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Our daughter will be starting middle school at Willard this year after being in a small, private school environment for K-5th. We are concerned about being in a public school, but more worried about what she will do after 2:30. We wonder if the after school program at Willard is rough, and are looking for alternatives, but don't feel good about having her walk along Telegraph alone to get anywhere. Can anyone offer any good suggestions? Concerned Parent
We are considering buying a house in the area that is zoned for Willard. Should we completely avoid Willard? I hear mixed reviews of the school. Thanks Karen
Re: Where does your middle-schooler go to school?
Our son goes to Willard Middle School in Berkeley. He is in the 6th grade and absolutely loves it. The teachers are dedicated and talented. The music/drama program is amazing. The sports program is fantastic and growing. They have gardening/cooking, plenty of field trips, after school enrichment classes and access to computers. A very nice library and librarian. They have P.E. every day and a sweet, well-supervised campus. The principal is very connected with the kids and seems to have a great rapport with his teaching staff. He didn't know very many kids as he came from out of district but quickly connected with other 6th graders during the first week of school. Berkeley Parent
Re: Worried about homework in Berkeley middle schools
My son is in 8th grade at Willard, which is probably similar to King. His homework load has been quite light all through middle school. In 7th grade he had an English and history teacher who hardly ever gave homework and instead said that the whole time the students were in class they were writing or otherwise working hard. I'm actually wondering whether Berkeley High is going to be a rude awakening for my son. I would say he spends about 45 minutes a night on average on homework now. -Mary
Re: Longfellow vs. Willard
I just read the posts, and no one has posted about Willard. My daughter started there this year, and loves it. It's academically rigorous, the teachers are terrific and the 6th grade math department is full of dynamic staff who make the classes fun. The principal, Robert Ithurburn, is very impressive, he goes to everything (and there are lots of events) and he's really on top of things. There has been a culture night, a math night, a wonderful winter concert, and I believe there's going to be a science fair. It's been a rich and rewarding year so far. There are other choices
My son will be a 7th grader this fall and will attend Willard. He's been in independent (private) school all of his life. Small classes, safe environment, etc. Anything I should know ahead of time? New Willard MS Parent
Re: Moving to Berkeley Summer 2010 - middle schools?
I've had experience of both King and Willard Middle schools in Berkeley - and both those experiences were good. My daughter was in 7th grade when we moved and thrived at King, loved the big size and the demanding teaching. My son went to Willard because we had moved closer to there, and also thrived, made great friends and was well prepared for high school. Willard is much smaller than King and he liked that he knew everybody. There are certain programs at King (such as dance, jazz band and French) that are not offered at Willard and the facilities are bigger, but as there are more kids and my son was only interested in sports, it basically balanced out. On the other hand, I found the King administration more intimidating to deal with, although I believe this has improved at both schools. I'm currently working with some Willard teachers on starting a chorus program, and have been highly impressed by their enthusiasm, energy, and dedication. Fiona
Re: The low-down on King & Willard Middle Schools
Hi, I taught at Willard last year and my child is a 7th grader at King this year. I think the teachers are equally good at both schools. Willard is in a more urban environment near Ashby, whereas King is in a mostly residential area. My child really likes King and loves the zero period music program. My child is an A student and is in the Honors Math program. They find it fun and challenging and look forward to taking Honors Geometry at BHS next year, in 8th grade. My child says making friends at King is the easy part. Making the right friends in King's diverse community is the hard part. King has lockers. At Willard, you carry your stuff around all day with you. King has a really nice new lunch room with homemade breads, salad bar, soup, etc. As a parent, I feel more at home in the King community. King parent
I would be interested to hear from parents with children at Willard in Berkeley about their experience at the school as I am considering it for my 6th grade son for next year. Good or bad I would love to know what you think. Thank you very much in advance. Tracey
Both of my children attended Willard- each for 3 years (6 consecutive years). Our daughter graduated last year so I can't speak to the current year, but we were consistantly happy with Willard. The quality and dedication of the teachers and staff ,despite cuts in every aspect of school life, was amazing! Our children both came from private schools and both felt the quality of teaching was higher at Willard. We had the (very) occasional less than perfect teacher but the over all standards are outstanding. I can't imagine my children will ever have better teachers than a few of the ones they had at Willard. I wish Berkely High could live up to their standards in some small way. barbara
We haven't had any major problems. The one incident that did happen was dealt with quickly and efficiently, thanks to the VP.
