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!!


  1. Congrats on getting an early start. I did the same and found it made the process much more manageable. I toured both publics and privates, and for what it's worth Brandeis was my favorite private school (and Judaism is not that important to my family, we just loved the school).

    It's the uncertainty that makes it all so hard, so have faith and stay sane. (And no we didn't end up at Brandeis as we got a spot at a great public school and figured we had to give it a try, so far we are very happy.)

  2. If you're willing to drive a bit more to the West, then look at Sunset, Francis Scott Key, Jefferson, Feinstein, and Ulloa. All great schools and I think all of them feed into AP Gianni Middle School. It seems that you can't go wrong listing and liking more schools than less in this process. If you have any notes or thoughts from your previous tours, we'd love to see them. Thanks and good luck!

  3. 9:35 AM, thanks for the suggestions of schools out West. I'll definitely check out Jefferson, that's not that far from us. And I'd like to hit the others if I have time. I think we'll try to take a look at Commodore Sloat as well--have you heard anything one way or another?

    9:04 AM, care to tell us where your child ended up? Anywhere near me?

  4. Sunset, Key and Feinstein are awesome. Liked a lot more than Jefferson or Sloat.

  5. I'm not sure why the previous commenter made a negative comment about Sloat. I have sent two kids through Sloat -- we are in our eighth collective year there -- and have loved it. It is a warm, inclusive school with a great principal and a very strong parent teacher group. I highly recommend it.

  6. Was not meant to be negative comment. Just commenting on my preference for schools within the area based on various factors. Sloat was on our list and would have been happy with it. Just liked others better. No offense intended.

  7. You'll be wasting your money at Brandeis, IMHO. Admittedly, the Hebrew studies are great, but in most other areas, the school actually lags behind the best public schools in the city (e.g. Clarendon, Rooftop, Grattan, etc.) academically.

  8. We just started at Lakeshore and love it. Its worth touring according to your criteria- has really good arts and science. The science gets focused through outdoor education because of the amazing gardening program and Lake Merced. I have noticed that its not on too many lists on this blog- not currently an It school though it has been in the past. I read the commentary around it and I just have to say there are a really great group of dedicated parents there this year and also that many of the teachers have deep roots there having sent their own children there. Also, the penman leadership has been replaced this year so hoping for some changes there too.