Sylvia Mendez Elementary School
Berkeley Unified, a relatively small district, has one Spanish immersion school at the elementary level, Sylvia Mendez. The program continues into middle school at Longfellow. My kids go to Sylvia Mendez and for the most part we are very happy there. Dedicated teachers and staff, and quality curriculum. The district strives to have a balance of native Spanish speakers, bilingual, and English-only students. In practice, however, it is skewed toward English-only as the demographics of Berkeley are changing and there are fewer recent immigrants coming here. If you are transferring in at 1st grade and your daughter has a solid foundation of Spanish, she might get a spot, but you should know that there is a waiting list at most grade levels.
My only other experience is with San Francisco Unified which has several Spanish immersion programs. I don't know how easy it is to transfer at 1st grade. Our daughter was at Buena Vista Horace Mann for 3 years, and while we had a good experience, it was demographically a very different school. It had a large percentage of low income families, many more kids who knew no English, and many more newcomers. Definitely a more immersive experience for our English-only kids!
Good luck to you on your search. We've been in Berkeley for 2+ years now and have overall been glad we moved. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.
I haven’t been there recently, but my kids used to enjoy the small climbing wall at Dracena Quarry Park in Piedmont. Also, there’s a similar wall at the park in Moeser Lane in El Cerrito — Cerrito Vista Park , I think. And a really nice, big rope structure on the school grounds of Le Conte Elementary School in south Berkeley.Happy climbing!
My son is new to Le Conte kindergarten this year. We also felt very excited and hopeful but the transition into LeConte has been very difficult because of the behavior of some of the kids. At Le Conte, kids of all ages and background are welcome (which is great) but unfortunately they are very understaffed when it comes to aids and lunch/recess monitoring. We were shocked about some of the physical and verbal behavior we witnessed. When we discussed this with the teacher and the principal, they expressed their general strategies but acknowledged that a)they were understaffed and b) they heavily rely on kids to be able to stand up for themselves (which sounds a bit crazy for kindergarten). We've since taken kid power workshops, volunteer in the classroom and are trying to get more funding for teacher aides. I'm not sure if other BUSD schools are in the same situation. In all, our son seems happy and is learning and making friends.... We are hopeful but it's taken a lot of work. Coupled with language immersion, the program may be great in the long term but definitely is not for the faint of heart.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Current playground safety at le conte?
Le Conte: experience with TWI
Hi, We are looking at the TWI program at Le Conte and wanted to know of recent experiences specifically for English speakers. Our child speaks another language in addition to English but does not speak Spanish. Do you think it is possible to sustain two languages in addition to picking up Spanish. Also, if you have comments regarding recent experiences, how the current principal is (strengths/weaknesses), if you have had any incidents of bullying, academic strengths and challenges of TWI, it would be great to hear. prospective parent
Since you specifically asked about the current principal at LeConte, I'll offer my experience: When I needed to take my child out of school for two weeks in order to say goodbye to my dying mother (who was very close to my child, and who resided out of state, necessitating the two weeks out of school), the principal at LeConte was absolutely unwilling to excuse the absence and wrote me an email, as I was at my dying mother's bedside, declaring my child a ''truant'' based on the absence. (As an aside, this ''truant'' label has not appeared to affect my child negatively in the years since the incident, but the wording of the BUSD policy regarding ''truancy'' is quite alarming, and that was all I had to go on at the time.) This despite the fact that I had full support and understanding from my child's teachers, and the fact that I obtained a packet containing two weeks of school work from the teachers prior to the trip, which my child completed. She had just begun her position as principal there at the time, so hopefully she has matured as an administrator in the two years that have passed since then, but I don't feel comfortable sending another child of mine to LeConte while she is in a position of authority there.
To answer your other questions about the school, my child made great friendships with other children that have lasted into middle school (though I suspect that would happen at most elementary schools), lost much of her early fluency in Spanish since the TWI model means that by 5th grade, very little Spanish is used in the classroom, had some favorite teachers and some that weren't as popular with students (though all seemed good or great to me, with the exception of one year in which a teacher was going through personal difficulties and became occasionally hostile towards students, but that experience seemed like an anomaly in what was otherwise an even and reliable educational environment), and seems to look back on the elementary years mostly with fondness. Again, I think that would have been the case at any of the Berkeley elementary schools, though. Looking Elsewhere
There are many things I appreciate about LeConte's TWI program. My child has had wonderful teachers. The community is diverse, with enough supportive parents that you don't feel alone when you help out at the school. You had asked about bullying. During my child's time at LeConte, he has been on both ends -- being the aggressor and also being the recipient of aggression. The few times that my child was involved, the teachers dealt with the situation appropriately -- giving consequences, informing parents, etc. The only time that I felt not enough was done, I was able to talk to the principal, and she followed through with appropriate actions. Overall, my experience at LeConte has been a positive one. - a TWI parent
We put down Le Conte as a possibility for kindergarten bc we really liked the idea of immersion, and now we are wondering if the school has good playground/recess management. I know there is a new principal (I think she's the third new one recently?). I want to know from current parents what their feel of the playground safety is at Le Conte. We probably won't even get in, but it's always good to have the data points. thanks anon
My child is in kindergarten at LeConte, and I have only great things to say about our experiences there.
