Thursday, May 31, 2012

SF Teens Learn to Grow and Market Crops in School Program

by Katrina Schwartz

Students at several San Francisco high schools are learning what any good farmer knows: it's not enough to grow food, you've also got to have strong business skills. San Francisco Unified is betting on school-run gardens to help teach entrepreneurship to kids heading into a competitive summer job market.

Teens at John O’Connell and two other San Francisco high schools have been rolling out of bed early Saturday mornings to set up at the Ferry building. They are hawking crops they've been growing at school this year.

Garden educator Calder Gillam has been teaching his students the importance of customer service, which he thinks will help them get jobs and be more self confident.
"The youth get to interact with the public here, answering questions about the crops and what to do with them and what they’re good for and how we grew them. Showing up at seven AM on a Saturday when they don't have to be here, that's another job skill, life skill, really," said Gillam. 
The money students earn from their crops goes back into the gardening program. The schools took turns selling produce at the Ferry Building.  John O'Connell students earned about $250, which they'll put back into the program.
Students participating in John O'Connell's summer programs will also get to keep an eye on their crops now that school is out, caring for the garden until everyone returns in the fall.
The pilot project is funded by several urban agriculture organizations in partnership with the San Francisco School District. The San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, the Center for Urban Education on Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) and Urban Sprouts will have to continue fundraising to sustain the program. They'd like to deepen their offerings at John O'Connell, June Jordan and Life Learning Academy on Treasure Island by devoting an entire class to garden education, rather than fitting it into other classes like Health and Economics.
If the money materializes to help keep the program going,  San Francisco Unified says it will look at adding more schools to the partnership. Already other San Francisco high schools have shown interest in the garden program.  
A similar program is underway in elementary schools in Half Moon Bay.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Road to graduation tougher for some SF students

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Washington High School students graduate on Thursday 
at the Richmond district school in San Francisco.
Each May, some 4,000 teens graduate from San Francisco public schools. But while the annual pomp and circumstance of high school commencement might feel routine, for some students, graduation is an achievement they had to fight for.

Makda Beyene, 18, graduated from Mission High School on Wednesday. Less than three years ago, when the recent immigrant from Eritrea was sleeping in church basements with her mother and three younger siblings, that goal seemed impossibly far away.
Jenn Bowman taught Beyene history in 10th grade, the year she arrived in America.

“One day I was like, ‘You look so tired.’” Bowman recalled. “It turned out they had been staying in homeless shelters. And meanwhile, she was getting straight A’s.”

Beyene’s mother had sold everything the family owned to bring them to the United States. But when they got to San Francisco, the friends they had planned to stay with had no room for them. As the family moved from shelter to shelter, Beyene threw herself into her schoolwork.

“My mom’s purpose to come to the U.S. was so all of us could get good educations,” she said. “I didn’t want to let her down.”

Today, the family lives in subsidized housing, and Beyene is preparing to attend Pitzer College, in Claremont, where she will pursue a pre-med course. She was selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar, and her education will be covered in full by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Beyene is still surprised by what she has achieved in less than three years in the United States. But she has advice for other teens struggling to get to graduation day.

“Hard work pays off,” she said.

Jackie Fuller could say the same thing. In San Francisco, one out of every seven high school students won’t graduate. For black students, that rate has been as high as one in two. Fuller, 18, was determined not to be a part of that statistic.

“In eighth grade, I was a little rambunctious,” Fuller said, with a smile that suggested she was understating the situation. “I got in a lot of fights. I didn’t like listening to people. I wasn’t focused on school.”

Fuller, who grew up in Bayview-Hunters Point, realized that if she didn’t leave her neighborhood, its culture of violence and hopelessness could drag her down, too. So, although it would mean waking up at 5 a.m. and taking two Muni buses across town, she chose Washington High School, in the Richmond, for ninth grade.

