Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bernal mom of one

We have one daughter and I’ve made it my mission to do anything in my power for her to love school. Perhaps this statement got a roll of the eye but I am actually uncharacteristically calm about this whole process and know she will end up somewhere fabulous! In my mind, loving school equals a love for learning. Perhaps I should be more concerned about test scores when considering schools but I am not. I am not overly concerned about the academic portion – that might sound odd but I know she will learn wherever she ends up.
My husband’s opinion is “she will go to school, learn and be happy”. He is the product of a 100% public education (kinder to college) and the idea of private school (i.e., paying for school) is foreign to him. He is, however, on board with considering both options. I, on the other hand, was privately educated my whole life (kinder to postgrad) with high school being boarding school. My husband loved school, I hated it.
I should also add (in full disclosure) that for my job I work with a lot of these schools – public and private; however, I am not an employee of either. I come to this process with some knowledge – for better or worse.

The schools we have chosen to tour are based on NO mathematical equation other than “I think I like the sound of that school”. 

Also, my “strategy” is to not even go for the rooftops, clarendons, etc. I am sure great schools but what are our chances of getting in (and I want this to be over in March).
I have a list of pros/cons of public versus private which I am happy to share as well but I figured this wasn’t the forum?

· Location– we live in the outer reaches of Bernal. I work in this area and my husband works south. I looked at a map and crossed out all but one school that did not fit into our radius
· Community and a place that nurture and support her as she tries to become the person she is (does that exist? Is it everywhere? Is it nowhere?)
· K-8 –(me and everyone else) I don’t want a K-8 just because of convenience. I want a K-8 because the idea of a 12ish year old starting somewhere new sounds horrific to me (it was horrific for me)
· A small(er) school
· A hidden gem – one that we have a decent shot of getting into on the first go-around. I want to be in done in March
· We are open to language immersion
· Later start time
Our publics are:
Creative Arts Charter – this is the one school outside of our radius. Love the k-8 and our daughter is performer. I have high hopes for this school
Buena Vista – K-8 and great location for us. Love the hours (9:30 – 3:30)
Thomas Edison Charter – again, location and K-8
Glen Park - great location. New principal…things are looking up!
Daniel Webster – trying to become a K-8
Starr King Immersion
Flynn – our neighborhood school

Our privates: (again, you will see location being the first determining factor)

Alta Vista – already toured and will post commentary in next post
Live Oak
San Francisco Friends School
Adda Clevenger – don’t know much about this school yet other than we love the location and the lower price tag. As I mentioned we have a performer on our hands so I am intrigued.

Are you passionate about any of these schools? Why?

Are you passionate about a school in Bernal/Mission/Noe/Glen Park/Potrero corridor that I am missing?


  1. We were at webster last year (moved out of SF for work reasons). If you are looking for community, has it in spades. Great k teacher for the GE program
    I know many families who love Flynn for the same reason (including on with a now middle schooler who went through the immersion program there)
    I think you will find a school that you love in that.
    I have to say that when I toured live oak I felt underdressed ad embarrassed of my Target sweater, and this was compared to some of the students, let alone te parents. I didn't think my wallet could handle keeping my daughter attired to the level of her peers!

  2. You should also consider Sunnyside. It's not much farther away than Glen Park, and it's got a fantastic community (including lots of Bernal families).

  3. You have to consider, overwhelmingly middle to upper class whites go private, go to the West side, or move, which really hurts minorities and shows SF is not as liberal a City as we claim. We go from about 45% of SF to about 12-15% of public schools. Especially in the part of town you live in, if we are to be a nation of equal opportunity, all are created equally, it's important that the kids in the projects and blue collar areas have an equal opportunity. This doesn't happen if children are segregated during their childhood by parental income, and for the most part they are, so I would urge public. Nothing is more hardcore Republican than the idea that children should be segregated by parental income. Jimmy Carter had it right.

    Additionally, Lowell is better than any high school north of LA, really north of Orange County, public or private, and this is backed by the stats. Our public schools are good. I'd look into Spanish Immersion.

  4. I love healthy, to play the devil's advocate here - if we end up at private school - we will be the minority. not in color, not in race but in socia-economic class. IF we end up at private school we have access to money, invested by my great-grandfather for the sole purpose to spent for education. this money is not allowed to be used for anything else. so, yes, there is money there for that but it doesnt put us on par with others financially.