Regarding playground management, the TK and K classes have their own playground that is separate from the 1st-5th playground. For the older kids, 1st-3rd graders have the same AM recess. After that, 4th & 5th graders have their AM recess. A YMCA coach helps supervise the kids on the playground and sets up organized games & sports that kids can take part in. Based on what my child has said, as well as a lack of incident reports (no news is good news), I take it that my child usually has fun during recess. Sure, my child has told me a couple times that another student kicked or punched him, but I think occasional hitting is typical for this age. So we talked about how he responded (my child usually hits back in these situations) and what other options there might be in responding to someone hitting.
Overall, we have a nice kindergarten cohort, which helps to create a positive recess experience for the kids. Best wishes on the school lottery outcome and deciding on a school! - Happy LeConte parent
Re: Which Schools Use A Best-for-Boys Approach?
I am looking forward to seeing the responses you get on this one. As the parent of a high energy boy in a Berkeley Public School I can say I am deeply disappointed at our school (LeConte). While the teachers have been willing to work with my to accommodate my son I am shocked at how much I have had to intervene to get them to accommodate him - I just can't believe he's the first high energy boy they've ever come across but that's what it felt like. Until I intervened the approach to dealing with his behavior was very punishment based. While I see his high energy and lack of impulse control as just another problem in a young child that should be dealt with just like kids with reading or learning challenges the school does not view it that way. We are back to school less than one week and he has already had recess taken away for bad behavior (yes, in Berkeley in the 21st century that is what they do to high energy boys!!). So no real advice but pepper your kid with questions re what is going on and intervene early and often if you have to. dis-illusioned BUSD parent
Recent feedback on Le Conte and dual immersion
I'm curious to get more recent feedback from parents at Le Conte, now that the school is transitioning into being the only dual immersion program in Berkeley. How is the transition going? Were all the kindergarten classes truly dual immersion this year? Berkeley parent
I have been a parent a LeConte for 6 years, I have two kids there now and hope to have a third there in 2014. In my time there I have witnessed many changes, new teachers, new systems and strategies. We have excellent, hard working teachers (one received the National Outstanding Young Teacher Award last year http://www.berkeleyschools.net/2012/04/11/leconte-teacher-named-ascd-outstanding-young-educator/). LeConte has been in constant change since I arrived, and though this presents many challenges it has also built a very strong and involved community. This year there was still only one TWI Kinder class at LeConte, next year there will be 3. I am confident LeConte will thrive during this next transition. Our teachers, principals and staff have been preparing for this for several years, and our families are ready to do what it takes to make the program great. LeConte Parent
Re: Two Way Immersion in BUSD
I have two children at LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley and have had nothing but excellent teachers for my children so far. The community at LeConte is so close knit and supportive and it is made up of both TWI and English Only students and parents. I highly recomend you visit LeConte and spend some time in both the TWI and English classrooms. Having the TWI program at our school has helped create an environment of global education, all children are exposed to bilingualism regardless of the program they are in. At a school like LeConte you can compare both programs easily and get a sense of what will work best for your family and your child. We have Celebrate LeConte Assemblies the last Friday of every month, also, we have a wonderful Latino Heritage Celebration in December. LeConte Mom
Piggybacking on the really helpful advice already posted on John Muir versus Emerson by parents in the southeastern zone....what about Malcolm X and LeConte? I know there was an issue with many southeastern zone families not getting into Malcolm X and that many families have wanted to be there. And I've read some not so great stuff on BPN about LeConte (non immersion). Can those parents who have gone through thinking about these four options and then had the experience of their children attending these schools share more? We will of course go to the parent nights and tours etc but would love more info from parents who have been there. What has been the approach of parents assigned LeConte nonimmersion? Has anyone resorted to private school? Has anyone been happily surprised by LeConte nonimmersion? Thanks so much. southeastern zone mom
I can certainly relate to your concerns regarding LeConte. My family moved here last spring and due to the timing of our move, missed the first round of lottery applications. I did extensive research of each school and decided to exclude LeConte from our application (I even crossed it out!) b/c frankly, the reviews on BPN scared the heck out of me. Sure enough, we were rejected everywhere EXCEPT LeConte. After many sleepless nights, and even considerations of private school, we decided to send our son to LeConte with the plan to transfer him as soon as a spot opened elsewhere in our zone.
