Oakland Garden School

Oakland, CA

To view the State's license info—inspections, citations, and complaints—click the License number below. Also see About Childcare & Preschool Reviews.

Childcare Center, Preschool
Tae Ha
(510) 531-4800
ogs [at] oaklandgardenschool.com
Laurel/Redwood Heights
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
24 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Questions

Oakland Garden School(2 responses)

Parent Reviews

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Nature/play-based preschool in the Redwood Heights/Laurel district. My son is now in the 4-5 year old classroom. We started at OGS in the Fall of 2014. The school has a wonderful outdoor space, the classrooms are imaginative and thoughtfully created with children in mind. The school uses an art/nature based curriculum, however if children are showing an interest in a particular topic, the curriculum will often be geared towards current interests. Unfortunately, The staffing has been tumultuous since our very first month. Many teachers left with little to no notice and my son had begun to bond to these teachers. This sparked a domino effect on the rest of the staff. Eventually the assistant director also left. It's sad and frustrating as parents to see instability in a school. Especially one with so much potential. Since then the school has been receptive to parent input and hopefully the staff turn overs will stay in the past.

Archived Reviews: 

April 2016

Hello BPN! Hoping to read some recent reviews of OGS. We're considering this preschool for our daughter, who will be two next fall. We were very impressed with the school and seemed to connect with the director of the last year and a half, Jeanette, during our tour. I saw the negative reviews related to the previous director, and staff turnover, but from what I can tell those issues have been resolved. Would love to hear from recent or current OGS parents about your experiences at the school after Jeanette has come on board. Thanks! Mimi

I enrolled my 4 year old at OGS last year and I've been incredibly happy about it. I was really skeptical because of all the bad reviews, but it turned out to be a great choice. Jeannette is wonderful. She is smart, responsive, and clearly committed to her job and the kids. My daughter is a Pinecone (the oldest grade) and her teachers are fantastic too. There have been some staffing changes, but the two main teachers in her class have stayed the same, and I've been impressed by each new person hired. Given the overall turnover in this industry, which is always pretty high, the turnover hasn't been excessive. The classrooms and outdoor area can't be beat. It was so depressing touring other preschools that were well-regarded and expensive, but had tiny play areas. I couldn't imagine my kid spending her days crammed into a tiny craftsman in Rockridge all day. The parents have all been really wonderful too. People are friendly and each of the social events is well-attended. Very happy with OGS

March 2015

I'd really appreciate some more recent reviews on the Oakland Garden School. It's close to my house, looks great, and sounds wonderful. But the previous reviews have me concerned. I'm wondering if current families can share their experiences — have the same problems continued? Thanks Amy

Our daughter is in her 3rd year at Oakland Garden School. We've been present for many of the ups and downs that previous posters have mentioned. I can honestly say that things are improving. There is now a parent council that meets with school administrators and teachers quarterly. Their main focus right now is teacher retention, which, as it turns out, is not actually a problem at OGS according to retention rates at other pre-schools. Communication between the administration and parents is improving. We chose the school because of the unique outdoor environment, the active parent community and the feeling of ''hominess'' and community that exists here. We also love the chickens, goats, fruit trees and the idea of eating the fruits and veggies that you grow. It is unlike any other pre-school we visited. Most importantly, my daughter is enchanted by the school. She has grown and matured tremendously over the past three years. All of the teachers have been fantastic, they truly love and care for her and they feel invested in her growth. The school is certainly not perfect (no school is, really) and we continue to work through the obstacles as a community. For us, it was the best place for our child and I have no regrets in our choice. Happy OGS Parent

I am a mother of a current OGS student. My child started in the Sprouts and is currently an Acorn. They have one more year of preschool before kindergarten. We are not committed to staying at OGS but we are kind of stuck, in that a transition to a new school would be difficult. More difficult than staying? Ah, the rub.

When my child was three years old, I toured OGS and was totally seduced by the garden and facility. I saw a vibrant, interesting environment in which my child could play and grow. My heart was so happy and optimistic about this ''magical environment.'' They had me at chickens and goats. And hammocks! A yurt! And fruit trees! It is a very unique physical place. The children were - and are - free and inspired to play in nature.

BUT. My love for the idea and the ''magic'' has been replaced with the intellectual understanding of the reality. My child has seen at least six teachers come and go over the past 18 months. That's kind of a big deal for a little person who spends 30-40 hours a week in a place.

Today they announced that the Director is taking a leave of absence. This is the Director who is also an integral part of the fledgling/rebuilding teaching team in my child's cohort, and who has been working with the recently formed parent advisory board to make improvements in the school. Stress was cited as a reason for this person's leave of absence.

The unknowns presented by high teacher turnover are stressful and they hit home. Your kid comes home every day after a few weeks of feeling insecure at school and everything is a mess. There were a few days where I dropped off my child and literally no one acknowledged we were there. It's just weird and uncomfortable for me and my child. My child will live over it, but it is so UNNECESSARY.

Last week they announced a significant fee increase for next year, justified by a desire to give teachers more competitive compensation and benefits. Anyone who has seen the fee schedule can see that it is already well above the regional average for this type of school. We will be paying $1,400 for 5 days. For that kind of $ we could do SO much better.

If I had it to do over, I would keep searching and pass on OGS. I would look for a school has a good philosophy and decently ''magical'' facility and nothing short of glowing reviews (happy families) and low turnover (happy teachers.) It's really not that hard to find (*cough* Skyline Preschool). You want a pygmy goat, go to the zoo.

Stuck OGS parent

Nov 2014

Hello, we are considering Oakland Garden School for our little 18 months old boy. I had a tour of the school and I loved the garden and the space inside. The curriculum seems to be interesting and inspiring too. I appreciate the outdoor activities but I was wondering if the program is a lot play based. I don't want a school too rigid, but something in the middle. Have you experience of OGS? Do you think it would be the right fit for us? Mom on preschool tour

We had an incredibly bad experience with Oakland garden School, in 2012. We had read the cautionary reviews about administrative problems, but assumed that with the director Tae back, they were in the past. It turned out she was/is a big part of the problems. Yes, she is a great landscape designer and I agree, the outdoor space is beautiful. However, the problems we had with her and the rest of the administration far outweighed the beauty of the school.

I asked directly about the problems I'd read about when we toured, and was told they were a thing of the past. However immediately after we signed up and paid our deposit, we were given a multiple-page document that we needed to sign, acknowledging that we had been notified of the multiple incidents they were being investigated for- detailed in the document. You should be able to find these on record with licensing, since as we were leaving they had decided to not contest the charges.

On the positive, the teachers were wonderful and caring. But our favorite teacher left as we were leaving. And they were consistently understaffed in the 2 year old room. One teacher started and then was gone in probably less than a week. There were usually only 2 teachers in the 2 year old room, and often Tae had to serve as a substitute. The outdoor space was beautiful and included farm animals - but the climbing structure/slide was completely off limits to 2 year olds. Which was hard to explain to our 2 year old as he watched kids play on it! The outdoor time was chaotic and under-supervised.

For a program that accepts 2 year olds, we found them to be woefully unprepared to handle normal two year old energetic behavior. But you can see why they do, since preschools that accept two year olds are rare.

We started during the summer when there was low attendance. Once the autumn came and there was an abundance of children and a wait list, we were continually told about how our child was bad, that we weren't doing enough, that we should seek extra help for him, and finally Tai said that his ''special needs'' were too much for the school. But they waited til mid-month in order secure the full month's payment. (They were constantly nickel-and-dime-ing and the endemic money problems become very obvious...) The pushing out of our son was extremely traumatic for him and us and had us worrying and questioning everything we were doing and everything about him, and visiting with specialists. Once we were in a preschool that was wonderful and sane, it was soooo clear where the real problem was! It makes me wish we had left OGS much sooner. Or never begun.

I'm sorry, I know it looks beautiful and the program sounds wonderful, but I definitely do not recommend OGS. See what lies beneath. Talk to parents of children who left the school unhappy. Research OGS' licensing citations.

