Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Browns' search for school

Hello to all. My (pseudo)name is Becca Brown and I have a daughter starting Kindergarten in 2011, as well as a 1 1/2 year old son who will follow suit three years later.

We live in the southeast part of the city, and I am dead set on attending a school close to home. My husband commutes, and I find that traveling long distances takes a huge toll on our family, and is not something I want to do on a daily basis. While I wouldn't say location is our top priority, it is certainly in the top three. I do not plan on touring any schools further than a 10 minute drive.

A little background: My husband and I both grew up in the Bay Area, and both our families are still here, which is a huge part of what keeps us here. I grew up in the North Bay, and went from kindergarten through sixth grade with pretty much the same 30 people. If I'm not friends with them now on facebook, I could still call any one of them today and have a great conversation. We walked to school together, knew each other's families, and were likely each other's first kisses. I dream of something similar for my kids. My husband bounced around Bay Area schools a lot more, so he doesn't feel as driven as I do to find a forever school for our kids, although I'm sure he'd prefer it.

Further down the road: My professional background includes being a Teach for America teacher, and now running a non-profit that raises money to support public schools in a neighboring suburb. I have seen both the worst (my first year teaching was literally in a janitor's closet. I had to move the bags of trash daily.) to the best (neighborhood schools that are everything I want for my child, but located in a suburb. Could we survive in a suburb?). I am probably going into the school search a little more knowledgeable than your average parent because of my line of work.

Today: While perhaps not a popular opinion, I believe a school is as good as it's parent community. It is the number one factor I am looking for as we begin the search, followed closely by the teachers and principal. Our neighborhood school is one that is considered in transition, and I am keeping tabs on what is happening there this year. The only caveat to that is that we rent, so while it is our neighborhood school now, I am not sure it will be for the next eight years. We are open to Spanish immersion, but not set on it. There are also some rumblings of moving closer to my husband's work, but so far those are just rumblings. If we were going to do that, this would be the year. But we tried the suburbs pre-children, and really didn't enjoy it. Perhaps it would be different now with kids, but it's such a huge risk. For the most part, we love the city. We are likely going to tour one private school, but even on the off chance that we got in, we would never be able to afford it unless it was almost entirely covered by financial aid. We are decidedly middle-class, falling right between making too much to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to even consider sending two kids to private school. So while we will tour the one that is close and I believe has the same values we do, I would be beyond shocked if that's where we ended up. I think I will also have my husband look at at least one school on the Peninsula, just for comparison purposes.

Any questions?

14 comments:

  1. Thanks so much I'm really looking forward to your posts!

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  2. Move. Mortgage interest rates are low. Public school options in your area are lower.

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  3. Don't move. You would hate the suburbs--you know that. There are plenty of good public school options and you are networked enough to figure out how to get one.

    Are you in a CTIP1 area? Will you be trying for a citywide school?

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  4. you have a lot of work ahead of you but in the end it'll be worth it

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  5. I don't mean to be offensive. But who would Ms. Brown expect to cover her child's education from financial aid? I'm not aware of any government funding to cover private kindergarten/elementary education. Wouldn't she think it's absolutely unfair to expect affluent parents at private school to contribute to her child's education via substantial donations to the school? (Since that appears to be the only way through which private schools can provide financial aids to qualified students.)

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  6. Um, 6:33, that's offensive. Plenty of extremely worthy kids are not born to wealthy parents. I went to private school on financial aid and it was the attitudes of parents like you (and their kids) that still make me question whether private is a good choice. The education was great. The attitude sucked.

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  7. Even if you moved to Novato, you might not get your neighborhood school.

    If you stay in San Francisco, the school district is relying on you and other like minded parents to heavily invest in your local school in transition. What have other parents done? To a large extent, language immersion. And to a large extent, that means resegregation, even if the school as a whole is diverse. It's all in the details.

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  8. 10:22: We are not in a CTIP1 area, as far as I know (how do I know for sure?). We will be trying for some citywide schools, I'm sure.

    6:33: What else are scholarships for, if not to help those who don't make enough to attend? And plenty of the money that is raised for scholarship funds is not from other parents. It is from businesses, foundations, grants, etc.

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  9. Good Luck!
    Just a little warning, we were considering moving to the peninsula last year and so glad we did not. After scoping out the rentals and the neighborhood schools, I double checked and called the school district to confirm our potential neighborhood school. I was shocked to find out that there is no guarantee to be placed in your neighborhood school. The schools are impacted just as they are here in the city.

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  10. Becca, you can check your CTIP status at www.sfusd.edu/enroll. There are maps that click down to street level. It's basically the Fillmore, Inner Mission, BVHP, Sunnydale, but there are some funny corners here and there due to the use of census tract boundaries.

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  11. On the topic of financial aid, don't assume that you make too much to qualify. Check it out first to be sure. Families making as much as $150K (or sometimes more) with two kids in private schools typically do qualify for at least partial aid at the more generous SF privates (getting in can often be more challenging than paying for it). The amount of aid depends on how much you earn but also on your assets (house, savings, etc.). But if you make more than $150K, you're probably a little bit more than "middle class".

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  12. Rent or buy in a new development in a CTIP 1 area. Have a new valid address before registering with the school district.

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  13. But if you make more than $150K, you're probably a little bit more than "middle class".

    Technically speaking, twice the median income in SF and in the top 10%. FWIW

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  14. I am very interested to know how good Peninsula schools are compare to average SF schools. Please let us know your tour experience.

    Most kids in my daughter's preschool went to their choice of public schools in sf, only 1 had to go to private.

    Good luck to everyone who is looking this year.

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