Washington Elementary School (Berkeley, CA)
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Re: Berk. Central Zone Elementary Schools
Only know about Washington Elementary. New principal this school
year. He didn't do the normal 'push' to try and get families to turn
in an important funding related form, and the school lost many
thousands of dollars it was counting on for the 2014-15 school
year. It is the only one in Berkeley that actually lost funding. I'm
surprised there isn't more outrage from the parents as it is probably
going to affect many of the programs.
All of the schools in the central zone are fantastic. Washington School has a
fabulous group of staff and teachers, numerous enrichment programs and a very
diverse (in all sense of the word) student population. This year there's a new
principal and we have some concerns with how he is running the school.
Washington Community Member
We are in Central and LOVE our school, Washington Elementary!! Our new principal is
great and doing a great job of learning the environment and supporting parents, kids
and teachers! Really All Berkeley Schools are great thiugh each has its own
''personality'' based on the pricipal and parent community. At Washington many
families are very engaged. It is a welcoming atmosphere and the overwhelming
majority if the teachers are fantastic!
Happy Washington Parent!
Washington parent here. I felt compelled to respond after reading the replies. I'm a
parent of one of the district's ''few poor minority kids'' one of the posters
mentioned. Maybe BUSD's ''obsession'' with ensuring a good experience for my kid is
the only reason why Washington is going so well, but I don't think so.
I visited several of the Central Zone schools. I truly would have been ok with a few
of them and feel very lucky to have my kid at Washington. Teachers have been
outstanding and I think the new principal is doing a great job. I'd recommend
visiting schools; I think you have good options in the Central Zone.
Happy Washington Parent
We live close to Cragmont & Oakland but we're assigned to Washington
We bought a house in Berkeley in June and just got our school assignment for my rising
4th grade daughter. We were hoping for Cragmont or Oxford since we live closest to
them. We were assigned to Washington. Can anyone tell me what you think of Washington
especially for a transfer student in the upper grades--4th and 5th? I have to admit
that I'm disappointed since it wasn't even in my top 3. (Just because it really wasn't
at all on my radar). I have a rising sophmore at Berkeley High School, so for driving
to and from for both I guess it's pretty good deal. Any reviews, thoughts, advice
about Washington would be greatly appreciated!
New Berkeley Mom
We have a new 2nd grader at Washington and we love it! We have been there since
Kinder. The parents are engaged and kind, the teachers are overall great and the
environment is very supportive. This school is very welcoming to new students. We do
have anew principal this year but our previous principal left things in good order
after many years. Our new principal seems great and is very experienced. I hope you
will enjoy Washington! Be sure to come to our Welcome BBQ on the 7th of Sept, back to
school night and to the first PTA meeting. We also have coffee in outside the main
office every Thursday. These are all great ways to meet other parents and
families!Welcome to Washington!
I am the parent of a 1st-grader at Washington elementary and also live in the Berkeley
Hills closer to Cragmont and Oxford. We have been extremely happy with both the
education and community at Washington. Although I cannot speak from experience about
the older grades, our son's teachers have been outstanding so far and I know there are
equally outstanding teachers in the upper grades. The school is large, but has a very
small and wonderfully diverse community feeling. It's location, while farther from
home, has been ideal for us because it is so convenient. My husband volunteers at the
school regularly--something he'd be unable to do if it was less centrally located. The
students go on many field trips that are walking distance from the school, so the PTA
saves a lot on busses! For example, last year, my son's class walked to: Berkeley High
for a dance class, the YMCA for swim lessons and Zellerbach Hall to see Alvin Ailey
Dance Company. This was in addition to three bus field trips! Congratulations on
getting into Washington!
