Moving to Piedmont for the Schools

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Piedmont for school: move now or later for PMS?

March 2013


My Children (K & 3) are attending K-8 Oakland public school with a good reputation now. They are academically oriented and I want to provide more academically thriving environment for them, but also prefer public school. We are thinking about moving to Piedmont for either HS or MS in the future, but to socially adapt better at new school and new neighbors, would it be better to move now? We could stay till they are 8th graders in current school in Oakland and I think they prefer to stay with their friends, and live in the same house. I have never moved and transferred to a different school when I was little and I can only imagine that it's emotionally a hard experience. I am wondering deeply if transferring to a different elementary school is worse than starting at a new middle school where my kids might feel like a total outsiders... I understand that the answer is all depends on kids, but if you know any kids who moved to PMS from other cities, I wanted to know how their adjusting experience was like... I appreciate your advice! Thank you. Now or Later?

If you have that option, I would move now. Starting 6th grade is a big deal, and it will be easier to make new friends at a younger age than it will be starting from scratch in 6th grade, when strong friendships could already be in place, to help them through those tough three years. My daughter went to a different middle school (in Berkeley) than all her friends, and had to start from scratch, socially. It was very difficult, though she is now a socially thriving 7th grader. I think younger kids are more flexible and more quick to both accept and adapt to new social circles than 6th graders. JMHO... BUSD mom of 3

It is typically easier to move in elementary than in middle school or high school, plus they are less surly in elementary school. Kids just seem more flexible at earlier age and more willing to have parents call the shots. When my family moved cross-country when i was in elementary, my elementary sibs and i had a MUCH easier time than the middle school sibs. Forty years later the dest is still grumpy about it. Maybe he'd be grumpy any way...

But back to your question. Another factor... Homes will only get pricier in piedmont. If you are going to move, the. Move now. May also want to consider moving over the hill to a town that is perhaps less pricey per -square- foot than piedmont. East bay mom

Move now. (This summer.) I moved around CA 4 times before 4th grade and then spent 4 through 12th grade in the same house and small school district. I'm so grateful to my parents for settling when they did and not waiting until I was older to move one more time. Katie

I grew up in Piedmont, and then worked in two of the Piedmont schools in the last five years, so I'm in a good position to let you see what I've observed. YMMV, though.

Piedmont is insular. It can be wonderful and welcoming, but it can also be alienating if you feel like an outsider. That said, if I could afford to live there as an adult with children, I would move there in a heartbeat.

I think it puts your children at a huge advantage to move early. Because Piedmont is so small, the earlier you get into the schools, the more your kids will become integrated into the community and feel they belong. Since there are three elementary schools but only one middle and high school, starting in 6th grade is better than starting in 9th because in 6th grade, already 2/3rds of the kids don't know each other (although some do know each other from sports or churches). Starting in 9th grade is much, much harder. If you can start even earlier, that's even better. I think a harder question is whether you want to raise a ''Piedmont kid.'' But if you decide to do it, your children are much better off getting folded into the community early.

A secondary consideration is that I think the middle school is the strongest of the six schools in terms of its teachers and program. The high school is an excellent public high school--one of the best in the state--but it has some unevenness. The middle school faculty is truly consistently excellent, with only one or two weak spots. It was my experience that kids who came from schools outside of Piedmont - even good Oakland public schools or some private or charter schools - were often ''behind'' in terms of skills (especially writing skills) and what was expected of them. So having your children start at Piedmont High not having gone to the middle school might also put them at an academic disadvantage. I'm not saying that other K-8 schools teach you LESS; I'm just saying they prepare the kids differently, and focus on different skills. At Piedmont High, you are expected to go onto a four-year university, and they train you to be able to get to college and write good college-level essays in your college English classes right off the bat, for example. This is at a cost of other things, though.

