Monday, October 25, 2010

Touring Season

As of today, we have toured only one school, although the calendar is filled for the next month or two with more tours than I had planned on. I recently attended a meeting by PPS-SF (I highly recommend attending one of their sessions if possible; it was very helpful), at which they said it was still worthwhile to tour schools that were not city-wide or your neighborhood school. So we added a few more local schools to our list. I have sort of thrown in the towel at figuring out the assignment system at this point. How much does it really matter if I understand the way a computer system is going to assign my child to a school? Assuming there are no loopholes, it seems like we should apply to the schools we want our children to go to, and see what they get. But remember, I am new to this process. Are there loopholes I am just not aware of?

The one tour we went on- to Buena Vista- was encouraging in terms of how amazing public schools can be. Immersion schools seem to give all students an academic advantage, which makes me wonder why there aren't more of them. However, what was discouraging was our chances of getting in. There are only 22 spots available for English speakers, of which students who attend the on-site preschool and siblings get priority. It's hard to imagine there will be more than five spots for an English speaker, if that. So while I would happily send my child to such an enriched school- besides the immersion, they have programs by Acrosports, the SF Ballet, and a part-time arts curriculum instructor- I realize our chances of getting in are almost nil. So onward we go. The two schools we are to tour this week are the two I am most interested in due to proximity and local buzz- Fairmount and Junipero Serra. I hope they impress me as much as Buena Vista did...

SFGate: As S.F. schools struggle, board raises its budget

This from SFGate:

While San Francisco schools have been squeezing every dime out of their dwindling budgets, the city's school board has increased its own budget each of the past four years, spending more on travel to conferences, taking taxis around the city and paying for a board member's babysitter.

All told, the board has increased spending by 28 percent over the past four years, which includes the added cost of televising board meetings as well as increases in staff salaries and benefits, according to 600 pages of public records obtained by The Chronicle.

In each of those years, the board failed to stay within a set budget and dipped into the district's primary spending account to cover the difference.

In 2009-10, the board spent $492,629, including $22,000 for catered meals prior to board meetings for members and staff; $7,300 for a Portland conference attended by six of seven board members rather than the usual two or three; and $766 in taxis used by one board member during a five-day conference.

It's not a lot of money given the district's $500 million annual budget, but it's a spending pattern that stands in direct contrast to the slicing and dicing of programs and services at city schools.

"It does seem a little strange that they're increasing while everybody else has to decrease down to the bone," said parent Lorraine Woodruff-Long, who has two children at Aptos Middle School. "We don't have enough paper at my school. We've got to have a PTA drive for paper, and it's October."

Read the full story

Paul Revere School Fund-raiser

Please Join Paul Revere School

PTA’s Third Annual Walk-A-Thon and

Silent Auction Fundraiser on

Saturday, November 6, 2010, at 10:30 a.m.

·The Paul Revere PTA invites our students, families, neighbors and friends to participate in our Third Annual Walk-A-Thon and Silent Auction. It’s a great opportunity to support our children’s education by raising money through fun and healthy activities.

·The children are seeking sponsors to pledge donations as the students walk the periphery of the campus as many times as possible during one hour. The event will also feature a silent auction, with many items donated by local businesses and members of our community. We’ll serve lunch and provide entertainment.

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation for the silent auction, or for more information, please contact Lorraine Orlandi at (415) 516-6127, lorraineorlandi@yahoo.com.

Alta Vista School Parents Open House

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

245 Valencia Street (at 14th Street) in SF

Please RSVP to (415) 437-4700 or info@altavistaschoolsf.org

(This event is targeted towards adults only. Please join us for our family open houses on Nov 13 and Jan 8 which will provide children’s activities.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Come to the Lafayette Autumn Carnival this Saturday, October 23rd

Join us for some good, old-fashioned family fun! We'll have face painting, a ring toss, a fish pond, a can smash, pumpkin bowling, yummy food, cake walks, a little kids' adventure maze, a giant inflatable slide, a beauty table, music and more! Everyone is welcome, and it's a great way to check out the Lafayette community if you are touring schools.

Please bring a donation of canned food items for our food drive and receive four game tickets in return!

When: Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Where: The Lafayette School Yard, 4545 Anza Street & 36th
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why: Fun for the whole family!

Parents for Public Schools: Parent workshops

Join Parents for Public Schools-SF for "elementary school enrollment" workshops and "parents transforming schools" workshops

* Hear firsthand experience from parents about San Francisco public schools and why they chose them.
* Learn what you need to know about the new SFUSD enrollment process.
* Get tips and advice on key information and resources.
* Find out how Parents for Public Schools-SF can help you.

This event is sponsored by Parents for Public Schools and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Workshop Schedule:

Oct. 21, 6:30 p.m., Parents Transforming Schools Workshop
Bernal Heights Branch Library, 500 Cortland Avenue.

Oct. 23, 3 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Ingleside Branch Library, 1298 Ocean Avenue.

Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Potrero Branch Library, 1616 20th Street.

Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, 1 Jose Sarria Court (near 16th and Market streets).

Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Marina Branch Library, 1980 Chestnut Street.

Nov. 6, 3 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Glen Park Branch Library, 2825 Diamond Street.

Nov. 10, 1:30 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Noe Valley Branch Library, 451 Jersey Street.

Nov. 20, 11 a.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop
Excelsior Branch Library, 4400 Mission Street.

Dec. 4, 3 p.m., Parents Transforming Schools Workshop
Ingleside Branch Library, 1298 Ocean Avenue.

Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m., Elementary nrollment Workshop
Sunset Branch Library, 1305 18th Avenue.

Dec. 14, 6:30 p.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop (in Spanish)
Mission Branch Library, 300 Bartlett Street (near 24th and Mission streets).

Jan. 5, 6:30 p.m., Parents Transforming Schools Workshop
Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, 1 Jose Sarria Court (near 16th and Market streets).

Jan. 8, 10 a.m., Elementary Enrollment Workshop (in Chinese)
Chinatown Branch Library, 1135 Powell Street.

SCHOOL TOURS AT CHINESE IMMERSION SCHOOL AT DE AVILA

We invite you to take a tour of our school to learn more about our program, leadership and community. Principal Rosina Tong will be leading tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:00 am on the dates below. To reserve a spot for a tour, please contact our school secretary, Ms. Janis at (415) 241-6325 begin_of_the_skype_
highlighting (415) 241-6325 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. We can also send a parent ambassador to your preschool K-info event to answer questions about Chinese immersion education in San Francisco and at our school. Just let us know, and Ms. Janis will put you in touch with the parent volunteer coordinating such visits.

TUESDAY DATES: 10/26/2010, 11/9/2010, 11/16/2010, 11/23/2010,
12/14/2010, 1/11/2011, 1/25/2011, 2/1/2011, 2/15/2011

WEDNESDAY DATES: 11/3/2010, 12/8/2010, 1/5/2011, 1/19/2011, 2/9/2011

Our school is located at 1250 Waller Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
You can find out more about us on our website: www.cisdeavila.com

We're looking forward to seeing you!

SFGate: San Francisco school board recommendations

This from SFGate:
San Franciscans will be choosing from a strong field of candidates to fill three spots on the Board of Education.

One incumbent, Hydra Mendoza, clearly deserves another term. As education adviser to Mayor Gavin Newsom, Mendoza has helped bridge the working relationship between the school district and City Hall.
Read the full story

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A letter from Margaret Brodkin's campaign

"Many supporters have asked me why my campaign for School Board was not endorsed by the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).

I deeply respect and support teachers. As a Board of Education Commissioner I will fight not only for students, but also the dedicated teachers, school counselors, social workers, instructional aides, nurses, and administrators who have dedicated their lives to helping children learn. I will advocate for better compensation, improved working conditions, and an increased voice for educators when it comes to shaping education policy. I will oppose the anti-teacher culture that blames teachers for the failings of our education system, and stand up against the teacher bashing that continues to threaten the future of the teaching profession.

As a pro-teacher candidate, I had hoped the UESF endorsement process would have been more representative of this diverse union as a whole. The UESF represents more than 6,000 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) employees, but at the August 3, 2010 member endorsement recommendation meeting only 28 of those 6,000 members cast their endorsement vote. While I certainly wish there had been more member involvement in the UESF process, I will always welcome the support of educators in San Francisco."


--
Laurel Moeslein
Margaret Brodkin for School Board 2010

Rosa Parks Tours

A Rosa Parks parent will be leading school tours this year. During the tour, you will get a lot of information about the school and the Japanese program.

Tours start at 7:50am on main school yard and last until 9:30am.

The first tour date is next Wednesday and tours will continue generally on Wednesdays through February.

School Tour Wednesday, October 27, 2010
School Tour Wednesday, November 10, 2010
SFUSD Enrollment Fair Saturday, November 13, 2010
School Tour Wednesday, November 17, 2010
School Tour in Japanese Wednesday, December 01, 2010
School Tour Wednesday, December 08, 2010
School Tour Wednesday, January 12, 2011
School Tour Wednesday, January 26, 2011
School Tour Wednesday, February 02, 2011
School Tour Wednesday, February 16, 2011
SFUSD Application Deadline Friday, February 18, 2011
SFUSD Assignment Letters Friday, March 18, 2011
School Tour Wednesday, April 13, 2011
SFUSD Enrollment Deadline Friday, April 15, 2011

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Can You Tell If the Staff Is Going to Give up on Your Special Ed Kid?

So we've started touring middle schools and something happened at one of them that really hit home to us the core worry we have for Ben. I'm not going to name the school because it is not a school-specific issue, but I want to get it out because I think it is illustrative of what worries us the most about how a special ed kid is going to fair in a middle school. We were observing a particular class where the teacher was working on getting the kids to learn how to take notes from a book. Great, important skill. In the room was a special ed paraprofessional who was diligently walking up and down the aisle. There were approximately eight or so kids, however, who either did not have a pencil or did not have paper to write on. Obviously, several of them were special ed kids. Instead of working with them individually and trying to get them started, the para just seemed to be blithely ignoring what was going on. Neither did the teacher do anything about what was a substantial segment of her class that was simply not starting the work. Rather, she concentrated her attention on the kids who were in fact engaged in notetaking.