“I think that what helped Jackie stay on track is she saw how difficult it was for me, being a young parent,” said her mother, Daphina Melbourne, who was just 17 when she had Fuller, but managed to return to school and earn a bachelor’s degree from Mills College.

Fuller, who has taken AP and honors classes at Washington, in addition to serving as president of the school’s Black Student Union, graduated Thursday. In the fall, she will attend Dillard University, in New Orleans, her first step toward becoming a lawyer.

“She will succeed,” said Julia Lucey, Fuller’s guidance counselor. “She’s stubborn and hard-headed enough. She’s never going to give up.”

Aaron Truong, 17, was also determined to escape the shadow that eclipsed much of his education. The subject of a decade-long custody battle between his divorced parents, Truong spent much of his childhood in sessions with social workers and therapists, as his parents tried to build a case against one another. His mother physically abused him, and at one point he spent a few weeks in a group home.

“I felt like everyone else had a normal life,” he said. “I always felt like it was my fault.”

Two years ago, a jury finally decided Truong and his sister should live with their father, and with the feud over he was able to concentrate on school. He worked hard to bring his mediocre grades up to straight As, and after graduating from Thurgood Marshall High School, he will attend UCLA in the fall.

“He approaches life, he approaches topics really openly,” said Truong’s science teacher, Kevin Hartzog. “I think he can do a lot of great things.”

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Middle school's field trip: 5K run to Ocean Beach

Children from Roosevelt Middle School including Simon
Luu (left), Angus Li and Dion Chung run through Golden
Gate Park during a school-wide field trip, which the principal
hopes will be an annual event.
Jack Ieong has lived in San Francisco's Chinatown all 12 years of his life.

On Friday, the Roosevelt Middle School seventh-grader saw Ocean Beach for the first time.

Jack ran 3.1 miles through the park with his 700 schoolmates to get there, the first time he had gone that far on foot.

Along John F. Kennedy Memorial Drive, he got his first glimpse of the bison, the Rose Garden and Rainbow Falls.

It was a field trip with a lot of firsts for Jack and many other students from his middle school in the city's Richmond District.

Before the trip, an informal school survey found that about half the students had never been to Ocean Beach or much if any of Golden Gate Park, Principal Michael Reimer said.

Few had ever run 3 miles.

"You realize the kids don't get out too much," Reimer said. "They don't have a whole lot of experiences we take for granted."

The school-wide trip was a daylong combination of sightseeing, physical education and science, school officials said.

After the run, students, in groups, headed to the beach or areas of the park to pick up trash, the hands-on part of an environmental education unit in science class.

"We get to run, be with friends, see a lot of Golden Gate Park, and we help the environment," said seventh-grader Angus Li, 13. "And we're having fun while we're doing it."

The bonus? "No class," Angus said with a smile.

Teachers and parents organized the field trip, covering the $4,000 to $5,000 cost with the help of community donations.

Reimer said he was skeptical that such a large-scale school trip could work. He lost sleep worrying how he, parents and staff would keep tabs on 700 adolescent kids running 3.1 miles through Golden Gate Park.

With the sun shining over Ocean Beach late Friday morning, hundreds of sweaty, smiling kids streamed through the finish line at the park's soccer field.

It was the first of what Reimer hoped would be the annual Roosevelt's Restoration Run.

"It's one of the most ambitious goals I've ever seen out of a school," Reimer said. "I'm really proud."

SFUSD community schools program a national model
Healthcare, including dental services, is one of the
services offered at community schools in The City.
It isn’t often that Cesar Chavez Elementary in the Mission has out-of-town visitors, but on a recent afternoon school staffer Carlo Solis led a dozen people from as far away as Washington, D.C., across the yard.
As children in the after-school program tossed a rubber ball around beneath a colorful mural of the school’s namesake, Solis offered tips on how to get busy parents to come to school events.

“All of our meetings are catered, which is key,” said Solis, whose title is community school coordinator. “Childcare is free. Those are things I didn’t realize until we had a meeting without them and no one showed up.”

