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I realize I'll have to do some research to figure this out but I thought I'd put it out there in case someone else has already done gone through it! We live in Oakland now and will have kids in a good elementary school this year but I'm not as thrilled with our neighborhood middle and high school. Is it worth moving to Piedmont for better schools or are we better off staying in our current house in Montclair and putting the kids through private school. What complicates matters for us is that both our kiddos have special needs. One mild and one severe.
We're considering a move to Piedmont for the schools. We have 2 children, who will enter 2nd grade and K in the fall. Any advice on helping them make friends they will see at school? What's the story with Havens being in Emeryville temporarily? Is the district experiencing drastic cuts the way other districts are? anon
There remains a strong commitment to good public education in this community. Yes the state cuts to education are harsh, however, so far the community and schools have pulled together to minimize the effects on the quality of education in all the schools. In our experience with 3 schools in the district (2 elementary and the middle school) we are very happy with the rigor and breadth of the curriculum, the quality of the teachers and the genuine care from administrators. The School Board is very committed to engaging the community as well as tapping whatever resources they can. There is more to Piedmont than the leafy streets. Happy East Coast transplant in Piedmont
Likewise, the city pool has swimming lessons in the summer--group, semi-private and private lessons. I recall most lessons are short enough that parents usually stayed at the pool, so a good opportunity to get acquainted. Again, open to non-Piedmonters at slightly higher fees.
The Rec Dept catalog is easy to find on the city website, and I imagine the same is the case on the pool's lessons.
The three elementary schools are all great; my Havens boys were always frustrated that the other schools tended to have slightly higher API scores. Of course kids from all three come together at the middle and high school level. The PUSD website has a lot of great info on classes, enrollment processes, and funding (about a third of total funding comes from non-state sources: the not-insignificant Piedmont parcel tax, fundraising, and revenue from the Ed Foundation). We're wrestling with budget cuts too; but have set aside some rainy day funds to help cushion the blow.
The Havens rebuild is a tad ahead of schedule, and with the high school retrofit also ahead of schedule, the high school portables will move off the Havens site and back to the HS during spring break rather than at the summer break. This will let the Havens crew have even better access to get their work done. School starts after Labor Day this fall, rather than in late August, to accommodate any last minute delays.
If you're looking for ways to think about the costs/benefits of a move to Piedmont, email me [Kennedy@MaureenKennedy.Net] for a factsheet and spreadsheet including a biz-school-type NPV analysis of buying the (more expensive) house in Piedmont vs. a less expensive house elsewhere and sending kids to private schools (NOT that that's the only choice out there).
Most analyses remember that you have near term cash flows (mortgage+tax on the incrementally more expensive house, compared to tuition [continuing to rise, by the way]) but forget that when you sell, you'll get the incremental value (+ appreciation) back. Maureen
Havens is in Emeryville this year, but all Havens students will be back in a brand new state of the art school this Fall. It is very likely that Wildwood students will be bused to Emeryville next year and Beach the year after that as both schools are scheduled for some retrofitting. There have been cuts to the school district budget, but they are in no way drastic. All elementary classes still have classroom aids, though for fewer hours than in previous years.
Students still have dedicated instructors for P.E., Art, Science & Music in elementary school. Some of the budget shortfall for 2010-2011 will be met through a reduced schedule for teachers. This will not affect students are teaching days, but some of their collaboration and training days have been cut.
While a Piedmont Education is certainly an excellent value - it's not free. You will pay higher property taxes and a parcel tax is regularly renewed about every 2-3 years. Families are strongly encouraged to give to the Annual Fund at a suggested rate of $1200 per year and there are additional contributions to class funds to cover teacher gifts, special projects, field trips etc. of approximately $100 - $250 per year per child.