This episode crystallizes for us our worry about what might happen to Ben in a middle school. Either the teacher and para were incredibly poorly trained or had given up on those kids. Now it is possible that they were worried about a defiant response from some of the kids (these are middle schoolers after all) and didn't want to have something negative happen in front of parents. But I'm afraid it is emblematic to us of how staff at a middle school might end up giving up on special kids like our Ben. Middle schools are dealing with an array of kids who come in with all sorts of issues. They've got discipline problems, kids coming from troubled backgrounds, and then they've got special ed kids. (And, yes, some of the special ed kids are discipline problems and come from troubled backgrounds.) And then they've got non-special ed kids who they are also trying to teach. To us, it just seems like a situation where some kid is going to fall through the cracks.

It seems to us most likely that this could happen in one of the larger public middle schools. Of course, it is entirely possible that there will be teachers and paras at smaller-grade K-8's or charter middle schools who will behave similarly. We could opt for special day classes, but, at this point, we really feel Ben can function in a regular class and want to keep him mainstreamed. Private schools that specialize in kids with learning issues are not an option because financially we really cannot go the private school route.

So, we are now kind of lost as to what we should be looking for to find a middle school for our kid. We can't interview each and every teacher and para. So I'd like to ask if parents out there could help us come up with "markers" or traits of what a good public middle school for a special ed kid should look like to help us in our search. Should we be interviewing the administrators and special ed teachers and, if so, what should we be asking them? Is it better for a special ed kid to go to a school that separates out honors students from gen ed students or not? Does class size matter -- is it better for a special ed kid to be in a class with 25 versus one with 33-35? Does grade size matter or is there really no practical difference between a middle school with grade sizes of 100 or so versus 400 or so?

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Save Our School"

This morning, I went by the campus of McCoppin Elementary in the inner Richmond. We’re thinking about it as a possible back-up, as I’ve heard interesting things about it (adoption of a teaching method called “visual curriculum” and teaching support from the University of San Francisco, among others) and we are going to tour it soon.

I wanted to get a better sense of where the school is and parking options and such before our upcoming visit. But when I got there, I found something unexpected -- the campus was dotted with hand-drawn signs like this one from students, saying things like "Save Our School" and "Save Our Teachers. " At the front entrance, I asked a parent on her way out what the signs were about, and she said that late-breaking budget cuts are jeopardizing some of the school’s teachers. The school has started an emergency fund-raising drive.

I’m not posting this photo to criticize McCoppin in any way. While my family is new to the elementary school process, we’ve heard plenty about tough budgets. It’s clear that families at the school are rallying around their teachers. There wasn’t any information about how to donate on any of the signs I saw, but if anyone from McCoppin wants to add that information in the comments section, I’ll put it in the main post, and I’ll kick in.

But I did have a few questions for those of you more familiar with the public system:
  • Why would budget cuts be coming now, two months into the school year?
  • Are these cuts happening because of the state budget recently passed in Sacramento?
  • Are other schools in the district also facing a new round of cuts this fall?
Thanks!

- Seattle

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Helga "Gets Schooled" - Half Time Report

I’m at the midpoint of the tours with visits to 5 public schools so far (Lawton 9/29, Sutro 10/5, Argonne 10/6, Spring Valley Science Magnet 10/7 and Creative Arts Charter 10/8). (For background, I used this to identify the schools to tour and this as my tour strategy.)

Resetting Expectations:

It’s been 30 years since I went to the public elementary school in Montgomery County, MD. I don’t have any detailed recollection of my K-2 experience, but do recall 3rd grade because I transferred schools midyear and it was a difficult transition. We were 1 of 3 Asian American families in the entire elementary school *and* I was the smallest and youngest kid in my grade. I remember being called names as I walked home from school and that I was so shy my 3rd/4th mix grade teacher Ms. Murnane didn’t realize I spoke English! She placed me in the remedial reading group and was surprised when I actually could read! Things got better eventually… so much so that I reflect fondly on my elementary school experience as I toured the public elementary schools in SFUSD.

The budget cuts' adverse impacts on class size are apparent on these tours. It’s tough seeing so many kids (especially 32-35 kids in 4th & 5th grade) squeezed into a classroom. Parent volunteers in the classroom alleviate this somewhat, but they are not there everyday. Some schools like Spring Valley (80% free/reduced lunch) don’t have the luxury of parent volunteers during school, because both parents work and can’t take the time off.

Despite this, I found many positives at these schools.

