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Re: Have you left Beacon Day, Park Day, or St. Paul's?
Sorry we did not see the original question, but yes we did leave St. Paul's. Due to finances. We were on financial aid, but after the first year realized we hadn't budgeted enough for the school-based care during ''ski week'' Xmas, spring break. We requested a bit more in financial aid, so that our child could stay IN THEIR PROGRAM during these break periods, and we were turned down. A school representative that we met with listened to our request and concerns, but simply responded in the negative without providing any information for us about why it wouldn't be possible. Friends with kids in other private schools stated that their schools would have done anything within their power to retain a current family who was experiencing financial difficulties. It was a devastating and demoralizing thing to go through, and left us with a very bad taste in our mouth re: St. Paul's. Yes, they say they strive for diversity [limited, from our observations at the time], but they did nothing to try to retain us, a current family, during a difficult financial time. This is, of, course, our experience -don't know if it's completely unique. We wouldn't recommend. Not embraced by St. Paul's
I just wanted to share how much my daughter (7) enjoyed her summer at 'art camp' one of the many camps that St Pauls Episcopal School (spes) hosted this summer. It was their first year being open and it was pretty fantastic. Her art portfolio is deep and she learned to express herself in so many different ways that contributed to her emotional growth as well! She looked forward to going to camp EVERY single day which was so rewarding. They had a bunch of other camps but she loved the art teacher and the fact that every week had a different theme and used different techniques! It rocked! christine
My daughter attended St. Paul's summer camp the summer prior to starting Kindergarten. All I can say is she LOVED it. There were fun adventures, science projects and different activities all day long and on Fridays she came home with a folder packed with great artwork. It made her transition into Kindergarten seamless. My daughter also attended the famous Head Royce Summer camp later in the summer and asked everyday if she could go back to St. Paul's camp. So, now we know to just stick with St. Paul's all summer! Alex P
Re: Looking for the right school for my daughters
I highly recommend St. Paul's Episcopal. My nine-year old daughter started St. Paul's last year as a third grader, and our family has had an exceptional experience. We moved to Oakland from out of state last summer. The administration paired us with a wonderful 3rd grade family prior to the first day of school, and helped us build community before school even started. After a year at St. Paul's, my daughter is a different kid. Her confidence, which was seriously compromised by some unfortunate experiences in the school she attended from K-2, has been restored. She feels accepted and celebrated for exactly who she is. I fully credit that to the school leadership, who has created a nurturing and inclusive environment for every kid, regardless of learning or social differences. My daughter is an above average reader and writer who struggles with math, and she gets bored easily when she is not challenged. St. Paul's is able to meet her and every student where they are, and finds healthy and productive ways to challenge them academically while supporting them emotionally. The diversity, inclusiveness, the academic rigor, the school leadership and the parent community have been remarkable. Another St. Paul's parent and I were saying the other day that this is the school we wish we could have attended when we were kids. All that to say, St. Paul's is definitely worth investigation to see if it will work for your children. Best of luck in your search. Happy St. Paul's Parent
Re: Entering 8th & 5th Grade from overseas
I highly recommend St. Paul's to you. We have had two children attend there, one beginning in 4th grade and the other just for middle school. The approach of the school is terrific and everyone is very welcoming to new students. The diversity is great and the teachers are wonderful. Our children are bi-racial and have not had a problem at any of their schools in Oakland but St. Paul's is truly wonderful. We also had a child attend another east bay private school and it was good but the overall experience at St. Paul's is exceptional. I note that the academics are terrific as well. Loves St. Paul's
Re: Berkeley/Oakland private school recs
My son attends St. Paul's Episcopal School and we love it. It is located near Lake Merrit, is non-denominational, very diverse, places a lot of focus on service learning and kindness (its no-bully policy is definitely walking the talk), and has a great after school program. We were torn between our local public school and SPES and after touring them several times knew we made the best decision for our child and our family. I do wish there were no homework in the early grades. That said, a good teacher assigns good, worthwhile homework. I'm happy to speak to you about it offline. The moderator can give you my contact info. Good luck on your search. Moderator will provide my Contact
I am feeling very conflicted about whether St Paul's Episcopal School (SPES) or Head-Royce (HR) would be the best fit for my very bright, expressive, creative daughter whom is African-American. These schools are very distinct from each other - if only I could take the strengths of each to make the ideal school!
SPES Pros: Appeals to me for its diverse student population, urban environment, emphasis on teaching the ''whole child.'' Cons: When I toured the school, I wondered if there were any issues with student disengagement. I was also concerned by the fact that a large portion of the teachers are quite young and new to SPES (lack of stable experienced staff).
HR Pros: Appears to have strong teachers, engaged students, great facilities, and perhaps stronger creative/arts program Cons: Appears really lacking on the # of African-American students. If anyone can share their experiences/thoughts related to the academic rigor/engagement and teacher turn-over at SPES (I have previously not gotten any clear explanation from current SPES parents or staff) OR thoughts about the inclusive social environment for African-American students at HR, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!
Looking for the right fit
I'm not sure how long the K teachers have been there, but I know they were already working together at least a few years before he started. They are both highly regarded and loved by the kids. One of the teachers was recently profiled in a video on differentiaited learning. Last year, first grade, his teacher did leave mid-year, and though I don't know the specifics I know it was for personal reasons. She was an amazing teacher and it was a loss but the school handled the situation well and quickly did a thorough search for her replacement. Luckily there's a second full time teacher in the class which helped with continuity. Our second grade teacher has also been at the school many years and we are very happy with her as well.
I should add that I myself attended HR for 1st-8th grade and had a good experience there. I do feel that all the kids at SPES benefit from the diversity at the school. The range of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds can only benefit them as they grow up and participate in the broader community. Happy St. Paul's parent
Ironically, we had similar concerns about the youth of the faculty but having witnessed them in action this year they are very impressive. There were a couple of situations where teachers needed to be away for medical / family reasons and I was just as impressed with the temporary faculty as I was with the permanent ones. It's also great because their teaching assistants get a great deal of responsibility and it is a great feeder progam for new faculty.
I personally don't think you can go wrong with either school. They are both outstanding academically and the kids excel at the next level. The diversity at St. Paul is better but Head-Royce is definitely committed to improving it's diversity and is moving in the right direction. One thing I can't emphasize enough is making sure you consider the schools approach to social / emotional development. I think our kids will walk away with a fantastic academic experience at any of the amazing private schools in Oakland but when it comes to social / emotional development and building confidence within our children that is an area where St. Paul's absolutely nails it. They get it in the classroom and it is reinforced in their after school program which is outstanding. I've witnessed it first hand with our son and it's pretty incredible. Best of luck with your decision. It's a tough one but if you're choosing between St. Paul's and Head-Royce it's very hard to go wrong. t
I do understand the appeal of diversity at SPES - that is one of the reasons we chose it. There are few private schools in the area that can match SPES for diversity. But you have to balance SPES's ''look'' with the ''feel'' of the school environment, which I think adversely affects both student and teacher retention. There is more turnover at SPES than any other school I have ever experienced with my 3 kids at a number of different public & private schools. To put it into perspective: We left SPES 2 years ago. Only one of the five teachers my child had K-3 is still there. My son's kindergarten teachers both left after his K year, he had a new teacher for 1st and again in 2nd grade, and his 3rd grade teacher, who had been at the school for a while, left the year after we did. In contrast, at his current private school, only one teacher is new to the school since we've been there, and she replaced a teacher who retired after 30+ years at the school. The other teachers have all been there for years. It is hard to overstate the value of a team of teachers with a long-term commitment to the school. SPES just doesn't have that.
