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School of the Madeleine (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > School of the Madeleine (Berkeley, CA)



Nov 2013

I wanted to add another view on the Madeleine for atheists. There are many families who are not actively religious (possibly atheists or agnostics, but they may not advertise it) and I don't think it is a problem for them. In my experience, most adopt a Christian humanist approach - that Jesus was an important historical figure that stressed the importance of caring for the poor and that he wanted all people to be happy and respected. When my kids asked tough questions, I answered them honestly -- that some people believe that he was more than that and others don't, but that what he tried to teach people was important to learn (since they will be learning it anyway). It's not full of bible-belt Fox News Christians. And for a true agnostic (god is unknown/unknowable), I don't think it's a problem. There will be some explaining, but non-Catholics are warmly embraced here. For a hardcore atheist (the type that ridicules faith), it might be tough. On the balance, I think that the values that the school embraces (be good to one another) and the importance of that value in the school's culture makes it worthwhile. A MAD Parent


Jan 2013

Re: Catholic school for atheist family?
School of the Madeleine is diverse - a welcoming community of intelligent people from a variety of backgrounds, races and religions. Yes, religion is taught in all grades, the student body attends mass once a month, and many positives aspects of the Catholic faith are emphasized (caring for those less fortunate and the planet, empathy, leading a moral life, etc). If you can be supportive of that (and even grateful that your child is getting a first-rate education ), then you should take a school tour, ask more questions, and see how the community feels to you. MAD Community Member


Nov 2011

I'm looking for current parents recommendations of School of the Madeleine. Specifically I'd love to get some candid information regarding: 1. How academically rigorous is the curriculum? 2. How much time do the kindergarteners/ primary grade kids really spend looking at text books or doing worksheets? Or do they use real books? 3. Is there enough time devoted to hands-on math learning? 4. How well do the kids learn Spanish going twice a week? Is the language ever incorporated into the regular classroom? 5. What is the experience like for a child who may be 'gifted', but at the very least is a very quick learner and extremely inquisitive? What does differentiation look like?

We know the school culture is lovely. We really like all who we've met so far, but we're concerned that the school might not be the most engaging intellectually for our child due to the large class sizes and reliance on canned curriculums like Open Court. -Hoping for lots of positive answers


As a parent of the School of the Madeleine for 15 years, we have been through various changes at the school. Our four children have different abilities, learning styles and interests. Currently we have a 3rd and 6th grader. The Madeleine was able to serve them well, engage them, and prepare them for high school and for life. To answer your questions specifically;

1. I found The Madeleine program rigorous enough. The children are exposed to math, science, language, technology and language. They learn through books, practice some concepts with worksheet as well as engage in some hands-on activities and math games. The MARE program through the Lawrence Hall of Science is a weeklong exposure to hands-on science that the whole school engages in, learning various habitats. The children learn about different cultures on Heritage Day and parent volunteers always enhance the experience.

2. Spanish and Music are part of the program. The Spanish program is not intended to have them speaking fluently. Rather it is an exposure to the language and the children learn the basics of the language. The children do say prayers in Spanish, and engage in some Spanish festivities.

3. The class size is usually 36 children. However, for most classes and especially for Kindergarten they are divided up into 2 groups of 17 children in a class. Help is always available individually if a child has some difficulty. Children are also very good at learning from one another. I believe this spirit of helping another engages them, makes things clear to them and builds their character.

4. There is a uniform. I have always found this the easiest thing in the world for myself and the child- they wake up and donC",E!t even have to think about what to wear! The uniform is modest and comfortable enough to wear all day.