The group was in The City for the 2012 Community Schools National Forum, a gathering of 1,400 educators and advocates from 36 states who are interested in the concept of bringing healthcare, social services and community groups into public schools to combat the troubles that often plague urban children.
“We came to San Francisco because the Bay Area’s a hotbed for community schools,” said Martin Blank, head of the Coalition for Community Schools, which organized the conference and set up visits to dozens of Bay Area schools that are putting the idea into practice.

“I’m hoping to see how they operate their community schools, how they integrate with the school district,” said Peggy Samolinski, who runs a community schools program in Multnomah County, Ore., and joined the tour of Cesar Chavez. “It’s one thing to hear about it and another to come and see it.”

The San Francisco Unified School District has been creating community schools since 2009, when The City received a $500,000 grant to help set up services at a handful of pilot schools. Although the grant ran out this year, the district is working to expand the idea to all of its schools, with the help of community-based organizations that provide after-school programs, healthcare, parenting classes and other services.

Kelly Vaillancourt, director of government relations for the National Association of School Psychologists in Maryland, said she was hoping to gather ideas she could share with the group’s 24,000 members.

“It’s given me a lot of ideas and a lot of information,” she said, after visits to Chavez and at James Denman Middle School in Mission Terrace. “I have to say, so far it’s exceeded my expectations.”

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

Spring Valley Elementary’s community compiling history

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Memory lane: Sisvan der Harootunian is among
contributors to a Spring Valley Elementary book project.
A hundred years ago, children dressed up for class picture day. The boys, wearing jackets and ties, and the girls, in demure dresses with giant bows perched on their heads, lined up before the front door of Spring Valley Elementary School and stood still for the camera.
The pictures, part of a collection donated by alumni, date back as far as the 1910s, shortly after the school moved into its current, post-1906 earthquake home on Jackson Street near Hyde Street. But back then, the school had already been open for six decades.

Today Spring Valley, which celebrates its 160th anniversary this week, has a claim as the oldest public school still operating in California. In order to catalog more of the school’s history, volunteers are continuing to collect photos, stories and ephemera for a book.

Sisvan der Harootunian, a 78-year-old who has contributed to the book project, still has vivid memories of Spring Valley, where he started kindergarten in 1939.

“That stage, we had a play of the writing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ by Francis Scott Key,” der Harootunian said while in the cafeteria.

Der Harootunian remembers listening to radio broadcasts in class as World War II raged, as well as a Japanese classmate who was sent with her family to an internment camp. He also remembers the snacks served with milk.
“To this day, if I eat a graham cracker, it reminds me of Spring Valley Elementary,” he said.
For the past 10 years, former principal Lonnie Chin has been collecting memories from former students, such as der Harootunian, and past teachers to fill the book about the school. Chin, who led the school from 1977 to 2010, hopes to place the completed book at the San Francisco Public Library, with a digital version online.

“There are some things that need to be remembered,” Chin said.

Chief among them is Spring Valley’s place in civil rights history. In 1884, Mamie Tape was barred from attending Spring Valley because of her Chinese ancestry. Her parents won a lawsuit in California Supreme Court, seven decades before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the more famous case for school integration, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan.

“The irony of this school not being open to Chinese in 1884 — when I got here the neighborhood was primarily Chinese,” Chin said. “I think it’s important that history is preserved.”

To contribute to Spring Valley’s memory book:

Seven San Francisco schools among “Best High Schools”

By: Jill Tucker

Seven San Francisco high schools have landed in the top 5 percent of  “Best High Schools,” according to U.S.News and World Report.

For those keeping score, that’s about half of the traditional high schools in the city.

No surprise, Lowell was the highest ranked among city schools, coming in 51st nationally and 11th in California.

U.S. News folks, (with real American Institutes for Research researchers actually holding the pens), evaluated 22,000 high schools in 49 states using 2010 numbers, ranking them on student-teacher ratio, college readiness and academic achievement.