I will also mention this - I don't know if it has continued, but in 2012, positive reviews of Oakland Garden School to BPN and Yelp, etc could be used to fulfill the parental ''volunteer hours'' and parents were urged to do so. I am sure all reviewers are honestly sharing their experiences, but it seemed a bit...odd. - Hope that helps

Although our experience with Oakland Garden School dates back a few years, so things may have changed, if the same owner(s) are still around we'd recommend you take your child elsewhere. The owners, Tae Ha, and a lawyer friend, were responsible for a great deal of drama which resulted in our leaving. If those same people are involved in any way, it would be no surprise to see frequent, child-disruptive employee turnovers, as did we. anon

If you are seriously considering this school, we strongly encourage you to do thorough research including contacting the licensing agency about OGS.

As all parents do, we did extensive research to find a new preschool when we moved to Oakland. We toured about six schools before deciding on OGS. When we toured OGS, we were so impressed with the play-yard and the director's philosophy on early childhood education. She aspires to create a magical place with a play-based approach to curriculum in a natural environment. We also read reviews about the school online which talked about both the magic but also about some significant staffing issues and mismanagement by the director. Even with those reviews, we decided to send our child to OGS.

When our child started in the Sprouts classroom, OGS was a perfect fit. He became more social, further developed his gross motor skills by climbing and jumping all over that yard, demonstrated creative play, and embraced his spiritual side through yoga and meditation. He made some very good friends and we became involved in the parent community. The parents are awesome at OGS -- they are passionate, dedicated, and warm individuals. The teachers are also wonderful people, each with their own unique interests and talents and all with tremendous care for the children.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the first year, our cohort's lead teacher left the school. After that, it became clear that staffing issues continue to trouble OGS. Over the next eight months, our cohort was directly impacted by six additional teachers leaving. Several left quickly and without a goodbye to the students. The administration failed to provide adequate information about their departure and handled the transitions poorly. This continuous disruption left an instructional void in the classroom and had a significant emotional impact on our child and other children at the school. Over several months, the parent community had to become very vocal about our dissatisfaction for the administration to address the situation, and engage in a degree of "managing up" that was unacceptable.

For a number of reasons, but mainly due to teacher turnover, we decided to withdraw our child from OGS. The specific details about how our child was impacted are not important for this review. Time will tell how the administration ultimately addresses these concerns. We do believe that every child is different and sometimes certain settings aren't the best match. Our child's needs were not being met due to the lack of consistent staffing. We really hope they get their act together because OGS has the potential to be a wonderful place. A former displeased OGS parent

So we also loved the garden and the space inside - in fact, our daughter (3) still occasionally talks about it.

But after a year and a bit at Oakland Garden School (OGS), we took the difficult decision to pull her out because the same problems that people have complained for years started re-occurring.

We kept losing good teachers and kept getting the same response from the administration (it was always the teachers ''poor fit'' or it was ''personal reasons'' that they were quitting). Our concerns were dismissed out of hand, and if we pushed, the responses we got were increasingly disdainful. The magic that was there when we started just sort of faded and all the things we loved about the place were the first things that were dropped. In the end it felt like an expensive day care.

The problems boiled up twice in parent-teacher meetings (that we had to make happen). The second time, we decided we'd had enough and started looking for a new school. We're still in touch with many of the parents (the best thing about the school is the parent network - lovely people) and we hear it's currently getting better. But then having dug into the history of the school and having seen close up the responses and the attitude of those in charge, sadly - and I do mean sadly - I would be amazed if the same problems didn't reoccur all over again in six months to a year's time.

In essence, a lovely building and garden, and a great stated philosophy that keeps attracting good teachers. But really poor management that treats teachers badly causing them to become increasingly withdrawn and then leave. The management is seemingly incapable of seeing how its attitude is the root cause of the problems and so the problems will likely reoccur again and again - as they have done for I think six years now. Such a shame. K

Sadly, I have to agree with so many other parents who have replied to the inquiry about Oakland Garden School. I really wanted to love the school and really wanted it to work for us. Our child attended for more than a year, and there were many points at which I felt we should change schools. We tried to ''hang in there'' with the consistent turnover and lack of professionalism at the administrative level, but eventually we hit a breaking point and had to leave. We loved the parent community and many of the teachers were warm and caring - but few stayed.

The outdoor space is amazing, and unique among other preschools. The philosophy behind the school is great, but the execution of those values fails miserably. The administration would never hear our concerns - our recommendations or requests were met with a blunt ''no'' or, even worse, complete non-response. The turnover is exceptionally high, much higher than the average for day care and preschool settings. We had to laugh when we tried to apply at another school - they asked for a ''head teacher'' or someone who could speak to our child's time at OGS, but there wasn't anyone who had been there long enough to really know anything of relevance.

Our child was negatively labeled - like another reviewer mentioned, staff felt comfortable ''diagnosing'' our child with disorders and asking us to enroll the help of specialists to solve ''behavioral problems.'' All of the specialists we saw, in addition to our pediatrician, found no signs of any disorder and raised concerns with us that staff at the school were not qualified to make such assessments. When we tried to diplomatically discuss these issues with the staff, we were told we were in denial about our child.

All of this was on top of abrupt, sharp increases in tuition without notice, construction projects that changed in scope as they were happening, ongoing feuds with the surrounding neighborhood about the school's violation of its permit, licensing violations, and consistently short-staffed classrooms. It is not a well-run business. After moving to a new school, I realized just how much drama we had at OGS and what it's like to be at a professionally-run school setting. I only wished we had left sooner.

(I also wish OGS didn't offer $60 worth of parent-participation hours for those who post positive reviews - it skews the feedback greatly) Former OGS parent

July 2014

Hello, I've read through the mix of reviews of OGS over the years, but would appreciate updated reviews. For reference, I'm sure my son will be enchanted with the outdoor space and interested in the outdoor/natural focus. He is having a harder time socially (sharing, playing collaboratively instead of doing his own thing) and I'm wanting a preschool that will really help him in this arena. Thank you!

We left OGS years ago, so I cannot give you an updated review and will not go into specifics of past issues. However, please contact licensing: https://secure.dss.ca.gov/CareFacilitySearch/Search/Detailview/013419414#detailview or here for online info: https://secure.dss.ca.gov/CareFacilitySearch/ -past OGS parent

My son has attended OGS since he was 2 and will be leaving for Kindergarten at the end of this year. We're going to miss the lovely environment. My son loves the school, his classmates, and really all the instructors. The school fosters the child's creativeness. Also, I appreciate the tactile learning involved in their projects and themes, especially in the older age classroom; they really dig into a theme so the kids are immersed in a topic like rainforest or carnival. It is truly a student-led learning school. Lots of preschools talk about nature as part of their curriculum similar to OGS, but the difference is that this school has the facility to back it up. It's wonderful to see kids being able to enjoy all the fruits and vegetables growing abundantly at the school.

Yes, administration communication can be better. Teacher turn over can be lower. To the administration credit on communication, they are trying. At the end of the day though, administrative communication doesn't impact the child's experience. It is more of a parental annoyance at least for me. As for the turnover, seems typical of most non-home-based larger preschools. Even with the turnover, the teachers they end up hiring are all so unique and bring a different energy to the classroom that the impact to the classroom is minimal. The students seem to latch on to the new teachers easily. The school does a good job with hiring new personnel in my last 3 years there. I've liked all of my son's instructors. Hope this helps! Satisfy OGS Parent

May 2014

I wish I was in preschool so I could go to Oakland Garden School. Luckily I have a two year old, so I can live vicariously through her.

This place is magical, truly magical. It's outdoor-based, so the kids are in the huge play yard with the chickens, goats, and two school cats. They garden and help to keep the grounds neat and tidy. They do art projects and cooking projects, inside and outside. And they get messy, really messy. Isn't that the sign of a good day, paint on your clothes (and in your hair), dirt on your bottom, and wet clothes? They swing in the hammock, climb the trees (within reason, of course), ride tricycles, play organized and unorganized soccer/t-ball/catch, build sandcastles and make lots of sand pies/cupcakes in the two giant sand boxes, and have some quite extraordinary story times in the yurt. On rainy days, they put on their raincoats/rain boots and jump in puddles. A little rain isn't keeping these kids inside!

