Montera Middle School
Montera vs Edna Brewer?
We are in the process of choosing an Oakland middle school for our son. Our top choices are Edna Brewer and Montera, with a slight preference for Edna Brewer. I was hoping to get some current reviews from parents with students at each school (or if someone has recent experience with both schools, even better). We value academic rigor and diversity, but our main goal is to find a school where our slightly introverted son can thrive. Thnx Middle School Parent to Be
My son is not introverted (quite the opposite) but he does not thrive in a chaotic, noisy situation.
He started at Montera a bit over two years ago, and was there for a year and a half. I wanted to like Montera, I really, really did -- but it was not good at all for my son. There are 950 or so students there, and the noise and chaos between classes is something to behold; it intimidated even me when I was there to visit a teacher (they have only a 3 minute passing period; no time at all even to get to a locker; my son never used his).
One of the big problems for my son was the intimidation. He got threatened (to a point that scared him) for such things as walking across a corner of a group's impromptu basketball court at recess, or bumping into a kid he didn't know -- and my son is larger than average by a good bit.
There are also (as in any school) some good teachers, and some bad. I got lots of stories from my son of one teacher not even noticing kids throwing pens and other small sharp objects around behind his back. I also noted firsthand that only about half of the teachers were willing to meet with me, or respond seriously to my concerns, when my son was having trouble.
We left Montera when my son was halfway through 7th grade. It was the right decision for us; he's doing much better at a new school (in a different district). I know some kids do very well at Montera; they tend to be the kids, I think, who would do well most anywhere -- academically focused, not easily intimidated, not drawn to problem kids, and not easily distracted. Our son, unfortunately, was not one of these kids. anonymous
Edna Brewer ASIP vs. Montera ASIP
My 5th grade son is in an excellent autism spectrum inclusion program (ASIP) at Chabot and we are trying to figure out which middle school ASIP program would be best for him. I went on a parent led tour at both Edna Brewer and Montera, as well as an information night at Edna Brewer. So far I've been more swayed by the thoughtful and intentional way in which EB has communicated about their school and how they operate. That said, I've heard good things about both schools.
If you have (or have had) a child in either one of these programs, I'd love to know: What you found the strengths and challenges of the school and/or program to be? How effectively and transparently the kids were integrated with their peers? Was there excessive stigma attached to being in ASIP? How the schedule worked for your child? (6 periods? at Montera; block schedule this year at EB, with just 3 classes per day) How easy was it to work with school administration? How easy was it to work with ASIP staff? What was the quality of the intervention specialists (classroom aides)? How good were the gen ed teachers at supporting your childs needs? If your child had academic needs, as well as social, did you receive adequate support for these? Feel free to contact me directly (by email or phone (510-918-3557)or reply to this post. Thanks! Inga
A close friend had a son (now graduated) in Montera's ASIP and from what she told me it was a good experience for both of them. Have you had a chance yet to speak with Montera's principal? She's great about responding to emails and maybe you can schedule a time to meet with her and ASIP teachers. Also, just to clarify the block schedule question . . . While Montera does have six periods, 6th graders have two sets of core classes with one teacher for English/History and another for Math/Science. Then there's PE and an elective. Plus each grade is divided into two families with half of the students working with one set of instructors and the other half with another set. Helps teachers collaborate and understand what's happening with students outside their particular class. Good luck with your decision. I'm sure both programs are strong. Montera parent
Re: Montclair jr/high school: public, private or move?