Making friends should not be a problem. I would encourage your children to take classes and camps through the Recreation Department and to join sports teams. happy in Piedmont
We are considering a move to Piedmont if we can find something that is remotely affordable, or perhaps end up renting if we can't afford to buy. I would love some feedback on the schools there (all grades) as I would like to send my 5 year old there if we can get into the district. I am concerned about elitism/snobbishness in the schools because the area is so expensive, but I would love it if someone could give me a more accurate description since I am only basing my opinions on stereotypes of wealthy neighborhoods. We are very middle class and I would not like my child to feel out of it because we don't have the same income as the other parents. Thanks!
Piedmont is really small. You should come to a city event, visit the schools and parks, or sign your child up for an extracurricular activity through the Piedmont Recreation Department and see how you feel. pleased parent
We have a good option for K-8, but are worried about high school. The expense of many of the private high schools can be prohibitive. Our options are either try to move to Piedmont for the long term, or to go for one of the less expensive high schools like Bishop O'Dowd. Does anyone know how Bishop O'Dowd compares to a place like Piedmont High in terms of academic preparation for college? (Both provide a large social environment, which is important for developing important social and life skills). Thanks, -Frank
The key takeaway from the analysis that most folks miss is that you pay on average $320K or so more for a typical 3/2 home in Piedmont compared to surrounding Oakland neighborhoods (94610,11,18), but whenever you sell, you get that investment, plus appreciation, back.
In the case of tuition, the outgo is an expense, not an investment. And with tuition continuing to escalate, but house prices flat or declining a tad right now, the gap is wider.
On the quality side, we have two boys at Piedmont High School right now, and have been quite happy (both are rather unique kids, so not the classic ''he'll succeed anywhere'' types). I've also heard great things about O'Dowd.
One thing to note about Piedmont is the ease of commute (5-minute walk for us) and the fact that classmates all live within reasonable walking distance. This leads to the tight supportive ''it takes a village'' atmosphere here in town, and certainly reduces daily commutes!
Broker, Pacific Union, Montclair
(Editor Note: a response was also received about Bishop O'Dowd High School.)
Our family is slowly getting worn down by the problems at BUSD and we are considering moving from Berkeley to Piedmont ''for the schools''. Have other Berkeley BUSD families made this transition? Do you have any regrets? Do you feel that your children are getting the education they deserve? Are teachers spending less time disciplining and more time teaching? We would love to hear about your experience. Any and all comments are welcome. It's a difficult decision for us because we love Berkeley in so many other ways but private school for two children is out of our reach. Frustrated Berkeley BUSD parent
The schools have been a revelation. The teachers do not have to spend so much time on discipline and can focus on academics. All the elementary classrooms have teachers aides, and the art, science, and PE teachers are all trained in their fields. The reading, math, and special ed. teachers are all fabulous also. The parents are very involved in the schools and contribute their time and money. You should definitely consider the move. Anon
We have an opportunity to live in Piedmont. My 14 year old daughter will be a freshman in the Fall. She loves the idea but I am worried about how a Mexican girl of limited financial means will manage in Piedmont High. She is shy, self-conscious, and won't be able to afford fabulous vacations. When I lived there years ago, most everyone I encountered was assumed I was the maid and many people were decidedly unfriendly. The academics at Piedomont are great but I am very concerned about the social scene. Any thoughts or experiences to share? worried mom
We seriously considering moving to Piedmont for the public schools, and would love to get input from those who are there or have experience with them. We are a two-mom family with two kids, and one more likely down the way. We are wondering what people's experience has been like in the Piedmont schools - we are particularly concerned about there being almost no other gay families there, from what we can tell. Our other big concern is social pressure - the ''in'' crowd and cliques that can run rampant in wealthy communities. What is the social scene like at Piedmont Middle School? Finally, are the schools really that great? We're looking for a combination of high academic standards and creative, engaging teaching. Private schools look great, but the bill for three kids is pretty astronomical. Thanks for your thoughts.
