Ortega is a great school, especially for families that want to be involved in their kids' education and work to make school all it can be. My daughter is in first grade (in the Mandarin immersion class). Her teacher is simply outstanding. Our daughter tells us that her teacher, while sometimes strict, is very kind, funny, and always makes classes interesting. We get weekly newsletters from the teacher summarizing what will be happening in class each week. The parent community also does a ton to help the school. For example, all of our daughter's homework is made available online through our wonderful room-mom. Also, our kids conduct a live "real" science experiment every week that integrates with the arc of the overall curriculum, with the help of one of our parents. We feel like our daughter is getting a top-notch education at least equal to her friends at exclusive private schools in the city. Please consider joining us, especially if you're willing to jump in with both feet and help make the school great!
I love that my daughter's 1st grade teacher was willing to meet with me for over an hour after school hours to discuss her specific challenges. I was pleased that the discussion ranged from academic ability to social confidence and emotional development. I have found that any issues I have with the school tend to be public school woes (increased class size in 4/5 grades is my hardest challenge) and most can be addressed by my personal involvement (example: asking for a meeting with the teacher or the principle....they have always said yes and set a date that was within 2 school days of my request!). My advice to any public school parent is that you have to be the one to reach out...your involvement is key.
Many parents are happy and many are unhappy, but there seems to be a concerted effort to whitewash the very real shortcomings at Jose Ortega. There are good things and not such good things. Good: 1) Friendly Parents 2) Happy Kids 3) Atmosphere is welcoming Not Good: 1) Teachers are not responsive to parents, virtually no feedback other than 2x/year teacher conference 2) Curriculum and lesson plans are not made clear. 3) Teaching of history, current events, culture sorely lacking 4) Students with higher potential are not challenged.
Very limited exposure to social studies, to art, and to the social development of the individual child. There is little instruction beyond what's in the homework packet making it a disappointingly unambitious start to early education. I stumbled on a 2010 parent Yelp review which articulates complaints that are very legitimate regarding the academic deficiencies.
JOES has a very small student-teacher ratio (at least for the K, 1st, and 2nd grade levels). More importantly, it is an outstanding student-teacher ratio. We quantify this by the wide-spread smiles. Ms. Serra is my daughter's 2nd grade teacher at JOES. She has the awesome ability to stimulate the children s academic mind and at the same time balances the children s emotional and physical health. She encourages the children to derive at their answers through logic, not memorization. She starts Friday mornings with a fun yoga session in the cafeteria - the kids learn the poses through funny animal poses. In the afternoons, the children relax their mind and body through mindfulness. Go Crafternoon!
My daughter is in 1st grade MI class. We love this school for several reasons: 1. We like the fact that it's a MI program, that's very important for us. The teachers are super accommodating to different children's learning styles. 2. We like the early start time of 7:50, because both of us work during the day. 3. We love the principal Ms.Washington. She is reasonable, but not rigid. She also works so hard, shows up for meetings days, nights, and weekends. 4. I love the parents involvement. PTA is ran by a group of parents who are very supportive, but more laid back in their styles. People tend to pitch in to solve problems or voice their opinions and listen to others. 5. I prefer my child in a school that are more diverse, so she would recognize and has a boarder perspective of the world she lives in. She loves to go school everyday, enjoys writing her diary in English and writing sentences in Chinese, explains to me what she learns from her science class - why sky is blue... It's pretty cool to watch.
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.
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!