There is a curriculum, and I like that, but at this early stage it's more about learning how to behave in a classroom, getting into routines, and socializing. Something that surprised me is that they are teaching the kids to be kind and thoughtful. This wasn't something I was looking for in a school, per se, but it's been a nice thing to see happen. My daughter is on the small side and I've witnessed the bigger and faster kids slow down a bit and give her a turn.

Everyone contributes to make this place as great as it is -- the teachers, the parents, and the kids. The teachers are great. Each classroom has their set teachers, but all teachers at the school know all the kids and all the parents. Parents are required to volunteer 2 hours per month, which is integral to making the school function, but also instills a greater sense of community. There are all kinds of activities too -- bike-a-thon, quarterly family potluck, spring carnival, etc. And the kids, they are encouraged to help keep the yard clean and help fold the towels and help prepare the snacks and help to feed the animals. This isn't a place that my daughter just goes to every day...this is her place, she is a part of it. She helps to make it the way it is.

Lastly, my daughter is really thriving there. She LOVES her teachers and she talks about her friends non-stop. She sings the songs that she's learned there all day, everyday and her ''art'' skills have gone from uninterested lines on a paper to meaningful scribbles to discernible objects! When I pick her up at the end of the day, she wants to show me all that she's done and all that's she's learning. Sometimes I go a little early, just so I can hang out and watch the magic happen. Nicole

Oct 2013

I'd like to chime in on the dozens of other very positive reviews of Oakland Garden School (aka OGS). After 4 years of full-time in-home care, we started both our children full-time at OGS this fall. We were nervous about the change, but it's proved to be very positive for all. The kids love their days at pre-school, and we feel great about having them in such a joyful and nurturing environment, and knowing that they're safe for the day (v. driving around and subject to who knows that out there). As some others said, we looked at many, many other pre-schools before seeing OGS and no other schools felt right. The teachers at OGS are so warm, patient, and loving - and we're excited that our children are learning to be environmentally conscious and kind towards all forms of life, in addition to the basic pre-K curriculum, of course - which is well covered. Any family who joins the strong OGS community will be very happy they did so! OGS Believer

Aug 2013

I wanted to recommend my daughter's preschool, Oakland Garden School. It's an amazing school with an incredible outdoor play space. My daughter started last year and is off to kindergarten in a few weeks. We have been really happy with the school and everything it offers in terms of curriculum and nature based education. The teachers are wonderfully dedicated and really care for the kids. There's always new content to the curriculum and they often rearrange the indoor play spaces for kids to experience new things. While the director is an incredible visionary, her communication style is not great. But the teachers and the play spaces make up for it. We've been really happy there. OGS Fan

Nov 2012

I would like to wholeheartedly recommend Oakland Garden School (OGS) to anyone looking for an incredible play based pre-school in Oakland. Our daughter has been attending OGS for a little under a year and she loves it. I literally toured 11 pre-schools in Oakland/Berkeley before finding OGS, and the minute I entered the premises I fell in love with the place. We love it so much that we've actually been commuting our daughter there after moving to Walnut Creek a few months ago. OGS has wonderful warm, happy, nurturing teachers whose love of their work is immediately evident. The grounds are amazing with fruit trees, goats, chickens, gardens and a yurt. The children spend quite a bit of time outdoors compared to the vast majority of pre-schools out there, which was a huge plus for us. Most of all - the kids are all obviously very happy there... which says it all. OGS takes kids starting a 2 years, and they offer a full day program that caters to working parents. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions. Katherine

Nov 2012

For those looking for a preschool in Oakland, it's really hard to beat Oakland Garden School (OGS). After visiting six others, spanning everything from Montessori to Reggio Emilia, we found that the overall attitude, quality of care and the amazing outdoor spaces really set OGS apart. The school's outdoor area includes well-maintained play areas, a sunken boat, a yurt, chicken coop and goat pens and gardens with fruits and veggies the kids help plant, maintain, harvest and cook! Their focus on Reggio-inspired play-based learning and the integration of nature in their program is unlike any other school we visited. Another great aspect of OGS is the flexibility of the schedule. It's an all-year program with drop-off any time after 7:30 and pickup any time before 6:00. All of this taken with its constantly improving facilities, inspired and inspiring faculty and interesting, diverse and engaged parent community makes OGS a great choice. Maya

July 2012

I have both of my children enrolled at OGS. Initially, I read the reviews here (on BPN) and had my own concerns about the care for my children. However, what OGS did before we ever committed to their school for our children was the following.

1. At the day care tour, they addressed the elephant in the room long before anyone asked questions at the end of the tour. They were very frank and open about the problems they had with staff turnover. Since, they have continued to be very honest and transparent about complaints filed with agencies and problems with previous staff. They have taken actions without prompting to make sure that my family was informed of all of the issues surrounding the day care.

2. They encouraged me and my children to stop by the day care at any time and spend a few hours at the school with no committment. I took OGS up on this offer and introduced my children to the school, other students and teachers long before they were enrolled.

Last, I enjoy talking with and meeting my fellow parents at the school. They are interesting and kind people who I am happy to know.

I find the allegations previously made about OGS to be irrelevant today. My children love Tae, their teachers and the other students at the school.

July 2012

We couldn't be happier at the Oakland Garden School on Maybelle in Oakland. Our 3 year old daughter has been there for a month and is flourishing. The expansive outdoor space with a garden, chickens, and goats as well as the emphasis on a child-led learning and nature-based program was what drew me to the school. And now that my daughter has been there for a month, and I have had a chance to observe the teachers and director and all of the children, I am certain my decision was the right one. I wanted to make sure that anyone considering a play-based preschool for their 2 year old through pre-K children should seriously consider OGS.

The variety of experiences to be had are vast--feeding and taking care of goats and chickens, tending the garden and eating the ''fruits'' of their labors, raking the school yard and learning to compost--all of this can be had at the school. All the teachers, as well as the director, are kind, generous, and thoughtful and love the kids. I've seen several disputes handled with grace and patience. The children are taught to respect each other.

I can't think of a better environment--tons of fresh air, lots of space to really run around, the teachings of respect for each other and the nature surrounding you, love and joy from teachers--to have my daughter spend her preschool years. The fact that she immediately runs into her classroom to start partaking in activities, sometimes without so much as a ''Bye Mom!'' means that she is in the right place.

Come check Oakland Garden School out--it truly is a ''magical'' place, in my opinion, and everyone from the teachers to the director to the parents, work hard to make it so. Kimberly W.

Our 3-year old daughter recently joined Oakland Garden School and loves it! Having attended a daycare center since she was an infant, we were a little concerned about how she'd handle the change - new kids, new teachers, new routine. But the teachers and staff were very supportive and in tune with our needs, helping to ease the transition. We chose OGS because it provides an environment that enables the children to thrive. They offer spacious classrooms with unlimited opportunities for engagement; a huge outdoor and nature area (including a wooden play structure, boat, mural painting board, sand and garden areas - not to mention goats and chickens); a qualified and attentive staff; and a teaching philosophy centered on independence, respect, creativity and guided exploration. We appreciate the daily log on naps and the verbal check-ins from teachers we receive at pick up. Our daughter seems more engaged and excited about going to school than ever. Happy parent at OGS

April 2012

I'd like to emphatically recommend OGS as a wonderful, nurturing, innovative and passionate preschool.

We moved our children to OGS in January and immediately saw the difference it made with them. They protested being dropped off at the old school, now we can barely leave in the afternoon because they want to stay. I believe there are a few reasons for this.

The staff is committed and passionate. Natasha, the site director, has a Masters Degree in early childhood development and a true passion for teaching children. Leading by example, her energy ''trickles down'' to the rest of the staff who are all very good with the children.

The play yard is magical. Tae, the director, who once was a landscape architect, has really brought her vision to life. It's wonderful that our children can connect with nature - interacting with farm animals (chickens & goats), fruit trees and a vegetable garden - while living in the city! In my opinion, outdoor play is the best way for a child to learn and OGS emphasizes several hours of outdoor play everyday.

