Tuesday, October 28, 2014

School Tour: Sherman

If there is a dream school in my list of schools - it is Sherman.

The dream is sweetened by the fact that if we stick it out till September, we will get a spot. On the tour, they told us that Sherman clears its wait list every year by September. They have done it for last several years ( 10 yrs if I recall them saying correctly).

With that assurance (any is gravy in this unpredictable SFUSD lottery!), here are my notes from Sherman tour.

1. School building and Premises
The school building is a little dated and old. Not as new ( new looking like Claire Lilienthal or New Traditions). There are 2 playgrounds - lower (which was resurfaced over summer) and upper yard and an outdoor garden.

The school had many different entrances but now they are all fenced off except one with a ramp access that is monitored.

The outdoor garden is huge with a new compass/sun dial and vegetable garden. It has a lovely little water fountain/pond. The garden is open during the day for the kids to sit and have lunch or sit at during recess if they don't want to be with other kids in the noisy playground.

I also liked that they have a separate cafeteria and auditorium. They have a large library which seemed very well stocked.

We didn't actually see the classes in action as that would have disturbed the kids but the classrooms looked roomy, bright and kids looked actively engaged.

2. Focus on Reading, Writing and Comprehension

With its engagement with reading partners and focus on reading/writing and comprehension, the entire school's philosophy is focusing on literacy/comprehension helps in Maths and Science. The school has seen their scores increase in Math's and Science since they focused on literacy/reading/comprehension.

I saw kids in 1st and 3rd grade focused on reading in their classrooms.

The kids looked engaged and happy in classrooms. They were not "disinterested/ too quiet like my experience in other school. They were certainly loud/boisterous on playground ( as I would expect them to be!)

3. Small class room sizes

The PTA raises a ton of money ( I believe ~ 300,000) of which a major chunk is spent to keep the class size of 22 students in 4th and 5th grade. I didn't quite follow the Math but apparently PTA/school writes a check to School district which in turn staffs 2 extra teachers at the school.

4. Math's/Science/Tech

Sherman has a full Tech lab as well I believe they are working on integrating tech in curriculum/classroom. They are also focusing on Science and Math as that is one area of improvement.  They teach science and leverage their outdoor garden to teach.

5. PTA
If a school has a dynamic strong PTA, I felt it here. There are stories of parents who banded together to improve the school. The pioneering parents ( I met one of them during the SFUSD Fair and she impressed me much!) are now turning around Marina Middle School.

The current PTA is clear in its goals and are driven to make them happen. I liked that they were vocal, had a great rapport with the Principal and were very accommodating to working parents. Morning PTA ( just after drop' offers) to encourage participation, family style kids events ( soccer practice where parents hang out with wine), homework help as part of after school program etc.

After care is till ~ 6:00 with variety of seasonal activities.

I visited Sherman during the Halloween event and saw the community in action. My son loved the huge slide and the haunted house for the kids.

The woman manning the giant 3 story tall slide told me about the school, the emphasis on reading/writing and how they are training teachers to teach their kids science and maths better. Her kids love it there. I saw another parent watering the garden on a weekend.

My husband went on a self directed tour during Halloween event as he missed the actual tour. He could peep inside classrooms and take a look around. He spoke to few parents during the SFUSD and Halloween event and came away with the same impressions that I had on the tour.

This is one PTA that loves their school and know how to market their school well.  Very dynamic, engaged and vocal PTA members.

As far as my son, whenever he hears us we discuss schools and Kindergarten at home, he asks me "Mamma, Sherman?"

I do hope for his sake we make it in. He is already sold on the school that has the 3 story slide!

I will have to deal with the anxiety and stress of waiting it out till the 5th round! Or even the week after the school begins.

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