Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Have you applied?

It's been a bit of radio silence on the blog lately so I wanted to check in. I'm done with all my tours and plan to work on my application soon. Have you applied? Has touring changed your mind about certain schools? Let us know where you are in the process and even share your schools if you don't mind.

PS- as stated earlier, please keep this civil and informative.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Is SFUSD Ready for Online Enrollment?

The SFUSD enrollment paperwork can be maddening. I envy my friends in Phoenix who have online enrollment (click here for website). Checking school enrollment resources on the Internet, I found many school districts nationwide offer online enrollment. But not SFUSD...

Why is SFUSD, with its proximity to Silicon Valley, still in the dark ages of school enrollment processes? Shuffling papers, losing papers, manually entering data (once!), and blaming the computer for "glitches."

Can you imagine what it would be like if the staff at 555 Franklin did not accidently lose your second page of school choices? Did not accidently separate your twins' application forms? Did not accidently miscode your language immersion? Did not accidently repeat Flynnarado (a third time)?!

Can you imagine what it would be like changing or amending your school choices right up until the last day without looking for parking or waiting in line? Or getting updated waitlist numbers instantly so that you could make more informed choices, without yet another phone call or trip to EPC?

Can you imagine a world where SFUSD got it right the first time without human error?

- Donna

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Parents Want Honors Classes: Let The Data Speak!

There is an interesting topic in the Community Forum, "Any Parents of Gifted Kids Out There?", where parents are expressing their frustration with SFUSD policies and practices regarding educational opportunities for gifted students. This is a particularly sensitive topic for middle school parents, and one that threatens to undermine the middle school feeder plan.

I compiled the following information from the middle school inventory on electives and honors classes and the historical demand for 2011-2012, which are available on the SFUSD website. SFUSD has a column in their inventory spreadsheet to note if a school employs tracking or not (see column 5, "Are Students Tracked?").

Here are the middle schools that offer Honors classes and track students, followed by the number of first choice requests:
AP Giannini: 554
Aptos: 499

Francisco: 99
Hoover: 287
Marina: 125
Presidio: 540
Roosevelt: 274

Here are the middle schools that DO NOT offer Honors classes or track students, followed by the number of first choice requests:
Denman: 97
Everett: 44
ISA: 21
King: 101
Lick ("algebra is slightly tracked"): 198
Vis Valley (applies to 7th and 8th grade): 31


Of course, if you don't want honors classes for your child, then the spreadsheets on the SFUSD website are helpful for finding a school that matches your educational preferences.

- Donna

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daniel Webster Tour Notes

Hi All
I've added my tour notes for Daniel Webster our attendance area school here

My Impressions
I loved my visit to Daniel Webster. The parents here are hugely committed to the school, as is the local community. The PTA is pretty new (maybe 2 years?) but are already getting some great funding and resources into the school, there is a school site council which votes on how the funds are allocated.
The children all appeared to me to be kind and respectful to one another and adults

I've been impressed with all of the public schools I've visited so far regardless of their API scores, which in fact I'm pretty much disregarding at this point.

Even my original three criteria might need to be more flexible
* A great GE program with additional art, music, sport
All of the GE K classes (and higher grades) that I have been in seem to be working in the same way. They all have lots of art on the walls. Most tours are in the morning which is more advantageous to learning so children have always been doing numbers or letters at that time. But I don't doubt that they are getting art in their day. Sport is pretty much PE and is the same everywhere. Some schools have Playworks for recess which is a more co-ordinated play time.
* 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. There are also Parks & Rec which walk the children to Jackson park, Recess which is offsite and Active Kids which is offsite. There is an Excel program starting in January 2012
* 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: 10 minutes to drive - but I would feel pretty guilty adding to the pollution and traffic for a one mile school trip. The school is not walkable in a reasonable time. Bus and walking would be around 35-40 minutes door to door.

