Berkeley elementary schools -Washington compared to Malcolm X

Hi all,

im new to this group so forgive me if I’m missteping on protocol or repeating a question that’s been asked before but we are a queer divorced co parenting family with an 8 year old (with a new diagnosis ADHD and general anxiety disorder) and a 5 year old about to move from SF to Berkeley into the central district and wondering about these two schools and based on our needs with our 8 year old and our family structure which school might be best and why. Thanks in advance for your thoughts/perspective/insight. 

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Hi there, I don't know about Malcolm X (although my son have friends there and they are very happy) but I can tell you about Washington. My son is in kindergartner and he loves going to school. It's a very friendly community and they organize a lot of things for the kids and for the families to be involved (the next big event is the Washington mini Pride!).

I think both are good schools. A thing to keep in mind though is that Malcolm X is a very big school, that was what brought me to choose Washington instead. Good luck!

We moved to Berkeley two years ago. Moving at the end of the school year, our daughter was placed in 2nd grade at Washington while our son was placed in TK at Malcolm X.

In the first few months we had 3 conferences with the Washington principal. One after our daughter asked a boy not to cut in line and he demanded she apologize or he would go get the gun in his bag and "shoot her in the face". This was reported to us as him being "verbally mean". Did they not think that she would tell us the details? Another was about a different boy who had been bullying her since day two of school. We reported it immediately, but nothing was done, and went in after he said he would break her arm if she didn't give him a communal item. The third one involved her being punched in the face on the school bus home, by a third boy. That is an automatic suspension in BUSD, but it did not happen in this case. In every case we were told to consider the difficult home life of these boys (of course no details could be shared). Meanwhile, at MX, our son was enjoying forest school days, show and tell ... and no-one threatening him with gun violence or pretending it didn't happen.

After talking to other Washington parents, including an early childhood educator who moved her daughter to a private school because they also could not get a resolution to bullying and threats, we did as advised and went to the district office and talked very loudly at the desk about what was going on. We were quickly ushered into a back room and told that our application for a transfer would be taken seriously. Our daughter was re-assigned to MX at the end of the year.

Second awesome year at MX for our son, and first one for our daughter. A very diverse and welcoming teacher and parent community. Gardening classes are particularly wonderful. My kids actively want to make kale salads, and they'll tell me all about ecology while we make one. Art is great. Dance classes, some music education. Lunch is the low-point: The cutbacks to BUSD's budget are so severe they can't afford to pay the teachers for a day long enough for more than 15 minutes scheduled for each class to eat. No access to you food outside of that time. On a day some PTA members dropped in a large number of children who receive free hot lunch weren't even given their lunches, because things were behind schedule. So teach your kids to each fast. Also, we were somewhat dismayed when 7 gunshots heard clearly in the yard did not lead to a lockdown because it wasn't happening on school property. SW Berkeley can be gritty. But kids aren't the target. Read Berkeleyside.

All the above is anecdotal. I believe many children at Washington were having a better experience. But the way things were handled by the principal inspired no confidence, and we were not the only ones to move their child. Today Berkeley's public school teachers are in Sacramento demanding a livable wage. I could not do what they do, and thank all of them for their service to humanity.

We divorced during this time, and our son received an ADHD diagnosis, though unusually neither of his teachers suspected it based on his behavior. We've not pursued an IEP yet, so I can't provide feedback on that aspect. But at all times our family has been treated with dignity and compassion at MX. Not so much at Washington.