Concerned about placement at Thousand Oaks

Hi, my multi racial family just moved to Berkeley from Boston. We moved to Berkeley instead of Oakland largely from folks reviews of the public schools, but then our Kindergartener got placed at our last choice school. Is there anyway to appeal it? I was not impressed with equity reports of Thousand Oaks, or the statistics on Black kids at the school as compared to white ones. Any insights would be great! After moving cross country I’m just so worried about finding a good fit for him. We were hoping for Rosa Parks as he has a very intense interest in science and nature, another top choice for us was Sylvia Mendez because he has previously been in a spanish immersion preschool and is bilingual. I really can’t afford/don’t want to send him to a private school but am considering it as I think these early years, especially with our huge transition, are so important. Anyone have a kindergartner at Thousand Oaks? Any of the other schools private or public in the area you’d recommend? Anyway to get a placement change? I am looking for a diverse school with a good science program. 

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Hi, there. While it's been a few years since our child went to Thousand Oaks, many of the same wonderful teachers are still there. We regularly talk about how lucky we were to have those equity-focused teachers; people who took a personal interest in our child to help her work on controlling her intense feelings and learn to get along with other children. I was volunteering on campus every day, so I got to see a lot of love and caring in action on that campus. In addition, Ms. Sylvia, who runs the office, is amazing. She has set up programs specifically for children of African descent to help build community. As a matter of fact, we were just visiting the school in late August to say hi to Ms. Sylvia (and also got to see Teacher Jeni!) when another new family was getting registered, and overheard Ms. Sylvia's warm welcome and invitation to the school and to the special program, and to come talk to her if she ever had any problems. Of course, we aren't a family of color,  so I can't speak to that experience. But I think that all of the Berkeley public schools are strong in different ways. I'd recommend visiting and getting a feel for the vibe of the place before you make any moves. I wish you and your family the very best!

No thoughts on Thousand Oaks, but wanted to recommend the West County Mandarin School, a traditional public school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. It's very diverse, and (at my last check) about 30% of the students are black. And the staff are diverse -- two of the teachers are black (one English teacher and the PE teacher), many staff are Latino, and all the Mandarin teachers are Asian.

It's in central Richmond, right off of Arlington. It'd take you about 15 minutes to get there. You'd apply for an interdistrict transfer. In past years, there have been a few families from North Berkeley. The school's become more popular, so it might become harder to get in. But you can always just add yourself to the waitlist. 

It's a great school. My black son is thriving there!

https://wcmspta.org/

If you are interested in looking at private schools nearby, our family was very happy with Black Pine Circle.  Lovely community of parents and kids.  The head of school, John Carlstroem, is amazing (and his daughter went to BPC), and he really sets the tone and vision for the whole school.  Teachers are excellent and experienced.  Great science program.  In the lower grades (K-5) they teach Spanish; once your child gets to middle school (6-8) they can take Spanish or Mandarin Chinese.  I highly recommend you check it out.

I was right there in your position. I saw the stats and was concerned by the achievement gap and the disciplinary inequities that fell along racial lines. We are white but are upset by the imbalance.  We also have boys and were not looking forward to the possibility of our boys getting also penalized for not meeting the usually stereotypically girl standards of behavior..

We are now 5 weeks in and are cautiously optimistic I went to the back to school night and first assembly and was pleased with the embracing of diversity and welcoming vibe. There is a new principal starting her second year and I’m hoping there will be a reversal of policies. It seems like a very sweet, positive and inclusive community.

That said, my only concern thus far has been the use of sending my kid out of the classroom as a consequence. He got very excited by an unusual and verrrrry interesting event going on outside, then  had to narrate it. He didn’t settle in quickly enough, so he got sent to the neighboring classroom and missed an academic lesson.

I sent an email and let it be known I am not in favor of   making my kid miss an instructional opportunity as a consequence. Basically wrote we needed to come up with alternate ways of intervening that don’t deprive him of learning opportunities. If it happens again I’m calling an SST for a behavior plan that lays  out methods that don’t make him lose instructional time. So that’s my hunch  as to what may be happening. Teachers who are not culturally and/or behaviorally  savvy may be over intervening with methods that are not only ineffective but rob kids of learning opportunities and can create a vicious cycle of not getting the appropriate corrective experience from the intervention, falling behind with repeated ineffective interventions and then acting out as a way of avoiding academics that are now harder due to loss of instructional time.

So, as a parent, be alert to what is happening at school,. If a pattern of inappropriate interventions is  happening, call an SST and request a written behavioral intervention plan. 

But overall, I am pleased. But as goes with any school just stay aware and if there's an issue that comes up, address it immediately and insist upon interventions and  consequences that are constructive  and effective. Forcing lost instructional time does not teach the desired behavior, and if used too much can create an achievement gap. Hopefully the new principal will nip that practice in the bud. 

Be aware, but keep the faith, it could go really well!

My daughter (now in college) had many friends who went to Thousand Oaks who received a great education there and liked it. I had my three kids all on the waiting list to get into Sylvia Mendez (back then it was spread out over three BUSD schools), and they all did get in! but it took 1-2 years. Lastly, I want to say that I know the statistics look bad for black kids in public Berkeley schools. Because of that, a lot of middle class African American families pay for private school. So the statistics you see mostly apply to the mostly lower income African American families who are the ones who remain in BUSD at the moment. Hope that helps!

Our son is in 1st grade and loves the school. His kindergarten teacher was amazing and his first grade teacher has been awesome, too. He loves going to school everyday and has a passion for learning. The school is incredibly diverse, both racially and economically. He has classmates whose parents are academics, doctors, lawyers and tech execs. But he also has classmates who have struggled with homelessness. So it should come as no surprise that some kids don't receive the academic support at home that others do. And the test scores probably reflect that. But, when I go to school events, I see parents of all different backgrounds doing everything they can to support their kids and the school. If the measure of a good school is its test scores, then TO has its issues. But if you're looking for a school with a diverse population that reflects our community, then TO is a great place to be.