Have you thought about Orinda and Moraga? Joaquin Moraga and Orinda Intermediate are good schools, and Campolindo and Mira Monte are really stellar high schools that are similar to Piedmont in quality, but offer a lot more options for AP classes, have better athletic options, are bigger so the kids have an easier time finding their ''tribe,'' and you get to pick between the two (or Acalanes and Las Lomas, also good schools), which gives you more choices when they get older. -Still can name everyone in my class

I agree with the poster that called Piedmont insular. It's that in a nutshell. My children are enrolled with PUSD, but they have also gone to different schools during our sabbatical years. Piedmont schools are great...for California, but would be considered average in many other states. Over the years, I've met many families that have moved to Piedmont from other areas, and many of them have ended up moving their children to private schools or back to the East Coast. Living in Piedmont can be hardest on families that are new to the area (coming after your kids are in 6th grade), or for those of us that have had children in amazing public schools elsewhere. There are a lot of expectations for parents to be involved and give much of their time and money to compensate for the lack of state funding.

There is also a lot of pressure from the get go for kids to excel. The parents are very educated and the kids do have great test taking skills, which translates into the schools receiving such high ratings. There is heavy parental involvement, which can be good-and bad-depending on the circumstances.

We've met wonderful families and have made dear friends with families here, but had I to do it over, I may have enrolled my children in private school. living in a small pond


Move to Piedmont with special needs kids?

May 2011


I realize I'll have to do some research to figure this out but I thought I'd put it out there in case someone else has already done gone through it! We live in Oakland now and will have kids in a good elementary school this year but I'm not as thrilled with our neighborhood middle and high school. Is it worth moving to Piedmont for better schools or are we better off staying in our current house in Montclair and putting the kids through private school. What complicates matters for us is that both our kiddos have special needs. One mild and one severe.

We chose the move option. Like you, we were unimpressed with the hills middle school and even less impressed with our high school options. We priced out private, and for 7 years of tuition x 2 kids = roughly $350k, depending on the schools. Since you have special needs issues, keep in mind that private schools often do not cater to kids in that situation. Public, however, has to. You might want to research what options the public schools in Piedmont have in regards to special needs. Best of luck to you in this hard decision

Hi - We moved to Piedmont for the schools. I can't speak for all of the elementary schools, but we found that Havens Elementary was not a good fit for us as a family, so we decided to go with a private school. Fortunately we were renting, so it wasn't difficult to move. My sense is that Havens is fine for socially adept and sporty kids, but there is a lot of pressure to conform (have the right stuff, wear the right clothes, etc.). Good luck! Former Piedmont Mom

PRAISE is the special needs arm parent funded by Piedmont Unified. I'd look them up and see what they say as far as offerings. We moved to Piedmont for the schools as ours were being gutted. We like most parents donate to the education foundation, it's tax write off and it helps make the difference between an underfunded school and a well run school. Between parents and tax bonds Piedmont funds just about double what the state pays per kid, we have smaller classes, teacher's aides and librarians. piedmont...


Considering a move with kinder and 2nd grader

March 2010


We're considering a move to Piedmont for the schools. We have 2 children, who will enter 2nd grade and K in the fall. Any advice on helping them make friends they will see at school? What's the story with Havens being in Emeryville temporarily? Is the district experiencing drastic cuts the way other districts are? anon

We moved from the east coast a few years ago and picked Piedmont for its schools. Havens is in Emeryville just for the 2009-2010 academic year with a new school that should be ready this September. First the staff and district has done a super job of making the Emeryville site a safe, wonderful environment for the students and my daughter has quite enjoyed riding the school bus.

There remains a strong commitment to good public education in this community. Yes the state cuts to education are harsh, however, so far the community and schools have pulled together to minimize the effects on the quality of education in all the schools. In our experience with 3 schools in the district (2 elementary and the middle school) we are very happy with the rigor and breadth of the curriculum, the quality of the teachers and the genuine care from administrators. The School Board is very committed to engaging the community as well as tapping whatever resources they can. There is more to Piedmont than the leafy streets. Happy East Coast transplant in Piedmont

Piedmont Rec Dept. summer camps are a great way to get in the loop in advance of the school year. Open to non-Piedmonters for a slightly higher fee, they are affordable (and the summer School Mates program can fill in child care if, for instance, you have a mornings-only camp and need full time care).

Likewise, the city pool has swimming lessons in the summer--group, semi-private and private lessons. I recall most lessons are short enough that parents usually stayed at the pool, so a good opportunity to get acquainted. Again, open to non-Piedmonters at slightly higher fees.

The Rec Dept catalog is easy to find on the city website, and I imagine the same is the case on the pool's lessons.

