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St. Paul's Episcopal School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > St. Paul's Episcopal School


Website for St. Paul's Episcopal School: http://www.spes.org
Sept 2014

Re: Public school not working; any private openings?

Hi Cherise, I'm so sorry to hear that things aren't working out for your daughter in her current kindergarten class. I wanted to reply because I believe there is a spot at my daughter's school, St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. There are only 15 kids in her kinder class and it is a wonderful, small community of learners! The kindergarten itself is a terrific program in which children are encouraged to work in that proximal zone of development--lessons that are ''just right'' for each child, plus plenty of opportunities for children to stretch. My first daughter (I have two) entered kinder reading, writing and doing basic math. My second daughter (in kinder this year), entered with less reading and writing skill, but more math reasoning. I feel that St. Paul's has been/will be a great fit for each child due to the fact that teachers have a true sense of students' strengths and challenges and they are able to meet children where they are. Another compelling part of the program is its strong social-emotional curriculum. I know that your concern was primarily academic, but I am a true believer in Edward Hallowell's theory that kids need to feel a sense of connection to their learning community to thrive. Much of this year is spent growing that sense of community, including understanding how to care for self and others. I have spent most of my career in education and agonized over the pros and cons of many Bay Area elementary schools before deciding to send my girls to St. Paul's; suffice it to say, I am pleased with where we landed. I'd encourage you to visit to see for yourself; the teachers and staff are bright, compassionate and talented--and the parent community to pretty amazing too. If you have any questions, please feel free to get my information from the moderator. Best of luck! Happy St. Paul's Kindergarten Parent


Sept 2014

Re: Private elementary schools -- constructive negative feedback?

Greetings- As a former parent at Bentley and a current parent at St. Paul's Episcopal School (SPES), I can't say enough about how St. Paul's prepares the whole child. With rigorous academics, keen attention to social/emotional development and diversity in race, socio-economic status and religion, I am confident my kids will be able to compete in any educational environment ahead of them. As the children progress in school, the same personal growth focus that results in kind, caring children helps them become resilient, tenacious, collaborative, thoughtful learners as they are increasingly challenged in the academic domain. I would urge you to strongly consider SPES in your hunt for a complete education for your son. SPES Mom


July 2014

I just wanted to let the BPN community know about SPES summer camp. My daughter has attended a couple of sessions and has loved all of it. One session involved traveling to various locations in the Bay area including the Jelly Belly factory which was a huge hit In the other she helped create a play with her fellow campers and counselors and then present it to the families. She interacted with the CT's, all middle school age and the staffers and always had something positive to share at the end of the day. The children interact well and it is a very safe environment. She was in a Piedmont rec camp and while the teens running the camp were okay there was an incident at Lake Temescal that should never have happened. I love the ST Pauls community, it is not religious (everyone reacts to the St Paul's name). It fosters mutual respect for each other and the greater community that they come in contact with,it teaches by example and enforces the no-bullying rules., and did I mention the kids have fun? Really love itAdventure Day camp ias also great but this is closer to home! Happy camper mom


May 2014

Re: Kindergarten openings in private schools?

Hi, I have 2 daughters in 3rd and 6th (middle school) grade at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, next to Lake Merritt. We've looked at many many different school in the Bay Area - public, private and parochial and decided that despite the fact that we live almost 20 miles from St. Paul's it is such an amazing school that we are willing to ''go the distance'' What makes St. Paul's so special is really everything! It is the total package, a great diverse supportive community, outstanding academics, community service, great campus (Lake Merritt, the Oakland Museum, Bart, are all ''part'' of the campus that the kids get to explore) and most importantly happy kids. My daughters LOVE school - my 3rd grader is reading at a 5th grade level, spelling words I have to look up in the dictionary, multiplying 2 digit numbers in her head, she's been on about 10 field trips that have enhanced what they are studying in class (just returned from an overnight camping trip studying the Gold Rush) and they just finished their community service project in which they conduct a bird census of all the birds Lake Merritt for the city of Oakland - who knew there are over 140 birds at the Lake and it's North America's oldest bird sanctuary, very cool that the kids have access to so many fabulous things. My 6th grade daughter's first year of middle school was really great. The teachers really instill good study habits, responsibility, critical thinking, time management and really important in middle school is the social interaction between the students. In addition to the core subjects they have Spanish, PE (4x a week!), a great art and music program, technology/computers (they work on an ipad at home and school). The school has not only a no bullying policy but they instill in the students to be good, caring, respectful, confident people. Academics have been rigorous but manageable, and my daughter has truly blossomed intellectually and emotionally. The teachers, and all the staff - school heads, secretary, Afterschool, are all very engaged and responsive and supportive. Another very unique special thing I really love about the school is the weekly all school chapel. St Paul's is an independent private school, part of the EBISA independent school association, and doesn't have parochial or religious based teaching (which many people think because of the name). The chapel is like an all school assembly, in an amazingly beautiful brick, stain glass window, chapel. Each week is a different theme - many different cultural humanitarians and holidays are celebrated - Hindu, Jewish, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Ceasar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Earth day, Black History Month (they also have a African American Cultural Celebration night/concert), etc. Parents are welcome to come and every week a different class helps present the theme. It really brings the school together and the overall theme of the chapel, and the school, is to be a good citizen, help one another, we are all important parts of this great community and world, to always be reaching to learn and grow and to let our light shine. There are many great choices for school's, and as I said we looked at many of them, but what really convinced us that St Paul's was the right choice was when I talked to parents of kids that attended the school - you can tell how excited, and grateful, they are to have their children in such a special place, and when you watch the kids that go to St. Paul's you see something special - they are confident, respectful, caring, smart, friendly, curious and joyful - that's what we wanted for our children and that's why I was compelled to answer your post, I had to share the good news! Wishing you and your kids all the best in your search - and hope it includes a visit to St Paul's. L.Goode


April 2014

If anyone is still looking for summer camps, I highly recommend St. Paul's Episcopal School Summer Camp. My son attended it last year and begged to go back. They offer everything from sports to art to academics to a field-trip-a-day themes. Can't say enough good things! -Happy Camper


April 2014

I highly recommend the summer camp offered by St. Paul's Episcopal School! They offer camp for children from transitioning K through 8th grade. There are several fun filled camps to choose from including basketball, art, fun in the sun, and a medley that includes cooking classes and yoga! My daughter came home happy and exhausted every day! The staff is friendly and the camp is safe. There is pre and after camp care available as well. Tiffaney


March 2014

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 am a current SPES parent who works at another independent school, so my husband and I wanted to move our child there. We have been so happy with SPES for our son; the faculty have appreciated who he is and have helped him to grow socially, emotionally, and academically. The community is warm and welcoming, and we love its diversity. We have also appreciated the way that SPES is part of Oakland and embraces the city. In all, SPES has broadened my child's horizons and given him a strong sense of himself at a place where he can be his true and full self, and it is proving hard to leave such a wonderful place. Anon
Oct 2013

