Jefferson Elementary School
- PTA website: http://jefferson.berkeleypta.org/
My son will be entering kindergarten this fall at Jefferson Elementary. I was hoping to get input from current parents with kids at Jefferson. What is your overall impression and experience at the school? How did your child handle the transition to kindergarten? My son is currently in all day preschool, but has been with a lot of the same kids for most of that time, so this will be a big adjustment for him. I'm also curious to hear more about JAZ, their afterschool program, since my son will most likely need afterschool care. Thanks in advance for any advice/input! soon-to-be Jefferson parent
Welcome to Jefferson. As a current Jefferson parent with a kid currently in 3rd grade and an incoming K (boy), we love Jefferson. full disclosure, I'm also on the PTA. Jefferson is an excellent small community. Reasonable level of parent involvement, active PTA (although we totally need more people to participate in our activities). We fund raise like crazy--which goes to funding core school aspects (like PE, sand for the sandbox, counseling services, books for the classroom and transportation for field trips).
If you'd like to see the school in action and get to know what's going on, please feel free to come to our Mayfair event (Saturday May 3rd; 11-3). Its great fun and a major fundraising event for the school. Your kid will love it. We are also having a community meeting for the whole school on April 12 (sponsored by the School Governance Council) to obtain feedback from the full community and help to set the strategic direction of the school for the next few years. Welcome.
As to my impressions (admittedly, biased), its a great school. The teachers are excellent and Principal Maggie has been able to choose the cream of the crop when new teachers come in. That's important because the school is growing and a few new teachers are coming in. The school has great events (assemblies, books).
The school is just completing a construction period and so next year when the kids come in parts of the building will be new--including a new library--and great. And year after next the playground will get a major facelift as will. So we will have many new school parts.
You asked about the JAZ program. My big kid has been it for a number of years and my little one will be in the program in the fall (every day until 5:30). For the money, there is no better program. The staff are extremely caring. And they have been working over the past few years to continue to enhance and further develop the enrichment offerings. I never worry about safety. And they keep the K separate from the big kids so they are in a more protected group. I also augment JAZ with the PTA classes. the PTA also provides scholarships for the PTA classes so that all kids, regardless of income limits, can take advantage of the high quality of those classes.
RE Transitions: Jefferson, like most Berkeley Public Schools starts the school year with groups randomly put into classes and then they swap teachers each day for the first week. That allows parents to meet different teachers and allows the teachers to create class groups that work best for teachers and the kids. I know that all of the current K teachers are excellent--they have that special touch with the little ones and so they can help to ease the transition for any kid. I know that my kid will have a great transition. My kid is also in FT preschool with only 1 or 2 kids coming to Jefferson so he will be starting over as well. We will be planning a number of welcome play dates at the school for incoming K plus the current G1 classes to give parents and kids a chance to meet each other and have some friends on the first day. Coming to those play dates were great for my big kid when he started at Jefferson.
all in all, Jefferson is a great Berkeley Public School.
Welcome to the community. I look forward to meeting you. Melissa B.
As the deadline for the BUSD lottery approaches, I was hoping to get more recent reviews of Jefferson elementary, in particular as regards incoming kindergartners. Any info would be helpful, but I am particularly interested in feedback re: music and drama, spanish, and the before/after school program. Also, can you clarify if there are aides/assistants in the classrooms for kindergarten and 1st grade--or if not, if parents are usually there? I have received varying information so far, and worry about the ratio a little. Thank you! small step for humankind, big step for us!
