Hillcrest Elementary School

Oakland, CA

Public School
operated by Oakland Unified School District
Website: http://www.hillcrestpta.org
Phone: (510) 879.1270
30 Marguerite Drive, Oakland, CA 94618
School district-run

Parent Questions

Hillcrest Middle School(2 responses)

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Current opinions on Hillcrest?

March 2016

My daughter will be entering kindergarten in the fall, and we're in the Hillcrest catchment area. Because we'd heard warnings about the school being oversubscribed, we toured Chabot and Montclair as well. We were really impressed by both of those schools: The principals at Chabot and Montclair spent a significant amount of time with the parents and were highly engaged, we were able to fully tour the facilities and visit kindergarten classrooms, and there were parent volunteers at both to share their experiences. The Hillcrest tour, by contrast, was really disappointing. It was very short, we weren't able to see a classroom, and the principal only answered a few questions. We also didn't see any parent volunteers while we were there (but then again, we didn't see much.)

After all that, we've now learned that we've been assigned Hillcrest and are conflicted over whether to appeal and try for Chabot or Montclair instead. I'd like to hear from current Hillcrest parents. Does the school live up to its stellar reputation? Is there strong parent involvement? I know this is the principal's last year, but is there good engagement between school staff and parents? Thanks in advance for any perspectives. Oakland mom

You have received the jackpot by getting into Hillcrest. Do not pass this up. My partner teaches after-school classes at multiple ''highly desirable'' Oakland schools and none compare to Hillcrest.

Here is what she says about the kids:

1) The kids are genuinely kind to each other. This seems to be a part of the culture of the school.

2) Parents always, always follow up and show up for their volunteer commitments - with a positive attitude to boot!

3) Teachers are so sweet to the kids. When she goes into some of the other schools she often sees an edge of frustration when getting kids to follow directions. Something as simple as asking the kids to put chairs on their desks goes from ''Are you listening? I've told you to put your chairs up! You will not be dismissed on time if I don't get your cooperation!'' at some other schools to this at Hillcrest: ''Ok everybody, we have just two minutes left. You know our routine. Room monitors go ahead and start your jobs...''

4) For whatever reason, she also finds Hillcrest after-school kids to be more respectful and focused than at other schools.

In her mind, Hillcrest is as good as if not better than some private schools. It has a small community feel that inspires her to want to go above and beyond for their families.

Besides all of this, there is the advantage to feeding into your own middle school. We don't know much about it, but is helpful to have this as an option down the line.

I wouldn't judge the entire school by your tour experience. The teachers, kids and families speak more of the school than one visit or the principal's interaction with you. anon

We enrolled at Hillcrest even though I had the same response when I toured the school. The other schools seemed to really ''sell'' themselves whereas Hillcrest seemed to make no effort. Is it because they don't need any additional students? Maybe. We enrolled based on the recommendations of neighbors and current families. No regrets--we have been happy there. The teachers are great, and I love being able to walk to school. We now know kids in the neighborhood we wouldn't have known otherwise. It's a great parent community with lots of involvement. I wouldn't base my decision on the quality of the tour. Anon

Your question is a little late: For future readers, the time to consider these factors is *during* the Options process, not once you've received your assignment. Nonetheless, since you asked : Hillcrest is a fantastic school, and yes the parents are very engaged. Although I can't compare to Chabot and Montclair, I experienced the same thing you did -- horrible tour compared to Chabot and Montclair tours, which were really impressive. Hillcrest staff didn't seem to pay much attention to the tours, I guess (they are going to fill with neighborhood kids regardless of whether they give a good tour or not). Chabot and Montclair do have more resources to offer due to the size (both are larger campuses, are less crowded than Hillcrest, and offer more activities due to the sheer size of the student body), but Hillcrest is nice because it's small, fairly tight-knit, many kids live in the neighborhood, and the PTA is able to offer art, music, sports, etc. FYI Hillcrest is going to be under construction at some point in the coming years, as they will be adding a larger cafeteria. M

I've had two kids at Hillcrest, from K through 8th grade. I think it's great that you toured Chabot and Montclair as well as Hillcrest; I've heard wonderful things about those schools. However, you've got a golden ticket being assigned to Hillcrest!

1. You said your Hillcrest tour was disappointing. Hillcrest has, over the last decade plus, been so oversubscribed that in my opinion it became something of an institutional habit to give chilly tours to prospective parents, to almost deliberately encourage them to look elsewhere.

2. You asked if there is strong parent involvement. YES! On every level! In the classroom, outside the classroom (on the madly active PTA, the SSC, and a million subcommittees such as the two major fundraising event committees, the library committee, etc.), hiring non-district staff, managing sports leagues, planning multi-day field trips, planning graduation--in short, parents are deeply involved, all over the school.

3. You asked if there is good engagement between school staff and parents. If you mean is there collaboration and communication between teachers and parents, absolutely. If you mean is the principal open to parent input and engagement--well, as you noted, there will be a new principal next year, so this is a moot question.