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


Sept 2013

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


August 2013

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


I recommend that you check out St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. I have 2 children there and we've been really happy with both the social/emotional aspect and the academics. We originally chose the school because while we thought many schools covered academics well, we were impressed by the importance St. Paul's puts on its students being good people and good citizens. We were so impressed with the older children and now use many of them as babysitters. They are great models for the younger kids. St. Paul's uses responsive classroom and ''people power'' skills to help the kids navigate social situations. As parents we've learned enough about them so that we can use some of the concepts at home. The academics have been great. They meet each child where they are at without making them feel like they aren't ''on track''. In math, they emphasize deep understanding and problem solving over memorization or rote learning. My son was slow to start reading (and is now an avid reader) and my daughter was a strong reader from the start. My son was never made to feel slow and my daughter continues to be challenged. St. Paul's should definitely be on your list of schools to consider. -Happy at St. Paul's
My daughter is starting 4th grade at St. Paul's and I encourage you to take a serious look at the school for your daughters. St. Paul's provides differentiated learning for all their students which allows each child to work to the best of their abilities whether they need more challenging work or need greater support. The school has learning specialists that work closely with the classroom teachers to help each child be successful. I believe you would find the curriculum challenging for your gifted daughters. The social emotional component is embedded into the daily curriculum and provides a school environment that is supportive of the individual child as well as the school as a community. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss St. Paul's. Nancy
August 2013

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


Our family has been extraordinarily happy with St. Paul's. We are a racially blended family with connections to different cultures overseas, and we feel that St. Paul's does an excellent job of respecting different backgrounds and building community. The stated mission of the school is to (1) reflect the diversity of the community, (2) use the community as an extended classroom, and (3) be a ''private school in the public service.'' I would say that St. Paul's delivers on all three -- in addition to maintaining a challenging academic program, the school is very focused on teaching social justice. Elements of this are woven into all aspects of the curriculum, and the school has a ''service learning'' program that is experiential and meaningful. Rather than structure itself as a religious school advocating a particular faith, St. Paul's teaches gratitude and spirituality through a multicultural focus at its Friday chapels (centering on subjects ranging from the unionization of women workers, to the Chinese new year, to Hindu celebrations, etc.) There is a buddy system through which the students become acquainted with children from multiple grades, as well -- all of which comes together as a community in which expectations are high in citizenship and academics. I encourage you to visit when you have the chance! Happy St. Paul's Parent
My son is multi-racial and was new to St. Paul's community in 4th grade. I was nervous about his transition, especially in that particular grade. The children and the larger St. Paul's community were absolutely welcoming and his transition couldn't have been better. In fact after visiting all of the usual private schools in the area it was clear to us that St. Paul's was truly rooted and committed to their school mission. It is an amazing place and I could go on for pages about what makes it amazing. In short- their commitment as a school community to service, social responsibility, and social justice is incredible and is echoed throughout the curriculum. The school community(students and student families), faculty and administration are all very diverse in many different ways. The academics are incredibly strong and the faculty is top notch. My son is now entering 7th grade and unequivocally ''loves his school and being there everyday''. Current St. Paul's Mom
March 2013

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


St Paul's or Head-Royce for kindergarten?

Feb 2012

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


We considered both Head-Royce and St. Paul's and ultimately chose SPES. We are not African American, so I can't speak to that, just to the quality of the SPES teachers and education. St. Paul's is known for it's diversity, but there's alot more to it than that. I'm constantly impressed with the creativity of the teachers, the music program, the service learning program and the sense of community at the school. My son is now in 2nd grade and has had a fabulous experience. He is so academically engaged that he didn't want to miss one day of school a few weeks ago for a family ski trip! He was not particularly interested in academics when he started school but I feel that they have really sparked a love of learning in him. Both the math and reading programs are excellent. They manage to take kids where they are at, not hold them back or make them feel behind, and take them to the next level.

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


You've put your finger on a big problem with St. Paul's - big teacher turnover in recent years. And for some reason when teachers leave they are replacing them with inexperienced ones. Everything I've read says that experience is a key factor in effective teaching. Our child suffered with some very bad teachers who were new to the school, one of whom did not even last a full year. Another I can think of was well-intentioned but had no idea about how to teach. I liked the urban environment and the diversity of St. Paul's too, but the teacher issues are a real problem. I really wish I had drilled down more on this when we were applying to schools and congratulate you for doing this. (I am also smiling about your comment about not getting a clear explanation for the reason for the turnover - if you go to St. Paul's you will get accustomed to not getting your hard questions answered.) I also note that you say your daughter is very creative. St. Paul's has a terrific music program, but the art program is weak. If I had it to do over again (and if my child could get in to Head Royce) I would go there in a heartbeat. Personally, I think it is not even a close call. Disenchanted
Dear ''Looking for the right fit'', I also have a ''very bright, expressive, creative daughter who is African-American'' and have struggled with a similar decision. Please get my email address from the moderator if you'd like to discuss! Been there
I'm the parent of a current St. Paul's student and a graduate. I think the thing that attracts both teachers and parents to St. Paul's Episcopal School is the shared commitment to providing an outstanding academic experience to a diverse group of students that make a difference in their community. My children have had great teachers at St. Paul's, some of whom have been young. Supportive peers, a culture that encourages grade and cross grade collaboration, and strong Division Heads and Administrators all combine to help develop teachers and ensure that both experienced and relatively new teachers are at the top of their craft. An inspired curriculum that's contextually rich, differentiated, project based, and often inter-disciplinary, engages the student body and results in some amazing creativity. Years after graduating, my high schooler still talks fondly of St. Paul's teachers, buddies, projects and experiences. St. Paul's School has been a wonderful place for our family, I only wish the world looked and functioned more like the school. Happy at St. Paul's
Hi, we are an African American (bi-racial) family sending both of our daughters (3rd and 5th grades) to St. Paul's since kindergarten. We have been very happy with the academics, community, diversity and the faculty and student engagement. I have never seen any evidence of student disengagement. Because of the differential learning approach and the responsive classroom, my daughters and their friends are actively involved in their learning. Both of my daughters are quite bright (read way above grade level, adept at math, etc) and we have been extremely pleased with how their teachers have consistently managed to challenge them academically and encourage their intellectual growth. In addition, they have learned that all students have different strengths and challenges and they have learned to appreciate those in their fellow students. It is true that our faculty is relatively young, but having had some of those new teachers, they are fabulous! Also I believe the majority of the turnover is because teachers move. I am sorry you have felt unable to get a straight answer about the situation, I would be more than happy to talk about it with you. And finally, not to go on too much, the community at St. Paul's is beyond compare. It is a blessing for my daughters to see people of all colors and backgrounds, all socio-economic levels, in class and in front of the room. I feel there are two approaches to diversity: we are all the same or let's celebrate our differences. St. Paul's takes the latter approach and that makes for a vibrant, inclusive and supportive community. Most of the kids coordinate their extra curricular activities and parents socialize regularly. Again, I would be happy to talk further about this. Good luck! They are both great schools! Proud St. Paul's Mom
The question of St. Paul's vs. Head-Royce is a very difficult one that several of us have faced. We are an African-American family and had to make the same decision with our son last year and it was nearly a coin flip but we opted to send him to St. Paul's. We chose St. Paul's because it is extremely diverse, the curriculum is strong and instills several of the ''soft skills'' needed to be successful, and we were extremely impressed with the faculty and staff. Not to mention, we have witnessed several kids from St. Paul's who have excelled at the high school and college levels. While we loved Head-Royce we had concerns about having our son at the same school K-12. So far we are extremely pleased with our decision and I think several of the other parents in our son's class would echo my sentiments.