• The staff – teachers & administrators – all seem to genuinely care about the students and want them to have a great education despite the obstacles posed by the budget cuts.
• Students seem engaged at all of the schools and in each of the classrooms (upper & lower grades) I visited.
• The students that are tour guides (Argonne) or speak at the all school meeting (CACS) make me hopeful that Hugo will someday be comfortable speaking to large audiences.
• All of the schools I toured had various programs for the kids to work through conflicts and differences including Caring School Community (Argonne & Sutro), Responsive Classroom (CACS), conflict resolution (Spring Valley Science Magnet) and upper & lower grade buddies (Lawton).
• Active parents (tour guides or in the PTA room folding mailers) are welcoming and inspiring.

My specific reviews of each school follow Lawton: Sutro: Argonne: Spring Valley Science Magnet School: Creative Arts Charter: (I welcome your thoughts & comments.) I'm not attached to any one particular school (given the odds of this lottery system), but I can see Hugo in all of these schools. He would be fine.
As I head into the last batch of tours, some thoughts…

Parents
  • It’s great to see familiar faces on the tours! Thanks for saying “hi!”
  • Try to research the school before the tour and ask questions during the Q&A for which the answers can not be found on the web or handouts. Use SFUSD’s interactive enrollment guide for mission, before or after school programs (where applicable), opportunities for parent involvement etc. and SFUSD school data for Highlights 2009-2010, School Accountability Report Card 2008-2009, etc.
  • Reserve general questions re: the Student Assignment System or attendance boundaries for PPS-SF enrollment workshops or SFUSD’s enrollment workshops in November and December (see dates on Rachel Norton's blog).
Principals
  • It would be great if you had a rough guess re: how many siblings will fill up capacity in K next year and if there is a pre-K, how many pre-K slots will fill up. (This helps temper expectations of actually getting into the school.)
Best Practices for Tours
  • Having principal, parent(s) and student(s) available to discuss their school and answer questions.
  • Having a comprehensive packet including the school’s mission, Highlights, # of grades & class sizes, map for self directed tours, PTA accomplishments, typical K daily schedule, K curriculum, contact information for any follow up questions.
  • Identifying and focusing on what is specific & unique about your school vs. what is provided district wide.
Cheers,
Helga

Update your school info in the SF K Files database

If you haven't already noticed, the SF K Files now has a school database.

You can access it in the upper-left hand corner of the site, and here.

The database allows you to look up specific schools and find a collection of blog posts and school reviews all in one places. It should make the site easier to use and help organize information.

We're still testing and perfecting the database but it's now far enough along for readers to start contributing to it.

We're hoping that SF K Files readers can help keep the information current. The database is a wiki of sorts, and functions similarly to Wikipedia.

Please look up your school in the database and make sure the information is current. If you have a new principal, you should be able to easily change this. If your tour times have changes, it's easy to fix. Simply go to your school page, and then in upper right hand corner click on "Edit School Info."

The database is still password protected. The password is pan*cake.

If you have questions or difficulties, please email thesfkfiles@gmail.com

Thanks!

Hot topic: Up-and-coming neighborhood schools

This from a reader:
Perhaps an appropriate topic might be whether there are any neighborhood schools that people are rallying around. If enough parents on the playground decide that they're all going in to their assigned school, they seem to stand a fairly good chance of having a major demographic effect on the Kindergarten class and all subsequent classes. Are there schools where the parent buzz is 'let's all go and shift the school?' I've heard of some mom's making 'pinky promises' that they'll all go together. Are there other examples? There are certainly enough San Francisco elementary schools in neighborhoods with a strong middle class where the middle class doesn't currently send their kids there. Is it possible that the new assignment system will change that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Washington Post: Chancellor of D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee resigns

This from the Post:
Presumptive mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray introduced Kaya Henderson on Wednesday as the interim chancellor of D.C. public schools and vowed that reforms launched under Michelle A. Rhee would continue when he takes office in January.

"We cannot and will not return to the days of incrementalism," said Gray, appearing at a news conference with Rhee, Henderson and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who will formally appoint Henderson at Gray's request.

Later in the day, Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, met privately with Henderson for more than 90 minutes in his office in the John A. Wilson Building. They were joined for part of the time by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, perhaps signaling that Gray and Henderson are already grappling with issues related to the District's large budget shortfall.

Read the full story

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Charter School Under Development: C5 International

C5 International School is a Reggio-Emilia inspired Public Charter School in San Francisco that is under development and targeting to open Fall 2011. The management team and Board of Directors of C5 Children’s School are the sponsor-developer and eventual administrators of the C5 International School.

  • The C5 development team felt strongly about creating C5 International School as a public charter school vs. a private school.
  • The plan is to start with Kindergarten through 3rd grade. (4th through 8th grades will be added in the following years.) The class sizes are planned to be 20 children each with a teacher & teacher aide. The school size is expected to be 100 with 2 Kindergarten classes and 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade classes.
  • Development Timeline: The deadlines for the charter proposal submission and Prop 39 facility request to SFUSD are the end of October. It will take 60-90 days to hear if the charter is granted.
  • You can find out more about this school at public meetings on Wednesday, October 13, and Tuesday October 26, 5:30pm—6:30pm at 455 Golden Gate Avenue. Please RSVP to Bev Melugin at b.melugin@c5children.org if you plan to attend. More details re: parking etc. can be found here.
  • They have 30 statements of interest to submit with their charter proposal. If you feel that this public charter school is a valuable option for your kid(s) entering K-3 for Fall 2011, please complete this form to be received by C5 by end of day Oct 27. (From what I understand, there is no downside to completing this form, because this doesn't obligate you from actually enrolling if the charter is approved.)

