Friday, January 13, 2012

Application deadline looming

Hi Everyone
Thanks to Kate for turning on comments again.

Its been a busy 2 months for us. I toured a school not on my original list and turned in our application last week. I haven't had a chance to add my school tour notes but here is a summary with my list.

A quick summary shows that our top choices are small schools, Middle School Feeders also affected our choice. Afterschool care cost also a factor, any afterschool care run by the CDCs at the school would be in the $460 range for us, and that would be difficult for us at this time.

Sanchez: Our top choice. It is easy to get to on Muni for us (we are close to Market Street and the F runs frequently enough). My husband and I toured separately and both were very impressed with the principal Dr. Isola. The FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School) program is a big draw for us. We didn't think full immersion is right for our son but 3 hours a week we think will be great. The api scores do not bother us, our visits to the school show a dedicated staff and happy students who are learning and respectful. They have dance, gardening/science, computer, library time for all grades. I also think that this is a school we can get into in the first round which is a big deal for us. The afterschool care is open to all students and at this time is free to all students, which is huge for us. I feel I need to write up a longer review of this school which is one I hear referred to frequently as a terrible school, and I saw nothing on my tour that makes it terrible (except api). The one con is the start time 7:50, but with it being so easy to get to and not out of the way for my husband or I to get to work and drop our younger son at daycare it is doable. Everett is the feeder Middle School, I do like to think of my children in schools next to each other when the older one moves into Middle School. 2 GE K classes, 1 Spanish Bilingual K, 1 special Ed class (K, 1, 2). There is a PTA and all goals are posted in the school corridors, along with art, poetry and essays by the children.

Harvey Milk: I love the small size and huge parent/community involvement. Work on a water garden was in progress when we visited. We visited many classrooms and had Q&A with the 5th Graders. It is a little more difficult for us to get to on public transportation, but still doable with a later start time of 9:20 (or is it 9:30?). Afterschool care asks for an $80 donation a month. The principal is new to the school in 2011 and met with the touring parents. Everett is the Middle School from the Feeder plan. 2 GE K classes.

McKinley: This seems like a fantastic school as well with a huge parent/community involvement. Early start time 7:50am. Quite a few afterschool options, including language and reasonable cost around $230, but if you mix the programs it will cost a little more. E.g. Language is Monday to Thursday, if you need additional care on Friday you can pay extra. The principal met with the touring parents at the beginning of the tour. Putting this school down was a long shot as it is oversubscribed AND we didn't put it first. It is also not that easy to get to on public transportation, parking is pretty difficult (I got a ticket on the tour), I'm not sure if there is a rolling drop off like some other schools had. Everett is also the Middle School on this and from what I overheard on tour parents are not happy about this. 3 K GE classes.

Daniel Webster: Our Assignment area school. Again small school, but only 1 K class out of 3 is GE. ISA is the feeder Middle school, but it is also a High School. I'm not happy with that. This is also not as easy to to get to for us, however the start time is great 8:40.

Schools we did not list and why
Bessie Carmichael: 4 K classes, the school just seemed too big. It also seems disorganized. My first tour which I scheduled early in the search process was not successful as either the office had not notified the principal or they did not notify me that he was not available. So it was a bit of a panic when I showed up. The parent liason stepped up to show me the school but was unable to answer most of my questions regarding education/discipline. On my second tour which was led by the Vice Principal we only saw the K classes, I thought this was odd as on every other tour I have been welcome in all classrooms. But I do know that other schools do not do this either. I just didn't get a sense that this would be a good place for my son. I wanted to love this school, however the size and the afterschool fees (CDC) are just not a fit for us.

Tenderloin Community: I posted a review for this school and I did really like it. But 4 K classes seems too big, the Feeder school is Francisco which is also a negative for us due to location.

I'm really happy with our choices, I'm was also pleasantly surprise after all the negative things I've heard about the SFUSD schools to have seen such great schools, everyone that we visited had teachers who had the children engaged in learning. All of the children seemed to be learning the same things when we visited. This was not as daunting as I first thought.

Good luck everyone, and if you have feedback on my selections please share.


  1. 2 quick comments -- McKinley starts at 7:50, not 8:50.

    ALSO, not listing a school first does not actually change your chances of getting it. A lottery is run for each school, and if you get "picked" for >1 school, you'll get the one you gave higher priority to.

    So, if McKinley is my 5th choice, I could still get it, even if someone else put it 1st.