It's a big school and the communication is pretty disorganized. It works better if you have email, if you don't then you're left out of the loop. Kind of exclusive, as not all parents have email. They do mail stuff out though.
The after-school program took a while to get going, but now it's in full-swing and works really well. The folks who run it are friendly and thoughtful. The kids can do their homework and then go onto a fun activity. The library is also open until 4 (except on Wed) for quiet homework, reading or work on the computers. The library, by the way, is a great place, run by a very smart, dedicated woman!
The 6th grade has something called the ''wheel'', where they rotate 4 times in the year through art (visual and performing), computers (my daughter said this was REALLY good as she learned how to type!), PE (which includes health and swimming), and Spanish. This is the only PE the kids get in 6th grade!!! Disappointing, but my daughter takes dance outside of school anyway.
I was very skeptical about Willard, but now I feel it's the best place for my daughter and she is thriving.
Re: music programs in middle schools
Hi, I think I can provide some information on Music in Berkeley's middle schools. My experience comes from two sources. First, I have a daughter playing in the Willard Orchestra right now. Second, I an building a volunteer program to support music in BUSD by putting music loving community members in classrooms to support music teachers and I have spent a lot of time in the last few years volunteering in classrooms myself.
Financial shortages and an very strong emphasis on test scores and closing the "achievement gap" have hurt Berkeley's music program, particularly at the middle school level. With the exception of one class at Longfellow, all middle school music classes have been moved to M-F at "zero period" (7:45 - 8:30 AM).
This schedule could have had the advantage of reducing conflict with other electives like advanced algebra and languages in a six period day which has little room for electives. Unfortunately, important electives are now also being offered exclusively in the morning in conflict with music. The Willard band now has about 25-30 kids, but the orchestra is down to six while many young string players opt for advanced algebra.
On the other hand, there are some very strong positives at the moment at Willard. Both music teachers are excellent. My daughter, a bass violin player, could not receive more encouragement and support. Music is her current favorite activity at Willard. Her orchestra teacher is a talented violist who also teaches on the college level. I volunteer for the band teacher once a week and she is also very dedicated to the kids and full of enthusiasm.
I can't promise you that the same teachers will be at Willard next year. The days of a music teacher being attached to a single school are gone, at least for the moment. Music teachers travel in teams to as many as six schools each week. You could call the Berkeley Music Department and ask about who will be at Willard next year. (510-644-8831)
In addition, all Berkeley middle schoolers have an opportunity in the spring to spend a weekend music retreat at Cazadero music camp where they work in an intensive way culminating in a concert for their families on Sunday. This weekend is subsidized by a grant and costs the kid's families very little ($25-$75) It can be a great experience for your child.
You might also look into the Crowden School after school program. Crowden is a top notch private school for kids whose primary interest is music. They have an after school program for which, I have been told, scholarships are available.
I would be happy to talk to anyone further about Berkeley's school music program, both how to get them most from it for your child, and how to best support it. You can get more information on the volunteer program at http://guest.xinet.com/kridle/MusicVols/index.htm. Bob
PS - As you are probably aware, BUSD is in the middle of further "belt tightening." Michelle Lawrence, our Superintendent, is now holding a series of community meetings at the schools. This is an attempt to identify core values for the district which will be supported in next years reduced budget. If you have strong feelings about music and art in our schools, it is important to attend some of these meetings and be heard.
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