Something I did not add to my criteria but I'm finding it impacting my choice is the Middle School Feeder program. e.g. I'm not touring Starr King because it feeds into Aptos which is a geographically difficult commute from SOMA.
Daniel Webster feeds into ISA a 6-12 school. On paper (API) it looks better (marginally) than Everett but I can't get past the 6-12 part. I went to their table at the SFUSD school fair this weekend and asked for information on their Middle School program. They had a little stack of High school info and handed me a pamphlet and told me that they are a a High School though they are the only 6-12 in San Francisco. Well I know they are, but if they don't seem to care about the Middle School why should we send our children there? I do know that the parents at Daniel Webster are meeting with SFUSD tonight to discuss the Feeder Program and I am on tenterhooks waiting to find out how it went. Please let us know DW parents.

So yet another public school that I would be happy to send my child to, the middle school feeder school not so much.


Carlos Garcia and SFUSD Afraid to Ask the Obvious Questions

The new 2012-2013 SFUSD application form is now available (download here). I was befuddled by Item 9 Parent Survey, which asks parents to rate 15 items on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of importance (5 being “Very Important”). The 15 items include the following: attend school with sibling, attend after school program at school, language pathway, special education services, school bus transportation, near home, near childcare, near work, school hours, diversity of students, neighborhood safety, school’s academic reputation, teachers and principal, parent community, and recommendation by family/friends. SFUSD claims that they are soliciting this feedback to get “a better understanding of what is important to families.”

Now, anyone who was involved with the Middle School Feeder community forums and the Quality Middle School initiative last year knows that “Honors/AP classes,” “Uniform elective offerings (band, orchestra, art, drama, etc),” and “GATE programs and activities” were among the top rated items that were identified as “very important” to prospective middle school families.

Carlos Garcia and SFUSD don’t REALLY care about what is important to us. If they did, they would have included these obvious items in their survey. I hope that SFUSD will add these items to the 2012-2013 application form to demonstrate that they really care about our opinions.

- Donna

Carlos Garcia and SFUSD Insensitive to LGBT Families

The new 2012-2013 SFUSD application form is now available (download here). I was surprised by Item 8 Parent Educational Level, which has two rows: one labeled “Mother” and one labeled “Father.” It was my understanding that “Mother” and “Father” were to be replaced by gender-neutral terms for parents and partners, such as “Parent 1” and Parent 2,” on all public education documents to acknowledge the rich family diversity in our culturally tolerant City, where two-mom and two-dad households are common (even 2 moms plus 2 dads!).

I hope that SFUSD will remove these archaic family descriptors from the 2012-2013 application form as the first step of demonstrating a welcoming environment for LGBT families.

- Donna

Friday, November 4, 2011

St. Finn Barr and St. Paul's Tour Notes

Hello there,

I've now toured all the parochial schools on my list. I have one more private school to tour, and then all my public schools on my list.

Here are my recent tour notes:

St. Finn Barr

St. Paul's

If you missed it, notes on St. Philips

Overall I was impressed with St. Paul's and St. Finn Barr. Both had very diverse student bodies, and catholic/non-catholic families attending. Another interesting note is both of these schools have new principals.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any additional questions or comments. Also, if you are parent of any of these schools, please feel free to elaborate or provide your input on your experience.

Have nice weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mission Dolores Academy Tour Notes

Hi Parents
I've added my tour notes for Mission Dolores here

This was my very first school tour and I was very impressed, as it was the first I wrote lots of notes on my first impressions. After seeing public schools I am quite happy with either option. The curriculum seems to be similar. The resources are of course not the same. Anyway here are my thoughts from early October.

Tour Impressions:
My first impression was wow this looks just like my old school. Statues of Saints, teachers who are on you if you stare at the ceiling, "the answer is not up there", uniforms, nuns (we met one who does the Religion class).

But in touring each classroom it was not at all like my old school. Students were engaged rather than being forced to repeat formulas or poems. This of course is just an hour to view and early in the day when the children are at their best. The classrooms had computers and every grade had 50% of the class on computers with one teacher, the second teacher in front of the class teaching. In the mornings there may only be one teacher for the first two hours as they come in at different hours so that they can oversee after school care.