Happy Washington Parent
Washington is great! My daughter is also a 4th grader this year. It's a wonderful and
very welcoming community and your daughter will love it. We're really lucky here in
Berkeley in that all the schools are very strong, and Washington is no exception. I'm
writing this the day after school began; hopefully you are already feeling better
about Washington after seeing all the happy kids and parents yesterday. The 4th grade
teachers in particular are all great. Come to the first PTA meeting or first PTA
coffee hour and you'll meet lots of involved and welcoming parents. And keep a look
out for me (Isobel) and my daughter Norrie.
proud Washington parent
Our son has been at Washington since kindergarten and is now in 5th grade. We have had
a wonderful experience at the school and are looking forward to sending our youngest
there next year. There is a new principal this year, but we're excited about the
wealth of knowledge and experience he brings to the school and are looking forward to
Happy Washington Elementary Parent
We went through the same thing - listing 3 choices within our zone and not getting any
of those choices. We were placed at Washington and my daughter is now in the 3rd
grade. We have had a great experience so far despite my being less than enthusiastic
that we didn't get any of the schools we listed and were familiar with. I attended a
Washington School BBQ and then just decided to go with it rather than fight the
system. My impression now and after 3 years of having my child in the Berkeley schools
is that all the elementary schools in Berkeley are good. You really get this feedback
when you talk to parents who have kids at each of them. The only downside for us is
that we have to drive across town from the N. Berkeley Hills to get to the school. My
daughter typically takes the bus though and this helps a lot. I haven't found the
distance to be much of an issue as it's not really that far away. I'm happy to answer
any questions you might have.
Welcome to Washington!! We also live closest to Oxford and Cragmont, but chose
Washington because of its warm, welcoming parent community and its truly incredible
teachers. All our 4th and 5th teachers are very strong, and I think this is a great
time to transfer in... also, I heard there were 4 or 5 new fourth grade girls, so your
daughter is not alone. Hopefully by the time this posts you will have had more of a
chance to get to know other parents and families, but if not I encourage you to stop
by the front of the office every Thursday morning for parent coffee hour, come to Back
to School Night (Sept 12) and the first PTA meeting (Sept 17), and attend or even
volunteer for the Welcome Back BBQ (Sept 7)-- all great ways to get to know other
families and start to feel a part of things. Moving to a new school can be hard, but I
can't imagine a better place to do it than Washington....
A very happy Washington parent
The wonderful thing about Berkeley elementary schools is that the complicated school
assignment process (despite its frustrations at the individual level) as truly
resulted in a set of schools that are all very comparable in terms of their overall
quality and strength. There are no 'bad schools' in Berkeley. That said, you are in
luck. Washington is a wonderful school and the 4th and 5th grade teachers are
absolutely top-notch from everything I have heard about all of them. I am a parent of
two 4th graders, who are delighted with their teachers thus far. My experience at
Washington has been extremely positive. It is a wonderful school community with
talented teachers, committed parents, competent staff, and a strong after-school
program. Its central location makes all kinds of walking field trips possible, and we
get a lot of volunteers from Cal and Berkeley High School. As you probably know, we
have a brand new principal this year. He is building on the strong foundation that the
previous principal established, and I've heard great things about him from friends who
know his work in his previous district. Welcome to Washington! Feel free to contact me
directly if you have any questions.
I can speak specifically to your question about 4/5th grades at WS. I have a recent
WS graduate (and another current 2nd grader) who was at WS for all 7 yrs. Overall we
had a really positive experience but those last 2 yrs were some of the absolute best
years. His two teachers were both extraordinary: smart, tough, loving, funny, bright
people. Each one really ''got'' my kid (and seemed to ''get'' each of his classmates)
and inspired him to read more (his interest in reading had fallen off) and increased
his shaky confidence in both academics and social stuff. He began 6th grade ready to
jump right in and succeed on all levels. I chalk that up to his teachers.
WS may not be the ''pretty'' school like Cragmont but it's got a whole lot of good
stuff going on.
former/current/future WS mama
We have a second grader and a fifth grader at Washington. We are so happy to be at the
school, where the families are kind and friendly, the teachers are dedicated and
wonderful, and our kids are happy.
We also live in the hills and the commute has been just fine. No regrets. Feel free to
reach out with any questions.
BAM vs Washington- which would you pick?
We've gotten into both Berkeley Arts Magnet and Washington school. Which would you
pick and why? We're in the Northwest Zone.
We chose Washington though we are closer to BAM. Why? The warmth and community feeling of
Washinton and a wonderful Principal. We have been extremely happy with our choice. Our daughter
is thriving! The majority of teachers are fantastic, the extras including music, PE, gardening
and cooking, the community is wonderful and the diversity ( as in all Berkeley schools) is
amazing. Finally the yard is beautiful and includes huge old trees, climbing structures, black
top, grass and the garden. I cant imagine being anywhere else.
