From Preschool to Ivy League?

It’s Preschool Touring Season!

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Do you have Ivy League dreams for your little one?  Or are you just looking for a safe and fun place for them to learn social skills (don’t touch my body/how much longer are you going to use that toy?).  Either way, preschool touring season is upon us.  Now is the time to go meet the people who will shape your little toddler into a kindergartner over the next 3 years.  My own search centered around proximity.  I refused to drive my child across town and back in LA traffic so, that limited us to about 5-6 schools. I toured them all starting when Ellery was 8 months old (yep!) because she’s an August baby and I knew the cutoff for many schools is July so I wanted to be prepared.  Most schools start with an adults-only tour and information session.  Some of them require a Parent + Me session of 6-8 weeks to even be considered (but no guarantee, obvs). There are fees to apply and just like college you should apply to a few because you never know if you will get in. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s not that bad actually.

I couldn’t decide between a play based (sounds so fun) and a more academic school (want her to be smart).  So my own approach was why not do both?  I enrolled Ellery in a lovely play based school just 2 blocks away from my office when she was 2. It was small and not fancy but safe and clean and the teachers were so loving. She learned how to be away from mom and socialize with other kids.  At 3 I moved her to a Montessori school because I needed a bit longer school  day (working mom) and also because I like the Montessori philosophy (Joe and I are both Montessori vets). I felt that at 3 she was ‘ready’ for more structure and focus. And I was ready to have more time.

 

But back to Ivy League Dreams- Town and Country recently published this list of the most prestigious preschools in the country (read into that what you will).  I don’t know exactly what criteria they used to determine the schools but I can say that the ones included from LA are probably the most competitive to get into in the city.

LA private school guru (and my friend) is quoted in the article, “It’s not a straight line from the perfect preschool to Princeton,” says Christina Simon, author of preschool book Beyond the Brochure. “However, getting into the right preschool can definitely help get into the right private elementary school, and so on. Those feeder preschools are highly coveted, so there’s a frenzy around how to get in.”

My own experience getting into one of the cities ‘top’ pre-schools was not frenzied.  I toured 5-6 schools and decided on which one I wanted and then I stayed in touch and played by the rules.  I let the director know that it was our top choice and why, attended the parent and me and got my application in on time. No connections, no letters of reference, no stress.

Below is a list of highly sought after schools around the (east-ish)LA area:

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Los Feliz

Pinwheels

All Children Great and Small

Los Feliz Corners

Hollywood

Montessori Shir-Hashirim

Wagon Wheel

The Sunshine Shack

The Center for Early Education

Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool

Hollywood Presbyterian

Silver Lake

LA Family School

Camelot Kids

PLAY Silver Lake

Hilltop Preschool

Echo Park

Baxter Montessori

Cottage Enrichment

Atwater Village

Atwater Park Center

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock Montessori

Downtown/Wilshire corridor

Pilgrim School

Montessori Shir Hashirim Berendo Campus

Studio City

Sunset Montessori

Studio City Co-op

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Here’s hoping your search for the perfect school is as fun and easy as mine.  Happy Touring!

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XO

sarasign

Eagle Rock. How I Love Thee…

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One of the things I love most about selling real estate is getting to know ‘new’ parts of the city.  For the past year or so I have had a major crush on Eagle Rock. The first time I went to Eagle Rock was about 15 years ago to visit a friend who was living there. I was living in Venice Beach and it felt as if I had driven to the moon. Echo Park was about as far east as I had ever been and the city ended there as far as I knew. I honestly don’t remember forging any opinions about Eagle Rock then, except that it was too far from the beach.

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Home of Occidental College

 

Today I find Eagle Rock to be an absolute gem of a town. The perfect mix of urbanity and suburbanity– it borders (family friendly) Glendale and Pasadena on the North and East, and the hipper more urban Highland Park and Glassell Park on the South and West. It feels a lot like the cool-kids (hipster) playgrounds of Silver Lake and Echo Park but without the density, pretense and higher prices. The architecture is fantastic- unspoiled mid-century houses rest beside charming English tudor cottages, early 1900 craftsmen bungalows and 1920’s Spanish casitas. There are hillside homes perched high and low with views (if that’s your thing) as well homes in the flats with flat green lawns, picket fences and wide streets (if that’s your thing).

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I also respond to the working class feel of Eagle Rock.  It feels like ‘real’ people with ‘real’ jobs live there.  Like most towns, there are areas with more cache than others but the divide is not as great as other parts of the city. At least not yet—Eagle Rock has and continues to become more gentrified with each passing day.