4. You asked, ''Does the school live up to its stellar reputation?'' My children had excellent academic experiences at Hillcrest, and also benefited from being in a *neighborhood school,* where they built great friendships that have extended beyond Hillcrest. It's been such a pleasure to watch this neighborhood of kids grow up together, and be able to walk to one another's homes after school to work on projects or simply play. It's also been great to become part of our neighborhood through the school, and to share carpools and extracurricular activities with schoolmates/neighbors.

In sum, no school can perfectly serve every child's or even every family's idiosyncratic needs in every single way, but we have been grateful to have been part of the Hillcrest community, and feel that overall the school served out kids extremely well.

Grateful for Hillcrest

If we move to Hillcrest neighborhood will we get in?

Oct 2012

Hi All We found a house we love in Upper Rockridge, walking distance to Hillcrest School, and have heard great things about the school. However recently I've heard that Hillcrest is oversubscribed, and that living in the school district doesn't guarantee your kids a spot in the school. I'm told there are families living in the neighborhood who's kids didn't get in to the school and have to go to a different school while on the wait list. Can anyone who lives in the neighborhood or knows about it tell me your experience? Whether you were easily able to get into the school or had to send your kids to a different school? We love the neighborhood, the house, and the school, but the idea of putting our life savings into a house and then our kids not being able to go to Hillcrest, and having to drive to a different neighborhood and go to a different school is not what we want. (And after buying a house in Upper Rockridge we wouldn't be able to afford private school.) We're also looking at Alameda and Piedmont where the schools are guaranteed, (or Crocker Highlands which isn't oversubscribed), or moving someplace where houses are much less expensive so we could afford private school if necessary. We love Rockridge and would prefer to be here, but taking the risk of our girls not being able to go to Hillcrest when we live there is discouraging. All input from people who live in the area or know more about OUSD enrollment appreciated.

If your kids are going into kindergarten next year, there is a very big chance they will not get in. Next year OUSD plans to reduce the incoming K class to 27 kids (from the usual 45, due to an extra large class that will be in sixth next year), and there are at least 20 siblings that will get first dibs. But if your kids aren't going into K next year, you'll probably be OK. The last few years have not been oversubscribed. Hillcrest parent

We live in the Hillcrest district and after our visit, we chose to go to Chabot. We had to go to the district office to enroll since it was out of our area. I am so glad we went to Chabot. In comparing notes with neighbors I think we made the right choice. The principal is great and we had excellent teachers with reasonable (20-25) class sizes throughout. Happy Chabot grad

Adventure Time or JCC Aftercare?

July 2011

I posted this question once before, but only rec'd a couple responses.

Hillcrest parents: Does anyone have any comments, pos or neg, on the aftercare program there? Adventure Time. I am a f/t working mom who will need aftercare at least 4 days/week.

I am sending my son to JCC's Camp Tzofim for a session this summer bc I've heard great things. I don't know anything about the year-round aftercare program. I feel concerned about having my kindergartner take a bus to a program. Does anyone do this? Have there been issues? Any comments welcome.

Any other options I should consider? I am beginning to worry about this, as I just have no option, my little one needs to be in aftercare most days. I'd love him to be outdoors. Any suggestions?

Thank you so much. sarah

My kids also went to Camp Tzofim in the summer and had excellent experiences, and I do think the JCC has very good aftercare, but...AT was definitely the place where their friendships solidified. I also remember that the few kids that did go elsewhere after school (home or the JCC) were actually a bit out of the social loop. My kids went to Chabot, so I can't speak to Hillcrest's AT program, and I would never suggest that a child should be anywhere that might damage his/her psyche... so if that's the case, then find a safe place for your kid... but it's ok for them to have to adjust, work through a bit of loneliness etc... My kids really benefited from long term everyday play time with other kids from their own school. - just my observations

I don't have any feedback about Hillcrest AT but my son has been at the JCC afterschool program in Oakland for 2 years and it has been great. The counselors are great. Lots of enrichment programs are offered (arts and crafts, drama, sports, cooking). When my son was in K he was picked up at school in the van and taken to the afterschool site. We never had a problem with it and it felt very safe. (Now its close enough to his school that he walks with a counselor to the new site.) He does ride the van occasionally if the weather is bad or for fieldtrips. We have been very happy with the program, the community, the communication with parents and our son loves it. He is continuing there next year. cl

After-school options for kindergartener

June 2011

My son starts kindergarten at Hillcrest in the fall, and I need aftercare. I've visited Adventure Time there and it was okay but I wasn't wowed and don't think I want him there 5x/week. Love to hear your comments on that program! Especially for kindergarteners.

I'm thinking of putting him in AT 2-3 days a week, and looking for another option 2-3 days a week ... I don't want an academic program, just fun playtime with little outdoor adventures if possible. I'm a f/t working mom and need care every afternoon. I work in Oakland and have some flexibility, but picking him up and taking him somewhere during the day would be hard more than 1x/week.

