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Newly opened Dianne Feinstein Elementary School premiers the power of reading

Photo(s) by Stephen Dorian Miner

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 opening.

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," Feinstein promised.

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 said.

"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 the mayor.

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 senator.

"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 Sentinel.

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 Yee.

"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 voters.

"I am so grateful to the citizens of San Francisco for making this project happen with the passage of the 1997 bond," smiled Chan.

Pastries for the young and younger at heart were provided by the faith based Grace Local Organizing Committee.




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