5. Regarding providing a challenge- I think if your child is inquisitive, the exposure to all of the material and instruction will provide a wealth of motivation to delve further. My oldest son is currently at UC Berkeley's computer science program and has remained inquisitive about everything he learns. He was an extremely quick learner. I always wondered if he would get bored. However, the teachers always encouraged him to explore further in areas they studied in class. He would sometimes do a more in-depth paper on a subject. He thrived on this flexibility. Of course there were some teachers more willing to do this. At Berkeley High he was able to navigate the school of 3,500 without a problem, was on the Chess team (he got his start at the Madeleine), on the Berkeley High Quiz Bowl team (that placed 17th in the country) and on the Volley Ball team. Currently he is one of the main players playing Quidditch for Cal at the World Cup. Not particularly a star athlete player, he developed his love for sports at the Madeleine as have all my other children.

6. Music program is another lovely exposure to music. The students currently learn to play the recorder in 4th grade, the ukulele in 7th and 8th grade, can play in the MAD band after school or take private music instruction. My 6th grade daughter loves band so much, she practiced hard, auditioned and now plays with a high school band as well.

If your son gets in at the Madeleine, you can always give it a shot. He will learn discipline, teamwork, good study habits, lifelong moral values, and above all be part of an involved and close community. These I believe are what in the end make us happy. Happy Parent


Oct 2010

I am looking for some current info on the School of the Madeleine. My child is currently in private kindergarten, but due to financial circumstances, I am concerned about our ability to continue as tuition at this school is very steep, particular for 2 kids. We live in Berkeley and are considering moving our child to public school but feel guilty that the enrichment parts of the current curriculum (extensive music, art, Spanish, etc.) are not present in public school (or present to the same extent).

Our family does not practice any religion and my husband and I are more agnostic than atheistic in practice. I know the school is tolerant of other faiths, but how do they feel about accepting people who don't really practice any religion? We are okay with the christian dogma as I think it is manifested at this school, i.e. treat others with kindness and respect. Also, I appreciate the charity/social justice-equity message that the website indicates is part of the philosophy.

So, question 1, what can current parents tell me about whether we would be offered admission given our non-practicing ways.

Question 2 - in an old post, one member indicated dismay that the new principal (circa 2006 or so) wasn't allowing boys with long hair and girls with fingernail polish at school. This concerns me. I wouldn't send my kids to a school that doesn't let kids have any individuality. How strict is the uniform/dress code policy? And should I be concerned about strict discipline policy at this school? Thanks for any input you can provide anon


There is a new principal at the Madeleine. Although kids wear uniforms they exhibit much individuality which is welcomed by the staff. I would not let that worry you. You have already figured out one of the most improtant things about the Madeleine community - the stress placed on caring for each other. The staff truly do care and instill a caring respect in the school community. If you are convinced that the best fit for your child is a non-public school, the Madeleine is an excellent choice. Anon.
My kids attended the Madeleine for years. There were many families that were not Catholic. The only time I saw this posing a problem was when they prepared the kids for such things as first communion and confession so if you do not plan to do those things for your kids they will one of a few that are on the sidelines during the activities related to these things.

As far as the attire of the kids, the reason they have uniforms is to have everyone look the same so they can focus on learning. If you want your kids to be able to express their individuality-they won't be able to do it Monday thru Friday while attending the Madeleine. (although they do occasionally have 'dress down' days when kids can wear their own clothes) former Madeleine parent


Sept 2009

Any feedback on the School of the Madeleine, from environment, academics, community etc-thinking of starting my son there..also any parents making a commute from the El Sobrante/San Pablo or Pinole areas to attend here? If so, how is the commute -Anonymous


Both of my children attended the School of the Madeleine. We really liked it. The academics were good and I liked the sense of community fostered there. The only negative I can think of is that if your kids go there from K-8th grade they might get tired of having the same kids in their classes each year. The school only has one class per grade. anon
June 2009

Re: Which Catholic school in the East Bay?
The School of the Madeleine in Berkeley is a great catholic school featuring a wonderful close knit community as well as good academic standards. We have 4 kids and have spent 11 years there and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Avril


July 2008

We're moving to Berkeley in 2 weeks (from UK) and are considering this school for our kindergarten-age daughter. I would really like to hear from parents with kids at the school. In particular, what's the news on the new principal? My husband is very keen on the discipline that Catholic schools provide, but I'm more worried that our very happy, imaginative but about-to-be-transplanted daughter should be in a caring environment that encourages her love of learning. Grateful for your views.
Natural born worrier


