Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thinking Ahead

Some of us are still waiting for 2013-2014 school year to pan out and other are gearing up for their school search for the following year. For those of you about to start you search, are you feeling ready?  knowledgeable?

Some  things I did that I found to be helpful were:

  • I created a sheet with all of my questions and made sure each question was answered on every tour. this helped for side by side comparison
  • I read through the school's website so I wasn't asking questions like "when does school start".
  • I took pictures on each tour to help me remember (by the end of tours they all jumbled together)
  • I got contact information for the principal and someone from the PTA/PAC
  • I scheduled tours right away (as some fill up).
  • I showed up even if I had not signed up (and was never turned away)
  • I re-toured some schools that I had toured early on

I quickly learned that not all tours are equal and I found it hard not judge the school based on the tour.

We are working to create a more user friendly interface. As I've said before, we are full-time parents with full-time job working hard to get the site updated as soon as possible. We will also be posting asking for for bloggers for the upcoming school year.


  1. I have taken the advice of readers here and started a blog of my own. I hope that those who want to post on issues other than those specifically related to school search will use my blog or other avenues to express their views and leave the good people of K Files alone.

    My blog is here

    Here is an excerpt from my latest post:

    As witnessed on another blog, SF K Files, student assignment raises deep political divides within the parent community, adding to what I like to think of as "education fatigue". In this milieu, centered around the misguided policies of diversity over achievement, the most important education issues go by the wayside. Parents, concerned with getting a boarding pass, forget to notice whether the ship is seaworthy. They have a refugee mentality. They're just glad to have passed go with the lottery while the assignment game losers beat it out of town or head to the private schools.

  2. I would have posted this is the Wait Pool thread but it looks like it's closed. New wait pool lists are published this Friday. Is there really any movement expected? I'm sort of assuming nothing substantial will happen until school starts. If, by some miracle, there are open spots to be filled in this round, do letters go out on Friday? If you see that your wait pool has gotten smaller in the last month, i there any point in calling EPC on Friday to see if the spot is yours or would you know by then?

    1. Notification date is July 26; presumably only 'winners' will be notified (as with Round 3); all others will stay in the waiting pool for the magic first-week-of-school shuffle.

      Regarding that shuffle I wrote the blog info email suggesting a topic on how that goes down, exactly (the offering up of unclaimed spots because of first-week-of-school no-shows)... but it's not been posted yet.

      In particular I was hoping for first-hand accounts of people who have received reassignment through that process -- I'm wondering,
      - when the district called -- first week? second? later?
      - whether there was an option to decline the transfer (I know it's allegedly automatic, but I have heard anecdotes of people being offered a *choice* of whether to accept/decline)
      - what the process and timing requirements for acceptance were -- was any paperwork or appearance at either the new school or EPC was required, or whether it was a simple matter of showing up the next day at the 'new' school?

      Personally curious since my wife and I are considering a trip that would take us out of town the second week of school, and we're trying to sort out if we need to be able to be back in SF with hours' notice in person or not, to accept a transfer...!

    2. (I'm 1:58) Those are all great questions that I would love to hear responses on as well.

      I think I read the "Key Dates" page wrong ( but I think 2:26 did as well. . It says waiting pool numbers are posted on the website on the 19th but Round 4 notification isn't until August 9. Lowell placement notification is July 26.

      So I have no idea what the value of posting the wait pool information is on July 19.

    3. The latest wait pool numbers are posted a week before the deadline to change your request for Round 4. This allows families to change or submit a wait pool request based on the latest numbers.

      July 19 - latest wait pool numbers published.
      July 26 - last day to change or submit a wait pool request for Round 4
      Aug 9 - Round 4 notification.

      I believe that if you get in on Round 4, it's via a letter, just like Round 3, and you just have to show up on the first day of school to register. The keep-your-cell-phone-on shuffle starts with the 3 day count.

      Could anything be more crazy-making?

    4. That's very helpful. Thanks for the insight. We'll be out of town in the beginning of August and now I don't have to worry about missing something during that time.

    5. SFGeekmom, are you going to final round to try for public, or are you sticking with SFFS? I've heard SFFS has a few oversubscribed families for their two K families so they are expecting (hoping?) that 1-2 will drop out to last minute public school success or change of heart. Do you know from YB if that's true? Does that mean they will not go to their waitlist if they already have a too full class? I ask because my friend has a son who still has no private school admissions (is backed up at parochial) but is on a few waitlists like SFFS.

    6. There are 44 K students registered at SFFS, two classes of 22. Doesn't look over enrolled.

    7. What is your source 9:51?

    8. Class roster.

  3. thank you for keeping up the blog 1+1! I was lurking last year and now it's MY TURN! It's going to be a crazy and stressful fall.

  4. Since we are excitedly starting our year at our first choice independent, I want to pass on some parting advice about the private school search journey for us, since I turned to this blog so much during the early stages of my search and I'd like to give some insight if I can ...

    For those just beginning their research, here's my advice solely based on my own experience.