I wouldn't move or go private for middle school. Our child is in 6th grade at Montera, after having attended Montclair. It is a California Distinguished School, and the test scores are not so bad at all. I am not so big on paying attention to test scores. Instead, I care about how happy my daughter is and if she is learning. Well, she is thriving. The work is challenging, and interesting. For the core academics, the school is ahead of the curve in working toward the common core standards. In brief, that means more emphasis on thinking instead of rote work and it is something all states (except for Montana and Texas) are moving toward. Her social studies class covers ancient history, and right now it's all about ancienct Greece- they are learning about the Greek gods and creating designs to incorporate what they have learned. My daughter has come out of her shell in math this year, and her teacher is giving her more advanced math to supplement what is standard for 6th grade. English covers a lot of writing, and they are reading some great novels and evaluating them in class. Science is great too. There is about 1+ hour of homework each night, and she works hard at it. I was VERY worried to send her to Montera because of all one heards about OUSD, etc., especially as a graduate of the esteemed (but not deservedly so, IMO) Orinda schools, but am now embarassed to have been so. It's a gem. Yes, it's a public school and all that entails, but there will always be issues whereever you go. One more thing...we have seen a few folks leave private schools for Montera, and it seems they are thriving as well. I do hear that 7th grade hasn't been as strong as 6th, but I also hear that the principal is working on this. I ask my daughter every day if school is ok, and she loves it. Couldn't ask for more. Happy at Montera
Both of my kids went to Oakland public elementary (Joaquin Miller, not Montclair) and both are now at Montera and we are very happy there. There is a very large group of kids who went to Montclair and at least in the current 6th grade class I think Montclair and Joaquin Miller are the two schools that sent the biggest groups of kids to Montera. We are happy both with the excellent education they are receiving and with the way the school is run. There is a significant core of high achieving students and some really great teachers. We also have a great new principal who is committed to addressing the achievement gap and making sure that every child at Montera is succeeding. We live in Oakland, and chose not to move to someplace like Orinda, for exactly the reasons you mention. There are certainly challenges that kids will experience at Montera that they may not experience at a private school or a school in a place like Orinda. They are going to meet kids from very different backgrounds and they are going to encounter some kids with behavior problems. I think the school does a good job of dealing with those problems when they arise and in my experience they are not common. We think that some challenges are a good thing for our kids. We considered private school for middle school and have no regrets about not doing it. My son will be going to Oakland Tech next year, having been admitted to Head-Royce and deciding it was not for him. Skyline also has some great programs and we know many people whose kids have been successful there. I would urge you to talk to people who have kids at Montera for information about that school as there are plenty of false rumors to be had from those who don't. Good luck. Montera Parent
I'm the mother of a 6th grader at Montera this year. I just want to add some recent ''numbers'' to the discussion about OUSD middle schools because I think these have either dramatically changed over the past 5 years or the rumors of flight from OUSD middle schools have been exaggerated. Of the 60 fifth graders at Montclair Elementary School in 2011-2012, only 2 went on to private schools, one moved (not to Piedmont or Orinda or Marin, by the way), 4 went to other OUSD schools (e.g., art and performance), and the rest all went to Montera. So only ~3 out of ~60 Montclair Elementary families made the decision to leave OUSD at the middle school level. This means that in the the transition to the larger middle school, the children have a significant cohort of friends, and a lot of the parents already know each other, facilitating building community at the middle school level overall. Montera mom
Montera for academically advanced student?
Our first child is due to start middle school next year. I realize the school year just started, but time flies and I want to make sure we research our options in time to visit open houses, fill out applications, etc. Our first choice as a family is Montera (our neighborhood school), but we would really like to hear from current and/or recently-graduated Montera families about how they accomodate academically advanced students. I visited the website today, and the information about the GATE program posts an invite for a meeting in November of 2009. I'm hoping there is something more recent happening! We're not fans of private school, but we also don't want to short-change our kids if their needs won't generally be met at their school. Any information is much appreciated, both good and not-so-good. Thanks! --Hopeful for Montera
Roughly 1/3 of all Montera students are GATE kids. Montera uses its GATE funds primarily to help teachers develop and implement programs that allow them to reach advanced children's needs while they are simultaneously addressing the needs of the less advanced kids in the class. This seems to be a much better approach than simply offering field trips or special activities a few times a year for GATE students.
By all means, do come visit Montera. Talk to the administrators and teachers. Attend one or more of our PTO meetings and use the opportunity to speak with current Montera parents. This coming Tuesday evening we are putting on a program on how parents can help their children succeed in middle school. Pizza will be served starting at 6:30, with the program beginning at 7:00 in the Montera library. Bring your kids.
