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Bright Star Montessori (Albany, CA)
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Re: Bright Star (or other Montessori) for May
Both of my sons have loved Bright Star. My oldest was there four years ago - he had a very good experience (always wanting to be the first one there and the last one to be picked up). After he went on to kindergarten, he always wanted to stop by to say hello to his teachers. My younger son has been there 6 months, and also loves it. He's made lots of friends and often asks if he can go to Bright Star on the weekend.
The two main classroom teachers have been there for at least 4 years. I often see my son wander over to the teachers and give them hugs. There is an elementary school across the street, and I often hear kids who have graduated yelling greetings to the Bright Star teachers outside.
Our older son was there during the previous director's tenure. This current director is much more communicative. Our sons have had a great experience at Bright Star.
Our negative experience: The director kicked our son out of school with not a day's notice on the same day we met with her to discuss communication issues we perceived. I complained via email about the fact that we were left out of activities (not given a permission slip to one field trip because she said to me she ''thought we wouldn't be able to go''). I also inquired about what we perceived as a lack of confidentiality after she called a parent and discussed the fact that we had called her (the director) with issues. My husband decided to go to pick-up a little early in order to talk to her in person, as she had previously told us we should talk face-to-face because email communication can be misleading. She raised her voice at him and he was not able to even voice most of the concerns he went in to discuss. When he asked about calling another parent about us (who has become a friend of our family) she shouted: ''___ is a liar!'' Each time my husband said he had to leave to pick up our other two sons from their school, she said ''Let me finish!'' He finally left her office, she followed him down to where the children were, and in front of our son, other children and at least one teacher, said ''Maybe you shouldn't bring (my son's name) back tomorrow.'' By the time he got home, she had sent an email telling us we were not allowed back at the school, and that her decision was backed by the Board of Directors (which is necessary according to the parent handbook). This was less than an hour after my husband left the school. We sent several emails, asking who the board consists of and never received an answer. We searched online and with the Child Care Licensing Center and have not been able to find a current board member. The person listed as President told me she has not been on the board for a long time. As of February, we could not find any accurate list of a Board of Directors for this school.
We were active parents, respectful of other parents, children and staff, and used the proper routes when we had an issue. We never yelled, cursed, threatened or did anything else that should elicit such a harsh reaction from her. If she decided she wanted us to leave, that was her prerogative, but she should have thought of the child - a 4 year old who loved his school - and planned some sort of transition. As it was, our son was not allowed to say goodbye to teachers or friends. Juliana
RE: friendly Montessori preschool
Bright Star Montessori! My son,Lucas, attended Bright Star Montessori, for 3.5 years before Ms. Swarna passed away. The new director studied under Ms. Swarna for Montessori training and I got to hear her speak at the memorial. The main assistants,Mr. San and Mrs. Naboyi are great. The school itself is great. Michelle
My children started at Bright Star in summer 2011, when my son was 4 and my daughter 2.5. They had a fabulous year there, and my daughter will continue next year. My son will attend Kindergarden and go to Bright Star for after-school. I love having them share a classroom and learn with Montessori, it is such a natural thing for young children to be surrounded with kids a bit older and a bit younger, just like a home with siblings.
The school has a new director this year and we are very excited to have her. The teachers that have been with my children last year will continue, and we love them. The Montessori work period is a great way for little ones to learn to love learning, since they get to choose their ''work'' and have the freedom to get absorb in it in ways only young children can. My son turned 5 at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and we are amazed at his writing and reading abilities, not to mention geography! I truly feel that this school has provided my kids with a great foundation for future years. Charlotte
Bright Star Montessori School (Preschool) Shines! We have been Bright Star parents for the last 2.5 years (daughter started at 2.5 years of age), with one more year to go. We chose a Montessori setting so that our daughter could learn from older kids and learn by teaching younger kids. This has worked out really well. At a previous school we felt that our daughter was ''stuck'' learning only ''age'' appropriate things in a classroom with kids of only her age. The teachers have been with our daughter the entire time we have been there, and they have formed a deep bond with our child. Importantly, our daughter feels safe and secure at the school, which allows her to focus on important things like learning academics and good social interactions. The facility is excellent. They maintain a wonderful garden around the school where the kids can learn about ecology. Right now there is a long row of sunflowers on one side of the school. The hours are also great (8 AM to 6 PM). The school has an energetic new director this year, and we are very excited for the possibilities to come. Jeffrey
Bright Star Montessori (in Albany) has been a wonderful place for our two sons. Our first son attended for 3 years and our second son is now in his second year there. Both boys enjoyed being there and we as parents found the environment to be and wonderful place for our children to grow. The staff is caring and responsive. The structure and sense of community responsibility that developed in our children has been invaluable. There is a regular focus on the importance of community - the joys and responsibilities related to being part of a family/community, including the larger environment- where things we use in our daily lives come from and where they go and its impact on the earth. The school has a beautiful garden that the children help take care of and they enjoyed eating the fruits and veggies they grew. The school is unusually diverse for preschools in the area and our kids enjoyed the different cultural celebrations throughout the year. Bright Star Montessori has encouraged our two boys to be curious, self-motivated learners, something we hope continues throughout their lifetime. As a two mom household, we found that our family was warmly welcomed and would definitely recommend Bright Star Montessori. mari
I would like to share our experience at Bright Star to help potential families discern whether it's a good fit for themselves or not. My child started Bright Star at 2.5 years old and attended for 3 years. The first two years were OK, but as my child grew older he started to display frustration and anger with the school. We reached a point when the school was no longer a good fit for my son's needs. If it were not for some clauses in Bright Star's enrollment contract, we would have withdrawn him.
