St. Jerome Catholic School
El Cerrito, CA
Saint Jerome School closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
St.Jerome Catholic School is a small diverse supportive community of families located on the border of Berkeley, Albany and Kensington. Our son has attended St Jerome since first grade after a switch from public school and we could not be happier with our decision. What makes St Jerome unique is the diversity, parent involvement and commitment to excellence in education. The music teacher is excellent, a wonderful piano player and there is an emphasis on the arts and sciences and the community is very supportive. This year at Christmas the chef who teaches cooking classes worked with all the grades to create a gingerbread village, he also prepares delicious healthy meals at lunch for students who wish to order from the menu and teaches cooking classes. There are people from all backgrounds and the school is very welcoming.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Re: Kensington Elementary School for easy going girl?
Hi, We also looked around Kensington Elementary and we decided it was not for us. We thought we couldn't afford a private school, but then realized that our son could attend St Jerome's Catholic school, for around the same price as the after care at Kensington elementary. (The Kindergarten day there is 8.15 - 3pm, as opposed to 8.30 - 11 at Kensington Hill top.) We decided to go with it even though we are pretty much atheists and I think the school is a great option. Our son is in a class of only 16, the school is small and very caring. The K teacher is wonderful, the kids love her, and she really has them under control and my son is reading now. I think they still have spots for K next year, if you are amenable to a Catholic place I'd give them a call and have a look round. Catherine
We just started at St. Jerome and I am so impressed! We struggled with this decision because the thought of paying another 9 years of tuition was daunting. But it's worth it. Everyday I drop my daughter off I KNOW she's safe, being challenged academically, and being nurtured. And that's what we want for our kids!
I love that at the end of the day, the teachers don't just leave the kids on the bench outside whether or not the parents are there -- which I've heard has been done in some local schools! They do not release the kids in the younger grades until they see the parent or guardian. If they don't, the kids immediately go to aftercare. It's a wonderfully secure feeling to know if I'm a few minutes late picking my daughter up that she's in good hands.
Small class sizes, amazingly talented teaching faculty; I can't say enough great things about this school. St. Jerome is a hidden gem in the hills of El Cerrito. I'm so glad we found it. And now I don't have to worry about where to send our daughter to school for another 8.5 years! By the way the website listed isn't correct, it's http://www.stjeromecatholicschool.org/ Deborah A.
Re: Best Catholic k-8 School in West Contra Costa
Hi there! I highly recommend St. Jerome in El Cerrito. We had heard great things about the school from friends - and later saw for ourselves just what a special place it is. We were drawn to the school for their strong academics, the differentiated instruction and cooperative learning, the use of technology in the classrooms, as well as the safe and secure location. Since you mentioned it - the school is quite diverse, not just the student body, but the faculty as well. I would say that the teachers are extremely encouraging and supportive and strive to make successful scholars out of each and every student. The best way for you to get a feel for things would be to call and set up a visit. Best of luck! Very Happy at St. Jerome
Re: Catholic school with great faith formation?
Hi there,You might want to consider St. Jerome in El Cerrito - it's a great school. I find it to be academically stong, very diverse and religion is taught daily at all grade levels. The school is hosting an Open House on Sunday, January 29 beginning with Mass at 9:00 led by the Student Council followed by the actual open house from 10-12:00. That would be a great way for you to explore the school. Otherwise, call to schedule a tour 510-525-9484 http://stjeromecatholicschool.org/
Good Luck! St. Jerome Parent
Looking for recommendation on St. Jeromes school in El Cerrito, particularly 5th Grade teacher, Ms. O'Donnell. Thank you for your input. -thinkingmidyeartransfer
The fifth grade class at St Jerome is wonderful. Ms. O Donnell is a wonderful teacher and it's a great class. Small, caring and lots of one on one time. She really cares about her students and the students respect her. I've been a parent at St. Jerome for 8 years and have a child in 5th grade. There is some challenging work but it seems like everyone is able to keep up with her pace. The classmates all get along really well. The whole energy of St Jerome has been amazing under the guidance of the new principal, Miss Alison Wilkie. My children have been more enthusiastic to go to school every morning and there is such a great community of parents, who are very involved in the success of the school. We have had a terrific experience during our time at the school. Kerri
My child is not in Mrs. O'Donnell's class, so I cannot address that part of your question, but I can say that we are very pleased with the school and our child's teacher. For that matter, I would say that the principal, Miss Wilkie, the office staff, and other teachers are all friendly, approachable and very supportive.