The positives: I feel that we need more charter school options (because they are outside of the SFUSD lottery system), Reggio Emilia is a great project based curriculum, the C5 Children’s School gets great reviews (there were a few PreK parents there), and the proposed director, teachers, etc. seem warm and capable.

The unknowns: Will SFUSD approve the charter? Where will SFUSD put C5? (On a side note: It appears that SFUSD will not move Creative Arts Charter from its Turk location. ADA improvements to begin Spring 2011.) The start & end times for classes and before/afterschool care are TBD.

I admire the C5 development team for choosing the public charter (vs. private school) route. I hope the C5 International public charter development team is successful and they can open by Fall 2011, because the curriculum is perfect for Hugo. I wonder, however, how uphill their journey is.

Any advice for the development team?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Open thread: CTIP2? Not wild about your school? (Also, the school map has been pulled?!)

If you are a new kindergarten family for 2011 looking at public options, what's on your mind if you have CTIP2 status and have hesitations about your assignment boundary school? What do you think you might do over the next few months?

IMHO, there's no such thing as a bad answer to these questions at this point (although I have a feeling some others may disagree with me on that). Among people I know, reactions are all over the place. We are the first participants in this new experiment. As a PPS-SF representative put it at a recent kindergarten meeting, 10 years worth of school choice data under the old system is now out the window. No one knows how people will choose under the new system.

If you aren't sure about your CTIP1/CTIP2 status, you can check here (CTIP1 is in green). But if you aren't sure what your assignment boundary school is, it looks like you'll have to wait until November. The school district originally posted assignment boundary maps last month. But I just looked again a minute ago, and the maps page now says "When the new attendance areas for elementary schools are finalized, details will appear here. Please check back after November 11, 2010." So it looks like for some people, their school may change in the next month. Just gotta say...argh.

Update: The map from September, labeled "Final," is here. After some feedback and comments about the map issue, I called the district. They said that while many of the boundaries on the September map probably won't change much, there will probably be some changes to some areas, and the truly "final" version will be out in November. They didn't say which areas might undergo changes over the next month.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who’s In, Who’s Out? Upcoming BOE Elections.

The San Francisco Board of Education (BOE) is composed of seven Commissioners who are elected to serve 4-year terms.  The BOE is subject to local, state, and federal laws, and it determines policy for all the public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. 


Five fundamental areas of their basic governance responsibilities are as follows (taken from School Beat: School Board Elections Are Coming Soon, by Lisa Schiff‚ September 9‚ 2010):

  1. Setting the direction for the community’s schools,
  2. Establishing an effective and efficient structure for the school district,
  3. Providing support [to the superintendent and staff],
  4. Ensuring accountability to the public, and
  5. Acting as community leaders.

 

On November 2, 2010, San Francisco voters will elect three new members to the BOE.  There are eleven candidates, including two incumbents (alphabetically):

Bill Barnes

Margaret Brodkin

Tom Chan

Winifred Dajani

Natasha Hoehn

Omar Khalif

Kim-Shree Maufus (incumbent)

Hydra Mendoza (incumbent)

Emily Murase

Starchild

Jamie Rafaela Wolfe.

 

The SF K Files started a dialog about the upcoming BOE elections last month (see Listen to what the School Board candidates have to say..., September 13, 2010).  As the election date approaches, parents and community members need to get informed to insure appropriate representatives are elected.

 

What do you think about the incumbents?  Who has a history of vision, service, and accomplishments?  Who has compassion for Special Education students?  Who will serve us well?    In other words, who’s in, who’s out?


Donna

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Middle School Touring List for Special Ed

We are about to embark on our touring of middle schools for our special ed son, Ben, but we are running into a problem. Which SFUSD public middle school can Ben actually attend? Ben is an "inclusion" kid. Inclusion is only offered at a limited number of schools. For the definitive list of inclusion middle schools for next year, we are apparently going to have to wait for the 2011-12 brochure to come out. (I tried calling the folks at SFUSD's special ed department several times to see if they could tell me more, but they have not yet gotten back to me. Perhaps if they see this post, they might want to chime in.) Now, if we had known how much of a problem that designation would be, we would never have agreed to it. Plenty of kids under the "RSP" designation receive the exact same services that Ben gets at his school. RSP kids can go to virtually any public middle or K through 8. But Ben's old elementary was adamant about it, and, as in the song Hotel California, when it comes to SFUSD special ed programs, you can check out, but you can never leave. Ok, that's not entirely true as some have apparently gotten out, but when we tried to get out at last year's IEP, Ben's teacher and the professionals all warned us that the district generally would not let a kid out of the program without evidence of significant improvement and that, if Ben got out, he might not receive the same services and might never be able to get back in and . . . Well, we backed down. Now, as some commenters on my previous post have noted, it is not entirely clear that SFUSD's limitation on inclusion kids' school placement passes muster under federal and state laws. And a recent outside report on special ed for the district flatly states that special ed kids should be placed in the most appropriate school, regardless of SFUSD's arbitrary "program" designations. But, for now, we are going to wait until SFUSD has its act together and tells us where it believes Ben can go. While we are waiting, we thought we'd check out some charter school alternatives. There are two middle school charters in the city we thought we'd check out. First on our list is Gateway. Gateway has had a high school for some time now that is generally respected. It appears to take special ed kids. It is opening a middle school starting next year. Second up is Edison, which has a new management that appears interested in taking on some special ed kids as well. It is no secret that Edison has been saddled with a for-profit management that did not serve the school well, but those folks are now gone and there appears to be interest there in moving on. Now a commenter on my recent post noted that charters often will take only some special ed kids, and we are aware of that issue. What we like about all these places is that they generally have a smaller number of kids in class and a smaller number of kids in a grade than the public middle schools. And that matters a great deal to us.