    1) Trust your gut. Your gut will get muddled many times during the process, particularly when you let other opinions and biases creep in. I felt it several times while reading this blog! But try your best to remember, why you're doing this and what you want to get out of it for your child ultimately.

    2) Your child may change and develop differently than you expect even while you're mid-way through the process. If you research schools 2 years before you apply, as I did, you may find your 5 year old quite different than the one you were initially researching schools for. You should focus on schools that serve the 5 year old, your child is becoming, and not the 3 year old she or he was.

    3) Tours are only OK sources of information. They are oversubscribed, inherently stressful due to the amped up and competitive feel that comes with touring a school that has fewer places than desired families. Take it in stride, there is some useful information and it is your first impression of the school, but by no means is it any replica of how that school will feel like if you actually enroll. Other prospective parents can be very misleading versus actual parent community. My advice is to find some way to view the school again in a more intimate arena (a diversity evening event which tends to be smaller for schools that split evening sessions into smaller events, if you have a friend who is a family there, ask if you can attend a smaller parent ed event at the school before you enroll, try to go to birthday parties of kids who are there if you know families with older children. This was enormously helpful to us.

    4) Be yourself. Dress the way you normally do to open houses, tours and interviews. Wear clean clothes but by no means dress up. You'll set the wrong impression of your family, and you want to be accepted for the family you are (not the family you think you should be).

    5) Put your kid first. Don't worry where your friends are going, and don't focus on the school everyone else at your preschool thinks is a better fit for you. You need to solve for your kid, your family only and early education matters so much.

    6) Don't believe rumors and "urban myths" about schools. Do your own research. The most valuable piece of insight comes from actual parents. Many schools provide lists of parents who volunteer to answer questions. don't be shy. Call them, and ask your friends if you can speak to any of their friends who know parents at schools you're interested in. You can ask questions you can't ask at tours.

    7) Not everything you're supposed to do matters. Letters of Recommendation and first choice letters may matter to some, but they didn't matter to us! We didn't write them or get them and still we got into SF Day, Town, and Friends! Making a sincere connection with ADs and writing simple letters of thanks seemed to be effective. No backroom dealings were necessary for us.

    8) Pace yourself. Application season can feel immersive. Don't listen to the parents in your preschool too much, as they really don't know any better than you do. Do what you probably did with preschool, vet parents who go there and also ask if you can speak to teachers. They provide much better information!

    9) There is more than one perfect school for your child. We found 3-4. Decision week can be very hard if you get lucky in the process, as we were humbled to be. We found that week very hard to come to a conclusion actually and much harder than the weeks/months that preceded it.

    Good luck to you all!

    1. great post, thank you! this is why this blog can still be useful. I'm going to print out this advice as were applying for 2014 year, and independents will be part of the equation for us. it's given me more faith that we could have a happy ending too as we don't have any connections.

    2. 6:49 posting again and meant to ask 6:24 the following:

      which school did you pick?

    3. Thank you very much. We chose SF Day ultimately, but really liked all the 5 schools we applied to. As I said before, there's more than one great school for each child and for us it really felt like it was a waste of energy to rank them until we learned where we actually got in. We're thrilled about the outcome, but really we would have been thrilled with any of the 5 choices we applied to.

    4. New potential K applicant here and avid K file reader for (gulp!) 2 years. Thanks so much for your informative post!

      Anyone else have pearls of wisdom?

    5. Thanks 6:24! Completely agree. I don't think I even wrote thank you notes.

      The best question I was asked when deciding on schools was: "Where will they thrive?"

      Three more thoughts:
      1. The school that's the best fit for your child may be different from the one you wish you'd had as a child.

      2. Don't worry about where their grads go to college. Nor would I choose private over public, or vice versa, to maximize a kindergartener's chance of getting into an Ivy League or Stanford 12 years from now.

      Why? Here's an informative interview with the director of college counseling at Andover, one of the top 2-3 prep schools in the US, about college admissions today. It's on page 46.

      3. It's not a forever decision. Many families switch schools in elementary, and it's fine.

  5. Yup, thanks 6:24 & SFGeek! Good advice all around.

  6. To the great set of suggestions above, I would add the following:

    (1) Put the date of the SFUSD school fair on your calendar, prearrange childcare (too overwhelming to bring the little darlings), and try to arrive as early as possible. Parking at the event has been notoriously limited in the past, so look into possible MUNI routes for your round trip.

    (2) Find out when JCC is having their school fair. This event is a great resource for independent schools.

    (3) There are many schools in SF associated with religions, primarily Catholic, but other religions as well. These schools offer a good education and are less expensive than independent schools.

    (4) If you have energy and time, tour your top-choice schools. Or realizing it is a lottery, forget the tours & angst, make yourself a gin&tonic, light the incense, crank up the stereo, and simply list all the schools that catch your fancy in order of preference. Below your top choices, add all the trophy's, hidden gems, up-and-comers, and even a few has been--you need this filler for their fabled swap value. Done! Drop off form at EPC.