  2. Hi Michelle
    thank you for clarifying the time. I did know it was 7:50 but must have been typing too fast.

    In the lottery I had a total misconception of how it is run, so many of the numbers that come from SFUSD show total choices for schools and first choice for schools that I assumed that your 1st choice did matter.


  3. MJ -- yeah, I have always found it misleading that SFUSD publishes how many people have put a school as their first choice.

    Given the way the lottery works, you should put down all the schools you might like, in the order of your preference, and then let the computers do their thing!

  4. Thanks for the post! I also was very pleasantly surprised by the SFUSD schools that I visited, and I also hear so many wonderful things about other schools that we didn't consider because of their location or some other reason. It seems as if there are plenty of good options. That said, I did end up getting my heart set on a school (a citywide program), which seems likely to lead to disappointment!

  5. Hi MJ,
    Thanks for the post. It is really informative. Also, it's great to hear such enthusiasm for Sanchez. The principal seems really involved and committed to the school.

  6. Hi MJ, it is a wonderful strategy to find a school that you love and that is under the radar and obtainable in Round 1. I haven't heard much about Sanchez, but I do know that many fifth grade families are putting Everett on their list this year, some as first choice, so it is possible that Sanchez will be feeding into a coveted middle school by the time your child reaches sixth grade.

  7. "I assumed that your 1st choice did matter" Isn't it the case, though, that it does matter in regards to attendance area priority. I heard from another mom, but one only gets attendance area priority, if the school is listed 1st. Anybody know if that is correct? Lots of good luck and good lottery karma sent your way!!! Your list sounds great.

  8. So sorry about the weird grammar. It's early and I'm drive-by posting... I usually make more sense...

  9. It is my understanding that you can have your attendance area school anywhere on your list and you should get the tiebreaker for your neighborhood school. So the district has said that you can put your neighborhood school anywhere on your list and you should get priority. Hope that helps.

  10. Good to know! Thanks for clarifying.

  11. Hi there, I'm actually looking for a pre-K attached to a good public school. I'm in Hayes Valley but willing to travel a bit. Anyone have any experience with this type of pre-K? Thanks, and sorry if this is a bit off topic for this post... J

  12. You should consider schools that have bus routes that go to or are near the various Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. The Columbia Park clubhouse has many school buses that arrive at its door. There may even be a safewalk from nearby school-Sanchez, Milk?
    The membership is $10 per year with access to a whole range of afterschool activities. Your child needs to be 6 so you may have to pay for aftercare at the school until he is old enough.

  13. I'm posting here, b/c Harvey Milk leads to this thread. I just want to recommend that people consider Milk. It is a small (only 250 students), warm school, with dedicated teachers, nice building, safe neighborhood and great community. It is a late start school with free before and after school care.

    1. 1:25, any perspectives on this article here by Carol Lloyd that portrays Harvey Milk as not being thrilled by potential gentrification of its school?

      For parents of African American students, Harvey Milk has one of the highest 2012 API scores for African American students of all SFUSD elementary schools, 744 vs 627 for SFUSD overall. Edison was even higher at 796.

    2. That article made me sad, but a lot in there is not unfamiliar. The school we're at was in the same position -- improving scores lead to the loss of STAR funding, which caused strain, especially as it dovetailed with big budget cuts tied to the economy. Very similar sounding situation to what the author described in terms of the tension and the charges of racism and entitlement at well meaning but not all-knowing or all-understanding middle school parents. Change is really hard for almost everyone and change can feel threatening. And that kind of tension - especially when it can be felt by families between other families and a principal or administration creates real unease. But I suspect Harvey Milk will both get more gentrified (more because of SF housing costs/living expenses and the school's proximity to the Genentech/Google bus route) and will also get more stable. There will be people who step in to fund raise. And the school dynamics will likely change as the population there shifts. Maybe that fundraising will not isolate or divide the community as much - it doesn't always seem to, but seems more common at schools undergoing significant demographic change. It would be interesting to get a related perspective at New Traditions, which also has increased gentrification and still has a base of Western Addition AA families who attend the school. Is the situation there as rife?

      Many schools also really try really hard to reach people with information and they try all kinds of routes to get it to them, Even email doesn't work all that well (those who have access to it are often overwhelmed by too much email and don't open up all their mail. ) There are translators who come to PTA meetings and send out two sets of transcribed notes to everyone (Spanish and English -- not sure if they also do this at schools with need of Chinese translation, but wouldn't be surprised)

    3. Meant to say middle class parents, not middle school parents.