I only have experience with Washington, so I can't speak to BAM. But my son is a second grader
at Washington, and both he and we have been really happy with it. He had a fabulous
kindergarten teacher, and friends in other classes also loved their K experiences. My son is a
little young for his grade, very academically inclined, and was shy in preschool. He has
flourished socially at Washington because his teachers pay attention to social and emotional
development along with the intellectual. This is still true in second grade. I worried that
it would be downside to be at a school with 4 classes per grade, but luckily it's a low-key,
welcoming, friendly community so the school doesn't feel so big. And the kids seem to all know
each other. I also love the PE, music, art, and garden programs, along with the playground.
The kids take lots of walking field trips to the post office, library, swim at the Y, etc.
Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
This is exactly the question I asked last year! And I got the
response that I'm giving you, which is that my sensitive kid has had
a great K experience at Washington. I'd initially hoped he'd go to
Oxford, because it was smaller, and that may have worked out equally
well, but my son is really enjoying the kids in his class and the
culture of the school he attends. There's plenty of attention to
the social needs as well as the academic needs of the kids, and the
teachers and staff are very warm. My son has ventured into lots of
new friendships, and is not at all overwhelmed with the size of the
school. P.E. has also been a great experience for him. Please feel
free to get my email from the moderator if you'd like to chat more.
mom of a sensitive kid
Our *very* sensitive and *very* intense son attends Washington
Elementary in BUSD, and we could not be happier! The school staff
has worked closely with us to make sure our son gets some breaks
from the noise and large groups, which easily overwhelm him. They
have been flexible, accommodating, caring, and incredibly inventive
and creative-- and his ability to tolerate noise and social settings
has improved dramatically. Wherever you end up, I would suggest
speaking with the principal before school starts, if you can, and
setting up a plan and a workable structure for your son, to ease his
transition. You might, for example, want to see if you can opt out
of the first 3 days of BUSD kindergarten, where, at most sites,
children have a new teacher each day, so that teachers can then
create balanced classrooms-- that much change and flux can be very
challenging, depending on what your son is sensitive to.
Mom to another sensitive guy
My sensitive son is thriving at Washington Elementary School. He is now
in 1st grade, and it has been a wonderful experience.
I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the transition from preschool.
Although he was nervous about starting kindergarten and didn't want to go,
he loved it from the first day. He did the balanced beginnings, coming
home each day hoping to be assigned that teacher.
His teacher built a lovely classroom community, helping the children grow
relationships and form friendships. I am very impressed by the social
growth my son has made at Washington. My quiet boy is very engaged in
classroom discussions, participates eagerly, and sings out in classroom
There are a wide variety of kids in the class, and he chooses to spend
time with the gentler crowd. Last year most of his friends were girls,
which he loved. This year, he has found a few boys that he enjoys playing
games with at recess.
Now it is difficult for me to remember how worried I was before
Kindergarten. I hope this gives you some reassurance that a sensitive boy
can thrive in BUSD. Please email if you have any questions.
Re: Washington/Malcolm X Reviews
My son is a kindergartner at Washington, and we've been very
happy with the school. My son was shy as a preschooler and is a
little young, but he's blossomed because of the wonderful
teachers (not only the classroom teacher, but a terrific p.e.
coach, librarian, garden, and music teacher.) For me it's been
important that the principal is very effective and also
accessible - she has an approachable demeanor and has office
hours, and is hands-on about her job. She knows all the kids by
name. The parents are hand-on, too - some volunteer to come in
at lunchtime and recess so there are more adults on deck, others
help in the classroom, etc. But it's understood that families
are stretched right now and if you can't come in, no one
criticizes. In short, kindergarten is going really well, and we
love the general atmosphere as well as the specific learning
experiences that our son is having.
good luck with your decision
Looking for recent feedback regarding the kindergarten
classes at Washington Elementary in Berkeley.
My son is currently in kindergarten at Washington, and we love it. I am very
impressed by his teacher. He is learning a lot and having fun while doing it.
Please email if you would like to know about anything specific.
My son is in kindergarten at Washington and he is thriving.
Washington just received a Title I academic achievement award,
one of 200 CA schools to do so. More on that award here:
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/aa/proginfo10.asp There's a great
community of parents/families there, too. We love Washington!
