“Kate” Makes Her Choice: Thoughts on Enrollment

“Kate” of this year’s blog sensation The SF K Files has finally made her choice: daughter “Alice” will be attending the Mandarin Immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary this fall (assuming the family is not assigned their wait pool choice, which I am guessing is Alice Fong Yu based on Kate’s glowing review of the school when she toured it). The denouement is all the more sweet for a public school advocate: by choosing Ortega, Kate turned down one of the most exclusive and sought-after private schools in the area (Marin Country Day School). Some posters on the blog think Kate is crazy for making the choice she has — others are rejoicing at the symbolic value of a parent turning down an elite private school for a threadbare but solid public school.

For the uninitiated, Kate is a pseudonym for a San Francisco mother of two who started a blog to chronicle her search for a Kindergarten and manage the anxiety she felt while going through the complexity and uncertainty of SFUSD’s enrollment process. The blog became an instant destination for other parents in Kate’s situation, as well as parents who had already made their public or private choices and wanted to weigh in and share their experiences.

Kate’s posts drew hundreds of comments, most of them anonymous, many of them heartfelt and a few quite pointed. Tempers flared and arguments raged, but what has been striking about Kate’s blog is the genuine angst all parents feel about this decision, and the thoughtfulness with which most approach it. The commenters on Kate’s blog are, admittedly, mostly middle- to upper-middle class and there is a decidedly Noe Valley slash Bernal Heights cast to the audience–in other words, not necessarily representative of the City as a whole.

That said, there is still much that I got from the months-long discussion, and I think it should be required reading for school board members and managers at the Educational Placement Center. I saw many areas where parents needed better information and better customer service, and saw again just how complex the process is to explain and fully understand. I saw the emotion and raw anxiety that parents were experiencing, and came away convinced that we need a more transparent system that offers parents more certainty even as we redouble our efforts to ensure equitable and fair access to schools across the City.

At the moment, however, I am rejoicing that Kate will be among the larger community of public school parents come the fall, and I congratulate her on making a truly considered, thoughtful choice on where her daughter will attend Kindergarten.

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