Monday, October 24, 2011

Lola's McKinley Tour Notes are up

I just posted my review of McKinley:

The tour was led by two parents.

Overall, I really liked McKinley. The parents seem very involved and everyone seems very committed. The building was charming and inviting. The kids were happy and engaged. There was a good balance in diversity. The few teachers we saw were dynamic. Lots of extras and enrichment activities. The only negative I came across was that the rooms looked a bit cluttered. There was a lot of “stuff” up against the walls. Not sure what all the stuff was or why it’s stored in the classrooms. I’m assuming there’s no closet space or storage elsewhere on site. But that is a small negative, if any. I will add this school to my application.

Check out my complete review at the link above.

As always, add your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tenderloin Community School Tour Notes

I just posted my tour notes for Tenderloin Community School

I've toured 6 schools so far (notes are coming) and two are most likely not going to go on my list. THIS IS NOT one of those schools.

I had a wonderful tour of this school, my tour notes should cover the building itself, which is new, big and bright.
But it meet my original criteria?
* A great GE program with additional art, music, sport
After a few tours I now realise that Art is part of K and most grades I see also do art. There does not seem to be any organised sport of K and especially in Public schools (or maybe only the ones I've seen). They do all have PE and most have Playworks. So I think I'm being realistic saying I want a great GE program now.
K classes goal of reading at Grade level this year
There are music classes for grades 3-5
There was lots of art on all the walls
There was plenty of play space
The children I saw in different grades were engaged and the teachers were in control (to my eyes anyway)

* a guaranteed spot in an after school program which isn't outrageously expensive
There is a CDC onsite and they charge $460 per month for fee paying. This seems to be the standard rate. It seems likely that we could get an after care, even after low SES families have their spots. It is not outrageously expensive but not cheap.
* thirdly we would like the school to be easily accessible by public transportation or walking so that either of us can do pick ups.
Location: less than a 20 minute walk from SOMA, which is pretty good for us, close to bus lines and BART

Why the school may not be a fit for us
* It is big, I know schools are bigger these days but it felt quite overwhelming to me (389). The K and 1st grades are on their own floor and have their own play area which is completely separate so this may not be as much of an issue as I think it is. The special Ed Class K,1,2 also uses this floor and play area.
* The feeder school is Francisco which is not convenient for us - yes 6 years away but we may not always work in our current locations, or even live where we live now. Also our younger son will start K in 2015 and drop offs and pick ups in those two locations would be logistically difficult.

Please feel free to add any questions. I've taken lots of notes and may not be covering everything that people would like to know.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ask NOT what your middle school can do for you. Ask what YOU can do for your middle school!

Well, it has been several years since the District began touting "Quality Middle Schools for All." For the past year, it was the slogan for the middle school feeder proposal.

Now, all is quiet on the Western front. Who’s minding the store? Is anything happening to improve middle schools?

Do you have a story (or two) to share with SF K Files readers that shows how the District has been working towards improving your child's middle school over the past year?

- Donna

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

edMatch Benefit Concert--SF Kids Music Festival This Sun, Oct 23

We are getting very excited -- the SF Kids Music Festival is THIS Sunday, October 23rd from 11:30am-5:00pm at theLittle Marina Green!  We look forward to seeing you there! Help spread the word - feel free to forward this email newsletter to your friends, families and school communitiesabout this all-day, fun, family-friendly event that raises money for San Francisco's public schools.  

Family Fun Abounds at the Festival!
In addition to the ten (10!) kids bands from local schools and the amazing culinary offerings from Off the Grid food trucks, there will also be great activities to keep your family entertained throughout the day...
  • Tree Frog Treks is bringing snakes and lizards and other cool science stuff;
  • The de Young Museum is bringing artists to do crafts with kids;
  • An airbrush artist is decorating hats and other things (for a small fee);
  • Book Pig is setting up a "lounge" for kids to peruse books and read;
  • The San Francisco Fire Department is bringing a fire truck; and
  • Happily Ever Laughter is sending face painters, among other things!
Buy Tickets online, at any SF Sports Basement, or at the Festival!
The SF Kids Music Festival is an affordable day of fun for the family.  Tickets are $10 or $5 for kids under 5. Babes in arms are free. Free T-shirts for all kids while supplies last!  A Family four-pack of tickets costs just $30.

