Monday, November 29, 2010

Tis the season for confessions

Dear readers, forgive me because I have been hiding. It has been way too long since my last post and in that time, West and I have continued our nightly conversation about what we're going to do about schooling for Luke. We were hoping to have a decision made by Thanksgiving and coming out of our food coma, we're little closer to a decision. As the holiday season and deadlines for private school applications approaches, I feel the need to come clean so that Santa keeps me on the good girl list.

My first confession: I've nixed a lot of the tours I had scheduled to attend including SF Friends, Live Oak, Town School for Boys, Rooftop, and Kitteridge. I did post my brief notes on Cathedral School for Boys, Stratford School, Sunset ES, Lawton, and Presidio Hill School.

My second confession: We're seriously thinking of moving out of the San Francisco, if not California. We've gone to open houses down in the peninsula (not impressed with the homes we saw BTW), flew to Portland to check out neighborhoods, talked to colleagues in Florida, and entertained thoughts of (gasp) moving back to Virginia.

We are at a major crossroads in our lives and there are so many factors to consider but it does look like we may be leaving the city for more reasons that just the school system. We are continuing to tour a few schools and will apply to a private school or two, and enter our selections for the public schools on the chance that we can stay in San Francisco.

If you can help us find a place where a 2,500 sq. ft home won't cost us over $1m+ situated in a great public school district, with easy access to nature and the arts, among liberal open-minded citizens, then point us in that direction. If not, then feel free to post your confessions. I won't/ don't judge.

37 comments:

  1. I do have a friend that moved to Austin when her kid was starting kindergarten. The move from Cal to Texas was hard, but they've learned to love it. And the best thing are the schools -- they are very happy with them. They are particularly happy because their son has been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD and the support they've gotten from the school has been phenomenal. So I think Ray C is on to something here.

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  2. former East CoasterNovember 30, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Burlingame, VT--VT has top-rated public schools, the green mountains are amazing, lots of nice eateries, and culturally the city is like Berkeley. It does get cold in winter, though

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  3. oops, meant Burlington, VT

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  4. Asheville, NC? Chapel Hill? Why not Richmond, VA? If my husband weren't such a die hard Bay Area native, I'd consider Richmond.

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  5. We are in year 2 at SF non-trophy public and moving to the SF Burbs is NOT the answer for any perceived ills in the SF school system, at least on the elementary school level.

    If I could handle the weather again and if the job opportunities were are good elsewhere as they are here, we would check out the Boston Burbs/CT/NJ/NY - they spend staggering amounts per kid on schools (about $14K-16K vs. California's pitiful and embarassing $6K and falling). http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-school/moving/top-cities-2010.gs?content=2331

    My family was complaining about the impact of the budget crisis in their suburban school and it almost made me want to cry - class sizes are 16 in the elementary school years, they have an aide AND a teacher in every class...Ugh. The downside is that it is hard to find a diverse environment in the NE Burbs (although it's vastly improved over what I had when I was growing up there) and I wouldn't to do that to my kids after living here.

    My husband is from Colorado and I would definitely check out the Denver area. It's beautiful and the housing costs are fairly low - but the economy there is moribund and has been for decades.

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  6. We moved to Portland, Oregon and could not be happier. My husband took a job in software development for 10% MORE pay than any offer he got in the Bay Area, while we were able to buy a great house for $325K in a sweet, walkable neighborhood (Sellwood). Good luck with your decision.

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  7. Westchester - nice houses can be had for 800 on up, but the school districts are some of the best in the country and even the "cheap" houses are pretty spacious compared to SF - probably mixed in terms of liberal/conservative, but could be much worse. I would avoid much of Florida - a colleague moved near Orlando & came back just before school started because they didn't want their kids growing up there after all! Burlington is a good suggestion, college towns in general are great. Massachusetts suburbs are also something we think about from time to time. I'd skip the peninsula - the houses are not cheaper - the schools are more or less the same, depending on the town, and the culture is blander than bland. We have friends in San Carlos - they are bummed about the people - the school is fine and the weather/commute is good for them, but they haven't really made good friends there and it has been years now.

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  8. Portland's a great town. The people I know there have their kids in private school, but they can afford it because the amount of your salary that housing eats up is so much less. Good luck to you. God I'd love to get out of California, but my husband's career is here and it means too much to him to leave it.

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  9. We considered leaving SF before our daughter got accepted to a Spanish Immersion public elementary school four years ago. I have to say we are so happy that we stayed. No, we aren't going to buy a house (we'll probably be renters for quite some time), but every time I see my child speak Spanish, or stroll through the de Young museum without a thought, or to not even understand what race is, or to completely accept and understand that her friends' have two daddies, I believe we made the right decision to stay. San Francisco is a City of unparalleled beauty, tolerance and promise. If you look, there is so much going on here for kids, and much of it is for free. I don't judge those who jumped ship (and we had many friends with young kids who did so), but I am glad we didn't follow them off the cliff. We love living here.