Jerry Batchelder Montera Parent Teacher Organization Co-President
Montera for GLBT parents?
I read the info. already posted about Montera, but have a couple of more specific questions. Are there any GLBT parents out there with a kid at the school? What has been your experience there? How does the school handle GLBT issues. Is there any kind of anti-bullying or discrimination awareness teaching at the school? Do you feel like the kids get any kind of social consciousness education? Worried Parent
We have had two children attend Montclair Elementary, then Montera. We have not had any negative experiences at either school. I provided the That's a Family movie resource to Montclair Elementary several years ago, presenting it at a staff meeting, then making it available in the library. I haven't had the chance to do so at Montera, but have found several ''allies'' in the teaching staff, and know that they are supportive. Our children haven't experienced any bullying for any reason at either school. That may be due to their personalities (they are both rather quiet in a crowd), but I would say that if any of the teachers were aware of bullying, for GLBT reasons or otherwise, I believe they would step up and stop it.
[Posted on behalf of another Montera parent:]
''Yes, we're lesbian and we have a child in the 8th grade. So far at least there have been no issues. She is happy at Montera.''
Hi there. We may move to Montclair, so our child can be in one of the good elementary schools there. But we've heard mixed things about the schools ... If you have children in either of those elementary schools, what do you think of them? How is the homework? the arts? the PE? I am having a tough time getting adequate info from the schools. Also, what do parents do for middle and high school? I know several families that went private after elementary school, due to poor middle/high options in Montclair area. We both have graduate degrees and were lucky enough to attend some exceptional schools, so education is a HUGE priority for us. We're really interested in your thoughts, your stories. Thanks! sw
Can't respond about Montclair or Thornhill elementary (we were at Redwood Heights, which we couldn't have been happier with), but I can throw in my .02 about Montera Middle School as I've got two kids currently attending.
Go visit Montera before you totally rule out public middle school in Oakland. You'll be pleasantly surprised. We've been nothing but happy there. Both my kids are engaged and excited about learning - and doing well. Teachers are communicative, open and responsive. API test scores are up. The PTO is organized and very active. And our family is active and involved in the school.
It's not a good fit for everyone, obviously. But if you live in Montclair, go take a look. It's only getting better each year. Lauren
My son is a sixth grader attending Montera Middle School. I want to know if anyone has any information about the school. Are there problems with drugs, ''sex clubs'', or a lot of fighting? I have spent time on the campus, have asked my son in as vague a manner as possible and have even tried calling the police station to get informtaion. I have also called the school and left messages for my sons teachers and principal - none to have been returned. Does anyone have any feed back on Montera Middle school? Concerned parent
I, too, have a 6th-grader at Montera and have found it to be a responsive, safe and genuinely caring environment. It has many strengths, not the least of which is a strong and engaged principal who expects the best out of kids and, more often than not, gets it. Like any school any where q public, private, urban, suburban q Montera has to deal with real-life issues. Fights? They happen infrequently and they're stopped immediately. Behavioral expectations are clearly outlined and problems are dealt with swiftly. Drugs? I don't know about it, but I'd be naive to suggest that out of almost 900 kids it didn't exist. Look, you obviously have a lot of concerns. Please, please contact the front office to make sure the principal is in, and either schedule an appointment or just go and speak to him in person. I am absolutely confident that he will be responsive and, better still, be able to put your mind at ease. Nancy