Here are some things I wished I had known before deciding to enroll my son at Bright Star:
1) We knew the school to follow the Montessori method and we were fine with this, however this school is a strict Montessori school; this means that each child is supposed to work quietly for 3 uninterrupted hours in the morning. There is no recess.
2) It is really difficult to know about a child's progress; this being, it seems, an effect of the strict adherence to the Montessori method too. Unfortunately this also makes it difficult to bring positive elements to this review...
3) You should also know that you can't expect to bring your child later or pick her up earlier if you have a doctor's appointment. Hours are strict.
4) At this school, there is no alternative option for nap time, probably because of the limited staff. Every single child is expected to nap even if she doesn't need to. When my child attended full time last year he couldn't go to sleep before 11:30pm because of this nap and he didn't want to go to school anymore. We discovered that the reason for his reluctance was due to the awkward methods Bright Star used to get uncooperative children to sleep. At times, they would hold him to try and get him to nap. This situation was very uncomfortable and stressful for my son.
Since the school was not willing to adjust their nap policy and we could not withdraw our child from the school because of the contract we signed, we negotiated for my child to attend school mornings only and I worked from home in the afternoons. We were so relieved when June finally came! An ex Bright Star Mom
If you're looking for a great preschool you should check out Bright Star Montessori in Albany. Our 3 (almost 4) years old daughter attends Bright Star Montessori and she simply loves it! We moved to Berkeley from Sweden during the fall and she has had troubles adjusting in the beginning as she did not know any English. We visited several preschools in Berkeley and Albany area but coming from our previous preschool we had problems finding one that would have diverse and interesting enough curriculum. Our daughter is used to structured preschool as in Sweden children start to learn early about math, music and nature. And there was also time to play and excursions. They even have scientific experiments for 3-years old! We personally do not believe in a play-based preschool as, while it may be fun in the beginning, it is not stimulating enough in the long run. Preschool should provide much more that simply day care.
It took only a couple of months for our daughter to catch on to English and now she loves her preschool. She learns a lot - she now also starts counting in Spanish and Chinese and she is happy to go there every day. Bright Star has an own garden, the children learn a lot about nature and they go also out for walks. They sing and have concerts and they learn about different cultures and arts. Our daughter has made a lot of new friends and she likes the staff as well. During our time at the preschool the staff hasn't changed apart for maybe a temporarily substitute when someone is sick. The director is very friendly and was very helpful in the beginning as our daughter always wanted to hold her hand when we were leaving her at the preschool during the first rough weeks. We can only say that we recommend Bright Star Montessori highly and that we - and our daughter - love it!
I would love more recent feedback on Bright Star Montessori in Albany. I am looking at it for my two children, age 4 and 2.5. The reviews are from 2010 or older, and mixed to say the least. Thank you, anonymous
There are families that really seem to like Bright Star so take my review for what its worth. We were there for the school year 2010-2011. It wasn't the right fit for our family. Keeping the BPN's review guidelines in mind here are some general observations of the year.
I watched my daughter be reprimanded by a teacher as she was leaving school for hugging another student. The teacher asked my daughter ''not to hug at school.''
