Cragmont ElementaryCommunity Subscriber
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Experiences with first grade teachers at Cragmont
Current Cragmont Review?
I am looking for current reviews of Cragmont. I toured the school a few years ago but I think they have a new principal since then so I would like to hear about what the school is like now since there are no current reviews on BPN. berkeley mom
We have been very pleased with our experience at Cragmont. All of the teachers that my child has had have been fantastic--very focused on the individual needs of students. The teachers for each grade level also appear to work well as a team which I think is important. This ensures that the classes are staying on track with one another and that teachers can share effective teaching methods. As a public school, I have been impressed at the ''extras'' that my child gets at Cragmont: art classes, PE class, dancing and movement classes, drama and quarterly field trips. Of course, in my view, these should not be ''extras'' but sadly in many districts, arts and field trips have fallen by the wayside. Not so in the BUSD and at Cragmont specifically.
We have found the parent community at Cragmont to be very welcoming. There is a very active and devoted PTA which sponsors events geared to both community-building and fundraising. There are also affinity groups geared to specific groups of students: African-American, English language learners and students with disabilities.
You mentioned the new principal. Principal Fortich started at Cragmont last year and she hit the ground running. She is very energetic and personable. She seems to know every child's name and is a constant presence at school events. I feel that the school is in very capable hands with her at the helm. Cragmont Fan
I might not be the right person to respond to this because I have a girl who's super spirited at home but not in the classroom, so let's hope you get other tips, but we are super happy with our experience in the Central Zone. Our daughter is in 1st grade at Cragmont and has had a wonderful teacher who is just amazingly skilled with even the most squirrelly kids in the class. Nobody is ever waiting for the others to finish -- kids go over to the reading corner or to one of the activity centers when they're done. There are kids of all different stripes (academic, emotional, ethnic, economic, etc.) in the class, which I so appreciate. Yes, the worksheets are annoying, but whatever - we all have to do things we don't adore in life. I count that as a good lesson for my spoiled daughter!
I just think that you should try out public school first before going the private route. It's just kindergarten! BUSD is a great district - the class sizes are very small and there are a lot of parent volunteers in the classroom. We have been so happy with the community we've found at Cragmont. Happy Cragmont Mom
Hello parents- Has anyone had experience with an exceptionally/profoundly gifted child at Oxford or Cragmont? Any experiences you care to share that I could learn from would be most appreciated. Gathering Info
When my son was at Cragmont, I knew one especially gifted child in his grade. Her mother never indicated that she was dissatisfied with her daughter's education there, but the girl transferred to the Crowden School in 4th grade. former Cragmont parent
We're in the central zone for BUSD and we've just completed all of the tours and information nights for incoming Kindergarten families. We heard alot about Washington and Oxford during the process but haven't really heard much about BAM or Cragmont (good or bad). If you're a current BAM/Cragmont family, we'd love to hear about your experience there, pros/cons, what you like/don't like about the school.
My daughter is in 4th grade at BAM. In her 4+ years there she's had 4 great and 1 OK teacher. The school has an active PTA and a real feeling of community. It's nice being at the edge of the Gourmet Ghetto. From our point of view, there are two downsides. One is its size. They have 5 different lunch times. My daughter doesn't get lunch until 12:45! The other downside is the 1-5th grade play area. It's mostly blacktop. No grass. Very little shade. (In contrast, the K yard is great.) But it seems to be well supervised. Parking isn't too bad if you're not there for more than an hour or so. If I go on field trips, I try to take my bike. We live in the hills so my daughter takes the bus, which has been a pretty good experience. The bus actually gets her home as fast as I could were I to pick her up.
My son went to Cragmont. I admit, it has nicer exterior spaces. (And I get jealous when BUSD talks of putting more portables on the BAM playground whereas it would be very difficult to do that at Cragmont.) But I don't think there's much difference between the curriculum (including non-academic subjects) and teachers at the two schools.
By the way, even though BAM stands for ''Arts Magnet'', I don't think it has more arts than the other schools (certainly not more than Cragmont). However, the principal tries to integrate the arts into the regular curriculum and there is an emphasis on choosing teachers for their interest in the arts. For example, my daughter's K teacher was an art major, and her current teacher is a musician. But two of her teachers were interested in science. My daughter is interested in all of these. Happy BAM family
Re: Washington/Malcolm X Reviews
Cragmont had been a wonderful and diverse school for our daughter, and we're looking forward to sending our second there this fall. Our oldest has a great group of friends, and a supportive parent community. There was a lot of transition in the K program this year, with one amazing teacher on sabbatical, and another retiring (I think), so you may not have seen the typical situation there. Maybe look again at the upper grades to see what your long-term experience will really look like. They have an incredible art and dance program, community events and involved parents. cragmont parent
Re: Washington/Malcolm X Reviews
I hope your family finds and gets admitted to a school that is just wonderful for you and your whole family. Washington and Malcolm X are both great schools, and no school is perfect. From what I understand from my friends who are in two-mom families at Cragmont, they do feel well supported. Put downs of any type are not okay at Cragmont. I know Cragmont is actively working on incorporating the ''Welcoming Families'' program into the curriculum. I encourage others who are in the central zone to talk directly with families at Cragmont and find out about their experieinces there. My children and I have had an excellent experience at Cragmont over the past several years. In our opinion, it is a caring and supportive community. If you and your family end up at Cragmont, you will certainly be welcome. Caring Cragmont Parent
Re: In 5th grade and still loving your school?
