Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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.


  1. More info please! What were your impressions of principal? What is her philosophy and focus? Would you consider putting it on your list? Did anyone talk about test scores? Steadily declining scores for a while but they dedicated money towards remodel, open house fair, etc. Was this the best use of money?

  2. You wrote that the principal led the tour. Were there any parents there?

  3. @ 11:54
    The remodel was not funded by the school, but rather a bond approved by voters a few years ago. (A similar measure is on this Nov's ballet for a 3rd round of school remodels). The open house fair was actually a fundraiser for the PTO, so it paid for itself (and then some!)

  4. Re "would you consider putting it on your list"

    Smart parents who live in the middle of the city, and especially those in the attendance area, will list Glen Park. It's in transition (and test scores will soar once GP families go there), but it heading in the right direction. The facility is beautifully redone. The location cannot be beat for commuting in many directions. There is an enthusiastic parent group. It is about to take off.

    But--it is likely only going to be available in Round 1. It will not harm your lottery chances for near-impossible schools such as Clarendon to list Glen Park somewhere on your application. Believe me, Glen Park will look great compared to some other schools you might get if you only list the ones with a 1% chance of getting in.

    My point is, the question isn't would you consider listing it. You should list any location-convenient school that is reasonably fine. This isn't a game to find the best. It's about getting something reasonable while hoping to get your favorite. So you gain more options, and lose nothing, by listing every school that is decent that works logistically. Not a time to be nitpicky. It's a lot easier (and you'll feel less panicky) to try to trade up later if you know you have something acceptable in hand.

    Round 1, people.

  5. Lola,
    Thanks! I'm glad that one of this year's bloggers put up a tour post; I was starting to get worried. I like your factual style. It is very neutral and lets the reader get the basic facts on a school. At some point, maybe after you tour more schools, it might be nice to read a post where you talk more about your family's and your child's needs and how the different schools meet some or part of your priorities.
    One question: does Glen Park have PE? Do they have Playworks there? I thought I read that they did or were on a list for it.
    Thanks for taking the time!

  6. It's great that they have an artist in residence. Is that supported by the PTO or other funding?

  7. @11:54- The principal was very matter of fact and proud of her school. She has been there for upwards of 27 years (that may be off a bit). She had the "grandma" feel to her. A stern grandma, but grandma for sure.

    We didn't mention test scores in the tour and I wish I did. I will make sure to do this with my other tours.

    I believe the above commenter explained the funds.

    @11:58- there were about 5 other parents with me on the tour as well as a parent from the school and the PTO president.

    @12:34 - thanks! I'm trying to stay neutral and this was my first tour so I don't have much to compare it to yet. They have Playworks and PE daily. I will try to round out my reviews more with my opinions.

    I most likely will add it to my list since we can put as many schools as we want. I'm going to put all the acceptable schools in my area. It's what order I put them that's the question. I won't know that until I'm done with tours.

    On my list next is McKinley, Junipero Serra, Sunnyside, Alvarado, Miraloma. I've been to St Finn Barr and Edison Charter already, which I'll post notes on soon.

  8. Hi Lola! Thanks for blogging.

    May I suggest adding Milk, Flynn, Ortega, and Taylor to your list? Further out, add Longfellow and Sheridan as well (little hidden schools that are quite decent). And Rosa Parks, unless that is just too far north for you beyond McKinley (sorry, can't remember your coordinates). Or, somewhat beyond Sunnyside, Commodore Sloat, which works well for any family commuting the 280 corridor, as does Ortega.

    And I really wouldn't even bother to tour these (it's a big parent herd and not worth the time), but as long as you have unlimited spaces, just throw Miraloma, Rooftop, Clarendon and Grattan on the list. Can't hurt you, might help you.

    Will you be looking at Spanish immersion at all? Fairmount, Buena Vista and Marshall.

    I would send my kid to any of these, plus the ones you have mentioned. As you said, the real issue is which order to list them.

    Best of luck!

  9. To 11:54am..I'm the one that asked about remodel, fair and money. Thanks for the clarification! Did not know about the bond. That's also great that the fair was fundraiser. Great idea!!

  10. Glen Park Elementary parent, trying to answer a few of the oustanding questions.
    We do have a full-time Playworks coach here - Coach Mikka -- she's great! The PTO is funding our partnership with Playworks. The artist-in-residence program is through our longstanding partnership with SF Arts Ed. I'm not sure how that's funded, but it's not through the PTO.

