In what will probably be a common occurrence, someone has started a petition urging Board of Education members to:
request that in your priorities for a new SFUSD Student Assignment process for 2010, you include at minimum a fallback option for any applicant to attend his/her neighborhood school (with all communities having an assigned school).
So far I’ve received close to 180 300 e-mails. Most of them just cut and paste the wording above, but a number of people included personal comments and opinions and I’m grateful for that since I feel obligated to open every e-mail. It’s much more instructive when people take the time to explain why they’re writing and what their individual views are.
At the same time, a discussion is going on over at sfschools about the importance of proximity in parents’ decision-making. My friend Caroline Grannan observed:
Not that long ago, what you had were many parents clamoring to get OUT of the convenient nearby school and INTO a popular alternative school, often a faraway one — or, for that matter, a similarly inconvenient private school, for which they also had to pay thousands. I know many, many such families.
In one mass example, in the mid-’90s, families in zip code 94110 got
enrollment preference for any school. Lakeshore (in the Sunset),
Clarendon (West of Twin Peaks) and Rooftop (Twin Peaks) were full of middle-class Bernal Heights families, and I know one who chose Claire Lilienthal (two campuses, Marina and Laurel Heights) too, all
exercising the 94110 preference . . . Geographical convenience was not on their radar, period.
Has a cultural shift happened among groups who do exercise a choice about where they will send their children to school? Caroline is right about the situation a decade ago. In 1997, when my nephew was ready to go to kindergarten, the closest school (literally across the street) was a no-go as far as my sister was concerned, and she sweated to get him into a popular alternative school that was a 10 to 15 minute drive away from home. Now, that spurned little school is an up-and-comer, with an involved parent body and a raring-to-go principal. It would certainly make the cut today — and not just because the school has objectively improved, but also because the perception of this school in particular and public schools in general has improved.
A little (utterly unscientific) sampling of the 23 different zip codes listed by all the people who filled out the petition seem to bear out this theory as well — 94110 (Bernal and the Mission) is virtually tied with 94122 (northern half of the Sunset) and 94114 (Noe Valley) for the most responses received. Lots of responses from Potrero Hill as well.
There were a few families in the 90s in favor of reserving seats for neighborhood families at nearby schools, but there were more families arguing for preserving choice because so few schools were deemed “acceptable.” It’s a sign of the improvement of SF schools (and, as you point out, the perception of improvement) in the last ten years that there are so many families now clamoring to go to their neighborhood school.