What do other Hillcrest working families do? What programs do you recommend? Is anyone with younger kids interested in a p/t afternoon nanny share? We could rotate houses, etc. Thanks for any ideas!! sarah

As a working professional mom, I felt compelled to respond to your post. We had experience with other AT programs at other schools for our kids and no issues. But my youngest daughter was in Hillcrest AT in K and 1st grades - and it was unique. I hired a babysitter to pick up my kindergarten daughter 2 days/week to minimuze her exposure to the AT director's myriad rules, disciplines, punishments for minor 'infractions' (eg you wiggled in your seat, you reached too soon for snack, you ran inside). Many punishments involved being publicly humiliated, outdoor time being taken away, wearing a punishment bracelet, or sitting in a chair publicly for a long time. The director would criticize her in front of me and other kids, and expressed no affection for any of them. Our kid was anxious and miserable. AT was one (but only one) of the main reasons we left Hillcrest, and I told them that when we pulled her. My daughter then thrived- and her teachers and after-school folks loved her - at her new school immediately. Unless you have a quiet and docile child, please make some plans ahead of time. Still Upset For My Kid

Wow, that sure doesn't sound like the Adventure Time we know and love. Our extremely active son who will be a first grader thrived at Hillcrest AT. The staff is caring and affectionate towards the kids. My son really likes the director and I appreciate that she runs a tight ship, coordinating dozens of afterschool schedules. I am able to work knowing that my child is loved and well-cared for during the afterschool program. He is a very picky eater but he has been encouraged to try new foods at AT and came home asking for chili. Happy Hillcrest AT mom

Is Hillcrest Overcrowded?

March 2011

We never thought we'd have the option to live in Rockridge, but we just bid on a house zoned for Hillcrest. Unfortunately, I know 2 families who've recently moved their kids out of Hillcrest due to overcrowding ... If you have children there, what's your experience been recently? My child will be in kindergarten Fall 2011 ... is it jammed? any sense of whether there will be space? If you were redirected to Thornhill or Chabot, what's your experience there? I met with the principal at Thornhill last week and wasn't too impressed. Any recent experiences much appreciated! Rockridge parent?

Overcrowding? I'm not sure what this means exactly...30 kids in a class 29, 31? The teacher' ''contract'' says that there can be 31 in a 4th or 5th grade and 29 (I think) in K-3. If you haven't already heard measure L didn't pass (400 votes kept the goal out of reach) so there is NO money in OUSD. There will be large class sizes in every grade at every school throughout the district,possible school closures and layoffs of 800 mostly new, high energy, excited and interested teachers. So, brace yourself, Chabot, Hillcrest, all the schools are ''overcrowded''. Is 30 overcrowding?

Considering a move to the Hillcrest district

Sept 2010

Hi, We need to move before our kids (twins) start elementary school, and are considering moving to the Hillcrest district. But, I've read a lot on BPN and have heard from others that there have been problems in the past few years where families in the neighborhood have not gotten into the school. Does anyone know how things are going now? Has this improved at all? Our kids will start K in Fall 2012, so we plan to move in about a year (Fall 2011) in order to get into a house before enrollment in Jan. Thank you!

hello, getting into Hillcrest is not guaranteed due to high number of requests and limited space. priority is usually given to incoming children who reside in the attendance area with siblings at the school and goes on from there.

OUSD has an ''options'' program that you should look into before determining if you want to move into the neighborhood for the school. here is a quick summary:



good luck. Hillcrest Alum Family

Hello Daria,
There is never a guarantee that if you move to a specific district that your children will be able to attend the school. I have represented many buyers that moved to Upper Rockridge specifically for Hillcrest and their kindergartners were sent to Chabot because there were too many incoming children. All of the families have been happy with Chabot, but as you probably realize it only goes up to the 5th grade as opposed to Hillcrest that goes up to the 8th grade. If you really want Hillcrest, I would suggest that you rent a home in the neighborhood district first to see if there is enough space. That way you can keep you options open. Best of luck! Mary

Denied entrance to Hillcrest though we live in the neighborhood

March 2008

We just received notice today from OUSD that we were denied entrance to Hillcrest Elementary, although we live in the current school boundaries and purchased our home at a premium because of the school. Although we knew about last year's fiasco, as of January we were told at a school meeting that there might be 47 spaces available for the fall and approximately 60 some children in the neighborhood wanting a spot. Does anyone know how many spots are available for kindergarten this fall and how many children in the neighborhood applied? How did OUSD choose which kids in the neighborhood got in and which didn't? What are the chances of getting into Hillcrest via their appeals process? We applied to private schools as a backup, but even if we get accepted to any next week, we're not in a financial position to accept unless we want to go into heavy debt and not have any retirement or college money. anon