    I guess we would be considered middle class - certainly middle class by the country's standards..not sure about middle class in SF.

  5. It's just that there are a lot of schools that, no matter how good the teachers, are left behind because the consensus becomes that they are bad. This happened to Cobb in Pacific Heights. There are so many resources there, it would quickly be one of the best in the City but the local people would, with few exceptions, not go there.

    I know you are not rich, but it tends to be mostly whites who move out. If you are an African American kid taking a bus to the Marina, see the neighborhood is clearly nearly all white, and then the public school is 12%, you don't feel equal, which is the point behind Brown vs. Topeka, that separate but equal doesn't feel equal. I think you would be a positive influence on the public schools mentioned and they are improving. Fortunately for SF, due to attention to these issues in Universities and many professors assigning Jonathan Kozol, the percentage of limousine liberals in SF is declining and the percentage of true liberals increasing, so schools like McKinley and Balboa are going from bad to good.

    If I were you, I respect that you have that money, but I would get your kids tutors so they get ahead and get into Lowell, send them to Kumon, academic camps, and save for college. That way your great grandfather's money will help your kid be a good influence to other kids, rich, poor and middle, not segregate your child from kids who aren't fotunate enough to have a great grandfather who did this.

    You would thus help both your child and not do it at the expense of the disadvantaged.

    Also, a recent study showed, that if you control for family income, public schools do an equal job as private schools in educating kids as judged by SAT Scores and test scores. The higher private average is due to higher average income, but the average within income ranges is equal, so you can do equal for your kid and not hurt the poor with this strategy.

    You are right that you aren't upper class, but almost everyone who does this is white, so it causes caste segregation. Think about it, how many Latinos in the Mission or Excelsior or African Americans in SF have access to such a fund? So you can help your kid without hurting other kids this way.

    I think you would do right by both this way, but good luck whatever your decision is.

  6. anonymous 3:38: thank you so much for taking the time to share a very thouhtful response. I appreciate everything you are saying.

  7. Adda Clevenger seems like a pretty promising fit for you. Lower price tag that includes the cost of extra-curriculars onsite during the school day (dance class, music, drama) that may appeal to your performer girl! The school day ends at 5 pm so less need for afterschool care at additional cost, and summer camp (art/drama) is also included in the tuition. Not a fit for everyone who don't embrace the heavy emphasis on performing arts, but could be an ideal fit for your child - best of luck!

  8. anonymous today: yes, I am very curious..however, just today a friend said, "what if she changes her mind about performing" or if this is just a stage?
    I will definitely need to see about sports, etc...

  9. The public schools you mentioned are 10-20% white. Adda Clevenger requires $18,000 and is 69.1% white. You are definitely increasing, rather than decreasing, class and racial segregation in SF if you send your child there and delaying Martin Luther King's Dream, not advancing it. As for activities, expose your child to all activities and by 10 or so they'll have one they want to focus on. Go to the web site for Young Performer's Theater at Fort Mason, an after school program, this way you can put your kid in an equally good acting program at far less expense and without hurting disadvantaged minorities by depriving our public schools of much needed middle class white parents who will be involved and dedicated. You care a lot, you would really help Glen Park or the other public schools you mentioned you are considering.

    African American: 14 (8.5%)
    American Indian: 3 (1.8%)
    Asian: 19 (11.5%)
    Hispanic: 15 (9.1%)

    Pacific Islander: 0 (0%)
    Two or more races: 0 (0%)

    White: 114 (69.1%)

    Not Specified:0 (0%)

  10. I am all for my kiddo being at public school IF I feel as though her needs will be met. I have not toured any publics yet - will start next week.

    I also not have an issue with her being the minority in a school.

    My only issue is education which includes social-emotional development (first and foremost).

    these conversations are great and certainly convincing. I cant help but be curious if this is one person or multiple people posting their pro-public thoughts? doesnt really matter - just curious.

    I am also curious, are there private school supporters out there??

  11. That's one person, who took over the blog last time around and definitely has an agenda; he drove most of us away. The references to Martin Luther King's dream, Lowell, Kumon tutoring, etc. are all the same, and this person's approach to education is one-size-fits all and endlessly repetitive. Be forewarned.