The School of the Madeleine is going through a lot of changes. New teachers, etc. I am not sure how much the changes are the result of the new principal. As far as dicipline, I think it's gone down hill. If there is more discipline I may just not be aware of it but I see kids get away with stuff with the new principal that wouldn't have happened with the old one (e.g., boys with long hair, girls with nail polish to name a couple - this is suppose to not be allowed but it's a very visible breaking of the rules that no one says anything about. How many other, not so visible, things are going on?). Some of the older teachers, who were disciplinarians, have left the school so I'm not sure who the mentors will be for the new teachers coming in. There are just a lot of unknowns right now. Overall we have been happy with the school, like the community and are keeping our hopes up for good things to come. But the teachers are changing, uniforms are changing, lots of changes and unknowns at this time. Mad parent
I have two children at the School of the Madeleine. One is going into first grade and one going into fourth grade. I am very happy with the school I think that the new principal really has her act together. I was very impressed that within the first few weeks of school she had learned every child's name and most of the parents' names also. I am a SAHM and I spend a pretty good amount of time at the school volunteering. I would say that the children are learning a lot and are doing well.

I read the posting about the lack of dicipline but I don't see it. There is nothing in the parent handbook about long hair vs. short, only about clean and neat. I also think that the children are very respectful and polite.

There is always going to be a lot of turnover in teachers in a small private school. I am excited to see the change in staff in the junior high, the teachers that were there had been there a long time and I think that it will be good for the school to see something new.

Enrollment is at an all-time high, so I think that speaks to the success of the current administration. I would be happy to talk to anyone about the school. Joan B


Feb 2008

Hi - We are trying to decide between St. Jerome and The School of the Madeleine. We like them both. Our daughter will be entering Kindergarten in Fall 2008. Does anyone have experience at both schools? Or current Kindergarten and 1st Grade experience at either school? Seeking Info


I have two children at the School of the Madeleine. One is in Kindergarten. I can not say enough good things about the Kindergarten experience this year. The teachers are warm and creative. They keep order in the class in a really nice way. My child is eager to go to school every day and is learning a lot. It is the kind of Kindergarten that you hope for for your children. I like the parent community quite a bit also. We have a new principal this year and I feel that she is very good. She even learned all of the children's names within the first month of school. I can not comment on St. Jerome's. Joan
Both schools are good. My kids went to the Madeleine but I know lots of families who have been to both. Regarding aftercare: my kids used to BEG to stay at the aftercare program at the Madeleine. They loved it; it was also very very affordable. The Madeleine has tons of social events and it seems that the parents get to know each other well and socialize a lot together. The families at the Madeleine are local which allows for easier play dates etc. gretchen

Editor Note: reviews were also received for St. Jerome's


Nov 2006

Re: Comparing Catholic Schools
Hi- I can only speak from my own experience, but my son is a 3rd grader at the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. He has been there since Kindergarten and we could not be happier. The school is a warm and supportive community for both the students and families. The principal and teachers are top-notch. The academic standards are high without feeling overly pressured. Simply put, I love the school and am looking forward to my other 2 sons attending there, my secong son begins next year. I also looked at St. Jerome's but personally liked the feel at the school of the Madeleine better for the sense of community. It felt somehow more orderly without feeling overly strict. I know families at Corpus Christi who are also very happy. We are Episcopalian and not Catholic and feel very welcome at the Madeleine. There are of course many Catholic and parish familes at the school, but my experience is that families from other faiths (Protestant, Jewish, Muslim) feel equally good about being at the school. The school promotes academic, social and moral development and teaches students to give and care for those in their school and to their wider community. It is a very special school with a solid academic track record. Laura


Feb 2006

Does anyone know if the School of the Madeleine welcomes gay and lesbian families? We understand it's a Catholic school, we know it's very Berkeley, but just how Berkeley? anon


