Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sunrise Sunset: Is This the Little Girl I Carried (on the N Judah)?

Hi everyone!  I’m really excited to be contributing to the K Files. I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs, where education is king and people pay crazy high property taxes for well-funded school systems. I don’t know if I endorse that whole system, but I had some wonderful teachers and I would love for my children to get the same solid preparation and excitement for learning that I did.

I have heard that San Francisco has some great schools, but you have to be proactive. So for several years, I’ve been the crazy lady asking co-workers, friends, even people on the bus about the schools their children attend. Then I was on maternity leave with child #2 last fall, so I figured, why not throw the little one in the Baby Bjorn and check out some schools? I was concerned that starting so early would turn me into a stress case, but luckily, I think it made me more positive--well, about the schools, maybe not the process!

We live in the friendly, foggy Inner Sunset/Golden Gate Heights, and it turns out we are surrounded by well-regarded schools. Last year, I toured a number within striking distance: Clarendon, Grattan, West Portal, Miraloma, Alice Fong Yu, Glen Park, Sunnyside, New Traditions, McKinley, and Creative Arts Charter School. I was impressed and very pleasantly surprised. At almost every school, the facilities were gorgeous, the teachers seem dedicated and warm, and the parents are certainly contributing a tremendous amount, both in terms of time and financial support. Of course, most of the schools I mentioned are oversubscribed, so we’ll want to keep searching out the hidden gems.

So far, I think we’ve settled on a few criteria:

1) First and foremost, we want a school with creative, engaged, committed teachers and leadership. This actually seems like one of the hardest things to learn from a tour, so any advice commenters have on how to suss this out would be helpful. I’ve heard Parents for Public Schools can connect you to current parents at a school--has anyone done that?

2) A school with an arts focus sounds great, or math and science. Oddly, there don’t seem to be that many SFUSD schools with a math and science focus--or perhaps I’m not aware of them?

3) I am interested in K-8 schools, and definitely want to check out Lawton for that reason. I love the idea of a smaller, more manageable school, particularly in grades 6-8.

4) All else being equal, we would like a school with a neighborhood focus. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly, but we love running into preschool classmates at the playground and I think providing our kids with the opportunity to head over to a friend’s house spontaneously or have unstructured playtime with other neighborhood kids could be a great antidote to our super scheduled modern lives.

5) We’re open to language immersion, but it’s probably not a deciding factor. I have a tour scheduled at Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila, and I am also thinking of checking out Rosa Parks and Alvarado, although those are not as convenient.

In addition to public schools, we’ll apply to Brandeis. Our Judaism is important to our family and I keep hearing that it’s an amazing school. We might also try another private school application, maybe Alta Vista?

In my next post, I’ll share highlights from some schools I visited last year. If there are any schools that folks think I should put on my list, please let me know!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Crazy Kindergarten Search Begins - Game On!

And so it begins... the search for my little one's Kindergarten! And why not share the horrors and vent my pain with the readers of The SF K Files? I'm happy to be one of the new guest bloggers and hope that what I write is helpful to somebody! Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am a mama of two, a mama of color, a progressive/community-minded mama, a mama living in Bayview, a college-educated mama struggling financially, a non-profit mama, and a mama who thinks a good education is so important!  

My daughter is a little performer, very outgoing and her preschool teacher commented, "She's got it together!"  I want to find the school that fits her personality, challenges her academically, makes her excited to learn, does not stunt her creativity, and gives her opportunities in music, performance, leadership, etc. (That's not too much to ask for, is it?) I don't want a school that skimps on science and math education. We care about ethnic and economic diversity of the students and teachers. We hope to find a good Spanish language program, but it's not completely necessary. 

My husband and I currently want to look into these schools: 
ER Taylor (The school my husband went to as a kid.)  
Buena Vista
Fairmount Elementary 
Clarendon (Does it live up to the hype?)
Commodore Sloat
West Portal

And, while my husband and I feel so conflicted politically about sending our kids to private school, we still want to look into: 
The Hamlin School
Our Lady of Visitacion
The San Francisco School

Since we only attended public schools, we at least want to see what private school is about! We also have no idea how to gauge which private schools in SF are good. Do you have any resources or tips on how to determine which private schools to look into?