My kid is in 5th grade at Cragmont (BUSD school in BErkeley) and, yes, we still love our school. I have had 2 children go through Cragmont and we will be sad to leave at the end of the year. We have found the teaching to be great, along with care for helping the kids get along and solve issues. The switch to bigger class sizes for older grades was handled well by the skilled, experienced and credentialed teachers and the kids - who know most of their classmates well by now). BUSD schools are able to keep at the relatively low class sizes for the public schools because of bonds and parcel taxes passed by voters (Go ''H'' and ''I''!).
You want to know, ''Which school is more effective in producing children who are creators rather than consumers?'' Well, my kids have only had experience in one school per grade, so I can't tell you which is BEST at meeting your needs for those particular categories. But I can tell you that my kids love to learn, have had great opportunities to be creative, and I find that their peer and school environments are generally kind and supportive. Don't be scared of peer environments. Your kids will be pre-teens and teens someday, regardless of their school. Just stay aware and do your best to discuss issues (around consumerism and creativity if that is your focus) no matter where your child lands. another BUSD Mom
I know I am in an enviable position. My son was assigned to Malcolm X and is also 3rd on the waitlist for the Cragmont Two-Way Immersion Program. How to choose (assuming we get the choice)?? We are 20 mins plus or minus in traffic away from MX and its community and I am already dreading the high-stress of the 8am start time and the zig-zag from high in N. Berkeley south to Ashby thru the city and then north again to work up in Richmond. But the school sounds off-the-charts amazing and well-worth the added logistics if the stress doesn't kill us (not a morning person/family). But Cragmont, aside from the wonderful TWI Program and the fantastic art enrichment with Joe, is close by, an easy commute and our neighborhood school. I also have a 3-year old who I anticipate will go to the same school as her brother but doubtful we'd strike it rich twice and she'd get into the TWI. Would that be strange for the kids to have one learning thru Spanish and one not? And can the regular academic/enrichment environment (and non-TWI teachers) at Cragmont compare to what MX can offer? I know, I know -- and I am grateful to be in this position, believe me, but I am no less tormented about the decision. Any advice or experience about these schools, morning stress logistics, or the TWI Program and siblings, would be so welcome. Thank you. Grateful
Both schools are wonderful choices. I have had two kids at Cragmont, one in TWI, the other not, and it was fine, especially because everyone at home was learning along with the student. Cragmont is a great school.
However, both my kids, who are very artistic, did not enjoy art at Cragmont. Sure, the kids produced sophisticated pieces of art that amazed adults; but, my children witnessed classmates' work get ridiculed, scribbled on, ripped up and stomped on, all by a respected adult. This severly hampered their artistic process. It got to the point that they actually dreaded the days they had art class. Luckily, there were plenty of good things about school that kept them engaged.
I have been impressed by the new principal, Evelyn Bradley, and the teachers are very committed.
Good luck in your discernment.
Wow, this is a toss-up. These were the 2 programs we were choosing between when our older one was first admitted. We went with Cragmont, which is truly amazing for our older child. Our second child did not get into immersion (which is getting more and more popular every year). He enjoys school very much, which is nice, but I wish he were more challenged. I appreciate many things about our current principal but she does not come to the school with much background in traditional classroom academics and I don't think she spends much time in the classrooms. That said, Malcom X will be getting a new principal this fall, and now that I've experienced a couple of 'new principal' transitions, I will say that it's not an easy process. My advice is go with your gut, and think about going to the school that's closer & more convenient to your home & family life. Trekking across town for dropoffs, pickups, meetings, etc. can get old. If you do attend a school with a new principal, do what you can to be supportive of the new leadership. Good luck. Mom of 2
Re: Thinking of moving to Berkeley - which zone?
We have been very happy with Cragmont Elementary (central zone) and King Middle School. Great families (more important than I knew!); dedicated teachers providing an excellent education in math, reading, history, science; many extras (art, field trips, PE, drama, music music music). Yes, the kids take the standardized tests. No, teaching is not tailored to the test scores. It is tailored to the state standards, which are pretty rigorous.
Re: Spanish immersion school with strong art program
I am a mom of a second grader in the dual immersion program at Cragmont school. Next year she will go to EBI. I understand your concerns and felt the same when she started in kindergarten. But I can tell you that the only thing I will miss is the art program because Joe is an incredible teacher. But I am also convinced that the art program that they will be starting at EBI next year will also be great. Art is also incorporated into the academic program in many ways.