I am the parent of 2 Jefferson students: one in 3rd grade and one in Kindergarten. So far, the teachers have ranged from good to outstanding- and most have been outstanding. There are not aides in the classroom. However, in each of my children's classrooms, there is a special needs child who has an aide and this is another adult in the classroom. Parents also volunteer. We have participated in the afterschool classes and a little bit in Voyager, the after-school program. I have been pleased with both of them. I have also heard good things about the other schools in this zone: Thousand Oaks and Rosa Parks. Jefferson Parent
Afterschool Program at Jefferson
My daughter will be starting kindergarten at Jefferson in the Fall and I would like to learn more about after school care options and parent feedback on those options. I know the PTA offers some after school classes and that there is a program called Voyager but couldn't find any recent reviews of either in the BPN archives. Am particularly interested in hearing from parents of kindergartners and first graders in after school programs this year as my main concern is how well the after school care is supervised and how the kindergartners do mixing with the older/bigger kids. Am not sure how much (if any) separation of ages there is, how much supervision of the playground is provided, etc.. Thanks in advance for your feedback and advice. Rita
My daughter is a kindergartener at Jefferson, and attends the PTA enrichment classes plus the Voyager program 3 days/week. The PTA classes are run by great teachers, and most classes are separated into age groups - i.e. kindergarten only, or K-1. For kindergarteners, the classes include art, clay, Mandarin, dance movement, carpentry. Voyager is the after school program at Jefferson, and the children are separated by grade - K-1, 2-3 and 4-5. The Voyager staff person supervising the K-1 kids is a wonderful, loving, nurturing woman - all the children adore Shabana. We feel very fortunate our daughter is in such good hands at Jefferson. pl
Welcome to the Jefferson community! I have a second-grade daughter at Jefferson who started K as a 4-year old, so I had some of the same concerns as you do about afterschool care. It is an adjustment, for sure, from the cocoon-like feel of preschool to being the youngest in a much bigger student body. My daughter was at Voyager full time as a Kindergartener and has been there part time since then. The Kindergarteners and first graders are kept somewhat separate from the older kids, particularly at the beginning of the year, and are in the charge of Shabana Ghani, who is a warm and attentive caregiver. There were times when I felt the supervision was a bit inadequate, not for safety reasons but more for interpersonal ones - we had some problems with kids squabbling and/or teasing and not having the adult guidance I'd have wished for. The people who run and staff Voyager are all good-hearted and attentive, but it is a big program run on a shoestring, so I think of it as good, fun, safe, but primarily custodial, care. The kids have a ball - my daughter loves it and begs to go to Voyager instead of to her other aftercare program (the JCC, which we both also love). In addition to the regular Voyager program, the kids get free enrichment - drama, yoga, art, and probably other things I'm forgetting. Shabana will walk the little ones to/from their afterschool classes if they take any. They can play indoors with lots of games, books, etc., or outdoors on the play yard. It's quite inexpensive - $180/month for full time. All that said, I think you can choose Voyager and have a great experience, but it will be a big adjustment for you when your child is new to K.
As I said, my daughter goes to the JCC a few days a week - I actually did this initially because she had a best friend at Jefferson/Voyager with whom she had a very high-drama relationship, which was wearing me out. Kids go to the JCC on the school bus, and that works out fine. The JCC's program is marvelous - rich, warm, great teachers and aides, great values. The main downsides are the additional cost, and if you're walking distance to Jefferson but not to the JCC, the extra transportation issues. If you go to a place like the JCC, you do get a second community, which is great, but two new communities may be a bit much to adjust to for a new Kindergartener. Plenty do it fine, though, and the JCC is a very loving, fun place for all the kids.
Maybe more than you asked for, but in short - your child will be safe and happy at Voyager, but it will be a bit of a culture shock (especially for you). A bonus for being at Voyager is added opportunities to connect with other families in the school community - which at Jefferson is a very lively, strong, positive part of the school experience. Nancy
Kindergarteners get out of school one hour earlier so they are by themselves for the first hour with their group leader. When school is over all the kids are together, but they are also with a group leader K-1, 2-3,4-5. The program is good they have homework club, yoga, drama, art all for free. The kids are all good to each other and for the most part it is a good program. The PTA afterschool classes are good. You will get info on the program during the summer and if you want you can go and see it in action before the end of school. dmr
My son will be entering kindergarten at Jefferson in the fall while most of his friends are going to another school. I know there will be a get-together in August and that he will make friends when he begins school, but he is very interested in having some playdates this spring with kids who will also be starting Jefferson kindergarten this fall. Is there already a forum for this that I don't know about? Or do you have a child entering Jefferson kindergarten and want to get together this spring/early summer? thanks, Katya
I don't know if you have set up any playdates with prospective kindergarteners yet, but I highly recommend attending Jefferson's Mayfair on Saturday, May 13 from 11:00 - 3:00pm. This event has fun carnival games, great food, relay races, student performances, a cake walk, a raffle, a book sale, and more. It is really a lot of fun and can get your kindergartener excited about entering Jefferson. (It got my child excited last year!) You will certainly meet current parents and kids and may be able to meet entering kindergarteners as well. Feel free to email me if you have questions. Kira
Our son is starting kindergarten at Jefferson School this fall, too. We would love to meet other new Jefferson families for playdates before the August event. H.
Our soon-to-be kindergartener has been assigned to Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley. We would like to get some reviews of the school from families currently attending the school - both positive and negative please. We're in the position to consider private school, but are strong supporters of the public school system and we're feeling somewhat conflicted in today's school climate. We're reviewed the previous comments in the UC parents archives. Thanks! Public School Supporter
My daughter is a current kindergartener at Jefferson. It is a GREAT school and I recommend it highly. My daughter had no classroom experience prior to attending Jefferson. (She stayed home with Grandma during the days until starting kindergarten in September of 2004.) We did teach her the alphabet, numbers through 20 and read to her every night. Now she can read and will attempt to sound out the longer harder words. The school is just great and we are pleased with the progress she had made in less than a year.