Man were we in for a surprise. I absolutely cannot tell you how thrilled we are with our son's situation at LeConte. His K teacher (yes, non-immersion) is absolutely incredible. Honestly, I could not imagine a better teacher for our son--someone patient and kind, who tailors her approach to each child's individual needs. I feared a chaotic environment that I so often read about in reviews, but honestly, I've never seen such a calm environment where the kids arrive to school excited and ready to learn. The school also has such wonderful offerings as Farm & Garden and Cooking as well as many PTA sponsored after-school classes. Also, I should note, my son's best friend in school is in the immersion program (they play together at recess) so the distinct separation (hierarchy?) between immersion vs. non-immersion that we were concerned about, seems to be a non-factor after-all.
Maybe our experience is different this year because of the new K teachers. Or, maybe it's the efforts of a wonderful prinicipal and an engaged group of parents, who are turning the school around. Either way, we have been pleasantly surprised (shocked actually) at how wonderful LeConte non-immersion turned out to be. -Happy LeConte Non-Immersion Parent
Our son is in one of the two English language kindergarten classes at LeConte. We had considered private school as well as three of the SE schools (we felt like Malcolm X was just too big for our tastes, although lots of folks love it). We had the usual trepidation about LeConte, but we listed it as our second choice because:
a) We know families who have gone through the school, have great teenagers, and love LeConte b) We were impressed by the principal, Cheryl Wilson, and just had a good feeling on our tours c) It's close to home
Eight weeks into the school year, we are really happy that we were assigned to LeConte! Our son's teacher is fantastic - she really seems to have a gift for teaching kindergartners and engaging kids at all levels. (She joined the faculty in August to fill an unexpected vacancy - kudos again to Principal Wilson for a great last-minute hire). We are getting to know several of the other parents, both in and out of the Spanish Immersion program, whether at dropoff or pickup, at PTA meetings, or other activities. Our son has friends in all three kindergarten classes, English and Spanish. And finally, the afterschool program is well-run and our son finds it really engaging.
When our son is at home with us in the evenings, he regales us with details of his after school anatomy lessons, recreates dishes that he learned in his cooking class, and eagerly works on his homework packet. LeConte is clearly a community that has parents and faculty working for our kids. Happy LeConte Dad
My child is entering 1st grade at LeConte after completing kindergarten last year. I can share my general impressions. While the school principal is energetic and dedicated completely to her students, my overall sense is that things are not that well managed. We attended several afterschool special programs that were disorganized and disjointed; it was not clear what my child was expected to do. I was surprised by the lack of professionalism. The PTA fundraisers were not that inspiring and there was no follow up. Little thing: they asked parents to line up donations for the spring fundraiser just before the event instead of well in advance like most other schools/PTAs. So it is no surprise that LeConte raises less funds. Nevertheless, LeConte has a very nice community of kids, parents and teachers. Parent involvement does vary among classes and between the TWI and english only tracks. Despite some of these negatives, we are staying! Anon LeConte Parent
I am in the south east zone and considering all of the schools there. I am having a hard time getting information about LeConte from non -immersion parents - all the parents I have encountered (at the school fare, doing the tour, at the kindergarten night) are TWI parents. So my questions are 1) if you are the parent of an non TWI child at the school what is your impression of it? 2) are the non TWI parents involved very much in the school? thanks.
There are non TWI parents at Leconte but fewer are involved because there really are two schools here. The District refuses to accept that to have a TWI school with only 1 English track is NOT a good model.
That said, if you visit the playground after school you will meet some of the parents of the English only program.
Many of us struggle with staying at the school with the structural problem, and the teachers are very dedicated and highly qualified. But any teacher will tell you, you need options for class composition and, in the English track (there is not other way say it) that is just not possible.
My daughter is still having a good experience at the school but there tends to be too much stress for us at this school. Anon
We were at Le Conte last year in the non-immersion program in the 3rd grade. I can't speak to other grades, but our class had literally no parent involvement. There were sometimes parents coming in to talk to the teacher after school, so we did meet some of them, but our class did not have a room parent until we volunteered. When we got a holiday card for the teacher, we sent email to every parent twice and sent notes home with the kids, but only one other parent signed the card that we left in the office. A number of the kids in our class were, like us, new to the school, so that could explain why there was not a lot of parent cohesiveness. It was a small class, but I would say that about half the students had developmental issues or behavioral problems. Many kids were 1, 2, even 3 years older than our kid (who is usually right in the middle age-wise w/ a spring birthday.). You asked ''what is your impression of it?'' My impression is that the district largely ignores the non-immersion component at Le Conte. It almost seems like a kind of dumping ground for the district. Maybe the district has decided that test scores will be low anyway due to the large number of non-English speakers, so it places troublesome district kids at Le Conte so as to protect test scores at other schools. Just a guess. anon
Yes! There are plenty of non-TWI parents at LeConte!
