Newly opened Dianne Feinstein Elementary School
premiers the power of reading
Photo(s) by Stephen Dorian
By Pat Murphy
August 31, 2006
A new $14.8 million state-of-the-art elementary school opened
for the youngest of Parkside pupils Monday, as namesake U.S. Senator
Dianne Feinstein recalled the liberation which reading brought
to her early life.
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) led 254 kindergarten through third grade
students, teaching staff, and officials in the 7:45 a.m. facility
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein surveys expanse of new campus.
The 68,000 square foot Dianne Feinstein Elementary
School On The Parkside Campus was built to standards of the State
of California's Collaborative for High Performance Schools, principal
Michelle Chang said.
Emphasis on acoustics, climate control, low watt interior lighting
and natural light "makes it one of the greenest schoolyards
in San Francisco," stated Chang.
Second floor skylight corridor
Feinstein recalled her own first grade teacher and the impact
of learning to read.
"I remember my first grade teacher... her name was Miss
Casey and the school was Winfield Scott down in the Marina, and
I remember her teaching me to read and how special it became.
"Reading books can take you anywhere in the world,"
She took first graders back to a time before they were born,
to the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.
Reading from the illustrated children's book 'Frankie and The
Phoenix,' Feinstein followed the story of how the City's fireboat
Phoenix saved the Marina from burning.
One of Feinstein's last acts as San Francisco Mayor was to overrule
a recommendation to retire City fireboats as too expensive. Less
than two years later the Phoenix pumped water to the Marina District
when underground water lines failed.
The school library is stocked with books purchased through a
$250,000 grant from the Blum Family Foundation. Some 100 computers
were donated by Steven Wyatt of the Computer Recycling Center.
Honoring Feinstein during her lifetime gives children a living
connection to their community, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
"To do it during her lifetime... to give the opportunity
for these young minds... to have a narrative of life that's organic,
that's tangible, that they can follow every day in the papers
someone that's contributed so much to date but someone who will
continue to contribute for many, many years to come," explained
Student achievement is best in the state," Newsom said of
the San Francisco Unified School District.
"We are the top performing school district in the State
of California, number one in the State of California," Mayor
Gavin Newsom pointed out.
"Six years now we've seen improved test scores - we're moving
in the right direction."
Newsom praised that progress as a collaborative effort.
"Progress is truly being made and partnerships are being
formed, not least of which is... someone who has been a tremendous
champion with us in partnering on the issues of truancy and that's
the District Attorney in San Francisco Kamala Harris who's here
as well," stated Newsom.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris
added to smiles of school opening.
Front line partnership falls to the teachers, Feinstein suggested,
praising the chosen staff.
"To the teachers and to the staff I just want to say I wish
you great good learning experiences in this school," offered
"The bricks are all here but it's really the teachers that
make a difference.
Third grade teacher Jessica Ratcliff comes to Feinstein Elementary
School from Propsect Sierra School in El Cerrito. "This is
exciting because it's a new school and my class just visited their
classroom and their voices are going to be the first classroom
voices in their room. It's very exciting. We're going to build
the room together and make it our own," Ratcliff told the
Funding for the school came from local and state bond measures
with no school district general funds used.
"Thank goodness that our political leaders and San Francisco
voters of past had the foresight to support local and state school
bonds for our children," noted School Board president Norman
"This new facility will give our students a clean, safe,
pleasant environment so that our students, parents, and teachers
can make the Dianne Feinstein School one of our top schools not
only in our school district but in California," Yee added.
School Superintendent Gwen Chan echoed thanks to San Francisco
"I am so grateful to the citizens of San Francisco for making
this project happen with the passage of the 1997 bond," smiled
Pastries for the young and younger at heart were provided by
the faith based Grace Local Organizing Committee.