There's a nice sense of community. All of the parents are committed to volunteering for the betterment of the school. There's a lot of planned events to help raise money for teacher retention, supplies etc. Everybody's very friendly and there's always a pleasant atmosphere. Happier, less stressed parents = happier, less stressed kids.

They were very honest with some of the problems they've experienced in the past - none of which we've seen and seems to be a thing of the past. I also checked their licensing record and besides some small injuries which seemed like overreactions there was nothing that concerned me.

Go OGS! We're happy to be there Bryan H

My kids began attending Oakland Garden School approximately 3 months ago, and I can see the difference between this school and their previous. The kids are so excited in the morning to go to school and find out what project they are going to be doing that day. The educators at this school are so patient with and passionate about the kids. I can see that my children are getting a great education as well as having a great time learning. One of my favorite things is the back yard - full of chickens, goats and fruit trees - which the kids feed and tend to. They also will gather eggs from the chickens and fruit from the trees and bake with them later in the day. The owner of this school is so great and loving to the kids and you can tell that this is her passion. I am so happy that I found this school, and so are my kids! Avital

Sept 2011

Re: Reggio Emilia school in Albany, El Cerrito area?
I would like to recommend a school that is not in that geographic area but is a Reggio Emelia-inspired school that I find totally worth the drive for my daughter. I live farther than Richmond and drive to Oakland Garden School because outdoor play and the Reggio experience are both very important to me. I visited in the spring and my daughter and I both fell in LOVE with the expansive outdoor grounds, the nature-based curriculum, and the beautiful and magical classrooms. You will not find a school with a larger, more stunning outdoor space, which includes egg-laying chickens and goats! It is worth a look if you are truly interested in a Reggio curriculum. My daughter, a gentle and somewhat shy soul, begs to go to school on the weekends and comes home dirty and covered in paint. It is worth it for me to make the drive for the one year she is in preschool before she starts kindergarten. In full disclosure, since enrolling her, I have become a parent volunteer and serve as the school's office coordinator. Driving for the Reggio Experience

August 2011

Oakland Garden School came to my horizon when I was almost too discouraged to look further after touring more than ten schools in the area for my daughter I might have been too specific in my search to measure up my childhood experience in Europe but I was truly committed to find the place where my daughter experiences Nature in her daily routine. What I saw was either too meticulously and commercially designed Montessori type of program with substantial tuition or mass daycare type of programs with more affordable price. I know other parents signed up here for the outdoor space and curriculum but I think there is a true vision to create a place like this. When the director talked about a child's need for day dreams and wonderment,I was so touched and decide to sign up for my daughter. I haven't heard anyone really talked about children in that way for long time..... human and kindness toward children A OGS parent

June 2011

I have been a parent at Oakland Garden School since August 2010 when my daughter began in the ''Sprouts'' 2 year old class. As many other reviews mention, the grounds are magical and the classrooms are welcoming and imaginative. My daughter loves it at OGS and I feel she is very well cared for. She is what you might call a ''slow to warm'' child and transitions have not come easily for her. I was so impressed with how her teachers gently encouraged her to participate at her pace and helped structure her morning transition so it was less traumatic for both of us. When I come to pick her up at the end of the day, she is usually quite dirty, grinning from ear to ear, and cannot wait to tell me about her day. There certainly have been some bumps in the road administratively that as a parent have sometimes been frustrating. However, I have seen some efforts in recent weeks by the director to address the communication concerns many of the parents have and have witnessed some concrete steps to fixing these problems. My daughter will continue at OGS next year, not out of necessity but because I feel the strengths of the school outweigh it's challenges and that these challenges are fixable. The last thing I'll say is that I also love the parent community at OGS. It's a stellar group. Happy OGS Parent

I would recommend Oakland Garden School. My child is 3 years old and loves it there! Every day he comes home sharing new things that he has learned and can't wait to go there in the morning. In fact, on days he does not attend he is always disappointed! The teachers there have created a wonderful environment for the children to explore, discover new things as well as play and have fun being a kid. My favorite aspect of the school is the huge outdoor space with different gardens and animals including chickens and goats. Nothing makes me happier than coming to pick my son up and seeing him digging in the yard with a teacher, building things, or interacting with the animals. The curriculum is play based and teacher Holly is great at following the children's curiosity.

The classrooms are divided up into Sprouts (2 year olds), Acorns (3 year olds) and Pinecones (4 year olds). My son loves his classroom teachers but he also enjoys interacting with all the staff members and they love talking with him. And teachers are accessible and friendly with parents letting them know what happened that day and working as partners with parents.

They have openings in each but I believe they are looking for girls for the 3 and 4 years olds and boys and girls for the 2 year olds. Their number is 510-531-4800.

I'm the father of a three-year-old at Oakland Garden School. Parents and teachers are working hard to make the school the best it can be. Why would we have such commitment if the school were not a place we would want to have our children? There's a great deal of positive movement towards addressing old issues. Meanwhile, my child is thriving as a result of great teaching and the result of a more consistent and stable environment. No school is for everyone, but I find that the nature-based enrichment program, which includes music, art and dance, provides a unique environment for my child. committed parent

May 2011

Our child attended the Oakland Garden School for a year & a half. In that time, we witnessed almost complete turn-over of the entire teaching staff. 10 teachers (who all started out as vibrant & dedicated teachers), that our child had bonded to, either left or were fired in an 18 month period. In the time that we spent there, we attended countless emotional crisis meetings where parents resolved to work together to get things on track, but every three months or so, another crisis would arise (usually sparked by another teacher leaving), and parent's & teacher concerns would never quite get addressed by the administation.

Another major concern of ours was the lack of a reliable substitute teacher pool which often resulted in very high teacher to student ratios. Often sick or injured teachers would come in to work instead of staying home to recuperate.

The school has amazing potential due to its unparalled outdoor space, and has a lovely mission, but it does not provide a stable environment for kids. Since we decided to leave the school a few months ago, two additional teachers have abruptly left the school. If you are considering enrolling at this school, I would urge you to visit the two older classrooms that are both under-enrolled (and almost entirely male) due to waves of families that have left the school for these reasons. -not missing the drama

Our daughter attended Oakland Garden School for one year. Over the course of that year, she had six different teachers - and this is in one class of roughly 15 children. There is more turnover at this preschool than any other school I've ever seen - and I have taught at several schools and have done my homework on dozens around the Bay Area. Because teachers are let go quickly, and because many leave on their own in search of a better work environment, the director is forced to hire in a pinch. Once it becomes clear that these teachers aren't the best choice, the director fires them (or they quit on their own) and the vicious cycle continues.

The upside of this school is the strong parent community. In our year at OGS, we became quite close with the other families - perhaps as a result of the constant state of flux the school was in. We struggled to retain the staff we valued so much, we were constantly trying to remedy the issues with staffing, working with the director and the teachers to find a solution. Unfortunately, after a year of watching at least a dozen teachers come and go from the school, we decided to make a clean break and leave OGS.

It's my belief that a healthy, positive learning environment is one that is stable, an environment where the child feels safe and comfortable. With virtual strangers entering the classroom on a regular basis, this just wasn't the case at OGS.

The school itself is a lovely place with an inviting outdoor space and bright, friendly classrooms. Please don't judge a book by its cover though. Dig deeper if you're considering sending your child here. Do your research - talk to parents, both past and present. Speak with the teachers, ask them how long they've been at the school, how they are treated by the director and the board. There's more to this school than meets the eye.

It's unfortunate that I have to give this school such a negative review. We truly adored the one teacher who was a constant throughout our daughter's year at OGS, Maggie Becerra. Sadly, Maggie has also recently been let go.

Until OGS is able to sort out its issues, I cannot recommend it in good faith to anyone. -anonymousOGSparent

May 2011

The most beautiful preschool!
My three year old son goes part time to the most beautiful and amazing pre school in Oakland. I grew up going to Waldorf and loved the experience of being surrounded by so much nature. When I started looking for preschools for my son, I saw so many that has little or no outdoor, natural environments and felt very saddened by that. Then I discovered Oakland Garden School and never looked back! My son comes home covered in dirt and full of stories about all the activities he did out in the garden all day. He is healthy, happy and full of good energy when I pick him up from school. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that when my child is not with me, he is in such loving hands. I can not say enough good things about this place!