I don't know the real reason why so many teachers leave SPES. While we were at the school, parents were not usually told anything until just before school started, when a cheery letter would go out with all the new teachers' names and bios. But I think this illustrates the problem: the administration tightly controls the ''spin'' at SPES, and withholds information that parents really ought to have. I know that all schools have their challenges, and I don't fault a school for wanting to put the best spin on things. But SPES's strong drive to protect its image takes precedence over everything else, including building a cohesive community of parents, students, and teachers. This is very different from my child's current school, where input is sought before big decisions are made, and everyone is informed about the bumps and turns along the way. My experience at SPES was the opposite - parents were rarely asked for input, except in the most controlled way, such as a survey with pre-determined choices, whose results were never published. When I asked a question or made a comment that didn't align with the official position, it would be ignored or deflected, or I'd be told it was more appropriate for the Parent Council (which, as far as I could tell, was composed of parents appointed by the administration.) At SPES, parents are informed of decisions after they have already been made. One year we were there, a big construction project was announced. It seemed to appear out of nowhere -- by the time parents heard about it, the design and most of the funding were already in place. For the rest of the school year, the project was touted at every school event. Posters went up around the school, kids drew pictures of their dream playground, contingency plans were described in detail for the construction that would begin over the summer. But when we returned to school in the fall, the plans and posters had vanished. For whatever reason, the project had fallen through, but information was minimal and only reluctantly given.
At first I admired how well-run and organized SPES is, but as time went by I concluded that this was largely due to the administration's rigid control over all decisions, policies, and the flow of information. I learned that policies such as behavior rules for students were so general that they could be interpreted in any way the administration chose to interpret them, and applied or not applied as desired. Suspension and expulsion are surprisingly common at SPES, even for younger kids as we found out, though the school does not always call it this. We were told that our son was not suspended when his new school requested records, and another boy's mom told me that her son was not expelled, he just couldn't come back to SPES. This means the school doesn't have to account for its disciplinary actions, since the actions didn't officially happen. Parents at SPES also cannot know in advance what exactly could cause their child to be suspended or expelled, because this is not written down. When we objected to our 8-year-old's suspension, which I'll describe below, we were referred to a policy for lower school children that said students must be kind and respectful. There was nothing in the handbook that addressed suspension. At other schools my kids attended, an 8-year-old would have to do something pretty terrible to be suspended, like bringing a knife to school, or injuring another child, so I had assumed - wrongly - that SPES must have similar practices. There is also no recourse once a decision has been made, no matter how irrational it seems. Had I known about the school's discipline practices, I would never have applied to SPES. But I'm not sure there was any way we could have known, because the school did such a good job projecting the image it wanted us to perceive.
Another example of this is the way that SPES's desire to be seen as ''safe'' affects decision-making. Safety was stressed at admissions events that I attended and it is a very powerful draw for parents of 4 year olds who are considering an urban school setting. A school safe from bullying is laudable, but not every scuffle on the playground is a bullying event. My third grader was among those suspended when the administration decided that an ongoing Capture the Flag game at recess was actually a case of intentionally singling out one kid for bullying, even though this tight-knit group of 8 year olds had all happily played this game together for the past year or two, without any concerns. No one on staff saw what happened the day one of the boys was kicked during the game, but the boy was upset and the administration became alarmed. The lower school head, who was new, questioned each boy alone over the next few hours, suspended most of them, and determined that my son had a heretofore-undetected psychological problem. My son was not actually present when the kicking happened, but he had helped organize the game that day, so he was determined to be the mastermind. He did not understand what he had done wrong, or why he was brought to the office to sit on a bench for three hours. His bafflement was interpreted by the administrators as ''unremorseful'' and ''a flat affect''. (The administrators had no psych training and the school does not have a psychologist. However, the Head of School told us she had spoken with an unnamed therapist, who concurred with the diagnosis.) We were called in for a meeting with the Heads, and told that our son would not be allowed to come back to school unless we placed him under ongoing psychological treatment. Our son's teacher, who knew him, was not involved in the decision. She had already had the boys write apologies, and had phoned us the same day to let us know, mentioning that she'd long expressed concerns about the unsupervised playground. But when I brought this up with the administrators, we were told not to discuss this with the teacher, because it was an administrative matter and therefore not the teacher's concern. They held to their therapy requirement even after we - very reluctantly - had our son ''cleared'' over the next week by both a child psychologist and a developmental pediatrician, who both reported back to the school that nothing was wrong with our son, that he didn't need therapy, and could return to school. Both these professionals also told the school that this kind of thing is typical 3rd grade boy behavior, and not a bullying incident. The school did not return our calls or tell us when our son could come back - it had been over a week and we both worked full time. At that point we left the school. One of the other boys was not allowed to return to SPES. A letter then went out to all SPES parents about the two students who ''chose'' to leave after the ''unfortunate playground incident'' which I assume was intended to give the impression that the school was once again safe from bullies, now that my son and the other boy were gone.
I know there are families who have a good experience at SPES, and we had a good experience too for the first couple of years. But if we had had more information about the school's administrative policies from the start, we would have chosen a different school and avoided a very painful experience. I hope my story sheds some light. Beauty's only skin-deep - it's what's inside that counts.
I am confident that your daughter will do well at either school. I can, however, only speak about our St. Paul's experience. It may be helpful to know that our son is adopted and of Hispanic heritage, while we are Caucasian, one Jewish and the other Catholic. Indeed, maintaining socio-economic and other diversity at St. Paul's is an integral part of the school's mission. This includes teaching the school's students how to succeed in an increasingly diverse world. But that is only part of the St. Paul's story, albeit a very important one (especially to us).
The school's commitment to community service also is well-known, and it maintains an excellent faculty. I don't think the relative youth of some more recently hired teachers is necessarily a bad thing -- they are often energetic and can be most adept at using new technologies and introducing new curricula.
Moreover, to put teacher turnover in perspective, it should be noted that St. Paul's has one teacher with 24 years at the school, two with 23 years, and one each with 22 and 21 years' respectively. While the school (including teacher hiring decisions) is not perfect, many faculty departures simply reflect our teachers' diverse interests, health issues, and other personal reasons (e.g., teachers moving with their respective spouses, choosing to be an-at-home parent, moving from teaching to a leadership position in the school administration or a standout accepting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity).
Happily, I have always found St. Paul's students engaged and actively involved in their classroom activities. Indeed, our son looks forward to going to middle school virtually each and every school day.
Whether it's African American Culture Evening, our ecumenical chapels, service learning, our singular inter-grade buddy program, responsive classroom approach, new lower school math curriculum, differentiated instruction, our diverse student body and faculty, visionary school administration leadership (I could go on), there are a good many features that will make the school potentially the best place for your child to begin her academic career, start to develop as a well-rounded student ready for high school, and, eventually a life-long learner. To that end, we in the St. Paul's community look forward to inaugurating our new lower school library and first-ever St. Paul's gymnasium in the late fall.
Good luck, and remember there is no perfect school; your daughter will do well at either of these fine schools. Signed, Happy and involved St. Paul's dad
My child is currently enrolled in kindergarten at St. Paul's. He has a terrific teacher, is adapting well, and is stimulated and happy. I would appreciate any feedback as to whether we stay the course at a private (and expensive) school or switch him to Crocker. We are not wealthy and know that in the sixth grade, most kids are going the private route. He's very bright, and he's abundantly boy. I have heard that Crocker's class sizes increase as the kids get older and that there can be a lot of disruptions. I know Crocker is a great school with a lot of parental involvement. However, I have some reservations about switching him into a slightly more chaotic environment where he might get lost. I appreciate all feedback. And, yes, I attended public schools and know that they can work. I'm not married to either one philosophically. Save our money now or keep going? Thank you. Anon
In terms of academics, we found that when we left St. Paul's for public school, our "average" son was about half a year behind the other students in his new class. He didn't have the writing skills needed to meet state guidelines, and he had not yet been introduced to some of the math concepts that public school kids were already familiar with. You also mentioned class size - our son was always in a class of 22-25 students at St. Paul's; we found smaller class sizes at public school. Our son had mostly excellent teachers at St. Paul's, and made many friends, and there were many things we loved about the school. But in the end, it was the arbitrary policies and the top-down enforcement of rules that bothered us. So I don't think it would be a bad idea at all to save your money and change to public school. anon
editor note: responses were also received about Crocker Highlands Elementary
Re: Which middle school for CPS students?