Besides good architecture and proximity, the highly rated schools have become a veritable magnet for young families.  Dahlia Heights Elementary, Eagle Rock Elementary and Delevan Elementary are all above average elementary schools (K-6) and Eagle Rock High School (which goes from 7th-12th grade) is also highly rated. That’s 12 full years of good public school, which is almost unheard of in Los Angeles.

But is there anywhere to eat, drink and shop?  Yes, yes, and yes!  Here are a few of my favorites.

EAT

Little Beast:  Seriously delicious. At the end of the meal I was lobbying the waiter to tell the owners to please please please open another location in Los Feliz.

Joe at Little Beast

Joe at Little Beast

Four Café

Casa Bianca Pizza Pie

Cheesemonger:  Milk Farm

Senior Fish Cocina

DRINK

Eagle Rock Brewery Public House– a fine selection of craft beer and seasonal fare.

Colorado Wine Company

SHOP:

Letters From LA

Native

The Green Bean Kids Resale

Leanna Lins Wonderland (gifts and art)

Owl Talk Vintage Shop

Here are some of our recent sales in the Eagle Rock area:

 1916 Designer Done Craftsman

1916 Designer Done Craftsman

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1920’s Cottage

4745CollegeView-003

1920’s English Tudor

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Modern new construction

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Midcentury Hillside with views

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Midcentury

Call or email me if you would like to explore Eagle Rock or forward this blog to a friend who is in the market. Thank you for reading!

sarasign

 

Spotlight on Elysian Heights Elementary

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Elysian Heights Elementary serves the communities of Echo Park and Elysian Heights. It is located on the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Baxter Street, just north of beautiful Elysian Park.  Elysian Heights has a rich history and was home to  artists, writers, architects, filmmakers, political radicals and counterculture luminaries, whose children attended Elysian Heights Elementary during the 1930s, 1940’s and 1950’s.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the principal at Elysian, Mr. Emilio Garza, who is in his 3rd year as principal. Mr. Garza is very well educated and tenured but also fresh, youthful, and passionate about his work.  He’s the kind of principal that knows every kids name and their story and I can tell he’s invested in each and every one of them.

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Mr. Garza, principal at Elysian Heights

Elysian is a small school with an enrollment of 240 kids presently throughout TK-6th grades. The target enrollment is 290 and they welcome open enrollment applications. Their current class ratios are: TK-16:1, K-3rd 24:1, and 4-6th 30:1.

Mr Garza’s is implementing a progressive approach to teaching based on Universal Concepts, which he became well versed in through his experiences with International Baccalaureate Schools. Concept-based instruction is driven by “big ideas” rather than subject-specific content. By leading students to consider the context in which they will use their understanding, concept-based learning brings “real world” meaning to content knowledge and skills. Students become critical thinkers which is essential to their ability to creatively solve problems in the 21st century.

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He admits that it’s been a challenge to get all the teachers on board with a new way of educating the kids and eliminate the ‘drill and kill’ approach used in the past. His eyes lit up as he shared an experience of a kindergarten teacher running into his office to share a big ahah moment she’d recently experienced with her student using the universal concepts approach.

The overarching emphasis for the school is Health and Wellness, underpinning the belief that students who are healthy and happy are in the best position to learn. Students investigate various topics under this theme including physical and emotional wellness. Mr. Garza has created several events incorporating the health and wellness theme including Taste of Elysian, where kids learn how to create new health snacks and try new foods; the Fitness Fair, where kids explore new creative ways to move their bodies; and the Elysian Heights Annual 5k, a weekend exercise and fund raising event.

5k run

There are a wide array of extracurricular activities available to students at Elysian including: art, dance, drama, music, and gardening (they have a beautiful garden space). They also offer no-cost after school programs by LA’s Best and Extended Youth Services as well as enrichment classes like ballet, karate, kick boxing and Lego robotics.

elysian garden

The garden at Elysian is beautiful and productive. The kids sell the produce that they grow and harvest to parents.

Parental involvement is on the rise. My good friend just became the president of the school site council. She’s a badass high powered career woman and besides serving breakfast in her kid’s classrooms she is helping the school develop systems to enhance their communications and marketing and build upon the current parental involvement. She pulled her kids out of a very fancy private school a year ago and permitted them into Elysian. The kids are thriving and she and her husband feel more connected to their community.