April 2011

RE: Preschool with great outside space?
I recommend Oakland Garden School, where our three-year-old goes to preschool. The outdoor space is large, with fruit-bearing trees as well as shade trees, and chickens and goats living on-site. The school has a nature-based, play-based curriculum that includes as much outdoor time as possible. Children tends garden plots, have art and dance activities outside, and eat lunch in the shade, weather permitting. The indoor spaces are great also, with varied projects, learning activities, science discovery areas, and fun-focused circle time. The school is accepting applications for 2 year olds, and has openings presently for 3-4 year old girls. Contact: ogs [at] oaklandgardenschool.com. Garden School parent

Feb - March 2011

I recently toured the Oakland Garden School for my two year old. While we were impressed I am having a hard time deciphering the past upheavel with many different directors and high teacher turnover. It appears the original director is back, Tae Ha. Can anyone provide insight, when did Tae come back (why did she leave?) and what was last year like in terms of turnover? Have any teachers been there for more than a year? What is the reason so many directors have left? Thanks!

Our son went to Oakland Garden School when he was four. Its a great setting with a great parent community and a great mission BUT... I believe the turnover among the directors was originally started due to a licensing issue. After that, the running of the school was officially handed over to a board of directors. But that was not the main problem we ultimately had with the school. We found much more concerning that discipline was not handled properly. Our son was bullied by three other toddlers, and was afraid to go to school. Over the course of four months, we had to accompany him every single day to school, for the entire time, as he did not feel safe staying there by himself. In my time there I've seen some behaviors that made me gasp, e.g. hitting another child in the face with a tree branch right next to the eye, with no consequences for the hitter. We had endless discussions with teachers, the then director, and members of the board of directors. We were over and over promised that something would change, which never happened. In those discussions we had to be very careful or risk being ridiculed as over-sensitive, and have our concerns wiped off the table. Finally they hired a new teacher who after we tried working with her for a few weeks flat-out told us she lets the four-year-olds work things out amongst themselves. That was the end for us and we took our son out of there. I believe there will always be a troublemaker in each group, and if the teachers or director of the school does not make an appropriate effort in nipping the behavior in the bud, even the best setting and mission statement in the world won't make it a safe environment. Good Luck!

Hi - As a parent at OGS for the past almost 3 years (and still there), I encourage you to talk to Tae or ask her questions directly if you liked the school but have concerns about things you have heard about turnover. The short answer is that this is a new school with a beautiful site, compelling vision, and some challenging obstacles to bringing those things to fruition over its short life. The whole time we have been there, we have known loving, committed teachers and amazingly cool fellow parents/kids - that combined with the fact that our kid has LOVED it is why we stayed and adopted a ''wait and see'' approach to the changes in leadership/drama. That being said - if what is MOST important to your family is that your kid goes to a school that runs seamlessly like a well-oiled machine, this is not the place for you. If, however, what is really important to you is that your kid is loved, spends tons of time outdoors, learns both content and social/life skills through play, isn't surrounded by commercial media and plastic, and experiences the wonder of the natural world in the midst of urban Oakland, then I'd encourage you to take a closer look to see if it a good fit for your family.

To address your questions: Tae founded/envisioned the school, is the landlord/owns the property which she converted from a single family home, and is personally responsible for the aesthetics, inside and out. The child care license is owned by an LLC made up of a 2-member ''board'' (more accurately called the ''owners'' of the school), not by Tae. 2010-11 is the 4th school year the school has been open, and Tae became director at the end of August 2010. Prior to that, she was a consultant to OGS but couldn't teach/direct until 8/2010 due to a previous licensing issue (unrelated to OGS) from the family day care she previously ran (Sundance). The director turnover in the first 3 years was under the supervision of the owners/LLC, and the turnover wasn't always for the same reasons. The director who was there briefly when we first started was asked to leave for improper $ issues, the next one I still don't know why she disappeared with no notice, and the next one left due to a combination of personal/health problems and not doing what he said he'd do when we (committee of parents/teachers/owners) hired him. I do wish that the owners had handled communication with the parent community differently and better in each case than they did. In the end of our first year there, the owners did begin to get parent input into hiring for the director and teacher positions (committee mentioned above which I was on), and overall parent-school communication has improved gradually and steadily since. The best decision I saw the owners make was to hire one of the (director-qualified) teachers, Wendy Sosa, to be director last year - she directed and taught my kid's class (great teacher! love her!) and did a TON to stabilize the school for a year until turning things over to Tae in August. From what I have seen this year, the owners have totally stepped back from getting involved in anything day-to-day since Tae began directing.

As far as recent turnover and staff longevity - of the current 6 main classroom/morning teachers, Wendy and her co-teacher of the pre-k/4's class have each worked there for 3 years (with my kid's class the whole time - looping/moving up with them), the 2's class core teachers have been there for 2 years and 1 year each, and the 3's class teachers are new (this class is the only one with core teacher turnover this school year). The afternoon/part-time teachers and aides/subs are all ones that Tae has hired since she started in August. I hope that with the original founder now directing the school, the curriculum, teaching staff, approach, and community will get more and more stable and cohesive over time. my .02

Our family did not find stability at the Oakland Garden School. When we were  accepted last spring, Wendy Sosa was the director, and we were not informed there'd be a change until just before it happened. Tae Ha, the founder of the school, came back on as Director at the end of last August, when her suspension by Licensing was up. We were told by Tae that she had lost her license because she had originally opened up OGS as a home-based school but was not living there (which is a requirement). During that same meeting, which came up because of teachers leaving, Wendy said that her issues with being the director were mainly that she was not given a budget to work with and that she didn't have the power to make decisions on her own. Every decision went through the owners (who are primarily investors and do not have a background in education). With regard to the teachers' length of service, I believe there are 3 teachers who have been there longer than 1 year, and 2 of them have let everyone know that they will be leaving by the summer.

We recently left because of the high level of teacher turnover, which was negatively affecting my kid. Along with the turnover, there just weren't enough teachers for a workable ratio. OGS says they have 6:1, but that's not what we saw. We saw that teachers were too busy with logistics and breaking up fights between kids to effectively teach or attend to children. We never got a single ouch report though our child came home with new cuts and bruises nearly every day. Like the last person who responded to your question, we found that there were not enough teachers when the kids were in the yard, so fights, accidents, and bullying happened and were not effectively handled. And like the last responder, changes were promised again and again, but the chaos continued, so we left.

Many parents feel that that their kids are resilient and don't notice things like teachers leaving, etc. However, my kid was not happy at OGS and made it known to us everyday. Now that we've left, the kid I once knew is back! The change was almost immediate. After rereading old BPN reviews, I kick myself for not paying attention to all the red flags.

To anyone who is considering enrolling their child at OGS, I recommend observing all the classes when they're indoors and out. Don't just take the tour. That was the mistake we made. And know that even if you really like a teacher, she may not be there when your child starts. Former OGS parent

We currently have a three-year-old at Oakland Garden School. I think OGS has had some growing pains. But while I've seen teacher turnover, I've also seen stability. I see the director responding to parents' concerns. Most notably, there were a couple of young teachers hired who loved kids but lacked extensive training and experience. There now appears to be a shift toward hiring more experienced teachers who may not have twenty-something vivaciousness but who know what they're doing. I'ts worth pointing out that the same inexperienced teachers who couldn't consistently control a group are the ones who parents were unhappy to see leave. And there is a teacher leaving in the summer, but she's given six months notice, a situation that lacks the feeling of crisis.

Drama aside, OGS has a lot to offer. I appreciate the diversity among staff as well as children. I appreciate the nature-based, play-based philosophy, with activities like gardening, yoga, dance, Spanish and Mandarin, food prep, feeding the chickens and goats---and of course the story time, songs and crafts. And I have to echo another parent who wrote that they can barely convince their child to leave at the end of the day. It's been hard to find the right school because I do not want to push our child academically. OGS invites learning through discovery, nature, movement, and enough structure and fun academics to gently keep them on track for kindergarten. From what I see, the commitment of teachers, director and parents is making OGS a special place. OGS by choice

Oct 2010

Re: Waldorf style preschool - but full day 
I don't know of any full-day preschools (centers) that are specifically/officially Waldorf - probably because Steiner believed children shouldn't start school until age six, which doesn't really work for the reality of most of today's working families! There are several Waldorf-inspired family day cares - check the BPN listings if that interests you.