Nebraska wasn’t included because of  a lack of data.

Taking the top spot nationally was the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas (but really, it’s too hot in Dallas).

In California, the top school was the Oxford Academy in Cypress, which came in 11th nationally.
Here’s how San Francisco did (in California, and nationally):

Lowell: 11th; 51st
Ruth Asawa School of the Arts: 35th; 169th
Washington: 85th 457th
Balboa: 140th 749th
Galileo: 148th 784th
Lincoln: 181st, 940th

And coming in as a strong dark horse: Wallenberg at 199th in the state and 1,033rd in the nation.
The other city high schools didn’t make the cut for rankings.

While the rankings in years past have focused on Advanced Placement tests, the new methodology is “based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college-bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators,” according to U.S. News.

To see the full ranking of “Best High Schools” go here.

Bridging the Gap Between School and Community

From left to right: Marrero, Angela and Villalobos sign agreements during the home visit. 

Vanessa Marrero prepared for an important job one Tuesday in January. In leopard kitten heels and a beige trench coat, she grabbed a folder and hopped into a waiting car outside of John O’Connell High School.

She was heading to a student’s home in the Bayview to talk to his mom. As a community school coordinator, Marrero had Carlos’ records in hand.

Half an hour later, inside a small apartment furnished with a light lime-green couch, two school certificates tacked to a wall and family pictures in heart-shaped frames, Marrero began the conversation with Carlos’ mom, Angela, in Spanish.

He isn’t in trouble, she reassured Angela. No, this was going be a different kind of visit.
Marrero was there with Jose Villalobos, the school’s parent liaison, to connect with Angela — to tell her about the resources available to her and her son, and to discuss Carlos’ grades and attendance.

Marrero’s job was created last year as part of several reforms at the city’s underperforming schools funded by a $45 million district-wide School Improvement Grant, which will continue through the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Six community school coordinators work in the Mission District, each earning about $60,000 a year.

A coordinator is responsible for a variety of parent and community engagement efforts, Kevin Rocap, the executive director of the School Improvement Grant, said in an email. This involves managing the work of various community-based organizations, including after-school and mental health partners that work at the schools.

The improvement plan aims to turn the school into a one-stop shop of sorts, more than just a place for academics. If students and families – even community members outside of the school – need food, there will be a food bank. If they need counseling, there will be counseling services.

It’s about rethinking how to build a school that supports students, parents and the community, said Brian Fox, the coordinator at Mission High School.

The coordinator is key, say many. Each plays a slightly different role, because every school is at a different stage when it comes to community engagement.

For Fox, formerly the director of strategic partnerships for the San Francisco Education Fund, the job means overseeing the curriculum of an advisory program for Mission High students preparing for college and careers. He also works directly with teachers: along with a college and career counselor and a coordinator from the college-prep program GEAR UP, Fox holds Monday meetings to review lesson plans and discuss common problems.

Carlo Solis, who is a coordinator at Cesar Chavez Elementary, attended Buena Vista Elementary School as a child and later worked as the director of an after-school program there. At Chavez he spends his time evaluating partnerships with community-based organizations. For example, he oversees workshops for anywhere from 20 to 60 parents on topics like enrollment and puberty. Solis also opens up the school to the community; recently he hosted a free haircut day for the neighborhood, organized by City College students.
And then there’s Marrero, a former social worker who worked at Horace Mann Middle School for five years. At John O’Connell, she runs a breakfast club every Tuesday morning, cooking omelets and other dishes for any student who’s at school half an hour before the bell rings.

Since she began working at John O’Connell last April, she has led a mentoring program for at-risk youth, hosts school tours and hangs flags in the atrium to represent students’ different cultural backgrounds. She also meets with families in their homes. Since the school year began, Marrero has visited more than half of the homes of the 91 ninth-graders.

