Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hello from Jo

Well hello. It's nice to meet you. Under the advice of Kate I will not use my real name. My blogger name is Jo March, after my favorite character in Little Woman. I have two kids, and my eldest will be starting school in Fall 2012. My husband and I both work outside of the city, so finding a school that is near our house/freeway is very important. We live in District 8- which I believe is categorized as Central/South East Part of San Francisco. Our neighborhood school is Glen Park.

What I'm looking for in a school: Hmmmm, I've thought about this a lot. Besides being a safe and nurturing environment we'll be looking for a progressive school, strong parent community, and a school that offers a variety of activities including art, science, sports and music. Not very creative, I know! My kids already speak another language, so immersion is a plus, but not a priority.

I know there is no perfect school. Again, these are just some of our criteria that we will be looking at while we are touring schools. We'll be looking at public, private and parochial. At the end of the day, the most important things are: Is this an environment where he will love learning? Can I see him growing here?

Thanks for reading my first post. As I go through this journey, please be kind and supportive, and no grumpy emails. Promise. Ok, just a few are fine- I can take it.


  1. Hi Jo!

    Looking forward to your observations, as we also live in the Glen Park AA, drive south for work, and are interested in a broad GE curriculum, including sports, music, science, and art.

    Thanks for doing this for us.

  2. Are you sure you live in District 5? Glen Park's attendance area is mostly in District 8 and maybe some District 7. Check the district's map again to be sure you have your AA school right:

  3. @12:23AM

    You are correct we are in district 8. Typo on my end. I have updated my post. Thanks for catching.

  4. Hi Jo,
    I'm sure you've already done your research but here are some schools to consider:
    Glen Park, Sunnyside San Francisco Community School, Mission Prep (Charter), St. John's, St. Finn Bar, The San Francisco School, Live Oak, Children's Day School, Monroe, ER Taylor.
    Looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments.
    The Glen Park Elementary School grand re-opening on the 24th and School Fair on the 25th should help you with the start of your search.
    Good luck!

  5. If both parents work out of the city, maybe the kids should go to school and you should live near the workplace of at least one of the parents. SF is great, but not the only reasonable option for parents.

  6. Nice of you to share your experience this year with us! We live not far from Glen Park and also have the commuting issue (I go south; my husband takes BART to the East Bay). I had thought about the point that Charlie raises above -- ie, should we consider schools near either job? -- but I don't think it would work for us since we both travel sometimes or work from home, and then the other person would be stuck with a hideous drop-off/pick-up situation (e.g., drive from SF to Menlo Park, then head to work on the East Bay). Might be more reasonable if you were both commuting to the same area or were both commuting somewhere not too too far from SF.

    I'll be interested to follow your journey!

  7. What MS does Glen Park feed into? If it does not offer honors in math classes, I would not fault you for going private.

  8. Charlie, are you trolling the new parents?

    I wouldn't fault anyone for deciding to go private for whatever reason they decide.

    But a current lack of one class in a school that they're six years away from enrolling in and in addition aren't even certain they will be attending -- that's a pretty flimsy piece of data on which to make such a big decision.

    Every middle school in SF will be massively different in 6 years as the new feeder plan kicks in. Older parents will tell you highly-desired Aptos MS was considered a failing school not much more than 6 years ago.

  9. You did not like the question. You did not give an answer. You indicated that I was trolling the new parents. You changed the subject from the feeder pattern to me.

    Permit me to stay on the issue and not on the personality. Is it safe to say that the MS that Glen Park feeds into does not offer Honors in math? Several parents on this blog have indicated that that is a deal breaker.

    The new parent, all new parents, could use a word or two about the feeder patterns.

  10. Good luck to you. Glen Park is a school on the rise and if I was in your place I would put it in as a choice if you want to secure a spot in a public school. You are almost certain of getting a slot there if you are in the AA. We are not in the attendance area and regret not putting it in our Round 1 choices. the school is very diverse and is challenged based on that diversity but the staff and principal and PTA are very committed. We chose a parochial school because we did not get our choice in the lottery and are very happy with the school (St. Philip) - great structure, strong PTA and community, resources - in the first 2 weeks of K the reading specialist had already assessed all the kids from K-4 and we already met with her to review our child's assessment. We also really liked St. Finn Barr which is in your hood but chose Philip because it was more easily accessible by public transportation. A point to note also is that parochials have seen a rise in kids joining in Grades 2 and 3 - not sure why.

  11. Mibb,

    First you say "I wouldn't fault anyone for deciding to go private for whatever reason they decide", then you say the reason provided
    is flimsy.