That being said, you should definitely check out Oakland Garden School (my kids go there). While not Waldorf, it is a nature-based, play-based preschool that is great for working families (same price for any hours 7:30 am to 6 pm - don't have to pay extra for ''extended care''). The kids spend a LOT of time in the amazing outdoor yard and garden, with natural play elements, huge sand area, fruit trees, and chickens and goats - no foam mats, asphalt, or huge plastic play structures there! Indoors, the classrooms also use mostly natural materials and teachers are eco-conscious with daily tasks (recycling & compost in every room, reusable cups/plates, etc). They also do not use electronic or commercial media-based toys, and discourage families from sending lunchboxes or blankets with licensed characters on them to school. They don't follow a Waldorf curriculum, but they do have seasonal family celebrations and encourage lots of art, movement, and open-ended play.

It is located above the Laurel neighborhood of Oakland on a quiet residential street - Maybelle - easy to miss if you're not looking for it. Like many new schools, it has undergone growing pains & staff turnover (this is the 4th year) - we have stayed for 3 years because we agree with the vision of the school and our son has loved it so much. Give them a call at 531-4800 and go on a tour to see if it might be a good match for your family. OGS parent

Oct 2010

Oakland Garden School has been an absolute blessing to our family, and I wanted to recommend it to families looking a pre-school, especially as the school has a few openings.

We are absolutely impressed by and grateful for the level of caring, insight and intelligence in every aspect of the school. Teachers are devoted and talented, and the school's director has a stunning level of commitment and involvement. The school's physical design is basically dreamy -- an incredible garden, and inside rooms that are bright, clean, and perfectly tailored to the kids' multiple activities.

Our children (ages 2 and 4) have loved the school from day one, and often resist being taken home (and away from lovely friends, teachers, and even baby goats and chickens who live in the school's yard). Camille

Oct 2009

I noticed the posts for OGS are all old so wanted to add my thoughts here. We started at OGS just this past Sept. 2009 and love it. Our son is doing great there and loves it! The teachers helped him with his tranistion and into their routine beautifully. The indoor and outdoor spaces are great--the outdoor yard is amazing and provides an incredible opportunity to the children for open exploration and discovery of nature. The teachers are qualified, warm, and energetic. The school has gone through transitions, yes, but the staff there now are committed and with Wendy now at the healm it feels really right. While there may be a learning curve for her as a new and young director, the whole staff is very dedicated to the philosophy of the school and the good of the children and we feel it. Please come check it out for yourself. anon

Oct 2009

Re: Any openings at your preschool for a 2.5 year old? 
Hi There! The Oakland Garden School has openings in its 'Sprouts' class (ages 2 to 3). OGS is a wonderful school with an amazing huge yard- where they grow tons of fruits and vegetables for healthy snacks- they even have chickens and goats that are a big hit with the children. The teachers are fantastic, and they are going bi-lingual in the Sprouts class- with one of the teachers speaking to the kids in spanish. You should make any appointment to check it out- you won't be dissapointed. Happy OGS Mom

Sept 2009

I would like to give an update on the Oakland Garden School. My daughter has attended OGS since fall 2008, and she loves it. Our Interim Director and Site Supervisor since March, Wendy, is now our permanent director. We are thrilled by her permanent appointment because Wendy has been both a teacher and administrator at the school for a year, bringing a great deal of stability I encourage anyone interested in the school to visit and see for yourself how our children are thriving. The teachers care deeply about the children, respect individual differences among students, and encourage children to learn independence while at the same time coming to understand themselves as part of a larger community. One of the most amazing features of the school is its outdoor space. There is a huge yard that includes lots of space to roam, sandboxes, imaginative play structures, animals, bikes, and a brand new play area just for 2 year olds. You can't beat the outdoor space anywhere else in the area, and using it is an integral part of the overall program. The parent community is great, and we're having more social events and options for parent participation, including monthly potlucks and forming volunteer committees. I can't say enough about the teachers' abilities and care for the kids, the kidsC- relationships with one another, and the physical space of the school. When my daughter started a year ago she was terribly shy, reluctant to initiate play, uncertain how to voice her feelings, and reluctant to do active play that involved gross motor skills. She has grown so much at OGS- she can identify her feelings, express them to other kids and adults ''using her words,'' can lead and join in play, and has greatly improved her gross motor skills with the time she spends outdoors, running, climbing, and digging. If you're looking for a thoughtful school, I recommend you check out OGS.

March 2009

I would like to know if anyone know of Oakland garden school. I was impressed by their website. em 

We thought we were interested in Oakland Garden School and wonder about the situation there. Can any families provide perspective on their experience either current or past? Thanks! anonymous

My child is a student at Oakland Garden School, and I would like to recommend it highly to parents looking for either a new preschool or your first preschool. The school has had its share of staff turnover the past year, but the majority of the teachers hired in the past 6 months have been retained, and are committed to the school long term. The school lost its last Director only 2 weeks ago, but the parents and staff have rallied together to find the best director they can to ensure ongoing stability at the school. It is always nerve-wracking as a prospective parent to know there has been a degree of turmoil in the school- we all want the ''best'' for our kids, including school stability. I feel confident that the current Director search and hire will ensure that stability long-term. This is not to say that there have not been problems at the school, or to gloss over them, but to assure prospective families that the strengths of the school are many, including staff, and the staff and families are working together to solve those problems. Most important, the families who are at OGS now remain because of the happiness and self-confidence their children feel there everyday. A child's happiness is no small matter when selecting a school, or deciding to remain in a school. Part of the strength of OGS at this time of transition is that the parents who have pulled together are doing so primarily because their children are happy in their classrooms and with their community and want to ensure that will continue. Last- there are SO many parents at the school who works as professionals in education (teachers, administrators, trainers, consultants); these parents (as well as others) feel that the level of ''education'' and teacher guidance/quality is high; I don't think there would be so many children of educators still at OGS if that was not the case.

In general, OGS is really great. The physical space is really unique- a large outdoor space that has gardens, animals, play structures and sandbox for kids to play in twice a day. The inside is charming as well. The rooms are set up thoughtfully in more of a ''station'' style, and allow kids to access things that naturally interest them throughout the day.

The best things about OGS are the quality of the teachers, the nature-based and play-based approach to learning, the development of everyday social skills, and the teaching of ''responsibility'' to oneself and one's community (cleaning up after yourself; helping others; composting; recycling; avoiding being wasteful; friendships and accountability to friends; conflict management & resolution). It is a kind, warm, positive environment where children have fun and learn how to be part of a larger community. The teachers know each child intimately, and are always willing to communicate with parents about both their child's strengths and weaknesses. Teachers and parents work hard to work together if a child is having difficulty, and the teachers listen respectfully to how parents understand their children as well as offering their own take on the child's experience. At OGS there are no ''bad'' children- kids are seen as operating in developmentally appropriate stages/issues that children need guidance through. The natural environment is also a core value/teaching point at the school. The children not only learn about our natural environment, but help care for the grounds, recycle, compost and develop a more conscious relationship with the outside world.

We came to OGS after six weeks at another preschool that was just horrible for our child. At OGS, I see the staff work tirelessly every day to lead by example, guide children through feelings and actions and relationships, and instill in the kids both self-confidence and accountability. When I leave my child at OGS, she is happy, I am happy, and I can go to work without feeling uncertain about whether or not my child will be okay. I see her own social confidence growing because each child's personality is seen as unique- you don't have to be the fastest or the funniest or the most social to have a good preschool experience. Teachers build on the kids' strengths and encourage them where they need help.

