Cornell Elementary School

Community Subscriber

Public School
operated by Albany Unified School District
547 students
Phone: (510) 558-3700
920 Talbot Avenue Albany, CA 94706
School district-run

Parent Q&A

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  • My kiddo will be attending Cornell elementary in the fall as a 2nd grader. I was wondering if anyone knows about the 2nd grade teachers? My kiddo has an IEP & has some behavior challenges in the classroom--I am hoping to advocate for him to be placed next year with an experienced and skilled teacher. I am sure all the teachers are wonderful, but I am hoping to a identify a teacher who will be a good fit. I am looking for someone with excellent classroom management skills, who is grounded, patient with kids with learning disabilities, fun/engaging/dynamic teaching style, deeply empathetic, and not rattled by kids having hard time with emotional regulation. Thank you!!

    Cornell probably has the most experienced, most forward-thinking, empathetic and knowledgable group of teachers at any local elementary, public or private. You're already doing well! Both my kids recently graduated from Cornell. They had their share of bumps and it wasn't always easy sailing.  But with the teachers, you can't really go wrong. Keep in mind that you can't hand-pick your teacher--the teachers try their best to balance classrooms with personalities and everyone's needs.  Class sizes are large, so consider getting *into* the classroom and volunteering to stuff Friday folders, or ask the teacher how exactly you can help out during the school day. Try to do the paperwork immediately in August to drive on field trips. Have your co-parent do the volunteer paperwork too.  (It's so hard to take time away from work, but our underfunded public schools depend on lot of parent volunteering to run.)   Finally, one great way to advocate for your kid is to make friends with other parents. That way when there is an issue on the playground or social problem, you actually know the family, have a phone #,  and can work together to repair relationships or agree to give each other a wide berth, etc.  I can't tell you the number of times where my kids had a hard time with someone or some rule, and I was able to understand the dynamics, talk with the other parents involved, and actually demonstrate to my young child what it means to get along in a community. 

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Full disclosure, Cornell parent here!  We love both schools. We value walking to school and we live closer to Cornell so that is why we chose Cornell. We want our 5th grade kids to walk themselves home using the crossing guards. The physical plant of Cornell has been totally fine for our children; the playground is getting final stage of its upgrade this summer. Cornell will have a brand new principal who is wonderful; she is moving over from being Assistant Principal at the middle school.  I would actually flip your question to consider some community items:  where do the kids on your block go to school? Are there potential playmates on the block from a particular school?  How do you see your family helping out at the school? Could you volunteer for a particular committee or commit to driving for field trips next year? Are there parents that you know already that you want to do something with, or would you like a fresh start at a new school with new parents and different PTA planning? 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

March 2008

Re: Cornell or Marin elementary?

Choosing Albany schools is strangely hard because they're all good, but you're making a decision that will affect what your child's life will be like until middle school.... I agonized too, chose Cornell, and have been very happy there. Absolutely wonderful teachers! I could write a small novel, but to keep things brief I'll just say that the English learners absolutely don't hold the class back. In my experience, they tend to come from highly-educated families (more so than ours, for example) and cultures that value learning. I checked with my third-grader and she confirmed it. If you're really concerned, check with the teachers - they're the ones who know best. Cornell is more diverse; this means that people are more different from each other. Less cosy, but more interesting. Incidentally, in my neighborhood we have kids going to all three schools, and I hear good things from all. Kitty

Feb 2008

Re: How do the 3 elementary schools compare?
I can't really respond about comparative class sizes and teachers, etc., but I can tell you my experience and what I've heard around town. I believe all three of the Albany schools are excellent! Our children go to Cornell, we love it, but it was an easy choice for us since we live very close by. This has been a terrific choice for us -- easy playdates and many parents who can help with pick-up and drop-off when something comes up (as it invariably does sometimes). Walking to school is a lovely thing, a real treat. Some parents choose it because it has a very diverse student population, which is something we also appreciate. Some choose Marin because they have a little more money (their PTA pays for art teachers, for example). Some people love Ocean View. The only knock I ever heard was that because so many Ocean View parents are only here for a short time (a year or two) that it can be hard for kids to form lasting friendships, but the kids we know there love it. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them -- all have very involved parent support groups, etc. and the children all seem to be thriving and having a great time. Happy Albany Parent