Tickets are available on-line or at both San Francisco Sports Basement Stores (tickets available at registers, all process fees waived). Sports Basement will also be providing discount coupons for SF Kids Music Festival attendees. And of course, tickets are available the day of the Festival!

Thank You!
Again, we'd like to thank our sponsors and partners -- Sports Basement, San Francisco Parks and Recreation, Patxi's, the de Young Museum, Circle Bank and Comcast. And, we thank you, families, friends, and all supporters of San Francisco's public schools. We are truly grateful for your support.

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, October 23rd!Don't forget to help us spread the word by forwarding this email newsletter to three people you know in San Francisco! 

Have a great week!
The edMatch Team

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

St. Philip's Tour Notes

St. Philips was the first school my husband and I toured. It was a little hard to digest the tour since I couldn't really compare it to another school.As I mentioned in my original post we plan to visit our neighborhood school, Glen Park, and a couple of trophy, parochial and private schools over the next few months.

St. Philips Tour Notes Here:

The school seemed academic, traditional and had a strong parent community. There was structure. I felt a little underwhelmed after the tour. I think I expected a little more "spunk" or "creativity". I might be naive since I haven't visited other schools or in a 60 minute tour it's kind of hard to really know a school. In each classroom we observed all the kids were working individually or listening to the teacher.

I'm not sure if the environment would be right for our child. We are looking for a school that incorporates a hybrid of hand-on projects/real-life examples vs. all worksheets. Does this exist?

I would love to get feedback from parents that have a child at this school. Please comment.

Glen Park Elementary Tour Notes

Hello fellow parents,

I just posted a few notes from my tour of Glen Park Elementary.

Please go to this link:

This was one of my first schools to tour, so I'm still forming my "reviews" and my thoughts on what to look for in a school. My goal is to tour two mid performing schools, two higher performing schools, a charter and a parochial. I'm trying to get a good balance under my belt to know what's really out there.

My overall thought was this is a very charming school with potential. The principal led the tour. She's pretty old school as far as principals go. This is good for some, but may not be for everyone. The school seems to be in a transition of sorts. A new PTO has formed which, I believe will help bring the school up a bit. The API scores seemed to have dropped in the past couple years. If anyone has insight on that, please comment below.

If you'd like to gain any additional knowledge from my tours, let me know.

Mayoral Candidate Forum about Public Education, Thurs Oct 20th 7-9PM

Curious about how the mayoral candidates believe they can improve public education?  Wondering where they stand on Prop A? Prop H? Do you want to know if they believe the City should be investing more into SFUSD?  Then we have a mayoral forum for you.  

Please join United Educators of San Francisco, United Way, San Francisco School Alliance, United Administrators of San Francisco, The San Francisco Foundation, Parents for Public Schools, The California Masonic Foundation, and The San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee for:

What:  A mayoral forum focused on Public Education. 

When:  Thurs, Oct 20th from 7-9PM  

Where:  Tenderloin Community School.  (627 Turk Street)

Parking and childcare available.  

Parking is available under the school, enter off Elm St.
RSVP for childcare to Kathy Mooney at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cecelia Dodge, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Resigns

Effective December 2011.

I was saddened by the news. I had great hopes for Special Education in SF under her leadership. She will be missed.

- Donna

To help shed stigma, SF district putting kids with learning issues in mainstream classes

(From The SF Examiner)

By: Amy Crawford | 10/02/11 4:00 AMExaminer Staff Writer

Molly Jo Alaimo stood at the front of the classroom, reviewing a math lesson with her fifth-graders.

“Make sure you line up your place values,” she said, as the children copied an addition problem. “Thumbs up if you have the sum.”

One by one, most of the children raised their thumbs. As they did, Marisa Maskin, a special-education teacher, looked around for anyone who was struggling with the three-digit addition problem. When she saw a child who didn’t get it, she crouched beside his desk, whispering tips to help him understand.

Two of the 26 students in the fifth-grade class at New Traditions Elementary in the North of Panhandle area have learning disabilities.

Instead of spending their days sequestered in special classes, this year they are part of an effort by the San Francisco Unified School District to keep them with their peers.

“They are part of the classroom,” said New Traditions Principal Maria Luz Agudelo.

In the past, Agudelo said, special-education students would spend most of their time in a separate room with Maskin. That isolation carried a stigma, Agudelo said, and the students missed out on socialization.

This year, teachers report that they are sitting with their peers at lunch and playing with them at recess.

District officials said mainstreaming as many special-education students as possible has long been a goal, but the new approach also is a response to a 2010 audit commissioned by the Board of Education.

