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.


  1. Lola, great notes thank you. Can I ask where you got all of the after school information? I've been directed to a CDC by most schools, even if there are more options. So I'm finding it very difficult to find out what all of the additional options are in some schools.

  2. Hi MJ - The school had a hand-out at the tour. It listed some of the most pertinent information as well as a description of the after school programs. I actually got a lot of the after school info right here in the schools area. It's listed for most schools on the right-hand side.

  3. Thanks, Lola. Keep them coming!

  4. I am guessing that the .5 PTA-funded teacher is to avoid a split grade in the upper grades. A school gets a set number of teachers budgeted based on the number of students enrolled and the classroom caps at the grade levels. For many schools, the change in class size from 3rd to 4th requires a 4/5 split class. A school that can afford it could choose to have smaller upper-grade classes and no combinations.

  5. Hi Lola, thanks I do see that information for some other schools. As I find that information during my tours I will add it as well.

  6. Most schools PTA's are very reluctant to fund teachers (rather than picking up other costs) as the fear is that when the budgets go back up after this current crunch, it'll be hard to get funding for that teacher back from the district.

    McKinley is a great school, and it's great it's getting the recognition it deserves.

  7. Just an FYI -- any elementary that has the PTA funding prowess to fill teacher slots at the 4th and 5th grade level is worth going to. Because of budget cuts, 4th and 5th grade at most schools see classes grow to 30 to 33, which is really too large. Elementaries that can afford to re-hire teachers like Alvarado and, perhaps, McKinley (hard to tell from Lola's post), will be able to keep class size at 25-27 at 4th and 5th grade. This is a BIG, real life difference folks, not just bells and whistles.

  8. VOTE NO on PROP H.

  9. Just wanted to clarify the basics of how the budget works. The school is given a certain amount of $ based on the number of students. The principal and the school site council determine how that budget gets divied up. They must pay for the principal, the secretary and any teachers as well as supplies any support staff like pull out teachers or support specialists who give extra help in reading or math to kids who need it. So in the upper grades the ssc could choose to make 2 large classes and then have some money for those specialists. In years past our budget was not enough to have 3 smaller (22) classes so the ssc asked the PTA to make up the difference to keep classes small. Just an FYI for the PTA to fund a teacher they need to come up with about $89K before the end of the previous school year in the Spring to keep that teacher in place for the Fall. It is a complicated process but some good questions to ask on tours would be what are the priorities of the SSC and what kind of shortfall did they have from the district budget. The PTA raises all of the money but the ssc gets to determine much of the spending.

  10. Anyone worried about Everett middle school feeder for McKinley? Not trying to be argumentative here - just looking for opinions since going back and forth myself. Would love to hear others' views on this. McKinley looks wonderful.

  11. Vote Yes on Prop H!

  12. Vote NO on Prop H, even those on the radio this morning who supposedly supported Prop H said that they "wouldn't send THEIR kids to their neighborhood school".
    That speaks volumes, doesn't it?

  13. @12:05 I have toured Sanchez and Milk which both feed into Everett and it doesn't worry me. I think the feeder plan will be beneficial to Everett.

  14. Vote Yes on Prop H. Omar Khalif is not representative of the supporters. Almost all of them I've talked to would gladly do so. Agreed, that was not a good statement, but that shouldn't decide your vote. I personally will be voting yes on Prop H because I have a child in pre-school near my home and was told I would have to send my other child 5 miles from home, and was told this after 2 appeals, for middle school. That was my only option, they didn't even offer me something 2-3 miles away. I live 5 blocks from Presidio Middle School. Therefore I will Vote Yes On Prop H!

  15. Yes, I guess if you live right near Presidio MS, you'll be voting yes.

    It's a self-serving measure from people who live next to the best schools, everyone understands that.

  16. @7:47 - question is how many voters are in the N and how many in the S? It will def be split. And I thought that this prop doesn't mean much. It's not going to change anything unless the board changes it. Waste of time in my opinion. The facts seem to be that most don't want neighborhood schools. At least according to the data from last years enrollment.

  17. It's a pathetic attempt by Republicans to attain some influence in policy-making in this city.
    With the Republican endorsements in the voters guide, I doubt it will pass.

  18. Most didn't put a school right next to their home for elementary school. Most in high school put Lowell or SOTA #1. However, the vast majority would rather go to a school within a mile or two of their home than be forced 4-8 miles away.

    If two people are applying to Presidio, the person a block away should have priority over someone 4 miles away, if there's a choice. However, they don't. It's common sense, you don't want 2 kids spending hours commuting when they could both walk or one could walk and one could be driven 5 minutes.

    No one wants to live a block from Presidio and be forced to go to Visitation Valley, you can't even feasibly do that. The Mission is not a poor neighborhood, they can build up a good set of schools and have built up some good ones. They will get better if the middle class from that area starts going. Marina Middle will get better if the residents of the Marina stay in SF as their kids get older and embrace their local schools.

