Marin Elementary School
Re: Which Albany kindergarten?
Educational quality is close enough to equal at the three Albany elementary schools that I recommend making your choice based on proximity. Your first choice should be the school your child can walk to with his friends who live on your block. The community aspect is ultimately more important to your experiences with the school than the (relatively minor) variations between the three campuses in programs, facilities, and ''culture'' (proportion of SAHMs, proportion of English learners, etc.). The one exception is that if you are looking to use a particular before- or after-school childcare program, you would obviously prefer the school where it is offered or to which transport is most conveniently arranged.
I have two children at Marin; both of them started in kindergarten and the elder is now in 5th grade. We have had some wonderful teachers who really support the kids' enthusiasm for learning and find ways to keep the driest subjects interesting -- and we've encountered some who were not quite as perfect a fit but still very good. We've made many friends among the other parents, and it matters to us that our kids can easily walk or bike to their classmates' homes. We're happy we chose the physically closest school. Marin Mom
Re: How are Albany schools?
Our son attends Marin Elementary in Albany. It has been a fantastic experience for him. I can't say enough about the level of dedication and commitment by the teachers, staff and parental involvement. Another great aspect to attending in school in Albany is that you are joining a community. The kids on our street all attend Marin, so they get to walk to school together and the parents all get to know each other as well. This translates into lots of playdates with kids on the street and adjoining blocks. It's a tight community and we feel lucky to be a part of it! Jeffrey
Our son will be starting kindergarten this fall at Marin Elementary (we hope) and I'm trying to sort out after-school options. The choices are Tupelo (the after-school program at Marin), JCC, and joining a nanny share. Tupelo would be very convenient and is the least expensive option. It would also provide an opportunity for him to get to know his classmates better and root us into the neighborhood/community more. But is it chaotic there in the afternoons? I believe my son might thrive more with some structure. JCC has a more structure and well-trained staff...but it's significantly more expensive, we lose the connection to the community, and my son will have to be bused. Thoughts? Do any of you have experience with one or more of these options and have insights into relative merits? -anon
My children have been in Tupelo for a few years, and it has been a good experience for them. From what I have seen, the Kindergartners are in their own classroom for most of the day, but they also play with the older kids at recess. They also learn Spanish, music and dance, and they do lots of crafts. They have enjoyed it very much. Happy Tupelo mom
My son will be entering kindergarten next year, and we are debating between sending him to Albany's Marin School or private school. I know that people tend to be very pleased in the reviews from the past, but I'm wondering whether there is anyone who has opted out of the Marin school in favor of private and if so why; or if anyone has had the same dilemna and how you resolved it. Thanks!
I wanted to respond to your message because we spent a year and a half at Marin, but ended up opting out because it didn't work for our daughter. I think we learned the hard way that the individual teacher can be more important than the school as a whole. When we were paired with a teacher that didn't work for her, the administration was totally inflexible about helping us. We watched our hungry to learn daughter shut down and stop liking school in a way that really worried us. Our switch to Prospect Sierra has been huge for our daughter and for our family. She is stimulated and excited to go to school. Obviously, each child is different, and we know many families that are happy at Marin. It's a tough decision, and I know it can be agonizing, especially having no experience with each school! I feel our daughter made the decision for us. I'm extremely grateful to be settled in a school that fits. Good luck! Signed, my two cents
Re: Which kindergarten in Albany?
I have a couple of responses. First, you want to think long term about an elemenatary school, as you will likely be there for six years. I chose Marin because it was closest, an easy walk, and have found that the kids in our neighborhood all went there. That is part of the point of Albany, so I strongly encourage you to think about neighborhood schools. Eventually, your child will want to walk to school by himself and that is lovely.
Marin's afterschool program, Tupelo, has good people working there, but there were too many kids for the space and staff for us. After going through for a year, and my child getting increasingly miserable, we decided to get an after school nanny and that has worked wonderfully. With two kids, it's work the $$$. With one kid, I would look for a share arrangement. -marin parent
I think all three Albany elementary schools are fine... we've had two daughters at Marin, and it's been a great environment. That said, the next few years are likely going to see contractions across the board in California public education. See, for example, the AUSD administrator's comments on the future budget: http://albanytoday.org/2009/01/21/albany-schools-will-look-for-ways-to-cut-22-million/ But Albany has great PTAs (introduce yourself when your kid(s) start school, if not before), and an aggressive group fundraising to augment the formal curricula: http://albanyschoolcare.org/ Marin Parent
Re: Albany Elementary Schools...What are the pros/cons?
Well, in our particular case, Marin was the coveted school mostly because we live a block and a half away from it.
