This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Ortega (Jose) Elementary School4
Posted September 30, 2014
- a parent
We feel really lucky. We were originally assigned to a school far from our home and not on our long list of choices. We had heard about JOES from someone in our neighborhood group but we fought with the idea of the long drive. The MI program helped us make the decision and we are so grateful that we got in! There are so few PUBLIC schools in the US that can provide this opportunity. Not only do the children learn to speak, read and write in mandarin, but they get the full benefit of being a part of the amazing diverse JOES community. I have made it a priority to help out as much as I can and I am so grateful to the other parents who are there when I cannot be. JOES is a fantastic place, although still a project under construction in many ways; the parents, teachers and Miss Washington are working hard to make it shine.
We are a new kindergarten family and have been really happy with the school so far. My son is in general ed with Mrs. Young, who has been teaching for over 30 years (most of those at JOES). She really cares about her students, and my son has learned so much already from her and the other teachers he gets to interact with. Pros: The kids have PE every day which I think is so important, they learn about nature and the environment through close connection with Brooks Park next door, and they foster school-wide connection with a Friday assembly led by Mrs. Young herself! Cons: the school is under construction, making for a somewhat chaotic and messy learning environment (although the end result of a new, safe space seems worth it to me). The early start time is challenging for our family, I would love to see it move later. I also find it unnecessary to require uniforms for such young children, but my so doesn't seem to mind it. We live in the neighborhood, and I had hoped that more families attending JOES would be in the neighborhood as well, but it does seem to be a lot of families who drive here from elsewhere. Would love to see more walking to school!
I can't speak to the problems that parents may be experiencing with the Mandarin Immersion curriculum, but we received a very detailed outlook of the coming year at Back-to-school night last night. Our daughter is in the GE program and although we had some rough patches last year, she has come home everyday since school started this year telling us how much she loves school. Her reading and writing has improved triple-fold and I think that is in part due to Reader's and Writer's Workshop as much is it to increased maturity. This school has something very special going for it. Something I remember from growing up in the SFUSD. The school has a diverse student body and truly caring teachers and staff. There is so much more here than you will find on a list of the upcoming year's curriculum. I give the school 4 starts because there is always room for improvement.
I have 2 children at JOES, one in MI and one in GE. Both are thriving. I find that the academics are appropriately challenging, the teachers are creative and my children are learning good social skills. I love the parent community and, like my children, have made life-long friends. I wish everyone liked JOES, but school choice is incredibly personal. When we got into JOES 5 years ago, I felt that we had won the lottery, I still feel that way today. If you have questions, come to a school tour! I'll be there. -Spring
We and others have gone to the principal and teachers directly - to no avail. Promises have been made to circle back, never happened. We've been privy to well-considered and thoughtful communication from parents to the pta president where the principal responded (many times) with "Who's asking? Who's complaining." This isn't about triage; it's about striving for excellence and bringing people along so that they feel they have a voice. It doesn't matter that the Cantonese schools use traditional characters! It is clear that some parents don't understand best practices. Good schools pride themselves on having teachers who employ creative techniques, who go beyond the bare bones standards. There are numerous examples of schools that provide parents with thoughtful communication and plans on the curriculum and we're not talking about the affluent schools. For a parent to suggest they are 'glad they might be leaving' indicates further how little they value input. Just ask the new parent who was scolded by the PTA president when she asked a simple question about playdates within her class. And when you can't get a response from a teacher for days, or ever, that's a problem.
A parent at Jose Ortega has asked that other parents post reviews here of Jose Ortega. They probably want to counter some recent negative reviews rather than admitting that real problems exist and setting about fixing them. The reviewer who said complaints at Jose Ortega are shot down and met with opposition rather than with corrective action are correct. My child has been at Jose Ortega since kindergarten and I am quite unhappy with the rigor of the faculty and administration in communicating and applying curricular goals. At back-to-school night, the explanation of the year's curriculum ran all of four bullet points. We have friends and family whose children have gone through the Cantonese immersion programs at Alice Fong Yu and West Portal Elementary and the education at those schools is far superior. Jose Ortega could easily apply the curriculum from these high performing schools and adapt them for Mandarin. Why don't they?
Saddened to see recent negative reviews I have to ask these parents if they have shared their concerns or given feedback directly to teachers or Principal Washington. JOES is a wonderful community and I am constantly surprised by the additional art and science instruction my children have received. Although it has varied from grade to grade, by the end they get a very rich education. I also find Principal Washington very open to discussion and very knowledgeable on the business of educating children. To concerns on Mandarin Immersion I would point out that the Cantonese curriculum from AFY and WP cannot be used...they use traditional characters while we use simplified and of course the spoken language is very different. This is a much newer program and the faculty and parents have been very engaged in taking feedback and investigating resources. Having said that I am quite happy to learn that unhappy families are leaving, allowing the rest of us to enjoy this small caring school and all it has to offer!
My daughter is in MI 4th Grade. We love Jose Ortega - period. This is why: - After all these years, she loves school, and loves learning. - Every single teacher we have had is extremely caring and responsive to my (sometimes many) concerns. - Our principal, Ms. Washington, knows us by name since day 1. She leads with passion and protects the interests of the kids and her faculty and staff. - The JOES community is warm, engaging and active. Every school has a different dynamic. Every school has parents who are dissatisfied. That's okay. We are blessed to have so many choices in this city. We should all be happy with our kids education, and I am. I did not choose AFY or other Chinese schools in the city because learning Cantonese is not a matter of "different pronunciation". I speak Mandarin, and I cannot understand anything my Cantonese friends say. Additionally, I want my child to learn more than academics. I want her to grow up to be a good human being. I want her to welcome diversity in her life, to be kind and treat her peers fairly, and to be a productive citizen in this world. Jose Ortega fosters that in my child every day.
I'm sorry to hear other parents are unhappy. Their complaints just don't resonate with me personally. My child is thriving at JOES after 4 years in the Mandarin Immersion Program. She performs well above grade level academically, she talks about what she s learning with enthusiasm, she loves her many, diverse friends and she likes her teachers (even when they give her too much homework ). In my experience, the staff at Jose Ortega are very receptive to feedback, they communicate well, and they embrace challenges with creativity and flexibility. I've seen positive changes happen every year. I hope constructive dialogue continues and that frustrations can be addressed openly.
Jose Ortega is an excellent school with lots of room for parent involvement and a rigorous academic approach that is not rigid, but rather inspires curiosity and creativity in the students at the school. The kids at this school want to learn and are excited about learning. This is due to the highly professional faculty, staff, and the incredible leadership of principal JoLynn Washington. The proof is in the pudding: My daughter went to Jose Ortega, Mandarin Immersion, from K-5th grade and graduated to Aptos Middle School as did many Jose Ortega students. What did I see in her first year there? Many Jose Ortega alum on the honor roll and one of them won a city-wide science contest. Additonally, Aptos teachers have told me that the students from Jose Ortega are well-prepared for middle school. Seems like whatever the school is doing is working!