Short answer: I have a freshman at CPS who went to St. Paul's. He says he has to stretch intellectually much more than in middle school but is very happy and enjoying the academic rigor. He summed up: Success at CPS is more about motivation than academic preparation. I am happy to talk specifics if you want to contact me directly. leslie
Re: Public elementary school to private middle school?
We transfered our twin boys from a private K-5 to St Paul's Episcopal School in the 6th grade. We found that they were very ready for a new school experience at that time. Although they had a wonderful K-5 school and were anxious about starting a new 6th grade, within the first week they were making new friends and enjoying another community. St. Paul's is a K-8 school and they do a very good job of integrating the new students at the beginning of the year. We've found it to be exceptinal both accademically and socially and our boys grew from the experience. They will be very ready to start a new school for high school. Nanci
I have heard that there were three families that left St. Paul's First Grade and moved to other schools at the end of the 2008-2009 school year? This is unusual as the families remained local. Is there something going on at St. Paul? We are considering St. Paul for our son next year and would appreciate any feedback. concerned mom
I urge you to look at St. Paul's in the fall, where you will find strong academics, a fabulous music and arts program, meaningful service learning, and a warm environment that nurtures learning. Happy St. Paul's Parent
We are a small class, and seem to be a class in which a number of families have needed to move their kids because of a variety of reasons including money, keeping two kids together, or other non antiSP's reasons.
We are a diverse and caring group of parents who enjoy getting together outside of school events (we have a parent-organized picnic in a couple weeks, for example), and I encourage you to come and talk to any of us, or any other parents, to get a sense of our feelings about the school. I could wax poetic about meaningful vs additive community service, real diversity--that includes economics as well as ethnicity and sexual orientation, dedicated and smart teachers, and, most critically, happy well adjusted kids.
My sister works at CPS while in grad school and she comments that she can always spot a STP's kid--they are the ones with the can do attitudes, who are grounded and comfortable with the praxis as well as theories of difference and social justice, who are academically prepared and willing to question, to ponder, and to enjoy themselves while doing so. SPES parent
For us, the school has offered a good balance of the traditional and the progressive; it is neither too ''crunchy'' nor too rigid. The music and performance program is outstanding. The kids get plenty of physical activity. The service learning program is well established and very well run. And the school really does help the kids learn to take responsibility: as a small example, I still remember when my son came home from kindergarten and cleaned up the entire living room on his own initiative, not once but a few times.
By the way, it's not particularly unusual for families to change schools as they search for a good fit. No school is perfect for everyone. The families that left this year did so for different reasons, some of which had little to do with St. Paul's itself. Please come visit the school and see how it feels to you. We are very happy there! Happy St. Paul's family
We are considering St Paul's for my child entering middle school. Can anyone offer any comparisons of St Paul's vs Beacon? I appreciated the St. Paul's information from the previous post, but the last posting made me wonder how well St. Paul's would be for a child who may need more personal academic assistance. Would he get lost in the shuffle in the large class size of St Paul's? I want my child challenged, but not overwhelmed (not the best student, but attentive and putting forth effort) I was also concerned to hear from the poster about their experience with disruptive kids who impacted classes. Thanks for any help in making this big decision. Confused
I wondered if anyone who has had experience at both Park Day and St. Paul's - especially if they've switched from one to the other - could share what their experience has been and what they feel are the strong differences (other than the facilities). My son will be starting kindergarten next year. He's a self-directed, articulate, musical, and social guy and would be at home at both places. We like both schools and see many strengths at both from the outside but wonder if an insider can share what they've experienced as the most significant differences between the two. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights. Anon
But there are differences, to wit:
Park Day: Their campus is peaceful, parklike,and nurturing. If your son is shy, needs space,or has a quirky personality, Park is a better choice. Their teachers will know and love your child. The major down side to Park, for us, was that over time our son was not challenged enough in math and other areas, and we actually hired supplemental tutors to keep enriching his academic experience. Later, he needed to seriously learn how to take a standardized test since he'd never seen one and it was no longer an option. We wondered if it was possible to join a social, activist curriculum with academics, because while our son became an amazing person he was not a great student.
St. Paul's: Their campus is more urban and busy, play areas are limited. A kid who is independent or passionate will thrive, as did our second son. Like Park Day, a lot of social activism and discussion with dedicated staff. St. Paul's was not religious per se (and we're not either), but their spirituality piece which involves meditation and chapel, were way cool. Our son loved that part. We also saw a marked difference in academics, where there were milestones, expectations, and some structured homework (eg spelling words, word problems) which helped our son become a better student. Also some prep for standardized testing in higher grades. While issues like global warming, the needs of our community, and how to be a contributing and caring person were part of his experience, he also was learning how to succeed as an academic student in a way that would translate beyond St. Paul's doors.
Both schools are great, and parents of one appreciate the other, but there are differences. And please remember to look beyond kindergarten when making your decision. Good luck!! A Fan of Park Day and St. Paul's
Each school has some wonderful strengths. The music program at St. Paul's -- particularly after 3d grade -- is amazing. As I mentioned, the school really is diverse, economically as well as in more obvious respects such as race and sexual orientation. And the academics seem good, Science is especially impressive. Bizarrely, they didn't start teaching a foreign language (Spanish) until a few years in, though that might be changing.
Park seems stronger in the ''liberal arts'' -- lots of emphasis on writing, creative expression, visual arts, and social studies/history. Our older child was always a strong reader, but it wasn't until he started at Park that he began to love reading (tho that might just be a coincidence), and our 2nd grader has gone from being hesitant about reading on her own to being a really avid reader. Spanish starts in kindergarten. On the down side, the math and science are, frankly, stronger at St. Paul's. (Tho I have heard that it improves greatly in 6th grade, when the kids spend half their time with a teacher who specializes in math and science). And, while, Park is not as thoroughly diverse as St. Paul's (I don't think any school is) it does pretty good -- probably better in terms of LGBT families -- and is really committed to social justice, community and global awareness issues.
The biggest difference is the warm and nurturing feeling of the environment at Park. Kindness seems to be the school ethos, and you really feel it. But that does not mean indulgence: our kids have been in classes with potentially disruptive kids in both schools. The difference is that at Park, we saw those kids managed in a way that kept them included and cared for, without letting their problems become everyone else's.
Other pluses at Park: the campus is lovely (if small), while St. Pauls feels like a nice urban public school; the new(ish) Park middle school is said to be fantastic; and we like that kids stay in the lower school through 6th grade (which seems too young to throw kids into the middle school whirlwind).
I hope this is helpful to you -- probably either choice will be a good one; they are both fine schools. Good luck.
Almost without exception both of our sons have had great experiences at Park Day. There was not one day in my older sonÂ’s seven years at the school when he said he didnÂ’t like school or didnÂ’t want to go to school. Same so far for my younger son. They have had wonderful teachers who took the time to get to know them and always enjoyed them. The small class size at Park Day gives teachers the time to focus on each kid. Kids do a lot of work in groups and with partners and get to move around a lot, which was important for both of my energetic sons. Park Day seems to get a bad rap for its academics, but the curriculum is strong (and constantly being reviewed and revised) and lively, and kids learn what they need to learn. I think the fact that the kids have fun learning it makes people question whether the school is feeding enough of the core subjects. My older son did fine, transitioned to St. PaulÂ’s middle school with no problems, and is now at a highly academic high school. My younger son excels in math, and his teacher ensures that he is challenged in that subject on a daily basis. So, kids do get what they need at Park Day, and the school is able to meet the needs of many different kinds of kids, from those who naturally excel at academics to those who need more support. A comment about the facilities: The beautiful, open Park Day campus contributes in a very important way to the childrenÂ’s experience. The kids have a lot of space and a lot of freedom, get to be outdoors a ton, get to garden, play sports, etc. They love the space and that adds to their positive school experience. And finally, the school does a really good job at keeping parents informed about whatÂ’s going on in the classrooms and in the school as a wholeÂ—a thorough, lengthy, and readable weekly newsletter from the administration and regular newsletters and emails from teachers. Plus, itÂ’s easy to have a quick chat with teachers because the campus/buildings are so accessible. Parents are always hanging around and chatting before and after school.