Elysian Heights is a perfect example of school that might write off if were you to just look at their school rating (5). But you’d be missing a great opportunity to become involved in a lovely, intimate, community school that welcomes new families and new ideas. I encourage you to visit the school and see for yourself if it is a fit for your family. They have an upcoming event for their 100th anniversary!

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Adding Value to Your Home: Part 2 (Fun Stuff)

As a continuation of my last blog, which was about adding value to your home by maintaining it, here are some more fun ways to add value to your house.

Create space/open up the floorpan-Open floor plans are very popular. You can potentially open up your home by removing  a non structural wall, kitchen island, or antiquated built-ins (like a built in buffet).  This works particularly well for smaller homes.  But before you start knocking down walls- please consult with a designer. Opening up the floorpan can go wrong really quick though. Here’s an article about the pros and cons of open floor plans.

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small open floor plan

quintessential mid century open floor plan

quintessential mid century open floor plan

Landscaping– Trim back heavy foliage and let more light in. A dark house doesn’t show well and is a major turn off for most buyers. Clean up and fill in empty/dead space with inexpensive solutions like crushed granite or dark mulch.  A succulent garden is a great idea for California.  Succulents need next to no water,  grow like crazy and are very hard to kill.  Even my black thumb has yet to kill one off.

You can get away with this in England, not Los Angeles.

You can get away with this in England, not Los Angeles.

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replace weeds with crushed granite or mulch.

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Crushed granite walkway

Trim with succulents

Succulents in entry

Really-Small-Succulent-Garden

Trim with succulents instead of grass.

Entry way- update and maintain the entry way.  The entry sets the stage for the rest of the home. It’s the first and last thing you see. The latest trend is painting the door a vibrant color and putting modern house address numbers. It adds instant polish and sophistication and gives the impression of a well kept home.

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You want to house to say ‘Welcome Home’ to potential buyers.

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If it’s a family house, it’s great to have some toys outside to make it feel livable.

I do LOVE an orange door.

I do LOVE an orange door.

This is east coast perfection.

This is east coast perfection.

 

Floors.  Floors.  Floors.  Nothing ruins a great house faster than a crappy/cheap floor.  Get the best quality you can afford.  Engineered wood has come a long way and is more versatile,  less expensive and more eco friendly than real wood. But real wood almost always looks better in my opinion. Click here to read about the pros and cons of engineered wood vs. real wood.

My favorite wood flooring that is very on trend right now but also a can’t-go-wrong-classic is white oak.  It’s gorgeous. Wide plank or narrow, lightly finished or darker–it’s just got a quality that oozes understated luxury.

narrow plank ‘eclectic’ finish.

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Quartersawn-white-oak-flooring

yummy white oak perfection

 

Master Bathroom–  People love a good master bath and will pay more for it. An out of date powder room or kids bathroom is more forgivable so if your budget includes only one bathroom upgrade, make it the Master and for the love of god, make sure you install double sinks.  After a certain age, men and women shouldn’t be sharing a sink. Or a toilet (or maybe a bedroom), but that’s another blog post.

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A trend i like is turning a mid century dresser into a double sink cabinet. The brass fixtures make it feel more modern.

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Lower budget look- keep it neutral.

 

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Bespoke bathroom. My someday bathroom. Steam shower + deep soaking tub + window with a view. I could live in this bathroom.

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Middle cost bath- you could reduce the cost by nixing the marble and choosing a synthetic material. Keep it neutral.

Paint– You know that creative phase you went through 7 years ago when you decided to paint one wall in your living room bright turquoise to add a pop up color? Please paint it something neutral.  I promise you that exactly no one that comes in to buy it will appreciate it as much as you once did.  I know neutral is boring but a clean neutral palette will allow buyers to project their own ideas on to the house. And it’s all about buyers seeing themselves living there, not your 25 year old. Paint is one of the least expensive ways to update your home.

Don’t. Ever. Do This. I faux-painted a wall in the early 90’s. Enough said.

Why do i feel like having a piece of peach cobbler?

This better be in New Mexico.

Wowzers.

The Kitchen – it’s the heart of the home.  People die for a nice kitchen.  It should be the number one thing on your list to update. If you can’t afford a full kitchen renovation here are some lower cost ways to make your kitchen appear more modern/updated without doing a full renovation:

Change the light fixtures.  Two words: Pendant Lights. They just make a space feel polished.

Beautiful-Drum-Pendant-Kitchen-Lighting-Decor

Grey is a nice neutral counter.