My daughter is also a sixth grader at Montera and has been having a great year there (along with all of her friends who came with her from Chabot Elementary). In our experience, we have had no problem communicating with the principal who always seems very present and available. Each teacher has his/her own system for communicating but they have always gotten back to me about any concerns or questions I had (granted they were always about my daughter and not general questions as you were posing). I am not on campus very often during the day, but the few times I have been there the principal is out and about and talking with the students. I am comforted by the fact that my daughter is very good at reporting any incidents that are a concern and the issues she had brought up seem small or are things that any middle school would be confronting. She says that she has only seen (or perhaps heard of) two or three fights this year and they were quickly broken up (one time by the principal himself!). The kids love him and I think that his approachable and friendly personality gives him the ability to work well with not only the students, but the parents and teachers too. I would encourage you to stop by during the day if you are worried and perhaps you will catch Mr. Mesfun and have the opportunity to talk to him then. Kristin
Hello, I heard there is a new principal in Montera and the discipline is under control. But how about the quality of teaching? Are the students challenged academically? I hear there is a lot that is done to tutor the under performing children. But what about those who excel? Are they treated with advanced material? Thank you very much. worried 5th grade parent
Yes, the atmosphere around Montera is definitely better this year, thanks to the new principal. The teachers are in particular quite happy. Mr. Mesfun has taken a tough line on discipline, he is quite open about asking parents to do their part, and he seems to have totally won over the kids. My daughters are both very happy there. I will also say that Montera has some really outstanding teachers -- and has always had them. Now they are just happier and feel more supported by the administration. Happy Montera parent
My daughter's interests were in math/science and music so we chose Montera for her, after many visits (went to every 6th grade classroom, school events etc.) She is a highly-gifted child - we only evaluated her once (wasn't our idea) when she was in 3rd grade and she was found to be then in language at 8th-grade level, math at 5th-grade level and overall development at 16 years. She had high (some perfect 600 scores) standardized tests scores etc.
Montera has many great teachers, and my daughter got lucky to get a full set of excellent teachers in 6th grade. Her math & science teacher has Ivy League education, is a PhD and has 30 years experience of teaching his beloved subjects. The English & history teacher is young, in her 2nd year, full of enthusiasm, energy, knowledge and has excellent rapport with students. Music - my daughter was admitted to the string orchestra by audition (violin) and plays in the after-school jazz band (clarinet). Even the PE teacher is absolutely great.
I think we hit a jackpot here. My daughter is learning a lot, loves her school and is surrounded by students like her, together with the full diversity of students that Montera offers.
After school, there are academic and non-academic programs. For example, my daughter is in Mathletes, an advanced math training programs, where they are taught and then compete with other local schools at Mathletes competitions, American Mathematics Competition, Math Counts competition. The only school Montera lost in Mathletes to is Black Pine Circle, a small private school, but not to other private or public schools in the area.
There are after-school science programs organized by Berkeley Lab scientists for GATE students, a 7-week poetry program we bring to more than half classrooms, Cal Shakes workshops we're starting in a few classrooms this year, Junior Achievement will come to teach economics and global business over 7 weeks. Lots of exciting things are happening at the GATE committee - which is no surprise with 390 GATE-identified students out of the total of 867 students in this school.
Come join Montera and work with us on the GATE committee!
I wanted to update the review of Montera Middle School. As a new parent of a sixth grader this year, I am thrilled with the positive energy, hard work and dedication of the new principal, Mr. Mesfun. My concerns were safety and academic challenge for my shy, gifted girl. The campus has 3 active security guards, and a principal who can be found roaming the halls interacting with students and reminding them of the dress code and of their importance. He validates the children's academic and social behavior with student of the week awards. He has set up new enrichment Mandarin classes and is hiring a librarian for the computerized updated library and added tutoring for those scoring below grade level. Needless to say, my daughter's social life can thrive because she feels safe, and her academics are soaring because the classes are under control. I highly recommend this as a safe and academically challenging middle school option in Oakland.
