Piedmont, Hillcrest, or Head Royce?

I would love to hear about families' experiences with Piedmont Unified, Head Royce, and / or Hillcrest. I'd appreciate perspective about the quality of education as I look ahead for a mid-elementary child who is an independent, creative thinker. I am also interested in hearing about the culture of the school communities, both of families and faculty. My child genuinely loves science (and used to love art, though that's waned recently) and thrives when challenged academically, and we would like an environment where the students and teachers are engaged in learning, but ideally not a teach-to-test or pressure-cooker environment. I don’t need opinions on getting into any of these schools or on where to live, but am interested in hearing about what the academic and social experiences have been like for families who have recently been enrolled. I've read all the BPN posts on these various schools, almost all pre-Covid, but if anyone is able to compare any of the schools all the better. Our preference in many ways is for public school, but we are open to private starting in 6th. Thank you in advance for any responses!

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If you join the Piedmont community you are in for a facilities treat.  A new high school STEAM building was completed last Fall and it is supported by a very large and advanced local maker community.  The new high school theater building is scheduled for completion by this Fall.  I think at least one more high school building will be rebuilt from the ground up, following the current project.  In parallel to all this activity, the community pool facilities are expected to be redesigned and rebuilt by 2024.

Piedmont elementary could do a better job of supporting its advanced learners but there are notable if infrequent efforts to group students briefly for differentiated tasks in math during regular school hours.  In spite of this, our daughter was still bored.  There is no district support for putting advanced learners in a separate track at the elementary level.  On the one hand this could be viewed as a disservice to advanced learners.  On the other hand, these kids are spared the parental pressure of getting into certain tracks.  If you value mental health, Piedmont is a good place to be at any grade level.  I reached out to PUSD's Dr. Wozniak years ago with questions before we moved and she was very receptive then.  You might consider calling or emailing her with any specific questions.  A lot will depend on her workload of course and how much extra work my little comment here generates.  :)

We've had our kids in private schools prior to Piedmont and there's really no substitute for small class sizes (<16) and high co-teacher to student ratios (1:10 or less).  Co-teaching is definitely better than teacher + aide, and some private schools have two co-teachers plus an aide in each classroom of <16 students.  Differentiation works well in small classes because they can track groups of students and still keep them together.  Piedmont's classes are not the largest but they are not private school sized either.

As long as expectations for Piedmont (or any public school district) are reasonable, your family will probably be pretty happy.  One interesting dynamic is that the recently passed proposition for more flexibility in carrying a lower property tax basis to a new home may be generating more home sales in Piedmont.  With more tax revenue and a potentially growing base of families with school-aged children, we could be on the cusp on a new golden era in community support of public schooling, as strong as it already is now.