Read more at Mission Local

SF 3rd-graders fight against sea lion killings

Courtesy of Angela Casey A third-grade class in San
Francisco has launched a campaign to save
California sea lions, who are being euthanized by
Northwest officials to protect salmon.
One third-grade class at San Francisco’s Lafayette Elementary School wasn’t going to let another California sea lion get shot without its voice being heard.

In the past two weeks, students in Angela Casey’s class have created and launched a political campaign to stop the governors of Oregon and Washington from allowing any more sea lion deaths at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

Over the past several weeks, Oregon and Washington state officials have captured and euthanized California sea lions seen eating salmon at the Columbia River dam.

The two states, along with Idaho, have been granted exemption from the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, allowing officials to kill the sea lions. The officials argue that the animals are having a “significant negative impact” on wild, endangered salmon.

Since May 4, 10 California sea lions have been trapped, nine killed and one shipped to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

The Lafayette Elementary students have caught the attention of activists up and down the coast, who have arranged an Oregon tour for Casey.

The activist groups, which include the Washington-based Sea Shepherd and the Portland, Ore.-based Sea Lion Defense Brigade, will join her as she tries to hand deliver her students’ letters today to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Casey said the Oregon governor will not meet her in person to receive the students' letters, such as one that says: "The sea lions of Bonneville Dam have more of a right to eat salmon than you do. Why can't you just fish a different kind of fish?!"

Kitzhaber’s office had no comment.

Casey became interested in the sea lions after seeing Facebook links from friends and marine animal advocacy groups to news stories and blog posts, including several from California Watch.

Already working on a marine-environment curriculum with her class, Casey decided to use the Bonneville sea lions as an example of a complex environmental situation, where management of one species – salmon – can interfere with another.

“The kids seemed pretty concerned about it,” she said. "They wanted to find out more about the sea lions’ impact on salmon.”

So the class started investigating. They looked to see how many salmon the sea lions ate and how big of an impact they were having on the fish. They then started researching other factors that threaten salmon, including commercial fishing, hydroelectric dams and invasive species.

The kids, she said, concluded the killings were wrong. But they weren’t content to leave it at that.
Coincidentally, another area her class was supposed to cover this year was letter writing, Casey said. So she suggested the students write letters to the politicians involved, including the governors of Oregon and Washington and even President Barack Obama.

The kids also wrote to state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, whom they hoped would sympathize with the cause.

He did.

"My office received 15 letters from Lafayette Elementary students,” Leno said in a statement. “I applaud these young people and their teacher for taking a stand on this animal protection issue and thank them for their advocacy and passion.”

Others took notice, too.

Other classes at the school invited Casey's third-graders in to do presentations on the sea lions. Some of those students started writing letters. Casey started a Facebook page to feature the students' letters, drawings and paintings

“And then the parents got involved,” said Casey. And before she knew it, she was being contacted by organizations interested in the topic, including Sea Shepherd.

“The ripple effect has been amazing,” she said, adding that she hopes the students are learning a valuable lesson about democracy and civil engagement.

“They made an effort to have their voices heard,” she said. “And they are being heard.”

Indeed, the one sea lion spared from euthanasia by Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium was named “Casey” after the third-grade teacher.

Casey leaves today for her trip to Oregon. And although she’ll be alone, without her third-graders, she’ll keep in mind the saying she has spread across her Facebook page:

“Alone we are a drop, together we are an ocean.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Girl-power produces new apps

Don't be fooled by the old-school, cut-and-paste poster-board presentations that were propped up in the Intel (INTC) lobby in Santa Clara one evening this week

Once onstage, the 11 teams of high school girls unveiling their mobile apps for the 2012 Technovation Challenge were totally new-school, stunningly savvy and digitized to the max.

Competing for the chance -- worth an estimated $15,000 -- to have their app developed and brought to the Android market, 520 girls in four cities around the country teamed up with tech mentors to brainstorm ways to put smartphones to good use. Following a theme of "science education," the 100 apps were winnowed down in regional playoffs, and Thursday it was time for the cream to rise to the top.