Are there any other schools I should look into?
Do other southeast families want to share their lists?

I have to end this by saying, this process is totally crazy. We really should not have to be doing this, wasting so much of our time and energy. All our kids should have well-funded, good neighborhood schools! But, that is not the reality... so Game On! Time to find the right kindergarten for our little one. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Noe Valley Rec Center today

Great turn-out today at the Noe Valley Recreation Center School Fair today!
As you may know, this event is not a public school event but a a private event featuring public, private and parochial schools in the SE neighborhoods.  Having attended both the SFUSD School Fair (coming in November) and this event, I find the NVRC a nice atmosphere and also a great way to compare publics and privates.  It's also a great place to see hard-working parents and teachers advocating for their schools, which always warms my heart.

Parents for Public Schools also had a separate tent at the NVRC, where the sessions were jam-packed with parents looking for guidance in navigating SFUSD.

I understand that public school tours kick-off after the official SFUSD school fair which is the SFUSD School Year 2012-2014 Enrollment Fair, held on Saturday, November 3 from 9:30-2:30 pm at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 620 7th Street.

So - what were your thoughts on the fair?  Did you attend and did the school fair help shape your school tour list?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Muppets Take San Francisco

We just moved our family of six to the city this summer.  When we were looking for a place to live we were considering a lot of things: square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, outdoor area or deck, proximity to a park, proximity to some fun neighborhoods/streets/restaurants, not too far from public transportation or the freeway on-ramp...

I'd done some research on SFUSD and I clicked on <Discover Your School Options> and started reading.  Really confused, because where I grew up you went to the school in your neighborhood.

So when we found condos we were interested in, I got into the habit of plugging the address into the Address and School Locator Map to see if that address was a CTIP1 zone and what the attendance area school was...

We found a place we liked and we bought it.  It's in a CTIP1 zone.

We have four kids and one of them is going to be starting kindergarten next fall.  And here I am again at the SFUSD website again clicking on Discover Your School Options and reading:

Find which schools fit your criteria

Criteria? OK, I definitely need to put one of those together.

I admit to playing with the Interactive School Selector and wishing that the Before and After School Programs boxes would have broken out further to show price ranges and an Amazon-like rating system.

So here's what I have so far with my, ahem, criteria:

I'm not restricted by specific hours or before/after school programs (although I would appreciate one/both if its not cost prohibitive). I don't NEED anything because I stay at home with the kids so I'm available.

Anyways, I'm dismissing these aforementioned factors from my criteria until further notice.

Zip code and neighborhood location will certainly be on the list to minimize time spent en route to and from school.  So I'll have to figure out how far is too far for me.  I'm a terrible parallel parker and I have a minor anxiety attack every time I back our car out of the garage so walking to school or taking a bus would be preferred.

Languages - I suppose if I had them go to a language program I would choose a Spanish or Mandarin program, mainly because I've been told that both languages are very useful.  I'm not convinced that language immersion would be that (fill in the blank). Is it?  

Special Education Services, my first and second kids won't need these and I'm not sure about three and four yet.  Too soon to know so that isn't in the criteria either.

One SF Lottery veteran mentioned that I should consider some K-8 schools, so I've included 2 at the outset to look at and see what I think of them.  I've always liked the K-5 breakout of elementary and then on to bigger and brighter things at angst-filled middle school so I'll have to be sold on this.

Schools I'll tour:

Rosa Parks
Creative Arts Charter School
Claire Lilienthal

Also, I'd like to visit Everett, I know it's a middle school but it's the feeder for McKinley, Muir, Marshall and Sanchez so I'd like to check it out.

Mama Muppet.

Lazy Tiger Mom starts the K search

Hi, Cat here. I've been so grateful to this blog as a source of information and inspiration to my first kindergarten search and especially so to the parents who have re-opened it. I'll share my newbie story of the search including some probably-clueless initial thoughts of schools and criteria. I've been told that I have masochistic desire for feedback, so please set me straight! 