I currently have a third grader and a first grader, and next year my youngest will be at LeConte in the English/Traditional kindergarten. All the positive things you have heard from the TWI parents apply to the English program as well. We have a great community working together for the best education for all students. Our teachers collaborate (English & TWI together) to develop differentiated lesson plans for our students. The principal devotes herself to the students of the school, looking out for the best interest of each student. We have all of the strong enrichment programs at all the Berkeley schools (farm & garden, music, cooking, art) plus a full suite of afterschool enrichment classes. Additionally, we are placing special emphasis on math and technology to make sure all students have the essential skills for future success.
Parents from the English program ARE involved in our children's education. In fact, I am co-chair of our School Governance Council this year. The kindergarten events just haven't fit well with our busy schedule this year (and we already know where our kindergartner will be attending).
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about LeConte. We have a lot of good things happening at LeConte, I hope you will join us. A.
I'm a parent of a non-TWI LeConte kid who is in 2nd grade. My son has had a good experience so far with Ms. Gee and Ms. Barer, and I perceive him to be learning a great deal. He really loves the farm and garden program. LeConte has a nice kitchen facility for cooking classes, which is a feature that some of the other elementary schools don't. My son tells me about the science experiments that they conduct, shares nutritional facts, talks about plant reproduction... The school feels small, intimate, knowable. There are many non-TWI parents involved in the school, although it does seem like the TWI parents are perhaps more visibly involved as volunteers and PTA movers. I don't feel any sort of division between the parents, though. It feels very inclusive and friendly. We've enjoyed meeting lots of new people in the neighborhood through LeConte. So far, so good! Amy K.
We are parents of a ''non-TWI'' 4th grade student who, for the most part, has had a very positive experience at LeConte. LeConte is a diverse school that regularly celebrates its cultural diversity both in and after school. But, let's first deal with the white elephant in the room--API scores. LeConte has the lowest scores in the zone, and possibly the entire district. This is an unfortunate stigma that has been placed upon the school that in our opinion does not reflect the quality of instruction. Our son's teachers have been caring individuals with creative pedagogies. Because of the state standards (and STAR tests), the curriculum in the K-3 levels is focused largely on math, reading and writing. We have found that in the 4th grade, the social studies and science curriculum receives more attention, and is much more content focused (and interesting for the students). The principal is an extremely dynamic, hard-working individual who is devoted to the success of every child. It's true that the TWI program sometimes seems like a school within the school, and that the parents of the TWI program are generally more involved in the PTA leadership. However, the PTA is very active and serves all the students in the school. As non-TWI parents, we have never felt unwelcome to join the PTA leadership, or to get involved in the school in general. Perhaps what has impressed us the most about LeConte has been the ''extras.'' LeConte has an excellent Farm and Garden program, and Cooking programs. As well, the school has a great library and librarian. We have also been pleased with the after-school program (Community Kidz and PTA after-school classes).
**Warning-soapbox moment** The bottom line is this. LeConte ''feels'' like a very blue collar school (in a Berkeley sort of way). It's a fairly laid-back place. Our parents undoubtedly care about their children, but they have many other concerns in their lives as well. What you won't find around LeConte (especially in the non-TWI track) is the stereotypical Bay Area helicopter parent who starts planning their child's east coast, ivy league education before they are even toilet trained. What you will find are parents who desire that their children learn in a safe, respectful and caring environment. In our opinion, LeConte delivers in those areas. Happy parents of a non-TWI Leconte child
Reviews of LeConte Elementary are quite old (2008) and overwhelmingly speak to the immersion program. We were assigned LeConte for kindergarten (non-immersion), our 4th choice. I am concerned as I worry there is a sense of the non-immersion classes being lower quality, ''the step-child'' if you will. I do hear the much-admired principal has high energy for school improvement and closing the achievement gap. Can any LeConte family with kids in any grade, dispel my fears about the quality of the non-immersion educational experience at LeConte? Or is my concern well-founded? -- Fretting on wait lists
We were assigned to Le Conte this year. We transferred from another school outside the district, and my child is in one of the non-immersion classes. There are many things to like about Le Conte: attractive new landscaping, kitchen gardens and chickens, cooking classes, enormous playground, good after-school program with fun activities like skateboarding, cooking, guitar and even a movie review club for older kids. There is a fantastic and very dedicated principal who knows every kid's name, a helpful school secretary who knows every parent's name, and the after-school staff is energetic and wonderful. It's a friendly school, the kind where staff smile and greet you when you come into school, and you really feel welcome.