We chose St. Jerome because:
1) they offer a solid curriculum of core subjects, including Math, Science, Language Arts, and History. Technology is integrated daily in all subjects - at all grade levels (through the use of SMARTboards and laptops). Spanish, PE, and Music are also offered K-8. Some of the upper grade teachers also schedule after school tutoring for students who need extra help or who wish to do more challenging work.
2) Before/after school care is available on site from 6:30 am-6:30 pm. The cost is extremely reasonable in comparison to other after school options.
3) Extracurricular activities include an Ecology Club, after school Chess and cartooning class, and band/keyboard offered through the M.U.S.E program.
4) The ''feel''. It just fit for my family. I think the school's intimate setting lends itself to frequent social opportunities for parents, students and faculty to get to know one another fairly quickly. I also love observing the older kids ''taking care'' of the younger ones - giving high 5's, saying ''hi....'' in passing - there is a really tangible positive feel.
I'll finish by saying that I am looking toward the end goal. The graduates of St. Jerome frequently achieve high academic honors and scholarships to the local private high schools. Last year, one of the eighth graders took the Grand Prize in Physics category at the Diocesan Science Fair, while 2 seventh graders placed as finalists in their respective areas. I am excited for what our future holds at St. Jerome! -Glad to be apart of the SJ community
In response to the question about the 5th grade at St. jerome's school, Ms. O Donnell is fabulous! She is not only direct and approachable but kind and patient. She is very respectful of the children and commands rsspect from them at the same time. Academically, she is knowledgeable, not only about the subject matter but also the developmental level of the children she teaches. The school as a whole has changed direction under the leadership of Ms. Alison Wilkie. They are a driven, focused,invested and motivated staff that truly want to work with parents in order to help the children develop into socially responsible, caring, intelligent human beings.
I have a 21 and 19 year old that are counted as alumni as well as myself! I currently have a 9 year old still at St. Jerome. I would not think of sending them anywhere else. The community is a family. Stephanie
Re: School of the Madeleine
We also looked into School of the Madeleine and ended up at St. Jerome. We have been impressed with their curriculum which includes PE, Spanish and science. We have a new principal this year, the previous one retired, and she is educating herself on how they can improve upon their current curriculum. They have smartboards in every classroom and cart laptops to the classrooms. Students starting in 1st grade receive an account to http://www.mathletics.com/ which they can also access from home. In kindergarten they focus on reading and have a wonderful program to encourage the kid's development. They also have small class sizes. http://stjeromecatholicschool.org/
Re: In Need of Current School Reviews/Recommendations
I'd like to suggest St. Jerome School in El Cerrito. I'm not sure what else you are looking for - but there is no 'tracking.' What I can say is that there is a great sense of family community at the school. It's located in a safe neighborhood. It's affordable with very affordable before/after school care. The teachers are talented, and devoted to the needs of their students. Lastly, there is new leadership - a big plus. The new principal is bringing fresh energy to the campus and is a welcomed change. I suggest scheduling a visit to see for yourself! Good luck in your search. Happy St. Jerome Mom
Re: The Right School for Kids with 2 Working Parents
Don't know about the School of the Madeline, but our son goes to St. Jerome in El Cerrito, and loves it. they have a before and after school program on site for kids called Red Balloon. We use the after school portion. He's a little older than your kindergartener, but we love that he gets out of school, and they have homework time. Red Balloon is an extension of the school day, but obviously more relaxed. St. Jerome also offers some enrichment programs after school, where you child can take one, and go to Red Balloon afterward. Our child is never alone, and we love how the older kids help the younger ones with their homework. Hope that helps. happy w/st. jerome
My son will be starting kindergarten this fall at St. Jerome School, and as an alumna, I couldn't be more excited; it is a wonderful place. It brings me great joy knowing he will enter the same classrooms I did as a child, and in the end, he will emerge a well educated, highly prepared young man with a solid foundation for life.