    Charlie is correct to point out your personal attack by calling him a troll for simply pointing out the honors issue. I would also point out the lack of consistency in your response.

  12. Glen Park is currently supposed to feed into James Lick MS. This year James Lick does have regular algebra and advanced algebra - but I think this is a tester year for that program. Leveled classes (honors) are not always a great thing and can create a school that has very different expectations for different types of kids.

  13. Am I correct that Glen Park took quite a bit of the overflow from West Portal GE? Those West Portal GE parents had to go out of their local area. You, in Glen Park, do not have to do that. That's something.

  14. Charlie,

    Get off this blog. Go out and have an ice cream. Eat some chocolate. Sit on the beach.

    Stop sitting here, enslaved to the screen, trying to stir up trouble.

    There's no conspiracy here, just a bunch of parents talking about a marginal school, and its potential merits.

  15. Charlie,

    You have every right to express your view. Ignore those that would try to silence you. I don't necessarily always agree or understand your views, but I 100% support your right to say it. If they are so concerned about the time you spend on the computer it, is they who are on the wrong blog.
    Your point is valid.

  16. Hi Jo,

    Personally, I would not over think the middle school question at this point. The schools will change a lot in the over the course of the next six years. You could move. Many things can change in six years. Your child will be a different student and person in six years; it's hard to know what will be right for them now. If you find a great K-5 fit, go with it.

  17. 3:54 PM

    Don, Charlie may have every right to trivially introject on every point, but it's clear that he's threatened by the fact that a group of motivated middle class parents might take Glen Park on.

  18. Ok, 4:09 pm -- touche! That was hilarious, and my ox was one of the many ones goared in the process!

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. If you're so concerned about trivialities why are you talking about ice cream? I don't know what Charlie's motivation is. He made a simple comment which you seem to have blown out of proportion.

  21. I guess I hit a nerve in someone. Please feel free to express your ideas, state your point of view, and communicate what you mean by stirring up trouble. Tell us what the comments mean to you. Explain (Red Ink).

  22. I really like ice cream. Chocolate is my favorite. Rocky Road, chocolate chip. Mint chocolate not so much. I don't know if I will like or dislike chocolate mint chip in 6 years because I kind of like mint, but not with the chocolate or the marshmellows. I like the mint in Vietnamese spring rolls. Maybe in 6 years I won't like spring rolls.

  23. 4:13 here. I did not hallucinate a 4:09 post that has since disappeared. It was a hilarious take-off on all the axe-grinders on here -- me included. And how newbies need to take comments with a grain of salt. I thought it was fair, and am a little surprised it was taken off.

  24. Any post that is removed still shows the date and time. There was no such post.

  25. Jo,

    I have to tell you that public education is not going in the direction of the kind of nurturing environment you describe. It is being driven by standardized testing and a drill and kill mentality that is permeating the very soul of the education establishment and the teaching profession. Elementary school is less affected by this than secondary school, but the NCLB effect is still very present in the lower grades. If you want an alternative education for your children, public education in San Francisco has less to offer than private.

    I know that is a pretty depressing take, but I believe it is accurate. I don't know if you follow the NCLB debacle, but I cannot stress enough how negative it has been on teaching to the whole child. Fortunately, there is some pushback by teachers and there are some courageous pockets of resistance in the War on Education.

  26. I have a modest proposal. Tour Glen Park School with an open mind and an open heart. Take the time to understand our school and look beyond color, test scores, and socio-economics.

    At a place like Glen Park, embrace the potential and try to find ways to cultivate success. Send out an email on Glen Park Parents and talk to potential incoming parents BEFORE Round 1 assignments are due and it might help put to rest those concerns about test scores, color and socioeconomics. They will be the people that you will see 5 days a week, mornings and afternoons for the next 6 years. Personally, I think Glen Park is an awesome neighborhood with great kids and wonderful parents. There's already "motivated middle-class parents" (whatever that means) there, who will tell you how much they love the school. Catch my drift?

    Finally, put the school on the Round 1 list if you are at all interested. In the category of egregious rumors about the school, people seem to think that they'll get Glen Park as a matter of course, even if it's not on the list, but that's not true. Cesar Chavez and Hillcrest were two of the most common schools for default assignments for unlucky Glen Park citizens.

  27. 12:50,
    Are you saying parents who live in the Glen Park assignment area, put the school in Round One, and had the local school tie-breaker, could not get into Glen Park?

    We've heard about Clarendon and Miraloma. We've heard about West Portal (under the old choice system, and I really should confirm for the new SAS). I thought Glen Park had space for nearby areas.

  28. 12:50
    Are you describing the old system where you would only list up to 7 school in Round One? Back then, a Glen Park resident, not wishing to go to Glen Park and hoping for trophy schools in the citywide lottery, could, too often ended up 0/7.