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


We are an African American family with a daughter and son attending Head Royce in the Lower School. Like you, I have a creative, energetic daughter. She is in first grade and is thriving at Head Royce. Diversity is a primary component of the School's mission statement and the School Administration proactively seeks out a diverse student body. In terms of African American students in the Lower School, there is a significant number which varies by grade. The current Kindergarten class has a large number of AA students. In first grade, the numbers are lower and the school has actively sought to increase the number of AA students. In particular, this academic year, new AA female students were admitted in both first and third grades demonstrating the school's committment to Increasing AA diversity at each grade level even beyond kindergarten enrollment. Overall, the Lower School has a strong African American community and I would encourage you to reach out to current families. My experience has been positive and both of my children are extremely happy at HR. In addition, there is an extremely talented African-American female kindergarten teacher who is a positive reflection for all students, and especially AA girls. C
My child attended Saint Paul's for three years. I don't know Head Royce first hand, but I have a favorable impression of it based on visiting it and based on what friends say. I would definitely choose Head Royce over SPES if you have that choice to make. We did not find that SPES was particularly academic - when we changed schools our child was behind in writing and math. But we did know lots of very bright kids at SPES whose parents were happy with it.

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.


We have a fourth grade boy at St. Paul's and we are very happy. He is very strong academically and is thriving in the challenging but supportive curriculum. The teachers have been uniformly fantastic--creative, smart, engaged, focused and kind. I am impressed with how they have been able to teach across different learning abilities and styles with grace. As a college professor myself, I am delighted with the variety of successful ways they approach teaching critical thinking, quantitative skills, and aesthetic and creative expression without scanting any of these essential pieces of kids' education. In addition to the strong academics and really amazing music and art programs, the school truly teaches empathy and compassion and embodies the values of diversity and service rather than just approaching these as gestural ideals. a happy St. Paul's parent
With respect to your question regarding St. Paul's academic rigor, I can say that our family has been very pleased with the teacher commitment and student engagement we've observed and experienced in our daughter's classroom (she is in kindergarten). The head kindergarten teachers have been at St. Paul's for a long time (8 and 11 years, respectively) and, in collaboration with their co-teachers, have built a holistic academic and social curriculum. I'sve had the opportunity to volunteer in the classroom and am impressed by how the teachers apply the principles of differentiated instruction (they really meet the kids where they are!) and how the students interact with one another and the content. By way of example, for a recent session on storytelling, my daughter's teacher broke them up into pairs and offered them guiding questions to answer so they could build their stories; in the process, the kids worked on their listening, collaboration and oral communication skills and had greater clarity as they worked on their stories. We also have an appreciation of St. Paul's approach to educating the whole child. Our daughter's sense of community has deepened, and she has a keener sense of how her actions and words impact others. As pleased as we are with St. Paul's academic curriculum, we are even more pleased with St. Paul's commitment to developing community oriented and civic-minded people. I can appreciate this important decision your family is making, and I hope my comments are helpful. Feel free to contact me through the moderator if you want to discuss more. Best of luck! SPES Kindergarten Parent
Like you, when we were making our decision about schools twelve years ago, diversity was a huge selling point - our sons are of mixed race and we wanted them to go to a school that reflected the community in which we've chosen to raise them. But obviously that's not the whole picture. I'm happy to say that I have been extremely satisfied with our decision to send our sons to St. Paul's. Both started in kindergarten - my oldest son is now a junior in high school and my youngest is in 7th grade. My oldest son is a bit of a dreamer, and not particularly self-motivated. His teachers at St. Paul's consistently worked with him to find ways to keep him engaged in the work and, ultimately, to help him understand how to be responsible for himself as a learner - an invaluable skill in the transition from a school of several hundred to one of several thousand. He was always academically challenged, and well equipped to handle the workload of high school (where he is taking honors math and honors Spanish). My younger son is more serious about school, and is particularly engaged in and excited about math, sciences and art. I understand your concern about young teachers, but in our experience the willingness to bring relatively young people into the school infused each year with energy, creativity, new ideas and the very latest in educational philosophy. These newer teachers were generally formally or informally teamed with more experienced teachers, and we really felt that we got the best of both worlds. Many of our youngest son's teachers at St. Paul's were there when we started at the school twelve years ago, and many well before then, and we feel that we've been advantaged by the combination of experience, institutional knowledge and fresh ideas. The bottom line is that I have two healthy, happy, bright, challenged, compassionate and kind boys - and since they spend so much time at school I give huge amounts of credit to the teachers and staff at St. Paul'ss. Good luck with your choice! Happy Mom
One of the many things I love about St. Paul's for my child is that it is real life. The children learn what they need to and sooo much more, taught in ways that connect the knowledge to their own lives. There is as much emphasis on the hows and whys of learning as the actual whats--thus raising children who can identify a problem or dilemma and construct a way to deal with it based on their knowledge of themselves, their strengths, and available resources-that is, kids who can think! This type of learning is supported every day at St. Paul's. Also, it's real life to be part of the world around you-we place great value on the opportunities St. Paul's children have to see, play & work in, and enjoy Oakland. Our daughter not only knows her way around the St. Paul's neighborhood--the school grounds, the Veteran's Green, the Towers, many different parts of the Lake Merritt area--but she knows how to behave and take care of herself within that public setting. She's had so many truly exceptional teachers who 'ľget'° her--their depth of understanding, both of child development in general and my child specifically, have made for many years of positive collaboration between teachers and parents. It's been a wonderful place for our daughter and for our family. Another happy St. Paul's Family
I was surprised to see some of the replies to this question and how St. Paul's was portrayed. As a parent who has children at both schools, I have to weigh in on the side of St. Paul's. Academically, the school has been wonderful, and I am comparing directly with Head-Royce. They teach the same things but in a less rote manner. Head-Royce is great academically but my St. Paul's child is just as well prepared for high school. The music programs at St. Paul's are superior -- no question. Head-Royce is much more formalistic. St. Paul's is about the gift and love of music - something even less talented kids can have for the rest of their lives. On diversity, St. Paul's teachers truly believe that every kid can succeed and it represents a range of races and socio-economic groups. The kids view each other as friends, not categories. We've had no problem as a family of color at HRS but at St. Paul's we belong. As to turnover, the middle school teachers have been here on average about 10 years. The lower school teachers we have had have been great. The ''younger'' end has brought energy and vitality, which I thought was a plus. HRS is a fine school but overall, I prefer St. Paul's. Love's St. Paul's
Our family has been part of the St. Paul's family for almost eight exciting and enjoyable years. Our seventh grader has thrived at the school since his first day of kindergarten, and my wife and I have become very active in the school and its vibrant, involved parent community. After all, what is more important than our children's education?