St. PaulÂ’s has some wonderful qualitiesÂ—the diversity and the music program are standouts--but we found St. PaulÂ’s to be much more traditional than we had expected, both in terms of the curriculum (we didn't find it particularly exciting), and discipline (my son witnessed many detentions being handed out). Overall, while my son handled it all just fine, it wasnÂ’t a great match for our family. There were many disruptive kids in his group;Â—not sure if that was a fluke for his year or a more general problem at the school. The classes were large (24 to a class in middle school), and I didnÂ’t get the sense that all of his teachers really knew him. Plus, the facilities turned out to be a big drawback. My older son was excited about the very urban setting, but as the months wore on and he had to line up to go anywhere, eat lunch surrounded by goose poop at the lake, etc., he really missed the old freedoms of Park DayÂ’s space. Finally, I was not satisfied with the amount of communication from the St. PaulÂ’s administration to parents. The school sent out a very short, weekly newsletter, but it was more of a schedule of upcoming events, rather than an insight into the classrooms, curriculum, and general goings-on. Middle school teachers sent emails, but those were mostly a list of upcoming assignments. Also, because parents pretty much have to drive through and drop off their kids, there just arenÂ’t regular opportunities to stick your head in a classroom after school and have a quick chat with a teacher. Please keep in mind that our experience at St. Paul's was only at the middle school level. Good luck with your school choice
Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
Lorry, I strongly encourage you to look at St. Paul's Espiscopal School in Oakland. I live in Berkeley and have children attending this K-8 school. The school has excellent academics, tremendous diversity, a fantastic spiritual (non- religious) program and a nationally recognized service learning program. There is a lot of information about the school on this website. My family has been very happy at this school and it takes us less than 10 minutes to get there. Please contact Khadija Fredericks, Director of Admissions, at 510-285-9627. Good luck, Happy St. Paul's Parent.
Re: Elementary schools with nerdy kids
I live in Berkeley and my kids attend St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland where there is tremendous diversity in the student body. My kids have friends who are very serious about sports and friends who are very serious about computers, lego robots and other techy things. The school has a very strict policy against bullying or teasing of any kind. The kids work very well together in groups on different projects and the teachers are intentional in mixing up students over time and in projects to achieve a cohesive student body in each class. While my kids are closer to some kids that others, they do recognize the strengths that each student brings to the class and they appreciate them. All students participate in physical education classes (that are frequent) and there is consistent awareness and effort to ensure that the ''teams'' and activities are balanced. I encourage you to explore St. Paul's where respect and citizenship guides everyone, in addition to its excellent academics, spirituality and nationally recognized service learning program. Anonymous
Re: Bullying & "mean girls" - private vs. public
I have kids at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. There are two sections of each grade, each with small class sizes. Each year the students are ''shuffled'' so that the constituency of each class is different from year to year. You are never ''stuck'' in the same class with the same kids. My kids have made new friends from year to year, or become better friends with kids they haven't had in the same class recently. In addition, there is a new group of students that are admitted in the 6th grade that infuses the middle school with new energy and that has been a tremendous experience for my new 6th grader.
The school has a very strict policy against bullying or teasing of any kind. Students often work together in groups on different projects and the teachers are in tentional in mixing up students over time (eg in seating arrangements) and in projects to achieve a cohesive student body in each class. They have to rely on each other to get performances and projects done so they are more focused on getting along than their differences. I can see from my kids that they appreciate the strengths that each student brings to the class and appreciate them. I encourage you to explore St. Paul's where respect and citizenship guides everyone, in addition to its excellent academics, spirituality and nationally recognized service learning program.
Re: Music programs in the private schools?
Have you checked out St. Paul's yet? The music program there is extensive and is an integral part of the daily school program and school community. The school has seven staff members for the K-8 music program, and each teacher brings a wealth of experience. For instance, the school recently had a music program for grandparents' day, and I was struck by how each teacher offered something unique (e.g., one of the songs that one class sang was from the from the Caribbean where the teacher is from). Several of the teachers have been at the school for a long time (22, 20, and 17 years respectively), and all have so much enthusiasm and joy with the kids. It is very neat to watch these interactions. There is a K-2 choir, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade choir, and 6th grade acapella choir. They perform at grandparents day, the winter holiday program, the spring concert and african american culture night. The 6th grade choir recently performed at the Oakland Coliseum gospel concert. Beginning in third grade, the children also have instrumental music lessons within the school day. They specialize in conga drumming and other percussion instruments. The students learn music theory, basic music terminology, sing scales, etc. The after school instrumental music program includes classes in brass, violin, and woodwinds, as well as band. The whole school also gets together on Fridays for ''chapel'' where they sing together (the songs aren't religious but rather world music from many different cultures). The other thing I've noticed is just how much my child sings and dances at home since he has been at St. Paul's, which says a lot to me about what a key role music plays in the school. Just tonight he was singing a song about world peace as I was putting him to bed (very touching!). St. Paul's Mom
My son (in K) is a very shy boy and to see him walk onto the stage and sing in front of the school right there front row center brought a tear to my eye. He's gaining so much confidence. This is something I never thought he'd be able to do. He's already reminded me several times that he has to dress ''handsome'' for the holiday concert because ''This is a really big deal!'' Jessica
Re: Change to private for middle school?
I have a son in the middle school at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, although we live in Berkeley. (It's a short drive for us.) We believe that St. Paul's is the perfect place for our son given that we are also hoping to attend Berkeley High. St. Paul's education is geared toward teaching kids to think independently and critically. They actually give two grades on their report cards - one for approach and one for result. There is great emphasis on learning how to tackle problems, how to analyze a situation and how to proceed toward the result. There are also lots of projects designed to get students to work together and develop collaborative skills. I have consistently heard that St. Pauls' graduates are independent thinkers and geared toward problem solving.
I agree that the middle school years are the most critical period in a child's life and that is why we are so pleased with our St. Paul's experience. In addition to high academic standards, the school's corner stones of belief are respect, diversity and service learning. I consistenly see that St. Paul's students are respectful, empathetic, confident in their own abilities and can distinguish between good and bad choices. Societal values are discussed and considered at school and the extensive diversity of students results in a sense of self in students that allows students to be more resilient and less susceptible to outside pressures. I'm confident that this middle school investment will pay off well when my son is ready for high school. Anonymous
Re: Kindergarten - Alameda Public or Elsewhere Private
If you liked Park Day, you should also check out St. Paul's (don't let the name fool you--this is not a ''religious'' school). My son just started there for kindergarten, and we love it! It is the most diverse school we toured last year, and it felt to me like it was a wonderful balance of the academics of a school like Head Royce with the commitment to diversity, cultural awareness and respect, and progressiveness of a school like Park Day. For us, the school is truly the best of both of these worlds! And I'm impressed by the recent graduates of the school I've met who are now at Head Royce. They've told me how they are well prepared for high school AND that they feel that they have much more cultural awareness and respect for diversity than some of their peers who went elsewhere for lower school. I think tours are still happening at St. Paul's. Take one if you can--it is a special place. Happy St. Paul's parent
Re: Oakland Private School for Curious, Spirited Boy
I encourage you to consider St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. Education at St. Paul's is that perfect blend of strong academics, spirituality and true diversity. All this combines to teach students how to think independently, be respectful to those around them and blossom into considerate, bright leaders of tomorrow. There are lots of ways for your son to use his energy at school: extensive physical education, swimming for the lower grades on a weekly basis, high quality performing arts and the resources of the City of Oakland around the school. Students are encouraged to develop their curiosity at St. Paul's and are not programmed for a certain mold. As a result, St. Paul's students display great confidence, compassion, collegiality, and social intelligence. The curriculum and methods are geared toward teaching students to be leaders in our 21st century world: they discuss the environment, social justice, service to the community and, yes - they study math, spelling, photosynthesis and everything in between.