One of the things I love about Marin is that it IS a neighborhood school; the ease of walking to and from school is an advantage not to be scorned! We do feel that there is a very strong school community, something that is important to me too as another public school alumna.
I can't speak to your specific questions about the other Albany grade schools because we did get Marin. (As you may or may not realize, students who live in Albany are guaranteed a spot in an Albany school, but not necessarily the particular one to which they live closest.) It is more or less true that the Marin neighorhood is a tad more affluent than the Cornell neighborhood, and somewhat less diverse than the Ocean View neighborhood. (Though Albany in general is much less diverse than Oakland, of course.) Parent involvement and spending may be a little higher at Marin. But all of the Albany schools are good. If we'd been assigned to Cornell or Ocean View instead, our biggest disappointment would have been the farther distance to travel from our home to get there. Marin School Mom
Marin School has outstanding test scores, but how is the environment? Are they really being taught better or are they being taught how to take tests? I would be having to fight to get into the school and would like to hear if it is worth the fight. Kristi
I have had two children at Marin school. I don't believe that Marin's scores are higher because the teachers ''teach better'', and they definitely do not (in my experience) ''teach to test''. I think there are several considerations: Of the three Albany elementary schools, Marin has the fewest ''English-learners'' (i.e., non-native English speakers), and the lowest proportion of children who get free/reduced price lunch (i.e., the average income level is higher). Both of these correlate with test scores. As an active PTA member, I also know that Marin's PTA typically raises more money than the other PTAs do, reflecting NOT less parent interest/involvement, but the ability to contribute more financially. This pays for additional enrichment activities at lunch time, for example. Overall, I have found Marin a rich, stimulating place for kids (though not perfect), but I DON'T think the other two Albany elementaries are inferior because of it. Don't look at test scores alone! Consider the benefits of having neighborhood friends, your ease of getting to and from school (and when your child is older, maybe walking to school with a friend). Also be aware, if you think your child might be one who needs extra help academically, that Marin is the only Albany elementary school that does not qualify for federal Title I money (money based on a poverty index, but used to help kids who are behind expectations). Marin parent
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.
Our son is in the afternoon kindergarten in Marin. So far we have been very satisfied for a number of reasons -- the learning program (which varies little from classroom to classroom) seems well-integrated, with ''science'' activities (such as raising Monarch butterflies from caterpillars and planting vegetables outside) feeding into language activities (first letter learned was ''c,'' for caterpillar, chrysallis, etc.), and so on. We like the philosophy expressed by our son's teacher -- that kindergarterners need first of all to learn self-worth, confidence, joy in learning, focus, and socialization. This philosophy seems enacted in their activities. There is a good mix of indoor and outdoor, quiet and active, creative and passive, etc. So we like the actual schooltime, and our son has brought home excitement at many things he has learned so far.
We are less thrilled with the on-site childcare situation in the afternoon. The morning (before the p.m. kindergarten) seems fine, because it is generally attended primarily by kindergarteners and there are not too many kids. The afternoon tends to be much more unstructured and potentially chaotic, with kids of all ages roaming in and out of the room and from playground to playground, lots of them, with few adults. I make every effort to pick up my son at 3pm, when he gets out of school in order to avoid the afternoon scene.
Parent involvement is very high in the Albany schools, especially at Marin, where parents are frequently in the classroom, lots of extra activities are organized (Spanish lessons, carpentry classes, singing, etc.), and the PTA plays an active fundraising role. On the other hand, it helps if you yourself become involved, so demands on your time are part of the picture.
So far we feel that the program at Marin is strong and the community ties we develop by sending our child there and being actively involved are invaluable.
an Albany kindergartener's mom
My daughter goes to Marin. We had heard a lot of good things about Marin, and so far we have been very pleased. The principal Marian Rothschild, seems very involved and responsive. (Of course, my daughter's only in kindergarten, parents of older children may have different opinions).
I would like to take issue with the implication of one respondent that Cornell gets all the UC Village-ESL kids, while Marin is free to concentrate on Albany's affluent students, and gets more resources to boot. For one thing, as I understand it Cornell has a strong computer technology program, and received a large number of computers recently from a grant. For another thing, Marin is also terribly overcrowded.
Marin also gets a lot of UC Village kids. Nearly half of the students in my daughter's kindergarten class live in the Village, and several came in speaking no English at all. And yet I'm very pleased with the progress my daughter has made this year, and all the kids have become quite fluent in English. Of course language acquisition may be more difficult for older kids. But as a former Village resident I feel I must point out parents of UC-Village kids, almost by definition, are highly-educated, and perhaps more important, place a high value on education.