    In the new SAS, put as many schools as you want, in the priority that you would like to go there. Be sure to put your local school if you ever want to take advantage of the local school tie-breaker.

  29. For those that cannot afford to go private it behooves them to convince prospective families to go public given the negative educational consequences of a fleeing middle class.

    With the middle class squeeze on, SFUSD is trying to use the lack of a private option for many to force families into schools that they might not otherwise consider. When parents advise you to cultivate success just remember it is they would are trying to cultivate success by convincing you to do the same. This is reasonable and understandable.

    The public school curriculum is one size fits all. This unnecessarily complicates the task of teaching to a wide variety of abilities as is so often the case in classrooms.

    Like 12:50 said, I would encourage people to take a good look and keep and open mind, too. I would only add that the SF K Files experience it isn't just a simple matter of parents doling out free advice. There is a motivation involved.

  30. Sorry that you ascribe spurious motivation to my post. Middle class families can choose to continue to flee. I still think my children are getting a great education and I'm neurotic enough to compare it to my friends in posh suburban schools.

    There is a standard curriculum in all public schools (whether you are at Alice Fong Yu, Clarendon or Bret Harte). The textbooks in the GE programs are the same for every school. They are often the same as the textbooks in Menlo Park and Orinda, because the California content standards are the same for every grade in every school in California. Private schools don't have to follow the content standards, but they'll still have a curriculum for their school (and I avoid any school that didn't have detailed content standards like the plague). Homeschooling is the only way to a truly individualized learning experience.

    All that said, I still find my children have not had a one-size-fits-all educational experience. There is a wide variety of abilities for each child in my children's classes and we have found that the teachers have managed to accomodate most of them. My older child has had some really fascinating in-depth projects in her time at Glen Park.

  31. "The public school curriculum is one size fits all. This unnecessarily complicates the task of teaching to a wide variety of abilities as is so often the case in classrooms. "

    I don't think this is the case in my son's public school. they use differentiated learning, and are adopting guided reading as a curriculum in most grades. This allows the teachers to meet the student where they are at and move them to the next level. I'm not sure if the posters comment is implying that in private school you get a personally tailored curriculum? I don't think that's true from what I heard on private school tours. The privates I toured also talked about differentiation. The risk with privates (not all, but many) is that if your child turns out to have learning differences, (this is not always apparent to them during application) you may be asked to leave the school if they are not willing to provide an individual learning plan. Also not every public school uses the same curriculum. I agree with the non-ideological posters on this site: tour all kinds of schools and you'll be able to see the differences for yourself. Even if you don't plan or can't afford private school, I would suggest you tour one or two anyway. That way you can see the comparison for yourself.

  32. "Like 12:50 said, I would encourage people to take a good look and keep and open mind, too. I would only add that the SF K Files experience it isn't just a simple matter of parents doling out free advice. There is a motivation involved."

    I think this poster is implying many on this board are trying to sway opinion to stay in SF and attend publics, ie: be part of improving the schools. And I think that's true, reflecting an effort at building community and keeping alive a voice for parents who are willing to be part of a public school renewal, and/or are actually satisfied with the public school experience. I think you'll soon see, if you haven't already, that this particular poster also has a "motivation."

  33. 10:29,

    Why be so cryptic? Come out and say it. I am a public school booster. I just don't do it at the expense of honestly.

  34. Don,

    Another poster here. I actually can't figure you out. I'm an surprised, maybe even shocked, to hear you say you are a public school booster. I find your posts scary and without any hope. They often advocate for leaving the city, and they make me less inclined to go public. (We are undecided, and entering the search this year.) I know that if I do go public, there will be a lot of "rolling up my sleeves." I also don't see how you think we can have schools that are attractive to middle class families without the presence of more middle class families? If so, why scare them away?

    Thank goodness for other parents that do include positive public school experiences or I wouldn't even be looking. If you want to be a booster, please add something positive once in a while, you don't have to be dishonest about it. And if there is nothing positive, why be a booster?

  35. 10:29: I did not "imply" anything. I was very clear to explain exactly what I meant by a "motivation". You on the other hand claimed some motivation on my part which you won't explain, but imply to be negative. This is exactly the kind of innuendo that is planted simply to scare people. It is really disreputable behavior. If you disagree with a position but are too scared to even refute it anonymously on a blog and can only respond with cowardly intimidation, well... this is the kind of nastiness that turns off people from communicating their ideas, the exchange of which you obviously don't respect very much.

