Best school culture East Bay & beyond?

Hello Parents! 

It is easy to look up school scores but am wondering if you know what public jr high and high schools have very good SCHOOL CULTURES overall. By this I mean, the students are engaged in school, value learning and doing well, but also there is not so much pressure that it breaks kids from the stress of mountains of homework and cut throat competition and grading. Schools where drugs and alcohol and bullying and violence are non existent or extremely minimal. Looking for a school that has a student body that is kind, inclusive and supportive of each other. Where a variety of extracurriculars are supported including the arts, dance, theatre, music, foreign languages, and sports.  Not sure if this exists at all but hoping maybe some schools come close. Would appreciate your feedback. Particularly interested in the following areas: LaMorinda, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Albany, Fremont, Berkeley, El Cerrito.

Many thanks for your time and help

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My daughter thought the school culture at El Cerrito was fine. She felt academically challenged, not overly pressured, and felt safe. El Cerrito is not too big and has a closed campus, and she really thought that helped the culture. There is quality music, sports, dance, academics. We had the option of moving to Berkeley or Piedmont, and she did not want to leave El Cerrito.

You're asking a very broad question, which is probably why you didn't get many answers. I think a lot depends on your family's values and what you prioritize for your child's education. That said, we've definitely thought a lot about this issue with two kids now in middle school and high school. We sent them to our local public school (not fancy) for elementary. No frills, bells, or whistles, and lots of kids coming to school not prepared to learn. We made changes for middle school; sent one to private and one to a higher-performing public district. The most noticeable difference is kids coming to school with family support/encouragement/motivation. The achievement curve is much higher simply because the families are backing up the teachers at home. The public middle school is more academic than the private one but I don't sense we're going to be in a Horace Gunn or Lowell pressure-cooker situation in high school (but ask me again in two years!). I don't hear of much negative social behavior although there was a very inappropriate Insta run by a student at the public middle that apparently was hard to shut down. This is leading me to think that there's not going to be any middle/high school "free" of bullying/drugs/alcohol, but certainly the latter two have not come up in our experience at either middle school yet. To sum up, you probably need to refine your list to your family's top priorities for education and go from there.

It sounds like you are looking to move? Are you moving from within the Bay Area or out of state? I think it would help to drive around these neighborhoods and figure out where you want to live, and narrow down your choices. If you use a real estate agent choose one who specializes in a specific neighborhood and ask them about the schools, they probably had kids in that area and know the schools well. Maybe if you narrowed down your choices, you can get better responses about the specific schools in that city.