I am a native Spanish speaker and feel that the Spanish level of the kids and teachers is superior at EBI. The students in kindergarten speak in Spanish with their teacher but in Cragmont they don't as much. I have friends who graduated from there and they don't speak Spanish as well as the third grade students I have seen at EBI. They have a separate English teacher so students only speak English with that teacher and Spanish with their other teacher.
The music program at EBI is also spectacular. The instruments they play are from different parts of the world and students in first grade start playing recorder and learning to read music. In Cragmont the music program is very basic. The transdisciplinary program at EBI is complete in all aspects and the academic level is also quite advanced. That is also very important to me. My daughter had great teachers the first two years at Cragmont but this year has been more difficult. I am excited with my decision to send her to EBI next year and she is also thrilled after having spent two days there trying it out. She wanted to start right away! Best of luck on your decision!
We have just completed the incoming elementary school tours at Washington and Cragmont. I am hoping to get some feedback (good and bad) from parents with children at either schools.
We had a very extensive tour at Washington and I was very impressed by the teachers and principle there. I feel like I got a lot of information about their teaching strategies, programs and actually got to speak with each teacher a little bit and see how they direct their classes which was great. I left with a good understanding I think of how things work there. I couldn't find any recent reviews on Washington so any feedback you can give would be great. trying to prepare for kindergarten
When we went to do our group tour at Cragmont the parents were handed a sheet of paper and told to give ourselves a tour. We were given no information and were not really able to get a feel of how classes were instructed as most classes were doing quiet projects, reading, center time, recess. We were asked not to bother the teachers or students with questions (which I totally understand) but I feel like I learned nothing about the school since we didn't get to actually speak to any teachers or the principal and there was no guide to ask questions while we were touring. Any input to help us get a better understanding of that school? trying to prepare for kindergarten
Dear Potential Kindergarten Family,
It sounds like you wish you had more Q&A time on your tour of Cragmont School and I wanted to get back to you on this. In my own experience with visiting potential schools, each one handles it differently. Touring a school is only one piece of the total picture when making a decision about schools. As to whether or not the tour is accompanied by a guide, this may be a style matter -- some parents don't have any issue with walking around by themselves and may prefer it as a way to get an unvarnished view of things. Others might want an accompanied tour as a means of getting information and testimonials. If you would like a more personalized tour, please contact me and we can set something up. Also, there will be presentations about Cragmont and opportunities for one-on-one questions at our school open house night in January.
My family's experience at Cragmont has been overwhelmingly positive. My older is being consistently challenged. His classroom experiences have seemed very collaborative and stimulating. We have strong relationships with the other families in his grade. My younger son is in K, but he seems to be off to a great start.
There are probably more specific things you'd like to know. If you have questions you'd like answered, please contact me: ptapresident [at] cragmont.org Thank you. Deirdre
Each BUSD elementary school has great features. Do you know families in your neighborhood or pre-school (f your kid goes to one) who have kids at these schools? Frank off-line discussions may be your best way to get lots of detailed info....In addition to the Kindergarten Nights.
My kids enjoy Cragmont, and so do I. We've been there for years. It has a strong, caring and diverse parent community, as well as diverse staff. We have African American and Latino Heritage Days where role models visit the classrooms. We have a Fall Fling and a Spring Carnival for fund raising. We value strong academics and the arts (visual and dance) and our fund raising goes a long way to support these values. Come see one of the assemblies or art shows some time. Our kids go on great field trips that are integrated with the curriculum. The on-site after school and before school programs are well run by an experienced and responsive director. The staff and families work together, throughout the school community, to provide a supportive and safe atmosphere for the students so that they can spend their energy learning.
I'm glad you had a great experience on your tour of Washington, because Washington is a great school, and you may end up preferring it. Every school is different, as is every family's needs.