I had to ask the teachers and administration to greet my daughter each day as she often wasn't greeted upon arrival. Even then, it often didn't happen and parents aren't allowed into the school at drop off so my daughter often walked alone into the school or too the playground. Drop off is at 9:00am. If we arrived early we waited outside the gate. As the early drop off children inside would come running over to greet my daughter they were scolded on a number of occasions and asked to go back to the playground.
I was told that ''it isn't our responsibility to comfort a crying child'' When I asked the administration to set up meetings I was often put off... everyone was too busy...etc. Once I asked a member of the staff how to set up a meeting to discuss my concerns and she started crying. Despite many attempts I never was able to ''drop in'' to see what was going on in the class.
My daughter complained about going to school every day. Since the year has ended my daughter is sooo much happier. I'll also add that the contract is impossible to get out of. We would have pulled our daughter mid year if we could have.
I'm not sure if that helps or not. Definitely ask for a list of families to speak to about the school and it's philosophy. Former Bright Star Momma
We are looking at Bright Star Montessori School in Albany for our daughter and are wondering if someone can give us their opinion. We are looking for a nurturing environment that also challenges our daughter academically but is not overly rigorous. Are you able to share any information about teacher turnover, administration, diversity? Is it a warm place? Are parents able to reach the staff easily? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Anon
Montessori evolved at a time when mothers were home full time, and I think without realizing it, the staff at Bright Star is still working out how exactly to support families with two working parents, where children do need more support from teachers. There's a culture where it's the family's responsibility to make sure the child is ready to be at school rather than the other way around. This is a beautiful arrangement if someone is home full time and the family can adapt to the needs of the child and school, but for families with two working parents this can be difficult to manage.
Additionally, the contract is strict and very very difficult to modify or leave. Communication with staff is difficult as there's no communication at drop off or pick up. Everyone is very busy on the staff, so arranging meetings is tough.
I'm not sure if this answers your questions... it's really a school that needs to be right for your family. For the families that are the right fit, it's a beautiful place. current bright star momma
My child went to Bright Star Montessori and I wanted to address some of the earlier postings. I saw a lot of teacher turnover in the short time my son was in school there. I saw teachers being berated by the head of school in front of the children, not just once but several times and not the same teacher. I saw a teacher crying in front of the school and two days later a notice was sent to all parents about her not coming back. The head of school would frequently send a notice home to parents when a teacher had left but never an explanation as to why they were leaving. My son was there for a year and very upset when one of his teachers left so suddenly. We have since moved on to a far more stable school environment for him and one that is far more joyous as well. [He once told me he was not allowed to laugh in school.] Francis
Most distressing was our final conference, where we were told that if our son did not attend Bright Star for Kindergarten not only would he fail elsewhere, but that he may need therapy. Needless to say, my husband and I were disturbed by this. After again discussing the situation with our pediatrician, we decided to withdraw our son from Bright Star.
This afternoon we had our first parent-teacher conference at our son's new school. His Kindergarten teacher reported that our son is not only excelling in his school work, but also that he is easy-going, respectful, and works well with others. We are so relieved and happy for our son to finally see him in a positive, nurturing learning environment. Concerned Parent
Re: Year-round all day preschool in Berkeley/Albany
My son just ''graduated'' from kindergarten at Bright Star in Albany. He has done well there, we have enjoyed the last 3 years. I am impressed with his projects and ''focus,'' I also like their outdoor play area and the families. This is a small school, during the summer the program is mainly play based. And, if your son starts at 8 he will be one of the first kids there, most kids start between 8:30-9. satisfied mom
we have been very happy with our experience at Bright Star Montessori since the beginning. my 3 1/2 year old daughter started there after spending 2 years at a home daycare. within 2 weeks of starting, my daughter was noticeably calmer and more content, more willing to share with her younger sister, and seemed to feel safer in her own inner world. i think it helped immensely that i had done some reading on montessori education in preparation for her enrollment. montessori education really strives to protect and nurture the child's imagination and inner experience, and i think knowing that helped me understand the school's set-up: the way they maintain clear boundaries between parents and the play area/ school at drop-off times, how they plan parent-teacher communication, etc. all with the intention of prioritizing the child and creating a safe place for them to explore. i have really enjoyed the feedback and communication i have gotten from the teachers, particularly Miss Swarna. i feel in Bright Star that i have a community of educators that i can collaborate with in the education of my child and whose philosophy challenges me, though indirectly, to be a better parent and a better individual. and that is exactly what we were looking for. mom
I received one reply to my previous post on Brightstar Montessori and and wondered if there was at least one other recent opinion of the school (curriculum, activities), its director and teachers, or the way the school is run. I'm hoping to find a fun, loving, educational community for my outgoing daughter and can't tell if the one reply I got was a unique situation or representative for this school. Thanks for your help. -steph
But it's ''strict'' montessori, so if your kid is a talker or a wanderer it won't be tolerated. Parents aren't generally allowed to watch the class. Once when I was allowed to be there (birthday), a teacher was spoken with for speaking too loudly and was gone soon after.