It’s Hard not to Fall in Love with the Dragons- Miraloma Elementary School

Tour number one is in the books. I decided to try and get to Miraloma Elementary first since it’s my “neighborhood” school. When I checked the schedule earlier in the week it just so happened that last Friday was the first tour and I was available to attend.

This year us SF K Files guest bloggers are posting our tour notes in the community forum's school pages. It’s an effort to get information about schools in one centralized location and I think it’s going to really make it easier to get information about a specific school. So go here to see my official notes about the Miraloma Elementary tour I went on. However, I have two side notes that came up on my tour that I would love a little feedback on. I’ve posted those below.

Side note 1- On this tour I was a little surprised to see a TV in a pretty prominent place near what I would assume is a “circle time” carpet in one of the kindergarten rooms (I didn't notice a TV in the other rooms, but couldn't see the entire rooms). I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing and I certainly have nothing against television in general (plenty of Curious George around here), but it seemed like an odd placement in a classroom. Maybe I’m just out of date though, are TVs a tool used in schools often now? Or perhaps the teacher only had one spot in the room with an available outlet and that’s where the TV had to go? As a kid I remember the random movie day, but it certainly wasn’t often enough to warrant a TV in the middle of circle time area. Those of you with kids already in school, what is your experience with TV in your child’s classroom- is it used more often now than in the olden days when we all went to school?

Side note 2- During the Q and A with parents and the principal, the principal asked the parents on tour who lived in the neighborhood to raise their hands because he was curious how the neighborhood assignments would reflect in those who were touring. Only about 1/3 of the parents raised their hands. This surprised me because I live in the neighborhood and don’t feel like I have a great shot of getting in there. Are people still expecting to get into popular neighborhood schools even out of the neighborhood? I’m making no comment here on whether I think this is fair or not, just that I sort of assumed with this new system there wasn’t much shot at people outside the neighborhoods (without CTIP 1 preference, which I can’t imagine all these people had) attending the neighborhood schools that have historically been so oversubscribed. What do you think?

Also, if you have questions about Miraloma that my tour notes don’t answer, please post them and I’ll see if it’s something I can answer. Or perhaps a Miraloma parent can chime in and help us out.

All in all, Miraloma Elementary seems like a really great place and I would feel like I won the lottery (which, considering the circumstances in SFUSD is sort of correct) if I were able to send my child there.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Traditions Fall Festival

Come check out the Fall Festival at New Traditions Saturday, October 23, 1-4 pm..
We will have pumpkin decorating, mask making, a photo booth, live music and
more! For more info please see our events site at

http://newtraditionsschool.tumblr.com/

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall 2011: SFF seeks RFS

San Francisco Family seeks Right Fit School. Interested in a serious relationship. Looking for long-term commitment.

About us We are traditional in structure, less so in outlook. We are a native San Francisco mom, a from-all-over-the-place dad, a four-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old son. We live, happily wedged into a flat with a long-suffering cat named Puget, in the NorthWestern part of the city, an area we broadly define as within the lines drawn by Noriega and Webster.

The parental units, Seattle and Portland, both work most of the time in Silicon Valley. We love the city, and resist repeating Seattle’s family history of exiting San Francisco in childhood for school. But we also have lots of relatives in the ‘burbs, and are bummed by how commuting drains our time and energy. We like to have lots of options, and rarely think there is one right way. We don’t need to be among a group that always agrees, as long as we’re in surroundings where people are interested in finding solutions.

Tacoma, our daughter, has bright, wide eyes that can turn from warm to shy as quickly as the fog moves in. Her default is friendly, empathetic, caring, and gentle. She loves to read books, draw pictures, play with small groups of friends, sing and dance, or sit quietly creating a project that brings her latest ideas to life. When her little brother Williamette nabs the plant sprayer and pursues Puget down the hall, Tacoma is first on hand with a towel and comfort. But when dropped into new situations, or when another child gets aggressive with her, she is sometimes at a loss. If she feels threatened, she tends to retreat into the background.

