As promised, tonight district staff unveiled the draft maps of attendance areas and middle school feeder patterns. I don’t have electronic copies of the maps, but they should be posted at the following site by tomorrow: www.sfusd.edu/Enroll
Tonight’s meeting was televised, and while you won’t be able to make out the teensy tiny maps on from the telecast, there was some interesting discussion and public comment.
Generally, I didn’t feel there were many huge surprises, or attendance areas that felt terribly “gerrymandered.” Parents from McKinley Elementary were on hand to protest the proposal that their school would feed into Everett Middle School; another group of parents pushing for a neighborhood-only school assignment scheme also came to speak for public comment.
The McKinley comments were difficult for me, because it’s a community I feel very connected to. My own daughter attended a pre-K class at McKinley for two years; more recently I have been honored to be a judge at McKinley’s last two DogFest fundraisers (a lovely and fun annual event). I also try to never miss the school’s annual Junior Olympics celebration, which manages to be adorable, fun and uplifting all at the same time. I understand that parents at McKinley have worked tremendously hard to boost enrollment at their school (a few years after my daughter went on to Kindergarten, McKinley ended up on the district’s dreaded closure list and had to “prove” it could attract more students in order to get off the list — thank goodness we don’t have a closure list anymore!). I also understand that Everett Middle School is on the state’s own dreaded list of persistently underperforming schools, so for many parents enrolling at Everett represents a leap of faith — trust that the school district can and will turn the school around. On the other hand, the whole reason we wrote middle school feeder patterns into the new assignment plan was to give families the reassurance that their child’s peer group would remain stable during the transition to middle school. As Commissioner Wynns said tonight, “Everett will be McKinley,” if students follow the feeder patterns. (Note to the neighborhood schools people: Everett is McKinley’s neighborhood school, less than three-quarters of a mile away according to Google Maps).
I didn’t like hearing McKinley parents classify Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy (another elementary school designated to feed into Everett) as “low-performing” — its API has steadily risen in recent years and is now at 783, up from 768 last year. (McKinley is at 810 this year — up from 786 last year. Does that mean that last year McKinley parents thought their school was low-performing? I doubt it).
I also didn’t like hearing some McKinley parents advocating for other high-performing schools to be sent to Everett — either instead of or alongside their own children.
Finally, Everett has an enormous opportunity in the next few years that is represented by SFUSD’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding request poised for approval by the State Board of Education next week. SFUSD’s SIG grant originally asked for $48 million in funding for SFUSD’s 10 persistently underperforming schools; we are likely to be granted $45 million, with well over $3 million of it going towards our turnaround plan for Everett in the next three years. I understand that people are worried and distrustful that SFUSD can turn around an underperforming school — but more expertise, focus and MONEY is going into Everett this year, and I do believe it will make a difference.
Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired, and there will be many more opportunities to respond to the draft attendance areas/feeder patterns — several community meetings are planned and there is also an online survey (staff asked for people who fill out the survey to be very specific in their feedback, naming schools and street names if at all possible, so that the feedback can be more easily compiled). Once the enrollment web site is live, let me know your thoughts in the comments.