My son is currently in kindergarten at Washington, and we have been thrilled
with the teaching. We love our son's teacher, and all 4 K teachers at
Washington are excellent, and make a wonderful team. I'm not sure how
many K's there will be next year, but I imagine the teachers will be some
subset of the current group. All of them seem to value nurturing the whole
child, and paying attention to social development as well as academic
development. Their approach to teaching literacy is very inspiring-- children
are writers from the moment they enter the classroom, and the reading
activities are multi-faceted -- there's something there for everyone, from
those just learning the alphabet to fluent readers. Math activities are fun and
really interesting-- they've done graphing, geometry, and basic number
concepts-- and that's just on the days I've happened to be in class. All the
teachers are very open to parent volunteers, and all mornings begin with
family reading time at the start of the school year (after an initial couple
weeks of having children adjust to the classroom). There's plenty of time for
play as well. And most importantly, all 4 teachers are very warm and loving
toward their students. In short, kindergarten teachers at Washington are
excellent, and we've felt extremely lucky to be there.
A very happy Washington K parent
We have just completed the incoming elementary school tours
at Washington and Cragmont. I am hoping to get some
feedback (good and bad) from parents with children at
We had a very extensive tour at Washington and I was very
impressed by the teachers and principle there. I feel like
I got a lot of information about their teaching strategies,
programs and actually got to speak with each teacher a
little bit and see how they direct their classes which was
great. I left with a good understanding I think of how
things work there. I couldn't find any recent reviews on
Washington so any feedback you can give would be great.
trying to prepare for kindergarten
I think it's time to update my original, strongly favorable
posting regarding Washington School. My family has been
there for 6 years now - my oldest child is about to
graduate. I can say without reservation that it has been a
terrific experience. Rita Kimball, the principal, continues
to be amazing and committed, every single teacher my
children have had has been excellent. When we first got
there we were concerned about some of the older, more
burnt-out seeming faculty - they've now retired and have
been replaced by energetic, enthusiastic and talented new
teachers. Not all of these are young people, some of the
best teachers are mid-life career-changers.
There's a tremendous sense of community and school spirit at
Washington, and this year more than ever I am glad of our
location in the center of Berkeley, as our kids have had
tutors, mentors, and science students volunteering in their
classrooms and after school. Now that we have Coach Don Burl
every day, our kids benefit from having a fantastic PE
teacher twice a week, plus after school. And whether or not
this is relevant, our test scores have improved
phenomenally, such that we are no longer considered Program
Those school tours are pretty revealing, in my experience.
We'll be sad to leave
Our son is in his first year at Washington, and we love it there. His teacher is
outstanding. I am constantly impressed by how much he is learning while
having so much fun. She pays attention to social as well as academic
development, working with each child to help them fulfill their potential and
make meaningful connections with each other.
Our son enjoys the special programs at the school - PE, library, music, art,
gardening, and cooking. They will also have a session of swimming at the
YMCA during the Spring.
We also appreciate the sense of a school-wide community. You can get a
feel for it at the weekly Monday morning assemblies (which you are welcome
to visit). Teachers present awards, sing silly songs, review the school rules,
lead class performances and generally have a good time together.
I have also enjoyed getting to know the other parents. There is a strong
group of intelligent, caring, down to earth people working to support the
Although we have not been at Washington for very long, we are very happy
there and look forward to the years to come.
Washington is a wonderful place and everyone
there from the lunchroom staff to the principal care for
all the children. This integrated (not diverse) school
takes pride in what it does. Everyone comes out for the all
school events from Kwanzaa to Literacy Night to School ''fix
up'' Saturdays. A good number of the children live within
walking/bike riding distance of the schools which also
helps foster a strong community. The older kids do make
friends with the younger ones; my now 1st grade kid has 4th
and 5th grade kids as well as those in his own class.
If you want a strong and caring
staff/faculty team, caring parents, integrated setting,
then come to Washington.