But we have not had a good experience with the classroom environment. Although we have a very kind and experienced teacher, the classroom is very chaotic. I mean VERY chaotic. We have seen (or our child has told us about) kids constantly disrupting the class, running out of the classroom, spitting, using profanity, throwing things (including chairs). Our child comes home cranky almost every day. There are fewer than 18 kids in the class, and there is always at least one aide present, often more. A number of kids in the class have pretty major developmental issues. A number of kids are new to the school this year. There is very low parent participation in our class. Two kids in the class have left the school this year and a third transferred to another class. Our child is learning, but we almost never see graded homework or classwork or spelling tests coming home.
This school has so much going for it, but the environment has been stressful for our child, and we won't be back next year. Maybe our particular class is an aberration and other non-immersion classes at the school are fine. But our kid is also not happy in the after-school program, so I suspect it is more widespread.
Our friends at other schools in Berkeley are not having this kind of experience. Many BUSD schools are on par with the private schools. So what is going on with Le Conte? My theory: Le Conte is the lowest performing school in our zone, perhaps because of the large number of non-native-English speakers in the immersion program. Because test scores are so low, few families list Le Conte as their first choice unless they are hoping for the popular immersion program. I suspect that many families who are assigned to Le Conte anyway, despite listing it last, either manage to get in to a different school, or opt out of public school altogether. Therefore, the non-immersion classes are more likely than other BUSD schools to be populated by kids whose parents either didn't make a request at all, or who, like us, requested other schools but were assigned to Le Conte. I think that families who don't make a request at all tend to be less involved in their kid's school, which is associated with lower academic performance. At the same time, the families who have other options than Le Conte tend not to come. Which means that the non-immersion classes at Le Conte become more and more concentrated with low-performing and troublesome kids, which makes it much harder for teachers to address their needs, which means continued lower-than- average test scores and higher-than-average numbers of difficult kids, which continues to detract from the desirability of the school. And the cycle repeats.
The disparity among elementary schools in Berkeley is really pretty shocking and is of course extremely unfair to the kids who are stuck in the low-performing schools.
Not a happy camper
Re: BUSD Spanish Immersion--How Are The Academics?
I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about a school from their test scores - that has more to do with the demographics of the student body (which does vary at the BUSD elementary schools despite all their best efforts) than with the quality of the teachers or programs. Our kids are at LeConte, where test scores are lower than at many other schools, but all the immersion teachers are excellent, and we're very happy with both the academic and social offerings at the school. My kindergarten daughter is learning to read, write, and count in two languages at once, and she is making weekly gains and so proud. In my opinion, you can't help but boost your childs learning by teaching them another language! Happy Immersion Parent
My two boys are in 2nd and 4th in the TWI at LeConte, a ''low-scoring'' BUSD school (though several BUSD elementaries are in ''program improvement'' and are really very good.) I am very pleased with the quality of the academics and the immersion program at LeConte (and perhaps more important the warm and thriving community feeling at LeConte.)
I can say that learning two languages slightly slowed my boys' reading fluency and spelling in English and thus has affected their scores, but the benefits of the dual language acquisition are clear even to me now - they make word connections/definitions easier than otherwise, get an ''ear'' and a better accent for the language, and we are able to do international travel to Latin America that is much more fulfilling for them at an early age. I am also aware of research that the more standard ''test-driven'' academic benefits of dual language appear later - middle school and life long.