Cragmont is a great school, too. Please come by for the January 12th Kindergarten Night to ask questions, and invite your friends who are looking at BUSD schools, too (but please don't bring your kids). My friends and I had a great time going to each of the Kindergarten Nights in our zone,... and we all came away from it with different opinions. We look forward to seeing you on January 12th at Cragmont. You (and anyone else) can also attend our next PTA meeting on Thursday, January 21 at 6:30 pm. I'm glad you are planning on being a BUSD parent. Welcome! A Cragmont Mom
We are thrilled with our experience at cragmont. Just this month, there was the annual winter faire, where each class creates and performs a dance in front of the school. The older kids actually have smaller groups and choreograph their own dances to music of their own choice. I loved this! It was truly amazing. The whole school also does a sing-along to all types of holiday songs, including xmas, hannukah, kwanzaa and non- denominational songs. In the evening, the entire school contributes to a ''stone soup'' dinner, which is incredible. Other events so far this year are the halloween parade and haunted house, created entirely by parents, and a performance by the berkeley symphony at the school. I'm not even going to go into the academics, which has been excellent and indivualized to each student's needs and level. I think this all sounds like a school that does have a strong and caring staff and parent community. I remember doing the parent tours a few years ago, and I was actually glad to be able to wander the school at my own pace and direction. But I was also pleased to find a PTA guide at BAM. I hope you will base your school decisions on more than just the tours. cragmont parent for years to come
My child will be entering Kindergarten at Cragmont in the Fall and I would like to learn more about the after-school program. What is offered? I have heard that the regular curriculum does not offer foreign language instruction. If this is true, is it available in the after-school program? What do parents think of the quality of the after-school program? and any other advice or opinions, positive or negative, are appreciated. Thanks
new to Cragmont
At the beginning of the school year, I wasn't sure the Cragmont after school program was sufficiently staffed to supervise and keep my kindergartner engaged. Boy was I wrong! Once they got a sense of the kids' ages and needs, they came up to speed quickly, bringing in many college students to lead sports, art and academic activities, under the careful eye of Mrs. Gilder and Dr Roach. The kids do get Spanish, and other activities such as capoiera and dance. There is also a strong emphasis on conflict resolution. Be thankful you have access to such a high quality program - the only challenge will be dragging your tired one away at the end of the day! satisfied Cragmont parent
I am writing to get advice and oppinions on Cragmont Elementary. My child has been placed there for K next fall and we don't know very much about it at all. In fact, we were fairly certain we wouldn't be placed at Cragmont, so we also applied to several private schools and were accepted at Prospect Sierra and Head Royce. From a financial perspective, Cragmont is our obvious choice. But like most people I'm wondering what is going to happen to public ed. these next few years. So I would like to know if parents are happy with Cragmont, the new principal, the facilities,the after school program and the general community of the school.
Will our child have more opportunities either academically or otherwise in private school vs. public?
Are either of these Private schools really worth spending 125K+ over the next 6 years? My gut says no, but I have a nagging feeling in my stomach. If Cragmont doesn't turn out to be right for our child we'll have a very tough time moving into private school in 1st grade, and her options seem fairly enviable right now. I should also say we can afford private school without any real hardship, but we just aren't convinced that spending that kind of money for k-5 is really necessary. Our child is smart, can read and write fairly well at age 5; gets along well with her current classmates and would probably do well in just about any environment. So what would you do? Questions?
We have 2 children at Cragmont and are very happy there. We love the new principal, Evelyn Bradley, she is responsive and approachable and efficient. The parent community is great.
To me the difference between private and public is that in public, they don't kick out the ''disruptive'' kids. So every year, there is usually one or two kids per class who are super disruptive, have learning disabiltiies or emotional problems or whatever and the class just has to work around that. Does it take away from the one on one instruction time my children get? Sure. So there are all these great teachers, but they are limited by lack of resources.
There is only one teacher in the class. This is key. If you happen to get a class with lots of parent participation voluneering in the class, it makes all the difference. The kids learn twice as much I think when there are more adults in the class. Sometimes the teachers have student teachers and that really helps a lot too. But this is not something you would have to worry about at private school.
So if you come to Cragmont, be prepared to spend some time volunteering during the day if you can in the classroom. They really need it. (at private, they probably don't even want you in the class) Also, you may find yourself wanting to do more afterschool enrichment like LHS science classes or whatever. Since you pay no tuition, you can afford these things.
Other pros to Cragmont: Amazing art program. Dedicated art teacher named Joe with his own room. come to the school and check out all the art displayed in the common areas and visit Joe. He's great. Amazing facility and yard. Wonderful parent community. And its free! Anon
Well, at least you only have good choices!!! Still, this is tough. I'll write from a Cragmont parent perspective. You wanted opinions on 1)the new principal. I'm a regular school volunteer and active in the PTA, and from my perspective, Evelyn is great. She's very personable and approachable. She understands BUSD very well. She seems to be a firm disciplinarian of kids who're acting out. She follows through on what she says she'll do. 2) the facilities: outstanding school site. 3) afterschool program: afterschool has had lots of changes over the last three years. The first two years were great. Beginning of this year wasn't good, due to a big shift in funding sources. But once new staff was hired & parents also got more involved, it's been getting better & better. Right now, I'm quite satisfied. 4) general school community: active, engaged parents; fun family events; LOTS of adult volunteers, diversity curricula & emphasis on respect for all races; symphony peformances in school & several field trips to performances at Zellerbach each year.