I believe that the School of the Madeleine is Berkelely enough to handle gay and lesbian families. My daughter is in first grade and there are no gay or lesbian families in her class. However, as a parent, I am happy to say that the group of parents that I know are all very nice and welcoming and I don't see that it would be an issue. I do not believe that you would be the only gay/lesbian family, but I don't know the statistics. Good luck with your school search. Joan
I am a current Madeleine parent of a 2nd grader and have 2 younger children whom I very much look forward to sending to the Madeleine as well. Our experience at the school has been incredibly positive. The administration and staff are top notch. Conflicts and problems among the kids are addressed head- on in a loving and constructive way. Bullying is not permitted and kids are expected to treat one another respectfully. In fact, conflict resolution skills are taught to the kids beginning in kindergarten and are part of the curriculum through the upper grades. As far as diversity goes, I find the school to be anything but homogenous. I don't know the exact demographics, and there are probably fewer African American families (maybe 10% of the school from my observations) than other racial groups, but there are substantial numbers of Hispanic and Asian (including Chinese, Japanese and Filipino) students. I'd guess that my son's class is at least 1/3 enrolled with students ''of color.'' The diversity extends to religious diversity as well - despite the Catholic nature of the school, there is a large segment of the school (perhaps as much as 1/3) who are not Catholic. There are Jewish families, Muslim families and many inter-faith families, including mine, who find the tolerance, respect for others and social responsibility taught at the school to be an important part of our children's education. The academic standards are quite high - the school is by no means a ''pressure cooker'' environment with an overly accelerated curiculum. But the students at the school are held to a high standard, do excel, rank highly on national test scores, and from everything I've seen, go on to do extremely well in high school and get in to top rate colleges. There are a few fundraising events per year at the school, but this seems completely in line with similar fundraising efforts made by other private schools in the area. And I must say that I have never felt pressured to give more to the school than our family can comfortably afford. And given that we have 3 young kids and are just trying to make ends meet like everyone else, we are by no means at the top of the giving scale.

The Madeleine is an excellent school, a warm community with a talented staff and engaged parents, and I feel so thankful to have my family be a part of such a wonderful place. Laura


I have a child in the first grade at the School of the Madeleine and I am extremely pleased with it. My child loves school and is learning well. The teachers treat the children with respect and caring. I volunteer in the classroom and am impressed with how calm and in control the teacher is. There is a morning assembly every morning that includes the students, teachers, the principal, and any parents that want to attend. The school motto is ''let's be good to one another'' and the students say it every day before they go inside to start their day. There is an open door policy for discussing any issues that come up.

I went to Catholic school for 12 years and my husband (who is not Catholic) went to public school and we both think that the school is terrific. An extra bonus is that the community is warm and welcoming. We have made many friends and feel that other parents are also watching out for our children. The school teaches the children that they are part of a bigger community and they can make a positive impact every day. We have two younger children that I intend to send to the School of the Madeleine. Joan


Feb 2005

Do any parents of current or former students have anything to add to the discussions of St. Jerome School and the School of the Madeleine? We are parents of a 4-year-old who will start kindergarten this fall, and we are interested in both schools. Both seem to have unique strengths. We are Catholic, but not particularly active in our church. While we feel that our daughter would probably find the curriculum more interesting and challenging at the Madeleine, both seem like good schools with dedicated teachers and staff and a warm welcoming atmosphere. St. Jerome is located nearer to our geographic neighborhood and the BART station (I commute to SF), which we find very appealing, but we're not sure how much weight to give to that. We would like to get as much information as we can, and hear as many personal experiences as possible, before making this difficult choice. Any and all advice welcome. concerned parents


I am the mother of a 1st grader at the Madeleine, and we applied to both The Madeleine and St. Jerome's. I liked both schools very much, but my husband I simply felt more ''at home'' and a real sense of community at the Madeleine. It's also a little closer to our house. We are friends with a St. Jerome's family and my understanding is that St. Jerome's is a little more of a ''commuter school,'' meaning that lots of families there come from Hercules, Pinole, etc and drop off kids at St. Jerome's on their way into work. Many Madeleine familes are from Berkeley and some from El Cerrito, Albany and Oakland.

