Feedback about Park Day School & St. Paul's

Hi there--we've applied to a number of public and independent schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten this coming fall. We have narrowed it down to 2 schools that we really, really like. We find St. Paul's very strong in terms of academics, diversity, and overall fit with our family. Park Day School's outreach and communication has been superb, and we're also really impressed with the school and could definitely see our child there. However, it doesn't appear as diverse (in teaching staff) as St. Paul's. We're really having a tough time deciding between these schools and would love to hear from parents who were similarly conflicted and why they ultimately made the choice they did. Also would love to hear about any other thoughts in general about both schools.

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We're parents of a little one who's in 1st Grade at Park Day; this is our first year at the school. Diversity in teaching staff was one of the most important things on our list. As same sex, mixed parents of our little adoptive family, the fact that our son can look up to his principal and see a smart, compassionate, loving man of color, is something that can hardly be matched. We left Southern California because we felt that it was not a safe enough place to raise our African American son. At Park Day, he sees teachers and staff that look like him in nearly every leadership position (especially male teachers of color, which are often so hard to find in most schools). He sees men and women of varied ethnicities, ages, backgrounds, LGBTQ staff and students, as well as other kiddos who have adoption stories like him. On top of this, the school has a "Social Justice Initiative", or SJI, whose focus is to constantly broaden the scope of hiring, making the school ever more diverse and inclusive with each new hire. Then there's also the "Diversity & Justice Alliance" which works on creating cultural competency, advocating for POC at the school, educating and inspiring parents, staff and students with various types of outreach to create, again, an ever-more diverse campus that is constantly growing. In short, what we don't see at Park Day, we feel we can create. The staff are so open, engaged and excited here, it's truly empowering. We feel extremely blessed to have our kiddo here at this school.

We are at one of these schools and have many friends at the other (and most of us considered both). Based on our collective experiences, they are both great and neither is perfect. A lot comes down to the details of how a school will fit your child and your family. PDS has an incredible campus and maker space. They wrote the book (literally!) on progressive education in the East Bay. St. Paul's seems more academically rigorous with a somewhat more traditional approach, and has more extensive engagement with the greater Oakland community. They have a service learning focus vs. PDS' social justice focus. Both have strong emphases on social-emotional learning. St. Paul's is generally more diverse in both student body and in staff (and many families seem to choose it for that reason). Visual arts seem stronger at PDS (at least in lower elementary), while St. Paul's has the chapel program and a strong performing arts/public speaking focus. Many kids who would be happy at one would also thrive at the other--they are more similar than they are different, in my opinion. Talk to current or recent parents for some of the recent hiccups at each school. Overall, I would be happy to have my child at either school. Most families we know (including our own) chose one over the other based largely on proximity (many neighborhood families at both schools, although plenty from farther away too) or financial aid offers.

My daughter went to St. Paul's from Kinder through 8th grade. I loved most everything about the school (no school in the world is perfect) but a big deciding factor was the diversity of the entire school community, students, teachers and administrators. Over the years there were changes in staff and students but it always remained diverse. There are also a lot of male teachers, many of whom are people of color, which is great because in my experience that is not common. St. Paul's is a great school whose students graduate as lovely and caring young adults.

I am the parent of a multiracial St. Paul's kindergartener. My partner and I looked at Park Day and St. Paul's as well as several others. Although Park Day has a stunning campus we found the diversity at St. Paul's to be more important to our decision. At St. Paul's about 1/3rd of the staff are people of color and almost 2/3rd of the students are of color and almost half the admin are as well. We want to have our child have role models that look like her, to have teachers and people in leadership roles around her that are form diverse backgrounds. We were definitely on the fence about where to send our child but found that St. Paul's really aligned with our values. We are very pleased with our choice and feel like our daughter has really blossomed in the St. Paul's environment. We have felt welcomed into the community and culture of the school. The place and staff feel really integrated into our town Oakland. The support form the school has been excellent. As a final note I will say that the other day I discovered a book our daughter had made. It was full of pictures of what I thought were princesses, something which I am luke warm about in terms of an ideal but each was a different color. I asked my daughter who these wonderful people were and she proceeded to name her classmates. Good luck with your decision. 