BUT: if you have a teacher that's not working out for you, it's very frustrating to be very limited on how you can change the situation. BUSD can't fire bad teachers easily. You gotta be ready to speak out -- and that goes for any BUSD school, not just Cragmont. Most Cragmont teachers are good (I've only had good ones). But there's a couple that people have had a lot of complaints about. So what should you do? You seem like a person of means for whom private education is highly valued & you'd agonize about going to public. If you drop thousands of dollars on your kids' schooling, maybe you'll have more power at your school. (But I hope you'll think about giving a few thousand to your BUSD PTA instead -- !!!) so good luck & hope we'll see you in the fall. cragmonter
Private school has never been an option for us financially so I can't say what I would do in your situation, but I can say that as the parent of a Kindergartner at Cragmont (in the Two Way Immersion classroom), I have thus far been quite happy. The new principal is fantastic, our son's teacher is amazing, the parent community is very involved both in terms of their presence at the school and in the classrooms (and teachers welcome this -- and I'm not sure that is always the case at all private schools), as well as as their commitment to raising money. All public school districts are going to suffer over the next handful of years, but Berkeley seems pretty committed to preserving as much as it can of what is most important, and I think the Cragmont community in particular will rise to the challenge. No school is perfect, but thus far we are very satisfied with our experience at Cragmont and happy to be supporting our public schools. Happy Cragmont Parent
I am sure you will get a bunch of responses telling you to send your child to Cragmont so here is a pitch for the other side. If you can afford it, invest in sending your kid to a good private school. More enrichment (arts, music, PE, language, etc) and importantly less busy work and more individual attention. Your child will get a solid foundation at the critical young age. There is a reason that admissions to all the good private schools in this area are competitive even in these tough economic times. Anon
As you'll note, there have been recent and less recent postings about Cragmont. (check archives) Almost all have been positive (and they haven't all been from me!).
If you say you don't know very much about Cragmont, we can inform you a bit here, but I also suggest that you make an appointment to chat with the principal if you can. Evelyn Bradley is wonderful and very much on top of things at Cragmont. I have seen her work with large and small groups of parents and children. I have spoken with her one-on-one. I am very impressed with her openness and her listening skills. She does not jump to conclusions. She is thoughtful and makes good decisions. She came from another Berkley school and understands the BUSD system - which is SO important to being an effective champion for your school. She also works well with City government, which is an important skill.
No one really knows exactly how this round of school funding woes will impact BUSD, but you could ask Ms Bradley her opinion. You can also ask a school board rep. You can also ask the School Board superintendent. The schools have survived cuts before and we will do so again. Remember, as stock portfolios are down and layoffs are up, private schools will also be suffering from fewer funds! Also, BUSD enrollments in kindergarten are up as more families can't afford private schools in these economic times. That said, Cragmont has a VERY strong parent community that raises a bunch of funds every year to support some of the programs that are so important to the school (arts, garden, volunteer coordination for reading and other skills assistance, computer technical support, field trips). Call the school and find out when the next PTA meeting is and join us for an evening. You'll get a feel for how well the school is supported by its community.
Cragmont has a great afterschool program run by Ms Guilder. You could talk with her about it. The kids do homework and play outside and take enrichment classes if they'd like. Kids from any income level participate. Classes currently include visual art, science, dance, sewing, Spanish, creeks, embroidery, music (4th and 5th grade taught by Cal students). There is also a before school program that begins at 7:45 for parents who have to leave for work before the 9 am start time. Regardless of the school, one seldom gets to pick your child's teacher. Luckily, the teachers at Cragmont are good and most are very very good to excellent. They are all credentialed. We have been very happy with our children's time at Cragmont. It is a lovely school with a strong family community that generally works together extremely well. Regardless of opinions on some issue or other form time to time, all the adults find common purpose in focusing on, and caring for, and educating the kids. As Ms Woods says, ''It's about the children''. The kids feel safe and enjoy school. The diverse community is warm and nurturing; yet demands that kids are respectful to themselves, other students, and to adults at school.
The academics are very good. Where we wanted more challenges for our child, we spoke with the teachers and were easily able to find a good solution. Our children get an amazing education in math, writing, history, dance, art, music - and that's just during the school day (not after school).
You may be able to pay for both private school and travel, but we cannot. For us, it was one or the other. But even if we could pay for both, we would have probably still chosen Cragmont, or another Berkeley public school. As to the differences between Cragmont and Prospect Sierra or other private schools, I can not tell you, cuz we've only been at Cragmont. Cragmont Parent
If I were in your (enviable) situation, I would choose Cragmont. The main factor in my advice is that you noted your child will probably do fine anywhere. If your child is a hard- working, self-starter, then Cragmont will be fine and you will save money as well as driving time. The driving time comes into play not just for school, but for playdates and birthday parties as well, as the private schools draw from a wider geographic area. Also, if you do choose Cragmont, you should wait until after second or third grade to reevalute your choice because you'll have a better feel for the school than after just one year. -- a mom
As I read your appeal I cannot help but feel that you are looking to have your decision to attend Cragmont validated. If your gut tells you something then follow it. In response to your question judging the value of a Prospect Sierra education, I would answer without hesitation that it is worth every penny. As a parent of two Prospect students paying full tuition, I recognize the trade offs required to fund their schooling. For my wife and I, it is not about the money. We place a high value on the enrichment our children are receiving every school day. When we see their engagement in life and see their work product, the value proposition of our investment is definitively positive. I am not familiar with Cragmont but Prospect provides full-time library staff, full-time art staff, full-time music staff, full-time science staff, and full-time PE staff. If you have visited the campus and have seen our fine facilities, and our beloved, inspiring teachers in action, then you have witnessed those qualities that set Prospect Sierra apart from other schools. Finally, without our caring, embracing community of families, past and current, Prospect Sierra's aspiring outlook would not be possible. If you share this vision and hope then I invite you and your family to join us.