  11. Hi @1:13 - thanks for the other suggestions. I have Taylor on my list, but won't tour...only so much time! I'm trying to stay this side of the Castro area. We're not interested in Spanish immersion, but are interested in Mandarin, hence Starr King being on my list. Farther out, we'll need to consider start times and before school care.

  12. FYI- I'm touring Miraloma and Alvarado for a perspective. I want to see what makes these schools stand out compared to others in the area.

  13. 2:36 and everyone else--

    Vote YES on Prop A in this electon!

    This is the third round of 3, doing a district-wide capital improvements campaign. They have done a stellar job with it, projects generally on budget, on time, well-managed, etc. and the results have been great. Hoover is going through it now, Aptos went through it a year or so back, Glen Park as noted, Alvarado--many schools. We just need this last push to complete it.

    Dealing with deferred maintenance is a good thing and saves money down the road. It's also the best time to do it in terms of saving money--with the construction industry in the toilet, bids are quite competitive right now. And it's great jobs bill too--putting our neighbors to work when we most need them to be working.

    And of course--our kids deserve these upgraded facilities. They are not the fancy-pantsy private school bells and whistles, but can be quite lovely and beautiful in an old-school way (thinking of the Aptos auditorium). Kids shouldn't have dingy and inaccessible schools. So, yes on A!

  14. Lola, re Mandarin immersion, will you also look at Jose Ortega? It's suprisingly quick easy to get to from the Glen Park area if you have a car. Less so if you don't. Very sweet school.

  15. Lola,
    Your tour strategy is smart and is helpful to a variety of readers. It does seem wise to look at "star" schools like Miraloma and Alvarado to see what makes them desirable and high performing. Even if you have a small chance of getting a seat in either one, it is good to know what they are offering and try to implement it wherever you end up. I also appreciate the fact that you are looking at a charter and also a parochial.
    Your open-mindedness and realism is much appreciated.

  16. re: drop in API Scores...
    There are several factors in play. Glen Park was over the 800 mark for API scores until the California budget crisis hit and the state started cutting funding. We had multiple support staff (like reading resource specialists that could do pull out programs with struggling readers) that helped the school get really good test scores - especially for the demographics. Construction probably didn't help last year. It was loud and disruptive for the kids in the upper grades.

    This year, Stanford EPGY (an online program for gifted youth) is being used to provide intense targeted work for the kids that are struggling. We shall see what this year brings for test scores.

  17. The common denominator I have seen in all schools with high test scores is a strong principal. They know how to deal with budget crisis, raise funds in an impossible time and really partner with a strong PTA (or whatever the school calls it). It's a strong leader, solid teachers, working alongside dedicated parents. Resourcefulness and creativity have carried these schools to amazing heights amidst a bad economy and shrinking budgets. Instead of blaming the budget cuts, they all decided to have amazing schools despite cuts.

  18. Seriously 9:15? I will be laughing for the next month over the utter naïveté of that statement. It's akin to my 5 year old's understanding of money - the ATM doesn't magically create money. No principal can cover a $500,000+ shortfall without some consequence. I'm going to assume that you are capable of some thought - so please educate yourself about what the budget cuts look like (it's well beyond what any PTA could cover now) and develop some understanding what life is like for families living in poverty.

    However, rather than getting into a pissing match with obvious troll...We have an amazing school. Test scores are not a very good metric for gauging school quality. Much like one wouldn't want to judge a college applicant solely by SAT scores.

  19. @6:55pm, thanks for your kind words. You stated exactly what I'm thinking. I may not get in to one of the trophy schools , but I like to see what programs and enrichment they are doing and try to either fund or implement at the school we do go to. I just did a tour at Mckinley (review coming) and their PTA raised 180K last year. They have so many awesome programs going on. Gave me lots of ideas in case I need them in the future.

  20. It's useful to see what programs appeal to you. And if you see some you like, you can always try to connect with the PTA and school site council to see how the programs are implemented, how much they cost, etc. IT seems like there should be more "mind-sharing" between PTAs as a means to support all schools in their development. That way you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Will you tour Milk? From their website, it looks like they have a lot of interesting programming, too.

  21. Hi Lola, it definitely can be done. I remember when McKinley and Miraloma were the schools that people got defaulted to when they didn't get Rooftop or Alvarado. Actually, Grattan was a default school as well.

