Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mini Reviews: Jefferson, Miraloma and Adda Clevenger

Before joining as a guest blogger, I always read the SFKfile reviews wondering if had been on the same tour, would I walk away with the same impression.  So far, I am amazed at how similar my views of the schools are to past reviewers.  I assume most of this has to do with how each school structures their individual tour and what items they focus on.  Some schools love to focus in on their specific programs while others simply highlight the activities offered in every SFUSD elementary school.  The tours also are limited in the amount of detail they can provide. The reviews (and comments) tend to change a bit with more familiarity – parents at a school often can almost always provide a deeper understanding as to what is happening at the school, but even those opinion can vary.   Below are a few mini-reviews for the tours from the previous week. I urge you to read the linked articles and their comments for a more thorough review.

Last year, Sunrise Sunset toured Jefferson and provided a great review.  I’ll follow-up on her comments and re-iterate that Jefferson was a great little surprise.  I know parents at this school and had heard great things about it – from the involved parental community to the dedicated teachers. The building itself is charming – and feels small even though there are over 500 students (4 kinder classes!).  There are two play areas (one used for kindergarten classes / kinder drop off and a large one for the older students).  They have a full time gardener and the school grows enough food to hold a mini “farmer’s market” several times a year!

The school does have a strong “urban” feel as it is located with one side of the building on 19th Avenue.  There is a lot of traffic around, but the school seems secure and well-planned.

Given the space constraints of the smaller campus, the auditorium is also used as the gym.  This seems to work fine.  On my tour, we were able to see students running about and enjoying the challenge if jumping over cones.

During the tour, the principle called out the need for improving the technology available in the school and that this would be the next major PTA focus for the coming year.  The school has a few older laptop carts, but most classrooms did not have laptops for teachers or students.  To me, tech was definitely missing in comparison to other SFUSD elementary schools.  I did not see any modern computers nor smart boards in classrooms.  Given California’s new school testing (which requires access to computers to complete), Jefferson will need to address this issue quickly.  I trust the school will be able to raise enough funds to update the tech without impacting other programs.

Overall, Jefferson is definitely worth a look.

Miraloma offers a self-guided tour of the school, complete with a podcast to guide you along  (You can listen to it here.  The school to me was the platonic ideal of a neighborhood school.  Now, this may have been due to the fact that there was a PTA School Clean-up day happening during the tour and we were able to get a different view, but the school had a very strong community vibe about it.  Every class had technology both new and old computers and smart boards.  Classrooms were large (and some were a little cluttered) but most felt clean, bright and appropriate for the grade level.

The school is one of the few predominately white schools in the district with around 52% of the students being white.  In speaking with the Principal, he mentioned how he continues to hope to pull in more diversity to match the City’s demographics.  Of the schools I’ve toured to date, this was the first where the administration openly mentioned diversity.  As an LBGT parent, I was happily shocked to see a rainbow flag immediately upon entering.  In another area of the school, posters celebrating LGBT families were also visible.  The school obviously prides itself on acknowledging the different family structures that exist in every school.

Kindergartners have a great, self-contained play area outside and huge classrooms.  There was a great mix of art, play areas, and academics in each room.  The school has a large gymnasium (with climbing wall), cafeteria and an auditorium!  The school is about to undertake extensive renovations which will make the facilities even nicer.

The PTA is active and raises around $300K per year – with most of the funds raised through an auction and a FunRun.  I love that they sponsor a run for the community.

Miraloma has become a highly requested school … and I can clearly see why.  Getting to Miraloma is not the easiest for us – but is not that far off our normal commute pattern.   I worry about the traffic getting to the school up the curvy roads (and my need to try a few test runs).  That being said, Miraloma is a school for which I would go out of my way.

I highly recommend reading Kate’s review from 2007 as well as visiting Miraloma’s web page for more info.

Adda Clevenger
Adda Clevenger is a private, performance arts based school in the Mission/Noe Valley area.  The school has been reviewed here to differing opinions:  positive review / negative review.  I didn’t know much about the school, but have learned heard for other parents how much their kids love the school.  Since our kid is a natural performer/musician, we put the school on our list.

To begin with, we did not “tour” Adda Clevenger.  Before you can tour, you must attend one of their events to experience the performance art aspect of the school.  We attended the Harvest Fest which had an admission of $10/person. After this visit, we were then given the secret info for an actual tour.  While I don’t mind fundraisers – and would have happily paid to see the students perform – it felt strange to do so as part of the required admissions process.

We were able to walk around the school freely and peer into classrooms.  The building is basically a nice auditorium with classrooms on the level above.   There is a separate area which was functioning as the art gallery, but normally is the gymnastics room.  There was one room which definitely was a kindergarten space, but all of the students move from space to space throughout the day.

I was very happy to watch some of the performances and the kids definitely had both talent and passion for their art.   I could tell that for the right kid, Adda Clevenger could be perfect.  However, I didn’t find anything to make me believe it would be right for ours.   I really can’t put my finger on what it was that was lacking or missing, but the experience just didn’t pull me in enough compared to the other schools I have already seen.

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