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


Oct 2010

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


I don't know anything about Crocker Highlands but I am a St. Paul's parent. I chose St. Paul's because of all of the unique things that it has to offer such as small class size, responsive teachers, the very rich curriculum, service learning, spirituality, diversity, music and the arts, a supportive community and so much more. Being just one month in you haven't yet experienced all that St. Paul's has to offer. It is normal to have anxiety about your choice of schools, it is a huge commitment to invest in any school and trust them with your child's education. When you add the financial commitment of a private school it can feel overwhelming. I would encourage you to observe other grades and see what is in store for your child down the road and talk to parents who have been at the school for a few years. happy at St. Paul's
I don't know Crocker Highlands but I've heard good things about it. Our son went to St. Paul's for a few years before we changed him to a different school. Based on the concerns you mentioned, I think you might be happier with Crocker. You said your son is ''abundantly boy''. Our experience at St. Paul's was that boy energy was frowned on and punished, sometimes quite harshly. Yet the school did little to channel and direct boy energy in more productive ways -- kids were largely on their own during recess and in the afterschool program. If the kids' self-directed play got out of hand, the school accepted no responsibility for mishaps. Instead, blame was placed on the kids. A number of 8-year-old boys in our son's grade were punished for rough playground play (no injuries, just aggressiveness during imaginary play) by having recess, art, and music classes taken away for weeks, being made to eat lunch in isolation from other students, being suspended for 1-10 days, and being required to visit a psychiatrist. I want to emphasize that there were not any ''troublemakers'' in our son's grade of about 45 students. We never saw or heard about any kids picking on other kids in our grade or targeting them for bullying. The kids were close, and they were kind to each other. But boys left to their own devices do at times play too rough. The school seemed unable to distinguish normal boy energy from bullying, and in its zeal to portray itself as a school without bullying, the school became, for us, not a healthy place for our son.

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


Please ask the moderator for my contact info. SPES parent who will tell you my experience
I live in Crocker Highlands and have 2 childen at St. Pauls, one in the middle school and one in the lower school. I would urge you to revisit the reasons why you chose St. Paul's in the first place. We chose St. Paul's not only because of its academic excellence, but also because of its diversity and true reflection of the urban environment around us, in addition to the Service Learning Program and it's spirituality. Sure, you can receive a good academnic education at Crocker Highlands, but during these formative years of a child's development, these programs are foundational in developing a whole person, not just a smart child. You may want to spend some time with a few graduates of the school to truly understand the value of a St. Paul's education. They are some of the most impressive young adults you would want to meet. anon
I strongly encourage you to explore all that St. Paul's has to offer before making up your mind. I have two boys at the older grades at St. Paul's who started at kindergarten. Their classes have always been warm and rich with educational and social opportunities and encouragement. My boys have learned so much about how to treat one another, about human respect and empathy. What St. Paul's has taught them, at EVERY grade level, is going to serve them well throughout their lives and hopefully benefit those around them. I am always reminded by non-St Paul's people about how the graduates/students are respectful, well behaved and very comfortable in their surroundings. What is emphasized at the school is ''how to learn'' and ''how to think'' and ''how to problem solve'' and not merely memorization or fact transfers. As we get closer to high school I am increasingly grateful for all the educational tools and knowledge my boys have acquired at St. Paul's that will enable them to succeed in high school and beyond. I have always felt that there is room for everyone at St. Paul's and each child is encouraged to explore and reach the potential within them; as you can see for yourself, the school does not cultivate only one type of child but children of every fabric of society. That is TRUE education. Please do not hesitate to speak to the school's administrators as they are also very helpful. Good luck. Grateful to be at St. Paul's
We live in the Crocker Highlands neighborhood and chose to send both of our boys to St. Paul's. First, let me say that I've heard very good things about Crocker. My oldest son has several good friends who went to Crocker for elementary school and transferred to St. Paul's for middle school, and they seemed very happy with their experience at Crocker. We made our decision based largely on the ''extras'' that St. Paul's offers that public schools - no matter how good - simply can't. Both my boys started at St. Paul's in kindergarten. My oldest son is now a sophomore at Bishop O'Dowd, and was very well prepared for the academics there. He is taking honors classes in math and Spanish. His best friend from St. Paul's takes honors classes in English and science. My younger son is a sixth grader at St. Paul's. I was surprised to read the post about a negative school reaction to ''boy energy'' - our experience could not be more different. Just one example - my ''abundantly boy'' sixth grader had quite a bit of boy energy that was distracting his class in fifth grade. His teacher tried several strategies before realizing that he could concentrate (and be less disruptive) if he was allowed to stand, stretch and even pace a little when he needed to, even if it was in the middle of a lesson. His teacher rearranged his seat to allow him to do that without distracting others and his ability to concentrate dramatically increased. We've not experienced the types of playground problems the other writer did - but St. Paul's kids are expected to take responsibility for their own behavior and the school has very clear rules on bullying and overly-aggressive play. Kids will face consequences for their actions, something we've always viewed as a positive. It really has been a perfect school for our family. To the original poster - what a blessing to live in a place where you have great private and public school choices! I don't think you will ever regret choosing St. Paul's - and good luck with your education decisions in the coming years. anon
As a parent of 2 SPES children (1 boy and 1 girl) and an alumni of St. Paul's School, I have watched the school grow and change over the decades. My daughter also has C,abundantC. energy and personality, this was one of the reasons we chose St. Paul's. We wanted an environment that would channel and encourage her in a positive way. We also wanted a school that emphasized personal development, community as well academics, and devoted a portion of the curriculum to these non-traditional elements. As we enter our 3rd year as SPES parents we are very pleased with the well rounded education our children are receiving. In addition to the personal and spiritual development, a commitment to physical education, art and music, and the benefits of active play give us the feeling that our investment in our children's education is a good one. Given the state of the public school system in California, there is unfortunately very little flexibility or resources to devote to non academic goals. This is truly unfortunate. So to the question of C,is it worth itC. is a resounding yes. Fortunately, our experience with the school's administration and disciplinary tactics do not mirror the previous post that had a negative experience. We have found the faculty and staff at St. Paul's extremely fair and responsive to parents' concerns. While we don't have recent experience with the public school system, and surely every institution has pluses and minuses, public schools have to teach to the state mandated curriculum, and most do not have the resources to do much more than that. St. Paul' s and its community give my children a learning environment that is at once realistic, compassionate, accepting and challenging and provides them with a breadth of education that is very uncommon in public schools. This is reflected in the graduating class each year, most of whom are clearly unique individuals, independent, intelligent and creative. -Happy St. Paul's Parent

editor note: responses were also received about Crocker Highlands Elementary


Nov 2009

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


Oct 2009

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


Aug 2009

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


St. Paul's is an amazing school, and I feel lucky that my children have been able to receive their education there. You posted a concern that there might be ''something going on'' at the school because a few families left after 1st grade. I can't speak to those particular families and their reasons for leaving, but a few people depart every school every year for a variety of reasons -- financial concerns (especially in this economy), or the school isn't a good fit for that child. There is not an exodus from St. Paul's, on the contrary, the kindergarten had so many families enroll that the school hired an additional K teacher.