About you For public, private, or parochial alike, Portland sums up his wish list as “a school where Tacoma is safe, where she is challenged, where she is loved, and where she is encouraged to expand her mind.” You can wear any stripe of “P” you like, but please be:

  • Academically solid, but not a slave to the numbers. We think that innovative approaches to learning don’t always equal a dazzling API.
  • Flexible in your learning approach. Some subjects might be taught by traditional teacher-directed learning. Others thrive with a project-based approach. Please embrace whatever works best for the task at hand.
  • A campus that is not only safe, but where kids feel safe and heard. (Given Tacoma’s hesitations in new or stressful situations, that last one is important.)
  • A school that is warm, loving and encouraging. I originally had questions about the “love” part, but after the comments to my post from last week, I left it in.
  • Logistically sane. Given that we commute southbound many days, we can’t drive all over town for school first. For us, this knocks off the schools to the far northwest and northeast, and may remove more as we start touring and test-driving the school commute.
  • Within our budget. We can afford to donate to a public school’s PTA annual drives and wish list, and can handle most parochial tuitions. We will not be able to swing the $20K-plus price tag for independent privates without financial aid.
  • A school where teachers are supported by the district, administration, and/or parents. I come from a family of public school teachers. I’ve heard the stories. ‘Nuff said.
  • A school with a community of active, involved parents. We don’t always have to agree, but if we don’t want to pitch in, why are we there?
It would also be nice if you have:

  • A foreign language component. This could be immersion, but doesn’t have to be. FLES or after-school classes are fine as well.
  • Green space, or at least plans for some. I know that in the city, we won’t get the rolling sports fields of the suburbs. But how about a garden? A tree? Something? Anything? (Yes, we’ll help with the digging and planting!)
  • Diversity before hegemony. We’d rather not be at a school where a single group dominates, regardless of what that group may be.
  • A touch of Waldorf gnome. We are not a Waldorf family. But there are certain Waldorf traditions, such as an emphasis on tactile learning over technology and giving kids quiet, distraction-free spaces to think, that feel right to us, especially for the early elementary years.
  • Substantial art, music, and science programs, either in school or after school.
  • Some of the engaging, innovative features of a San Francisco school, if we wind up deciding to ditch the commute and move south. How about some immersion? Cool art options? Project-based learning?

So RFS, wherever you are, give a shout. Send a text. Maybe we could meet for coffee? Or just get down to business and enroll at first sight? Sigh…somehow I didn’t think it would be that easy.

- SFF (aka Seattle's crew)

P.S. Thanks to my fellow 2011 K bloggers and the SF K Files community for helping us organize our thoughts on what we’re looking for. In case you are wondering about certain details, such as our assignment boundary school or where we work, we’re withholding those for now while we figure out the private school application process.

Off to the races! School tours begin.

Tour schedules for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools are posted at http://sfusd.ggnet.net/next-year/.  

Documents available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

NOTE:  Call schools to confirm schedules, as days or times may have changed! 

Donna

Why I'm Not Touring 100 Schools

Now that we have official and final results from the SFUSD about the new boundaries, and everyone should be set on which is their neighborhood school, why would you continue to tour a million places? It seems like a lot of friends of mine THINK they need to, but the only instances I can think of to do so are:

1. If your neighborhood school is likely to be impacted. Alvarado, I'm looking at you (and many others).
2. If you live in a CTIP1 area.
3. You have your heart set on, or at least want to investigate further, immersion or K-8 schools

Of course, if you are applying to a ton of privates, that's another story. Of course you're still going to tour.

Luckily (?), we live in an area where our local school is not impacted. We will tour there, as well as the two local Spanish immersion schools, and the one neighborhood K-8. Maybe one more K-8 that's a touch further than I want to go, but would be do-able. Still, that is only five tours- six if we do one private, just to see. What about you? Do you still plan to tour everywhere, or does that seem so 2009? Also, if you are a two-parent family, do both parents go on all tours? We are planning that, but the logistics are often difficult, and I'm wondering if other families try different arrangements.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NY Times: Singapore match adopted in more U.S. schools

This from the NY Times:
By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 — for a whole week.

“Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?” said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. “I was like, I don’t know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it’s more open-ended and gets kids thinking.”

The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district’s new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.
Read the full story

Fairmount: School Tour Information

Tours of Fairmount Elementary begin Tuesday October 12th. Come visit, see the campus, and learn more about our school community!
1. School tours are Tuesday mornings. No appointment is necessary.
2. A bilingual Open House will be offered in the evening on Tuesday, November 30th.
3. For morning tours, come to the school at 8:30 am to observe morning circle, then meet at the Cafeteria at 8:45 am for the formal tour to begin.
4. Children who are walking are NOT allowed in tours. Babes in arms are okay.
5. UPDATED tour dates are:
- Oct 12 - in ENGLISH
- Oct 19 - in Spanish NEW!
- Oct 26 - in ENGLISH
- Nov 2 - in Spanish
- Nov 9 - in ENGLISH
- Nov 16 - in Spanish NEW!
- Nov 23 - in ENGLISH NEW!
- Dec 7 - in Spanish NEW!
- Dec 14 - in ENGLISH NEW!
- Nov 30 - In addition to these morning tours, there will be a Bilingual Open House Tuesday, November 30 at 6:00 pm in the Cafeteria.
6. Bilingual parents are encouraged to come to tours in Spanish, as English tours can be quite full.
7. For questions about tours, check out our website at www.wearefairmount.com, call the school (415-695-5669), or email Antonio at tours@wearefairmount.com.