I am happy to talk about specifics of our experience in the LeConte program if that is the school you are looking at. margi
We are looking at elementary schools in Berkeley for our daughter who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. We live in the Southeast zone and are particularly interested in LeConte and Malcolm X. I have read the reviews of both from last spring but am wondering whether anyone has any more recent opinions. Sarah
Sarah, I'm a LeConte dad of a child in the immersion program. I love this school. Our principal, Cheryl Wilson, is in her third year and brings energy and love every day. She knows every child by name; every child is recognized on her birthday and on several other occasions throughout the year. Cheryl's energy is infectious and you can see the teachers and staff reflect that. The programs are numerous and well executed. Cooking and Farm and Garden are famous favorites of the children. Call the school, 644-6290, to arrange a tour if you have time. If you choose LeConte, you child will be happy, educated and loved. LeConte Dad
My son is in kindergarten at LeConte. We have been very happy. His teacher is great and does a good job of teaching each of the kids according to their level while working in all the little things that make for a diverse learning experience. The principal is very invested in the school and is doing a good job at building a sense of community. I like that the school is small (around 300 students) because we can both get to know everyone and make a significant impact in the time we have to give. Of course, there are all the other positives like a great Farm & Garden program, a strong dual immersion program, cooking class every other week, a grass soccer field, a diverse student population, great afterschool programs, and more! Try it and you'll like it! LeConte Parent
My daughter is a kindergartener in the two-way immersion program and we have been very pleased with our experience so far. A few unique features of LeConte include the Farm and Garden, the two-way immersion Spanish and the full-inclusion programs. The principal, Cheryl Wilson, is fantastic and I'm sure among the best in the district (which is more important than I realized as an incoming kindergarten parent). Her enthusiastic leadership and modeling of sincere support and respect towards ALL the children and their families (she is fluent in Spanish) permeates the school atmosphere. My daughter has seen older kids from LeConte outside of school and has always been greeted warmly by them which I believe reflects the sense of community and respect the students feel towards eachother. This support extends beyond the early grade students to the upper grades and faculty. This year the 4th and 5th grade teachers initiated a new program to teach all upper level students (Immersion and English-only) collectively with a tightly coordinated curriculum. So far, the teachers report great gains in all (not just immersion) studentsm work and the students/families love it. The recent test scores are admittedly lower than some others in the district, but I truly believe the supportive and positive environment at LeConte right now bodes well for future endeavors and results. I feel lucky to be a part of it. happy LeConte parent
We are now in our fourth year at LeConte and have found the school an excellent educational experience for our son, as well as very responsive to our needs. The principal, Cheryl Wilson, has devoted her life to helping children of all backgrounds. I have never seen anyone work harder than Cheryl. She has excellent rapport with the teachers, which has in turn motivated them to perform at their highest. In addition to Cheryl's efforts, many teachers have secured grants and other resources to benefit their classes. An example of this is be a teacher-led proposal which resulted in a class-size reduction for the upper grades. Next year all 6 grades will have no more than 20 students. Funds have also been secured for facility improvements. Our farm and garden is one of the oldest and best developed in the District. I could go on and on. Let me just say I urge you to give LeConte a serious look and would be glad to answer any additional questions via email. Thanks! Laurie
Hi, We're a new kindergarten family and have been so happy with our experience at Le Conte. Our son is in the bilingual program and is thriving beyond our expectations. Le Conte has a tight cadre of parents who are very involved, a principal who can only be described as a superstar, and a myriad of school activities and programs that make the school so special--farm and garden, cooking, the Latino Heritage celebration, author readings, Sports 4 Kids, concerts, and more--including wonderful after-school PTA-sponsored classes (music, art, circus arts, yoga, performing arts...).
The school just received a renovation grant, so the facilities will soon be spiffed up. Above all, I feel like the environment at Le Conte is so friendly and welcoming--there is always so much activity in the school, parents in and out of the classrooms, happy students learning, etc., that it feels like a family. Our son seems to know everyone's name, K-5! Overjoyed at Le Conte!
I have three children at LeConte (5th, 3rd and K) and I really love the school. Principal Cheryl Wilson has a personal and loving relationship with each of my children, which is far more than anyone could ever expect from any principal. The LeConte staff is connected to the kids, from the secretary, librarian, PE coaches, chefs, farmers, afterschool staff (which is especially amazing) to of course, the classroom teachers. I also teach graduates of LeConte at a BUSD middle school, and have noted among them a special sense of community and love of and excitement for learning. LeConte school has been a great place for my kids to feel valued and cared for while they learn academic skills they need. Mary
Re: Choosing between public schools in southeast zone
First, you can schedule tours at each of the schools from now until January. At LeConte, tours are about 1/2 hour and parents are invited to return to observe at their leisure. Our child is at LeConte, and despite some reservations at first, I am very pleased with the school. Sheryl Wilson has been principal for about three years and is really super. She knows each kid, she truly loves each kid, and the love and caring permeate the school. LeConte has the Farm and Garden and cooking classes, where kids grow foods that are then used in cooking classes that are then served for lunch. As integrated of a curriculum as you'd want. Staff is dedicated and professional. I think the brightest to the neediest children can thrive there. Happy LeConte Parent
Our son has been assigned LeConte elementary for kindergarten. We know that people are generally very happy with the Spanish immersion program. But do any parents have experiences with the regular (non spanish immersion)classes? erica
My daughter, how a 4th grader, has attended Leconte School in Berkeley since kindergarten where she has been enrolled in the ''non-Spanish immersion'' classes. She is a bright, articulate, and confident girl -- active in the student council, the afterschool program, and other activities. She and I have been impressed with all her teachers. She reads well above grade level and last year scored ''advanced'' on the math CST. We enjoy the small learning community of LeConte, its ethnic and socio-economic diversity, the active PTA, and its dedicated teachers and staff. I encourage anyone interested in LeConte to visit the school during school hours and to talk to CURRENT parents and students. liz
My child (an English native speaker) was accepted into Kindergarten at LeConte Dual Immersion. I know they're going to be adding a second class in the fall, but I was wondering if someone could post about their experiences with the current k- class. We're very excited that he was accepted but now just looking for some comments on people's experience with the school- -both the immersion program and the school as a whole. Gracias! Anon
My daughter is in K at the dual immersion at LeConte. We are very happy with her class and with the school as a whole. The principal is dynamic. There is a well established farm and garden program (25 years) that has chickens, bunnies and really nice teachers. Her love of cooking is being fostered in the cooking program, she comes home wanting to cook nutritious things. The school has sports4kids who work with the kids by class once a week and assist on the school yard at lunch and recess. There is a special K playground for the morning recess where all the K kids play together which feels safe and cozy for the transition.