Paint cupboards and change pulls.  You can get a little more creative with colors with kitchen cabinets but keep it relatively neutral–grey’s and blues are very popular and lend just a bit of personality without being obnoxious. Another look that’s been popular lately is to remove top cabinets and install open shelves for dish storage—but if you do you must have pretty dishes and glasses on display.

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Low budget- paint cabinets and new pulls.

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Yes

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Yes

This works.

This works.

open cupboards 2

Yes

yes.

Yes.

N O ! !

No. Never.

New countertops and backsplash tile can change the whole look of a kitchen without remodeling the entire thing.  Kitchens can become dated quickly, so stick with neutral palettes in materials that work for your family. It’s finding the right balance of beauty and maintenance. Personally, i will sacrifice some beauty to have something that is lower maintenance (we have synthetic Cesar Stone). Lately I have been seeing a lot of Soapstone in higher end houses, which is lovely but higher maintenance.  Also, seeing a lot of butcher block in median priced homes, which adds  nice warmth to the kitchen.

Granite, once the queen of countertops has really become dated

Granite, once the queen of countertops has really become dated.

Grey-Kitchen-Countertop-Design-with-White-Kitchen-Cabinet-for-Modern-Kitchen-Ideas-with-White-Wall-Color

Grey counters are neutral and timeless.

Soapstone- the supermodel of countertops. Beautiful but high maintenance.

Soapstone- the supermodel of countertops. Beautiful but high maintenance.

butcher block countertops add warmth to kitchen

Butcher block countertops add warmth to kitchen

Kitchen floors– If your floors are less than stellar- put down a modern rug or two in the kitchen to distract from the floors. Or my favorite low cost kitchen flooring is a modern take on linoleum, called marmoleum.

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Marmoleum comes in an array of colors.

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rugs in kitchen are ok

Linoleum in the Laundry Room.

Try linoleum or marmoleum in the laundry room or playroom  for a  low-risk pop of color/creativity.

Organize the Playroom– Playrooms are a must if you have kids.  Most people don’t have the luxury of a separate playroom.  It’s usually a nook or extension of a general living space in the home (mine is the laundry/mud room). If that’s the case, be sure to keep it modern, neutral (or same palette as your home), and tidy/organized.  It reads adorable if it’s done well and screams cluttered deathtrap if not.

playroom2

 

A few tweaks are all that’s necessary to make a tired home feel fresh and newish. I hope these tips are helpful. Thanks for reading and happy updating!

xoxo

sarasign

Adding Value to Your Home: Part 1

This morning as I was pulling out of my garage, I noticed something. Something that I would never have noticed before I sold real estate. The flashings on the roof over my garage appear to be lifting/peeling away from the roof. I made a mental note to call a roofer and have it checked.

Flashing is material that’s used over joints in roof and wall construction to prevent water intrusion.

Welcome to home ownership. Noticing. Looking. Paying attention. Unexpected expenditures. Your home is your biggest investment, so you should care for at least as well as you do your car.

Spending time and money on my house is not my favorite thing to do unless it involves a trip to Restoration Hardware and a soft new throw to curl up with on the couch (or a new couch). The roof flashings are anything but flashy but I know that in the long run it is money better spent. Damn it.

Clients and friends ask me about the best way to add value to their home. And there are a lot of ways to do so, many of which are super creative, and really fun and I promise I will deliver some good ones in part 2 of this topic. But because many of my clients are first time home owners, I feel compelled to write about the VERY best way first. The best (but least fun) way to add value to your home is to maintain it well.

DON’T DEFER MAINTENANCE.

See, I told you. B-O-R-I-N-G.

boring

But here’s the thing, when you sell your home the buyer will hire a team of people to thoroughly examine it and they will uncover everything you’ve skipped or skimped on over the years and you’ll end up paying much more in the long run.

Here are my top 5 Maintenance Tips that will help you preserve your home and save you money when you sell:

1. Have the sewer line scoped every 2-3 years. That beautiful tree in your yard that you love to drink your coffee under every morning has roots that could be destroying your sewer line.  You don’t have to rip the tree out, but if you clear your line every couple years the roots won’t ruin your sewer. It’s about $500 to remove the roots and about $5,000-$10,000 to replace sewer line.

Tree roots infiltrating a clay sewer pipe.

Tree roots infiltrating a clay sewer pipe.

2.  Learn how your Heating and Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system works. It’s the system most people know the least about and it also needs regular maintenance every few years.  Maintaining the system is much less expensive than replacing it. It’s not uncommon for systems to last for 20+ years if taken care of properly.  At the very least change your filters regularly because…well, see below. You can do it yourself and it costs about $50.