While the school offers a strong curriculum of core subjects, more important to me is the environment in which he will learn. As others have commented, the school does have a warm, family-like feel. The classrooms are cheerful and inviting. The children are good friends with one another. And the teachers are excellent - they are hard-working, and caring; they truly strive to make successful individuals out of their students.
Perhaps of highest importance,though, are the values he will learn - the importance of love, kindness and charity. The school does a lot of outreach to the poor of the community through food and toy drives, but also to those in need throughout the world - they are currently raising money for the victims of the tsunami in Japan.
From a purely nostalgic point of view, it delights me that many of the school traditions are still in place, i.e. student families, the talent show, Little Olympics. However what is truly exciting to see, is how the past has met the future...each classroom is equipped with a SMARTboard, and there is even a set of MacBooks available for classroom use - so cool!
Lastly, I'm not alone in my praise of the school; the fact that so many alumni choose to send their own children to St.Jerome is a testament of the good work they do. If you haven't visited - you should. It is a diverse, safe, affordable, ''family-like'' school worthy of such praise. Anonymous
I am interested in what people think about this K-12 school in El Cerrito. We are looking at Catholic schools for our son to attend kindergarten. Thanks for sharing. Fiona
We've only been at St. Jerome for a short time. I'm not sure what you've heard, but we came from a good public school to St. Jerome, and so far have been pleased with our child's performance.
More importantly to us is, while we don't agree with all Catholic beliefs, we do believe in the value of kindness, charity, and good behavior. These can be found in the pedagogy and philosophy of any Catholic school.
We visited School of the MAdeline and St. Jerome. St. Jerome seemed a little more middle class and diverse for us. Our child has 15 children in his class, with 3 adults. We're pleased with the academics, as they do math drills that we never received during public school (I think they've adopted a different math program than the public school we attended). Our son receives Spanish and music regularly, although those were not big sellers to us. So far, we've been able to count on our child being in a safe environment so he can focus on learning. We can also count on his kindness being recognized and acknowledged, whereas it just opened him up for trouble among his peers in the public school. But I think that's Catholicism at its' best.
We're not strong Catholics, but we both did go to Catholic schools in our own youth. If you're familiar with the teachings at a Catholic school, then there will be no surprises. If you're not, then I suggest you visit a few to give you a flavor of their belief system.
Overall, we're happy with our choice at St. Jerome. Good luck! happy mom
We had two kids at St. Jerome, and they had very different experiences. Maybe it isn't fair, but I judged the school by the way it handled my child who didn't have as much success. Mostly because I think it is easy for a school to deal with kids who aren't experiencing problems. My child who did not do well was socially ostracized by the class almost immediately. A group of girls started a lice rumor and it persisted all year. There were days my child ate lunch in the bathroom because no one would let him join. There were days he would try to move to sit closer to other kids and the teacher supervising lunch made him go back and sit on his own. On an almost daily basis his backpack was kicked by other students in the morning ensuring that his lunch was smashed. We spoke with the teacher, but it was ineffective. We left the school... -disillusioned by Catholic school
Re: Which Catholic school in the East Bay?
I have a child at St Jerome. The quality of the school varies greatly from grade to grade. The school is predominantly non- Catholic with many families that commute so there is not a strong sense of community, but everyone is equally accepted along those lines and the student body is diverse.
Hi - We are trying to decide between St. Jerome and The School of the Madeleine. We like them both. Our daughter will be entering Kindergarten in Fall 2008. Does anyone have experience at both schools? Or current Kindergarten and 1st Grade experience at either school? Seeking Info
I can only speak for St. Jerome. I have twin girls that went to Kindergarten in Mrs. Payne's class. Mrs. Payne has been teaching Kindergarten in St. Jerome for many years. She is one amazing women, the students love her including students that had been in her class and moved on up to the higher grades. They stop by on a regular basis to check in with her before going on to their classes. Mrs. Payne also has two wonderful volunteers that have been by her side also for many years. They are a great team and I am thankful for the many wonderful memories my girls experienced in their first year of school. annon.
