Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strong, Neighborhood School - ER Taylor Tour

My husband went to ER Taylor 20+ years ago. With all the nostalgia during our tour mixed in with the fact that this school is walkable from our house, that our nephew attends the school and his parents love it, and we constantly hear good things about it in our community, in full disclosure, this review is totally biased...

The tour was given by a smiley parent liaison (on staff) whose children went to ER Taylor, but are now in middle school. Initial impressions and notable observations...
  • This is a large school. There are 600+ students. 5 kindergarten classes (1 bilingual Spanish, 2 bilingual Chinese, 2 General Ed). This school is housed in a large traditional school building with a courtyard at the center where the children play. It’s charming. 
  • The students seemed “well-behaved” and interested in learning. Okay, so the parent liaison actually said well-behaved a bunch of times throughout our tour, but it looked pretty accurate to the environment. I’ve learned that some parents find this to be necessary, other parents actually don’t.
  • This is a neighborhood school. The parent liaison stressed that ER Taylor is a neighborhood school and that many kids get picked up by grandparents that live in the area. (That’s what we’re hoping will happen if we choose this school.)
  • The perks
    • There is a cute little school garden at the back of school. All the kids participate in the garden program and there is a garden teacher 
    • There is a music program for kids in 4th and 5th grade. On our tour, a class of kids were all playing the violin. They offer three other different instruments, but I didn't catch them all.  
    • Part-time librarian.
    • Art Teacher. 

We were intrigued by the high API score overall that is even higher when compared to schools of similar demographics. So one thing that I found to be very apparent throughout the tour and I find to be a real plus is that they have resources to ensure that those that are struggling academically get the support they need.  And, it seems very intentional that they also make choices that reflect their commitment to students and families who are struggling.
  • A local business man has been donating a hefty amount to the school each year, as much as $200,000 one year. The donations support a Healthy Start Office with social worker, parent liaison and after school program coordinator. The office provides mental health and support services. Students are referred to the center if they are struggling in school or teachers feel they need the services. The office helps families with other issues they face regarding immigration issues, domestic violence, etc.
  • I had a feeling that about half the parents on the tour wanted to leave after they learned that only 100 students are accepted in the on-site after school program and that they are chosen by teachers because they are struggling in school. The on-site after school program has its limitations.  They did share with us a list of about 5 other after school programs off-site that pick-up kids from school and bring them to their program.

One of our concerns was that the tour guide said that the PTA is “not that strong” and that they do not raise that much money and don’t have the manpower to pull something off like a school-community fair. She said this very matter-of-fact and I imagine it could be for a variety of reasons, but I do know that my husband and I intend to be active participants in the school wherever our child attends, but it would be nice if we didn't have to be organizers. They do have a parent volunteer opportunity every Wednesday.

And as a side note, the tour guide said that my child, who is fluent in English, could still benefit from the Spanish bilingual program there. I also spoke to the Vice Principal about this at the SFUSD Enrollment Fair and she said the same thing.

Being one of the schools we wanted to love ER Taylor will most definitely make our school list, but it might be a little lower on the list than what we had expected.  We left feeling like it was a strong, traditional neighborhood school doing a good job serving its diverse student population, but we did feel that there was something missing. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of an involved parent-community or the large-size. Maybe it had to do with not being able to hear the principal's vision for the school or that we might be more interested in Spanish-immersion... I'm not sure what it is. 

Any ER Taylor parents out there that could share your experiences?

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