The three elementary schools are all great; my Havens boys were always frustrated that the other schools tended to have slightly higher API scores. Of course kids from all three come together at the middle and high school level. The PUSD website has a lot of great info on classes, enrollment processes, and funding (about a third of total funding comes from non-state sources: the not-insignificant Piedmont parcel tax, fundraising, and revenue from the Ed Foundation). We're wrestling with budget cuts too; but have set aside some rainy day funds to help cushion the blow.

The Havens rebuild is a tad ahead of schedule, and with the high school retrofit also ahead of schedule, the high school portables will move off the Havens site and back to the HS during spring break rather than at the summer break. This will let the Havens crew have even better access to get their work done. School starts after Labor Day this fall, rather than in late August, to accommodate any last minute delays.

If you're looking for ways to think about the costs/benefits of a move to Piedmont, email me [Kennedy [at] MaureenKennedy.Net] for a factsheet and spreadsheet including a biz-school-type NPV analysis of buying the (more expensive) house in Piedmont vs. a less expensive house elsewhere and sending kids to private schools (NOT that that's the only choice out there).

Most analyses remember that you have near term cash flows (mortgage+tax on the incrementally more expensive house, compared to tuition [continuing to rise, by the way]) but forget that when you sell, you'll get the incremental value (+ appreciation) back. Maureen

I am a very happy Piedmont resident with 2 children in Piedmont Schools. While the Piedmont Schools are excellent, I don't think that anyone should move to Piedmont just for the schools. If you want a wonderful small town environment and you want to become part of a community that supports each other and works hard to make their City a truly special place, then Piedmont would be a good choice.

Havens is in Emeryville this year, but all Havens students will be back in a brand new state of the art school this Fall. It is very likely that Wildwood students will be bused to Emeryville next year and Beach the year after that as both schools are scheduled for some retrofitting. There have been cuts to the school district budget, but they are in no way drastic. All elementary classes still have classroom aids, though for fewer hours than in previous years.

Students still have dedicated instructors for P.E., Art, Science & Music in elementary school. Some of the budget shortfall for 2010-2011 will be met through a reduced schedule for teachers. This will not affect students are teaching days, but some of their collaboration and training days have been cut.

While a Piedmont Education is certainly an excellent value - it's not free. You will pay higher property taxes and a parcel tax is regularly renewed about every 2-3 years. Families are strongly encouraged to give to the Annual Fund at a suggested rate of $1200 per year and there are additional contributions to class funds to cover teacher gifts, special projects, field trips etc. of approximately $100 - $250 per year per child.

Making friends should not be a problem. I would encourage your children to take classes and camps through the Recreation Department and to join sports teams. happy in Piedmont


Thinking about moving to Piedmont for kindergarten

August 2008


We are considering a move to Piedmont if we can find something that is remotely affordable, or perhaps end up renting if we can't afford to buy. I would love some feedback on the schools there (all grades) as I would like to send my 5 year old there if we can get into the district. I am concerned about elitism/snobbishness in the schools because the area is so expensive, but I would love it if someone could give me a more accurate description since I am only basing my opinions on stereotypes of wealthy neighborhoods. We are very middle class and I would not like my child to feel out of it because we don't have the same income as the other parents. Thanks!

We sacrifice so we can live in Piedmont and know lots of other families who are in the same position. We chose Piedmont largely for the schools, but are now equally glad we made the decision for the sense of community. Our neighborhood is the most welcoming I've ever lived in. Come middle school, I've heard of a couple girls that certainly sound like they are acting snobby, but I don't think there is a direct correlation to parental wealth. Just a few girls, just like I remember from when I was in junior high.

Piedmont is really small. You should come to a city event, visit the schools and parks, or sign your child up for an extracurricular activity through the Piedmont Recreation Department and see how you feel. pleased parent

The schools are great for a ''public'' education. We have paid dearly in taxes, contributions and not to mention the inflated cost of our modest home for our kids (2 girls) to go to school in Piedmont. We believed in the school reports, all scoring extrememly well, and the positive parent feedback on the education received is liking living in a very small surburban town with little community spirit other than to keep certain people out. The schools and neighborhoods are very white and many of the kids are a little too privileged. there is not enough diversity or respect for learning other than by the books and test preparations. I do love our house and don't want to move but if my husband gets a raise we're sending our kids to a St Paul's or Park Day!!
a lemming that followed the wrong crowd :)