Support Fairmount! Get your car washed!

Fairmount Elementary,one of your local Spanish Immersion schools, is holding its annual fall carwash TODAY Saturday September 25th from 10 am - 3 pm.

The carwash will be held on the school play yard on Randall at San Jose
Ave (across from the Shell station). 65 Chenery is the school address.
The car wash entrance is around the corner on Randall.

Come for the carwash, stay for the delicious food for sale while you
wait.

We've made it easy to buy your tickets in advance (no extra service
charges).

Print out your tickets and bring them down.

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/126248

Thanks for supporting your local public school.

SFGate: Governor signs bill to delay kindergarten entry

This from SFGate:

Thousands of 4-year-olds will be held back from entering California's kindergartens under a bill approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The law he signed Thursday moves up the cutoff date by one month each year for three years, from the current Dec. 2 deadline to Sept. 1. California has one of the latest start dates in the nation.

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates the state could save $700 million per year by reducing enrollment. Under the law, half the savings will help plug the state's deficit.

Read the full story

Friday, October 1, 2010

Curb appeal! A love affair from afar.

While we were waiting for middle school tours to begin, No. 1 and I began driving around the City checking out middle schools from the curb.  Yep, curb appeal!  When No. 1 exclaimed, “I love this one!” I found myself cautioning, “What if this beautiful lady is shallow?"  After all, what can we tell about love (and schools) from the outside?

Our blossoming love affair with exteriors reminded me of one of Kate’s earliest posts "School Crushes" (Jan 2008), where she waxes poetically about AFY and admits to driving out of her way to pass AFY on a weekly basis.  Déjà vu.  There we were, sitting in front of the school at sunset with the windows down and the music blasting, as we imagined life and love inside the school.  Who knew that we would stoop so low?  We were getting sucked into the vortex, going over to the Dark Side of the school enrollment process. 

 Is anyone else falling in love?

Donna

What’s love got to do with it?

Another foggy night (heat wave, where hast thou gone?), another kindergarten discussion. This time, Portland and I were hashing out our ideas for what kind of school we’d like to find for Tacoma. That list is still very much a work in progress, so I’ll spare you all from wading through its free-form state at this point. But one of Portland’s suggestions made me do a double-take – “A school where she is loved.”

When I think about education, love rarely enters the picture past pre-school. I went to kindergarten here in San Francisco, and then large public schools in the Bay Area suburbs. In all of these settings, I felt safe, cared for, and encouraged by teachers and staff. I didn’t go lacking at all. But I wouldn’t use the “L” word to sum up how I felt at school.

Portland’s school experience was literally all over the map. He spent a few of his K-12 years out of the country, and also attended public and private schools in the Midwest and East Coast. And at a couple of them – most notably a smaller private middle school in the Midwest and a large public high school on the East Coast – he felt loved. When I asked him what that meant, he described it as feeling as though certain teachers and administrators cared for him like a parent. They were incredibly supportive, engaged, and encouraging, and gave their students lots of individual attention.

So I’m throwing out this question to those in the know about public, private, parochial schools alike. Given budget cuts, admissions headaches, and pressure on schools to perform, is love a reasonable addition to one’s list of school criteria? Or is it too much of a rarity, or something from another time?

SFGate: The tragic loss of reduced class size

This from SFGate:

My grandmother's favorite poem ends with the line,

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!' "

So much might have been so much better in California had Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some feckless members of the Legislature not put their no-taxes pledge ahead of our children's destiny. With $17 billion in spending cuts in education over the past two years, many of the initiatives that were showing such promise are being axed by a penny-wise, pound-foolish set of policies.

In 1995, when I proposed cutting class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, then-Gov. Pete Wilson at first rejected the call, saying he had a better idea of what to do with the money, namely a tax cut. When the Legislature rejected that plan, Wilson graciously embraced reduced class size - phased in over six weeks!

Read the full story

NY Times: Where Manual Labor Is the Price of Academic Excellence

This from today's NY Times:

For parents at Miraloma Elementary School in San Francisco, the quest for academic achievement means getting their hands dirty.

On a cold, foggy Wednesday morning recently, seven parents huddled around an outdoor table scrubbing stalks of organic celery for snack time. They had just finished cleaning and portioning a mound of Gala apples. Inside, three vacuum cleaners stood sentry in the hallway, at the ready for parents to tidy classroom carpets.

“You need to pick up where the state falls off,” said Rossana Rossetto, the mother of a first grader.

Welcome to the New Math of education: chores equal scores.

Read the full story