While it is unfortunate that your child was not selected in the lottery for Hillcrest, (and you are correct that there were over 60 applicants), your only other option is not private school. The two other schools to which students were redirected were Chabot and Thornhill. Chabot has API scores that rival Hillcrest's and frankly, Chabot has a much nicer campus than Hillcrest especially with the $13 million building project they are undertaking. Also, Chabot is a great community and is very close to the Hillcrest neighborhood. If your child was admitted to Thornhill, that school was awarded the California Distinguished School Award in 2006 (which is the most recent cycle for elementary schools), an award that is given to just a handful of the over 9,000 schools in California. Given these facts, I just don't get your question. Surely driving to a private school would be just as far or farther away than Chabot or Thornhill and these schools are as good as any private school your child would go to in my opinion.

If you appeal, and someone who was admitted to Hillcrest does not choose to go, then your child might be admitted. I would guess they would do a lottery among the appeals to fill any slots that open up.

I encourage you to visit the school to which you were admitted and at least research it a bit. Hillcrest is a good school but the world isn't going to end if your child attends Chabot or Thornhill. In fact, those schools might be a better fit for your child. The other schools to which students were redirected are the next closest neighborhood school and have a lot to offer. Open your mind to the possibilities and make the kindergarten choice with your child's well-being in mind. anon

Dear denied, Boy, do I understand what you are going through. I went through it last year. We were denied our school in the hills as well, after owning here for 9 years. You should follow the appeals request process, it worked for me. Fill out the form and be the first one in line at the appeals office on the start date, even if you have to be there at 6:30am. Be the first one to get your paperwork stamped with the date and time for proof of placement on the waiting list for Hillcrest. Get names of all the people at the appeals office, introduce yourself and tell them your situation. Be nice but firm. Go visit these folks every week. Be the polite squeaky wheel. Write a letter to the principal at Hillcrest - introduce yourself, explain your situation and describe your intentions of participation at the school. Visit the school secretary, let him/her know who you are, inquire how the waiting list is going - every week. Go back to the appeals office,inquire again about your placement. Phone calls get you nowhere. After four weeks, our appeal was accepted and our kindergardener was placed in our local hills school. What a stressful event and I'm sorry you have to go through this. It is possible to get in - good luck. Mom on a mission

There are other good elementary schools in Oakland, you were probably re-directed to one of them. You might even like these schools better than Hillcrest once you check them out. I would consider other public schools before spending more than you want to on private. oakland parent

hello, my understanding is that 40 kindergartners were accepted at Hillcrest for the fall of 2008.

The options/open enrollment priorities for incoming kindergartners are the following:
1. Neighborhood siblings
2. Neighborhood students and re-directs from overcrowded neighborhoods
3. Non-Neighborhood siblings
4. PI status of neighborhood school
5. Lottery

Assignment letters will be mailed out by March 1st, after which families will have an opportunity to submit an appeal. Appeals will only be accepted for one school, and waitlists will be generated for neighborhood students and siblings. Students will be moved off of the waitlist through the first three weeks of the semester. The assignment letter will also inform elementary families that they have to confirm registration at the school sites by a specific date in May. Elementary families which do not confirm their registration by the May deadline will forfeit their assignment. this and additional information may be found at: http://www.hillcrestpta.org/news/enroll/index.shtml good luck. Hillcrest parent

I am a current Hillcrest parent and I have a child who will be in Kindergarten in the fall. I am sorry to hear that your child did not get placed at Hillcrest. The enrollment issue has been upsetting and disruptive to the whole community and yes, it has hit your home especially hard. If you are not already on the waiting list for Hillcrest - get down to the OUSD offices and get on the list. There will be some children who were admitted who will not attend (I personally know of 2) so there is hope in that area. Also, I suggest you stick out the waiting through to the fall, even if you have to pay some non-refundable fees to private schools. There is always a chance someone will decide closer to the start of school to hold their child back a year. As far as numbers go, there is some info on that at the Hillcrestpta.org website in the enrollment planning section. Basically, they admitted 40 kids and redirected 22. 40 is the number the principal said she expected to admit when she spoke at the Kindergarten orientation in January. At that time she also said that the group may be divided into one class of 27 and one split class of 13 Ks combined with first graders. I have since spoken to her and she said she does not at this time know how the classes will be split and won't for sure until just before school starts. She also said that she fully expected to admit people off of the waitlist to keep the total number of K kids at 40. I hope that helps. Good Luck

(Editor: See also: Our neighborhood school was overenrolled - what can we do!?)

Is Hillcrest gay-friendly?