"Our app is designed to change the way you consume, little by little, every single day," said Sonya Jendoubi, a 16-year-old junior at Lycée Francais La Perouse in San Francisco, showing off her team's Ecocitz app. By scanning grocery store products and learning instantly if the product is local, organic and comes in recycled packaging, Ecocitz "will help us fix our mistakes by focusing on people's misconceptions about what it means to be 'green.' "

One by one, the teams took the stage Thursday in front of an audience of proud parents, teachers and mentors.

Some of the mentors had worked closely with the finalists, eight of whom came from the Bay Area. And for 10 weeks, women in computer sciences, programming and even venture capital volunteered their time and expertise to help the girls build self-esteem while they fine-tuned their concepts. The point of it all is girl power, said Tara Chklovski. She's founder of Iridescent, the science education nonprofit that runs the Technovation Challenge, now in its third year and growing fast.

"A girl's perspective is different and unique from the rest of the world," she said, "and the apps they've come up with reflect that. One's called 'Simply U,' and it's designed to prevent teenage pregnancy.
"The team saw this huge concentration of pregnancies in their area and came up with an app to educate girls about their options. You never see these kinds of apps on the market because there aren't girls creating them. We're trying to change that."

The pitches came fast and furious. Each team was allotted four minutes to describe their mobile app, the problem it was designed to solve, the competition already out there, and the marketing strategy they'd use to share it with the world. "Intoxication Station" from the Mountain View High School team took underage drinking head-on, with screen icons that brought up symptoms to tell how drunk someone was, offered first-aid tips and ways to get a ride home for a tipsy teenager, even help with hangovers.

The "SATisfy" app helps students help each other study -- social networking style -- for their SATs, pairing up kids online by matching strengths and weaknesses. And "Niffler," the Monta Vista High team's learning game based on a Harry Potter character, helps kids learn their chemical compounds by maneuvering a bucket across the screen to catch the appropriate ions.

"The idea," said Anupama Cemballi, 17, team member and junior at the Cupertino school, "is to help make chemistry fun. Chemistry can be really boring in class, but our app makes it interactive."

Cembali said even if her team didn't nail first place they still planned to get their app into the Android market on their own. "And eventually," she said, "we hope to partner with tech and education companies, maybe even Sylvan Learning Centers, to get our app out there."

While some of the teams relied on the code-programming prowess of their mentors, others figured out how to develop the apps on their own, even using YouTube do-it-yourself videos on writing code. For most of the teams on hand, their initial app was clearly just the first step in a longer journey. The girls behind Niffler were already planning to add more games to help high-schoolers master their science lessons.

But it was the team behind "Froggy Cut" that seemed to be shooting the highest.

The girls at June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco addressed a long-standing biology class problem: how to avoid cutting up all those frogs year after year, thus saving money and frogs' lives. They came up with an app that virtually dissects the slimy amphibians, allowing students to tap into the magic of digital animation to do the dirty deed right there on the smartphone's screen.

"Approximately 2.5 million frogs are dissected in high school biology classes every year," said one of the team members, pitching her heart out to the three judges. And without anyone questioning her math, she went on to posit that "with each frog costing $4, that's $10 million spent on frog dissection annually. Our app will cost each student $1.99. So we can save the schools $5 million and we can make $5 million."

And that's a win-win-win ... if you include the frog.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New schools chief touts LGBT safety

by Seth Hemmelgarn

The man recently selected by the San Francisco Board of Education as the next schools chief pledged officials will "continue to work very aggressively" to protect LGBT and other students.

The school board voted unanimously last week for Richard Carranza to serve as the next superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Carranza, 45, currently serves as the district's deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation, and social justice and is set to replace Carlos Garcia after Garcia retires in July. The board's vote was Tuesday, April 24.

In a recent interview, Carranza, who joined the district about two and a half years ago, said that among his goals are ensuring safety for LGBT and other students.