May 2008

We have a good option for K-8, but are worried about high school. The expense of many of the private high schools can be prohibitive. Our options are either try to move to Piedmont for the long term, or to go for one of the less expensive high schools like Bishop O'Dowd. Does anyone know how Bishop O'Dowd compares to a place like Piedmont High in terms of academic preparation for college? (Both provide a large social environment, which is important for developing important social and life skills). Thanks, -Frank

Hi: While I understand this question wasn't specifically focused on the financial tradeoff between Bishop O'Dowd and Piedmont HS, thought I'd mention that I'm happy to forward a B-school type analysis of the finances I've developed for my clients. Even in NPV terms, attending public school in Piedmont is less expensive after just a couple of years for one student than paying private school tuition. That assumes, of course, that buyers have the funds to make that purchase, and I totally acknowledge that many don't.

The key takeaway from the analysis that most folks miss is that you pay on average $320K or so more for a typical 3/2 home in Piedmont compared to surrounding Oakland neighborhoods (94610,11,18), but whenever you sell, you get that investment, plus appreciation, back.

In the case of tuition, the outgo is an expense, not an investment. And with tuition continuing to escalate, but house prices flat or declining a tad right now, the gap is wider.

On the quality side, we have two boys at Piedmont High School right now, and have been quite happy (both are rather unique kids, so not the classic ''he'll succeed anywhere'' types). I've also heard great things about O'Dowd.

One thing to note about Piedmont is the ease of commute (5-minute walk for us) and the fact that classmates all live within reasonable walking distance. This leads to the tight supportive ''it takes a village'' atmosphere here in town, and certainly reduces daily commutes!

Broker, Pacific Union, Montclair

(Editor Note: a response was also received about Bishop O'Dowd High School .)


Considering moving from Berkeley to Piedmont

May 2007


Our family is slowly getting worn down by the problems at BUSD and we are considering moving from Berkeley to Piedmont ''for the schools''. Have other Berkeley BUSD families made this transition? Do you have any regrets? Do you feel that your children are getting the education they deserve? Are teachers spending less time disciplining and more time teaching? We would love to hear about your experience. Any and all comments are welcome. It's a difficult decision for us because we love Berkeley in so many other ways but private school for two children is out of our reach. Frustrated Berkeley BUSD parent

We moved from Oakland to Piedmont for many of the same reasons that you're considering moving from Berkeley. Initially, we were hesitant because of the elitist image that we had of Piedmont. However, we have been pleasantly surprised by how much we love it. The community is great with the feel of a small town. We have felt very comfortable here, despite the fact that we are far from wealthy.

The schools have been a revelation. The teachers do not have to spend so much time on discipline and can focus on academics. All the elementary classrooms have teachers aides, and the art, science, and PE teachers are all trained in their fields. The reading, math, and special ed. teachers are all fabulous also. The parents are very involved in the schools and contribute their time and money. You should definitely consider the move. Anon


Thinking about Piedmont for high school

January 2007


We have an opportunity to live in Piedmont. My 14 year old daughter will be a freshman in the Fall. She loves the idea but I am worried about how a Mexican girl of limited financial means will manage in Piedmont High. She is shy, self-conscious, and won't be able to afford fabulous vacations. When I lived there years ago, most everyone I encountered was assumed I was the maid and many people were decidedly unfriendly. The academics at Piedomont are great but I am very concerned about the social scene. Any thoughts or experiences to share? worried mom

Hello, I know that Piedmont is a very welcoming community, regardless of one's financial status or color. There are misconceptions and misunderstandings everywhere and Piedmont is no exception. Yet, the students are a group of very tolerant, accepting, fun kids. I would not worry about your daughter not fitting in and she will get a good education. Regarding the 'nanny status,' I understand that may be an issue. I am dark and have an accent, so it may be easy to assume that I pursue that line of work. Many of those children do have nannies of color and particularly Latina nannies so the connection is only normal. Not to worry, as soon as they realize (or you tell them) that you are a parent they will be most interested in what you have to offer. Please ask the moderator to give you my e-mail address and I will be happy to communicate with you directly. Good luck to you! Sympathetic Mother


Two-mom family considering a move to Piedmont

October 2006


We seriously considering moving to Piedmont for the public schools, and would love to get input from those who are there or have experience with them. We are a two-mom family with two kids, and one more likely down the way. We are wondering what people's experience has been like in the Piedmont schools - we are particularly concerned about there being almost no other gay families there, from what we can tell. Our other big concern is social pressure - the ''in'' crowd and cliques that can run rampant in wealthy communities. What is the social scene like at Piedmont Middle School? Finally, are the schools really that great? We're looking for a combination of high academic standards and creative, engaging teaching. Private schools look great, but the bill for three kids is pretty astronomical. Thanks for your thoughts.