St. Pauls' dedicated and tremendous teachers and administrators will guide your son's energy and spirit and you will be impressed by his development through their compassionate and intelligent approach. My family has had a tremendously enriching experience at the school and I encourage you to check it out. Good luck. Anonymous
Re: Private school interviews with a shy child
I have a very shy son and was convinced he'd NEVER make it through a private school interview. I had a wonderful experience at St. Paul's Episcopal School that I'd like to share.
At the school tour I pulled the Admissions Director aside and told her of my concerns. She immediately made me comfortable and assured me there are many families in the same situation and that we could repeat the assessment on the next available date if the first one didn't work out for him. We decided the best thing to do was take a tour the day before so my son could meet some of the staff and see the room where the assessment would take place. When we toured the school we happened to meet one of the evaluators. She was warm and friendly and made my son feel very comfortable. She told him she'd be the person who'd come and talk to him the next day.
The St. Paul's assessment is very gentle and fun for the kids. The children and parents assemble in a room and then a group of evaluators come and greet the children and take their hands and lead them into the classroom where they have fun activities planned.
I didn't tell my son about the evaluation until the day before because he has the tendancy to work himself into a frenzied state over fear of unknown situations. The fact that I felt so comfotable with the process myself really helped because my son reads my energy and responds accordingly.
So to my amazement the day came and my son marched right into that room and had a great time. I'm STILL shocked about it.
A little boy we know ended up having a difficult transition. He was scared to go into the room and he cried. He was quiet during the assessment and his mother was very concerned that it would affect his chances for acceptance. This little boy did get accepted despite his behavior because the team of evaluators here could see what an amazing little boy this was despite not being ready yet to walk into a room full of strangers without his parent.
Both this boy and my son now attend this amazing school. Our children are thriving here. My son's ''shyness'' is hardly recognizable. He's already gained so much confidence in just a few short months. I couldn't be happier. Jessica
Re: Private school for 8th grader
Have you looked at St. Paul's Episcopal school for your 8th grader? The school is extremely diverse (in terms of family background and socio-economic status). They understand that all children learn differently and do their best to help each child succeed using the mode of learning that works best for them. I imagine transitioning to a new school in 8th grade would be extremely difficult socially. I think St. Paul's would be the best environment in which to make a change like this. They teach our kids how to be kind and respect themselves and others. From Kindergarten each child is expected to walk up to their teachers and look them in the eye, say hello and give them a hand shake. They treat their peers with respect and have a strict no bullying policy. The teachers would work hard with your child to make sure he is integrated into the school and community. It's not a parochial school even though it is attached to an Episcopal church. You need to put it on your ''schools to tour'' list. It's an exceptional place. a very happy St. Paul's mom
Hi, I'm looking around at private schools and St. Paul's Episcopal school seems amazing. Does anyone have any experience with this school? Does it matter if our family doesn't attend church? Everyone I've spoken to about it says it's just the greatest school. Any thoughts? anon
St. Paul's was doing service learning long before it was popular, and they have had the time to develop a thoughtful program that integrates service learning into the curriculum. For example, the 6th graders clean Lake Merritt every week, and their science studies focus on water ecology to reinforce what they learn out in the field.
Academics are also excellent. The faculty always impresses me with the inventive ways that they engage students in learning. They truly teach students how to think. My two kids are very different students -- one needs more academic support, the other excels at everything and wants to be challenged. St. Paul's has worked well with both of their learning styles so that they perform to the best of their abilities.
Your family does not need to be Episcopalian, or even religious, to go to St. Paul's. Students come from a variety of faith backgrounds, and they learn about all religions in school. Our family is not at all religious, but I value the spiritual teachings my children receive at St. Paul's -- they emphasize service, community and caring.
What are the drawbacks? Well, you don't go to St. Paul's if you expect an insulated private school environment with luxurious facilities. The facilities are basic (though a new lower school building, library and gym are on the way), but the facilities reflect the school's values -- most of the money we fundraise gets plowed right back into tuition assistance so that the school is accessible to even more kids. St. Paul's prepares wonderful, thoughtful human beings for high school, college and life. I Heart St. Paul's
To your question about religion, my family is interfaith and not religious. We don't attend church or temple. We chose SPES because it was a school that welcomes all no matter what your religious beliefs. There is a wonderful feeling of community at SPES and I already feel very much a part of that community.
Each Friday parents are invited to attend the 20-minute chapel service. I've been able to attend most weeks and each time I leave with a smile on my face and a feeling of community. The chapel service is led by a class (yes the kindergarten through 8th grade classes are responsible for the topic of the week). It is incredible! The topic the past few weeks ranged from Ramadan to St. Francis. The teachers and administrators play the drums and guitars and the entire school participates in songs and readings. Chapel is a really neat celebration that doesn't lean towards any one belief and I look forward to attending each week.
The other neat part of the chapel is eighth grade/kindergarten buddy system. The eighth graders pick up their kindergarten buddy. They escort and sit with them during chapel. This relationship is just another wonderful way that SPES creates community. My kids look forward to Friday so they can hang with their older buddies. During graduation in the spring, the kindergarteners will walk their 8th grade buddy across the stage.
We are so thrilled to be a part of the SPES community that it is hard to stop talking about what a wonderful school we attend.
Check out the school and see for yourself what it has to offer. cole
With regard to our family: we have met folks of many different backgrounds that are united by the vision they share for their children's education and future. We have made very close friends on whom we rely as part of the greater village in which our family thrives. As a family we have also been educated by the advantages of a diverse, multi-faceted education and we (as adults) have come to learn about and consider important issues in our society.
With regard to your question about attending church: all SPES students attend Chapel every Friday, which serves spirituality in education. Chapel presentations are almost always put on by the kids and do not preach any religion. The next few Chapels are about Rosh Hashanah, family diversity and the Ohlone Way (one of the original Native American tribes in California). As a woman raised in the Muslim faith, I have never felt that the Chapel presentations (or anything else at SPES) were intended to proselytize. In fact, my kids first found out that I was one of the ''Rhamadan people'' after they learned about it at Chapel.
Overall, I strongly encourage you to explore SPES and attend one of the tours. It indeed is an amazing place and I highly recommend it. You can contact the Director of Admissions at 510-285-9627. Azar
Another thing I appreciate as a parent is the orderliness and reliability of the school. Everything has been so well thought out and things run so smoothly and in such an organized way. I'm not going to say that there aren't things the school could do better, but I have years of experience with other schools with my older kids, and this school almost always gets it right. School-wide functions are orderly, children are polite to adults and considerate of their classmates, morning pick-up and drop off runs like clockwork. At St. Paul's, I have never experienced the frustration of disorganized staff and poorly planned school events that can really make a family's school experience unpleasant. I appreciate that!
I know that people sometimes assume St. Paul's is a school that teaches religion, because of its name; people have told me that they didn't consider St. Paul's because of the mistaken impression that religion is taught. That's too bad! They'll never know what they're missing! St. Paul's is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, but it is not a religious school, and children do not receive religious instruction. However, there is a spiritual component, not just in the weekly chapel, but also in the way the school approaches its own community as well as the community around it. There is a sincere dedication to ''making the world a better place'' at St. Paul's. This was one of the attractions for us, even though we are not church goers. I think you should visit St. Paul's to see if it is the right place for your family! It's been great for us. Ginger
Our family - composed of a culturally-identified, non- practicing jew and a liberal catholic - are thrilled to be part of a vibrant community. Our son, in his second year at St. Paul's, receives, loud and clear, a message that all faiths are valid and all people deserving of respect. He is exposed to this message daily, but also in a lovely, weekly chapel service that celebrates the diversity of our community, stopping short of proselytization or instruction in any faith.