Dec 2003

Cornell Elementary is a fabulous school. I have a kindergartner and a second grader there. Cornell has a somewhat lesser reputation than Marin (always seen as the strongest school) and Ocean View (a newer school), but from everything I've seen, Cornell deserves to be right up there. Its newish principal, Robert Kelly- Thomas, is a terrific leader. He's incredibly accessible- -often on the yard during arrivals, recesses, and dismissal. I hear that the teachers enjoy working with him, too, which is important.

My daughters love the teachers they've had so far, and the communications from the school and from the teachers are just great. I've been delighted by the material covered in each year, especially in the sciences--cumulus and cirrus cloud formations in first grade, a whole in-depth unit on bat species and behavior in second grade. As with all Albany schools, there are cutbacks every year in music, etc., but they are generally restored by parent contributions.

So, for the parent who would have to fight to get into Marin, I say your own school, especially if it is Cornell, is going to be just fine. For the parent who lives in the Marin district, I probably would go with Marin. One of the nice advantages in Albany is that kids do generally go to their neighborhood school. It's VERY useful to be able to consult with neighbors who have had the same teachers, etc. On our block, except for 2 families (who sent their kids to Marin), everyone else is at Cornell. I've heard that the parents are more involved at Marin, though it's hard to imagine more involvement than what I see at Cornell. Laura

June 2003

I have just been offered a Kindergarten space at Cornell for this fall (through an out of district transfer). Unfortunately I missed any opportunities to visit the Albany elementary schools whilst they were in session and would appreciate any information on the school . Also any experiences of out of district transfers into Albany from Berkeley.

I am also confused by the after-school or before school child care options as there seems to be nothing offered on site at Cornell. What do parents do? Thanks for any info. Shelley

Cornell School is great. My kids both went through Cornell (now one's at Albany Middle School and one at Albany High).

If you can, volunteer in the classroom; you'll get a good sense of what's going on.

Check the Albany YMCA for after-school programs adjacent to Cornell; and Berkeley JCC (runs a bus to Albany schools).

Do join the PTA, Albany SchoolCARE (, funding support for schools), and sign up for the albanyschools e-tree (albanyschools-subscribe [at] for District-wide issues. Check the list at

This is a challenging time for public schools, with shrinking budgets. Your help will make a huge difference in what your child is offered in school. Merry

Cornell School does have on-site child care for the younger grades - sort of. The Albany YMCA uses the site in front of the school on Solano for before and after care for grades K-3. I don't know anything about it, really, because my son started there in 4th grade. He used the Albany Y aftercare, and the 4th and 5th graders walk up to Marin school after school, with a counselor. As for the school, it's been fine for us. There's a good mix of kids - many are from the University Village, so if you want diversity, you got it, and most parents are College educated or at least care a great deal about their kids' education. My son is a challenging kid, and had a great teacher for 4th and 5th grade, Mr. Brandley. I highly recommend him for any child. He's firm but kind and seems to really enjoy the kids. If you want a small school though, this is not it. It seemed that there were at least 3 classes of 30 kids for each of the older grades. My other child was at Ocean View Elementary the year before, and the class size was smaller (only 26). It seemed a bit less daunting. Also, the big building at Cornell looks scary to some kids. anon

I have two sons at Cornell, and we are very happy with the school. My two children have extremely different learning styles. Both of them had Victoria Kaye for Kindergarten, and she dealt wonderfully with the individual styles in the group. I have yet to see a teacher at the school who does not meet my expectations. The parents are actively involved at the school. The only criticism I have, which would probably be the case at any school, is that sometimes parents aren't given much advance notice before special activities. For working parents, that can make scheduling tough. The Albany YMCA offers childcare right next to Cornell, and they are very flexible depending on whether your child is an early bird or late bird, etc. Good luck! Eden