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


My son just completed 1st grade at St Paul's School. The three families that are leaving are all going to Head Royce. They, as far as I know, were not unhappy with St Pauls just looking for something else. My son had a great year at St Pauls. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the school-- great teachers, welcoming community, very diverse, excellent academics. I do not think there is ANY reason for concern. St Pauls Parent
Although I'm not a St Paul's parent and can't address what's going on there specifically, I did want to chime in and say that turnover in the private schools is pretty normal. My kids have been going to an Oakland private school for 5 years now, and every year a few kids leave each grade and a few new kids come in. The reasons for leaving are as diverse as the student body -- can't afford private school, bought a house in Piedmont, school not a good fit. St Paul's is a school with a good reputation. I wouldn't worry.
I am writing as a parent of a soon to be second grader at St. Paul's. Our son is thriving at St. Paul's--he has been there for K and 1st grade. He is supported and challenged academically, socially, and emotionally. He is always excited to go to school, never wanting to miss a day (itself a huge signifier to me that things are working and working beautifully). As a college professor, I am wowed by the dedication and brilliance of the curriculum and the ways in which the teachers create and implement it with care and attention to individual student's levels. For example, our son read before K, but he has never felt either or bored or underchallenged. The teachers have been amazing--so much so that I fear I am going to sound untrustworthy or frothy in my praise of them.

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


St. Paul's is a wonderful school! Our son is in the class now heading to second grade and his experience has been fantastic. The teachers have been great so far and I hear that we can look forward to equally good ones in the upper grades. I can't say enough about how well the teachers have handled both the academic and social development of the children in our class. At first, my son was not particularly interested in school other than as a means to see his friends, but now he is eager to go every day and excited about the material he is learning--and he is learning a lot.

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


I think it is wise that you are looking at the turnover rate as a factor in your decision and wondering what is going on. Sometimes a mass exodus signifies something unusual going on with a school. Our daughters attend a private school and we have not seen 3 kids leave any one grade in a given year. It's good that you are asking questions now instead of regretting your decision later. I hope you get the answers you need and find the school of your dreams. anon
Feb 2009

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 have a child at St. Paul's middle school, and one who graduated from St. Paul's. I can't make a direct comparison with Beacon, but I can say that the class size at St. Paul's is not large. The 7th grade has two sections, one with 21 kids, one with 22. My older son's class was larger (24 kids per class), but the school has recently made a commitment to reduce class sizes and they are sticking to it. The teachers are experienced and manage the classrooms very well. As for differentiated learning, the teachers gave my older child with learning challenges a lot of extra attention, and they give my younger child, who is accelerated, extra work so that he's challenged. Discipline issues arise at any middle school, but they run a tight ship at St. Paul's and have high expectations for good behavior. St. Paul's is a great place; I hope you come! Anon
I can't answer your question about Beacon, but my son is in 2nd grade at St. Paul's. He's been there since kindergarten. My two older children attended public schools, so I have some insight into how children are supported and encouraged at this age. First of all, I don't think there is a large class size at St. Paul's. There are 22 children in my son's 2nd grade class, and that has been consistent since kindergarten -- he had two teachers in kindergarten, so basically 11 kids per teacher, and in first grade, a teacher plus asst. teacher. This year there is an asst. teacher that is shared with the other 2nd grade class, and there is also an aide in who helps one of his classmates and who is there every day. Because of the emphasis at St. Paul's on personal responsibility and respect, the classroom atmosphere is calm and much more conducive to individualized instruction, and I do see much evidence of individualized instruction. Like your son, my son also needs ''more personal academic assistance''. I think that St. Paul's does an excellent job of challenging each student at his own level -- this is one of the school's hallmarks. In my son's case, many of his classmates began reading in kindergarten and by first grade most were reading well enough to sit at their desks and read books to themselves. But my son really did not catch on to reading until this year in 2nd grade. In first grade, he received one-on-one reading coaching every day from a reading specialist. He was never pressured to read above the level he was able to, and he was never made to feel that he was deficient in any way. He had no idea that most of his classmates were well ahead of him in reading. He made great strides last year, and the extra help has continued this year. I am very satisfied that his needs have been met and that he is being challenged at a level appropriate to his ability. His teacher provides similar challenges for the more advanced students in his class, and all the children receive report card grades based on their ability, not on their ranking in the class or on some standard that has been pre-determined. I feel that my son has been given the best possible support, while at the same time he is encouraged to reach higher. I am most impressed with St. Paul's emphasis on personal responsibility. For example, my son has been taught to work on his own to complete homework to the best of his ability, to reason things out and to try something hard. My two older children were not encouraged to acquire these skills. I'm really pleased with the educational philosophy at St. Paul's. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about the school. G.O.
Feb 2009

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


Your son sounds similar to mine who is currently in kindergarten at St. Paul's. We didn't transfer between the two schools though we looked seriously at Park Day and I have close friends who send their children to PD (and we've talked a lot about the two schools). There are many similarlities--strong academics, school community that fosters respect, etc.--but there are some significant differences too. St. Paul's is far more diverse (in fact, I recently learned that it is the 2d most diverse private school in the U.S.), the school has a strong spiritual/cultural component through its school-wide weekly chapel where the kids belt out songs from all cultures and learn about a range of cultural and religious topics (e.g., Hannakuh, Martin Luther King, Chinese New Year), the kids in kindergarten and 1st grade have weekly swimming at the YMCA, there is a strong music program for each grade that includes choirs and musical instrument training, and there is lots of pairing between the kindergartners and older students in a buddy system: 8th grade chapel buddy, 2d grade reading buddy, and a science buddy (I'm forgetting whether my son's science buddy is a 4th grader or 6th grader). And just to give you an idea about how integral music is, the African Amercian Cultural Celebration is this Thursday night, and all the kids are going to get together to sing and perform. Another big difference for us was that St. Paul's building has been earthquake retrofitted and PD's lower school was not (at least not last year when we were applying), which was a big concern for me. Though both schools are great, I can honestly say that everything at St. Paul's this year has exceeded our (high) expectations and nothing has given us concerns or doubts about our decision. Our son is thriving and we love the school. Good luck with your decision! You probably can't go wrong with either school, but I doubt you'll have any regrets about St. Paul's. Happy St. Paul's Parent
I've had young children at both Park Day and St. Paul's. They are both wonderful choices for progressive values, diversity, a responsive classroom, language arts, and longtime committed staff and leadership.

