I am both a Synergy alum as well as a current parent. I definitely think this school has gone downhill over the years - much to my great disappointment.
Things I like about Synergy: overall a warm and nurturing environment with a unique focus on equality, diversity, community, respect, etc. Some program elements are really nice/special: annual all school snow and camping trips, farm school, overall progressive / hands-on education, etc.
The not so good: having sent both a boy and girl to Synergy, I can attest that its current focus on trying to avoid gender discrimination (i.e. against females) actually results in marginalizing some of the boys. I was warned about this after enrolling my son by quite a few other families and after 6+ years at the school, I do agree that Synergy does not protect and nurture boys nearly as well as it does girls. It also doesn't seem to acknowledge there is an issue here.
Academics - Hit or miss with little to no support for any learning differences. Biggest complaint though is that some of the teachers clearly lack professionalism, fairness and the ability to manage their own emotions (watch out for the PE/drama and music teachers in particular). They play favorites and are very difficult personalities. Again, no acknowledgement there is an issue here and nothing has changed in all the years my children were enrolled.
Music - Another reviewer got this right when stating that the program is weak and the music teacher doesn't seem to actually like children. I actually can't understand how Synergy keeps supporting the current program. The annual Spring Concert (the main music performance) is so tedious I leave each year wondering how the entire school can be shelling out money and time each year for something so, so bad. It's a running joke among many parent circles.
Hard to write such a negative review of a school that means quite a bit to me. Beyond all the issues above, my biggest disappointment with the school is that it is clearly becoming just another SF private school where monied parents dictate the direction of the school and where the original mission statement has been reinterpreted as political correctness on steroids (which results in protecting certain students, while targeting others). Not the worst place to go to school in SF, but certainly not what it once was.
Synergy has very caring teachers and a strong community. There is a very strong emphasis on diversity, and that is reflected in the student body and the staff. This is a teacher-run school and does not have a traditional hierarchy or a head of school. This results in very happy teachers with very little turnover.
The Synergy 'agreement system' is a code of values and rules that incoming kindergarteners start learning on day one and is carried through the 8th grade. It cultivates fairness and responsibility in the classroom and builds social-emotional development in students.
I am both a teacher and alumni parent at Synergy School. My daughter attended Synergy in the 90's. She is now a very successful defense attorney and an extraordinarily articulate, competent and successful young woman. I firmly believe that Synergy gave her the foundation for her ability to speak up, advocate for herself (and now for her indigent clients) and to be the strong and outspoken person she is. As a teacher, I know that Synergy is providing a strong academic program, a progressive environment, freedom to make choices and a belief in social activism and change. Our student body and staff are very diverse and our community is strong and supportive. I am proud to work here and I am grateful for the education Synergy provided my daughter.
I am the parent of 2 children at Synergy and we couldn't be happier there. We are 2 working parents and rely heavily on the nurturing environment provided by the school and afterschool programs. As parents, we firmly believe that "what goes in comes out" and that we are responsible for the successful development of our children. However, we also know that an enriching school environment can help our children thrive. At Synergy, the teachers and staff engage us as parents in the development of our children. The curriculum is balanced to promote a rigorous learning environment and to promote the development of good study skills. This is a great school for those who value both social and academic development.
The two latest review for Synergy call for a reasonable response. They both have a point but I doubt Synergy will destroy your child's self esteem but it is not all that academically great either. Some good things happen there but there is also a lot of mediocrity. Biggest advantage is price. If you can't do Catholic School and you don't want to shell out big bucks for the other private schools this place is OK. Harsh but true. Teacher quality depends the grade but that is probably true at every school. Parents have complained for years about many things in grades 4 & 5 but nothing changes & that is true with new administrators. One of those teachers is an administrator! Middle school has been so-so. Science is the only really hands-on class in the school. Lots of projects are assigned and all must be done at home. There are heaps of handouts and mostly fill in the blank tests. Middle school math is good for kids who come into 6th grade with strong skills. If not lotsa luck. My kids have made good friends and love farm school , trips and sports. New teachers coming next year so maybe things will change in 6-8. The whole school needs to pay attention to the rough edges.
My child graduated from Synergy and is now at an academically rigorous high school and he is thriving. He is the first to admit that while he had some gaps in math, the critical thinking skills he developed at Synergy helped him to overcome what shortcomings there were. I understand the math program has since undergone changes, more math instruction and smaller class sizes. As far as Spanish and music are concerned, I don't remember ever being told the goal of these programs was to enter high school at Spanish 2 or to be able to read music. On the whole, I am so grateful for the education my child received. He was given something valuable - the ability to think critically, to advocate for himself, to be able to self-reflect and have personal relationships with his teachers who cared and nurtured him. Synergy may not be for everyone but for our family it was a wonderful experience. I find the teachers there caring, professional, and dedicated. The new administrators are very responsive to parent feedback.
While very happy now in high school (and vastly relieved to be away from Synergy), having graduated from Synergy with an 'A' average, sadly my child is ill prepared in any high school subject involving math and the more technical sciences. Writing is strong in terms of content and structure, but poor in terms of grammar and spelling. Nine years of Spanish will place your child in Spanish 1 for high school, as basics are not covered at Synergy. Nine years of music will not give your child the skills to join any music group in high school that involves reading music or music theory. It was acceptable that the drama teacher scream at the students and other teachers. In terms of social environment, while in hindsight the administration and teachers acknowledged serious problems within the dynamics of the female students, they did nothing to intervene or improve them. Communication was poor and they really did not wish input from parents unless it was approving. The administration as well as many teachers were extremely defensive to any criticism and reacted punitively in retaliation. I wish I had removed my child earlier, before serious damage was done to their self esteem.
This is an excellent school for your child. The teacher's care. You can call them on the phone. They want you to be in the classroom. The school feels like a community. Someone on this board had an issue with Fundrasing. The bottom line is that EVERY private school will make you fund raise. Expect that it's part of every school and mandatory. We were only this this school and then moved the the suburbs. If you can afford it go for it! This is a gem of a school!
I am still a parent here and I have to say that I am slowly losing confidence in this school. We have been here quite a few years but I find myself less happy each year. Some of the teachers are great and some are fairly mediocre. I receive emails from the teachers with numerous spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The teachers seem to give the more outgoing children more attention (say larger roles in plays and things of that sort) and let the shy children languish. They constantly nickle and dime the parents (if they want another two thousand dollars from us, just put it in the tuition rather than asking for it under the guise of DONATIONS or FUNDRAISING.) Obviously, if I ask friends for money for our fundraising event, they are just going to ask ME when it's time for their kids. Just tack it on to my bill and be done with it. I feel like the academics are lacking, the sports disorganized, and the arts hit or miss. At one time, they had a really good art instructer but she left several years ago. The music program is decent but the person running doesn't seem to like children particularly. The drama is poor in the lower grades, and hit or miss in the upper grades.