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Castro Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)
Hi, I am interested in hearing parents' more recent reviews of Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito (the latest ones on BPN are from 2007). What do you like about it? Dislike? How does the school compare now to the other elementary schools in the area? We are planning to move to the neighborhood next year. Thanks! Rachael
If you look on the district website, there is a map of school boundaries. If you move into a house that is above Richmond St., your school will be Madera. If you move into a house that is below Richmond St., your school will be Fairmont. Both school are very good in different ways. All of El Cerrito's elementary schools are quite good, with friendly parents and dedicated teachers. Best of luck to you, and see you at Portola in the years to come! Proud supporter of Public Schools in El Cerrito
Re: Better school district for special needs kids?
The answer to your question is, hands down, Castro Elementary School, in El Cerrito! The special needs children are fully integrated into the mainstream classes, and both teachers and aids alike know how to create a beautifully run full-inclusion program that benefits ALL of the children at the school, special needs and mainstream alike.
This unique program has been 20 years in the making, and is a model of what full inclusion can really be. Other schools say that they have full inclusion, but from what I have seen, only Castro understands what this really means, and has been able to enact it in wonderful and powerful ways. The mainstream children really learn how to treat all people with respect and honor--something that they carry with them throughout their whole lives.
This wonderful school is a true jewel in an otherwise problematic district. I urge you to visit this school, and inquire about this program. It's not a fancy school, and unlike some other schools in El Cerrito, it has not been rebuilt. But, hidden behind those walls is an example of what every school should strive to be like. A proud parent at Castro
Good luck! We hope to see you there next year! Third time is the charm!
I am looking for feedback from any parents whose children are currently enrolled at Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito. What do you like? What don't you like? Overall experience? Thanks! Kristin
Our experience at Castro has been nothing short of wonderful. The teachers are extremely professional, knowledgable, and hard working. They know their stuff, have high expectations of all children, and provide support to the students to meet the expectations. People shy away from Castro because of their low test scores, but test scores only tell part of the story. Our children have experienced excellent teaching, kind and supportive teachers, and sweet children (no form of bullying, either verbal or physical, in our experience).
If more parents in the Castro zone sent their children to this school, it would make a world of difference. Our one complaint about the school is the somewhat weak PTA and lack of parent involvement. We (and many other parents) are working to change that! We would be thrilled if you join us at this wonderful little school!
Best of luck to you in your school search! Happy family at Castro
The school is small enough that the teachers know all of the children by name, and greet them as they arrive each day. The teachers are inspired, which is something you often do not find in these days of No Child Left Behind. There is true diversity at Castro, and the children all focus on what they have in common, rather than their differences. I do believe that our children will graduate from Castro having received a top notch education AND have acquired a sense of acceptance and understanding that many adults do not have.
If you are in our zone, please consider Castro. You will not be disappointed! Committed to our neighborhood school
Our two kids--kindergarten and third grade--will most likely attend Castro Elementary School next year (our nearest school). Can current parents please shed some light on the school for us? It is not one of the ''choice'' schools in El Cerrito, and the campus is in need of drastic repair, but what is hidden behind the walls? Excellent, caring teachers? Supportive staff and resource people? Afterschool programs? What is great and what is problematic about Castro? Everyone seems to want Hilltop or Madera, but what about Castro? Thanks for helping us make this decision! Any feedback welcome! New to the neighborhood!
As a caring teacher who lives in the neighborhood and had all three of my children attend Castro, I'd be happy to respond. Castro is a school where you have to get behind the walls to judge it. It is the next school slated for renovation by the district and is currently undergoing architectural review and design. But once you get inside...
We don't have the eye popping API of Madera or Hilltop but we have been making steady improvement over the past 4 years with a stable and capable administrator and a faculty and staff committed to collaborating around the focus of a safe, respectful, and challenging environment where all students succeed to the best of their abilities and beyond. There is no majority of any economic, racial, or ethnic group and students come from families that speak about 19 different langauages including English.
We are a full inclusion school for students with a variety of disabilities including severe ones. Full inclusion means these students are in the classroom participating fully with regular ed students, with assistance and accomodations as needed. This is what prompted me to send my own children here. Through observational visits at a variety of schools before my first child was to enter K, I found that Castro demonstrated a markedly different climate and definition diversity. Students at all grade levels were learning an openess and acceptance that I had not yet learned as an adult. Social skills, inclusion, and problem solving are woven into every curriculum area.
The teachers have diverse backgrounds and are committed to on-going training. A few years ago we all committed to and participated in diversity training and teacher instruction on differentiation to enhance and assure our committment to meet the needs of all students. We have 5 Ed Fund Teacher of the Year Award winners, 1 Eukel Award winner, at least 7 people with master's degrees and multiple credentials, 2 teachers working towards National Board Certification, Master teachers for CSUEB and St. Mary's, 4 teacher advisors for the Developmental Studies Center, and 2 lecturers for Holy Names, St. Mary's, and/or CSUEB teacher education programs. Two years ago The Bay Guradian listed Castro as one of the Bay Area's ''hidden jewels''.