It is spring break now and my daughter is drawing pictures of animals and people and labeling them in Spanish. She is learning so much. This is her favorite teacher she has had. I am very happy with our decision.
That said, during the first month of school we had a very hard transition. It took me by suprise since my daugter did pre-school since age two and is a pretty well adjusted kid. Regardless, making the switch to K was hard for us and for some of the other families in our class. I felt like the teacher and school supported this very well. I was amazed at the corner we turned. The begining of emersion is confusing for alot of kids, but it really seems like they know what is going on. LeConte has great PTA sponsored after-school classes, circus, cooking, flute, dance and more. These classes really helped with the transition too.
There are after school programs provided at the school which we have participated in a little. The staff is really caring and great with the kids. The feeling I get about it is very positive and it seems to have lots of great energy being poured into it. If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me. arden
As a parent of two at LeConte Elementary I want to share some of its attractions: Environmental Science: the farm/garden/cooking program very motivating and educational for the kids. Lots of science workshops and field trips, and interesting uses of computers/photography projects. Principal Cheryl Wilson started last year. There is a lot of new energy and creativity. The Spanish-English program and full-inclusion program which serves kids with special needs. The overall culture at the school is very diverse and inclusive and fun. A nice community, strong emphasis on students supporting each other, active parents. A great afterschool program with enrichment classes that is affordable (and has ample scholarships.) Low reading scores are a concern (bi-lingual program and population mix at LeConte may be the reason for this and the whole District seems to have problems....no easy answers I guess). Kids at LeConte seem to thrive and love the school. Come by and visit if you are looking at schools! www.LeConteonline.org
P.S. Haunted House Friday Oct 27th 6-8:30 which is a blast!
I would like to know if anyone has any feed back or experience with Kindergarden at La Conte or The East Bay Conservation Corps Charter school. These are the two schools that my 5 year old has been enrolled in. She has been in the cocoon of a wonderful pre- school (Nia House)for the past 3 years. I would appreciate any comments. Jose
Our son has just finished his kindergarten year in the dual-immersion (Spanish) program at Le Conte Elementary. We have loved it! He was also in the wonderful cocoon of Garden Day Montessori fro 3 years before Le Conte, and we were also a bit worried, but it has been great.
The principal of Le Conte is an amazing, empathetic, and energetic force, and the community is really good. We love the garden program and the cooking classes. Our kids come home begging to make their special recipes for dinner! The after school PTA programs have been great too, and our son really enjoys flute, circus arts, chess, and singing classes on site. It's a very diverse school, with all the benefits and challenges that come with, but it's been a great experience for our sometimes sensitive son.
I am going through the task of evaluating public (and some private) elementary schools for kindergarten admission next fall. I would be interested in hearing from parents with kids currently at either Emerson, John Muir, Malcolm X and Leconte. nina
I have a child in first grade at LeConte Elementary. We are having a wonderful experience at the school this year. We have a new Principal Cheryl Wilson, who has brought with her boundless energy and enthusiasm. Every morning she greets the children, calls each one by name and tries to make every child feel welcome at our school.
Other highlights of our school include the excellent dual Spanish/English immersion program, our wonderful after-school program, cooking classes and Farm and Garden program. Our daughter is in the dual immersion program which she loves and attends the after-school program which is run by a new Director with a degree in multicultural studies from Mills College. We also love the Farm and Garden program and cooking classes. Kids in the Farm and Garden program learn a little about farm animals (the school has several rabbits, chickens -- even fish). They also learn about composting and how to identify variations of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Often the Farm and Garden curriculum is reflected again in my daughter's cooking class. For example: In September she helped pick tomatoes from the Garden at LeConte then she learned how to cook with them in Cooking class. Important lessons on nutrition are emphasized in both classes again and again.
