Sunday, February 08, 2009

Enrollment: Tours, Process & a Shameless Plug

Most schools have added school tour dates that extend through March. For the latest list go to the School Tours and Open Houses page on the district website.

Also, the district is hosting open enrollment nights at libraries around the city. Apparently they have done this before, but I've never heard about it so I want to help spread the word.

And finally, a shameless plug for my kids' school: Pathfinder K-8. For families looking for experiential hands-on learning, some of the best teachers in the city, a supportive and friendly community, and a commitment to student growth (academic, emotional and social), there is no better place.

To learn more about expeditionary learning, our Native American focus, and what makes Pathfinder so special, read a Welcome from our School Principal. Because of my work schedule, I probably won't be participating in any of the school tours, but I am happy to talk with any interested parent. Just e-mail me and I'll set up time to either answer your questions or connect you with other Pathfinder parents who can.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'd also be interested to hear about experiences on school tours, the good and bad (and let's hope, not ugly). Did you get the information you hoped for? Did you hear anything that contradicted what you thought about enrollment, the district or a program? What underwhelmed you? What principal impressed you?

TechyMom said...

I've been on 3 SPS tours so far, and have 5 to go. All of the tours I've been on so far have been well-organized with a talk by the principal, lots of handouts, knowledgeable parent tour guides, etc. Montlake had coffee and yummy homemake muffins. Here are my impressions so far:

1) Loved TOPS. A great balance of different subject matter. I liked the city school idea, of integrating learning opportunities around Seattle. The tour guides knew what they were talking about. They have an extra part-time teacher to reduce K class size for part of the day. There's a wide range of after-school classes. TOPS was the first public school we toured, and it compared quite well with the private schools.

2) Liked Montlake. Has a small, family feel to it. They have some extra teachers to reduce class size for basic skills classes. The technology teacher was really excited about what he was doing. The librarian was doing Junior Great Books with kids in the hallway. The principal makes home visits. They have no reading acheivement gap. Personally, I like the funky old building, with its intact woodwork, big windows and light-filled hallways. Did you know that their portables have hardwood floors and that their lunch room is the orginal one-room school house?

3) Wasn't impressed with Stevens. This surprised me. Before the tours, based on reputation and subject matter offerings, Stevens had been my second choice behind TOPS. But, when I got there, it was just so big and impersonal. The classes are huge. Two of the teachers we observed seemed overwhelmed and, well, grumpy. Stevens will still be on our list, but it's no longer near the top.

Still to tour: Orca, McGilvra, Leschi, Lowell, T Marshall. I also plan to call TT Minor and find out if we can observe the Montessori class.

We've also applied at Giddens, Epiphany and St. Therese. I can talk about private schools if anyone is interested, but it seems a bit off topic. I will say that smallness, a tight-knit community, historic buildings, and the ability to influence what happens in the classroom are things that are shared by all the schools, public and private, that I've liked so far.

seattle citizen said...

What do you mean by "the ability to influence what happens in the classroom"?

I'm curious as to who you mean can influence: parent/guardians? educators? district or state?

I'm also curious as to what kinds of influence you find helpful to students, depending on the answer above.

BL said...

I have a son who will be entering kidergarten in the fall. I've toured TOPS, Orca, Stevens, Leschi, Bailey-Gatzert, Montlake, McGilvra, and Hay. I'll be touring Montessori at TT Minor, Lowell, probably Madrona, and possibly BF Day and Green Lake. (The joy of living in reference area "No Man's Land.")

The tour at Leschi was informal--just a principal-led walk through the building for myself and one couple. All the other tours were more organized and enthusiastic.

I was surprised that Orca has wound up being my favorite, but it will probably wind up second on my list after TOPS due to location/convenience. At Orca, the principal did the entire tour for the whole (large) group himself. He does an impressive job of expressing what he and the school stand for.

I was also very impressed with the tour at Bailey-Gatzert. There was only one other parent touring with me, but we sure got a lot of attention from the principal, vice principal, family support worker, counselor, and somebody else from the staff. They were very warm and welcoming, and I sensed that the students benefit from feeling respected by the teachers and staff. I'm disappointed to hear that the principal is going to another school.

I'm very curious and hopeful about Lowell. It's the school that is closest to home.

TechyMom said...

I was talking about me, as a parent, having the ability to have input into what my child is learning, to make suggestions and be listened to, to be able to come in and volunteer in a meaninful (not just stapling) sort of way, to be able to join the PTA and have input into what the money is spent on, etc. At our current, very small, preschool, we are really in a partnership with the staff to build a great environment. I felt like I'd have that opportunity at TOPS and Montlake, but not at Stevens. Stevens seemed very much by the book. I should say too, that I think Stevens is the model the district is moving towards, and I'm not really thrilled with that.

old salt said...

Parents of Garfield students living in the north end who came from APP are hearing that their kids may be sent to Ingraham in 2010 as part of the APP program split. Can anyone confirm this rumor?

Sue said...