Oct 2002

Re: Kindergarten Options in Albany

I am a parent of 2 sons at Cornell. We have been extremely pleased with the school, and in fact moved to Albany because we had a lot of confidence in their school system. The Principal, Bob Kelly-Thomas is very knowledgeable, runs a tight ship, and is fun-loving with the children at the same time. My children are very different, but the school has accomodated both of them well. We have had Ms. Kaye for 2 years of Kindergarten and feel that she is caring and competent. You are right, their day is very short. Academically, my older one was not challenged by the Kindergarten curriculum, but he did need to learn the social skills that Kindergarten reinforces - raising your hand before speaking, sitting still, being quiet, and better hand-writing skills. They have an active PTA at Cornell, and parent- involvement is high. I have never seen so many parents turn out for Back To School Night. Eden

Nov 1999

We recommend Cornell School enthusiastically (for some reason it does not get as much "good press" as Marin). Our daughters have both attended Cornell School (K-5) and had excellent teachers and wonderful learning experiences. K-3 are all classes of 20, the teachers are energetic and inventive, and the class work and projects have been great.

Oct 1998

I was reading the questions someone had about kindergarten teachers at Cornell and had to reply. I have two children at Cornell now, one in kindergarten and the other is in third grade. My son (3rd grader) did not have a very good experience in kindergarten at Cornell, but that teacher is long gone.

My daughter is in the afternoon class with Ms. Kaye and couldn't be happier. She is excited about learning and making a lot of progress socially and academically. Ms. Kaye is a fairly new teacher and has a lot of enthusiasm for teaching. She has a great sense of humor and a deep understanding of what it is like to be a five year old. She is patient and very well liked by the children. My daughter is challenged, yet not pushed to learn. I was a bit concerned at the baginning of the year because my daughter was already starting to read and I felt that she wouldn't be challenged enough. I was wrong. She is reading her Arthur books now with great happiness. She is having a wonderful year!

I do have to add some imminent changes that will be happening in Albany. The middle school will open next year, leaving the old site available. It sounds like the old middle school on Buchanan will become another elementary school. Who knows which teachers will be moved to that school. I believe there is a PTA meeting coming up on Tuesday or Wednesday (Dec. 1 or 2) concerning these issues. Call Cornell for the exact date! Susan

I would like to add my complete agreement with Susan's letter regarding Ms. Kaye's Kindergarten class at Cornell. I, too, have a daughter (Melina) in her class, and she couldn't be happier. She LOVES Kindergarten and adores Ms. Kaye. This is so wonderful to see, after at least a year of her trying to fake being ill to get out of preschool in which she was bored. I cannot speak highly enough of Victoria Kaye-- very creative, energetic and sweet with the kids. Kris

While I can't speak to the quality of kindergarten at Cornell School, I and my daughter (a 4th grader there last year) found the environment to be extremely inattentive to children's emotional needs to the point of being fairly hostile. I place most of the blame on the then principal, who I believe has been replaced, but there were numerous incidents in which the adults could have eased my daughter's transition into the school and chose not to do so. Rather they set up situations in which she was constantly reminded that she was a new kid and therefore, an outsider. Pam

My daughter attended Cornell during grades 3, 4, and 5. Out of the 3 grades, I felt 4th was the only one where my daughter was given any support, and it was because she had an excellent teacher ( Mr. Childers). My daughter is also very creative, bright but very shy, and tended to "fall through the cracks" a lot.

I did not feel the communication, support systems or teaching was adequate, nor the Principal particulary interested in what was going on... Cornell is very crowded and because there are a lot of students that do not have even a basic understanding of English, and only one ESL teacher, the support goes to those who need it the most... (The ones who cause the most trouble/need the most help, get the attention) 5th grade, her teacher left in mid-year on maternity leave and the entire class seemed to lose all of it's momentum--totally a waste of time. (One thing that REALLY set me off was on her report card--she was marked down because she didn't socialize enough with all of the students (she is very shy but has many friends) and needed "work".I didn't feel the teacher had a clue who she was...

If I were to do it over again, (contrary to my daughters desire to stay with her friends) I would have sent her to Marin School (I was given a choice). It is a much better school and doesn't have the large ESL population (from Univ. Village) and tends to service the more affluent Albany residents, which sadly but true also seems to have more resources. Good Luck!