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


Like you, we had a hard time deciding between Park Day and St. Paul's when our oldest child (now a 5th grader)was entering kindergarten. We chose St. Paul's, because we really liked the diversity and academics. However, we recently switched, moving both of our kids to Park Day, and are quite happy with our decision.

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.


I have had experience at both schools, although my St. PaulÂ’s experience is just with the middle school. Our older son went to Park Day from Kindergarten through sixth grade. We moved him to St. PaulÂ’s for 7th and 8th. Like you describe your son, ours is self-directed, articulate, and social. We also have a younger son who is still at Park Day and will probably stay there through middle school.

Almost without exception both of our sons have had great experiences at Park Day. There was not one day in my older son’s seven years at the school when he said he didn’t like school or didn’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. Paul’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 children’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 what’s going on in the classrooms and in the school as a whole—a thorough, lengthy, and readable weekly newsletter from the administration and regular newsletters and emails from teachers. Plus, it’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. Paul’s has some wonderful qualities—the diversity and the music program are standouts--but we found St. Paul’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 wasn’t a great match for our family. There were many disruptive kids in his group;—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 didn’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 Day’s space. Finally, I was not satisfied with the amount of communication from the St. Paul’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 aren’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


We have two sons now in the 4th and 7th grades, with very different personalities and learning styles, and they are both thriving at St. Paul's. St. Paul's demonstrates its academic excellence with an inter-disciplinary curriculum that fosters discovery and curiosity in its students. Programs like Junior Great Books, which is taught in the 3-5th grades, and 6+1 writing traits, taught across grades, provide a wonderful introduction to world literature, help develop critical thinking skills and provide an outstanding framework for developing young writers. My older son started as a tentative and often-times tortured writer, but with the encouragement of his teachers and this consistent and thorough approach, he has developed into a confident and strong writer. St. Paul's teachers are inspired and seek to find the spark in each child that will ignite his or her love of learning. Over the years. I've been continually surprised and impressed by my sons' teachers who take the time to really get to know them and remain interested in their development long after they have left their classrooms. St. Paul's uses its location and the rich resources of Oakland to the best advantage. As students grow and develop, so does their extended classroom. 3rd grade students travel weekly to Lake Merritt where they conduct the only migratory bird census for the City; the study conducted over the entire school year incorporates language arts, science, art and math. In 6th grade, students return to the Lake for weekly lake cleaning and a study of its ecology, comparing it to that of the Gualala River, where they spend a week in the fall. Students at St. Paul's have a strong awareness of the positive impact they can have on their community and their environment. In short, we think St. Paul's is a great school and hope you will too. Debra
Jan 2009

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.


Dec 2008

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


Dec 2008

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.


Dec 2008

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


St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland has an AMAZING music program. There is a choir for K-2nd grade, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and the 6th grade has an acapella choir. The choirs perform at grandparents day, holiday programs, the spring concert and at African American cultural night. The 6th grade choir performed at the Oakland Colisseum gospel concert. In the third grade they start an instrumental music program within the school day. They specialze in conga drumming and other percussion instruments. Students learn music theory, basic music terminology, singing scales, etc. What's really great is you can sign your child up for personal music lessons that take place after school on campus. They have guitar, piano and other string instrument instruction.

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


Nov 2008

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


Nov 2008

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


Nov 2008

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


Nov 2008

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


The assessment process for private schools can definitely be stressful. We just went through 5 of them last year! Have you thought about talking to the admissions director beforehand? that might alleviate some of your stress. And the response you get will also probably be very telling about what the school is truly like and whether it will be a good fit for your child. I also noticed that at some of the schools (St. Paul's in particular), the teachers were extremely warm and nonthreatening with the kids as they led them to the class room for the assessment, and I noticed one parent who spent some time with her child at the assessment because he was crying and feeling shy. (And I happen to know that he was admitted to the school because he is at St. Paul's with my child now and is totally thriving--I share this in case you are worrying about how this will all play out for admissions). It also helped me to tell my child that these are fun playdates--he'll get to draw and play, etc. But I recognize that might not be enough to do the trick. Good luck! survivor of the assessment process
Nov 2008

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


Sept 2008

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


I am a very happy St. Paul's parent, with one graduate and one child in middle school who has been there since kindergarten. It's an amazing place. The school's diversity is exceptional; they make a much higher commitment to providing tuition assistance than other private schools, and the commitment shows in the range of diversity of the kids and families there.

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


St. Paul's Episcopal School is amazing. I can't imagine my kids going to any other school. My son is a very bright child who is fully engaged, and absolutely loves learning. They have an amazingly creative approach to academics and nurture the students in a way that brings out the best in them, academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Even though they are affiliated with the Episcopal church, the school is non-denominational and welcomes all faiths and beliefs. They have chapel every Friday that invites classes to present perspectives on different world cultures and belief systems. They also embrace diversity in about every way imaginable. This truly is a great environment for children. I urge you to tour one day and to attend the Parents Prospective Open House. Call the Admissions Office for more details. Marlene
St. Paul's is an amazing school. And no you don't have to attend church to go there. Families of all faiths, or no particular faith attend St. Paul's. My daughter just started there last month and it is fantastic. It is hard to briefly describe all of the great attributes of the school and the staff. I suggest that you call the admissions office to set up a tour; plan to attend the ''parent's perspective'' open house in late October or early November; and finally attend one of the student chapels on Friday mornings. Good luck. Brooke
I am a new mom at SPES with two children in kindergarten. First let me just say how much we are ''in love'' with the school and all it has to offer our children. In the first month or so, the SPES community has exceeded our expectations.

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


I am the mom of a kindergartner at St. Paul's school and wanted to comment on your question about whether you have to attend church to go there. Don't let the St. Paul's name fool you! I avoided even checking it out initially being a practitioner of metaphysics and thought that I could never get over having to explain to my friends and family that St. Paul's is not a religious school despite the name. The chapel is really just used as a forum to bring the community together and for the children to form relationships with their older buddies. It's a fabulous school and our son who previously dragged his behind to get ready for preschool is excited and motivated to get to school on time. I can't say enough about how much we love it there, the energy is so positive, the community open minded and welcoming. If you are considering it at all I would strongly recommend you check it out. Laura
Hi, We came into St. Pauls in the 6th. grade and are very happy with our school choice !! My son is engaged, challenged, learning, supported by wonderful teachers and surrounded by friends !! We are VERY far from being any kind of a religious family ( but are culturally Jewish.). The St. and chapel part of the school made me nervous, but I can truly say that Friday mornings are quite wonderful and embracing to all the various faiths reflected in the school !! 7th grade will present on Rosh Hashanah this Friday morning (10/3) come check it out if you want. Monika
I have children at St. Paul's Episcopal School (SPES) and my family has been richly rewarded by attending the school, and I'm not talking just about the children. The kids get top quality education (SPES grads attend some of the Bay Area's best high schools); they are encouraged to think critically and independently; they are taught that respect for people that are different than themselves is important and forms the basis of a tolerant and successful society; and the community service performed by each and every class enriches their lives and teaches that giving is better than getting.