In the K class where they were doing Math (sorting the order of numbers) we noticed a Red, Orange, Green chart. Green is good behavior, orange is warning. I know some people have issues with this form of discipline but I don't. My son's daycare also uses it in the preschool class.
For discipline issues they talk to the students parents to work out a plan of action to improve the behavior and figure out what is causing it. (BTW in later tours I saw exactly the same math and discipline in public schools)
They also have a random acts of kindness program where staff (all staff) usually have stars in their pockets to hand out to kids when they see them being kind and thoughtful. Positive reinforcement is encouraged (saw this in 2 public schools)

Each grade has a student of the month and they get to go for lunch with the Principal at the end of the month. (saw this in 1 public schools I toured)

The school works with SFUSD for issues regarding learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
The 8th Grade are currently working on their applications for High School and most go on to Catholic High Schools. They have to apply to at least 3 High schools with one being a public, usually Lowell or SOTA. Teachers work with groups of 6 students on essays.

All in all I really liked Mission Dolores Academy and would not think of it as a back up at all. We intend to apply, depending on the other schools we tour it may end up being very high on our list. The tuition is comparable to what we would pay with afterschool care in almost all of the other schools on our list. It won't be a cake walk but if this is the best fit for our son, then we will figure out a way to make it work.

SF Examiner: San Francisco wants cut of PTA's school parking fundraisers

This from the SF Examiner:
Schools across San Francisco are strapped for cash, so for those around Golden Gate Park, this month’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was a big opportunity. Over the festival weekend, Parent Teacher Associations manned the schools’ parking lots, charging concertgoers up to $25 to park.

But some PTA volunteers were surprised when inspectors from the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office showed up during the weekend and demanded that they collect a 25 percent tax on parking.

“We had no idea,” said San Francisco Parent Teacher Association President Michelle Parker. “They haven’t been collecting it until now anyway.”

Parker said PTAs have been running these fundraisers during major events such as Outside Lands and Fleet Week for many years. The events can raise as much as $5,000 a day, she said.

“What’s really great about parking fundraisers is you’re not pulling from the school community,” said Parker, whose organization assists school-based groups.

The tax has been on the books for many years and applies to every parking operation, from downtown garages to dirt lots near the ballpark, said treasurer’s office spokesman Greg Kato. The tax, most of which is earmarked for the Municipal Transportation Agency, is levied against the customers rather than the operator, but the operator must pass the revenue to The City.

“We do have a team of investigators because we want to make sure we collect the same tax for everyone’s sake,” he said.
Read the full story

SF Public School Enrollment Fair

WHAT: The annual Enrollment Fair, featuring every San Francisco public school.

WHEN: Saturday, November 5 / 10 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: Concourse Exhibition Center

620 – 7th Street (near Brannan)

WHY: Families who want to enroll their child in a public school for next fall

have a chance to speak with school principals, teachers, and parents from all S.F. public schools.

Last year, approximately 10,000 people attended.

This is the first year that incoming sixth graders may receive a tie-breaker if they choose their middle school feeder and parents of children turning five years old between November 1 and December 2, 2012 can enroll in a transitional kindergarten program.

District officials will be hosting workshops to explain the middle school feeders, transitional kindergarten as well as the assignment system overall.

Proposition H: How will you vote?

Please use this space to discuss Prop H. Please stay on this topic in this thread. And please help create a safe space to discuss this topic by being respectful. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lola's Junipero Serra Tour notes

More tour notes! This time from Junipero Serra. This is my neighborhood school.

Overall, this school lands in the middle for me. Not one of the best out there, but it has potential. It's a get your hands dirty type of school. The parents and the principal are dedicated to making this the next up and comer. I truly hope it does get there. It's definitely a see for yourself type of school. If you're willing to put in the time to help it along, it's a good fit.

Check out more detailed notes at the above link.