This message of inclusivity extends to all manifestations of diversity - religious, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, etc. As the mother of a joyful, bi-racial, tuition assistance benefitting, gender non-conforming boy with some learning challenges, we are blessed to be part of a diverse and supportive community, which reflects our part of the world and embraces and celebrates all that we have to contribute. The real proof is in the pudding - our son loves his school and feels like he belongs, and so do we
Feel free to contact me if you'd like to know more about our experience at St. Paul's. Inga
I have applied for my son to attend Kindergarten at Redwood Day, St. Paul's and Head Royce. I wondered if parents with experience in these schools' aftercare programs have anything to say about them. Thank you! -prospective mom
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she often told me she didn't know what to do because the activities were open for kids to initiate the process of ''joining in'' but my kid was on the shy side. She often wondered around and just watched what other kids were doing.
It got a little better when she was in the 1st grade, when she had some friends she could play with in the after school program. She liked to stay in the art room, for example, or play at the play structure because her friends liked those activities, although I still found her wondering around especially when her friends had gone home early.
There were short-term, small cooking classes, sports activities, and other classes periodically, but you'd have to check the bulletin board often and sign up right away; otherwise, the classes became full quickly. The only exception was chess, taught by the Berkeley Chess School, and Mandarin, both with low enrollment and I think they stopped offering Mandarin.
When my kid entered 2nd grade, she told me she was bored with the after school program, so we began to sign up for classes outside of school. We had to be creative with our work schedule in order to transport her from school to activities.
In general, if your kid is independent, outgoing, and knows what he/she wants to do, the cafeteria style open entry activities would be great for them to choose from. Even so, your kid may still outgrow the same old activities like my kid because they are not skills-building or interest-building types of activities but instead places for kids to socialize and pass time before they're picked up by their parents. I feel that my daughter's much happier and has learned so much from taking outside after- school classes. Anon
St. Paul's education is unsurpassed. St. Paul'sm teachers are amazing. St. Paul's students display rare confidence, compassion, collegiality, and social intelligence. St. Paul's students are well prepared for high school and do extremely well in the high school placement process. St. Paul's students ...are good people. They are creative thinkers. They know how to learn. They have nice manners. They are leaders. St. Paul's was diverse before diversity was cool. Diversity extends beyond the students and their families. The faculty is diverse as well. St. Paul's award- winning Service Learning Program is woven into the fabric of the curriculum. This is one of the unique features of the school. The school was created for children of all faiths. This adds tremendously to the St. Paul's educational experience. Every Friday, the entire school community participates in Chapel where the values of compassion, tolerance and social justice are taught largely by the children themselves. The term kchapelm refers to the spiritual space as opposed to the Episcopal church service. Much is underway to enhance the facilities. St. Paul's is an urban school. The location of the school is central to the schoolms mission to be a part of the city of Oakland and to prepare the children to be community citizens not autonomous, privileged children who are cloistered behind high walls. We feel truly blessed to have this amazing school. Proud parent of St. Paul's Kg and 3rd graders
Re: Seeking Diversity & Top Academics K- 12 Bay Area
We've been very happy at St. Paul's and came looking for the same things you mentioned. The teachers are awesome. The school has more than 50 percent children of color, which I didn't find at any other independent school we looked at. We get tuition assistance, as do a lot of families, so there's a range of economic backgrounds, too. One of the things I like best for my kids to see is the number of African Americans who are running things: the head of school, the head of the lower school, and the director of admissions are all African American. To me, this sends a message to my kids that's more powerful than talking about diversity. Also, St. Paul's kids end up everywhere in high school. My kids will be at Berkeley High when their time comes, but St. Paul's kids go to College Prep, Head Royce, Athenian and Bentley. jane
Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Hi, I can relate to your situation 110%. We also have two African- American daughters in different private schools, and understand what your child is feeling. My youngest daughter goes to St. Pauls, where there are a good number of African Americans. Even though the number is small, it is larger than I've seen at other private shcools. The director, admissions director, and some teachers are African American. I don't have the exact count for second grade, but I don't think she'll be the only minority. It is a difficult balance for African American parents who want the best education for their children, but also want their children to feel comfortable in their skin. We still haven't found the right balance, but St. Paul's seems like a great start. Good Luck anon
Re: Private middle school for academically advanced but socially insecure 11-year-old
Look at St. Paul's Episcopal in Oakland. I live just off Hwy 24/13 in Oakland and it's a pretty quick drive for me, so I don't think it would be a bad commute (BART is an option too). I have a child in the lower school, and I have been impressed by the middle school kids at St. Paul's. There is an emphasis at St. Paul's on personal responsibility and service to the community, and the kids really learn how to be self-assured and confident in a very supportive and encouraging environment. It is also excellent academically, with kids going off to the top public and private high schools. I think it would be a great place for a child like your daughter, because there is such a range of kids. No one stands out as "different" because every kid there is different. When you visit St. Paul's you will notice right away that it looks more like an urban public school than a private school, with all sorts of kids - poor kids, preppy kids, artsy kids, all colors and cultures. It is an urban school, which would be a different kind of experience for a kid from the suburbs, but it could be the right place for your daughter. Check the website http://www.spes.org/ for upcoming admissions events and feel free to email me if you have any questions. Ginger
Re: Considering BMH or Aurora for 1st grader
I suggest you check out St. PaulÂ’s Episcopal School in Oakland. We have two boys at the school and have been very pleased. Like your son, one of our boys, now in the 5th grade has fine motor issues and is very active. He has been at St. PaulÂ’s since Kindergarten and has always loved it. We are very impressed with the teachers, who use Mel Levine SchoolÂ’s Attuned Program, and are very adept at making accommodations for all kinds of learners, as well as children with challenges. In the early grades, when there was a fair amount of workbook activity in spelling and handwriting, he was encouraged to do the best he could and the expectations were quite modest. Since the 4th grade our son has been encouraged to learn to keyboard and he now uses either a computer or a word-processor called an Alpha- smart for much of his written work, which really facilitates the writing process. These are just a couple of examples of the age appropriate accommodations the School makes. Despite our sonÂ’s challenges with writing, I think the reason he so enjoys school is because the curriculum across subject areas (language arts, social studies, math, spanish, etc.) is very engaging and he is recognized in the classroom and on the playground for his many strengths. From the earliest grades, St. PaulÂ’s students engage in a lot of project-based learning, which is a great way to delve deeply into a subject area. ThereÂ’s a good balance between independent and collaborative work so that the students learn how to manage both effectively. Lastly, St. PaulÂ’s teachers recognize that kids today are active and they learn best when they have plenty of opportunity to move around both in and outside the classroom. I hope youÂ’ll check out St. PaulÂ’s. es
Re: East Bay Schools for child of same sex parents
As a two-mom family, we've been extremely happy at St. Paul's Episcopal in Oakland. Beginning in kindergarten, kids spend a lot of time talking about what makes a family. A poster from the film ''That's a Family'' is on the wall showing two mom families, two dad families, and other kinds of families. The kids share about their family structures. Second graders watch the film ''That's a Family.'' When a new third grader entered my kids' class this year and used the word ''gay'' as a pejorative, the third grade teacher promptly put on ''That's a Family'' and held a class discussion. I don't know the numbers, but there are lots of two mom and two dad families at the school. Also, there are openly gay faculty members, which sends a great message to the kids. We've felt very comfortable and respected. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to talk further. Jane
Re: Private Middle School for Nature Loving 6th Grader???
Check out St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland for your 6th grader. The academics are excellent, but the school avoids a pressure cooker environment. Rather than empahsizing achievement for its own sake, St. Paul's really works to get student to be engaged learners.
And while I don't want to oversell the school on its ability to deliver on the nature front (it is an urban school), the 6th grade class does its weekly community service cleaning Lake Merritt with long nets and hip waders. They incorporate what they learn about the lake and its ecosystem into their science curriculum. (For the kids who have been there since lower school, this follows their 3rd grade service learning project of performing the migratory bird census of Lake Merritt). Other service learning opportunities in middle school include working at an animal shelter and a community garden, which my son loved.