We have been very happy with our choice. We have loved our son's teachers for both years and the principal, Mitch Calegari is exceptional. He was at Thousand Oaks years ago and is very experienced as an educator. The teachers at the school seem to feel very supported by him and like working for him. We think the school, teachers, curriculum and extended care program are outstanding and we could not be happier with the school.

Good luck with your decision. They are both good schools. Laura


We live closer to St. Jerome than the School of the Madeleine. We were married and our children were baptized at St. Jerome. Yet, we chose the School of the Madeleine. We have been very happy with our choice.

The thing that tipped the balance for me was the building. The building at the School of the Madeleine has a lot of light and is airy (not to mention the view from the upstairs!) That appealed to me. We went to the open houses of both schools several years in a row and I just liked the ambience at the Madeleine better, the Kindergarten in particular. I loved that the Kindergarten at the Madeleine had two rooms and a kitchen. The kids actually get to cook. That sold me!

But, you know what, now that I've had children in school for several years I realize that there are so many things that go into making a school right or wrong for a child that we as parents cannot possibly anticipate them all. So, make the best decision you can with the information you have and go with it. Then take a deep breath and relax. It all works out in the end one way or another. Good luck! Anon


November 2003

We are interested in hearing information about The School of the Madeleine in North Berkeley. We have set up visits already but would like to hear from currently/recently enrolled families about things the school won't tell you.

catholic family looking for the best place to send our kids


I am responding to the questions that have been posted about the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. As a current kindergarten parent, I cannot yet speak to the older grades, but I can say that my son and entire family have been extremely happy with our choice. We looked at the gamut of private schools in the Berkeley / Oakland / El Cerrito area last year trying to decide on the best match for our family. We applied and our son was accepted at all of our top choices. In weighing out this decision, we decided on the School of the Madeleine because it felt warm, unpretentious and strongly committed to academics. It was the only school we considered that truly seemed like a community and where we did not have to work so hard to impress people. The staff are experienced, warm and caring. The principal, Mitch Calegari, has years of public school principal experience prior to coming to the Madeleine --- he is phenomenal. Not to mention that the cost is at least half to a third of the tuitions of other private schools in the area. In addition, we are not Catholic but feel very comfortable with the way religion is woven into the overall curriculum. It is definitely Catholic but is extremely respectful of the other faiths represented by the students. Parents of older children and graduates that I have spoken to seem equally pleased with the school, both academically and socially. The graduates have gone on to excellent high schools and colleges. The students at the Madeleine are taught from the beginning to ''Be good to one another,'' and that spirit is reflected throughout the student body and faculty. The school is also extremely diverse which is important to us and different from some of the other private schools that we looked at. Our son is thriving at the Madeleine and looks forward to school even more than weekends. The Extended Care Program for working parents (which we are) has also been wonderful. We could not be happier with our school choice and look forward to our other two sons attending the School of the Madeleine.

An extremely happy Kindergarten parent


January 2003

Hi - I'm wondering if there are parents of kids attending School of the Madeline in Berkeley, who would be willing to share some of their experiences of the school. In particular, we are not Catholic. Is it crazy to even contemplate attending SOM? What percentage of the families at SOM are actually non-Catholic? Are students ever accepted for higher grades (3,4), or just K? How are the academics? The spiritual studies? Is it strictly ''Bible teachings'', or the larger values/ethics of treating ourselves and each other well? Is the school accepting of other kinds of diversity ~ ethnic, sexual orientation, family structure, etc. etc.? What high schools do SOM kids ''typically'' attend (public, private?) Any and all comments warmly appreciated. Thanks, Pondering a change of schools in Berkeley