The report called the old system “outdated” and found it inconsistent with the 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law that requires special-needs students to be educated in the “least restrictive environment” their disabilities allow.

This year, seats in regular kindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade classrooms were set aside districtwide for special-education students.

New Traditions, which has a higher proportion of special-education students than other schools — about 14 percent — expanded the plan to all grades.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Cecelia Dodge, SFUSD’s assistant superintendent for special education. “Most parents of children with disabilities want their children educated in the regular classroom, in the same rigorous, engaging curriculum as nondisabled peers, with accommodations or modifications when needed.”

Though district officials reported inclusion is popular with most parents, some have resisted. Parents have sued the district to keep their disabled children in special classes, and this month a judge decided in favor of a group of parents who wanted the district to continue a contract with a privately run special school.

“Parents of children with disabilities are equal partners in determining the education setting,” Dodge said. “Many students with disabilities still require that some or all of their education happens in a special-education setting.”

Schools around the state

Special-education students are a significant percentage of the state’s children.

6,383: Special-education students in San Francisco Unified School District
11.4: Percentage of special-education students in San Francisco
10,186: Special-education students in San Mateo County
11.1: Percentage of special-education students in San Mateo County
678,929: Special-education students in California
10.9: Percentage of special-education students statewide

Source: California Department of Education

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mayor Forum on Family Issues: Will you be there? Tues, Oct. 11 at 6:30

Hi Friends - 

The Candidates will be there! Will you? Don't miss this chance to hear about how they are addressing your issues. 
We have great moderators and have put together excellent questions designed to dig below the surface of campaign slogans and empty sentiments. 


MAYORAL FORUM (sponsored by SF Parent PAC, SF Family Support Network, Teach for America, Parents for Public Schools & Congregation Sherith Israel)
Tuesday, October 11

Congregation Sherith Israel
2266 California Street (at Webster)

The following questions were sent to the candidates ahead of time. Answers will be posted at  Moderators at the forum will base their follow up questions on candidates' answers. 
These questions do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Parent PAC. Rather, these are questions about issues affecting families and children on which we think voters should know the candidates’ views. 

Questions for the candidates:  

1. As mayor, will you commit to appoint parents raising kids in San Francisco to City commissions and committees to ensure that the concerns of families, children and students are adequately voiced and addressed? Please answer Yes or No.

 2. Parent PAC is an organization formed to be the voice of parents in San Francisco politics – a voice that is often sorely underrepresented or missing entirely from conversations about public policies that directly affect children and families. In addition to the above priority (appointing parents to commissions and committees), please tell us specifically how you plan to bring parents’ concerns into the mix of considerations when setting your policy agenda. Please limit your answer to 200 words.  

3. Will you advocate for the renewal of Prop H (the Public Education Enrichment Fund) and use your position as mayor to renew and expand the Prop H funds? Please answer Yes or No.  

4. What role do you think the mayor can and should play in the school district, if any?  Please limit your answer to 200 words.  

5. Do you support the recommendations for Rec & Park funding outlined by the SPUR September 2011 (pgs. 9-10) report: 
• Doubling the Open Space Fund from 2.5 cents to 5 cents per $100 of valuation, which would generate $37.5M. Please answer Yes or No.
• Forming a citywide assessment district (or multiple small districts) to fund ongoing operations and enhance services, which would generate $15M. Please answer Yes or No. 
• Taxing unhealthy behaviors (such as a soda tax) to benefit recreation activities, which would generate approximately $16.8M. Please answer Yes or No.  

6. Will you lead and support a campaign for a new graduated parcel tax of at least $100M dedicated to schools, parks and libraries that provides support beyond Prop H for schools and also provides for funding to staff and programs for Rec & Park and Libraries? Please answer Yes or No. 

7. What do you believe to the be cause(s) of the lack of housing stock appropriate for families and what specifically do you propose to do about it? Please limit your answer to 200 words.  

8. Do you support free MUNI for all youth (under 18)?  Please answer Yes or No.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

PPSSF Enrollment Fair review

I attended the PPSSF Enrollment workshop last night in Bernal Heights. I received a lot of good information about the admission process, school make-up and a bit of down to earth thoughts on how this craziness works. There were five parent representatives in attendance. The main speaker was a parent from Miraloma and the rest were from Alice Fong Yu, Rosa Parks, J Serra and Paul Revere. It was great hearing their perspectives.