Last year, a child was spanked by a teacher but the issue was not reported or told to parents until after the renewal contracts were due. Another teacher was fired, but again that information was withheld until after contracts were renewed.
It was difficult to get information about my child last year because the teacher on duty spoke little English. To the school's credit, after parents complained they tried to make sure that another teacher who could speak English was on hand to answer questions.
The teachers told me that particular children were problems and that I should keep my child away from them.
Consider carefully if it's right for you. You must sign a year-long contract so if your child doesn't thrive or if you disagree with their policies you're stuck. The fundraising and volunteer time can be onerous for some families. Glad to be Gone
It has been excellent for my boy, they have lots of outdoor time to let out energy. The new facility is beautiful.
When I got to volunteer , the kids were very absorbed. My son really likes Miss Swarna, and she is very skilled at setting up a traditional Montessori setting. He enjoys the other teachers as well.
There is not a lot of turnover in students. Mainly because the kids do so well. My son has developed some close friends, and I do not see the drop-off difficulties with constantly new children. It is nice to have a small group of children that is constant.
I would be happy to answer any questions, m_m
In general, I think the school is better for families who do not have both parents working full time (the communication tends to be ''old-fashioned'', which can be good in some settings but not for 2 professional parents with different parents dropping off and picking up, and some events - like the year- end ''concert'' and potluck - have been held only during the day hours - not possible for 2 working parents to participate in those, AND parent-teacher conferences are a nightmare for 2 working parents - only 1/2 as many appts as children, only offered mid-day, and only offering more appts once the first batch filled completely).
Some kids have a great time and it is true that it is a ''traditional'' montessori and that parents are not particularly welcome in the classroom or past the gate - there are exceptions though. Staff turnover can be high - though I can't say why with any degree of certainty. and they went through a very stressful period (it's over now) moving sites and battling a very oppositional community who didn't want a preschool in their backyard. They survived very well and, in fact, did a GREAT thing with the site.
All of that said, it was a great group of parents when we were there and the new site is certainly excellent. Some of the teachers were also great.
As with any school, none are perfect and each experience is colored by personal interactions and expectations. anon
I am happy with the communication I've had with the director and teachers at Bright Star since first looking at Preschools in our area. After reading past negative comments on the BPN, I discussed my concerns with the director. I was pleased with how she handled the situation, and she has been very communicative with me thus far, trying to make sure that my son is having a positive experience. I definitely recommend Bright Star. Bright Star Parent
Re: Looking for a Montessori Preschool
I recommend that you consider BRIGHT STAR on Marin. We have been there a year, and are very impressed with their structured program. It is small, I do not know if they have any openings. The facility is lovely, and when I have volunteered in class the kids have been very engaged. One of the drawbacks is that you have to sign an entire year contract, so you need to be certain that you like it- before you commit. That is also one of the schools strong points. There is not a constant change of children, so it is uncommon to see any of the drop-off difficulties as a child adjusts, and the children get to know each other well. pleased parent
I'm interested in hearing about the positive aspects of Bright Star Montessori from parents whose kids are currently enrolled. Please add whether you concur with the critiques of the prior, negative reviews. Thanks! On the fence
I'm seeking reviews based on recent experiences at Bright Star
Montessori. I'm looking for a safe Montessori preschool where my
child can enjoy herself and develop both academically and
socially. What is the teacher:student ratio at Bright Star? How
do teachers respond when one child pushes another? Is there a
healthy balance between discipline and relaxed play? Are
teachers aware of each child's developmental needs? It seems
that the school has a decent representation of Asian children.
Are there any African American or Latino kids? Do they have any
art, music or dance programs? Thanks.
Parent of a Happy Child
Does anyone have feedback regarding the Brightstar Montessori in Albany? The previous recommendations are years old so I wanted to see if anyone has new information. Thanks! Shannon
Bright Star Montessori in Albany is an excellent alternative to run of the mill, (play based), preschools and public kindergarten programs! Those of you not familiar with the Montessori method should check it out and then contact Bright Star for an observation appointment. If you are considering putting your child into a public kindergarten, check out the curriculum first and then bring it with you to your Bright Star observation, you will be amazed at the difference between the two types of schools.