"I'm very, very sensitive and supportive of the LGBT community," Carranza, who has a gay brother, said.
"Under my administration, we would absolutely continue to work very aggressively" to protect students, he said.

The district appears to be far ahead of most other school agencies in the country when it comes to addressing LGBT issues. Among other things, the district was likely the first of its kind to offer a website specifically addressing the needs of LGBTQ students and their families.

Still, San Francisco school students aren't immune to anti-gay attitudes. Recent survey data that includes the district's middle and high school students indicate that it's fairly common for them to hear comments like "faggot" and "that's so gay," while staff often don't address the remarks. Many LGBT students have been subjected to violence, according to the data.

Carranza said the district's work to address such problems would continue.

"Students in our schools have every right to come to school and not feel bullied or harassed," he said. "... It's unacceptable for any student not to feel comfortable and successful in school."

Carranza said Kevin Gogin, who works in support services for LGBTQ youth for the district's school health programs department, "has done a lot of really good work" on developing intervention programs, training staff, and other areas.

In response to emailed questions, Gogin said the district's leaders have been "incredibly supportive of LGBTQ programming, curriculum, and professional development. Leadership has engaged in an ongoing conversation regarding what LGBTQ students need and how Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, and the district as a whole, can respond. [Carranza] has been a part of this discussion since he has worked as deputy superintendent."

California’s oldest public school


KTSF by Lynne Ku

San Francisco’s Spring Valley Science Elementary, which was established in 1852, is the oldest public school in California. It was one of the original seven schools in the state during the gold rush but the only one remaining.

Sisvan Der Harootunian who went to the school during 1939-1945 remembers the first day he was here, ” I was very terrified because it was the first time I’ve left home and we only lived about 3 blocks away but still I think my mother brought me, holding my hand and I finally came.”

Spring Valley is going to celebrate its160th anniversary on May 11th. They are asking former staff members and students to attend the party and bring in their old photos, report cards, certificates of promotion and share their stories, all of which will be preserved in a book to be stored in the SF Public Main Library.

Even with such a long history, the focus of education at this oldest school in California has kept up with the times , says principal Lisa Kwong, ” We chose science as a focus for school because first of all kids love to learn science and another reason is because we really feel the skills of science will prepare our children for the future.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

San Francisco teen wins prestigious award

For 32 minutes and 14 seconds, Kenneth Renshaw stood on a stage earlier this month in Beijing, clutching his violin as he played composer Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor.

The San Francisco 18-year-old’s performance vaulted him into the upper echelons of young violinists, earning him a first place in the prestigious international Menuhin Competition.

The Ruth Asawa School of the Arts senior said he is still recovering from the shock of the win.
“I’m so glad that they liked my playing,” he said from him home Thursday. “I’m just glad that I was able to get what I had to say musically out there.”

Renshaw remembers his first fascination with the violin at age 3.

“It was something about not just the sound, but the way one produced the sound fascinated me at that age,” he said. He started taking lessons when he was 5.

The win at Menuhin came with about a $10,000 prize and the one-year use of a “fine, old Italian violin,” according to the organizers.

Renshaw has been accepted to several universities including The Julliard School and is mulling over his choices.

Founded 27 years ago by violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the competition is for violinists younger than 22. Renshaw won in the senior category for those between 16 and 21 years of age.

The runners up in his age group included violinsts from China, Singapore and Korea, as well as one other teen from the United States.

In the junior category, a Bay Area resident also won top honors. Kevin Zhu, an 11-year-old from  Cupertino, won about $5,000 and the use of one of those fine, old violins.

The two winners both study with teacher Li Lin, Renshaw said.

“I could not have asked for a better person to prepare for this competition,” Renshaw said of his teacher. “He knew exactly what to say to me to bring out every lost drop of what I had to say musically inside.”

To see the jaw-dropping performances of both winners, click the following links:

Kenneth Renshaw in the Menuhin finals

Kevin Zhu in the Menuhin finals

Read more at the SF Chronicle