    (5) If you are data driven, believe that you have some control over the assignment process, and LOVE touring schools, then draw a 2-mile radius (give or take a mile, depending on your tolerance level) around your home. List all the schools in this area to create a secondary list. If time permits after visiting your top-choice list, consider visiting (or at least researching) schools on your secondary list. Since the lottery assignment defaults to the school closest to your home with openings, you will likely be assigned a school in this 2-3 mile radius when you don't get any of your choices. Lo' and behold, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that there are some wonderful schools in SF with very little buzz, and you might even find yourself rethinking your top choices.

    (6) Remember that Parents for Public Schools (PPS) is your friend. Parent ambassadors have helped many families negotiate this crazy process. Keep their number handy and check their website often for news, hints, and events. Right now, they have great tips and advice on school uniforms.

  7. "this crazy process" you can say that again.

  8. Here's my story: I actually did not tour any public schools, as I knew it was a lottery, but did list 43 (you can ask for extra sheets) and tried to use every bit of advice about chronological preferences, etc. and including lesser known schools to maximize my chances. Alas, since I don't have a neighborhood tie-breaker that is helpful (I'm in Clarendon AA), I got zero choices on my list.

    For independents, I toured 7 and applied to 5, and put my time and energy into applying to those I thought I had a reasonable chance of getting into. I included 2 same-sex schools despite preference for co-ed, and no schools that had a Young Kindergarten or TK program in the same school that would presumably gobble up all the spots. I got much better results on independent (where I had a smidgeon of control) than publics (where I had none). I got into 3/5.

    Best of luck, stay realistic, and don't let anyone on this board or in your neighborhood talk you into anything but your own gut on what's best for your family and child. And great advice above too!

  9. You really didn't get a single school out of the 43 on your list? I keep wondering if there are stories out there of massive data entry error.... I met a parent recently who listed 29 and didn't get a single one on their list. Crazy!! (The family that listed 29 did get a school they think they are okay with on the second round, but they are holding on to a private school spot that they secured after going 0 for 29).

    1. I know some people have asked there be third party verification of the algorithm, but the district won't allow it. Nor will they allow EPC oversight. The district budget must be audited each year. Why not this all important process? It would cost, that's for sure. But that's what you get when you don't have transparency - distrust arising out of what might be simple bad luck. Even you, Sunrise Sunset, posed your question as if you don't believe her.

    2. Nope, we didn't get a single one. We decided to not go with Round 2, so not sure what would have happened with that.

      We decided to go for the bird in hand, and accepted our spot at Friends (we also got into both same-sex schools we applied to but really preferred co-ed so when we had the choice, it was easy one). We did not get into our first choice independent, but are delighted to be going to Friends.

      Crazy process for sure, but we're ok where we landed.

  10. So, all good advice, except let me add:

    1) If you need financial aid, apply for it. Don't misrepresent yourself as a full-freight person if you really aren't. The largest aid offer you will get is as an applicant.

    2) Know that if you are applying for aid, you chances of getting in are much diminished. Really. This does not mean you should deceive the school (which will offer you much less a year later anyway if you do deceive them). Instead:

    3) Cast your net wide. Keep in mind that the most expensive schools generally have the most aid to hand out, and don't limit yourself to schools that seem affordable for that reason alone. Apply to public, charter, private, and parochial if the latter is a reasonable option.

    4) Keep in mind that some privates are not dramatically different than publics except for better student/teacher ratios and prettier facilities. Some really are.

    5) When you get in and get an offer of aid (and don't be surprised if you only get into one place -- no financial aid applicant I have ever known has gotten multiple offers, and full-freight people often do), keep in mind that you can ask for more. They can say yes or no, but it's OK to say that the offer won't be enough that you can do it.

    6) If you really want private but can't do it for elementary, bank your $$ for middle school so you can go full-freight. Middle school seems to be where SFUSD is the weakest.

  11. Looks like the CTIP1 zones will change a bit for the 2014-15 enrollment year. See Rachel Norton's post here

    and the presentation from last night's board meeting here:

  12. For people living in Noe/Bernal/Mission/GP, I would recommend touring in this order:
    1)TECA - Thomas Edison Charter
    2) Your neighborhood school
    3) School which meet your needs in terms of location, start time, and before/after care.

    The reason why I recommend touring TECA first is that they admit on a first come, first serve basis. They are a public charter but not part of the SFUSD lottery. They also have a Spanish dual language program which is not immersion but Spanish and English 50/50 K-4. If you like TECA and put in an application at the first day they accept applications, then you will most likely get a spot at TECA. It's in a great location for Noe/Mission, has good hours, Playworks, and an after-school program. If you tour TECA first, then Alvarado, Glen Park, Sunnyside, Fairmount, BVHM, Rooftop, you'll get a good sense of the range of public schools, and if you have any interest in TECA, you'll be able to apply that first day. Look at the school hours, location, and before/after care. This aspects of a school impact your daily life. You can also look at this website to find out more about schools in the Noe/Bernal/Mission/GP area