If you're really interested in moving to Piedmont then come visit
the schools, stop by the recreation center, attend a community
event. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised
Very happy in Piedmont
I have a toddler and we're trying to decide where to locate for school purposes. We're considering moving to Piedmont. Any feedback on the Piedmont system? I'm particularly concerned about diversity and social status issues. In addition my research shows that the Piedmont tax bite isn't as dramatic as I expected. Can you write off the entire amount (including special charges?). Piedmont Possibility
Attention to issues regarding diversity has been high on the priority list of our community for many! years. We are surprisingly ethnically diverse for a small affluent town but certainly do not have the ethnic mix of our neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley. Our Asian community is very active and highly organized. There is a local organization that regularly sponsors programs for teachers and residents regarding various diversity issues. The City Council created a committee to formally address diversity issues within the town and I was appointed to serve the first term of that committee. As a lesbian parent, also I participated in a panel presentation to the PHS faculty and staff regarding the experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students (presented by the Gay Lesbian Student Teacher Network- GLSTN). Teachers posted signs throughout the school indicating that their classrooms were safe harbors for LGBT students.
Together my partner and I have three sons, all of whom graduated from Piedmont. Our youngest is a senior at UC Davis, one trained as a firefighter and one studied film making in LA and has been volunteering full time in the Katrina relief effort in Mississippi. All of our sons have expressed gratitude to my partner and me for the experience of attending Piedmont schools (even though we heard occasional griping about how boring social life was on a Saturday night in Piedmont. Alcohol is the drug of choice among high school students and consequently a perennial problem for local parents.)
One of our sons took advantage of Millennium High, Piedmont's alternative high school for students who need schedule and/or curriculum flexibility or have trouble fitting into the intensely competitive college prep nature of the main high school. (Nearly all of PHS grads go on to college.) Students from around the East Bay attend MHS. Millennium classes are! held adjacent to the PHS campus and sometime inside PHS and MHS students are eligible to participate in the athletic programs at PHS.
Many folks move into Piedmont because of our excellent schools and this fact is not lost on Piedmont voters. There is widespread support for school parcel taxes each time they come up for renewal. Often the choice is made to live in our town because one can deduct a higher mortgage while essentially bypassing the need to consider a private (non-deductible) education. Many opportunities exist to deduct contributions to organizations such as PAINTS and CHIME, our art and music parent support groups, and the Piedmont Educational Foundation, a group that funds a broad range of projects throughout the district.
Parents are very active in fundraising for their local school organizations and play a major role in the determination of funding priorities. When my son entered first grade at Beach School, I seized the opportunity to directly participate in his classroom education. A full time nurse-midwife, I volunteered to create hands-on science experiences that augmented the science curriculum. I offered the same support to the other teachers at that grade level. As the years went by my program grew to cover each grade. While I volunteered my time for the first five years, once my son graduated from elementary school the Beach Parents' Organization (BPO) determined that I should be paid for my time. My position has since been fully funded by BPO members who vote on spending priorities each year. I am now in my 19th year of providing ''Friday Science'' enrichment to Beach students. The annual Science Fair is our celebration of student-driven projects. Please drop by and visit us that night in early June! With warm regards, Kathy
As for the diversity, well that depends on your definition of diversity. My aunt visiting from New York and attending a block party was impressed by the diversity of our neighbors. The family next door is from Malaysia, on the other side from China, and across the street from the Philipines. We hear different languages spoken and there are mixed race couples and kids. As for status, we have not experienced any snobs. The people who live on our block are--no surprise--alot like us. They care about their kids and their kids' education. Most are working professionals: teachers, architects, lawyers, scientists--who also try to spend time with their kids and families.
The best aspect of Piedmont is the small town feel. We really do know everyone on the block. Kids play together, parents take turns walking the kids to the local school, we have block parties, and neighbors watch out for each other.