HCAV Unit diagram

HCAV Unit diagram

 

Dirty filter = ewe.

Dirty filter = ewe.

3.  If you remember nothing else I ever say remember this: Water is the ENEMY of the homeowner. Moisture leads to mold and mold is expensive to get rid of–like rip the walls out and replace them expensive. So always be on the lookout for water intrusion- check the basement or crawl space and make sure there’s no moisture, hire a handyman to check the flashings on your roof (see above) to make sure they are sealed. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to avoid water intrusion is to install gutter extensions, which pushes rain water away from the house rather than letting it descend right into the foundation.

Spout Extensions: An inexpensive way to prevent water intrusion in your foundation.

Spout Extensions: An inexpensive way to prevent water intrusion in your foundation.

4. Spray for termites. In California, we have termites, it’s just the way it is. There are subterranean and swarming termites and they can wreak havoc on your home. Spraying for termites annually helps avoids most big ticket damage and may help you avoid paying to have your home fumigated (tented) when you sell.

Their job is to destroy your house. Don't let them!

Their job is to destroy your house. Don’t let them!

5. Have the foundation checked every so often. Foundations shift over time and small cracks can be fixed easily and cheaply if they are not allowed to progress over long periods of time.  Foundation repairs are one of the biggest ticket items that buyers ask (and generally get) a credit for.

Epoxy can be injected in small cracks in your foundation.

Epoxy can be injected in small cracks in your foundation.

Ok, I feel better now that that is out of the way. Now we can move on to the fun stuff. Check back for my next post- Remastering Your Home. I promise it will more fun and involve some really aspirational rooms and creative ideas!

As always, please reach out to me if you have any real estate needs or forward this blog to a friend.

xoxo

sarasign

Citizens of the World Charter School- Silver Lake

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cwcsl_logo_200x180

CWC-SL is a free public school committed to socio-economic, cultural and racial diversity.  We provide a challenging, experiential learning environment to develop students’ confidence, potential, and individual responsibility as true citizens of the world.

This month’s spotlight is on Citizens of the World Charter School-Silver Lake (CWC-SL).  CWC-SL is K-6 public charter school founded in 2012/13 as an alternative to one’s assigned public school.  Admission is based a lottery, which is conducted annually. This year’s lottery is scheduled for March 15, 2016 at 6pm and will be held at the school’s campus, 5620 De Longpre, 90028.  You must apply by March 1st, 2016 to be included in the lottery. The lottery is weighted with preference given to founding parents, siblings of current students, students who qualify for reduced/free lunch and students who reside in the LAUSD district.

This year they are projecting 80 spots for Kindergarten, 15 spots for 1st grade, and a mere 20 openings for grades 2-6.  To put your chances in perspective- last year they received 850 applications for all available spots.  If you don’t receive a spot you are automatically put on the waitlist, which ‘moves very quickly’ during the Summer as applicants decline their offered spots.  So if you don’t get in at first, all hope is not lost.

ramona2-600x600The tour was led by the principal, Dr. Ramona Patrick, who is also a founding parent.  Dr. Patrick provided a very thoughtful overview of CWCSL’s philosophy and curriculum.  The school is a diverse mix of many cultures including Latino, Asian, Russian, Black and White students and  is also socioeconomically diverse with 50% of the children qualifying for a reduced /free lunch program.  12% of the children are specialty learners who are fully integrated.

CWCSL is a progressive school and their approach to learning is based on Piaget’s theory of constructivism, which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas. More simply put it’s a student centered approach- building knowledge off of what the children already know and are interested in. (This in contrast to the LAUSD’s traditional approach with a teacher leading a discussion based on their planned curriculum.) While the school is progressive in their approach to learning they are a public school and so their students must adhere to the same testing standards as all LAUSD public schools.  The students take all the same Common Core tests that the LAUSD students take to ensure academic proficiency.  Dr. Patrick reviewed the following curricula:

Language ArtsFundations Phonics, Teachers College Reading and Writing Program

Math:  Everyday Math and Cognitively Guided Instruction

Social/Emotional: UCLA Cool Tools, Mindfulness, Connected + Respected

One of the unique things about CWCSL is that teachers complete a detailed evaluation of each student 4 times per year starting at the beginning.  This way they know which part of the curriculum to emphasize with a student at any given time to achieve proficiency. Because the curriculum is flexible students get more of a customized approach than a typical LAUSD ‘teacher-centered’ environment. It seems to me like a nice balanced approach.