    I'm not pro-private school per se, i.e., against public: I totally believe in public education, work in it, and support it with money beyond my tax dollars. But my kid goes to a private school. I looked at over a dozen publics and seven privates, and the private she is at really stood out to us. We are on *heavy* financial aid, and among the few actually middle-class people at the school. I'm quite sure we are there b/c we add diversity, and so it goes. There is pain associated with being socioeconomically and otherwise different, and some deep discussions about values in our household, but we think the education is worth it (the school is, by the way, heavy on social-emotional learning as well as powerhouse academics).

    I think some SF private schools are just like public school only with more resources -- not that impressive compared to scrappy little publics doing the same with much less. But I also think that a couple of them blow the CA public curriculum out of the water and provide a qualitatively different, and better education. You should check out everything with your own two eyes, make the decisions you think are best for your own child, and not get caught up in the stupid more-liberal-than-thou-isms on this blog.

  12. I live on your side of town and have two daughters who go to one of the private girl school on the north end of the city. I know you aren't looking at those, but I encourage you to look at all the schools on your list -- public and private -- and make the best decision for your family.

    Everyone has an opinion, and there is a lot of energy around the public/private issue, which is unfortunate, because we are all just trying to do the right thing for our kids. I have many friends in private school and many friends in public school, and where we send our kids to school is in no way an issue for us. So really, try to look past some of the more extreme opinions, because the opinion that really matters is your own.

    BTW, I have a number of friends at your neighborhood school and they are thrilled with it. They are all in the Spanish immersion program (not sure if there is a general ed track at Flynn) but they are very happy with it and their kids speak Spanish beautifully.

  13. Some of us are trying to do right by our kids but in a way that doesn't hurt less fortunate kids and perpetuate segregation and inequality. It is a real issue, the segregation we have, if you went to Cobb, then to several schools a block away, you'd agree. I live in Pacific Heights and have one child at Cobb and I'm one of the only non-black parents there. I will probably transfer to Kipp, but my wife, who went to private school in Philadelphia, is a big fan of Kozol and Jimmy Carter and has decided private school isn't social justice, so that's the decision we've made and she's learning a lot there, though in 1st Grade so it's early to report. She's reading very well and knows math well. Flynn is a good choice, I have a friend with a son there. I do know most of my neighbors feel it's unimaginable to send their kids to Cobb and treat me like I'm nuts, but if it's acceptable for black kids to go there and unimaginable for whites to go there, that says something sad about our society. There's an almost all white school 3 blocks away. If you just walk by and tally the numbers, it isn't the situation you describe where it's benign.

  14. I agree many private schools are like this but you have to remember there are private schools which go out of their way to give so many scholarships and raise donations that they actually have as high a percentage of poor and minority kids as San Francisco as a whole. Synergy is one, but there are about 10 others. I agree many private schools are mostly about keeping kids in a bubble where they only know elite kids like them, and the situation you describe in Pacific Heights/Cobb and the Marina and the schools a few blocks away is deplorable and reminiscent of Johannesburg 1985 or Mississippi 1955, but you have to keep an open mind and look at each school individually. I have had my kids in both public and private, mostly public, Synergy, Alvarado, James Lick, Lowell, Balboa. In some ways, Lowell does what you don't like, separates kids by ability and deprives other schools of smart kids. Just look at each school individually, not all private schools care more about helping the rich stay rich than social justice and some are very progressive and liberal.

    I think the best solution would be to allow parents to use the money for public schools as vouchers but only at schools which are willing to accept anyone who applies regardless of monetary concerns, so we could forcibly integrate Hamlin and schools like that but allow innovation and competition. That way, to the extent that private schools are about innovation and trying something different, they could thrive in a way that helps all kids, but to the extent that they are about segregation, they would have to stop existing in that way. I agree it's wrong to have schools 90% rich and white and 10% minority and knowing they'll be expelled if they do something wrong. But attacking all private schools is wrong. In fact, they could be part of the solution and a significant number already are, not just Synergy.

  15. Come on you guys! I don't know any private school that is mostly about keeping kids in a bubble where they only know elite kids like them. My kids go to one of those schools you are referring to. This is what made this blog cave the last time -- let's not go down that path again. Can we just agree that there are lots of different types of schools and we'll all find one that is the right fit for our kids?