I am a parent of a 3rd grader at St. Paul's, and he has been there since kindergarten.  Like you, I visited and applied for several public and private schools, but St. Paul's was my first choice and I could not be happier when we got in.  This feeling has continued to grow since then.  My son is engaged, has lots of friends and is excelling  academically. The teachers support his strengths as well and gently challenge his growing areas.  The school is truly diverse both in terms of its staff and student body.  There is a multitude of cross cultural/mixed race couples like us. My son is being exposed to and held in an environment that diversity, inclusion, understanding and acceptance are of upmost importance.  This has been reflected in the way my son handles himself when he meets other people. This is practiced weekly at Chapel, where the whole school meets to either celebrate a holiday from a given culture or religion, or to listen to a student presentation about kindness or civil rights.  Also, I feel that at any point when I need to clarify something with his teachers, or need to speak with the administrative staff I am welcome and my issue is fully addressed.  I have a real sense of belonging to a community that cares.

Greetings - My wife and I are a parent of a current St. Paul's Kindergartener. It's our first year in the school and we also had the hard choice of making the decision b/t St. Paul's and Park Day. We had a couple friends/neighbors attending Park Day and it was indeed a very close call.  St. Paul's ended up being our #1 choice and the main factor was hands down diversity. Park day seemed ideal, but at the end of the day we needed a school that ultimately looked and felt like the city / world we live in... and we love the fact that St. Paul's is truly [in] Oakland.  Not only is the staff and school incredibly diverse. But we feel incredibly lucky to have a school in the heart of the city and next to the lake. St. Paul's acknowledgement and commitment to Oakland is unrivaled as it leads as a community-based school to diversity, service learning and academic excellence. You see it and feel it day in and day out.  I'd choose St. Paul's again for my child. 

      My grandchildren attend St. Paul's and are thriving academically and socially.  The diversity is important to our racially and culturally blended family.  I am a retired public school teacher and I think all children should have access to this quality of education.


      My children are in 1st grade at Park Day and like you, our family also liked St. Paul's School.  These two were our top schools.  We decided to join Park Day for several reasons:  We loved the school's teaching and learning philosophy.  The design and make emphasis and project-based learning is something that is key for us.  Our children have always loved learning and we wanted to do our best to help cultivate their curiosity, motivation and excitement about learning.  Our little kindergarteners are now these self-confident, outspoken, happy 1st graders who continue to love learning. This is only our second year at Park Day and our children are excelling in core academic areas, they have also made their own designs and have executed their project to create their designs, they have learned about change makers from different parts of the world, and have also learned to ask and answer questions in manner that exceeds our expectations for their young age.  They are currently doing research for their 1st grade project, and all this learning happens in a very developmentally appropriate manner.  One of the things that we appreciate the most is how Park Day's staff and teachers are very intentional about how learning happens.  They teach children to think.  Diversity was also very important for us.  I am happy that my daughters get to see people of color as their role models from our Head of School to teachers to students in upper grades.  Also, Park Day has a very active community of families of children of color, and this group provides my family and children with a nurturing circle, which I think is crucial for children of color who attend independent schools.  The different parent committees that work toward with staff in improving diversity and cultural competency and the Families of Children of Color affinity group are part of the reason why we also chose Park Day.  I think that their existence is really a testament of the school's commitment to their vision of social justice.  I was very driven by these groups and they made me want to join the community.  In addition, Park Day has a beautiful campus and we also wanted to provide our children with a school experience that can make them feel inspired and offer them an opportunity to be children and be outdoors.  Our children have participated in the After School Activities Program and though the school offers different great classes, we decided to not enroll our children in any of them so they could have some much needed free, unstructured time to again give them the space to just be children and get busy in the beautiful outdoor area.  Best, Happy Park Day parent. 

      Have you made your decision yet?  My daughter is starting kindergarten at St. Paul's this fall.  Would love to connect with you if your child will be going to St. Paul's as well!