    Prop H is not meaningless. The board claimed most people wanted the system. There is no choice if you can live a block from a school and be forced out of bed 45 minutes earlier than you would be on a busy schedule. That causes people to make a choice of Burlingame or Marin or private, which causes more segregation in our schools.

    Even Jill Tucker said it, everywhere in the U.S. but here if you buy a home, you can know what elementary, middle and high school your child will go to. SF is too rich to not have good schools in every neighborhood.

    Prop H will force the board to really improve the schools on the East side, not drive families out, make some miserable with commutes and avoid focusing on how to really improve education on the East Side.

    Yes on Prop H!

  19. No on A. Yes on H.

    The schools can reduce their budgets by getting rid of the plethora of bloated administrator salaries. If this argument works for Occupy Wall Street, it can work for Occupy SFUSD.

    The parcel tax should be abolished and all cummulative taxes collected to date refunded.

    The parcel tax is ridiculous as everyone pays the same, regardless of the value of the property.

    Take a look at owners of 101 California St on SF tax collector web site for 2011-2012. The taxable value is $306,999,589. The tax is $3,597,421.18. Then, the parcel tax is added for a total of $3,597,662.28.

    There is no proof that Prop. A would be any better.

  20. I slightly disagree, I'd say Yes on A, Yes on H.

    The reason being that we have to fund our schools better any way possible. Nothing is more important than schools.

    I too disagree with the regressive nature of the tax. Prop 13 should have never applied to business property. However, they probably propose it because it is so difficult to raise money for the schools in any way. I agree getting rid of the expensive lottery system will free up money for far more important things.

    We should cut the prison budgets, we have 10x plus the % in jail that Germany, the UK, France, Australia, Japan, Canada, Italy, Spain etc. have. We could end the war on drugs and focus on treatment. Also, as for the homeless, we should only give money to the homeless if they can show they either went to school in SF as a child or held a job here for more than a year. We must stop giving money to those who move here because they hear it's a good deal after already being homeless.

    There is also a tremendous amount of waste at City Hall. When I was a child each Supervisor got 8k for a part-time job. Now they get 140k plus a huge budget of assistants, so the cost to each taxpayer is tremendous. We should go back to the Wendy Nelder vs. Quentin Kopp days, not spend money unnecessarily.

    I'd vote Yes on D, no on C, but it looks like C will pass and D will fail. Either one willsave us a lot of money which could and should go to schools. No one should get a 200k pension. The cap should be 90k, I mean you're not working, you don't have to commute, pay for clothes, you're retired, they should cap it at 90k and put the excess back into the schools.

    I haven't decided how to vote on G yet.

  21. Prop. A is a school bond project, not a property tax.

    Failure to pass A would be brutal to those schools that haven't yet been modernized and are counting on major facility repairs. Whatever one thinks of administrator salaries, not passing A will not cause the District Office staff to sign over their paychecks to the schools.

  22. Honestly, there is so much misinformation on this blog, it's ridiculous.

    "Prop. A is a school bond project, not a property tax."

    Prop A is a Bond measure that would increase property taxes $29.42 per 100,000 of assessed valuation.
    So Homeowners, once again, foot the bill.

  23. "Most didn't put a school right next to their home for elementary school."

    Yet the Neighborhood School fundamentalists want to take that choice away from them. Let's ignore what 76% of parents wanted, because we know best.

    "No one wants to live a block from Presidio and be forced to go to Visitation Valley, you can't even feasibly do that."

    "The Mission is not a poor neighborhood,"

    This is West-side BS. The median household income in the Richmond and Sunset ($82K) is two-thirds higher than that in the Mission ($49K).

    For example, Cesar Chavez ES has 78% free/reduced lunch. Alamo ES has 34%. [Not that that will deter you guys from trying to strip away funding from the schools with the poor kids - that's Don's latest hobby-horse, after all.]

    If there's a reason I hold the neighborhood school fundamentalists in contempt, it's because of this. Statistics and Data have no meaning to you guys, 'cos you'll just invent stuff and parrot it back to each other until you think its true.

  24. "The schools can reduce their budgets by getting rid of the plethora of bloated administrator salaries."

    What proportion of the district's spending is "bloated administrator salaries". Show your work.

    [Now, for the privates, bloated principal salaries definitely are an issue...]

  25. 3:32:

    The SFUSD finances are a swamp. No one knows where the money is going. Open all of the books, lets see it, per administrator and teacher. All of them. All of the details. No exceptions. They are, after all, consuming public funds. What is there to hide?

    What is definitely known is how much money is going in to SFUSD, and it is far higher than other parts of the world per student.

    The cost of living in Japan and parts of Europe is on par with SF or higher.

