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My husband and I have been making the rounds of the Berkeley elementary schools and kindergarten nights. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we both liked Thousand Oaks' kindergarten staff. We understand that there are very few (maybe 4 teachers) left from when Principal Woolbridge came on board 4 years ago. We're interested in any comments (pro and con) about Thousand Oaks. Theresa
To the parent(s) asking for pros and cons about Thousand Oaks: As a kindergarten parent, I enjoy the Thousand Oaks teaching environment and it's feeling of community. It seems like the principal, Kevin Wooldridge knows most, if not all, of the kids on a first name basis. I have found him easily accessible to parents and teachers. He seems to be everywhere and know everything that's going on. The teachers are caring, energized, innovative and seem to put in a lot of extra time beyond their normal class hours working with parents and students. My daughter is doing great. As to any cons, there are two but both should change in the near future. Obviously, Franklin is not a great site but that should be remedied by Fall 2000. The other is that the PTA seems like it has just been a small core group of parents since the move to Franklin. On the other hand, parents seem to come out for the big events because of a sense of community and the PTA is now in transition with lots of new parent participation and energy.
My daughter attends kindergarten at Thousand Oaks and we have been pleasantly surprised with the school. We looked at some private schools before making the decision to send our daughter to public school. My shock was in learning that public schools do have excellent academic programs and committed teachers. We are fortunate because our daughter got into a class with a new but energetic teacher who seems to empower the kids, has parents who participate in the classroom and has a great bunch of students. Of course, there is going to be 1-3 kids who are not ready for school or who take more time. But don't delude yourself into thinking this doesn't happen in the beginning grades in private school. I have found that the students in my daugther's class do as well as their parents are willing to support them emotionally and academically.
On the downside, Thousand Oaks does not have a big PTA. However, the PTA and the Principal are very inclusive of any parents who want to help out. My impression is that the Principal, Kevin Wooldridge, is very responsive. Last year parents complained about a kindergarten teacher - she now teaches 2nd grade. Additionally, this year the kindergarten is large (110 students) - made up of two LEP (limited english proficiency) classes, three english kindergarten classes and one K-1 class. On the other hand, each individual class is small - my daughter's class only has 19. Also on the down side, Thousand Oaks will be at the Franklin campus until September 2000. It is a large campus that presently houses Cragmont and will probably house a magnet school or more next year. It's not very pretty and when I visited it last year during the rainy season it was downright gloomy. This year the teachers made a concerted effort to put more art on the walls Another plus is that it's the plan that in a year from September Thousand Oaks will be in a beautiful state of the art school near Peets & Starbucks at Colusa near Solano. In the meantime, the school is split up so that each school's students, yard and principals operate separately.
Bottom line, I think Thousand Oaks is one of Berkeley School's best kept secrets and seems to keep on improving. Hope this information helps. I would be willing to answer any questions I can or direct you to the person(s) who might know the answers. Good luck in your decision.
Just a few thoughts about Thousand Oaks--it may be hard to assess the situation with T.O. at present because the school is being built and many T.O. kids are being funnelled to the Franklin School site, which until this year also housed Columbus staff and students, and I think will continue to house Cragmont staff and students along with Thousand Oaks until both schools are rebuilt. If you hear anything more, please let me know because many newcomers are asking. . .
My inquiries into TO has lead me to some good and some not so good information about the school. The most important thing I learned is that while the kindergarten teachers might not stand out, for the most part the school has a lot of good and imaginative teachers. I was quite impressed with the kindergarten bi-lingual teacher and have heard people sing her praises. Teachers are apparently receptive and encourage parent participation. My classroom visit ( and inquiries) turned up only one kindergarten teacher in whose class I would not want my child. I am informed that the principal appears to be committed, effective and approachable.
The not so good information has to do with us. It would appear that people like us are the reason that TO does not have an active PTA (except for 15 committed families). Many of the parents I know are sending their child to private school merely because of the assignment to TO. They are the kinds of parents who join the PTA and help to spark flames of school spirit and camaraderie. If people were willing to take a chance, TO might become a truly diverse school and the kind of school we perceive Jefferson and Columbus to be. If not, you can continue to pay for something you might get for free.......
TO's building plans seem to be on schedule for the '98-99 school year and it is expected that the move will create an exciting image for the school. The old building has already been torn down. However, Cragmont will probably be at the Franklin site till January. There is much going on around the district and the Northern Zone that could also affect TO in the next couple of years. Many fear that Prop 227 might pass which would eliminate all bi-lingual classes Also, the district is planning to open the Franklin site as a magnet school in the Northern Zone after TO leaves. My impression was that they were talking about the '98-99 school year and that the focus would be on Eco-science.
Thousand Oaks has it's big fund raiser for the year on Saturday May 30th. Sorry, I forgot to ask for the times but I assume it's during the day. Give it a chance, bring your child by . It would be a good way to meet the parents who know about the school and some of the teachers in a more casual setting.
Good luck with your decision. We are going to take each year as it comes. If you have any imput, interest or questions, please e-mail me at
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