Proud Washington Parent
Our son is a kindergartner at Washington, and we are very, very happy with
the school. His teacher is absolutely wonderful-- warm and enthusiastic, but
also able to set limits within a classroom in a positive way. And the way she
(and the whole kindergarten team) teach reading and writing is truly
inspiring. The principal, Ms Kimball, is open and accessible, and I've never
met a principal who works harder. The staff and administration work together
really well, and one of the things I love about Washington is its inclusive,
positive, welcoming school culture-- part of that is the Monday morning
school assemblies, which are really wonderful-- come to one if you'd like! I
also love that the playground has real trees and rocks and dirt, and that there
are places on the playground to go and be quiet if you'd like-- it's large
enough to accommodate energetic games as well as the kids who just want to
have a bit of time to themselves. I was worried that being on MLK Way would
feel too congested and busy, but actually the school opens only in the other
direction and I don't even notice MLK. I love the community of parents as
well. Washington faces the same challenges as all schools in Berkeley -
addressing the acheivement gap, for one, but I feel Washington rises to
those challenges in an admirable way. We chose Washington even though it
was the furthest from our house, and we're very glad we did.
A happy Washington parent
Re: Berkeley central zone school for shy boy
I was in the same position last year, and I am happy to tell you that our
transition to Kindergarten has been wonderfully smooth and fun. I was
concerned that it would be difficult for our son who is generally slow to
adjust to new situations, and he was very nervous before the first day. When
I picked him up at the end of the day, he was all smiles and couldn't wait for
the next day. He had no problem with the balanced beginnings (they trade
teachers for the first week before creating the classes for the year). In fact,
he loved getting to see all the teachers and still feels attached to each of
them (which is nice because they trade off yard duty).
We also live in the central zone, and I really think all 4 schools are excellent
options. We chose Washington for a number of reasons - the yard, the PE
teacher (knows all the kids, does PE classes, sets up games for recesses, is
wonderful), the principal, the garden, the library, and the sense of
community. Ultimately, I think the sense of community is what makes our
son so happy there (and his amazing teacher!). Through silly songs and
performances at the weekly assembly, he has gotten to know all of the
teachers and periodically draws pictures of the entire staff while playing at
home. A positive behavior program and rules are implemented consistently
across the school, so students know what is expected and are encouraged in
many different ways in their efforts to become heros and scholars. It is a
You can email me if you have any questions about Washington or the process
of figuring it all out for a shy boy.
Happy at Washington
I am moving to Berkeley with my 7 year old son this summer, and
we have just established residency in the ''central zone.''
According to the folks at BUSD, there is space available at BAM
and at Washington. (Cragmont and Oxford have waiting lists.) I
checked the archives, but I can only find pretty dated
information about Washington. Does anyone have a child at
Washington? Any information would be greatly appreciated!
We have two children at Washington, one just finished
kindergarten and the other second grade. We continue to be very
happy with the school. We looked at all the other schools in the
Central Zone, and one outside of it, and we found that
Washington classrooms have a certain consistency of structure
and discipline that really appealed to us. Discipline is strict
but loving. The principal, Rita Kimball, seems to know virtually
every student and cares about each one of them. Although the
classrooms are extremely diverse in terms of ability, our kids
are challenged and learn something every day.
We have also been very involved in the PTA, which for us has
been an enriching experience. There are parents who are
passionate about classroom enrichment, improving school grounds,
English language learning and other issues - the PTA has been a
great place to meet those people and to organize with them.
Downsides? There are one or two teachers we'd like to see
retire, but that is probably true at any school. Our kids have
learned immeasurably from their exposure to many cultures and
languages (17, at last count), as well as different socio-
economic backgrounds. We hope this is preparing them to live in
a ''pluralistic society.'' And besides that, they love school, so
that's pretty good!
Happy Washington parent
I want to write to share my enthusiasm for Washington Elementary,
but also speak to the discussion above about the Berkeley
assignment process. To short-cut it, let me just say that we
transferred to Washington from a private school last spring and
we have been extremely pleased with the caliber of the teachers,
the focused, hard-working, caring principal, the diversity and
the warmth of the community. Washington is a school that I am
very pleased to have my child attend.