Mrs. Delany, the principal, is a SUPER lady and so are the teachers. All 3 kindergarten teachers are great! Can't say it enough....Jefferson is a great school! A Happy Jefferson Parent
My daughter is a kindergartener in Rosemary Robinson's class at Jefferson this year, and I could not have been happier with her/our experience there. My daughter and I love Rosemary and what she does in the classroom; we enjoy the other children and families, and have made great friends; and the PTA is very active, does great things, and has been very welcoming to new families. My daughter has learned a great deal this year, and grown enormously in many ways. I'd be happy to entertain specific questions by e-mail. Robin
We're a Kindergarten family at Jefferson, so our experience is limited. I hope families who've been there longer answer your question as well.
In short, we've been very happy with Jefferson so far. There's a good sense of community there, and the faculty are almost uniformly liked by the parents and teachers (there are a couple of teachers that are less highly regarded, and a few that have almost celebrity status - probaby just like at any school). Although Jefferson has very good test scores, I haven't heard one single word about the tests yet - possibly that's because I'm a Kindergarten parent and the tests don't affect us, but I take it as a sign that the school as a whole isn't fixated on the standardized tests, which I think is a good thing. There's a weekly assembly every Thursday morning, which is delightfully old-fashioned - the kids sing together, and all the classes get chances to perform at assembly. There's a monthly event outside of school hours - an ice cream social, a fabulous halloween party, a cultural potluck, etc., so families get opportunities to get to know each other and feel a part of the school community. There's a conflict manager program on the playground, staffed by kids, and a culture of respect school- wide. I can't say whether any of this is unique to Jefferson, but I can say that both adults and child in our family have been very comfortable there, and my daughter is thriving. A friend whose older kids have attended two other Berkeley public schools says that Jefferson is her hands-down favorite. I'm very happy with our decision to go to Jefferson. a Jefferson mom
I am both a parent of 2 Jefferson students (5th and 3rd grade) as well as the current PTA co-chair. This school really capitalizes on the positives of a public school education: strong sense of community, exposure to different cultures and family choices, teachers committed to excellence who are themselves part of the Jefferson community. On a recent Saturday while selling Girl Scout cookies at Monterey Market, 3 Jefferson teachers walked by and stopped to chat.
The teachers, parents and administration all work very well together. Our focus this year and last year in every committee has been on academic achievement for all students. The results from our test scores last year reflect good progress from a very solid academic base.
We have weekly school-wide assemblies that are open to parents/guardians. There is a lot of music appreciation as well as a variety of presentations during these assemblies -- drop by on a Thursday morning and check it out.
I know there has been a lot of press about the possible name change of the school. Please don't let this color your opinions of the school. No matter the outcome, all the participants agree that we will still have the best elementary school. It is not de-focusing us at all from the importance of improving the student experience both academically and socially.
Lastly, you're welcome to attend our monthly PTA meetings -- second Tuesday of the month at 7:00PM in the library. Please come! Kate
We have two kids at Jefferson who love school there, and we're more than happy about the education they're receiving. There are many components of a good education, here's a few issues for first-time parents to consider:
1) Quality teachers. Most Berkeley schools have experienced, dedicated teachers who know how to get the most out of the kids. There is not a teacher at Jefferson who I would not want my kid in his/her class.
2) School climate. At Jefferson, like many of the schools, recess and lunches are staggered by grade level. So the kindergartners and first graders have recess and eat lunch together. Same with 2-3 and 4-5. This makes for uncrowded play equipment and kids playing with peers.
3) School building blocks: Be Safe. Be Kind. Do Your Best Work. These are drilled into the kids in each classroom. When you go to the classes you'll see well-behaved kids. On the playground, certain students are Conflict Managers--trained to help resolve the kind of disputes kids invariably get into. [Of course there are adults there too.]
4) School community. There are many community events, from class potlucks to school-wide events sponsored by the PTA. Every Thursday morning the whole school gathers for Assembly--parents are welcome to come too. The kids sing, classes perform, sometimes outside performers too.
5) After School. There is a great, inexpensive, on-site, after-school program: Voyager. There is also a full range of after school classes including Spanish, Mandarin, chess, basketball, science, etc etc. Here are a few less obvious things to consider: 1) Remember your kid won't be in kindergarten forever--look at the whole school. 2) Yes, our schools are racially and economically diverse. Look at the kids cooperating on a variety of levels--in the classroom, on the playground--it really does give one hope for the future. 3) Your kid won't lose out on that Rhodes scholarship in kindergarten-- give it a try--you'll find that the overall level of academic achievement is quite high and your kid will love it. Jay
I have a second-grader at Jefferson and am very happy with the school. The teachers are by-and-large very good. The kids--with explicit and ongoing help from the teachers and administration-- are respectful of each other and adults. The new playground is great. I'd love to see more art and other enrichment and get back more of the wonderful science teacher's time that we lost due to budget cuts. It is a nice, small school with a warm and diverse community of involved families. Jefferson Parent
I am a parent of a 4th and a 2nd grader at Jefferson Elementary and am in my 5th year of PTA involvement.