  16. I meant defeat Obama and elect Romney. The thing is, you're priveleged and white, so you don't care if we don't solve racism, but many in SF rely on it being solved, and it's harder than just saying everyone do what they want and hope for magic.

  17. 10:21, I was very involved at Synergy and we had higher than the SF % of black and Latino kids and in kids in poverty. The white percentage was high as there aren't many Asians, but we had higher than the SF % of both black and Latino kids, so you don't know what you're talking about. And PACIFIC HEIGHTS IS NOT LIBERAL! They may have a gay friend and maybe even a black friend they say is "different" but the parents at Hamlin are not in any way concerned with anything liberal and most vote Republican. I don't get why you say Pacific Heights is liberal, or San Francisco for that matter, how you vote doesn't determine how liberal you are. Maybe some people feel guilty so they vote for a black guy even though their personal decisions devastate blacks. There is a core of private schools where parents volunteer, tutor kids, pay several thousand each for scholarships so the school is diverse, and are very liberal. Synergy is a lot more liberal than Lowell.

  18. Guys the old version of thesfkfiles was supposed to have a forum for debate. The new one is no debate, just information to help parents help their kids. It's not supposed to solve society's or San Francisco's inequality. A rich family can use it to choose the most elite private school and a poor single mom can use it to navigate the lottery or get free tutoring or daycare. It will never make them equal but hopefully help both to do better for their kids than if this site didn't exist. That's why there's no forum now, there's supposed to be no more debate, just practical help. Have you noticed there are no endorsements for school board? No politics!

  19. mom of three here.
    three public schools so far, Flynn, Paul Revere and Rooftop, listed in order of preference. Not all three schools would have been a perfect fit for all three kids, but I can say that Flynn and PR were 200% fulfilling "social-emotional development (first and foremost)." which is also my TOP priority.
    Who cares about top scoring morons? I want my kids to know how to fend for themselves, to see the world without socio-economic glasses and to find true friends - while growing in a SAFE and RESPECTFUL environment.

    My heart belongs to Flynn, because teachers are my heroes. They are over educated, over qualified, over committed. True, they are sometimes worn off, often beaten up by administrative policies, but they are drawing their energy from the joy of seeing our kids grow up and mature, from seing little miracles happening weekly, such as D starting reading, F being the student of the month, G's parents finding a job, and all those little events which get lost in the (irrelevant) testing game.

    I DO NOT CARE if my school tests this or that ... I only care that MY CHILD(rend) is moving forward, week after week, month after month, and year after year. I care that my child receives what he needs, such as speech therapy, reading support, exercise (PE, recess etc), decent nutrition (fresh fruits from the food bank), - and btw, that all the other children in his class are receiving the same loving treatment.

    The flaw comes from people believing that smartness is a disease that you can expose your child to so he can catch it. Good schools are not good because they do a good job, but because they self selected good students to start from. And conversely, bad schools are not bad because teachers are bad .. but because they are set so to gather the rejects from the "good" schools.

    so please please please, do NOT consider test scores (or at least do not make it a deal breaker), but rather check the following ideas:
    - education, qualification, awards (such as National Board) of the teachers.
    - stability of school (teacher retention, length of the vision spelled out in the Balanced Score Card.
    - physical safety and environment (cleanliness of hallways, of bathrooms, discipline in the cafeteria, supervision at recess)
    - parent participation (parents who believe in the school will help student respect and love their school, reducing truancy and discipline issue).
    - crucial positions: school nurse, social worker etc. Are they available? how are they helping you, how are they serving the students?

    So far, 6 years in public schools and each spring we load our guns to prepare an emergency switch to private should something happen. We keep a close eye on our private choices, and so far, we have yet to find one compelling reason to switch. We have "some" reasons, but none of them out-weights what we would loose (not talking money here).

    Hope this help.

    PS: As a next door neighbor, I witnessed some deal breaking things in one of the $$$$ top private schools in the city. PE teacher verbally abusing students to "get your a... of your bench and move your fat" (in a girl middle school - ooops for anorexia!), as well as unsupervised lunch time on the curbside with smoking, etc. It changed my priorities and gave a new meaning to social and emotional safety for my children. Please visit, but also just park in front of a considered school and spy for a few hours. Take notes and bring questions to the tour! That's how you will find Ze school for your child.

  20. anonymous mom of three: thanks so much for some great suggestions!