    The parcel tax should be abolished and all funds returned to homeowners. The owners of 555 California St, a building assessed at ~ $1 billion, pays only $245 a year parcel tax. It takes around 2000 homes at $500k assessed value each for $1 billion and they pay an aggregate of $500,000 in parcel tax. That is completely crazy. The Occupiers should scrutinize that and reverse it. Better yet, get rid of the parcel tax entirely.

    Also, the senior exemption for school taxes should be abolished. That is a shameful practice.

    Social engineering can't be paid by just the working middle class.

  26. Yes on H. It's a small but first and necessary step to reforming our schools.

  27. No on H. Until all the schools are equal, everyone should have the chance to go to one of the better schools.

  28. H stands for "Hot Air" but as someone in the Grattan attendance area who got frozen out of it twice in the lottery, I'm voting against it. If someone who values education lives in the attendance area of a low-performing, high-poverty, under-enrolled school, they're not suddenly going to roll up their sleeves and pitch in because of a neighborhood assignment system. They could have done that under the current assignment system (imagine all those Pac Heights families at Cobb). Instead they've shipped their kids out-of-neighborhood or gone parochial or private, presumably at some noticeable inconvenience and expense to themselves. Shutting down the opportunity to attend higher-performing publics because one does not live within their attendance areas s will drive more education-valuing families out of the district entirely, not attract them. I WOULD like to see more kids attending schools they can reach by walking or short car rides for environmental reasons but Prop H is not the answer. We need more good schools, not yet another assignment system overhaul.

  29. You're living in a dreamworld. We're not going to see schools improve in 5 years so we can guarantee a neighborhood assignment to everyone. What is in the works that will make that happen? This is part of fixing the schools, forcing the district to focus on the schools themselves, not the assignment system. Trust me, you're naive. If it doesn't pass you'll be saying exactly the same thing in 5 years. If it does we'll at least have some progress.

    Yes on H. Force SFUSD to do something for the schools.

    We will improve all schools by cutting the average commute and increasing much needed study time.

    I agree, people in Pac Heights are assholes, but there's notmuch I cando about that. They should embrace and improve Cobb.

    Yes on H. Let's at least make progress. SFUSD will be in the exact same position in 5 years if we don't pass this. this is the first genuine reform that isn't a part of the mindless status quo to be proposed in the past 30 years in San Francsco. Every prediction you're making, let's wait until X, I heard 20 years ago. I'm a local, it won't happenwithout Prop H. It should but it won't. You're being naive.

  30. VOTE NO ON PROP H, the city's better schools should not only be available to those lucky (or rich) enough to live next to them.

  31. Just a follow up on the SSC and budgets. The SSC makes recommendations to both the school administration and the PTA, but ultimately does not make either final decision. At McKinley the PTA takes what the SSC voices with great weight, but given that, we have had lengthy meetings where we energetically discuss how we want to spend the funds raised by the PTA. We make that final decision.

  32. I toured McKinley and loved it. As for the Everett, the parents had a lot of good thoughts on this, not the least of which is that it will be 7 years before our kids are going to middle school. We can not know now what Everett or our family's life will be years and years from now. It is not something to impact your final decisions.

  33. The district focuses on the assignment system because school performance is very closely tied to the types of kids who attend. Grattan did not transform from a low-performing undesirable school to hot-hot-hot because it was suddenly doing a better job teaching a high-risk population. It transformed because education-focused middle class flocked to the school about 5 years ago. The more education-valuing families at a school, the higher the schools' overall test scores. It does not matter how good the school is if the parent community does not back the school up.

  34. True, which is why people who move or go private hurt the schools so much. Still, parents should have a guarantee they won't have to drive across town, parents should be able to move to an area and at least get 1 of 5 elementary schools and ahead of those who live far away to cut down on traffic. We're driving the families out we should want to keep. Maybe 1 of 2 middle or high schools. I personally know people who live near the beach and their only offer was Visitation Valley. They have no guarantee in place and people need to know that when buying a home. I'm voting Yes on H. SFUSD needs to focus on convincing parents to back their kids' education and turn off the TV. I think a No vote is a vote for the Status Quo. I'd like to see a shake up and a focus on convincing all kids to work harder and more consistently.

  35. I mean look at the opponents of Prop H. It's all the defenders of the Status Quo. They haven't come up with one reform which has helped African American or Latino kids close the achievement gap. They throw money at problems in ineffective ways. You have the teacher's union which defends seniority and protecting the bad at the expense of the good and young teachers, the board who has done nothing. Just based on that I'm voting Yes on H. The Status Quo has failed everyone. We need change.

  36. Is there any chance of keeping the school review threads clear of Prop H arguments (pro or con)? There is now a thread for those.

    I have my opinion about Prop H, certainly, but many here would like to read comments about the schools themselves rather than re-hash this debate (with, apparently, the same few voices) over and over and over and over .....