I faced a similar decision twelve years ago while going through divorce, and we did move our children to Piedmont Schools. My kids and I have a good experience in the Piedmont Schools and in the Community. I went from being embarrassed to say I live in Piedmont, to really embracing it as my community. That said, like all urban communities in the 21st century, it has its share of issues. There is not enough room on BPN to adequately cover all your questions, but feel free to contact me by email. Lois

Have you thought of looking at the Lamorinda school systems? My family and I moved to Orinda four years ago, having hesitated about leaving Berkeley. We have been pleasantly surprised about the changing face of this area. If you want to email to discuss, feel free. Good luck. Pamela

Hi, I grew up in Piedmont (be it a while back). I do not think you will get any better academics in Piedmont compared to other public school districts. I was not prepared academically for college and had to ''catch up'' to my peers from private schools and public schools in other states. It is important to note that Piedmont kids go to college because of class (middle/upper) homogeneity, not because of strong academics. Yes, it is snobby and elitisim runs rampant. I would never consider sending my kids there because of the strong values associated with materialism and money that dominate (of course there are others). If you want to isolate your kids class wise Piedmont is a good choice. Personally, I think education is far more than academic.
Grew up in Piedmont

I think Piedmont is wonderful. We are by no means at the upper end of the economic spectrum in Piedmont, nor do we run with the overly social crowd. My husband and I both work so that we can live in Piedmont and send our kids to the excellent schools and be part of a warm and welcoming community. Personally, I beleive that Piedmont gets a bum rap for being snobby and elitist. Sure there are snobby people here, but there are jerks everywhere. The schools are challenging, though not off the charts. What I have found to be really wonderful is the nurturing environment provided by the teachers - they have all been great and have treated our children as individuals. Piedmont not only offers a great school district, but the sports programs and recreation center offer another great outlet to meet other families from Piedmont and surrounding communities. There are annual celebrations for 4th of July, Halloween, the Fall Harvest and Christmas - all of this contributes to the total education of the child.

If you're really interested in moving to Piedmont then come visit the schools, stop by the recreation center, attend a community event. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised
Very happy in Piedmont


Have a toddler, thinking about moving for school purposes

November 2005


I have a toddler and we're trying to decide where to locate for school purposes. We're considering moving to Piedmont. Any feedback on the Piedmont system? I'm particularly concerned about diversity and social status issues. In addition my research shows that the Piedmont tax bite isn't as dramatic as I expected. Can you write off the entire amount (including special charges?). Piedmont Possibility

If you are concerned about lack of diversity and emphasis on social class, then you should look at some other communities, but not Piedmont. Try Albany, El Cerrito, Alameda, Berkeley or another community that someone on the list might suggest.

I feel compelled to respond to this post as I have extensive experience with the Piedmont School system. Raised on the East Coast, I went to high school at Piedmont High (class of 72). I subsequently moved to Berkeley until, 8 months pregnant, I chose to return to Piedmont. It was 1981 and I wanted my child to have both the experience of a small town environment and quality schools.

Attention to issues regarding diversity has been high on the priority list of our community for many! years. We are surprisingly ethnically diverse for a small affluent town but certainly do not have the ethnic mix of our neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley. Our Asian community is very active and highly organized. There is a local organization that regularly sponsors programs for teachers and residents regarding various diversity issues. The City Council created a committee to formally address diversity issues within the town and I was appointed to serve the first term of that committee. As a lesbian parent, also I participated in a panel presentation to the PHS faculty and staff regarding the experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students (presented by the Gay Lesbian Student Teacher Network- GLSTN). Teachers posted signs throughout the school indicating that their classrooms were safe harbors for LGBT students.