I felt a strong need to submit this information for new parents looking at the public middle school options in Oakland. A relieved middle school parent
I concur with the positive review of Montera Middle School. Since the 2004 BPN review, there has not only been a 100% turnover in students, but also in the administration! The new principal has energized teachers, staff, and parents to make signficiant improvements, especially with a new, comprehensive discipline policy. There is a good mix of veteran and young teachers. Parents are now encouraged to be involved on campus, helping during lunch hour, in the classrooms and library, and with choosing after school activities. My motivated 8th grader has been happy, particularly because he took algebra in 7th grade and now geometry in 8th grade. Most private schools don't offer advanced math classes in these grades. We've also been happy with the overall quality of teachers in other subjects. The principal is very dedicated to continuing to improve academics, and this is now his focus. Looking at high schools, we've been told by public and private high school administrators that Montera grads. are highly sought after because they are so well prepared for high school, both academically and socially. Typically, Montera grads. not only go on to Skyline, but are also accepted into the highly acclaimed academies at Oakland Tech., to Head Royce, CPS, Athenian, Bishop O'Dowd, etc. If you are a 4th or 5th grade Oakland parent who is considering private school for middle school, please take a look at Montera. We're very glad that we saved our money for college! 8th grade montera parent
Hi: We are lucky enough to have our two older children attend Joaquin Miller Elementary, but we are wondering about middle school. We would prefer to send our oldest (now in 4th grade) to Montera Middle School, and would love to get input from parents of children who have attended Montera during the last 4 years (since the new principal started). I am especially interested in information about the GATE program and how this works. Thanks so much mom of 3
My daughter graduated from Montera 2 years ago. She came there from Joaquin Miller. She had some excellent teachers at Montera, and some really bad ones. She is now at a private high school. In every class she had at Montera there were several kids out of control. That meant that even the best teachers spent quite a bit of time doing discipline in every class period. My daughter is very bright, and I think she is probably a year behind where she might have been, because the classes were slowed by the discipline problems, and a lot were just generally ''dumbed down''. The bathrooms were horrendous. My daughter was slapped, her backpack kicked, her stuff stolen, and in her last year she unwittingly ''stepped on a gang's turf'' at lunch. The gang hassled her after that, pushing her into metal poles, bending her fingers back, etc. She was afraid to say anything because of fear of them. She now has post-traumatic stress signs that she is getting over slowly. On the plus side, she had friends of all races, and (she is white) protectors that were African American. She arrived at high school well-prepared in science and math, but inadequately prepared in everything else, especially writing. She wrote a lot in middle school, but deep thinking was not required, even though her grades were excellent. I would have done what I needed to do to get her into a private middle school if I had known what I know now. anonymous
I was saddened by the feedback I read about Montera Middle School in your recent newsletter. My daughter attends Montera and is very happy there. Her classes are challenging, and in general she is at the same level as, or even ahead of her friends in private school in some subjects. She's got tons of friends at Montera. My strong advice to parents considering any middle school is to talk with as many experienced parents as possible before making a decision; take a calm and common sense approach. Don't take any one person's word for it, don't make assumptions and visit the school yourself. Given all of the hysteria out there, it's difficult at times not to fall prey to cynicism. I really feel this article portrayed a very atypical Montera experience. There are some great schools out there that don't cost an arm and a leg. Ellen
I have 3 kids who have attended Montera, two with special needs and one gifted. I have generally been happy with the school. I feel that the administration cares about kids and the teachers are qualified. Gifted kids are not served particularly well. There is no specialized instruction or tailering of materials to their level in a given class that I'm aware of. One thing Montera does well is to test kids coming in for Math skills. If a kid is advanced they can skip a grade or two in math. My son is taking geometry in 8th grade and learning a lot. Kids are placed in the appropriate level for band and language classes too. Getting information about individual assignments gets harder at this age with multiple teachers and kids not necessarily telling you. I have found teachers responsive but they don't tell me if my kid is not working to his potential. mary in oakland
Hi all; I figured I ought to write. I've been a a science teacher at Montera for 12 years, and have taught 7th, 8th, (and 9th, when Montera was a junior high). Currently I teach 8th gr. physical science. I think that Montera is the best public secondary school in Oakland. The teachers are credentialled, experienced, and talented.Montera truly has a good core curriculum in all subject areas. We have the largest pool of GATE students in the OPS. And, most crucially, we are the most truly diverse, (using many parameters) community of teachers and learners with which I've had the privilege to work. Come by! Try a PFSC meeting, speak to some kids and some teachers. We're there for you! Sincerely, Andrea
My daughter entered Montera Jr. High in Oakland as a 6th grader this year. I understand that the need for space, caused by class size reduction, pushed 6th grade into the Jr. High schools. This is an unfortunate situation, since many children are not mature enough for the larger campuses and chaotic environment of the Jr. Highs.