Unfortunately, the home prices these days seem to be outrageous, but as you suggest, the taxes are not that much more than in other communities--and certainly lots less than sending your kids to private school. Our attitude toward buying was to take a long time to look for a house we could afford and we found one quickly, albeit a fixer upper. Good luck with your decision. Alison
Re: Which private school?
As a parent who has had a child in Bentley and in Piedmont (and examined several of the other alternatives you mention), I would emphatically recommend against Piedmont for a gifted child, and especially a shy one. Being a public system that must take all residents, and hew to state and federal goals, Piedmont's focus is on the average (or, really, slightly below ave! rage) child. Piedmont also seems to do an excellent job for children with disabilities. However, Piedmont thwarts academically ambitious students. It has no GATE program, preferring to divert its GATE funds into programs for all the children. It uses myriad tactics to limit access to AP and advanced classes. It systematically refuses to accommodate the special needs of gifted children. Worst, among the students, and some parents and teachers, there is a pervasive anti- intellectualism that really squelches some children. Before you decide against Bentley, please visit. For my child, Bentley was freeing, and a place where her interests and talents were valued and supported. Bentley fan
We live in Oakland and are considering whether to move to Piedmont for the school system. I was hoping some current Piedmont parents could tell me if they think the extra cost of living in Piedmont is worth it. Are the schools really that much better than other public schools? What about the pressure of living in such a high income area? Our son would go to one of the Montclair elementary schools, which I know have good reputations, but I'm concerned that with the current fiscal crisis in the Oakland School District the education and opportunities would suffer even at the ''best'' Oakland schools. Oakland mom
I know that the current Oakland schools budget crisis is really bad, but Piedmont is also laying off teachers. The difference is that there are parents donating tons of money and time to the schools (not to mention voting in parcel taxes, bond measures, etc.) I'm hopeful that there will be other parents like me who will donate what they can in time/materials/money to my child's Oakland school and assist the teacher (as needed), so that my child can get a good education within a diverse group.
Last, but not least, I don't give a lot of weight to test scores. However, for those that do... many of the Montclair schools tested as high (or higher) than Orinda, Piedmont, Lafayette, and Moraga schools. Not bad :)
No matter where you go, there are pros and cons. We just decided that there were more pros for our family here in Oakland right now. Good luck with your decision! --proud parent of a soon-to-be Oakland school-kid
our experience has been very good at the schools, our son is in middle school. the teachers are extremely thoughtful and will bend over backwards to help the kids - meet w/ them before school, lunch, after school etc. the administration is also thoughtful, and have been wonderful to work with.\
it totally alleviates the stress of wondering what will happen from year to year if the schools will still be ''good'' for another year or so, dealing w/ private schools admissions etc.
the drawbacks are the obvious ones - the diversity is pretty dismal, there are a lot of kids from very very wealthy families, and getting to know the other parents is harder for ''new'' families since they all have known each other from elementary school onward (but this may not be a problem for you if you are starting from elementary school).
we aren't so worried about the drawbacks because we have other outlets for him to have a diverse group of friends and experiences.
also, the high school is supposed to have very high alcohol/drug rates (more akin to wealthy kids) but on the flip side the high schoolers we have met have been quite mature and responsible - i believe a reflection of their rearing in the schools and community. they go on a ton of field trips ranging from museums, to ropes courses, to boat trips...
other pluses are the nice parks and rec dept, kids are playing in the streets and there are wonderful (and cheap) summer school programs and activities for the kids.
i'm a big supporter of public schools and would like to say i would stick it out in oakland, but there was just too much chaos surrounding the school for our son to be able to focus (aside from the fact that his teachers were often very poorly trained). i'm sure and know of some oakland schools where parents are working hard to help build up the academics and support the school, but the uncertainty was just too much to bear. who knows what will happen with the bankruptcy of the district, takeovers by the state etc. i know it is a privilege to be able to even have the choice to ''get out'' but keeping him there would be detrimental to a kid who needs all the academic support he can get - and he just wasn't getting any there. good luck, it shouldn't be this tough huh?
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