March 2008

I am one mom of a two mom family. We have a child who is about to start Kindergarten at Hillcrest Elementary, a public school in Oakland. I am wanting to know anything anyone knows about gay friendly teachers, parents, environment at Hillcrest. For instance, are there other gay/lesbian parents who currently have kids in the school, are there gay/lesbian teachers, what is done in the school to celebrate and embrace this sort of diversity? All feedback would be very welcome. Thanks in advance.

hi, regarding you question about Hillcrest and whether or not it is gay friendly, it may be best for you to speak with the principal so you can get some reassurances. in my opinion, Hillcrest has been a very open and welcoming school. i know we've had gay/lesbian parents and there may have been staff as well (not sure though). i also know that EXPOSURE, a new parent group at the school is looking into showing the film, ''It's a Family'' (a film about different families -- divorce, two moms, two dads, grandparents). i think the staff and parents look forward to celebrating and embracing diversity at Hillcrest. if you choose to come to our school, you may want to join and participate in EXPOSURE. HC parent

Hi there, People usually rave about Hillcrest because of test scores and parental involvement in this small community. We probably are a 'minority' voice, but our family has found the school to be sorely lacking any diversity in family structure or socio-economics. I am a single parent. In my daughter's grade (approx 48 kids), there is only one other single parent. There are no gay or lesbian parents, there are no adopted or sperm donor kids. Nor are differences in kids overtly welcomed in any way. Parents have privately expressed 'puzzlement'and vague 'concern' to me that my daughter was conceived by sperm donation; some classmates have told her that she is ''lying'' about not having a father. Needless to say, there is no visible gay or lesbian population. Everyone pretty much looks and acts the same, and if you're different it is not seen as an enrichment to the school community.

Though the academics are absolutely solid, there are a lot of sahm moms who volunteer, and the fundraising is off the charts, if you're looking for a diverse or gay-friendly community, this school does not make any list.

We have lived in other neighborhoods and gone to cool schools (we have an older son who has never gone to Hillcrest) that truly are welcoming and broader communities, both public and private. We too moved here for the school but had no idea what social program we had signed up for (and no, you can't tour ahead of time).

This is not just a rant by the way. We applied for and just got into a private school so that my child can actually -- ironically -- experience a diverse, real world that this 'hills' school could never have. The money is worth what it will provide my child in the long run. Good luck. Anon

Thinking about buying a house in Rockridge

Jan 2008

We just moved back to the Bay Area for work. Initially, we thought we would live in Lamorinda since I was working in Walnut Creek. However, now that we have looked at many homes, we feel that Orinda, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek are too rural for us. OK, so here is where I need your input.... We are still looking for a house. Now, we are thinking about Rockridge. I know that Hillcrest and Chabot are good schools, but what do people do when their kids are high school age. On the district map, the high school assignment for that area is Oakland Tech, and that is very far away. What are the private high schools that are in the area? I know this is a long way from now, but I am planning to buy a house that we will live in at least until the kids go away to college. If it seems like there are no good high school options, I need to know NOW so that we do not consider Rockridge, and we will just live somewhere in Lamorinda and buy a car for the nanny to drive the kids around. We just like Rockridge because it is a walking neighborhood with sidewalks (for strollers) and quaint restaurants and cafes that is easy commute to Walnut Creek (me) and to SF (hubby) by BART. We think the homes in Rockridge suit us better than comparably priced homes in Lamorinda/Walnut Creek.

Hillcrest is severely crowded and you should not buy in this neighborhood assuming you will get into Hillcrest. No Oakland school guarantees admission to the neighborhood school although neighborhood kids have historically been given preference. In some areas, like Hillcrest, there are more students in the neighborhood than the school can accommodate. For lower Rockridge and part of Upper Rockridge, the public high school is Oakland Tech, which is a choice that many parents are making for their kids. There is a growing movement to attend Oakland Tech. Otherwise, parents choose schools like Bishop O'Dowd, Head Royce and the like. Good luck. But again, do not spend extra on a house to live in the Hillcrest ''neighborhood'' as there is absolutely no guarantee that your child will be admitted. Also the district is considering boundary adjustments which could mean your ''neighborhood school'' could change even if it is currently designated as within Hillcrest. Good luck. anon

Is it worth it to move to the Hillcrest neighborhood?

May 2007

We're outgrowing our tiny house in outer Glenview and are looking to move into a neighborhood with a good school. Although I hear positive things about Glenview Elem, since we have the opportunity to move into one of the top school zones we'd like to take advantage of it. We would love to be able to get into Hillcrest, but my understanding is that after this year's enrollment chaos there will be no guarantees for kindergartners who live in the catchment area going forward (my oldest will start kindergarten Fall 2010). So, we wonder if it's really worth it to move into Upper Rockridge when there's a chance we may not even get in our neighborhood school?? I can't imagine how frustrating and disappointing that would be. I heard that the kids who originally didn't get into Hillcrest were put into Chabot or Kaiser, which are apparently decent? If we put our money toward a home in Hillcrest and don't get into a good school we won't be able to afford private. I know we have a few years, but we'd like to act now before rates and prices go up again. We've thought about Piedmont, but for what we can afford we could probably only get something smaller than what we already have. My husband wants to scrap it all and move to Marin (I know, super expensive), but I really like Oakland. Someone suggested renting and see if we get in Hillcrest before buying, but I don't know if that area has a lot of rentals. Any advice/opinions/experience appreciated.
Stressed, Confused & Frustrated