Greetings, I had 2 daughters at Cragmont for a few years while Jason Lustig was principle. Our older daughter loved her time there though was a little bored in 5th grade. She was engaged and happy. She is now in 7th grade at BPC and still considers some of Cragmont friends her best friends. My younger daughter struggled more , there seemed to be a larger number of difficult, disruptive kids in her grade which made the learning environment chaotic. She made the change this year to Black Pine Circle (4th grade) and is thriving. I love many things about Cragmont and miss that community still, though for my child, it was the right decision to leave. If you have active parents participating in the class, it makes a big difference. I have done both public and private for all three of my kids. So much depends on who you end up with, both classroom peers and teacher alike. Academically, both kids were solid and well prepared for the transition to private school. Really, there is no right answer to your question, though frankly, I would give Cragmont a go. You could find yourself part of a diverse and wonderful community, of course with challenges (but life it that way) If it does not work out, there will be room someplace else for your child and your family.
I'm looking for some recent Cragmont experiences as we are deciding about schools for our first grader next year. In particular, what are your impressions of the new principal? It seems like there has been a bit of turnover lately and I wonder if it still seems like a very good school. Also, do you feel like the kids get a lot of art and music? Thanks! potential cragmont parent
Yes, Cragmont is a great place! We will be in grades 3 and K next year and feel very positive about our experiences there. Evelyn Bradley is a great principal. She's focused, she knows how to get things done. She has a great deal of experience with BUSD administration and knows how to cut through the red tape. She listens to parents and has made changes where they seem to be needed. Yes, there has been a bit of turnover in that the last principal stayed only for one year. But I think (and I hope) Evelyn will be there for awhile. Any BUSD school is what you make it. pro-Cragmont
Re: Returning to Berkeley after 10 yrs - which school?
Cragmont definitely does have a family feel and it would likely be a great way to put down roots in Berkeley. The parents are, generally, very involved in the school, with many volunteering during the school day (in classroom, on field trips), in the after school program (science class, sewing class) or for other activities and events through the PTA (diversity committee, cultural heritage events, fundraisers, emergency preparedness). Cragmont values diversity. The the school is diverse racially and ethnically (can see data on line or ask BUSD). Many families are of mixed race, a good portion of parents who were raised in other countries (Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico, Eritrea, Germany, Nepal, Korea). Family structures are diverse, too, with some kids having two moms, or a single parent. Cragmont's academic and arts programs (visual arts, dance & music) are good, kids are engaged in school and most kids do well on stnadardized tests.
Re: Where can I find before school care in Berkeley?
My children have all gone or are still going to Cragmont Elementary, a public elementary school in Berkeley, and Cragmont has before school care, at whatever income level you are. There is a monthly fee, which is sliding scale. The coordinator, Dean Woods, is wonderful with the children. Leia
Re: looking at schools in the Central Zone
Well, I can only tell you about Cragmont, cuz that's where my kids go to school. My kids like it a lot and so do we. You can look on the archives (if the recent Cragmont blurbs were archived) for some detailed reviews. I'll touch on a couple of characteristics.
We find Cragmont to be a caring community where mutual respect is valued highly. Kids are taught to be respectful of themselves and others. It is a village and all the adults pitch in to help the kids understand the importance of respect and caring. The school feels very safe. Arts-wise, there is a rich program of visual arts and dance. This year the kids have art and dance and music one day each week. Art is always offered in the on-site afterschool program.
Academics-wise, Cragmont teachers work together to ensure a consistent approach across diffrerent classes in each grade. The many experienced teachers are well able to teach to kids throughout the academic spectrum. Extra help is provided to students as needed in math and language arts. Extra challenges are provided for kids who find academics easier. Science is taught by two well-loved teachers, through the garden program in the lower grades and in the science classroom in 4th and 5th. Additional science is taught by many of the classroom teachers.
There are many student teachers participating at Cragmont and learning form the master teachers. Parents help in mnay of the classrooms, too. Two volunteer coordinators help organize all the helpers. The parent community is very involved. A lot of Moms and Dads attend PTA meetings and organize events. There is a special parent group for the Latino/a family community and another for the parents of children of color. It is made clear that anyone (regardless of race) is welcome to attend ony of these groups' meetings. There is also a Diversity Committee with a broad membership.
The new principal, Mr. Vu, is a very smart and warm leader with a good sense of humor. He is a diplomat (in the best sense of the word) and helps both kids and adults work out issues.
In summary, I'd say that Cragmont is a very supportive kid-staff- parent community that values diversity, respect, and learning and is focused on the growth of the students. And as one well- loved staff person says, ''It's all about the kids!'' Stop by and observe if you get the chance. Cragmont Parent
I'm beginning to look at public elementary schools in Berkeley and wonder if anyone has recent information/recommendations to share? I am in the ''Central'' zone and interested in a rich program with as much arts programming and faculty and student diversity as possible. Thanks, researching early
As you may know, the Berkeley schools in your zone (Central) are the ones you have priority for. The Central Zone Schools are Washington (my neigbor loves it for her 2 boys), Whittier- Berkeley Arts Magnet, Oxford, and Cragmont (we love it for our 2 kids). So I can tell you about our school. Cragmont kids get weekly dance class with Ms. Gutwirth, who also brings in international dance experts every year to work with the kids. Last year's work with master Gamelan dancers and musicians from Indonesia was as great as this year's work with West African master dancers and musicians.
