Moving to Albany for the Schools
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Moving to Albany for the Schools
Stay in Oakland or Move to Albany for the Schools?
I have read extensively in the archives about Albany schools
versus Oakland schools. I just haven't seen anything about the
specifics of how to decide where to live based on schools, how
much we can afford for a house, etc. My partner and I have 2
children, 1 and 2.5 years old. We live in Oakland in a
neighborhood that has been designated as one of the Oakland
elementary schools to be closed. I work in Berkeley, my partner
in Pleasanton. We are commited to sending our kids to public
school when the time comes, but are in a panic about the stress
of inter-district transfers, etc. Our question is, do we move to
Albany to be assured of at least a descent school system all the
way through high school, or move to a different neighborhood in
Oakland with a good performing elementary school and worry about
middle and high school later on? Oakland is sort of mid way
between both of our work locations, we currently live in Oakland
and feel comfortable there, we could probably afford a bigger
house in Oakland, but Albany seems like it would provide some
peace of mind regarding public schools. Since we have decided to
move (just not sure where) do we look in both Albany and Oakland
or choose before we start looking? I know that there isn't a
perfect answer out there, but I was wondering how people made
that decision? Was it based solely on what house you could
afford, or schools, or work, or...? HELP!!
how to decide?
I know exactly what you're going through, as we just moved to
Albany from Oakland. The main reason was the schools. I can tell
you what our thinking was.....although there are parts of
Oakland that we love, we feel that the school system just keeps
getting worse. You can get a transfer into the elementary school
of your choice, if you're lucky, but the jr and high schools are
not the best. In our case, we were living in a so-so
neighborhood with one of the worst elementary schools in the
city. We were faced with the gamble of the transfer or the cost
of private school. In either case, we decided that we would want
to send our daughter to private school once she reached Jr.
High. Once we decided our priorities, the decision came down
to...Do we want to spend the money on private school (and stay
in our so-so neighborhood) or on a mortgage in Albany (and go to
public school)? We decided to make the move, and we are so
happy! Now we don't have to wonder about our daughter's school
situation AND we get to live in a nice place (the house is
small, but that's okay!) The drawbacks to our decision include...
1. Our mortgage is much higher, 2. Albany appears to be less
diverse than Oakland (maybe not, but I'm just guessing, based on
what I see), and 3. Oakland is much more centrally located. I
guess you really have to weigh the importance of all the
I am a teacher at Sequoia Elementary, a public school in Oakland, and I
just want to offer one voice regarding the schools issue. As you may
very well know, there is a lot more to a school than how well standarized
tests report it has ''performed.'' I've taught at schools that came in right
at the bottom of the test scores (due mainly to linguistic/cultural
diversity), but where I would happily send my daughter (now two) due to
the wonderful community of the school. Now I'm at a school with better
scores (still not astounding, as we serve a very economically diverse
population, from very needy students to those with excellent resources)
but I'm much more impressed by the experience of the staff and the
leadership of the principal.
The flipside of underenrollment and the drastic measure of closing of
schools is that there may be more opportunity to get into some excellent
public schools. I know Sequoia, for one, is actively seeking students
from all over Oakland, as our enrollment is down. I can't speak for other
schools, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Sequoia, a rare blend of
a school with experienced, very dedicated teachers (actively recruited
by a talent scout principal), and a very diverse population, both culturally
AND economically, which is how I think it should be.
My last point is just a call to any parent out there who is facing this
dilemma. If you have the resources to choose between a troubled urban
school district and a more comfortable one, remember this. You can
make an incredible difference at a school like Sequoia and/or in a
district like Oakland Unified. One parent, with some skills or resources,
can touch many, many lives at a school like mine. At the same time,
your child can thrive in an environment like Sequoia, no matter what
ability level. There are wonderful teachers at work behind the
Standarized Curtain. Come visit!