Old Salt-

Cant confirm the rumor, because the district is keeping all this pretty close to the vest, but I can tell you that the district seems to certainly be on the path to end the all city draw for the high schools, and turn them back into neighborhood schools, Garfield included. That would lead to splitting APP between North and south to acheive (their favorite phrase) equity of access.

I also understand that as part of that process, the high school boundaries will be redrawn, and in the north-end high schools, a lot of people who are expecting Ballard or Roosevelt to be their high schools, (as they have been for years)are going to be sent to Ingraham, as the district is going to be sending kids in the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods to Ballard and Roosevelt. Based on that, I would assume that the families in the north end currently at Garfield will go to Ingraham as well, as it is the only under enrolled High School in the North end, and has the IB program, so they probably think it is a good fit.

Not saying any of this is right, but would not be surprised to see it happen for 2010.

TechyMom said...

Toured Orca today and liked it. Still like TOPS better, but Orca and Montlake are neck and neck. I like the smallness of Montlake, the location, and (shocking) the building better. I also worry a bit about Orca's admission that they're really struggling with Math. But, I liked the environmental science program, and the earnestness at Orca. They also had good answers about how they deal with differing levels of ability and meeting the needs of advanced kids.

BL, I'm curious... what did you like about Orca? Particularly when compared with TOPS?

old salt said...

Keepin' On,

I understand the implications of the new assignment plan.

So far Tracy has said that students will be grandfathered in to the school where they are currently assigned.

I have not heard her say anything about moving students in 10th or 11th grade under the new assignment plan. That is what the Garfield APP parents told me they expect to happen. That is surprising to me.

TechyMom said...

I've heard people say that it's best to turn in your enrollment choice form in person. Is it safe to take it to one of the library nights? Or better to go down to the Stanford Center to turn it in?

Maureen said...

Does anyone know if the new "program preference" tiebreaker applies to the incoming sibs (especially, but not restricted to incoming K) of displaced students?

The press release says Specifically, students currently in grades K-4 at T.T.Minor, K-7 at the African American Academy, K-4 at Cooper, 6-7 at Meany, and K-11 at Summit are eligible for this special program preference tiebreaker.

So I guess not? But won't that lead to kindergarteners often being assigned to different schools than their older sibs? What are people at the affected schools being told?

BL said...

The thing that I got from visiting Orca was a mission of fostering a love of learning, and the willingness to compromise WASL scores in order to fully support the mission. I liked that, and I think that it is an environment that would serve my high-spirited, eager learner.

Sue said...

Old Salt -

Wow, if that is true, it is really disturbing. I know that folks in Lowell and Washington are not getting grandfathered, so kids have to leave their middle school or elementary, and their friends, and activities. So if they do split the high school, they may do the same thing.

Bad, bad, bad.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Techy Mom, I would think it would be fine to leave your application at one of the library nights. Any in-person delivery is better than mailing it/faxing it because then you can see them stamp it and you get a record of it to take with you.

Josh Hayes said...

I believe you can also drop off your forms at the Wilson-Pacific building, if that's more convenient.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Josh, I thought that as well but I can't find that at the website as a drop-off spot.

old salt said...

Wilson Pacific was the location of the north enrollment center for years. But now, according to the SPS website..

"The North and South Enrollment Centers have relocated to the Enrollment Services Center at the John Stanford Center."

TechyMom said...

Toured McGilvra today. I liked it, but not quite as much as Montlake, and definately not as much as TOPS. Since my last post, I've decided I like Montlake better than Orca, now I'm weighing the pros and cons of McGilvra vs. Orca.

TechyMom said...

McGilvra has a very active PTA, small classes, and a nice building with good playground equipment and a very nice library. The teachers seemed bright and happy. They had good answers to how they adapt the curriculum to different needs, and how they supplement EDM. About half the teachers are 2nd career teachers, which I found interesting. There's a very strong art program, with a professional art teacher, and art that shows practice in various techniques all over the walls. The 5th graders were making go-carts in science, and seemed really excited about it (I'm a big fan of applied scinece). The tour guides said they had a strong music program, but we didn't visit a class.

It's my reference school, and at least one of my neighbors goes there. It would be nice to have that community. It's also convienent.

On the down side, they don't have any language classes, even after school. The computer teacher didn't seem nearly as strong as the one at Montlake, they're not doing jr. great books like Montlake, and they don't have a garden-science program like either Orca or Montlake.

It was less diverse than Orca, and didn't have the social justice curriculum. It did have a lot of parent input into decision-making, which is one of the things I like about the alt schools. Orca is K-8 which is a big plus with Meany closing down. McGilvra is much more established than Orca, which seems to be in a constant state of flux. Orca was also just a little too hippy-dippy for my taste, though only a little. Orca's building is dark and has low ceilings, and made me feel clostrphobic. The bus ride is definately a negative. I loved the environmental science program at Orca, the garden, and how hard they were trying to make it work for a wide range of kids.

And so, these two are vying for third place.