I moved to Upper Rockridge a few years ago and my child attends Hillcrest. I love the neighborhood, it's safe and convenient and beautiful. Hillcrest is a very nice school but it is having significant overcrowding issues, not just at the kindergarten level. Contrary to what you heard it is not at all clear how this will be handled in years to come. This year the district originally accepted 40 kindergarten students for Fall of 07 but gave in to pressure from redirected families and currently there are slated to be 65 coming in. A committee has been formed to make recommendations for the 08 year and beyond but that work is just beginning and it is a purely advisory committee. So by the time your child enters kindergarten it will be all sorted out, one hopes, but it is too soon to say how. I have a younger child who will start kindergarten in a few years and I have to say that I am feeling more and more comfortable with the thought of Kaiser or Chabot particularly if they are not overcrowded, but like everyone else I'll just have to wait and see.. anon

Don't move for Hillcrest -- or at least not if you think you absolutely must go to your neighborhood school. There is simply no guarantee that you will get in and now that there is better notice being provided to parents early on in the enrollment process, it is likely that your child could end up in a lottery where they may or may not get in. Of course, this all depends on how many kids there are in any particular K class that are also in the neighborhood and want to attend the school. Glenview is a great school, so are Chabot and Kaiser. There are so many things that make a school special and I think it makes no sense to just rely on some statement that X or Y school is the best. There are several schools in Oakland that score an 8-10 on the statewide tests, meaning that they are doing a great job in meeting state standards. But, a school is a lot more than a test score. It is the teachers, the other kids, the other parents, the effort they all put in, the outdoor space, and the programs. Chabot is not just a good school. It's terrific. Glenview is also an up and comer, so are Temescal and Peralta. So my advice is take a broader view of your child's education, realize that where they go to elementary school does not dictate their future, and look for the up and coming areas with high parental involvement. In those areas, you'll get better value for a home (with enough room) and when your child gets old enough for school, your neighborhood school will be a great option for you. anon


Advantages: Great Parental Involvement, High Test Scores, Principal who is aware of community resources (for gifted kids, remedial students, sports, science, etc.), K - 8 so the kids really know each other. Nearly everyone at the school lives in the neighborhood. More money for ''gifted'' kids because many have been identified as such.

Disadvantages: High pressure on the kids to perform on tests and to get tutors so they can if they are not ahead. Kids are called ''gifted'' because they are not tested for giftedness for given the designation because of standardized test scores. Few children of color or different socioeconomic backgrounds attend the school although some live in the neighborhood.. Because 6 - 8 grade students make up such a small population there are fewer teachers with ''in depth'' expertise simply because there are fewer teachers for fewer students. I also found the attitude of ''We are the best'' a little off-putting.

In the end, I chose to send my son to St. Paul's Episcopal School even though I am only a few doors down from Hillcrest. The pressure to perform and the lack of diversity were the main factors in my decision. Qualify for Hillcrest but chose No

I can't really speak to any of your questions regarding Hillcrest but was wondering if you've considered Orinda, Moraga, or Lafayette? All three have excellent schools and are only about 10-15 mins away. I grew up in Oakland, and we were originally looking for homes in the Hillcrest area as well. We had the same issue with not being able to afford private school after putting our money into a house. So we decided to move to Moraga instead. Our rationale was that they had excellent schools all the way through to college. With Hillcrest, we knew we would probably have to consider private school for high school. My kids are in elementary now and we absolutely love their school! All the schools here are equally good, so it was such a relief to not have to worry about whether we would get into the school we wanted or not. We are also very relieved not to have to struggle with the question of whether to stay in the public school system or move to private after elementary, as our friends who have stayed in Oakland are doing. Moraga has a small town feel too, which we love. It really feels like a community, which is great. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision! Happy Mom

Dear Stressed, Confused and Frustrated,

As a current Hillcrest parent my advice to you would be that if you love the neighborhood and want to move here because of that, then you should do so. If your only reason for moving to the neighborhood is for Hillcrest, I would say that this is not worth taking the chance on since there is no guarantee that your child will be admitted to the school.

As you know, the 2007 kindergarten enrollment process for Hillcrest was a complete fiasco. Neither the incoming kindergarteners, or the current children will be served well by this ''child surge''. Hillcrest has very limited facilities in terms of space, playground, bathrooms, etc., and admitting that many new students only results in over crowding and less than optimal teaching/learning environment for all involved. The school is way over capacity, and the children at the lower grades will continue to be most impacted for a longer period of time by this recent decision.