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


My son just started kindergarten at St. Paul's and we couldn't be happier. St. Paul's was our first choice because of its strong academics coupled with its focus on service learning/community/respect for all people. Each week his teachers send the parents an email about what the kids learned and it is truly astounding. My son is very excited each night to talk about what he learned and couldn't even settle down for bed tonight because he was showing me how he could clap the syllables in various words. The teachers are warm and engaged, and the head of the school is truly inspirational. Having her at the helm speaks volumes about what this school is about and why it is such a special place. The school is also incredibly diverse, which was important to us. I read recently that it is the second most diverse private school in the nation. I'm also impressed with how the school takes advantage of its urban environment. For instance, each week my son's class walks a few blocks to the YMCA for swimming lessons. On the way, I've noticed that the teachers focus on teaching the kids self- discipline and awareness of their surrounding environment. This is truly an amazing school! And, no, your family doesn't have to be religious or attend church for this to be a good fit. I've attended the weekly chapels and the focus is on cultural awareness, respect for self and others, and coming together as an entire school community. The chapel is also special because the kindergartners are matched with an 8th grade buddy who takes them to chapel each week. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more. Rebekah
My son just started Kindergarten at St. Paul's and I'm here to say that it IS amazing. I think some people get scared off because it appears to be a parochial school, but it's not at all. There are no uniforms and there is no formal religious education. What St. Paul's does is nurture the spiritual side of children. This can be through nature, or through helping those in need, through exploring all the different faiths and through respect for differences. For all of you parents doing the private school circuit this year add St. Paul's to your list. They have a parent open house night with no faculty and it's a chance to hear directly from parents about their personal experiences. I could go on and on and on but I'll sum it up like this....I'm a Piedmont resident who has access to the area's best schools for free and I chose St.Paul's because they can provide our family with what no other school can do. Besides an excellent eduction (which you can find in many places,) St. Paul's teaches children how to respect themselves and take responsibility for their community. Their entire curriculum is integrated with service learning projects. These kids go out into the world and make it a better place. This school walks their talk. There is a strict no bullying policy which was extremely important to me. The diversity at this school was another huge draw. I grew up in a diverse school environment but when the school bell ran for lunch or recess everyone went to their respective hang outs on the school yard. That's not true diversity, but at St. Paul's everyone hangs together. The community is tight. These first years of school will lay the foundation for my son's feelings about education for the rest of his life. If he didn't feel safe, loved and respected he wouldn't enjoy school and he wouldn't excel academically. I'd be happy to talk to anyone who'd like to hear more about the school from a current Kindergarten parent. Jessica
I think it is just the greatest school too. This is our third year at St. Paul's - my son is a second grader. What I like most about the school is that it has an academic focus without the stress. Every child is challenged at his/her own level. This has meant that for my late-bloomer child, there was not the pressure to read and write that so many other schools seem to apply now starting in kindergarten. That's not to say that the school moves at a slower pace, though. There are kids in my son's class who came into kindergarten already reading chapter books, and brilliant 2nd grade authors who write and illustrate mini-novels! This isn't my son's thing, but he is equally stimulated, and never made to feel that he isn't up to snuff. The school does a really impressive job of meeting each kid's individual needs.

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


To respond to the poster enquiring into the religious nature of St. Paul's, I'd like to add my 2 cents to the eloquent replies that have already come in.

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


Jan 2008

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


We had a kid at St. Paul's so I can share some information about the after care program. The school offers a variety of activities for students to choose from. There's always arts and crafts, a large selection of board games, access to a few computers, supervised basketball play, a play structure, and a supervised study hall. The library is also open for kids to read or play board games.

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


Jan 2008

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


Dec 2007

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


Oct 2007

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


I would encourage you to look at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. This school ''walks the talk'' when it comes to diversity!!! My daughter attends this school and is caucasian. All of her closest girlfriends are african-american (5!) and they are in her second grade level. I think that they probably have openings for first grade. They have had mid-year transfers before without a problem. The Admissions Director is Khadija Fredericks and her e-mail address is kfredericks@spes.org I encourage you to check it out. Dessa
For your African American daughter who ''feels lonely'' because she is the only African American girl in her class: please visit St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. Not only will you find an extremely diverse student body and faculty, you will also find a richly academic school and a caring community. My family loves St. Paul's for all of these reasons. The school is also very open to families of all religious traditions (or no religion at all). St. Paul's promotes spirituality in its broadest sense, but not a particular religious doctrine. I don't know if there is room in the current 1st grade, but it would be worth asking. Love St. Paul's
Have you looked at St. Paul's Episcopal? I don't really know the student demographic diversity background but from what I see it looks diverse with a solid representation of African American/ Black students as well as other students of color. Head Royce? Archway School? Anybody else with a better suggestion? Teacher concerned about diversity
I am so upset to hear about your daughter's experience. I am not African American, but I can tell you that, from a recent tour experience, St. Paul's is incredibly diverse. I think you should really look into it. Not only are there many black students, there are black teachers as well. And the head of the school and many key administrators are black. It is a school absolutely committed to diversity. It is a pretty academic environment, and though it is spiritual, it is a non- denominational school, and frankly, it is not particularly religious. It seems terrific and certainly worth looking into it. I have also hard that Beacon is very ethnically diverse. I wish your daughter a much better year! Concerned parent
Please visit St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. My son is in 1st grade there. I don't know if they have openings in 1st grade but it's worth a try, or at least get on the waiting list for next year. St. Paul's is the only private school I have seen in Berkeley or Oakland that really does have a sizeable number of African American kids in every class. It really looks more like an urban public school than a private school. We visited 8 private schools when our son was starting kindergarten, and everywhere else, though they talked about diversity, there would be just one or two non-white faces in each class. St. Paul's is different! And it isn't just the students - the head of the school is African American, as are the lower school head and the president of the Board. There are a lot of African American kids. Your daughter would definitely not be the only one! Plus, it is a great school, very academic, and very supportive of all different kinds of kids. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about St. Paul's! Here is the website: http://www.spes.org/ Ginger
I would recommend you look at St. Paul's in downtown Oakland. It is the most racially diverse private school. Beacon is another one that is more diverse. Good luck in your search!
I strongly encourage you to look at St. Paul's Episcopal School (SPES) in Oakland. I have 2 boys who attend this very warm, engaging and academically excellent school. The school is very diverse, in many different ways: race, economics, religion, sexual orientation, etc., and we're very proud of it. SPES works hard at ensuring that respect is given to and received by every student, parent, and faculty member. Over half of the students at SPES are children of color and the spiritual (not religious) learning that goes on at the school benefits the kids for years to come. We have excellent academics and our graduates attend the Bay Area's best high schools every year. I encourage you to visit the school's website at www.spes.org, and look at their information. The head of admissions is Khadija Fredericks and she will be able to assist you. There is no reason why your daughter should not feel that good academics and a welcoming place can't go together. My boys have enjoyed school every day at SPES and I'm very glad that we made the choice to send them there. If you need additional information, please feel free to email me. Good luck, Azar
I've heard that St. Paul's Episcopal School is one of the most diverse private schools in Oakland, and parents and students were pleased with the curriculum. Judy
Sept 2007

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


April 2007

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


April 2007

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


April 2007

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


Nov 2006

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


Oct 2006

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 you’d like to find out more. Ayelet


February 2006

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.” 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 feel compelled to respond to this post...