This is in response to the inquiry about School of the Madeleine. We have had two children at the school for almost nine years and have, for the most part, been quite satisfied with it. It is a lovely, open community and provides a ''Catholic'' education vis a vis its Berkeley roots. While there is religious study of Catholicism on a daily basis, the emphasis most certainly is on strong moral values, being good to one another. I guesstimate that perhaps 20% of the student body are non-Catholics and are warmly embraced. I wouldn't not choose the school based on religion. While the class sizes are large, there are many subjects that are taught with only half the class at a time. The sports programs are fantastic, especially for girls. One of our children is off to high school next year and we feel they have had a strong academic base to prepare them. Many students go on to private high school, particularly Catholic, but many go on to BHS and other private schools. I encourage you to attend the school's Open House which I believe is Jan. 26th (although you should check the date with the school office), where you can meet teachers and parents. Good luck. a satisfied parent
My daughter attends the School of the Madeleine. She likes it. I'm neutral. The classes are large (35 children, one class per grade), the curriculum is traditional. If someone asked me to rate the teaching, I guess I would say middle- of-the-road. Religion is definitely a factor, so it is something to think about before you send your children there. I am not Catholic, and if I were to do it over, I can't say I would choose the Madeleine, or a Catholic school, for my child. However, I know of some families who have switched from public school and are happy with the decision. (I know others who have left for public or other private schools and are happy, too!)There definitely is a sense of community. Ethnic diversity is present, and there is no separation along ethnic lines. I don't know about sexual diversity, maybe not much. The principal is very good. It's small and safe-seeming. All the major holidays are celebrated in the traditional sense. There is a good after-school program, a healthful school lunch program, and a fun summer program. Currently the tuition is not covering the expenses, so I think the rates will go up. Oh yes, and there are many non-Catholic families in the school.
Madeleine parent
We have been at the School of the Madeleine for almost 4 years and are extremeley satified with the school. The teaching is structured and very thorough and students are well prepared for the best High Schools in the area. They are taught to think critically and to face a multitude of challenges that exist in the world - projects and field trips are creative and diverse. The higher grades (7,8) include special retreats and leadership programs that really seem to develop the childrens sense of self and respect for others. Having transferred from another East Bay private school, we were pleased with the ease of transition and the immediate sense of community the school provides. About 75% of the students are catholic, (we are not) and we appreciate the strong sense of ethics and morals that the school teaches and are very much in agreement with the spirit of the school. The class size (approx. 35) is a bit misleading as most classes are split up or taught by two teachers at a time so that students really do get a fair amount of individual attention and manage to excell at their own rate. The schools Open House on 1/26 will provide a bit of insight into the class projects and teachers and parents are usually available to answer questions. I highly recommend the School at any grade level.
Satisfied Madeleine Parent
February 2003

I attended School of the Madeleine for 9 years and my sister and brother did as well. There is one more sister still there. I had a very good experience there and would like to let others who are interested in the school know that it offers many great things. It is a Catholic school, but there is not an overwhelming emphasis that makes students of other faiths uncomfortable. There were many non-Catholics in my class and there were never any issues related to faith preference. The integration of moral and ethical education and discussion was definitely interesting and a great learning experience. I must say that overall, my time there was great! The upper division teachers are great resources and prepared me well for high school. The Madeleine stresses the importance of community which can be hard to find in other places. I got along very well with my class of 36 (the class sizes are a smaller now) and made many great friends. I think that the idea of educating the ''whole person'' was what made all the difference. I have many happy memories from my time there.
A Madeleine alum


1997

To the parent who requested information on the School of the Madeleine:

The Madeleine is a Catholic school, the parish school of St. Mary Magdalen Church. Most of the students are Catholic but there are a number of non-Catholics (I'd guess about 20%).

My daughter is a 3rd grader at the Madeleine, her fourth year at the school, and we feel very fortunate to have her there. We've been happy with the teachers all and all, we really like the principal, and we really appreciate the feeling of community among the school families. There's also an excellent extended care program. The only drawback I can think of is class size - up to 36 kids per class. Debby


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