We currently have under 300 students because folks don't ask or bother to come on to the campus for a visit. We've been so busy with our focus on student success (academic, behavior, and social) that we don't have time to get out and sell ourselves. So...Thanks for asking! Linda
I am looking for a current review of Castro Elementary school. The last posted review was from 2002 My daughter starts Kindergarten in fall 2006. Also do they have after school care? plc
We moved to El Cerrito recently and now our closest school would be Castro Elementary school. I looked up the website and the posting I found is from 1999. Has anybody from the list their child at Castro? Can anybody talk about their experience with this elementary school. Are there a lot of problems with the students? How are the teachers, especially for kindergarten and 2nd grade? Kate and Frank
Things we liked about Castro: diverse student body: ethnically, economically and full inclusion of disabled students. Seeing my son grow emotionally as he came to terms with a classmate's disability was amazing.
My son really learned a lot in the 2 years he was there; his reading and math skills progessed rapidly. There are concerns at the school that if you teach to the middle of the class, you are ignoring the needs of the more advanced and the slower children. This was a concern of mine, as I felt my son could be doing more advanced math work. I spoke with his teacher several times about it, but we never came up with a plan to address this. I suppose I ended up not pursuing it because I decided to just go with the school curriculum, and my son was not bored. I attribute his lack of boredom to the skill of his teacher, Mrs. Becker, who he had for both K and 1st grade. She was very good at working with the range of kids in her classroom. There were kids with behavior problems in the class and she was pretty proficient at not letting them slow down the whole class. I don't know if Castro has more problem kids than Kensington, but the teachers do have the experience to deal with these kids. I think there are a sufficient amount of good teachers at Castro.
An active PTA, albeit a small group of people. If you have ideas, bring them to the PTA and things can get implemented.
The new principal last year (Nicole Vedder) is still there this year and seems intent on making some positive changes as well. She instituted a ''reading block,'' a period of time in the morning, when all the classes are focussing on reading; maybe a way of pushing the teachers to get with the program.
Re afterschool care, we enrolled our son in Casa de Ninos, a home daycare. They have a van to pick up the kids and they are enrolled in all kinds of programs: windmill gymnastics, piano, art classes; they do a lot of creative things there.
Personally I felt very happy to be attending our neighborhood school; this actually tied me to my community in a way that did not exist in the years I had lived here prior to my son starting kindergarten.
Things we didn't like about Castro; some of which are not exclusive to Castro.
Inadequate adult supervision during yardtime, at recess. The school had identified this problem and was working toward a solution last year; I don't know if they have come up with something this year. The 1st-3rd graders are on the yard together. My son would report that older kids would take the ball he had brought up from the classroom; this was stressful to him, but there was no further harm to him.
There is a lot of teaching toward the test-taking which begins in 2nd grade. For example, beginning in kindergarten, the worksheets often include little bubbles to darken, so they will know how to do it at testtime. The curriculum is the same for all the area schools, so Castro vs Kensington is no different. This is actually why we switched schools.
Castro vs Kensington: Kensington has tons more parent participation which is a real benefit, however there is also a different social scene there. Kids have more there, so there is more ''keeping up with the Jones'' type of thing. For example, some kindergarten kids at Kensington had gameboys, so all the kids wanted them. At Castro, gameboys were an expense that only some families would incur, so it was a non-issue for us. At Kensington, all the kids in a class might sign up for the city soccer team together; so there is a real cohesion between the families. At Castro, we signed our son up for soccer and baseball and there were 0-3 kids from his class on the team, which was a shame. However, he made friends from other schools, and kids from all the area elementary schools go to Portola and El Cerrito high.
Which brings me to my next point. Mr Fabini is the chemistry teacher at El Cerrito High. His youngest is at Castro now. He says that in high school you can't tell which elementary school the kids went to; what you can tell from the kid is how involved his/her parents have been in the child's education. This is really what clinched my decision to go with Castro.
I hope you'll consider giving Castro a try! jennifer
Castro Elementary School - A public school in El Cerrito
My daughter began at Castro last year - 2nd grade - after her first two years at Fairmont, also in El Cerrito. She switched because we moved, not due to any major problems at Fairmont. We are now completing our second year at Castro, and this year my son entered kindergarten there. My husband and I are mostly happy with the school. I am on the board of the PTA, which is run by a handful of really devoted, really great people, and I look at them and think - well, if they're still hanging in with the public school system, and this school in particular, then I can too. I had a similar experience at Fairmont. WCCUSD is a district full of problems, and Castro has its share of problems, both with the students who come from less than ideal family situations and from the administration. Some pros about Castro: its a fairly small school -300 some students, I believe, and its grounds and buildings are pretty decent. It serves alot of handicapped and disabled children (it is a full inclusion school), so there is an aide in almost every classroom for each handicapped/disabled child. Dealing with kids with different abilities/limitations/differences therefor is a matter of course for the kids at Castro. There are some really great teachers at Castro, the school has computers in every classroom. Sarah
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