I was warmly greeted by the head of school, Nora, and directed to the brightly painted bungalow that housed the library.
I am equating this school search to our reason house hunt - there are gong to have to be concessions, but what concessions am I willing to live with? Obviously I knew this but today it just hit me. Everything was sounding 'perfect, promising' etc and then BOOM - no foreign language! Can I be ok with this for K-8 (I don't think so).
SFC is a public, kindergarten - eighth grade school located in the Excelsior District. The school has been operating since 1972. The school is "small by design" at 290 kids. School hours are 9:15 - 3:30 for K-4/5 and 8:55 - 3:35 for 5/6 - 8th grade. School gets out at 2:15 PM on Tuesdays for staff development/collaboration. There is no formal AM program but there are at least two adults supervising on the yard starting at 8:30 AM. The after-school program is through EXCEL (5/week). The school is next to the Boys & Girls Club and that is an after-school option (but kids must be at least six years old).
SFC is teacher run and project based (only school in district with this model).
What is project-based learning?
For the second and fourth quarter , children participate in a nine-week, challenge based, project learning curriculum. During this time, the kids still have their core classes (in the AM) and the afternoons are dedicated to the project. At the end of the nine weeks, there is a project open house where the children display their projects. The next one is on Thursday, December 20th (time of day had not been set).
All of the students create a portfolio which includes all of their best work. Eighth graders have a formal portfolio presentation.
What does it mean to be teacher run?
All decisions are based on a committee and all staff are involved in school-wide decisions.The head of school is a three-year, rotating position and is someone who has been a teacher there. This is the current head of schools first year in this year. (she is a middle school math teacher)
There are mixed grade and some single grade classrooms. Class size is never more than 25 students. Classes are K, K/1, 1 - 2, 2/3, 3 - 4, 4/5, 5, etc, etc. Teachers are will children for two years.
Every teacher is trained in Balanced Literacy out of Teachers College in NY. Balanced Literacy is not a curriculum, but rather an approach or philosophy. From what I understand, SFSUD is planning on adopting this in the next few years but SFC has already been doing this for the past two year. Each classroom has their own Balanced Literacy 'library'.
SFC has been selected (as one of three) restoration practices demonstration school. Here is some more info on restorative practices. Taken from Heathier SF website: "Restorative Practices, when broadly and consistently implemented, will promote and strengthen positive school culture and enhance pro-social relationships within the school community. An improved sense of community will significantly decrease the need for suspensions, expulsions and time that students are excluded from instruction due to behavior infractions. This shift in practice will result in a culture which is inclusive, builds fair process into decision-making practices, and facilitates students learning to address the impact of their actions through a restorative approach. Students will learn to accept accountability, repair the harm their actions caused, recognize their role in maintaining a safe school environment, build upon their personal relationships in the school community and recognize their role as a positive contributing member of the school community. Ultimately, they will learn to make positive, productive, and effective choices in response to situations they may encounter in the future."
The school is a Parent Action Committee (PAC) which raises between 80-100K annually. SFC put one hundred percent of money received from SFSUD goes to teacher salaries so therefore PAC money goes to office supplies, teacher project planning days, field trips, outdoor learning opportunities.
Arts: K-6, 1/week through a 10-week artist in residence program
Library: 1/week (PT librarian)
Music: 4th grade and up
Garden: K-5, every other week
Sports: K-4/5, weekly in a shared gymnasium with the Boys & Girls Club
No foreign languages
Three of the classrooms I peeked into were working on literacy either in small group or individual instruction. I am definitely realizing that this part of the school process is telling me the least. Over and over I walk into a class and it tells me nothing. Anyway, the classrooms were large and bright.
The 4th grade class was about to start science but again were were in and out before I could gather anything.
Some interesting PROS and a few CONS...not sure which outweighs which....