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  10. When both my kids were in 8th grade at Aptos in their respective years, Language Arts/Social Studies teacher arranged for low-cost tickets to five ACT midweek matinees ($10 each, with funds for students who couldn't afford it). The students read the plays beforehand and discussed them; then walked the block to get on the K, took Muni Metro downtown, ate at (yes) Burger King in a group, went to the matinee, took the K back to school. Then they reviewed and discussed the plays the next couple of days.

    True, they did eat at Burger King and had to step over homeless people to do it. Still, my friends in my hometown, Mill Valley, can eat their hearts out -- though that's not the first time I've thought that. First time was when my oldest was in kindergarten at Lakeshore and we arrived at our first multicultural school potluck.

    Not that there aren't great things about living in all those other places too.

    Oh, and a friend from Vermont was staying with us recently and walked our dog around the neighborhood, including around both street sides of Miraloma Elementary. She came back totally agog at the garden, chicken coop and recycled sculpture gallery hanging from the fence. She said there's nothing like that at schools in her part of Vermont, though maybe it's not representative (South Hero, in the middle of Lake Champlain).

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  11. No one can blame you for bailing on SF. We came very close 3 years ago, when we were going thru the K process. There's great public schools in Bethesda, MD, Evanston, IL and Richmond, VA, from what I've heard from friends.

    Good luck with all your choices, Asia.

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  12. only move if you will be near family.

    there is no place like SF. especially if you are a california native with family here.

    we tried an east bay suburb and hated it.

    our school is so-so on paper but we LOVE it.

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  13. Caroline, that was very sweet of you to mention the improvements at Miraloma. We went to the school when test scores were in the 600's and worked hard along side enthusiastic parents and talented faculty and staff to get the school where it is today. We wish that it could have been easier, but district funding (or lack thereof) was (and still is) minimal. We love our educational vegetable and native plant gardens, adorable miniature chickens, and chicken coop, all tended by parents and students. Even the brand new bench at the #36 bus stop was purchased and installed by parents (not the City). Thank you for recognizing the power of a school community built on the love for our students and respect for the faculty and staff.

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  14. 8:17 Miraloma mom here again

    PS. Since 'tis the season for confessions, I should note that our darling son was rejected from 4 private schools. Not the outcome that we expected, but it did make K enrollment at our No. 1 pick for public school an easy decision. We hope that other private-school rejects stick around. This City is amazing, and based on what we know now, our son's education has been exceptional. The cocktail parties ain't bad either!

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  15. I encourage you to head out. For the wafflers, I think the best bet is to pull up stakes and go-- and that leaves the rest of us your spots in the SF public schools!

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  16. Seattle's mid-process in returning to neighborhood schools, which means it's very up-in-the-air right now. Lots of great schools, some which will probably change a lot in the coming years. I just spent much of a month up there and heard lots of talk about the school my sister and I went to. It was fascinating - the school sounds light years a head of where it was when we were kids (very much a working class neighborhood) but we thought it was fine. But now most folks where I grew up don't want to send their kids there. I can't tell if it's that expectation have shifted, the demographics have shifted or both.
    Anyway, Seattle does have some really great schools, you just have to be careful about where you move.

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  17. I second the suggestion to move to Chapel Hill, NC -- the whole "Research Triangle" region, in fact (Chapel Hill of course is extra charming b/c of UNC). Vibrant area; the population is diverse, progressive, and educated; great restaurants; housing is relatively cheap; great schools; great universities, public and private... Great weather (NC has seasons but not too cold; summers can be too hot, though). Can't think of anything negative... 2 hrs away from the beach going East, 2 hrs away from the mountains going West... I lived there for 4 years and didn't expect to love it as much as I did.

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  18. Since you didn't say you require nice weather, I say go to Sweden. It's awesome. If I could have handled the winters we would have stayed. ;)

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  19. SF is a pretty city, but I for one regret staying here with our kids. I wish we'd left before kinder. Mine are now in 2nd and 4th at a fine public school - though with 34 in my son's 4th grade, things have gone downhill this year. Yes, we go to the De Young. Yes we eat great ethnic food. But we could do these things in many US cities with better schools and a lower cost of living. And none of this makes up for the fact that there is very little sense of community in our central Richmond neighbhorhood. I regret I did not give my kids a better sense of community/more freedom to connect with neighborhood kids in a smaller town with a liberal vibe - of which there are many across the US. And I regret that now we're facing lotteries to get into 1400-kid middle schools and 3000-kid high schools. If I could do it again, I would have moved to a kid-friendly town with great schools all the way through high school.

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  20. Dear 8pm - you have one life. Live it! If things aren't working out here - I say go for it and reinvent something for you and your kids somewhere else. No matter where you live, families come and go, it's fluid.

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  21. Ann Arbor Michigan

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  22. Only in SF is it a "confession" to consider moving for a better school district, and/or a less expensive existence. Anywhere else that would be considered "common sense"!

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  23. 8:00 pm -- kind of feel like you. We've got kids in fifth and third. And, yes, we are worried about middle school placement. And we're also busting out of our 1000 square foot "house." And one of us is out of a job and not finding one here, so a move might actually improve our financial picture. But the kids have all their friends here and are waist-deep in their extracurriculars. And they don't mind the tiny house -- they've just taken nearly all of it over and left us with no privacy! That's why I think it is important for prospective K parents to realize that they are at the perfect time to make the decision on moving -- it doesn't get easier as the kids get older, that's for sure.