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One of my favorite things about the school is their Peace Corners.  Every classroom has a designated area called a peace corner that a student can go to when they need a break from the group—or just need to take some deep breaths and chill for a minute.  It is not a punitive time out corner- the students are not sent there but rather can choose to go anytime they need a minute.  I love the idea so much I’m going to implement one at home (I might never come out though).

One of my not favorite things is the school’s facilities.  Charter schools are typically located in under utilized LAUSD school space. CWCSL is currently utilizing part of the Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood.  The classrooms and gym and bathrooms are all fine and on par with other public schools I have toured.  BUT the location is pretty janky.  It’s right behind a Home Depot with all manner of workers for hire and just about block away is a sober living house which I happened to park outside of for the tour.  It gave me a bit of pause—and I am pretty cool with the urban experience—my daughter’s preschool rents space inside a VERY urban LGBT/AA church just down the street from the homeless encampment on Prospect/Vermont where we routinely walk right past sometimes rough looking LGBT addicts smoking cigarettes outside the church’s entrance. It’s LA.  It’s urban.  It wouldn’t prevent me from sending my daughter there but it aint fancy, so just be aware.  Dr. Patrick said they are actively searching for a new location—one that actually is IN Silver Lake, so if you have a little one the location will potentially be nicer/closer by the time your child attends.

Ok back to the good stuff- the student teacher ratio is an impressive 24:1 + TA.  The classes felt smaller and more intimate than many schools I have visited. They emphasize the arts and physical education so the kids get Art and PE twice a week (more than LAUSD) and Spanish class once a week. They also offer a hot healthy lunch sourced by a  local restaurant that sounded pretty tasty.  There are after school enrichment offerings and care that extends to 6pm for a very reasonable cost.  And best of all they don’t believe in tons of homework—about 10-30 minutes max.  Please note that the time you save helping (doing?) your kids homework will be spent volunteering at the school.  Each parent is required to pitch in 40 hours of work each year to improve the school/fundraise, etc. If you consider private elementary schools average $25k a year, 40 hours is not a bad tradeoff for a FREE modern progressive education. If it helps you could look at it as getting paid $625 an hour to volunteer. I’d take that hourly rate.

 

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CWC-SL would be a great choice for many families who are looking for something other than a traditional school but not wanting to go private.  Even though it’s not LAUSD I am sure it has its own set of politics (all schools do) and probably isn’t perfect (no school is) but I was impressed with what they have created in only 4 years. They already have plans in the works for an eventual junior high and high school (hurray!) and Dr. Patrick seems like a person who can lead them to greatness.  I look forward to seeing the progress in the coming years.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me.  And of course, if you know anyone looking to make a move, please refer me.

Happy Valentines Day!

sarasign

 

 

 

Upcoming Elementary School Tours

 

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Happy 2016!

I hope your new years resolutions are holding strong. If one of your resolutions is to get your child into a good public school then now is the time to start scheduling your school tours (like you need something else to do).

January marks the beginning of school touring season (hurray?!).  If you are considering buying a new home this year and school district is important to you, I highly recommend touring the school(s) in your areas of interest.  Below is tour information for some of the popular elementary schools in the surrounding area.

Micheltorena Elementary& (Dual Language Program ):  The January 22 is already full.  Sign up for the February tour or the April tour here.

Franklin Elementary:  January 29th 8:30am.  Call to reserve your spot. http://friendsoffranklin.com/calendar-2/

Ivanhoe Elementary: sign ups are posted on their site periodically.  There are none scheduled for 2016 but check back often as they fill up quickly.

Citizens of the World Charter School Silver Lake January 12th  and February  3rd http://www.cwcsilverlake.org/admissions/tours/

Los Feliz Charter School:  The website says their tours are all full.  But it has a contact to email. http://losfelizarts.org/admissions/school-tours/

Eagle Rock Elementary School.  The January tour is full.  The next one is February 22 at 830am.  Sign up here.

Dahlia Heights Elementary– February 3rd at 8:30am.  Call to reserve your spot: (323) 255-1419

Aldama Elementary Dual Language Program:  January 15, 2016 at 9:30am

Wonderland Elementary: Late Spring 2016 Call Karla Lopez: 323-654-4401

Mt. Washington Elementary:  March 9 at 9am for those zoned to school presently and 10:30am for those not zoned to it.  Call to confirm space: (323) 225-8320

Elysian Heights Elementary:  Usually Monday mornings.  Call to schedule: 323-665-6315.

Atwater Elementary:  Call for tour info: 323-665-5941.