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


October 2005

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


March 2005

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


Cannot speak to St. Leo's but I can tell you what a terrific school St. Paul's is. Although my son is only in K, one of the reasons I chose the school was because I thought the older kids there were so terrific. Kids are influenced so much by their peers, and St. Paul's really develops positive social values and a sense of responsibility. I too was choosing between Catholic school and St. Paul's (and am interested in Bishop O'Dowd for high school as well). It was not an easy decision because I knew many families at the Catholic school and loved them and their kids. In doing my research, I talked to a mom who had taught at O'Dowd. She sent her three children to St. Paul's because out of all the children she had taught over the years, she was consistently the most impressed with those who'd gone to St. Paul's. That decided me! You say your son is bright and silly -- another thing I liked about the school was that it had the best balance between energy and calmness in the classroom. Kids are enthusiastic but orderly. Good luck in your decision!! Fran
I don't know about St. Leo's (I've heard it's very good), but my African American kid thrived at St. Pauls- it is very diverse with a good number of African American boys. It's very challenging academically, but also very nurturing. If he's interested in going to Bishop O'Dowd, you should know that, although nothing is guaranteed, *many* St. Paul's kids get into O'Dowd- and a number of others get into Head-Royce, CPS, Marin Academy, St. Mary's and other selective high schools. Happy with St. Pauls
Here is the best answer I can give given that I didn't see the original post. We are new to St. Paul's and have been very pleased at what we consider to be healthy consistentcy, a sign of a well-run school. My child is learning a lot without seeming overwhelmed. The teachers seem knowledgeable and skilled, really insightful about my child. The children learn to be compassionate citizens, no matter who they are personally. The school demands a high level of respect and gets it. I like the weekly newsletter from the teachers, which details the goings-on in the classroom and the fieldtrips. The school is very generous about transmitting information to the parent population. Finally, diversity was very important to us, and St. Paul's not only makes a claim of diversity but also delivers it. Some of the schools we looked at did not have the diversity they laid claim to. FM
Feb 2005

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


Oct 2004

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


Nov 2003

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. Interested Parent


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
This is in response to the recent Qs about St. Paul's Episcopal School Kindergarten and lower grades. I have two sons at SPES, a K and a 3rd grader. Our family has been very happy with the school on multiple levels -- academics, social/ethical teaching, community, and facilities. Both of my kids are typically energetic wiggly boys, and both have found the right balance of quiet time and energy- burning time at the school.

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


I have two boys at St. Paul's, one in kindergarten and one in 2nd grade. It has been a great fit for our family and a fabulous experience for our boys. As far as the kindergarten experience, it is a terrific blend between academic and social growth, reflecting the overall school's philosophy that it is important to develop both the mind and the emotional health of the children. While there is circle time in the morning and certain table activities throughout the day, there is also time for children to choose their own activites and to explore and learn through things like dress-up, block-building, games, and reading in the loft. It is a structured curriculum, but not overly so, and not out of keeping with the needs and interests of five-year-olds, even very active, energetic five-year-olds. There is also a lot of physical activity built into each day--in addition to recess periods, the kids have P.E. three times a week, swimming once a week, and a trip (walking) to the ''green monster'' at Lakeside park once a week.

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


I saw the post about St. Paul's being strong in academics and preparing kids 'exceptionally well' for high school. As a parent of two St. Paul's graduates, I didn't find that to be the case. Students from St. Paul's rarely accelerate in math, science or language when they move to the private high schools. There are lots of good reasons for selecting St. Paul's but the academics are adequate, not exceptional. Anon
I just want to second what I thought was a fair review of St. Paul's. The school is by no means rigorous or even my idea of academic. The school doesn't try to be high school much like some other private schools do as early as 5th grade. And St. Paul's is very egalitarian in that it has given itself the task of accepting a wide range of aptitudes. The wide spectrum of abilities has both positive and negatives I feel. I have two bright, high-achieving children, one of whom is at a top-notch high school now while his little brother is in the elementary school.

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


Oct 2003

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


St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland (by Lake Merritt, across from Fairlyland) is the most diverse school in the Bay Area, with 51% kids of color, economic, religious, sexual preference, family structure and just about any other kind of diversity you can imagine. SPES is highly regarded for its diversity, community service, spirituality (we celebrate all holidays and the kids really respect the beliefs of others) and an excellent academic program. We talk about everything at SPES and the kids really thrive in this environment. The staff is excellent throughout. SPES has recently added a second kindergarten, so we are growing to keep up with the demand. And you won't need to look for a middle school, SPES goes through 8th grade! Check SPES's website for more information: www.spes.org or call Gwynne Tysell at 285-9600. Please feel free to contact me for more info as well. I have a child in 3rd and 4th. Jon
December 2001

Does anyone have experience with what it's like for Jewish children at the St. Paul's Episcopal school?


We are Jewish-my daughter went to St. Paul's grades 6-8 and had such a wonderful experience that she is insisting that her 4 year old brother go there (we'll see if we win the lottery). We found it to be very comfortable- there are many Jewish families there and although they have "chapel" every Friday morning, the issues discussed are ethical in nature, not particularly religious. They were very respectful of everyone's beliefs. While they did have a Christmas Pagent which included the manger scene, I didn't personally find it a big deal-and didn't really hear any complaints from other Jewish families. I would say that there is really very little emphasis on any one religion, but a great deal of emphasis on community building and ethical behavior. This was something I liked. Ellen
There is more emphasis on formal religion at the school than I expected from what I was told initially. I thought they would provide a generally spiritual dimension to a child's education, and a sort of historical/intellectual perspective on formal religion. Actually, they have chapel every Friday, all school assemblies begin with "Let us pray," my child regularly tells me stories from the Bible over dinner, the (very nice) Chaplain is a strong presence in the school. I also find that many of the teachers have a religious background, many parents grew up with a religious education and some even send their children to religious school on the weekends. From asking around, I learned that the original impulse for the creation of the school was an Episcopal "do-gooding" one rather than an academic one, per se. All of this clearly works terrifically for many, many families at the school. It has been pretty foreign for my culturally Jewish child and off-putting for myself. Good luck. LT
March 1998

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.

Good luck


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