Thanks to her wonderful cooking instructors our daughter has begun to whip out cook books at home now and regularly reads recipes and has adventures in the kitchen all by herself. For more information about our school, please check us out online at: www.leconteonline.org or contact the LeConte PTA (you can find us at LeConte online as well).
Cary Sanders, President LeConte PTA
Our son is a first grader in the dual immersion program at LeConte Elementary School. We are extremely pleased with the school and its neighborhood feel, community participation, multiculturalism, and more specifically the language acquistion aspects and strong teachers of the dual immersion program.
Our son loves learning in Spanish, and the native Spanish speakers are learning English very rapidly. The school has a great farm and garden program, and the PTA afterschool classes are really engaging. (Our son takes chess, kitchen science, flutes, and papier mache, as an example of the range of options.)
Le Conte's campus is not as beautiful as the other, newly renovated schools, but it is perfectly fine inside.
Overall, we think it's a fine school. Check it out! halpatt
LeConte Elementary School is a well-run, diverse school with some wonderfully innovative educational programs.
All students spend an hour every other week in Farm & Garden, where they receive gardening and nutrition education in small groups and work in 3 school gardens (including butterfly garden, vegetable gardens, aquatic area, rabbits, chickens). Farmer Ben really knows his stuff and he is fabulous with the children.
LeConte also hosts a dual immersion program, in which English and Spanish speakers come together in Spanish immersion classrooms that gradually introduce English instruction as the students progress to fifth grade. The program works hard to be an integral part of the whole school and to share cultural immersion experiences with the other students: e.g., all of the kindergartens learned baile folklorico last year.
The entire LeConte faculty just completed 2 years of intensive training in science instruction and they teach an integrated curriculum, in which literacy, math and science skills are reinforced in all academic areas. This integration contributed to a significant increase in the school's API score last year.
Currently, all students are receiving PE, music, art and cooking classes, in addition to Farm & Garden. We also have a strong schedule of PTA-sponsored after-school enrichment classes with scholarships.
Three after-school childcare programs are available, serving families in all income brackets. The programs are organizing joint activities to bring the children in all 3 programs together.
We have several really fun community events, including a Halloween carnival, Winter Fair, Quilt Raffle/Pancake Breakfast/Student Talent Show, Cinco de Mayo Celebration, and Communty Garage Sale, as well as Literacy Nights and a Science Fair.
Our school is also very well-run. I have never seen students wandering the halls aimlessly or blatantly showing disrespect to the staff or teachers. The school is small enough that the principal seems to know all of the students. My son really feels like he is part of a community.
If you have any questions about LeConte, feel free to call me. I am a mother of a dual immersion first grader and a Co-President of the PTA. If I can't answer your questions, I will put you in touch with other parents or staff who can. Rita
My son is in his 5th year at LeConte and I like the school very much. There is strong parental involvement and community involvement, which results in a very nice school feeling.
The principal, Barbara Penny-James, has been principal for at least 20 years and is to a certain extent coasting, but all in all she's okay. As far as teachers go, some are better than others, but the overall average is fairly high. It's a nice environment to teach in, I believe, and many of the teachers have been there for 5, 10, or more years.
LeConte Primary School is the closest school to the south side of campus (I think Arts Magnet is the closest to the northside, not sure). We both love the school, which is small, has good teachers, and has a small farm in the middle of it. The farm has some small goats, chickens, a duck, and rabbits, and also each classroom has a small patch of land to grow crops on. Recently the garden was much expanded, an expansion planned and carried out by the 5th grades classes, with teach support.
I've been sending my daughter to LeConte Elementary School's PTA sponsored summer camp for several years now. It's terrific...very empowering for kids...enthusiatic, talented, and diverse adults run the program, older kids help,...emphasis is on building kids' self esteem. Performance, science, farm & garden, computers, swimming and ice skateing lessons in the afternoon. Just call LeConte Elementary and ask for the number to call. Since it's PTA run, it appears at first glance not to be totally slick, but that may also mean that they are not full yet (late getting flyers out, etc.). But the actual staff is indeed very good. Katherine
On Berkeley schools: my experience to date has been very positive. My son goes to LeConte, a smallish primary school in south Berkeley. The principal seems to know all, or most of the kids, the teachers range from okay to good to great, there is a farm in the middle of the school and there is very nice community support for the school. Of course, things are a bit up in the air just now because all the schools are scrambling to make the 20 kids/class ratio for the lower grades, but the kids are already benefitting greatly from these smaller classes. Dianna