The visual arts teacher, Joe, has his own classroom. Kindergartners visit him each week, and older kids spend one semester with him. This allows for extra long classes when they are with him. Joe also teaches art in the on site after school program. The kids study master artists' work and learn sophisticated techniques and styles. They work in 2 D and 3 D. Various parents and teachers bring visual and theater art to the school in many ways. The garden and its program are blossoming. The science program is strong. The basics in math and reading are paid a lot of attnetion. The school day is full at Cragmont, and some rote work is done at home, in order to fit the arts into the day.
The PTA is strong and diverse. An African American parents' group and a Spanish-Speaking parents' group both help to bring their concerns to the whole comunity in a constructive and supportive way. Next year's PTA executive committee includes a diversity of officers. The staff at Cragmont are also diverse. The other schools you mentioned are also wonderful. Fortunately, Berkeley elementary schools have lots of great stuff to offer, and their families are dedicated to supporting the arts.
Stop by next year to visit the schools when you get a chance (call the office first to determine a good time), see some of their performances, see some of their community events, go to PTA meetings; and you'll get a good feel for each school's community. (And please make a dontaion in time and/or money to whatever school you land at - Thanks! Cragmont Mom
I am a parent who is starting to look into K for next year for my first child. I would appreciate hearing from parents whose children attend Cragemont or Oxford what their experiences have been like. I am especially interested in knowing (but please also comment on whatever you think is important):
-strengths and weaknesses of the school
-level of academic performance (I saw the scores online for the 2004-5 year report). I am especially interested in knowing how well the children are learning in a classroom with a diverse body of students
-discipline: good?, too loose?, too strict?
-feeling included / excluded as a practicing Jew?
We have children at Cragmont, so can only tell you about that school. To answer your questions....
I find that the teachers are doing well in working with parents to craft a program that suits their child and that will work in the classroom setting. Especially in kindergarten, children show up with a wide range of academic skills. The teachers do a pretty good job meeting the needs of all of them. AND there is no replacement for you being involved at the school (at ANY elementary school) if you are able to make the time. If you can't be involved at the school even once a month, it is wise to see your kid's teacher face-to-face about once a month to check in (at ANY elementary school).
As for any BUSD student, if your child has particular learning challenges, you can work with the school and the district to get extra assistance for them.
Discipline is great at Cragmont. It feels very safe and respectful. The principal and the teachers emphasize respect for all quite a bit. Every teacher has the right to teach and every child the right to learn. Kids that break the rules and/or disprupt the class are worked with in a constructive manner, and if they cause too much disruption, adjustments are made so that the rest of the class' learning doesn't suffer. I'v heard from a parent of a challenging older boy (from a few years back) that she thought the principal did a fantastic job working with her son.
Sports happen on the play ground every day during the recesses. Older kids are junior coaches and organize games for younger kids who wnat to play. A specific Sports and Games Time class happens once a week for each classroom. Kindergarteners and the younger grades are the only kids allowed at the smaller playground.
The students also have a wide range of dietary needs/restrictions. Kids (and teachers and parents) who are vegatarians and kids (and parents)who have nut allergies attend the school and their needs are met.
A wide variety of cultures are present at Cragmont and the diversity is respected and celebrated. The active PTA has diverse leadership. The teaching staff are diverse, as well. There are many mixed race students and so many families, themselves, are diverse. There is a parents group focusing on the particular education challenges facing african american students, and parents from the range of ethnicities at Cragmont are actively and enthusiastically supporting the group's work. I can't tell you how Cragmont is specifically for an observant Jew as I am not Jewish, but hopefully you will hear from the Cragmont families who are. Many Cragmont kids attend the popular onsite after-school program and a bunch (both Jewish and non-Jewish) go to the JCC with kids from around Berkeley and Albany). You may want to check both programs out this school year. If you sign up for the JCC afterschool program, and let the school district know, then your child can be bussed (for free) to the JCC. The JCC can tell you haw kids from different schools get to the ''J'' afterschool.
I encourage you to visit the schools at different times of day, in different clssrooms. Check out the release time classes during the day like art and dance. Check out recess time. Check out festivals and PTA meetings to get a feel for the community spirit. I hope you find and get into a school that meets your needs.
Re: Moving back to the Bay Area - which school district?