Though there is current changeover in the Director position, I highly recommend that you visit OGS yourself to see the grounds, the classrooms, and meet the teachers and staff. For us, the good outweighs the challenging things exponentially. I would not leave my child at OGS if I did not feel she was well-cared for, happy, safe and thriving. anon

After having my child at OGS for over a year, we are removing ourselves from the school. While the beauty and setting is stunning, we witnessed first hand an enormous amount of staff turnover and disruption. We did want to leave a few times, but hung on thinking the school was experiencing start-up growing pains. I realize now this is not something that is being resolved as again, the most recent director, is gone. She will be the 5th director in a year and there have been over 20 teachers. Leaving OGS

Hello, I am sad to say that cannot in all conscience recommend Oakland Garden School. I know the website looks cool, sounds good, but our experience is otherwise.

The last straw for us was when the last of five directors to leave resigned in mid February of 2009. Myriad teachers (we stopped counting after 20) and all these directors were hired and left in 17 months. We have been there for most of the changeovers, except those in the first two months.

We have been very misled by the Board that runs this school. Each time they go through a major changeover of staff, they consult with parents in the form of a Parent/Staff or Parent/Board meeting, asking us to help them improve the school. Despite hours and months of involvement, nothing ever changes - meaning that disgruntled employees leave. The Board is the only group that has been there since the beginning (after they purchased it from the former owner, Tae Ha, who was put on probation from Community Care Licensing, having had her licensed revoked for her previous school and having been taken out of this new school of hers, OGS).

We advise people to be wary of promises of change. They haven't happened - except that each time a new director is hired, things get better ... only to have them be fired or leave later on. We advise people to contact licensing to learn about the school before they go there, including the licensing lawyer assigned to this case.

So, the yard is great, the classrooms look great, the website is promising ... but these are NOT main constituent of learning. We don't trust the Board to build a place that's stable, and children need nurturing in a stable environment, where they can trust and blossom, and learn good lessons in life. This is not that place, despite the teacher doing a good job and children being attached to them - it's just that so many of them have left. In fact, there is only one person who remains since the beginning - a regular substitute. Signed, Parent who has had enough!

I am the parent of a three year old at the Oakland Garden School and he has been there since September. He loves preschool. He has wonderful teachers, loves playing in the amazing outdoor space, and if very engaged and happy whenever I pick him up. Personally, I am very excited about the changes that are happening at the school. I observe the teachers collaborating and taking leadership. A solid group of parents and teachers are taking part in selecting a new director who will share and carry forward the vision of the school (which is organic and growing as new people get involved). In my opinion, it is a very hopeful time in the life of this school. Mary

I would like to respond to the recent postings about Oakland Garden School; my son attends OGS three days a week, and has been attending since October. We were dismissed from another preschool without warning in September, and we were lucky that OGS had space for us and welcomed us with open arms. The differences between the two schools could not be more stark: Oakland Garden School is an incredibly inviting and warm place, with caring, highly-trained teachers who immediately brought my son into the class family. His previous school felt cold and almost factory-like. The OGS student-to-teacher ratio is ideal; the curriculum is play-based but provides good daily structure and routine. While it was not originally a high priority for me to have a nature-based, eco-minded curriculum, I am thrilled that my son is learning about taking care of the earth and all of its inhabitants. We have experienced very little of the teacher turnover mentioned in previous posts, and while the director did recently resign, I feel that her departure has been positive in many ways. Parents and teachers are building a strong network of communication and a foundation upon which all stakeholders can build a solid program. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that this is a brand-new school--so much of what happens there already feels comfortable and right.

I cannot say enough positive things about the teaching staff at OGS. My son has bonded strongly with the three teachers in his room, but he knows every adult in the building. He feels safe and happy at school, talks about his friends and teachers incessantly, and is learning critical social skills as well as preacademic skills. I am a teacher myself, and I feel utterly confident about the work the teachers at OGS are doing with my son.

The grounds at Oakland Garden School are exquisite; the rooms are always clean and brightly decorated. Teachers clearly take pride in the space they occupy with the students. Snacks are healthy and freshly prepared. Parents are constantly circulating at the school, and there have been many school community get-togethers organized in recent months.

It makes me sad that some parents have had negative experiences at OGS, but from my perspective, this is a positive, upbeat new school with unlimited potential. I would recommend it to any family. All schools have their share of growing pains, new or not. I think it is the response of parents and staff to problems that is most important, and the OGS community really seems to be working together to move the school toward its vision. I am glad my son will be there for the next two years to take advantage of what OGS is and is becoming. Johanna

Nov 2008

I am interested in updated feedback on the Oakland Garden School. I am particularly curious to hear how the fall has gone at the school since the staffing changes that are referred to in the postings from August of this year. Thanks. Curious Parent

Our 3-year-old is currently attending Oakland Garden School, and we think it's great. Yes,there was a lot of upheaval with staffing changes, but things have really settled down, and the current director is very dedicated and doing a terrific job. I love the non-punitive discipline philosophy, and the teachers are really warm and caring. In addition to lots of song, art, free-play and the typical pre-school ''academics'' (learning month-names and day-names, counting, etc.) they teach meditation and yoga, some Spanish and lots more. When my daughter was experiencing separation anxiety, the teachers and director worked with me, the way I wanted, to help her adjust. The director even called *me* to let me know how she was doing. Now, my daughter enjoys it so much, she asks to stay LONGER! I can wholeheartedly recommend Oakland Garden School. Happy OGS Parent

Oct 2008

I am delighted that my 3 year old attends OGS!! I have felt incredibly deep respect and unwavering nurturance from the director and the teachers toward my son and our family. I feel the staff is comprised of unique, knowledgeable, creative, enthusiastic, and above all, genuinely spirit-filled, loving educators. OGS with it's amazingly beautiful garden, goats, chickens, and bunnies, provides a profoundly enriching atmosphere. It feels to me like a kind of home away from home; a haven in the heart of Oakland. The environment at OGS supports what the children are learning: respect for nature, for their bodies, for their emotions, for each other as individuals and as a community. OGS has truly undergone a magical and creative transformation!!

August 2008

Hi - We are planning to send our 2 year old son to the Oakland Garden School part-time this fall - we fell in love with the location and outdoor space, especially, but know that it being a new school it probably has it challenges (and only one post on the preschool archives which refers to the previous/founding director, Tae, not the current one). I would love to hear from any families who had kids there last year about their experiences. Are you planning to continue this year or not, and why? General overview of the quality/style of teachers, diversity, ''vibe'' of families, and of the director, Elizabeth, also appreciated. thanks!
Mom new to preschool

We have decided to leave OGS because of the constant problems there. A lot of other parents have already left, there are very few of the ''original'' parents there, after only one year of operation. There has been almost constant turnover of teachers, questionable practices and major communication problems. The new director, imo, is not a great communicator, I could say more about that issue but I don't want to stick my neck out too far. Teachers have repeatedly been told NOT to tell parents of problems that occur with staffing and other issues.

This is all extremely sad since this is probably the most beautiful preschool ever. However we have decided it is just not fair to our child to have to face a new teacher every few months.

Of course all of the above is only our experience and your mileage may vary, I look forward to seeing what others have to say about OGS. We are very sad that it just couldn't work out there. looking for a new preschool

After sending my child to the Oakland Garden School for only 3 days I pulled her from the program.


Three teachers left the school right before the Fall session began, including one of the teachers that was to be my child's teacher. There was no explanation and no forewarning - or even an introduction of the new teacher. We just walked in and there was a new teacher greeting us.

There is another post on BPN regarding the founder's file at Child Care licensing. Would suggest referring to that post. We did not see this post until after we had started our child there.

The second to last day we were there we spoke with the director about the file we found at CCL and she reassured us things were different. My girl was having some problems adjusting so she offered me her cell phone number to call the next day to check and see how she was doing. I left forgetting to get her number. My husband dropped her off the very next day and asked to speak with the director for her cell phone number and was informed that there was a NEW director. He then spoke with the new director and she said this transition was in the works for a long time - which was odd because the old director NEVER spoke of leaving and was offering me her cell phone number the day before. When I came to pick up my daughter I went to speak with the new director to let her know we were pulling our child and even the teachers were asking ME where the old director had gone!!