Regarding Chabot and Kaiser; both of these schools are good, and Chabot's API scores rival Hillcrest's. Kaiser is not far behind. I think you should have a look at these schools for yourself, talk to some parents at the school and see what you think. You may be pleasantly surprised and decide you want to move to the neighborhood after all as you will have 3 choices, not just 1! There are many good schools in Oakland, they just aren't on parents' radars for a variety of reasons. I have learned that API scores don't tell the whole story about what a school has to offer its students.

You may not know this, and you should know that currently at Hillcrest there are 2 classes each for grades K-3, then 1 class in 4 and 1 class in 5. The middle school, which is a primary reason for Hillcrest's popularity, has 2 classes. Admitting more children than the school has capacity for will not only continue to result in overcrowded classes (the class reduction act of 1996 of 20 or less in K-3 isn't happening at Hillcrest any longer) but will also result in split (combination) classes from grades K-5 as the ''surge'' spills over to other grades and there isn't physical classroom space to accomodate all the children.

As you can see, admitting more kids than the campus has room for is negating many of the reasons (one of them being smaller class sizes) that have made Hillcrest a great school. Rather than stuffing Hillcrest to the brim, it would be more productive to replicate the successful Hillcrest K-8 model at other Oakland schools. Hopefully OUSD will seriously consider this and parents will become involved to make it happen.

Good luck in your decision. Hillcrest parent

The advantage of Hillcrest is that it is K-8 (my impression is that it also offers more extracurriculars as well). The enrollment process for this year's incoming kindergarten class was messy, but at the end everybody that wanted to get in did in fact get in. There is a school committee being formed right now tasked with coming up with a long term solution to the enrollment issue. As I understand it, one option is to install portables but there is opposition because they just finished a wonderful two story building to get rid of the old portables. Another option under consideration is redrawing the boundary lines for the catchment area and it would seem logical to draw it at Broadway Terrace. Good luck, anon

Transferring to Hillcrest as a 6th grader

Jan 2007

Can anyone provide insight or advice on transferring to Hillcrest as a 6th grader? We live in Rockridge and my daughter is currently at Chabot and our local middle school is Claremont which is a low performing school. I have heard that many Hillcrest students leave for private schools after 5th grade, but does this mean there are openings for middle schoolers? If so, how likely is is that my kid could get in and what can I do to improve her chances. We would have to sell our second born in order to send our oldest to private school and I would hate to do that- he is really cute! mama looking for options

Hello. You can always request Hillcrest middle school via the OUSD options program (applications are due now). Because Hillcrest is so small, space is very limited at the middle school (2 teachers, each teach a combination class made up of 6- 8 graders). Very few children leave Hillcrest after 5th grade, so I doubt there will be many openings for middle school, but it never hurts to give it a try. Good luck! HC parent

Hillcrest vs. private school

February 2005

We are debating between Hillcrest public school and several private schools (admittance unknown yet, of course). We are particularly interested in hearing from parents of Hillcrest kids in the upper elementary grades: 3,4,5. The kindergarten looks great but we have uneasiness beyond that. colin

Our two children, who are now in second and fifth grades, have attended Hillcrest since kindergarten. Our experience has been great! I love the school and love how it connects our family to our neighborhood. The classes are challenging, the teachers are committed and the principal is dedicated, smart and resourceful. No school is perfect -- I wish we had more performing arts and a bigger grassy area. But we are committed to staying through middle school. I would be happy to talk with anyone about the school. Jacqueline

January 2004

Would be very interested in hearing families' firsthand thoughts about their child's experiences at Hillcrest School in Oakland. I've also heard it's very difficult to get into the school, even if you live in the zone (which we don't). Anyone know about that and/or how those decisions are made?

We are new HC Kindergarden family this year. The school has been excellent, and Principal Beverly R made clear the commitment to admit (to K) every child who wanted to come who lives in the districted area. Once in, I think (not sure) you get to stay thru upper grades. Large dropoff at 6th grade as many students migrate away to private middle schools. ben

Hillcrest is a very small, high performing K-8 public school of 283 students. (YES! We have a middle school!) We are one of two Oakland schools with API scores of over 900. Our academic performance often surpasses Piedmont schools. Our PTA is very active and supports us by providing computer, art, dance/drama/music, librarian and aides. The Hillcrest Language School offers Spanish and French classes before and after school. Adventure Time provides before and after school child care. For a fee, we have after school classes such as Rythm and Drums, Mad Science, Art, Chess Club, and American Sign Language.

Because of our small size, we are not an Open Enrollment school. We do all that we can do to enroll all of the entering Kindergarten students who live in our attendance area. After Kindergarten, we have very little space and sometimes must divert students who move into our area to other Oakland schools with openings. Realtors are told to inform prospective home-buyers that living in the Hillcrest neighborhood does not guarentee enrollment at Hillcrest.