Together my partner and I have three sons, all of whom graduated from Piedmont. Our youngest is a senior at UC Davis, one trained as a firefighter and one studied film making in LA and has been volunteering full time in the Katrina relief effort in Mississippi. All of our sons have expressed gratitude to my partner and me for the experience of attending Piedmont schools (even though we heard occasional griping about how boring social life was on a Saturday night in Piedmont. Alcohol is the drug of choice among high school students and consequently a perennial problem for local parents.)

One of our sons took advantage of Millennium High, Piedmont's alternative high school for students who need schedule and/or curriculum flexibility or have trouble fitting into the intensely competitive college prep nature of the main high school. (Nearly all of PHS grads go on to college.) Students from around the East Bay attend MHS. Millennium classes are! held adjacent to the PHS campus and sometime inside PHS and MHS students are eligible to participate in the athletic programs at PHS.

Many folks move into Piedmont because of our excellent schools and this fact is not lost on Piedmont voters. There is widespread support for school parcel taxes each time they come up for renewal. Often the choice is made to live in our town because one can deduct a higher mortgage while essentially bypassing the need to consider a private (non-deductible) education. Many opportunities exist to deduct contributions to organizations such as PAINTS and CHIME, our art and music parent support groups, and the Piedmont Educational Foundation, a group that funds a broad range of projects throughout the district.

Parents are very active in fundraising for their local school organizations and play a major role in the determination of funding priorities. When my son entered first grade at Beach School, I seized the opportunity to directly participate in his classroom education. A full time nurse-midwife, I volunteered to create hands-on science experiences that augmented the science curriculum. I offered the same support to the other teachers at that grade level. As the years went by my program grew to cover each grade. While I volunteered my time for the first five years, once my son graduated from elementary school the Beach Parents' Organization (BPO) determined that I should be paid for my time. My position has since been fully funded by BPO members who vote on spending priorities each year. I am now in my 19th year of providing ''Friday Science'' enrichment to Beach students. The annual Science Fair is our celebration of student-driven projects. Please drop by and visit us that night in early June! With warm regards, Kathy

Piedmont is a great place to live. We moved from Oakland four years ago and are very happy with our decision. So far the Piedmont schools have lived up to their reputation of excellence--and not because they stress academic achievement, but because they create a happy, positive, creative environment in which kids can learn. Our daughter is now in first grade and loves going to school. She has a dedicated music teacher, PE teacher, and science teacher, which allows each teacher to create an interesting and exciting curriculum for the children. She goes to the library with her class, the teacher reads books, the kids take home books to read, they do art and science projects, and the class has been on field trips. Her teachers so far have been great--lots of positive feedback--and lots of parent help in the classroom. There is minimal homework: read! two short books each night and maybe once a week some short family oriented homework assignment (but more like every two or three weeks). So far, school is no stress but lots of fun!

As for the diversity, well that depends on your definition of diversity. My aunt visiting from New York and attending a block party was impressed by the diversity of our neighbors. The family next door is from Malaysia, on the other side from China, and across the street from the Philipines. We hear different languages spoken and there are mixed race couples and kids. As for status, we have not experienced any snobs. The people who live on our block are--no surprise--alot like us. They care about their kids and their kids' education. Most are working professionals: teachers, architects, lawyers, scientists--who also try to spend time with their kids and families.

The best aspect of Piedmont is the small town feel. We really do know everyone on the block. Kids play together, parents take turns walking the kids to the local school, we have block parties, and neighbors watch out for each other.

Unfortunately, the home prices these days seem to be outrageous, but as you suggest, the taxes are not that much more than in other communities--and certainly lots less than sending your kids to private school. Our attitude toward buying was to take a long time to look for a house we could afford and we found one quickly, albeit a fixer upper. Good luck with your decision. Alison


More advice

August 2005


Re: Which private school?
As a parent who has had a child in Bentley and in Piedmont (and examined several of the other alternatives you mention), I would emphatically recommend against Piedmont for a gifted child, and especially a shy one. Being a public system that must take all residents, and hew to state and federal goals, Piedmont's focus is on the average (or, really, slightly below ave! rage) child. Piedmont also seems to do an excellent job for children with disabilities. However, Piedmont thwarts academically ambitious students. It has no GATE program, preferring to divert its GATE funds into programs for all the children. It uses myriad tactics to limit access to AP and advanced classes. It systematically refuses to accommodate the special needs of gifted children. Worst, among the students, and some parents and teachers, there is a pervasive anti- intellectualism that really squelches some children. Before you decide against Bentley, please visit. For my child, Bentley was freeing, and a place where her interests and talents were valued and supported. Bentley fan