Needless to say we felt there were too many things going wrong within the first couple of days AND without any communication with parents. We did not feel comfortable at all with our child being there with so many changes. (Also, FYI - the founder who has the file at CCL is very much involved with the school and it's vision - as told to us by the new director) -Unhappy with OGS

You have most likely read the a posting from ''unhappy with OGS'' in the Sep 5 newletter. Ditto to that response. We pulled our son from the school after 2 days. Very sad that it didn't work out. The school is amazing beautiful and SEEMED full of potential. What an unbelievable amount of transitions within one week. And no one seems to know what the problem is. Just why does the staff disappear so quickly?! -More unsatisfied OGS drop-outs

Hi - We just started at the Oakland Garden School last month. The turnover in staff that took place last month was very alarming to me, and continues to be a concern. I actually tried to get my son back into his old daycare, but his ''spot'' was taken. In some ways, however, I'm glad that we didn't go back - the new director seems fantastic, and I'm optimistic that the dust is finally settling and that some stability is on the horizon. Truth be told, the changes were probably more stressful for me than for my son; he seems to be enjoying his time at the school, playing and making new friends. The school site is stunning, the programming is thoughtful, and the families seem very nice. I know the administration has a rocky history, but everything really does seem to be on the upswing. Knowing what I know now, and given the option to enroll or not, I'd probably wait a few months and see how things progress. . . that said, given that I'm already committed, I'm trying to be patient and supportive, and also trying not to overreact. Everyone's intentions are in the right place. For the record, before enrolling my son at OGS I went to licensing and looked up the record for the founder's old daycare - it had to do with being out of compliance by running the daycare from her home - and it didn't concern me at all. trying to stay zen

You have most likely read the a posting from ''unhappy with OGS'' in the Sep 5 newletter. Ditto to that response. We pulled our son from the school after 2 days. Very sad that it didn't work out. The school is amazing beautiful and SEEMED full of potential. What an unbelievable amount of transitions within one week. And no one seems to know what the problem is. Just why does the staff disappear so quickly?! -More unsatisfied OGS drop-outs

Hi - We just started at the Oakland Garden School last month. The turnover in staff that took place last month was very alarming to me, and continues to be a concern. I actually tried to get my son back into his old daycare, but his ''spot'' was taken. In some ways, however, I'm glad that we didn't go back - the new director seems fantastic, and I'm optimistic that the dust is finally settling and that some stability is on the horizon. Truth be told, the changes were probably more stressful for me than for my son; he seems to be enjoying his time at the school, playing and making new friends. The school site is stunning, the programming is thoughtful, and the families seem very nice. I know the administration has a rocky history, but everything really does seem to be on the upswing. Knowing what I know now, and given the option to enroll or not, I'd probably wait a few months and see how things progress. . . that said, given that I'm already committed, I'm trying to be patient and supportive, and also trying not to overreact. Everyone's intentions are in the right place. For the record, before enrolling my son at OGS I went to licensing and looked up the record for the founder's old daycare - it had to do with being out of compliance by running the daycare from her home - and it didn't concern me at all. 
trying to stay zen

In response to the post requesting info on Oakland Garden School, I have to add my voice to the chorus of disappointed parents. In the 2 weeks my child was at the school she had 4 different assistant teachers in her class. Then, on the first day of her 3rd week, the lead teacher (the only consistent one she'd had) was suddenly gone as well, and the only adult in the classroom was a substitute who had been a regular teacher who was let go from the school 3 weeks earlier! We were totally blind-sided by this. We'd been told that all the teachers had one-year contracts, which turned out not to be true at all. Then on top of it we were not given the opportunity to even prepare our daughter ahead of time for who her teacher might be that day (or any day). OGS is also on their 2nd director of the year (she started the 2nd week of school with no warning to parents). The children had no 'good-bye's' with the teachers they'd formed bonds with, and my daughter still asks what happened to all her teachers. When asked about this, the director said 'oh, this kind of thing is harder for the parents than the kids'. At this point, I know of at least 8 children who have left since the school year began. As everyone has stated, the school itself is exceptionally beautiful, and the rhetoric the school uses is very appealing. But the disconnect between the rhetoric and the practice is unnerving. I wanted so much to love this school, but what should've been a really exciting milestone in my daughter's life has been turned into an extremely tumultuous and difficult time. I would recommend anyone with another option to take it. Disappointed OGS parent

I'm sad to say that we also had a tough experience at OGS. To make a long story short, we pulled our daughter after her first day. As new parents we were offered no orientation to the school or teachers other than being invited to visit the classroom to meet who we were told would be our daughter's teacher. On the first day of school we learned that our daughter had two new teachers. This change of teachers followed multiple changes of staff including the firing of the director the first week of school. Through all the changes in staff there was minimal communication with us and no expression of concern as to how these changes might impact the children. I know of three families who have also left the school since the beginning of the school year. We are saddened by our experience because the school is a beautiful facility, and on paper, was the educational philosophy we were looking for. Unfortunately, our experience did not reflect this at all. -Disappointed

This is in response to several of the posts put up recently regarding the Oakland Garden School from disappointed parents, all of whom appear to have spent between 2 days and a few weeks at the school. Our family has been there since the school's inception over a year ago. As with any start up, it has had some rocky moments. And yes, communication and staff turnover are serious underlying issues that the parents who have maintained a commitment to the school have been seeking to address ñ with significant recent success. Based on in-depth involvement with the school, I can say that, while the waters have been rocky at times, the school has found an excellent ''captain'' in its new and very experienced Director. She was our child's teacher and did an exceptional job teaching him emotional management and communication skills I seriously doubt he would have learned elsewhere. When he's upset now, instead of whining or complaining, most of the time he says ''I need to ground myself'' and he does, all thanks to the new Director. I cite this mostly to speak to the fact that the new Director brings with her a powerful set of skills in working with children and a profound orientation toward peace and stability.

Importantly, she also brings with her exceptional references in preschool management and she is working very, very hard to clean up all past issues. The staff turnover has been a real problem though I hardly think, based on conversations with other preschool directors, that it is unique to OGS.

The new Director, Monica, has a strong long-term vision for the school and is a capable manager and team builder. We are quite confident that given some time (more than 3 days to a few weeks!), OGS, with the cited beautiful facility and compelling philosophy, will become one of the most desireable schools in the area. I'm equally confident that the parents that have decided to stick it out will contribute to this process. While I am sorry for their experience, most of the people who have posted represent a true but seriously incomplete picture of the school. They give no context to the reasons for the changes, which were significant, not capricious, most likely because they didn't know the reasons, evidence of the communications challenges. HOWEVER, the bumbled communication here was not the responsibility of the new Director and she should not be judged by it. In fact, several of the problems (e.g. being told teachers all had one year contracts) noted speak to the lack of transparency (putting it nicely) of the previous Director. OGS is not perfect but it is in the process of becoming truly wonderful. Since Monica has come on board as Director, the level of communication has increased 1,000 fold with frequent email updates, a much more substantial newsletter and very direct parent contact. Monica actively encourages all parents to communicate with her, unlike previous less-than-responsive management, and gets back to parents as quickly as possible with her full attention.

I would encourage any parents considering OGS to visit, meet with the new Director and ask her your tough questions. She is extremely responsive to concerns and is forthright in her answers. I would also encourage you to speak with families who have been there for some time. As parents, we want families who recognize how special the school is and truly want to be there.

It hasn't been an easy road and yes, there certainly have been challenges and there may be a few more bumps before harmony is achieved. That said, we had other options such as Mills and Blue Sky and decided against them because of the authenticity and yes, even ''magic'' at OGS. I'm proud our child goes there and I'm looking forward to the school's ongoing improvement. A proud mom of an OGS student

March 2008

Hi - Has anyone had experience with the Oakland Garden School in the Maybelle neighborhood of Oakland? I'd love to hear about it. Thanks in advance!! Curious

I suggest you head over to the Community Care Licensing Office located at 1515 Clay Street, 11th Floor, Oakland, and ask to see the files concerning the director (Tae Ha) of the Oakland Garden School. You will get more information from those files, since Oakland Garden School hasn't been open for more than 6 months, and the director had another facility for several years. I have reviewed this file myself, and I really suggest you look too.