Wednesday, November 13, 2013

School Tour: Daniel Webster

Today I went on a tour of Daniel Webster.

Today was an early dismissal day and therefore it was a "free-dress day" and no students were in uniforms.  We met on the playground for their 8:40am circle time.  I believe this is done daily.  It's a chance for school announcements, the pledge of allegiance and their daily pledge to be the "best me today".  It was very cute and seemed like a good way to build cohesion amongst the students.

Daniel Webster definitely feels like a smaller school in terms of building size and population.  We were told there were 290 students, which makes it the smallest that I've seen on all my tours.

There are three Kindergarten classes; 2 Spanish Immersion and 1 general education.  The Spanish Immersions (SI) all seem to be roughly 85-90% of the day is taught in Spanish and Daniel Webster follows this trend.  The SI classes follow the same curriculum as the GenEd classes and sometimes the SI students will break away from their spanish teacher to focus on English with another teacher.

Kindergarteners eat lunch separate from other grades.  They have a 20 minute supervised lunch and parents can volunteer for this.  Lunch is followed by recess.  Catering is provided by Revolution Foods.

Daniel Webster seems to have a large focus on reading and writing.  That is something that is done from the beginning and the school as a whole incorporates this in to their dialogue with students.

They are also beginning a new math program which is a more "holistic" approach to math in hopes to improve test scores.

For homework kids are sent home a folder on Wednesdays that they need to return the following Tuesday.  It's supposed to be 15 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of another subject each night.  Some kids finish all of it on Wednesday afternoon.  One parent mentioned that her daughter found the activities to be "fun".  For Kinders homework slowly ramps up as they get in to the school year.

Daniel Webster seems to have a big focus on the arts, both in school and their after-school programs. They handed out a brochure with information on what is offered for each grade; dance, art, music, opera/choral music,  and drama.  It seems like the students get a lot of exposure in this regard but we didn't spend too much time on this.

The PTA raised $200k last year.  Their largest fundraiser is "Taste of Potrero".  Last year they received an extra grant that they aren't expecting going froward.  Therefore, their goal this year is to raise roughly $150k.

They did mention they have a few After School programs including Tree Frog Treks, another nearby at Jackson Park (?) and another put on by SF Parks & Recs.  They mentioned that there are enough spots for any one who is interested.

They have Playworks on site for PE and before/afterschool playtime.  It was unclear how often kids have PE.  One tour guide said she thought it was maybe 2x/week.

They also have a before school program but I don't have details on that.  They mentioned a chess class and kids are also free to play on the playground.  I don't know the earliest time you can drop off or if there is a fee to do so.

School runs from 8:40am - 2:40pm.

On the tour I thought the campus and classrooms were clean and well-organized.  The school has many murals and appears safe and small.  The classroom walls were covered in art and various projects the students had been working on.  I didn't see a computer lab on the tour altho they mentioned technology was playing a bigger and bigger role in their school.  Especially since the teachers are "young and energetic".

I also didn't see a garden but was told about it.

Their library was right next to the Kinder classes.  It seemed relatively small but easily accessible.

A few years back they were awarded $6 million for capital improvements.  That money is slated for a 2015 construction project.  Most likely the school would close and the students would be at another facility still in the same neighborhood.  It seemed like details were still being worked out.

Daniel Webster was a school that was slated to close.  It was revitalized and this year is the first year they are fully funded.  I can only imagine that with a very active parent population test scores will improve further at this school and it will continue to be a remarkable story about what parents can accomplish in their community.

I feel like I'm lacking some basic info, ie, class size, etc.  This wasn't discussed at the tour.
It seems like since parents typically ask the same questions at each tour I attend, that a smart tour guide would print out the answers on their school and distribute to every parent.  The tour guides here were mostly parents to Kinders or 1st graders and this was either their first or second tour.  I came away missing some basic info - I'm sure I could have asked but didn't want to be the parent that holds up the whole tour with questions.

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