Private schools--Any major red flags to share?

I know that selecting a school is a very personal and child-specific decision-- But does anyone have any major red flags they want to share about The Berkeley School? Golestan? Prospect Sierra?

Admissions decisions come out this week and we need to accept an offer by March 24. Just curious if any parents out there have strong feelings they would want someone to know about any of those schools? I would love to hear any dealbreakers before we commit to a school.


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I would advise that you speak with as many current and former parents as possible. Our children attended Prospect Sierra and had a mixed experience. In our time there, the lower school was much stronger than the middle school, where the teaching ranged from excellent to poor. Some teachers were creative, invested, and really cared about the intellectual development and skill building of our kids, while others did not and were more concerned with fulfilling a political agenda. The administration has changed quite a bit in the past few years, and I am not current on what that experience has been like. But if I had to do it again, I would have looked at a broader range of school with a stronger academic program.

My child is in 7th grade at Prospect Sierra. Entered the school in 6th grade. We are blown away by the quality of instruction as well as the thoughtfulness of the social/emotional approach. My child always did really well in math but *hated* it and thought she was not a math person. Prospect Sierra has completely turned that around for her, all without dumbing anything down. In addition to continuing to test well above average, she now loves the subject. I credit the excellent teaching she got in both 6th and 7th grade for that turnaround. The science instruction has also been excellent; it is hands-on (and was impressively so even when we were in distance learning) and manages to capture her imagination very well. She is fired up to do science now too. I read her 10-page, detailed progress report, and it is evident that all of her teachers know her well and are thinking critically about where she needs to improve. I can't say enough good things about the school.

I've also been very impressed with the clarity and quantity of communication from the school. This pandemic has been so challenging, but compared to the communication I've been getting from admin at my other child's school, Prospect Sierra has been outstanding.

I read your post and wanted to respond right away, even though it’s late! First, congratulations on having great school choices. I don’t have red flags to share and can’t speak to all the schools you named, but I wanted to share my strongest recommendation for Prospect Sierra. It’s an amazing place and we’ve chosen it twice. Our family has a current sixth grade son at Prospect Sierra and our daughter, a high school freshman, is a recent alumna. We are thrilled to be part of the school community and think highly of the programming the students are getting. Both of our kids started in sixth grade knowing no other students well. We live in Oakland. Prospect Sierra did a fantastic job both times through at August orientation, with staff helping kids connect with each other and those friendships have continued to grow. Our daughter was there during pandemic lockdowns and distance learning and I can’t imagine a school having handled what was a tough situation better than they did. Students find classes interesting and we’ve found that teachers are skilled, creative and caring. They know and understand our kids and many parents have shared their appreciation for the school’s approach to knowing kids and seeing them as individuals deserving of respect and care. My kids have loved their advisory classes and built lasting relationships in them. They have been deeply inspired by the arts and we are grateful that visual arts, drama, and music are so highly valued and such a regular part of school life. Our son has enjoyed staying afterschool for Art Club and our daughter was captivated by the drama program throughout her middle school experience. In addition, our kids have loved the enrichment offerings, which have recently led our son to discover ultimate frisbee. As a high school student now, our daughter has so appreciated how well Prospect Sierra prepared her. She developed strong Spanish language skills in addition to her English, math, and science skills and has been able to excel in high level classes as a result of what she learned there. Finally, it’s been such a wonderful and welcoming school community full of fun, learning, and connections. Students develop so much over their time at Prospect Sierra, as students and as caring and informed members of their communities. Good luck with your decision! We highly recommend Prospect Sierra! 

My daughter has been at Golestan since the first year of preschool (age 2) and she is in third grade now (age 9). She is happy, thriving, and loved by her teachers. Golestan is a truly special place -- it is a multicultural environment with a focus on kindness and community. The teachers are so loving and wonderful. I never worry about how she's doing at school.  Learning is individualized and children are supported at whatever place they are. There is a lot of room and space to just be a kid and of course, the farm-to-table chef makes the most amazing food so I never have to worry about packing a healthy lunch or snack. It's an intimate environment and class sizes are small. The campus is incredibly beautiful -- they have paid attention to every detail, from an edible garden to patios for outdoor learning. It's just a lovely place to learn in. We love Golestan!

Hi there!

Perhaps you already chose a school but I wanted to give a shout out for Golestan. This is our third year at the school and we love everything about it— every time I walk on to campus I feel such gratitude to be a part of the school and wider community.

The administration is highly communicative, thoughtful, caring for their staff, and innovative. Yalda, their ED, is always available if needed though her team is highly capable as well. We feel we are in the best hands in an increasingly challenging school landscape of Covid risks and fire seasons.  Rather than a transactional feel, Golestanfosters a strong sense of community and belonging among the staff, students and their families.

We couldn't think of any better teachers to entrust our daughter with and for her to look up to as role models. The teachers are so flexible and creative, providing individualized care to each student's needs.  We know they are nurturing our daughter's love of learning, critical thinking and curiosity which are essential for leading a life of meaning, connection and resiliency.  The highest recommendation comes from our daughter who says "I like my school so much it makes me want to stay there forever and ever and ever. And I love my teachers so much!"

Oh! How could I forget the amazing fresh food, the language/cultural learning, outdoor classrooms, field trips, soccer, garden and music classes! The list goes on! You won’t regret choosing Golestan :) Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 

Hi! I have two children at Golestan and highly recommend it. My oldest started in Kindergarden and my youngest started in preschool; they’re now in K and 2nd grade. Golestan is a small school with a warm family-like community. The children are very loved, and are taught a global socially-conscious curriculum. The teachers pay very close attention to each child and have worked collaboratively with us to ensure their needs are being met. Also, they are fed delicious healthy meals that are cooked on site; my children especially love when the food they harvest from the garden is part of their daily lunch or snacks, or when they get to partake in cooking themselves. We wholeheartedly recommend Golestan!

Prospect Sierra was not a good experience for us in Elementary. By first grade, it was so academic and rigid, that my child got so stressed and overwhelmed they started to fall apart.  Many kids at the school have outside tutors and learning specialists just to be able to keep up - and this starts in 1st grade!  They also did a horrible job with diversity equity and inclusion - although they talked a good game - the unconscious bias against black and brown kids, boys in particular, was rampant.  My child (who is an african american male) would regularly get in trouble for things that white boys were doing (for example - and there are many instances like this - if my kid was in the library with two white kids and they were being noisy, my child was the one who got reprimanded). I know there are a lot of great things about the school too - but just wanted to let you know about some of the negatives that we experienced.