Some takeaways:

1. Don’t weigh everything on the base test scores. Visit the schools to get a real feel for what is happening. The parent (Carol Lei) from Miraloma enrolled her child when the API score was 651 and the school was begging for enrollments. It’s now 865 and one of the trophies in the SE. A lot can change over the years. Parents, grant money, it all can make a difference.

2. 81% of last year’s applicants received one of their choices of schools. 75% of those were their 1st, 2nd or 3rd choice.

3. Get your application in on time!

4. List your schools in order of preference on your application. This is very important. Once the computer starts assigning schools, “it” assigns based on your order of preference after it goes through all the tiebreakers.

5. Everything will be ok. One of the parents from Rosa Parks even had a sign that said so! The sign was sort of a humorous take on her process and how much she poured over the data, had spreadsheets and went to the edge of nutty during her “time” in the trenches. Everything will work out.

6. Meet the parents of the schools you are interested in. Attend their Fall fairs, PTA meetings and so forth. These are the people you will be spending a lot of time with over the next 6 years. Make sure the families are a fit, not just the school.

I do feel the session was worth it and recommend attending one if you have time. If not you can still glean a lot of this info from the website and of course on this blog. I suppose hearing from the parents was the best part. I left feeling a lot less stressed about the process.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And off we go...

I've been a woman on a mission today scheduling school tours. It's good I'm working from home today as my colleagues are pretty much sick of hearing me discuss my kindergarten search.

I have all my tours scheduled now, and look forward to sharing my notes with the rest of the community. I may be too optimistic, but I didn't want to tour a ton of schools. I've spoken to friends and neighbors that attend these schools, so feel comfortable with my list.

As with MJ's post, I've added tour schedules (Hope people find that helpful).

Glen Park
School tours are every Tuesday and start at 9am. The woman on the phone told me they are only scheduling tours through Nov 1 for now

Website has available days of open tours. Appreciated the online scheduling.

Website has available days of open tours. As with Alvarado I appreciated the online scheduling. The tours are self-guided.

St. Philips
You have to call the school to schedule a tour. They are every Tuesday/Thursday.

St. Pauls
Tours are on Wednesday. Call or email the principal to schedule.

Alta Vista
Next tour is November 30, but if this date doesn't work the principal is open to scheduling a tour

Their website has available dates. You fill out a form, and someone emails you to confirm the date. I received confirmation within 24 hours.

If there is a school you feel that I should tour that isn't on my list, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Benefit Concert for edMatch, Sunday, October 23rd--Support SF's Public Schools!


WHO: A fundraiser for edMatch, a San Francisco non-profit raising money for San Francisco Public Schools
WHAT: SF Kids Music Festival, an all-day music festival for kids, by kids
WHEN: Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 from 11:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: Little Marina Green, 800 Marina Boulevard, in San Francisco--across from the Exploratorium
WHY: Proceeds will support edMatch a new, independent non-profit that challenges corporations and private philanthropists to "match" funds raised in San Francisco's public schools, then distributes the matching funds to all of the city's 113 schools on a per-student basis.
CONTACTS: Christopher White, SF Kids Music Festival Director: 415-710-9385 or; and Liz Isaacs, edMatch Co-Founder: 415-235-5779 or
The SF Kids Music Festival is an all-day music festival for kids, by kids. 10 kids bands from local schools will be playing live, inside a festival atmosphere designed for families. Joining in the fun are local food trucks from Off the Grid, the wild scientists from Tree Frog Treks, artists from the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Fire Department and more. Organizers are expecting 2,000 kids and family members to attend this unique San Francisco event.
"San Francisco is a fun city. And in that tradition, we wanted to put on a world-class music festival for all Bay Area kids," said Christopher White, the event's director.
Performers at the event include MYSTURBIA, Sputnik, the Hip Kids Chorus, Flaming Horizons, Black Bones, the SF Rock Project House Band, The Mif’s & Rainbow Beast and the Rock Band Land Rockers. Represented schools include: Francisco Middle, Gateway Middle, Aptos Middle, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, Rooftop Elementary, Herbert Hoover Middle, Lafayette Elementary, AP Gianini, St Gabriel's School, King Middle School (Berkeley), Head Royce (Oakland) & Tehiyah Day (El Cerrito).
Tickets are $10 or $5 for kids under 5. Babes in arms are free. Free T-shirts for all kids while supplies last! A Family four-pack of tickets costs just $30. Tickets are available on-line ( or at both San Francisco Sports Basement Stores, starting October 5th (tickets available at registers, all process fees waived). Tickets are also available on the day of the festival.
All proceeds from the SF Kids Music Festival will go to support the mission of edMatch a new, independent non-profit that challenges corporations and private philanthropists to "match" funds raised in San Francisco's public schools, then distributes the matching funds to all of the city's 113 schools on a per-student basis.
More information about edMatch and the event can be found here:

Parents for Public Schools: Library enrollment workshops

Let Parents for Public Schools help you find a public school for your child.