We feel a very strong bond with the school and are very happy to be part of the Jefferson community. We don't live in the immediate Jefferson neighborhood so we get a lot of comparative data on the public and private schools from neighbors and friends. All of them are aware of Jefferson's great reputation. It is known for its academics, Chinese bi- cultural program, musically oriented students, weekly school-wide assemblies, and for having minimal behavioral issues in the student body. For my kids, it has been a very welcoming place to do their best and it has exposed them to many things outside the classroom too - bird study, great field trips, interesting assemblies and lots of fun evening family events: Halloween, Art, Math, Culture, Books.
As far as test scores, no one can give you answers -- only you can draw your own conclusion from the information available. We had a Parent Education Forum last year to discuss standardized tests -- what they are used for and how the data can be mis-interpreted. I realized that there are lots of ways to slice the test score data and even then there are many unknowns. kate
Afterschool for kindergartener?
Well, now that we know we got into Jefferson, we are starting to think about what happens after school. Our kindergartener will need to go to an after school program 3 days/week, until 5 pm. What do parents think of the Voyager program? pros/cons? How is it for the little ones? (is K mixed with all the other grades, etc?) Do most kids who need after school care stay for the Voyager program, or do they go to a mix of other programs? What other programs are popular, and do we need to apply to those now to get a spot? Thanks for any input on this.
Congratulations on getting into Jefferson! We do a mix of after-school programs -- both Voyager and the city's James Kenney Park. Voyager is OK and getting better all the time. Morris, who runs the program (and seemingly pretty much everything nonacademic at the school!) is wonderful, and kids and parents all love him.
It's taken Voyager a little while to find its balance, and I think it's still best for kids who like to run around a lot. There is a ''homework club'' and computers and lego-type activities for kids whose energy isn't so large and expansive. There are no real age divisions as far as I can tell, but the Jefferson culture is so hip to the issue of bullying that I don't see that as a real problem. To be fair to Voyager, the Kenney program is supported by Berkeley property taxes, while Voyager is really scrounging for dough, so that's a big part of the difference.
A downside to Kenney is that Berkeley city holidays are rather frequently different than the school holidays, so sometimes you'll find yourself scrambling for an alternative. That's one of the reasons we are signed up for both. The other reason is that Jefferson has other after-school programs in the form of actual classes that are offered by a variety of organizations or individuals (art, dance, chess, languages, etc). If your child is enrolled in a class, s/he may not be able to catch the bus to Kenney.
Our solution has been to enroll in Voyager on a 2-3 day/week basis, as well as Kenney full-time (a bargain at only $20/month for snack fee). This gives us the leeway we need to do a little of both.
(See James Kenney Park for the rest of this review.)
Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center After School Program
My daughter has had a great experience at Jefferson -- she's been in the Chinese BiCultural program and both the kindergarten and first grade teachers have been fantastic. The other kids are also a good mix and the teachers have done a good job working with the very high energy kids, and the kids who didn't have formal preschool to help them understand how to be students. The PTA is strong, and raises a fair amount of money as well as sponsors several evening school-wide events that seem to attract most of the parents. The new principal is very hard-working and seems to be developing a good overall picture of the school and the community. I would strongly recommend Jefferson. CL
I have two children in Jefferson Elementary, a son in fourth grade, and a daughter in kindergarten. We walked in with a full awareness that we were consciously choosing a public education, with its benefits _and_ drawbacks, and we have been very happy (and very involved). The teachers are excellent. Sure, everyone has favorite teachers, and those whose styles they think might not mesh with their own kid, but all in all, terrific.
The approach taken by our son's teachers (and our daughter's teacher) has been geared around an understanding of child development. This educational approach meshed with our early childhood philosophy (largely acquired at CCC, our children's parent coop nursery school); it's not for everyone. If it will bother you that your child might not have spelling tests till 3rd or 4th grade, then you might not be happy at this school, anyway.
Our son has learned the curriculum plus loads of color theory, classroom cooperation, creativity, and "self propulsion" skills. He also did very well on his standardized tests last spring and has surprised me with how well he is doing on those spelling tests. Jefferson has a very active parent body (critical to children's success), and fosters a real sense of community and inclusiveness. Ours is a very diverse school with lots of differently-composed families. I think everyone benefits from this. Marian Altman, our long-time principal who retired 1.5 years ago used to remind us that public schools teach children how to get along in the world. I think she's absolutely right.
If you have specific questions about the controlled choice system for school assignment, or anything else about Jefferson, please don't hesitate to ask me. I've been involved long enough and deeply enough to know how most of these machinations work.