    I am really excited about the idea of loving Flynn - yaay for a 2 second walk to school!! looking forward to visiting.

    Test scores mean nothing to me and have zero play in where we end up.

  21. Maybe look at Mission Prep, which is also a charter. SF Community School, which is an alternative public school, Revere which is K-8 Spanish Immersion, J. Serra which has an active PTA, Flynn Spanish Immersion....
    Lots of choices!

  22. Not sure where this thread is going, but here's the 411 on Adda Clevenger. This school was known for years as having a really interesting program of combining academics with theatre with all manner of extracurriculars. It was a full day type of place. For a great price. And the woman who ran it made the weather. It was her way or the highway. For my friends who were willing to let her have her way, the school worked out well. But the past few years have been hard. My three friends have now all pulled their kids out. It's hard to get a read on exactly what happened, but . . . The woman running it retired and was replaced by her son, tuition has skyrocketed - it's no longer a bargain, the lack of communication just started to be too much. Somehow for my friends the problems became too much. Does that mean it's a bad place? I don't think so. But one might want to ask tough questions.

  23. We were at Adda Clevenger three years and loved it. We had to leave due to deterioration of our personal finances. The families we know who left did so for financial reasons as well. If you can afford it and want a private school that is truly DIFFERENT and not just a comparable curriculum to public schools with nicer facilities and a more weeded-out student body, and you have an energetic kid who loves to perform, Adda could be a great fit for that kid. Adda met our kid at his level academically and we loved watching him grow there. The long day with its combined schedule of academics, music, dance, PE/gymnastics and studio art was a great fit for his high-energy personality. The small classes with a teacher and aide in each room at the lower grades gave him the support he needed to behave and learn. He has been happy at his new school too, and it has helped him in different ways, but he has not thrived in a more typical school (shorter school day with far less physical and creative activity) the way he did at Adda. It's definitely not for every family or every kid, but it's ideal for some, especially if parents work full time and you live nearby or your commute path takes you to or from the Peninsula. I agree with the previous poster--don't be afraid to ask hard questions. But if it sounds like a fit and it's in your price range, keep an open mind. I have heard there have been some bumps as leadership of the school has transitioned from the founder to her son, but parent communications are improving, parent feedback and involvement are more welcome, and some academic areas that had become weak are being shored up--but I can't report first-hand.

  24. Definitely look to Sunnyside. There's a sizable Bernal community there, and it's just off 280. It has really taken off with regards to parent involvement and therefore "extras." (My K child gets DANCE every week!)

    It's great going into the lottery with positive feelings about your attendance area school.

  25. We love Creative Arts Charter School. I love that it's K-8 for the reason you mentioned above. I love their Responsive Classroom approach, very similar to some of the more progressive private schools I toured. I love the arts-integrated, project-based curriculum that affords the children the right to not only what they *have* to have per public school standards plus what they are really interested in. If the kids are really into a project, our teacher can tweak her schedule and make that particular unit last longer and expand it, versus some schools requiring teachers to stick to a certain curriculum no matter where the class is at. I like that my 1st grader gets dance, visual art and music instruction in a small-group setting every P.E. with a real P.E. teacher. Plus the school has a very tight-knit community feel and I know that other people are looking out for our son and want to see him real his potential. If you have any questions about CACS, let me know. or 415-939-4616.

  26. *reach* his potential...sorry - typo above!

  27. We are quite happy at Starr King immersion. My sons love it there. They have had wonderful teachers and friends, and are excited about going to school. Learning Chinese is quite difficult (especially writing characters) but it can also be very rewarding, and they really feel special to be able to speak the language. I understand your concerns about middle school but the Starr King graduates who just started the first Mandarin immersion class at Aptos Middle School are thrilled to be there and are with their former Starr King classmates for two periods of immersion per day, which eases the transition. If you tour Starr King, you should ask about the Stagewrite program. It starts in kindergarten with children acting out scenarios and continues all the way through 5th grade when the kids write plays that are performed by professional actors. It's a diverse school with a wonderful community and a pretty easy commute from where you live.

  28. I just read your post and realize you've probably decided by now but just in case. I have two grandchildren at San Francisco Friends School. They love it there and their parents are very happy with the school. It hasn't been perfect but the school has been amazing at facing issues (income stratification, bullying, gender bias) and I think successful at improving what needs change. Would love to hear what school you chose and why.