Enrollment workshops throughout San Francisco
  • Learn about the public school enrollment process
  • Meet parents from various public schools
  • Get tips and advice from parents who have gone through the process
Schedule of Library Events
Wed, Oct. 5 6:30-8:00pm Bernal Heights Branch, 500 Cortland Ave.
Wed, Oct. 12 6:00-7:30pm Mission Bay Branch, 960 4th St.
Wed, Oct. 19 5:00-6:30pm Parkside Branch, 1200 Taraval St.
Thurs, Oct. 20 5:30-7:00pm Ocean View Branch, 345 Randolph St.
Thurs, Nov. 3 10:30am-12:00pm Noe Valley Branch, 451 Jersey St.
Thurs, Nov. 3 6:00-7:30pm Ortega Branch, 3223 Ortega St.
Thurs, Nov. 10 6:00-7:30pm Richmond Branch, 351 9th Ave.
Thurs, Nov. 17 6:30-8:00pm Marina Branch, 1890 Chestnut St.
Sat, Nov. 19 3:00-5:30pm Western Addition Branch, 1550 Scott St.
Mon, Nov. 28 7:00-8:30pm Sunset Branch, 1305 18th Ave.
Sat, Dec. 10 10:00-11:30am Visitacion Valley Branch, 201 Leland Ave.

Schedule of School Events & Webinar
Fri, Oct. 14 9:00-11:00am Sanchez Elementary, 325 Sanchez St.
Tues, Oct. 18 9:00-11:00am Malcolm X Academy, 350 Harbor Rd.
Mon, Oct. 24 11:00am-12:00pm Webinar, Register at
Wed, Oct. 26 8:15-10:00am Junipero Serra, 625 Holly Park Circle

Register Online at or call 415.861.7077
Space is limited. KidsWatch service is not available.

Parents for Public Schools – San Francisco is a network of parents working together to build and ensure quality public schools for all children in San Francisco. Contact us at (415) 861-7077

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let the Tours Begin

School tours begin this week and I'm excited to begin the search and share what I find.

From my original list I've scheduled one to two tours a week in October. From suggestions on comments on my first post I intend to add some additional schools in November. I don't think I will attend the November SFUSD fair as last year I was completely overwhelmed by it, however I will be calling PPS to get parent contacts for each Public Elementary to chat with.

I'm adding the tour schedules of my October list for anyone else who may be interested. Something I would really like to see soon is the SFUSD assignment information for the 2011 year, the initial March placement information only really shows how the top 14 were oversubscribed. I would like to see raw numbers rather than percentages for the other schools. Does anyone know when this information will be made public?

Thanks for your feedback.

Bessie Carmichael
Tuesdays at 9am
Call (415) 355-6916 to schedule

Daniel Webster
Fridays at 8:40am beginning on Oct 7th.
Call (415) 695-5787 to schedule

Harvey Milk
Tuesday & Wednesdays beginning Oct 11th. 10-11am Drop in only. Room #103

Beginning Oct 14 every Friday at 8:30 until Enrollment, Drop In

Tenderloin Community
Every Thursday 9-11 Drop in (beginning this week)

Mission Dolores Academy
Here are some dates and times available for a prospective Fall 2012 Kindergarten tour of Mission Dolores Academy:
Wednesday, October 5th from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday, October 12th from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday, November 2nd from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

School tours are conducted in small groups of 10 or less prospective parents. We tour the school, visit Kindergarten class then, meet briefly for Q&A. At the end of the tour each visitor receives an enrollment packet.
(415)346-0143 Nicole McAuliffe

Saturday, October 1, 2011

St. Paul's Open House

St. Paul's in Noe Valley has an open house scheduled on October 27 at 6:30pm. No RSVP required.

As I hear of other open houses I will post. Please feel free to comment on any other open houses you are aware of.