Clifford Elementary Math and Technology Magnet: Thursday, Jan. 14 1:00-2:00 pm and Thursday, Jan. 28 9:00-10:00 am

Valley View Elementary:  Tours happen in November and March.  Check here for upcoming tour dates.

Carpenter Community Charter Elementary: Wednesday January 20th at 8:15am http://www.carpentercharter.org/attendance-enrollment/admissions.html  Reservations not required.

Colfax Community Charter School:  February 12 sign up here.

Third Street Elementary: March on Thursday, 3/31 at 9 am at the school library.  Call ahead to confirm.

Hancock Park Elementary: No info available, recommend calling.  http://hancockparkschool.com/contact-us/

Cheremoya Elementary: Monthly Tours.  Next one is January 21 and Feb 18 call (323) 464-1722 www.cheremoyafoundation.org

Citizens of the World Charter School Hollywood Tours appear to be full.  I recommend calling to see if you can jump in on one. http://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b0844acaa28a64-citizens1

Happy touring!  I tour as many as I can, so you may see me there in the front row eating a donut and asking all the questions.  If so, say hello.  And don’t judge me for the donut–that wasn’t one of my resolutions.

xoxo

sarasign

 

 

Micheltorena Elementary

UnknownHeader_950x150_corestatementThis month’s spotlight is on Micheltorena Elementary. Micheltorena is known (perhaps unfairly) as the less desirable school in Silver Lake. The NOT Ivanhoe. Their Dual-Language Program (DLP) which goes from kindergarten to 3rd grade, has become a big draw since 2012 and the word on the street is that Micheltorena is a very viable option in Silver Lake so I was excited to tour the school for myself.

Micheltorena Elementary is located in the epicenter of Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction. As you might expect the room was filled with hip, well coiffed parents. More than one mom with pink hair, several mustachioed dads, skinny jeans all around.

The tour began with a presentation from the principal, Susanna Furfari. Ms. Furfari is that special combination of likeable/badass that you want in a person responsible for educating your kid. She has excellent command of the room and passionately relays her vision for the school.DSC02445-300x225

Furfari has been the principal since 2007 (she’s taught for 25 years) and is responsible for the creation of the Dual Language Program (DLP), partnering with community organizations and invigorating the Friends of Micheltorena, which supports many of the extracurricular/enrichment activities at the school.

The mission of the school is to ‘Cultivate knowledge through Creativity, Community and Diversity’. They believe strongly in cooperative learning (Kagan Cooperative Structure), which promotes: positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation and simultaneous interaction. Basically the opposite of what traditional public schools were like when I grew up, where the classroom was very teacher centric with minimal time for peer-to-peer interaction.

Since the DLP is what makes this school unique (and what most parents are there for frankly) Furfari tailored much of the presentation to the research that supports their model, which is a 50/50 model. The students in the DLP spend 50% of their day learning in English and 50% of their day learning in Spanish. The goals of the program are:

  1. communicative and academic send language proficiency
  2. primary language proficiency
  3. academic achievement
  4. appreciation for diversity

The key to DLP model is the ratio English Learners (at least 30%) to English Dominant students. They spend one half of the day in a classroom with an English-speaking teacher (where only English is spoken) and the other half with a Spanish-speaking teacher (where only Spanish is spoken). This is not the case in all language immersion programs within LAUSD but it is the model with the best outcomes according to Furfari. If the thought of sending your 5 year old into a classroom where they don’t hear any of their native language for 3 hours a day unnerves you, you are not alone. Ms. Furfari was candid about the drop out rate in the first year of the DLP. A lot of kids were not happy about attending classes in something other than their native language and their parents pulled them out. But in subsequent years Furfari says they’ve had almost zero attrition. In fact, the DLP is near impossible to get into unless you are zoned to Micheltorena (less than a 5% chance of permitting in). My tour leader was a mom with twins (english speakers) in their 3rd year of the DLP. She was extremely happy with the program and said her kids are now fluent Spanish speakers. Impressive.

Besides the DLP I found the school environment to be delightful and not dissimilar to the nearby highly rated schools that I have toured. They have a school wide arts integration curriculum in partnership with Silver Lake based Blue Palm, an arts education group. They’ve also partnered with Silver Lake Conservancy of Music to offer orchestra instruction to the 3rd, 4t, and 5th graders . There is an organic garden program, a new library, and a new computer lab, and many after school enrichment classes. The fundraising arm of the school –The Friends of Micheltorena is well-organized (and growing) and making significant contributions to the school’s enrichment offerings.

