Thursday, December 19, 2013

DadintheFog - Dianne Feinstein Tour

We received the best Christmas present ever a few weeks early this year:  We have completed all of our kindergarten tours and can now chill over the holidays.  Between my husband and me, we toured 17 schools and attended multiple open houses, teacher panels, school events, and kindergarten strategy meetings.

In the end, our neighborhood school – Dianne Feinstein – was quite possibly our favorite public school.  Without a doubt, Dianne Feinstein is one of the nicest buildings in the district.  The building is only 8 years old and replaced the former Parkside Elementary.  The space is extremely green in design, with natural light throughout.  The day of our tour was dark and stormy, but inside the space still felt bright and welcoming.  The building and classrooms are large, with a beautiful multipurpose room (including stage), art room, huge outdoor play area and a modern library complete with large computer lab.

Principal Michelle Chang has been at the school since it opened and hired all of the staff.  She spoke very eloquently on her vision for the school.  The school utilizes the Caring School Community curriculum in addition to Restorative Practices and Kimochis (feelings based role-play) to help develop their intellectual and emotional cores while engaging the students directly with the school.  They are already in their first year of implementing Common Core for English, with teachers gaining more freedom in their daily lesson plans.   The school focuses on differential learning and she often spoke of ensuring that all kids at level or above.

Principal Chang was a scientist prior to becoming a teacher and brings her love of science to the school.  All of the upper grade teachers are “Wise Trained” in science via collaboration with UCSF.  Several teachers have also engaged with Stanford on science and writing course.

The school has a strong arts program and kids are offered 16 weeks each of visual art, music, creative writing, dance and movement.  They have an outdoor/garden instructor.  Overall, the school looked great, felt great and hit most of our requirements.  The parent tour guide obviously loved the school and felt it met her family’s needs.

My only concerns for the school stem from the aftercare and after school enrichment.  GLO provides the aftercare and offers several options for enrichment classes.  The PTA also provides enrichment through a Mandarin program (no language requirement) and a Russian Heritage program (must be fluent in Russian). For our family, we would love to see Spanish as an option. However, as with all of the other schools on the West side, Spanish is not offered.  Additionally, we heard rumors during our tours of division within the PTA between the two programs.  But when questioned directly, those providing the rumors never could provide specifics.  (If any current parents have info, please add your comments …)

I really wish we would have been able to tour this school earlier in the process.  The tour season started at Dianne Feinstein later than at most other schools, and by the time the sign-up was available online, we were left with a fairly late date.  If we would have seen our neighborhood school earlier, we probably would have trimmed our tour list substantially.

DadintheFog Statistics:
4 Kindergarten Classes (88 spots, around spaces 39 taken by siblings)
School Enrollment:  520 students
Times:  7:50 am to 1:50 pm  (7:30 am to 7:50 am drop off)
Aftercare:  GLO, PTA managed Enrichment programs
Total Requests (Fall 2013 Start, Round 1):  656  (117 in 1st Choice)
API Score (Growth 2013):  892
Ethnic Breakdown (from API):             
                African American                                          4%
                American Indian/Alaskan Native:              0%
                Asian:                                                           35%
                Filipino:                                                         3%
                Hispanic/Latino:                                          10%
                Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander:             1%
                White:                                                           35%
                2 or More Races:                                           5%
English Learners:                                           21%
Free/Reduced Lunch Eligible:                     34%
Parents Completing College/Grad School: 43% / 30%
PTA Raised (per Charitycheck):  $150,986 / $470 per student

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