Our community is close. You'll find that your best friends will be the parents of your children's friends. Feel free to call the school should you have any questions at 879-1270. But please be reminded that because of our size, we do not enroll students outside of our attendance area. beverly

January 2003


I'd like to hear any general feedback about Hillcrest Elementary School. Also, I've heard that enrollment is not necessarily guaranteed for students, even if they live in the surrounding neighborhood--anyone have any further information on this? Is it really a problem? Thanks! future Hillcrest parent

We're trying to decide between Hillcrest and Head- Royce/Bentley for Kindergarten. We're concerned about the difference in class sizes at Hillcrest starting in 4th grade, as well as the potential for class sizes to increase in earlier grades as schools get hit with the Oakland/CA budget crisis. Any information would be appreciated. -- contemplating

In response to inquiries regarding Hillcrest. I have a Kindergartener there now, as well as a 1st grader at St. Theresa. While I still plan on my Kindergartener moving over to St. Theresa, it is with great regret that we will leave Hillcrest. Alice Rochester and Ann Henderson run the most incredible Kindergarten class I have ever seen. My daughter loves school (that is saying a lot) and she is learning so much. The academics are much more that I thought they would be (that is a good thing in my opinion). I cannot comment on other grades as I do not have students attending them. Carolyn

My sons attend Hillcrest (first and second grade), and my sister attended the school for nine years; she's now a junior at USC. Let me touch on some of the pluses and minuses of Hillcrest.

I am very pleased with both the educational and social envoronment at Hillcrest. The principal, Beverly Rothenberg, is an absolute gem. She is committed not only to the academic achievement of her students, but she's also tireless when it comes to community building.

The schools boasts an incredibly active group of parents, and many of the teachers welcome parental involvement in the classroom; I've been able to read in both of my sons classrooms on a weekly basis, for example. As one might expect, the PTA does a great job of fundraising, and there are a number of very innovative ideas in the pipeline.

I've also been happy with the teachers there, but I'll only mention the ones who we've had direct experience with. As noted in a previous post, Alice Rochester is fantastic with the kindergardeners. Missy Callaghan teaches first grade, and while I've heard some parents find her a bit strict, I (and my son) really like her and her classroom atmosphere. Melissa Catalano is new to the school, and my second garder adores her. She does a great job of giving the kids interesting assignments, and she's very energetic.

As for the minuses...the community is more ethnically diverse than I expected (given that my kids are African-American and Mexican-American, that's important to our family), but there's not a whole lot of economic diversity. I fear that some of the kids may have a skewed perspective on our capitalist society; one child, upon hearing that I returned from a business trip, asked me if I flew first class! (Um, well, no.) The parental playground grapevine among parents have mentioned a split between folks who live in pre-firestorm and post-firestorm housing, but I don't think that's a significant problem.

All in all, I'm thrilled that my sons are fortunate enough to attend Hillcrest, and I'm sure we'll be there through eighth grade. Eric

I have two children in Hillcrest (K and 1st grade) and I am also involved in the PTA.

Where to start: the teachers are wonderful, very patient, very witty, they keep the children challenged and are great persons to talk to. Any issue is immediately addressed no matter how insignificant it seems. The principal is great both as a person and as a ''manager'', is always on top of things, she makes a real effort to bring new extra curriculum programs, quality teachers and promote positive life skills and values in our children. In addition to music, art and P.E we have a language program that offers French and Spanish. The parents are very involved in classes and PTA and the different events. There is a new additional building that will start to develop this summer. Only positive things happening through the combined effort of principal/teachers/parents/community.

My children and I are very happy, it's a great community, great school and very good academics. We are proud to be part of Hillcrest School. Simona

May 2002


my son will start kindergarten at hillcrest elem (oakland) in fall 2003. right now he goes to a full-time preschool (8am to 6pm). this is convenient since my husband and i work full- time. what do hillcrest parents (who work full-time) do with their kids during the hours that kindergarten is not in session? are there before and afterschool programs on campus? private daycare centers that transport kids? suzie

Yes, Hillcrest Elementary School has on-site daycare between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It's called Adventure Time and they can be reached at 658-7412. You should sign up now to be sure your child has a spot in the Fall. Also, see the web site http://www.adventure-time.com/ See you at Hillcrest next year! - Sharon (mother of a Kindergartener and 2nd grader at Hillcrest)

October 2001


Hi - Hilcrest Elementary School in Oakland I'm doing the school tour thing these days for my prospective kindergardener, and our public elementary school is Hilcrest in Oakland. I would like to know what folks think about the school, and in hearing from both parents who chose the school as well as from those who opted for private rather than send their kids to Hilcrest. Lisa

I have two children currently at Hillcrest School in Oakland (Kindergarten and second grade). It's a fabulous neighborhood public school. We looked into private schools before deciding on Hillcrest (we were pretty sure about Hillcrest, but just wanted to explore all the options) and came to the conclusion that Hillcrest was just as good as the private schools. There is a *very* active parent community (PTA) at Hillcrest and great teachers. If there is anything specific you would like to know, feel free to contact me. - Sharon