To expand on the assignment question, my plea is that parents
take a second, harder look at the school to which they have been
assigned and are unhappy with. If the only concern is truly
access to a neighborhood school and the ability to walk to
school, then one needs to move to a city where that is the
paradigm -- Piedmont, Albany, etc. Berkeley has other commitments
and priorities. But I would believe that more than proximity is
the issue. I have found that in many cases, including my own, my
perception was colored by a desire to attend the one or two
schools in a zone with ''the reputation'' or ''the numbers.'' We, too
went through frustration with the process. My son is entering 2nd
grade. We went through the assignment process for K and were
assigned to Washington. We took a cursory look and ''knew'' it
wasn't for us -- it wasn't Cragmont or Oxford. So we spent a year
and a half in private school, which turned out not to work
(perfection is not found in private school either.) So, we
switched and were assigned, once again, to Washington. We looked
harder at the school and found a devoted community of parents,
outstanding teachers, and a vibrant environment in which it feels
like something important is happening.
Yes, there are annoying things about the assignment process. We
live about as far as it's possible to live from most any school
and, certainly, Washington is the farthest. Even so, it's only a
12-minute drive. My son takes the bus home and loves having it as
part of his day. Also, I believe the diversity considerations
that factor in are not just ethnic, but socio-economic. In the
case of schools, Berkeley chooses to see not just neighborhood
communities, but a community at large. I think this is a nice
metaphor for how I'd like my child to approach life.
My strong suspicion is that you will not find better teachers or
administrators at the schools with ''the reputation'' or even the
numbers--or at private schools. Numbers (test scores) reflect the
numerous outside influences and resources available--or not-- to
members of the school community, not the quality of teaching, and
don't have bearing on how your individual child will perform. But
by participating and diversifying our schools (i.e. by opting in
when you are a family with the chance to opt out), we all have a
chance to make a difference.
I don't mean to sound too self-righteous -- I'm newly converted
to all of this and went through my own process of ''why meeee?''
and disdain and ultimately rejection of what BUSD chose to offer
my family...only to come full circle.
Take another look at the school you feel you can't attend. You
may be surprised.
I'm beginning to look at public elementary schools in Berkeley
and wonder if anyone has recent information/recommendations to
share? I am in the ''Central'' zone and interested
in a rich program with as much arts programming and faculty and
student diversity as possible.
I would, in general, like to put in a plug for Washington. We
transferred late this year from a private school and I have been
nothing but impressed with the administration and the teachers
and the kind and caring culture of the school.
Regarding your specific questions, Washington is brimming with
enrichment. Visual arts and music each once a week, along with
cooking, gardening, and various movement classes and
opportunities. There are also lots of opportunities to explore
the arts in after-school programs.
There is great diversity among the students. While there isn't as
much among the faculty, the school is aware of this and is always
working to round this out. The caliber of the teachers in place
Good luck with your search and your decision!
Re: Public elementary schools in Berkeley Central Zone
We chose Washington School over the other schools in the Central
Zone. We felt that the school had the most orderly classrooms,
the most consistent discipline, and the most dynamic, keep-you-
on-your toes teaching staff of the all schools we looked at.
This is not an accident. The principal, Rita Kimball, focuses on
collaboration between teachers in every grade. Since she became
principal seven or eight years ago she has hired many young and
energetic teachers and has emphasized a team-teaching approach.
One thing Washington does very well is to create a balance in
the kindergarten classes. At the beginning of the school year,
staff does not decide who is in which kindergarten classroom
until each of the teachers have had a chance to teach all the
children for one day. After that, they sit down and divide up
the kids, trying to create balance across the board. This
minimizes discipline problems and spreads out high-achieving
kids as well.
A recent positive is that this year Washington has met all its
NCLB goals and is pulling itself out of its Needs Improvement
status. This is because of the hard work by the principal and
the staff to implement a teaching method that teaches to all the
students, bringing up reading comprehension and writing skills.
This is not done through testing drills. One more year of
improving scores (they have actually improved for five years in
a row), and the school will no longer have the stigma of the
Needs Improvement classification.
As for its physical setting, Washington has very lovely and
large outdoor playgrounds that include a wooded area, grass
field, teaching garden and blacktop. Last summer over $200K was
spent to improve the grounds even further. It is also
conveniently located in downtown Berkeley: last year my
kindergartener went on field trips to the fire station, police
station, and Berkeley Little Theater, to mention just a few, all
As far as choosing schools goes, I would strongly urge you to
take the time and visit all the schools in the zone. Go to
classrooms at every grade level and decide for yourself if you
would feel comfortable with your child there. Lastly, judge by
your own observations. I can't believe the number of unfounded
rumors, misinformation and out-of-date stories I heard from
Can anyone recommend 2nd grade teachers at Washington or
Thousand Oaks who are good with bright students? Our first-
grader son is way beyond grade-level in reading and math.