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  24. Honestly, if you could brave the cold,I would recommend the Chicago suburbs, Winnetka, Wilmette or Evanston. They have some of the best public schools in the nation and have maintained that reputation for some 20+ years. I grew up in Illinois and my high school, a public high school....was fantastic. When I first moved here, I thought my old town was Hicksville compared to SF and Berkeley, however, living here for some 20 odd years, I came to some startling realizations. I now reminisce for what I missed most, quaint neighborhoods, very polite people and exceptional schools that don't experiment on kids. The only downside is the horribly cold weather.

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  25. Madison, WI is another option. It's a college town with great public schools and a comparatively low cost-of-living.

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  26. 4:06 PM - yes, that's exactly it! It would have been so much easier to move before they entered K. I was so determined at that time to have an "urban existence" and stay here, while many of our preschool friends moved to Piedmont, Palo Alto, Burlingame, Marin, Albany, San Diego, Portland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, etc. We stayed in our condo in SF. No place is perfect, to be sure, but I think life could have been a lot easier elsewhere. And now all those same friends who moved have put down roots somewhere else and come to enjoy their lives, while we are now considering moving when the kids hit middle school -- starting over when it's much more difficult for the kids. There is a lot of uncertainty raising your kids in SF. Why do all the families move away? will we get a good middle school? is a 1400-kid middle school 'good'? What about high school? Uur friends outside of SF don't have these concerns - and they often meet us at the science museum or De Young on the weekends, so their lives aren't exactly suburban hell!

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  27. We switched from an independent we could no longer afford for 2nd grade. It's been very hard on our kid, who was at the independent for 3 years including his pre-K year. The new school is intimate and friendly, our kid always says how much he loves his 2nd grade teacher at the new school, and from what I can see it's at least as good academically as the costly independent. Our kid complains that he's bored and lonely and the other kids in his class already have friends and don't want to be friends with him or play with him. Every day when I pick him up, he begs us to make more money so he can go back to his old school, where he had tons of friends. He used to make friends easily. Now it's hard. I offer this anecdote only as food for thought in relation to the "you can make a change later if you feel the need" refrain that pops up from time to time. If your child is relatively independent, that may be true, but if they are very socially plugged in and fiercely loyal, as our is, putting them in school for a year or two here, then moving to the burbs or out of state could be quite a challenge.

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  28. "there is no place like SF. especially if you are a california native with family here. "

    most aren't.

    There's no place like the Pacific Northwest, especially Vancouver, BC, and Portland.

    By comparison, San Francisco is a hick town, politically charged, dysfunctional, resting on its laurels.

    I'm not saying bail for sure, but its increasingly likely that you can get a better paying job with better public schools out of the state.

    Don't be fooled. Look around.

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  29. I can't believe I'm the first to say it, but you can easily get a big beautiful home in the Parkside or outer sunset for under $1 mil. The weather may not be that great, but we have great schools (Feinstein! Sunset! Lakeshore!) We have wonderful neighbors, can walk to shops, and love love love our neighborhood school!

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  30. Buying a house in the Outer Sunset for $1M is probably not the best investment long term, better to buy a house for the same price or less in Piedmont, Albany, or Burlingame for the good middle and high schools. These towns are probably a shorter commute to downtown SF than coming in from the Outer Sunset.

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  31. If you have one person working in SF, and another commuting down the Penninsula, then the East Bay does not work. That's why Burlingame is so expensive.

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  32. Sorry for the typo: peninsula.

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  33. Don,

    We are all aware that you care deeply about the First Amendment. That is fine. But can you have any empathy for the rest of the readers of this blog? Can you care at all about other people's experience in this blog? There are times when one puts one's own needs (for self expression, for the First Amendment, for the need to be right or to correct others) aside not because those things are not valid, but rather for the greater good. Please consider this.

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  34. you all talking about leaving sf don't know what you have.

    having lived in many cities in the us from boston to philadelphia to nyc to indianapolis and seattle and having traveled to many international cities in my youth there really are very few places like san francisco when it comes to natural beauty, weather, ethnic diversity.

    it's expensive here because it's pretty much worth it. vancouver comes close but it's certainly no cheaper than sf.

    the greatness of san francisco aside, it isn't a very easy place to raise a young family so the point of the original post is certainly valid.

    but just talk a walk through land's end and look out at the ocean and bay, the city and hills... and none of that seems to matter anymore!

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  35. Albany. Or try San Bruno or Millbrae and send your kids to the excellent Catholic schools in the peninsular, like Our Lady of the Angels in Burlingame.

    Or try the Catholic schools in the City, like St. Philips or St. Paul's. Or the on-the-bubble publics like Harvey Milk or SF Community.

    You don't have to yearn for a trophy public or fork over $25K for the independents like Live Oak.

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  36. Moving cross country with two little kids totally sucks. I did it twice (for career) and I won't do it again. Our older child is in kindergarten here in SF and we couldn't be happier. Good luck to you.

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