As someone who's lived in Albany and graduated from Albany
schools you are right to consider the school system for quality
throughout elementery and high school...but you should know a few
things first. 1) Getting an interdistrict transfer is unlikely,
the schools are very small, so unless you own some kind of
property and pay taxes in Albany I think your chances of getting
in are slim. 2)You mentioned that you have two children. Allbany
is a bungalow town. Most of the houses are 2br, and unless you
are prepared to buy a house and add on, you will be limited for
space. 3) Because of the schools, property is VERY expensive. You
can expect to pay at least 10% over the asking price for a house
because of the bidding wars. This is all probably not what you
want to hear, but I hope it helps in your decision.
I went to Richmond schools from k-8 then because of scheduling
problems at Kennedy (HS in Richmond) I bailed and used a fake
address to go to Albany High. My friends at Kennedy and El
Cerrito definitely had more challenging course work and more
advanced opportunities with speech, debate, math and government
field trips. In my humble opinion, Albany schools are really
over rated, I remember being parked in front of videos, and
many teachers didn't relate to or challenge advanced students.
I think Albany fosters a homey white-bread community feeling
for the B average student who will thrive in the Cal State
system. The diversity is provided by children of international
PHD students at Berkeley, which is nice, but there's only
modest ethnic or economic diversity outside of the Village.
I'm interested in the idea that Albany Schools are especially
good, I'm guessing the self-selection of the educated middle-
class parents promote the impression that the schools are
better, but as having been a student in the high school, I
really don't think the schools and teachers are superior,
there's just not a lot of special needs or otherwise challenged
students at Albany that strain their system like might happen
at larger and more urban school districts.(BTW I ended up at
UCB as an A student). Look into the teachers that your child
will be with in Oakland (or Richmond, or wherever) because the
personal connection is what makes all the difference. Good
PS- I'm homeschooling my kids, think about that as a great
When we looked for a house (10 yrs ago) years before we had
kids, we looked mostly in school districts that had good junior
highs and high schools. And on this side of the hill (where we
like the diversity more) that kept us looking in Berkeley and
Albany. We looked for 6 months before we found a place.
Nothing opened up that we liked in Albany and we found something
in Berkeley. Albany schools are great and score very well all
the way up to high school. Berkeley schools are great, too.
They don't score as well as Albany, but better than Oakland.
There is a gap in achievement in BUSD that tracks somewhat along
income levels (and therefore in Berkeley, somewhat along ethnic
lines). However, a lot of kids do great in Berkeley schools,
and go on to great colleges. Perhaps it is due to the ability
of their parents to be more involved in their eduacation. Many
kids who have been in private education through 8th grade go to
Berkeley High. Kids try to transfer into Berkeley High from
Oakland all the time. If schooling is such an interest for you
now, it will certainly not become less so in 5 years. I
recommend that you move to Berkeley or Albany and allow yourself
to be less stressed out in the junior high and high school years.
berkeley public school parent
well, we put our son in an oakland school that didn't even score
low enough to be considered ''bad enough to get a transfer'' and
it was the worst thing we could have done for him. he was there
only one year and i don't think he learned a thing. while test
scores are not everything, they do tell you something. and
consideration for language differences etc. matter, it is also
because the schools have been abandoned that it is filled with
so many high need kids who don't speak english at home or don't
develop language skills before entering school.
having said that, do you really want to worry about where your
kid is going to go to school every year or every few years?
isn't there enough to worry about? most of the people i know
had one view of this crisis before having kids and now either
send their kids to private or moved to a district that is not in
constant turmoil and chaos.
if your kid is smart, they will be bored. if they are average or
below they will suffer because they will be considered ''smart''
and therefore neglected in the class because there are so many
other kids who need the teacher's attention. aside from the
discipline and behavioral problems these schools have to
address, your kid will be exposed to things you would not ever
let happen in your own house. also, whenever i visited the
school there were kids yelling at each other, teachers yelling
at the kids and/or the police had been called to deal with a
violent incident (which is school district policy) - mind you
for some 7 year olds who had thrown a rock at each other or
something. and then when you consider what other kids are
getting from their functioning schools, your kid will be playing
major catch up by the time they go to college.
i know it's harsh and many will disagree, but the damage to our
son was just so extreme.
this page was last updated: Feb 9, 2004
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