The DLP classes have a ratio of 24:1; the standard k-3rd ratio is similar and the 4th and 5th graders are lower than the district average(34) with 31:1. I did see several teachers’ assistants and parent volunteers in most classrooms.

Let’s talk about their rating. Great Schools gives them a rank of 3/10. Yikes. I asked Furfari why it was so low. She told me that Micheltorena provides 5 specialty classes for students with learning disabilities. The students from Franklin and Ivanhoe who have special learning needs have been sent to Micheltorena’s specialty classes. They have also historically had a higher number of English learners (although that demographic has been changing). All of the students are required to take standardized tests every year and so everyone’s scores are reflected in the schools overall scores. She also pointed out that the test scores are very old at this point- the last reported test scores were 4 years ago and in that time the demographic has changed and the DLP has begun. The first set of Common Core test scores will be released at the end of the year so I’d suggest checking those out when they’re available.

Overall I liked the school very much. I was impressed by the Dual Language classrooms and found myself fantasizing about my daughter being fluent in Spanish by age 8. The regular classes seemed on par with other schools in the area. Furfari seemed like a great leader and I believe that the success of a school has a lot to do with its principal. Micheltorena Elementary certainly feels like a viable option to me and I encourage you to dig deeper than the rating and take the tour if you live in the district or if you are thinking about buying a home in the district.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

sarasign

Silver Lake Gem

2516 Kenilworth Avenue 90039

Stats: 4 Bed/4Bath, 3013/sq.ft., 8,332/sq.ft. lot,

Offered at $1,995,000, Zoned to Ivanhoe Elementary School

New to market this week is this beauty in Silver Lake.  It’s one of the better finished homes I have seen in a long time. A 1940’s traditional that has been brought beautifully up to date by Silver Lake’s own Barbara Bestor (architect). The house is a good case study in why you need a designer to do it right. Every inch is done well with a perfect restraint that makes it a home that just feels good to be in. Of course, every home has an Achilles heel. The floor plan is a tad unfortunate for most families with two bedrooms up and two bedrooms down (and sort of a big distance between them) so it probably won’t work for families with very young children who want to keep them close. But a family with one child or older kids would do well and the epic backyard (with room for a pool) will more than make up for it for some lucky buyers.

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Listed by Peter Lorimer, PLG Estates.  Photos Courtesy of MLS.

Curious?  Contact me for a private showing.

Open House Ettiquette for Buyers

 

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Recently I was holding an open house. A youngish woman came in with her agent in toe. After walking around the (very crowded) open house she walked toward me, crinkled her nose in disgust and said to no one in particular, “This house needs to be gutted”. I smiled and watched as her agent turned beet red. I felt for the guy. We (agents) have all been there before. Which is why we coach our clients on how to conduct themselves at an open house.

Buyers- when you attend an open house the listing agent is watching you and making mental notes about how you act at the open house and that information is then conveyed to the seller. While the seller always chooses their buyer, often times they look to their agent for guidance. And if they recall you army crawling under the house to check for cloth wiring, that could be perceived as a red flag and it could give you a disadvantage. In this competitive sellers market with multiple offers its imperative that you behave in way that leaves the listing agent feeling that you are enthusiastic, realistic and committed.

Here are a few of my tips:

Do’s

  • Introduce yourself and tell the listing agent the name of your agent.
  • Sign In and put your agents name if you have one.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Ask intelligent and thoughtful questions if you’re truly interested in the property
  • Offer feedback to the agent about why it does or doesn’t work for you (we really appreciate it!).
  • If the agent sends out an email following up respond with whether you are interested in the house or working with them. (we really appreciate it).

Don’t

  • Come in wearing a headlamp and dive straight into the crawl space to ‘check the foundation’. You’re not an inspector. That’s what inspections are for.
  • Be rude. If you hate the house, just walk out and move on with your day.
  • Send your handy uncle or mom in to pre-inspect the house. They aren’t inspectors.
  • Loudly poo-poo the house, street, noisiness or neighborhood. That’s a bad negotiating tactic.
  • Ask what the bottom line price is or is there is a discount for cash. Hint: just write an offer and you’ll find out. That is what offers are for.
  • Tell the agent that the house is priced to high. The market will decide.

It’s been hard out there for buyers lately. I know you’re weary, beat down and feel like it will never happen. But it will. Everyone gets a house. Believe! And remember that the agent is a professional, at work, on a Sunday.  Be nice!

sarasign