  22. "One question: does Glen Park have PE?"

    All the public elementaries have 100 minutes of PE per two weeks. Also, because of Prop H* funding all publics have a 1/2-time librarian (except some of the Title I schools which have a full-time librarian), and all publics have musical instrument instruction in 4th and 5th grade.

    (* Not to be confused with the malicious and badly worded Prop H on next months ballot)

  23. To 10:08. Was not trying to get in a pissing match. Was sharing what I have seen. The principals I have met with have talked about how they have worked hard to overcome budget obstacles and the creative solutions they have come up with. GP's fair was a creative way to raise money in my opinion. So applaud GP as well. Not sure why all the hostility from you, and the rude comment about comparing this to your 5 year old's understanding of money from the ATM, but maybe it was just your misinterpretation of my post.

  24. 4:20. My apologies. I am getting more cranky the older I get.

    I'm tired of people telling me that fundraising should be able to cover ever larger state budget shortfalls. Even Piedmont needed a parcel tax...

  25. 10:35pm I agree. Public schools should not have to raise money to support their programs. All schools should be funded equally in order to support the basic mission of public schools which is to educate our population in a consistent way regardless of the student's socio-economic status. When school programming and resources are dependent on parental fundraising, you create a de facto system of economic segregation. We all depend on an educated work force so our taxes should show a commitment to educating our population. At this point, there seems to be a complete ambivalence in our tax system toward educating our children. We are gutting public school districts and dismantling the public higher education system. These programs and institutions are extremely difficult to build back up once they are gone and extremely expensive if you need to pay for them as private individuals.

  26. 10:35. Thanks for apology. I assumed it was from frustration, misinterpretation, or whatnot. I also assume we are all on the same page and want the same thing. I agree that schools should not have to depend on all this creativity, PTA fundraising, etc. but on a very basic level, my child will be in kindergarten next year and I will do whatever I need to do for the immediate solution. It is not something that should be endured long-term. I guess I feel like my only alternative is private school which would end up costing me more than an annual contribution to PTA and supplies donated to a classroom.

  27. @ 7:06- agreed. I was surprised to hear that some of the PTA funds at Mckinley go to a teacher's salary. The district only pays for 2.5 teachers in one of the grades (forget which one). They have 3 classes. Hence 1/2 a salary isn't paid. PTA covers the gap. Maybe this is normal. I'm new to this game. But it was still surprising and a little bit of a wake-up to what's happening.

  28. Lola, will you visit Mission Prep, too? It's so close to Glen Park. I'm wondering what it's like. They have open houses. I might try to check one out. It's new but that could be a good thing; you might really be able to have a lot of positive impact. Also, for younger children the smallness might seem more manageable and friendly. Instead of the 5th graders, the first graders will be the veteran students. It's K-8, too.

  29. "Lola, will you visit Mission Prep, too? It's so close to Glen Park. I'm wondering what it's like. They have open houses."

    It's on the campus that used to belong to Corpus Christi Catholic School before that school closed. So its architecture is going to be function.

    I'm gonna confess to some skepticism on Mission Prep. They have very different, and in my view unproven, take on how to do immersion education than the district, they showed little community support, and the little support they got wasn't in Mission Terrace, it was in the Mission/Valencia area (as one of the backers of the school was the owner of the Bi-Rite supermarket).

    Given that both Corpus Christi and St. Elizabeth's closed in that area, I'm wondering how easily they'll attract students. There are a lot of kids in Excelsior/Mission Terrace, but that didn't help St. Elizabeth's or Corpus Christi.

    Charters, with the possible exception of CAC, have struggled in this district because we have a choice/lottery system. In other districts, if you don't like your neighborhood school and can't or won't do private or parochial, charters are the only other choice, but that's not the case here.

    So good luck to Mission Prep, but they may have a rough time getting their feet in the same way as Edison has.

  30. I think Mission Prep has a much different history than Edison Charter which was originally a corporate charter. Also, as it is a K-8 in the SE part of SF it might have a lot of appeal as parents in the SE as the new SAS drives parents toward their local schools and the MS feeder pattern may not be that attractive to some people. I'm not saying the school is good or bad as I do not know enough about it. My only observation is that it might be worth learning about and visiting as it is one of the many option in the SE part of SF.