Thinking about moving from Oakland to Piedmont for the schools

May 2003


We live in Oakland and are considering whether to move to Piedmont for the school system. I was hoping some current Piedmont parents could tell me if they think the extra cost of living in Piedmont is worth it. Are the schools really that much better than other public schools? What about the pressure of living in such a high income area? Our son would go to one of the Montclair elementary schools, which I know have good reputations, but I'm concerned that with the current fiscal crisis in the Oakland School District the education and opportunities would suffer even at the ''best'' Oakland schools. Oakland mom is a website you can look at to compare schools in the area. You also do not have to move to Piedmont to send your child to school there, you can ask for an interdistrict transfer into a Piedmont school. I have researched this information myself and the Piedmont schools are extremely higher ranking in test scores and academics than any of the schools in OUSD. If you cannot afford a private school I would recommend looking into the interdistrict transfer before moving. Your concerns about the budget cuts affecting our schools is valid. I work at a local college and I am seeing the affects of the cuts on the quality of education. Marie

We just recently went through the exact same debate and decided to stay in Oakland. Here's why: I grew up in a community almost identical to Piedmont, and it wasn't fun for so many reasons--- super-competitive, major pressure to have the latest fashions/toys/etc. If I was an uber-athlete (highly valued in this type of community-- not sure if you're following the hullabaloo about the girl basketball players at Piedmont high) or thrived on cut-throat academic competition, maybe it would have been good, but I don't want that kind of environment for my kids. I want my children to go to school with a variety of students from diverse backgrounds. That's hard in Piedmont where 2-bedroom, 1 bath ''fixer-uppers'' go for $600-700K. Also...I know at least two families that moved to Piedmont for the schools. They both now have their kids in private school since they kids were miserable in the Piedmont schools. You could always try renting, to make sure you have found the right place for your kid (s), before making the commitment to purchase a home there.

I know that the current Oakland schools budget crisis is really bad, but Piedmont is also laying off teachers. The difference is that there are parents donating tons of money and time to the schools (not to mention voting in parcel taxes, bond measures, etc.) I'm hopeful that there will be other parents like me who will donate what they can in time/materials/money to my child's Oakland school and assist the teacher (as needed), so that my child can get a good education within a diverse group.

Last, but not least, I don't give a lot of weight to test scores. However, for those that do... many of the Montclair schools tested as high (or higher) than Orinda, Piedmont, Lafayette, and Moraga schools. Not bad :)

No matter where you go, there are pros and cons. We just decided that there were more pros for our family here in Oakland right now. Good luck with your decision! --proud parent of a soon-to-be Oakland school-kid

We may be the only people in the world who moved from Piedmont to Oakland and changed schools. We were not thrilled with the Piedmont schools. We found them not diverse at all and very, very competitive. Our kids were spending way too much time at homework, and not getting any joy out of learning and didn't have time to read for pleasure, which I think is really important. We also didn't like the fact that they felt deprived because they didn't have the latest and greatest toy item, didn't get ski lessons and didn't get an SUV at 16. We felt like we were the poorest family in the school, which considering our income was pretty shocking. Our oldest is now at Thornhill Elementary and it's amazing how much happier we *all* are. I think they are learning as much, and are being taught more creatively. There is real Socio-Economic diversity and racial diversity. The homework assignments all have real meaning.