It's a wonderful school, and wonderful families are a part of it. You and your daughter sound like you would fit right in. If the ''Episcopal'' part of the name gives you pause, please know that families from all religious traditions (including those with no religious traditions at all) are welcome and represented. The school's emphasis in on spirituality, not a specific religion. Also, there are other families who come through the tunnel to go to St. Paul's. Happy St. Paul's Parent
Re: Strong music program for entering kindergartener
I have been really impressed with the music program at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, where my son is in kindergarten. We're new to the school this year, so I don't know as much as more seasoned parents, but I can tell the music program is going to be great for our son, who seems to be really musical. He has been coming home singing all sorts of songs every day - everything from 50's era folk songs to Dona Nobis Pacem. All the students at the school, K-8, have music instruction, and the kids give four concerts each year. The entire school sings together every Friday. We recently attended the first concert, featuring a selection of songs from each grade level. Even the little ones stood tall with arms at their sides, belting out the songs. I had to get a tissue out - they were incredible. They sang a finger-snapping Nat King Cole swing song, a Native American song, an old union organizing song. There are 5 music teachers on staff. St. Paul's has a strong percussion program for all students, and the school makes a point of teaching the music of many cultures including (to quote the website) Arabic, African American, Afro-Cuban, American Jazz and Swing, Brazilian, European, Ghanan, Japanese, Jewish, Latin, Native American, Swahili and Trinidadian. Afterschool lessons are available for brass, piano, violin and woodwinds. Although the music program is not the main reason we chose St. Paul's, it figured in to our decision. You should go check out this school! Ginger
I am happy to be a resource for Jewish families interested in St. Paul's school. I have three children at the school and my fourth, currently happily attending Temple Sinai Preschool, will hopefully end up there as well.
We could not be happier at the school. The academic program, the diversity, the service learning, and most especially the financial aid program, more generous than any other I know of, make St. Paul's an outstanding school. But the reason I'm writing specifically is that if you're like us you might not have considered it...as my husband said the first time he refused even to tour - ''Hey, Paul was the worst apostle. He invented anti-semitism.''
But St. Paul's is the perfect environment for Jewish children. There is little in the way of specifically Episcopal doctrine (the closest IĂ‚Â’ve seen was the chapel about St. Brigid). Most importantly, there is no hypocrisy about the supposed secular nature of the major Christian holidays. Christmas is recognized as a religious holiday some people celebrate and some do not. And they even do Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah!
Please feel free to email me personally if youĂ‚Â’d like to find out more. Ayelet
Re: Do (should) parents have a say at private schools?
We've been a St. Paul's family for 6 years now. I'm happy to share my opinions about whether parents should and/or do have a say at private schools. However, I strongly encourage you to talk to the admissions office for the school's official policy. In fact, I think these are good questions to pose to each private and public school you tour.
In general, I believe that private schools are inherently more responsive to parents than public schools can be. Public schools answer to politicians and are governed by a state-wide (and, as in the case of No Child Left Behind, nation-wide) agenda. Private schools like St. Paul's are driven by their mission and really do answer to the parents. If they lose their faith in the school, they will leave.
At St. Paul's, I have felt that the administration cares deeply about its parents' desires and opinions. Although the school doesn't methodically solicit general parental feedback, there ARE multiple levels by which parents are encouraged to share their concerns and ideas with the staff. In all levels, the staff strives to be thoughtful, respectful (a big word at St. Paul's) and responsive. However, they do not simply react to the whims of the parent body. The staff - both teachers and administrators - are experts in their fields with years of experience. They are paid to live and breathe education, and for the most part the parents respect their expertise. This is not to say the parents don't speak up or even apply pressure at times. They (we) do. But we also try to understand the philosophy behind the curriculum and the larger issues contributing to certain school policies. It's a two-way communication, as it should be.
Concerns and grievances are communicated to the school in multiple ways. Overall, the school encourage parents to direct "accurate information to the person who needs it.Ă‚Â” The communication methods vary according to the type of concern: For personal issues, such as those pertaining to a particular student's academic or social situation, the school strongly encourages parents and teachers to just pick up the phone and call one another. The staff is generally very responsive to parents, although like in most organizations, it pays for a parent to be persistent and polite. If a parent doesn't feel that the teacher has completely answered or managed the issue, the parent is encouraged to contact the lower or middle school head (aka, the teacher's supervisor). From there, the school will turn to whatever other inside or outside experts are deemed necessary.
For more general issues, such as concerns or ideas about school- wide policies, events, or facilities, parents can call the appropriate administrator directly. Alternatively, they can attend a monthly "Parent Council" meeting or ask their Parent Council (PC) representative to communicate on their behalf. The PC primarily acts as a fund-raising and community-building organization for the school. But, the monthly meetings are open to all St. Paul's families, and are usually attended by the school head and/or other administrators. This makes the PC an effective means for parents to raise issues of general concern and get quick responses from the administration.
The head of school and other administrators also hold an annual "State of the School" meeting in the Spring, and usually host or attend dozens of gatherings each year with parents to facilitate casual communication.
Finally, the school's governing body, its Board of Trustees, is largely made up of current and alumni parents. Since the Board is responsible for the school's finances, strategic plan, and the hiring /firing of the school head, it is a fairly powerful body with lots of oversight.
I hope this summary helps. Again, I encourage you to ask your questions of the admissions offices when you tour or apply to schools. Good Luck! - Happy St. Paul's Parent
I also agree that these are VERY important considerations when evaluating ANY school, whether it be public OR private. I currently have a child in kindergarten and I went through the ''kindergarten frenzy'' last year. I looked at both public and private schools trying to determine the right fit for me and my child. I was very nervous about sending my child to a private school for a number of reasons, but I was also nervous about sending her to a public school. I have to say that I've (we've) been really happy so far at St. Paul's. I feel everyone is very approachable and sincerely interested in hearing what you have to say. At every school event that I have attended including kindergarten-only functions, the Head of School, Director of Lower School and even Director of Admissions have all been present. They have always encouraged input and feedback from the parents. St. Paul's has an incredibly active group of parents (as do some of the public schools), who really participate greatly in the day-to-day operations of the sch ool as well as in special school functions.
I had some concerns about my daughter and when I sent an e-mail
to both of her teachers, (each Kindergarten has 2 full-time
teachers for 18 students) I promptly received a response and,
much to my surprise and delight, I saw immediate results.
I can only speak about my experience at St. Paul's, but I would
caution against drawing gross generalizations without really
checking out all the different schools that this area has to
offer. Talk with lots and lots of parents attending both public
and private schools. Visit the schools themselves; talk with
the teachers, adminstrators and even the students. I will bet
that you will be hard-pressed to draw broad conclusions about
either public or private schools in the Bay Area. There is
truly a broad spectrum of both types of schools. This in and of
itself speaks to the wonderful div ersity of this area.
Another Happy St. Paul's Parent
Re: Oakland Elementary school for possible learning delays
I strongly recommend you look at St. Paul's Episcopal School (K- 8) in Oakland. Our two boys, now in 1st and 4th grades, have attended St. Paul's since Kindergarten and we are delighted with the School. St. Paul's program is grounded in 4 key tenets: academic excellence, diversity, service learning and spirituality. One of the things that distinguish St. Paul's is the degree to which these tenets are integrated into the curriculum.
St. Paul's program is academically challenging. My children have very distinct strengths and learning styles and both are being academically challenged. St. Paul's uses a constructivist approach to learning where children are encouraged to not only learn specific skills but develop their own intellectual curiosity and power. The curriculum builds in complexity each year with children taking on progressively more responsibility for their learning. St. Paul's uses Dr. Mel Levine's Schools Attuned Program and close to 100% of the teachers and staff are trained in the program. This program helps educators recognize, understand and manage differences in learning. In the 5th grade, as part of a science unit on the brain, students' study Dr. Levine's work to determine what kind of learners they are and how they can be most successful in school and in life.