He currently goes to Washington, but we are also
considering trying to transfer to Thousand Oaks which is
closer to our house.
Hi- I am looking into Washington and Cragmont for my daughter
and am interested in getting feedback from parents regarding
the school community and quality of upper grade teachers.
We've been happy with our son's experience at Washington
School. The principal is very energetic, as is the magnet
coordinator. There's a spirit of real caring among the
staff. The school's location, near downtown Berkeley,
allows for wonderful enrichment activities: the kids walk
to the Y for swim lessons (funded by the PTA), walk to
Zellerbach for performances. My child has had excellent
teachers K-3. The school's diverse population (including
English learners) seems to function well together.
As with many schools, there are a few teachers we would
avoid at Washington. I've worked on school committees and
find that a good way to know the teachers and to make sure
the staff knows my child. I think Washington deserves a
much better reputation than it has.
I have 1 child still in Washington (2nd grade) and 1 that
graduated. Rita Kimball, the principal, is incredibly
dedicated and is proactive about issues. For example,
Washington has a Leadership Committee consisting of 1/2
parent representatives and 1/2 teachers/staff that really
does have governing say about much of the school. Rita has
also done an amazing job of bringing in new teachers and/or
staff of varying ethnicities and genders (though more
African American men are needed). There are a very
few ''problemmatic'' teachers, but that is true of any school
(out of a total of 7 grades, my kids have had 1 struggling
teacher and at least the teacher was approachable and
willing to take suggestions from us - the others were
OUTSTANDING). And, I feel that the school takes student
safety seriously -(for example, though my kids never
experienced problems, the school recently formed a Safety
Committee of parents/staff to address harassment, ''kid
posses'', etc. that I've heard have been issues for some
kids). Washington also has a Healthy Start Program, magnet
art/technology resources, on-site after school care and is
within walking distance of the Downtown YMCA (swimming
lessons), downtown theatre/arts district and UC Berkeley.
Down side? The sad truth that as in most Berkeley public
schools there are definitely kids that have academic,
family, or behavior issues (or unfortunately all 3). The
school's continual struggle is finding strategies and
adequate resources to help these kids succeed(if the school
doesn't NO ONE will) while providing a challenging,
enriching environment for the other kids. I think most of
the teachers manage their diverse classes and do
differentially teaching quite well. So, I agree that
Washington is generally quite underrated and is worthy of
any family's attention(and the Kindergarten is considered
BEST in the District).
Our son went to Washington from kindergarten through 5th
grade. We like the school and the people very much, had
great teachers (we were lucky) and he learned a lot. They
are just now implementing differentiated instruction for
GATE kids, helping teachers challenge the ones who have
covered the basic materials to go further: when that worked,
it was great. He had math tutors in 4th and 5th grades
which kept him from being bored. The test scores are not
great, but that's not the school's fault, they are working
all the time to help all the kids reach their potential.
The art, music, and gardening programs did a fine job of
bringing all the kids together.
Washington is our neighborhood school, and its very diverse,
it's got kids from all over the world and a big
African-American community. It's harder than being in a
school with all ''people like us'', but it was worth it: our
kid has a great perspective on race and culture that you
can't get in any other way.
If you're in the right zone, please take an hour to see what
the school is really like!
Re the upper school teachers at Washington - my son is in
fifth grade at the moment and loves his teacher, Ms
Landaetta. She is creative, thoughtful, and has him loving
school (he inclines to laziness when he's not interested).
The other fifth grade teacher, Ms Mitchell, is also
excellent. The fourth grade teacher he had last year was
also particularly good at setting high standards and
encouraging kids to reach them.
Re Washington as a choice - my son came in in Third Grade
and I had experience of a very different school system.
Because we came in part way through the year I had the
opportunity to visit the particular classrooms where there
were spaces and work out my priorities from that.