We chose not to move to Piedmont. It was our feeling after talking to a lot of friends in the Piedmont school system that the quality of education there wasn't ultimately what we wanted. However, we were fortunate enough to have the option of the private school route. Private school works out to be far more expensive than moving to Piedmont, but our private school experiences have been excellent. However, if our choice had been between Montclair and Piedmont schools only, we would have moved to Piedmont. Note that the three Piedmont elementary schools are significantly different- they are quite stratified according to location/income- and you'd want to know which school your child(ren) would be attending. I'd also recommend NOT waiting until middle school to move to Piedmont (as many Oakland families do) as it is much more difficult for children to break into the (rough) middle school social scene if they are not coming with a group of friends and classmates from a Piedmont elementary school. Lastly, I'd recommend contacting parents on the Parent Associations at the two Montclair schools about the future of the schools in regard to budget cuts etc. Best wishes! - Oakland parent

Something we've learned about comparing schools: The helpful comparisons will come from parents who have had their kids in other schools as well as in Piedmont schools. Don't attach too much weight to what parents say if their only experience is with Piedmont (or, for that matter, Montclair). Been through this

hi, we recently moved to piedmont to send our son there and the choice was hard for us as well. we are renting so our situation may be different because we were fortunate to have a kind landlord who gave us a break and the cost broke about even with sending to private schools. we sent him to an oakland school last year and he definitely suffered from a poor school environment and low expectations etc.

our experience has been very good at the schools, our son is in middle school. the teachers are extremely thoughtful and will bend over backwards to help the kids - meet w/ them before school, lunch, after school etc. the administration is also thoughtful, and have been wonderful to work with.\\

it totally alleviates the stress of wondering what will happen from year to year if the schools will still be ''good'' for another year or so, dealing w/ private schools admissions etc.

the drawbacks are the obvious ones - the diversity is pretty dismal, there are a lot of kids from very very wealthy families, and getting to know the other parents is harder for ''new'' families since they all have known each other from elementary school onward (but this may not be a problem for you if you are starting from elementary school).

we aren't so worried about the drawbacks because we have other outlets for him to have a diverse group of friends and experiences.

also, the high school is supposed to have very high alcohol/drug rates (more akin to wealthy kids) but on the flip side the high schoolers we have met have been quite mature and responsible - i believe a reflection of their rearing in the schools and community. they go on a ton of field trips ranging from museums, to ropes courses, to boat trips...

other pluses are the nice parks and rec dept, kids are playing in the streets and there are wonderful (and cheap) summer school programs and activities for the kids.

i'm a big supporter of public schools and would like to say i would stick it out in oakland, but there was just too much chaos surrounding the school for our son to be able to focus (aside from the fact that his teachers were often very poorly trained). i'm sure and know of some oakland schools where parents are working hard to help build up the academics and support the school, but the uncertainty was just too much to bear. who knows what will happen with the bankruptcy of the district, takeovers by the state etc. i know it is a privilege to be able to even have the choice to ''get out'' but keeping him there would be detrimental to a kid who needs all the academic support he can get - and he just wasn't getting any there. good luck, it shouldn't be this tough huh?

Of course Piedmont schools are good schools... just look at the scores... but two things are greatly missing. It is ethnic/racial diversity and socio-economic diversity. There are only 2% African Americans, 3% Hispanic, about 13% Asian and the rest is white. There is also a lot of, let's call it social awareness going on. If you are lucky enough to be in a good public school in Oakland, take advantage of it. Use the money saved on your mortgage on tutoring if you think your child needs it. m

A word of warning before you pursue the intradistrict transfer option from Oakland to Piedmont: even in Piedmont lets you in, it is highly doubtful that Oakland would let you out. A transfer like that requires the your home district release you and my understanding is the OUSD is routinely turning these requests down. It makes sense of course -- every student they release is a loss of revenue for a financially strapped district. As much as I love my kids' Oakland school, my experience dealing with the district administration was frustrating and demoralizing and I don't recommend you take it on without a good chance of success. an OUSD parent

Hi - I lived in Piedmont from 6th grade until I went to college. We moved there from Alabama. While I made some friends, my accent, interest in academics, and the street I lived on (the ''wrong'' side of the tracks) made my experience in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades simply miserable. If I answered a question in class, all the students would turn around and stare at me. While test scores may be high, there was peer pressure to stay quiet in class. My elder sister escaped to Bishop O'Dowd high school. I soon followed and absolutely LOVED the ethnic diversity, academic excellence, and safety of wearing uniforms to escape the horrid comments about my clothes not coming from the RIGHT stores. I know Piedmont is more diverse now, but it is still fairly homogenous. I don't know if the same prejudices still exist in the student body, but I would be very cautious about sending my children there. I must say, that my horrible experience of the other students was alleviated by the wonderful principal (John Morrison), the library staff, and some of the teachers. Best of luck with your decision, Christina