  36. I support public education in theory rather than current practice. There are terrible financial, professional and curricular problems at present and I'm not going to sugar coat them so you can feel better about your decisions. I am not here to be a PR man for public education. There are already plenty of boosters.

    What good would it do to try and convince you to go public? How do I know if that will turn out well for you and your family? It does for some and not for others. That is to say, you should examine the playing field and make a decision. You can always change it later.

    What you seem to want is for posters to tell you how wonderful everything is. I'll leave that to all the parents whose job they have made it to try and convince others to go public. It is an understandable position, but it is not the way I want to communicate the issues to the readers here.

    Education is too important to turn the discussion of it into a feel good session on the benefits of maintaining positive vibes. So here it is ( just for you) -Everything in education is absolutely wonderful and you would be a totally idiot to consider doing anythung else. Better now? I will make sure to read my son a bedtime story tonight. Something soothing.

  37. All the West Portal AA kids that wanted it got in. A couple off the waitlist, but they all got in. Not sure if that will be the case in years ahead. Neighborhood kids couldn't get in this school for years. They all went private. This year 40% of K was from the neighborhood. That is a lot given the immersion program is 1/3 of the K and it is city draw. Many kids only go for K then transfer to Catholic school. They have older siblings there.

  38. 4:33 you are absolutely incorrect. I have a friend who is in the WP attendance area and listed it every round, along with multiple other schools. They never got in to WP, or any other sfusd school.

  39. I believe @12:04 is not wanting anyone to sugar coat anything. We want to hear more of the positive experiences. We all know it's tough out there. I know it's tough out there. I know there are many families that go 0 to whatever. What I want to get from this blog/board are the details on the schools and what they do offer. I already know I may not have a chance in hell of getting into Rooftop or Alvarado. But this is a board to give us, the parents, perspective of the schools. Which ones are families happy at, which ones not so much. Etc Etc Etc. I guess I'm just tired of the same posts saying the same thing over and over. We know. We get it. But we're here, we're not moving anytime soon, we have children that need to go to school. Let's help each other out.

  40. 1. I might have an ulterior motive in encouraging middle class parents to leave SFUSD for privates or the suburbs over MS honors classes in math. I might want SFUSD to feel pressured to provide MS honors classes in math.

    2. I might have an ulterior motive in encouraging middle class parents to stay in SFUSD regardless of MS honors classes. The concern is not for what is in the best interest of that other parent who may go private or to the suburbs. The concern is for my self interest in having as many middle class families in the school. So I paper over the problem areas.

    Jo, sometimes my ulterior motive will conflict with what is in your best interest. Sometimes there is no conflict. I cannot judge that. Only you can.

  41. Jo,

    Here's an excerpt from Wiki about progressive education, the term you used in your original post.

    "Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that began in the late nineteenth century and has persisted in various forms to the present. More recently, it has been viewed as an alternative to the test-oriented instruction legislated by the No Child Left Behind educational funding act.

    The term "progressive" was engaged to distinguish this education from the traditional curriculum of the 19th century, which was rooted in classical preparation for the university and strongly differentiated by socioeconomic level."

    It is a point worth considering that progressive education is the opposite of new educational paradigm that is NCLB.

  42. 7:36
    I understand your immediate needs. My agenda is the common interest. My focus is on why are we fighting over crumbs rather than what is the best crumb I can get? We can cover both topics.

  43. Hi Jo! Thanks for sharing your story. Look forward to reading your posts.

  44. Hi Jo, looking forward to reading your posts on our tours in the next month and where our journey takes us. Scary!

  45. Getting your child into kindergarten isn't supposed to be scary. The child going to kindergarten is supposed to be scary.

  46. Good evening Jo,

    I do have advice for you but I can't share it in this forum.

    All I can say is please check as many schools as you can, even if they are a little out of the way.

    You have a wonderful week.

  47. "A point to note also is that parochials have seen a rise in kids joining in Grades 2 and 3 - not sure why."

    Possibly because Corpus Christi closed and kids were transferring.

    On curriculum: the parochials, and many of the independent privates, use the same standards and the same textbooks as the publics. Because the textbook publishers publish for the California & Texas markets. So you'll see the same Houghton-Mifflin books at the parochials as at the publics.

  48. Another piece of advice:

    Before going on a tour, call PPSSF to put you in touch with a parent ambassador from the school.

    Tours are essentially marketing events.

    It's good to see the physical plant of the school, but a parent with a kid at a school can be more open in a 1-on-1 conversation than in a school tour on talking about their experience with a school than they can be on a tour with 5-t0-50 parents.

  49. "Possibly because Corpus Christi closed and kids were transferring."

    Also realized that St. Elizabeth's in Portola also closed. So that's two parochials in the SE that have recently closed down.