Last year, there was a little girl attending, who, at 4.5 years of age could have read this message easily! Now, of course not all children will have that result, but if your child has it within them, wouldn't you like it nurtured and brought out? The director/head teacher has been in the business nearly 30 years and has children enrolled now who are the children of those she taught years ago! The environment is warm, caring, and interesting to children. They play outdoors in dry weather, have a morning work period and one in the afternoon for the older group. The children are articulate, polite, and helpful with peers. (Youngest child taken is 2 and eldest is 6, although one year they did have a 7 year old from China who picked up english within 4 or 5 months and was a whiz at arithmatic. The staff could accomodate his needs due to the uniqueness of the Montessori curriculum and materials which are suitable to children well over the age of 6 years!)
If I had a young child, Montessori, and Bright Star are the way I would go as it nurtures the mind, body and soul. New to Montessori and loving it!
I would like to give a current review/recommendation for Bright Star Montessori School in Albany. The comments currently available to parents via this newsletter are years old and no longer accurately describe the school and it's staff. I have found Bright Star, it's director and staff of two, to be more than exceptional at dealing with children from 2-6. The one mixed age group classroom usually contains children from many ethnic backgrounds and parent orientations. This is a plus in any school situation, but at Bright Star they encourage families to share their cultures and beliefs during the year. These presentations, though not rehearsed or elaborate, are well recieved by the students at Bright Star and are worked into lessons of geography, grace and courtesy, care of self and ones environment and so on. Montessori, besides having an academic side, also focuses on peace education, which is sadly The same staff have been there 4 years that I know of-how many preschools can boast that? While each staff person has a different style of communication with parents, they are all knowledgeable about care of young children and Montessori methods. The director/head teacher, began the school herself in 1977 and is a wonderful source of knowledge for parents in all areas of preschool and elementary education. Bright Star is a small school and feels safe and comfortable to the children who attend. They enjoy their time there and are usually not ready to leave by the end of the day. Parents pitch in for work days and fund raisers with amazing energy. Staff feel valued and parents feel supported. If you need full or part time school for your child (ages 2-6) you would be remiss in not checking out Bright Star! 558-2080 Bright Star parent/teacher group
Does anyone have experience or comments on the Bright Star Montessori Preschool in Albany? It's very close to my home. Thank you. Jenny
I was under the impression that the school was having serious money problems and was trying to cover them up with the happy little memos. The school originally went through grade 6 but in April or May a letter went out saying that the school was only going to go up to age 10 starting the next year (leaving those remaining upper level parents high and dry since the prime time for private school shopping was already over) I also believe it was the director herself who caused the problems and not just unsympathetic or incompetant front office staff. By the end of the year a new "permanent" teacher named Lynn had come onto the scene. She was fresh and enthusiastic at that point; I wonder if she is still there.
That being said, the Montessori method was good for my son, who became an artist that year and gained an instinctive understanding of large numbers.
Does anyone have an opinon about Bright Star Montessort School in Albany. We checked it out (I, too, am looking to place my 2 1/2 year old child in a preschool) and we came away having mixed feelings. The director was great! THe teachers are okay. Great outdoor facility and clean and orgaized interior. Any thoughts or experiences of Bright Staar would be great.
When it comes to incorporating things that are important to me I have found them inflexible or in other words not open to my input. For example when I asked them to include books that reflect our family situation they responded that kids this age don't pay attention to different family styles yet and that has not been true in my experience. I have watched a similar situation with another parent where her request was denied. Also, they lack at times sensibility to a parents needs and will push their needs pretty strongly, which may be something every school has to do. On the other hand they have made small exceptions for us.
Overall, I see them as very strongly believing in their work and their system and that leads to some inflexibility, but at the same time I know that they will always make sure that their work with the kids comes first. So I don't doubt that my child is well taken care of and is given excellent opportunities to learn and grow.
In comparison to other schools, the teacher:student ratio was better at Bright Star at least at the time we enrolled.
There are some wonderful parents at Bright Star and I feel very good about that. I have had play dates and we are now setting up combined childcare for those holidays when the school is closed.
I am sorry I don't have a clear answer for you. I don't regret having chosen Bright Star, but I sometimes wonder if I could have found a better school if I had done more research. Finally, my child loves going to Bright Star and that was not true with our last school. She likes the kids and the teachers and feels loved and needed. And that means a lot to me.
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