gone. After-school staff? Cut. A popular upper-grade teacher with a pink slip says, "I can't wait any longer. I need to pay my mortgage." This year's cuts could top the past nine.

Update on the Edison Charter School

This from the new principal at the Edison Charter School:
I've just come across your blog and wanted to provide you with some updated information regarding Edison Charter Academy at 22nd and Dolores in San Fran.

The school is no longer under the management of Edison Schools! In March of 2010 the school's Board voted to discontinue having the company manage ECA because of many of the very valid points mentioned on your blog. At that point I was hired as interim Principal.

Unfortunately, as is apparently the norm, Edison Management had left the school in terrible shape. However, I have never met a more caring group of teachers, and committed parents in my 20+ years of educational service. We have worked together on developing a mission and vision which encompasses neighborhood values and community spirit.

The teachers are so excited about being out from under the Edison Management hammer and have already made great changes. I would like to share a couple of important new facts about Edison Charter School.

1. It is named after Thomas Edison, which is engraved on the building, so as much as we would like to change the name, it is taking a bit of negotiations with SFUSD. We would love to be able to completely get out from under the horrible reputation of the previous management company.

2. We have just been given a score of 10 out of 10 on the California Academic Performance Index for comparable schools, as well as jumped 2 points on the scale- an almost unheard of advance. However, we do this without the focus on testing model. Our focus is on the whole student, and they respond!

3. This fall, August 2010, not only will we have a PTA or PTO, we also already have a wonderful foundation supporting our school which is bringing about sweeping change.

4. SFUSD FINALLY approved the complete renovation of the building, inside and out, which will start in October. Classes will not be disrupted, it will be done in stages, and I would be thrilled to show you the plans and explain it in detail. What will result is a completely new building to grace an already beautiful neighborhood.

5. We have secured a grant from a well-known group called Playworks- check them out on Playworks.org. They will be part of our incredible programs that include dance, art, PE, after school youth league sports, and drama- all fully funded programs- hard to find in any school!

I hope you'll consider sharing this information with your blog readers. We are working hard to become a friendly neighborhood school with community values and really need the news of our disengagement from Edison Management to get out there!

Sincerely,
Adrienne Morrell, Principal

Hot topic: Proposed kinder cutoff date

This from a reader:

California K cutoff date might change. The new age requirement would be phased in over three years beginning in 2012.

http://www.senatorsimitian.com/entry/sb_1381_kindergarten_age/

So phased over three years:

2012/2013 - cut off Nov. 1
2013/2014 - cut off Oct. 1
2014/2013 - cut off Sept. 1

Friday, June 4, 2010

School Year Calendar Finalized

PRESS RELEASE: Fewer Instructional Days due to Budget Cuts

June 4, 2010 (San Francisco) – The San Francisco Board of Education has approved an instructional calendar for its 2010-11 school year, which includes four furlough days agreed upon between SFUSD and the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).

The furlough days are part of the District’s cost-cutting measures as it faces a $113 million shortage of funds from the state of California over the next two years. The district estimates the furloughs, in which schools, child development centers and district offices will be closed, will save approximately $9.2 million.

The school year begins Monday, August 16, 2010. In addition to other regularly-scheduled holidays, schools will be closed for furlough days on:

· Monday, November 1, 2010
· Friday, February 4, 2011
· Friday, March 25, 2011
· Monday, April 25, 2011

The Office of Public Outreach and Communications
San Francisco Unified School District
555 Franklin Street, Room 305
San Francisco, CA 94102
TEL: (415) 241-6565
FAX: (415) 241-6036

Hot topic: Alta Vista School opens its doors!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of The Alta Vista School – a new and innovative elementary school in San Francisco. Alta Vista offers a progressive learning environment with an emphasis on science, math and technology . The school opens in Fall 2010, with children entering Junior Kindergarten, Kindergarten and First Grade, and will grow to a full elementary school of Jr. K-8.

Following the tradition of other great independent schools in San Francisco, we are families who came together this past year to build a new community. We share a vision for an independent, non-profit elementary school that is focused on developing both the hearts and the minds of its students so they have a strong foundation from which to grow. We believe that small class sizes and talented and creative teaching methods are critical to this effort. We also saw room in San Francisco’s diverse education environment for a school firmly rooted in the scientific method and innovation that has enabled the talents and vibrancy of our San Francisco Bay Area. From these values, ideas and dreams, Alta Vista was born. As our Head of School, we have enlisted Ed Walters, who brings a strong background in educational leadership and science, creative and forward-thinking teaching techniques, and a dedication to cultivating a love of learning in children.

There have been some unfortunate misstatements circulated about us on SF K Files and elsewhere. We strongly believe that considering and embracing a diversity of viewpoints, experiences and voices leads to stronger ventures. Differences in opinion and vision do occur, however, and sometimes lead to a parting of ways. We don’t feel it necessary, appropriate or productive to dwell on past differences here. Our focus is now and always has been on building a great learning environment, and we look forward to joining with many others to build a strong school community cultivating collaboration, transparency, inclusion, curiosity, fun, innovation, and excellence.

We encourage you to check us out for yourself by exploring our Alta Vista website in the coming weeks or by contacting Head of School Ed Walters at ewalters@thealtavistaschool.org or (415) 407-2967.