Washington was way ahead of the other schools I visited in
kid behaviour, teacher style and general ambience (in my
As a Washington School parent let me invite you to visit us when you get to
Berkeley. Washington School is the only elementary in the center of Berkeley,
and for that reason has the most relaxed multi-cultural environment
available, plus strong teachers and dedicated staff and parents, a good
principal, a new building, and an
excellent location with respect to Berkeley amenities and the University.
Many Washington Parents think it ironic that a Cragmont parent would
recommend Oxford and Whittier (aka Arts Magnet) without considering
Washington -- Berkeley's best kept secret.
We are enrolled in Washington School for the fall and I am a
little confused about the after school offerings. We are
looking at Kids Club, Berkeley Learns/EDC, and the sports one
directly but would appreciate input from anyone with direct
experience in these programs. My child will be entering the
Next year Washington is planned to have TWO on-site after school
options. EDC is operated by School District staff (is funded by the
State) and primarily serves income eligible children (though others
can be admitted if space is available). I believe EDC only serves
students from Kindergarten to 2nd grade (I'm not sure about 3rd grade
- before State budget woes, EDC used to serve K-5, but I know that 4th
and 5th grade was dropped and I think 3rd grade was either dropped
this year or will be dropped next year). I think it is free or
extremely low cost and focuses on academic ski! lls as well as
recreational opportunities. The second program is just in its 1st
year and is now called Kidz Club. It is part of a federal 21st
Century After School Grant (several elementary and middle schools in
Berkeley have this grant). It is open to all Kindergarten through 5th
grade students by a sliding fee of about $50-400 per month (set by
School Board). Kidz Club has a new INCREDIBLY dynamic coordinator
(the 1st coordinator left...): Ann Marie Callegari, who is also a PTA
Co-Chair for King Middle School. Kidz Club now offers a range of
enrichment programs (circus, Mac computers, music, etc.) in addition
to homework club and academic support as well as crafts, etc and now
separates the younger and older kids into two groups that allows for
more grade appropriate activities (the older kids decided upon an
entrepeneurial project: writing and publishing/selling poetry books to
the Washington Community and have a hip hop group - the younger kids
have read alouds, do crafts, etc. - all kids can have educational game
computer time each day). Kidz Club is working to incorporate Sports 4
Kids, which is an excellent program that has been at the school for
several years and is free, serving 4th and 5th grade students. This
year the two programs have coordinated alot of activities and this has
really worked well - next year we are hoping for a formal merger. I
went into detail because there has been alot of confusion about the
after school programs at Washington. EDC recently changed the grade
levels served and the Berkeley Albany YMCA program (called ''Kid's
Club'') pulled out before this school year in every Berkeley public
school that had these programs. And, due to grant funding issues, the
21st Century program couldn't start till November. In addition, Sports
4 Kids was supposed to merge into the ''21st Century grant program'',
now called KidZ Club, THIS year but for various reasons maintained its
formal separateness this year. Things are ALOT more settled now and
KidZ Club and Sports 4 Kids are really zooming along - things will
even be BETTER next year if the hoped for formal merger of the 2
program happens. Hope this helps. My 4th grader is in KidZ Club and
also participates in Sports 4 Kids which in addition to the after
school program has a basketball and flag football team that plays in
evening leagues (sometimes ''competitive'' and sometimes ''skill''
leagues). He LOVES Sports 4 Kids (Janine is great!) and actually
after really disliking the YMCA program after 2nd grade LIKES the
21st Century KidZ Club.
Our daughter had been in Washington Kidz Club as it has developed. She
loves it, and so do we. Ann Callegari, the director, is a dynamic,
personable, and impressive, and has big plans for the next year. She
took over in January and has started afterschool enrichment programs
for all the grades, splitting them up into older and younger kids as
appropriate. All the kids have had music, health, nutrition, and
Circus Arts, the younger ones have arts and crafts and the older ones
have had some more academic classes such as earth studies. There is
homework time, and since the slowdown Ann has had them reading for
their study time. They also have movie day on Friday and plenty of
outdoor fun. Ann has hired some really wonderful people to help out,
and as the program grows she will hand pick her staff as appropriate.
As for cost, there is a sliding scale but this year even full price
members pay less than some other local comparable programs. I would
recommend visiting the programs and talking to their directors, if you
are able. That's the best way to judge whether you feel it's a good
Washington School Parent
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