Regarding your question, I certainly don't think your 6 year old will feel stigmatized in K; a lot of kids enter late, are 'held back' a year, esp. boys. I see them doing very well. As my kids are half Latino half caucacian, so far I really enjoy the berkeley Elementary school we are at (cragmont). They both finally made it into the bilingual (Spanish English) classes, which are also offered at LeConte and Rosa Parks. Our pricipal is tops and pushing and name calling are given a referral to the office, for example. We have a great student body and are doing GREAT on the Star testing, especially given our diverse student body. I love having the diversity. I feel that it, more then anything else, prepares my children for real life. At their jobs, they will most likely have colleagues of all different backgrounds. Also, when I drive by Marin Elementary, eg, in Albany, I think: boy, my children will kind of stand out there, not being all Caucasian and/or Oriental. Good luck on your search. Also, the academic standards are high. A friend transferred to Head Royce from Cargmont (very prestigious private school) and did fine. Other children coming from private schools have to catch up! There are a TON of interventions as well for the lower third of the class, incl. teachers staying after school to tutor math and language!
love our school
My daughter is eight and is in Cragmont elem. There is an excellent art teacher that is gifted with the kids, making it almost an arts magnet in the emphasis on visual arts. The afterschool program is excellent, affordable and well staffed. The teachers vary in the degree of positive discipline they use to manage the classrooms. I am glad to speak with anyoine with questions. micky
I am considering which afterschool program to enroll my future Cragmont (Berkeley) kindergartener in. I reviewed the info on the webpage, but as I cannot tell when the comments were made, I would like to make sure to get some recent input. If you have a child enrolled in the afterschool program at Cragmont or the Jewish Community Center, I would be interested in hearing what you think of their program this year (both positive, and areas that need work). What are the kindergartener programs like? Also, do you know of any major changes coming up for next year? Any thing else we should know? If anyone has any recent experience with other Berkeley after school programs that they would like to toss in the pot, please do, as I'm sure many of us would benefit. Thanks! suzanne
I have two kids at Cragmont and while I've been disappointed in the afterschool program, I think that next year will be different. There's now a wonderful afterschool coordinator, Angela Gilder, and the plan is to offer a variety of afterschool classes -- circus arts, salsa, chess club, a variety of sport ''centers'' as well as Joe McClain's very popular art classes and the homework assistance that's always been part of Cragmont's afterschool care. It's in the works so I can't give a firsthand recommendation but I suggest you visit Cragmont after school and talk to Angela (ask to see sign-up lists of classes) before you decide. Ann
Other recommendations received:
- Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center (3)
Dear all, does anybody have a child at Cragmont school in Berkeley? I am thinking of sending my child there next kindergarten year, and would be grateful to receive ANY kind of feedback or reports about the school - is your child happy there - does your child learn anything - are the classes orderly....and so on! Kathy
My son is in 3rd grade there and has been there since Kindergarten. He's very happy there. Like any Berkeley public elementary school, it has its pluses and minuses. Overall, it has been a very good experience for all of us.
Pluses: Lots of parent involvement, including volunteering in the classroom; lots of enrichment (the PTA is very good at fundraising); uniformly very good teachers. You can request a given teacher, which is not true of all the Berkeley schools. Great play structure for first-fifth grades. Great art teacher and school library. Special science and music programs in all grades. Good computer specialist; 3rd graders are learning how to touch-type this year.Very good reading-recovery program.
Minuses: (probably true for all Berkeley schools). On the whole, discipline isn't great, although the parents have been working with the staff very hard on school climate the past two years. One parent commented to me that the presence of a Spanish immersion program means that a lot of well-behaved children aren't in the regular classes, meaning that it is harder to spread out the kids who are discipline problems. I don't think the classes are as good as they could be in terms of spread of academic abilities, although this year it appears to be very good for the 3rd grade and the principle has become aware of the need to keep this is mind when assigning kids to split-grade classes.
Is my son learning at school? That's hard to say. We work with him a lot at home. For K and 1 he was in a combination class and reading wasn't taught to him by the teacher. (They had a high-level aide who specialized in reading.) But he got a very solid grounding in phonics and his reading really took off in 2nd grade. I also worked with him a lot during the second half of 1st grade and through the summer. I think there could be more homework. Sometimes the enrichment programs threaten to overtake the time for basic learning. Fran
My eight-year-old twins are at Cragmont and they're happy there. Yes, classes that we've been in have been orderly. My daughter, who's quiet and extremely well behaved has liked school better than her brother, who has a harder time sitting still in class. The teachers have been very good, the principal, Jason Lustig, is young and enthusiastic. I suggest you sit in on a kindergarten class and see what you think - and try to come during "recess" (at Cragmont it's called activity time because it's fairly structured) and check that out, too. Ann
My son began kindergarten at Cragmont this Fall. He seems to like it a lot and is happy to go in the mornings and positive about how he spends the day. Most all the kids in his class seem really ready to be in school and have adjusted very well. His class seems to behave very well and hasn't been at all wild when I've visited but I understand that this can vary from year to year.
I'm pleased with the school's leadership and communication but it's not like I have a lot to compare it to. I think the principal is extremely dedicated and more than willing to work on any problems that arise and he's dedicated to coming up with programs that will work for all the kids. He's begun some very creative programs for both outside time and behavior/respect problems that so far seem effective to me. Liz