St. Paul's teachers are amazing. They are extremely committed professionals who love kids. Each of my children's teachers has really sought to get to know them personally, which has a positive impact in the classroom and beyond. Over the years, when there has been a concern about our kids, we have always found the teachers to be extremely responsive and helpful. At St. Paul's there's a wonderful teacher, staff and parent collaboration.
St. Paul's students are well prepared for high school and do extremely well in the high school placement process; for example, close to 30% of this year's St. Paul's graduating class was admitted to CPS. What is even more impressive to me than the high schools or even colleges St. Paul's students attend, is the kind of people they become. St. Paul's students are leaders in their communities. It is not at all uncommon to hear about a current or former St. Paul's student forming a new club, initiating a funding drive, or traveling to a far off country in the service of others. I believe, the School's commitment to diversity, service learning and spirituality drive this.
At St. Paul's diversity takes many forms. Children come from a wide variety of family structures and have many different learning styles. More than 50% of the students are children of color. Close to 40% of families receive tuition assistance. Respect for oneself and for others permeates the curriculum at every grade level.
St. Paul's award winning Service Learning Program is woven into the fabric of the curriculum with each class working on at least one project throughout the school year. For example, the third graders conduct the annual bird census for the City of Oakland. Students learn about migratory birds in class and then are assigned an individual bird to observe with their class each week at Lake Merritt. At the end of the School year, after charting their bird's migration pattern, the students each present their findings in both writing and orally to a Naturalist at the Rotary Nature Center.
Students and families come from a wide variety of faiths and traditions and this adds tremendously to the St. Paul's educational experience. Every Friday the entire school community participates in Chapel where the values of compassion, tolerance and social justice are taught largely by the children themselves. Students in each class lead Chapel twice yearly, sharing their own lessons with the community. My children have participated in wonderful chapels on such diverse subjects as family, hunger, islands, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, and St. Patrick's Day. Through these chapel presentations, students have the opportunity to practice public speaking and also explore their leadership skills.
I hope you will take a look at St. Paul's. We are just thrilled with the School. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about the School or its programs and check out the website at www.spes.org. Debra
My ''immature'' 10 year-old son was recently accepted into St. Paul's and St. Leo's for middle school. He is a bright, silly, African American boy who would some day like to go to Bishop O'Dowd high school. Preferences and why? Dazed & Confused
Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
I can't speak to the situation at the schools you listed, but can suggest that you take a look at St. Paul's Episcopal School which (despite, or perhaps because of, its general affiliation with the Episcopalians) is extremely progressive on social and community issues in general. In particular, the school -- both administration and parent body -- are very mindful of and commited to diversity in family structure. In fact, the school's ''gay-friendly'' reputation and track record were one of the selling points for us in sending our kid there (tho we are straight) .... If you e-mail, I'd be glad to provide more details or help you make contact with a gay family at the school. aj
Re: Private Schools with No Bullying
I can tell you after exposure through multiple offspring in different independent schools that St. Paul's Episcopal School does an extraordinary, almost fool-proof job of eliminating the bully culture. There is really no bullying, exclusion, meanness, all the stuff that most of us experienced at one time or another in middle school. St. Paul's seems to achieve such a culture through a few avenues: an unwavering expectation that everyone will be kind and respectful to each other, their teachers, the administration, even the environment. As well, the teachers seem vigilant about how its students are treating each other and, then, immediately responsive when there is less than kind behavior. I have been impressed to hear very young children at St. Paul's reminding other children about rules such as ''no whispering, no body stuff, use your words, no gossiping.'' I don't believe that every child who enters St. Paul's is an instinctively kind and compassionate child, but I have witnessed that the children who leave St. Paul's are particularly aware of how they treat others and how they are being treated. It's impressive.
Finally, a colleague of mine recently started the search for a private middle school for his inward, cerebral son, feeling that their local Orinda middle school wasn't going to offer his child the kind of support that a sensitive, smaller school might. To quote the education psychologist the family consulted, ''I would advise you to take a look at St. Paul's. It has zero bullying culture based on the feedback I have rec'd in nine years of acting as a consultant.'' Independent School Veteran
I have heard great things about St. Paul's School in
Oakland, as a good blend of strong academics and social-
emotional development, but the latest posting with general
school information on the site was from 1998. Does anyone
have an update on what the school is like now? I am
interested in my child entering the Kindergarten class so
recent experience with Kindergarten and the lower grades
would be appreciated.
I would like feedback from parents whose children are currently in the two kindergarten classes at St. Paul's, Oakland. I have a exhuberant little boy ready to start kindergarten next fall and found it difficult to assess the fit for my son on the brief tour that we were given of the two kindergarten classrooms. There were no students in one classroom and the other classroom was having a story so everyone was neatly sitting on the floor. Also the teachers were not available for questions. I know that there is a parent information night coming up but I would love to hear from parents already in the trenches so to speak! anon
As for academics, my older boy attended a very non-academic preschool and is young for his class. He has found the academic program at SPES challenging in all grade levels. My current kindergartner, on the other hand, attended a very academic pre-school (Lakeview) and is not young for the class. I think he is certainly learning new things in SPES, but it's not quite the stretch it was for my oldest son.
If you have any particular questions, feel free to contact me directly. stephanie
What we really like about St. Paul's is that it is a balanced school--it emphasizes academics, and it prepares the kids exceptionally well for high school, but it also is deeply committed to turning out kind and respectful kids. That philosophy is reflected in every part of the school, from the school's deep and abiding committment to diversity, to the the curriculum, to the after school program, to the service learning program, to the buddy network. As an example, my kindergartner has formal ''buddies'' in just about every grade level (reading buddies, science buddies, service learning buddies, general eighth grade buddies, etc.), creating very strong ties among all of the students as well as a support network wherein the older kids really care about and look out for the younger kids, and vice versa. There is a strong sense of community both among students and among the families there that may not be unique (I don't have experience with other schools) but is certainly special and very valuable for our overall experience. Pam
My kids are/were happy at St. Paul's. The school is well and consistently run. The teachers are mostly good to excellent. There is not however the goal of academic intensity much like a Bentley and/or Head Royce. We knew that going in and were happy with our choice. Other families have left SP in pursuit of what I felt was ''too much, too soon.''
SP is not for everyone but
Would do SP, again
Re: Racially Diverse Private Schools
St. Paul's Espicopal School near Lake Merrit in Oakland is a wonderful very racially diverse, very academic, yet nurturing private school near Lake Merrit in Oakland. It might be farther away than you had planned, but you should visit it because it has so much going for it (except physical facilities- but outweighted by all the other positives). Also, they have scholarship money if you're eligible. Diane
Does anyone have experience with what it's like for Jewish children at the St. Paul's Episcopal school?
This is for the parent whose son was admitted to Head-Royce, Prospect-Sierra and St. Paul's Episcopal School, and who wanted advice about St. Paul's middle school.
Although my child is in the lower School at St. Paul's, we know the teachers, philosophy, etc at St. Paul's as a whole. Although no school is perfect, St. Paul's is marvelous. It not only is academically challenging, but the diversity and community service is like no other private school in the Bay Area. The kids are intellectually curious and adept, have compassion for society, and are generally happy. High school admissions officers love St. Paul's students because they really do stand out from the crowd, both academically and as interesting people.
We elected not to send our child to Head-Royce or Bentley - we were worried it would be too snobbish, homogeneous and focused on academic output rather than the whole child- and, by the way, our child and most kids I know at St. Paul's are academically on par with or ahead of the students at the so-called academic schools). The only other school we considered for our child with a similar child and community centered approach to St. Paul's is Park Day. They also have a marvelous program. We didn't investigate Prospect-Sierra, so we don't know anything about it.
My opinions are based not only on my personal observations and visits to the schools, but on countless conversations with parents (including several who pulled their kids from Bently and Head-Royce to come to St. Paul's), administrators and high school counselors. On the other hand, everyone has to make their own decision about what is best for their child, based on the child's particular needs.
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