As for the title of the post. I was raised with a tiger mom. Yet call-me-selfish, but I'd much rather spend my meager spare time on myself or couple-time. That sounds far better than driving my kids around to more classes and enrichment, much less any type of homework or music drills.

Our family is two working parents with high-stress jobs and frequent travel. Our two daughters (4.5 and 1.5) have been in daycare since they were 3 months old. I'm a very pragmatic mom and believe in public school both for the diversity, range of experience and also most definitely the financials. I was raised 100% private, mainly due to living overseas and by necessity only having access to English-speaking international schools. My husband is an avid public proponent, having gone public all the way and also with two teachers as parents. 

Perhaps this is too flippant and may get me flamed, but my current naive belief is that public school will be fine through elementary school (how bad can it be?) and that anything lacking can be supplemented at home (in all our spare time, ha!). Currently we're determined to go 100% public and have heard rumor that even if absolutely nothing works out we can start applying for some decent neighborhood parochial schools after hearing the lottery results. So that's the strategy for now. Besides I don't think that I could even muster up the time or energy for the private school tour and application process. 

We live 2 blocks from Glen Park Elementary. I don't know how I feel about Glen Park. It would be fantastic to drop by daughter off to school and then head on down to Bart for my commute. I think that my thoughts are still mostly ill informed about the other pros and cons.  

Some rough ideas about criteria.
1. Local proximity. Remember the pragmatic mom thing? This is our absolute top priority. I feel that our lives are already so crazy with 2 kid drop-offs and a hectic work schedule. 

2. After school care. 2 working parents. We definitely need care through 6pm, although I'm lucky enough to have a flexible job so any late school start time is OK. 

3. Involved PTA. I've heard it's a really good thing (inane statement on my part but still!). 

4. Isn't arts focused. My husband's a scientist and I firmly believe in the magic blend of science + liberal arts. 

Here's our current tour list:
Miraloma (daughter's preK is right nearby and many of her friends already have older siblings attending)
Glen Park 
Commodore Sloat
SF Community 
Thomas Edison Charter
Jose Ortega?
Paul Revere?
Alice Fong Yu?

Any tips are appreciated!

Annual School Fair at Upper Noe Valley Rec Center!

The fair is Sunday, September 23rd from 11:00 to 2:30pm at the Upper Noe Recreation Center located at 295 Day Street.  Free and open to the public.

This event is becoming a big part of the Fall School Touring Kick-off!  Are you going?  Be sure to let us know what you thought of the event!

Meet parents and representatives from private, parochial, and public schools in Bernal Heights, Glen Park, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, the Mission, the Market Street Corridor, and the 280 Corridor at the Friends of Noe Valley Elementary School Fair.

Parents for Public Schools will hold to free workshops on the SFUSD lottery and enrollment process.  The workshops will focus on transitional kindergarten and kindergarten for the 2013/2014 school year.  Parents for Public Schools will also have a informational table at the fair.

For more information on the fair, schools, and to register for enrollment workshops, please visit:

The recreation center is accessible by the J-Church and Divisadero 24.  We recommend taking public transit as parking is limited.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wanted: Guest Bloggers

The K Files is back and we are working hard on a redesign and relaunch.  Kate has transferred the blog to a team of SF parents who are committed to preserving K Files as a resource for families navigating school choices in San Francisco.  We are also committed to keeping the K Files a safe and welcoming place for parents to share openly.

September kicks-off the fall touring season for many families.  We are looking for guest bloggers for this year's enrollment cycle.  Do you have child entering K, middle school or HS next fall?  Will you be touring schools and submitting your enrollment application by January 2013?  K Files wants to hear from you!

We encourage you to post using a pseudonym, but hope that you will choose a name and image that represents who you are and helps the audience connect (i.e., green mama, soma dad, etc.).

If you're interested - we'd love to hear from you at

3 weeks in - Any open K spots at your school?

We just finished the third week of the 2012-2013 school year.  I am still hearing rumblings of open K spots here and there at SFUSD schools that normally have a waitlist.  Is their spots in K at your school?  If so - please post!  It might still be possible to get a transfer from EPC or a mid-year transfer.  This is also very helpful information for private / parochial parents who might be giving SFUSD a second look.