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San Francisco community groups
to hold briefing on school assignments

By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News

March 7, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Two groups will hold a community briefing Wednesday to demystify the process the San Francisco Unified School District uses to assign students to different schools.

The Chinese for Affirmative Action/Center for Asian American Advocacy and Parents for Public Schools want to reach families and service providers such as preschool and after-school program leaders to spread the word about how the district's sometimes-complicated school assignment system works. The meeting will focus on the upcoming 2006-07 school year.

CAASF spokeswoman Christina Wong said the organizers want to "educate parents who aren't familiar with the process about what their options are" and explain the history of the current assignment system.

Organizer Sandra Halladey, a spokeswoman for Parents for Public Schools, said that "the majority of families do get one of their school choices" but that misperceptions still persist about many schools in the district.

Many people have ideas about schools that are "not based on any real information," she said.

School ambassadors from many of the district's schools will be at the briefing to explain the merits of each school to interested parents and other caregivers, Halladey said.

"We wanted to put a personal face on this," she said, adding that "it is a stressful time for parents."

"We're trying to give people the heads-up that the letters are out. Most people do get one of their choices," she said.

That said, there will also be a number of families in attendance who didn't get one of their choices last enrollment period, but who are happy with the "under the radar" school their child ended up attending, she said.

"There's not just one good school, there's lots of good schools," she said.

Parent participation makes a big difference in school quality, Halladey said. One of her daughters just graduated from Alvarado Elementary School, which was "shunned" several years ago but which, with parent involvement and communication between parents and teachers, "is now in demand," she said.

Event participants will also explain what parents and caregivers who don't get their children into one of their school choices can do if they're still unhappy with their options, including going through another selection round and taking part in enrollment counseling, Halladey said.

Historically, all SFUSD schools from elementary through high school have participated in a selection process meant to ensure that each school has a diverse student enrollment.

A court-supervised assignment system, which ended with a November federal court ruling, has classified students according to what the district's Web site describes as six race neutral factors, including socioeconomic status, mother's education level and the student's home language.

Some parents have been frustrated with the diversity index assignment system.

With the recent court ruling, the school board "can create something the entire community can live with," and the CAASF is hoping the district can address the way assignments are made "in the next months," Wong said.

The community briefing will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Starr King Elementary School at 1215 Carolina St.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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