This first year at Montera has been a great disappointment for us. She attends combined a combined math/science, core subject classes, conducted by an incompetent teacher who cannot control the classroom. When my daughter told me how bad the classes are I hoped that she was exaggerating the situation. At her invitation I attended a day of classes with her. Her first period band class,( in which she plays drums) was quieter than the math/science classes. Debris flew, kids were fighting and the decibel rate was extreme. Many students could not control themselves and another bunch delighted in disrupting any forward progress. This behavior was evident in other classes, but other teachers handled discipline problems more effectively.
I contacted the administration: They promised to do something. They offered this teacher every possible form of support, but nothing has changed. In fact the students claim that the conditions are worse now.
My daughter has always participated in the district's science fair with great enthusiasm - until this year. She did complete her project, with no support from the teacher whatsoever. Needless to say, she is losing interest in school at an alarming rate.
My daughter wrote a letter to the school asking why conditions were so poor. Why, she asked, can't we have classes for kids who WANT to learn? Why won't the schools and parents deal with these problems more directly? Why are the kids who do behave and participate penalized by the behavior of the troublemakers? The Vice Principal at our school knows and understands these issues, but needs more support from the district to confront and resolve the problems.
The new superintendent, Dennis Chacones, wants to eliminate elective courses at middle schools in order to give the teachers their much-deserved raises. Far too many of these undisciplined kids genuinely need the electives; these are often kids who are not motivated by academics. Creative work help kids of all abilities, they NEED these electives. This is where the kids feel an investment in their lives as students; choices such as these are very important to them. Mr. Chacones seems to feel that the district needs to concentrate on improving the reading scores of jr. and sr high school students who are many years below grade level in reading performance. Does it make sense to remove elective courses such as music, creative writing, studio art or foreign language in order to offer remedial reading to a limited portion of the school population?
It is regrettable that there are so many kids whose parents didn't take the time to read with them, who never came for teacher conferences, and who expected the schools to educate their children in subjects that should have been taught at home. These kids have routinely been "socially promoted" for so long they have no idea what school is for. These kids seem to think that school is a great place to "mess around" and delight in being a great source of frustration to as many teachers, administrators and classmates as possible. The adults in their lives seem not to care, and the kids don't either. But why do the other kids have to pay such a high price for the absence of self-control of these troubled people. The notion of mixing classes of capable and disciplined kids with the behavioral problems is ineffective and grossly unfair to those who want to learn.
How do other parents feel about this? What would parents think of establishing programs within the same schools for the kids who can control themselves, come to school prepared to study, and display a desire to participate and learn? Why can't the schools provide some resources for kids who need to be challenged, encouraged, nurtured, and honored? The district is sending a message that there is no special value for their good performances, behavior, or dreams and desires to excel. It seems the district doesn't think it's "cool" to be smart and well behaved either! I'm not suggesting that we build fancy new facilities for this. Let's just consider giving the kids with good citizenship an equal opportunity.
Without question teachers need to be paid fairly. After experiencing a bit of the chaos they endure daily I can't understand why they return. Many teachers I have known expressed a love of teaching and seeing children learn and grow. They also freely noted the frustration they must live with because they know they are neglecting the best and brightest in many cases. This is a situation any teacher would find deplorable.
As parents, what are our alternatives? We can't all afford private school. We already are in the school deemed "the best." Is home schooling the only other possible solution? What are other parents of dedicated kids thinking? I can't be alone in feeling this way!
What a shame this is. I attended public school in California 30 years ago, and I believe that I received a comprehensive and, in some areas, even exemplary education. This is a different world now, I know. I just find it unacceptable that everything has deteriorated so completely for the schools in a state with so many distinct advantages and resources. Are there other parents who would like to work to improve this situation and make it better for ALL the students? I surely hope so!