We transferred from the Madeleine to St Jerome this year and have been happy. While I think the Madeleine is a good school in general, and my younger child would have found success there, the Madeleine was not willing to make some relatively simple accommodations that were necessary for my older child due to learning disabilities. When I presented the recommended accommodations to the principal at St. Jerome she was openminded and willing to make things work. Over the year I have found that the teacher has followed through with all the recommendations. With these simple changes my older child is now feeling successful in school and is much happier.
There are many current Madeleine parents on the list, so they can better address your questions about the teachers in k and 1st; both of those grades have new teachers this year.
My younger child is in kindergarten at St Jerome this year and Ms. Payne is wonderful. She has been at the school for about 20 years and her expertise shows. My child comes home singing and happy everyday. There is homework nightly, but it is not burdensome in any way.
The connection between the parish and the school is stronger at the Madeleine. Contributing to the sense of community is the fact that more families at the Madeleine live near the school. Instead St Jerome could almost be a stand alone school, and there are many families in attendance that live in Richmond or further.
We have found it easier to be a family of two working parents at St Jerome. The family events are scheduled so that we don't have to take time off work. Also, there is both before and afterschool care at St. Jerome.
Overall, we are very pleased with our new school and are happy to recommend it. been to both, now happy at St Jerome
Editor Note: reviews were also received for School of the Madeleine
Possibly leaving a berkeley independent school.I'm very interested in any comments about St Jeromes Catholic School in El Cerrito. How do they handle very active boys? What's their discipline strategies like? How do the academics and arts compare to a private school? Any information is helpful. anon
We Love St. Jerome's! We have a daughter finishing Kindergarten and have found the experience to be positive & rewarding. My daughter is a high energy kid, who has done well with ''we mean business attitude'' at St. Jerome's. They are strict, however, it is not arbitrary. They are tough, but loving & fair. The children know what is expected of them. Disipline is balanced with care & attentivness. It is a whole life approach. My Daughter is learning academics (in exciting ways) while, enjoying art, learning about the environment, & learning to write thank you notes & get well cards. It is a Catholic School. So the teachings are church directed. The students attend Mass.
We have really come to love the community & community building environment. Student Families are one example. Students have Buddies from each grade to help show them the ropes & do activities with. It creates a great community. There is no exclusion, bullying, or stife among the students. Any Kindergarten is comfortable approaching & chatting with any eight-grader.
As for activities: The children enjoy: Dance, Band, Sports,choir various clubs (ecology, student council) Rallys and field-trips. Each teacher seems to have a speciality. I believe next year all grades will have Spanish. There are also events put on by the PTG (our PTA). It is a great place. I could go on and on... We will be having a Spring Festival on Sunday May 21 from 10am - 3pm. I would strongly encourage anyone considering St. Jerome's to come & see what the school & community is like. Angela
We are looking for a racially diverse school. Driving by St. Jerome's recently I noticed the playground was very diverse. We are not Catholic and are not really gung-ho on the religious education element of a Catholic school. Is there an opt out option? World religions alternative? I would appreciate any updated opinions of the school.
St. Jerome's is a wonderful school. We have been very happy with our daughter's education there. Yes, it is very diverse and the school embraces many different cultures. But the one thing it has in common is it is a catholic school and the children are taught the catholic religion. In the early years, they teach the values and morals of what it takes to be a good christian, a good neighbor, a good friend, basically a good person along with some of the basic stories of the bible. They go to church as a school almost weekly and each grade is responsible for planning one mass a year. Last year, the christmas pageant was at the church, titled Christmas around the World and celebrated all the different ways the world celebrates the holiday. The kindergarten class sang a song in Nigerian. It was wonderful. The sc! hool has ''families'' where a child from every grade is put into a ''family'' of nine children (K - 8th grade) and they do various projects throughout the year together, from decorating scarecrows at Halloween, to making and collecting gifts and food donations for the needy during the holidays.
The poster had stated that they were not really gung-ho on the religious education element of a Catholic school. I just hope to clarify that they will learn religion and how to practice it. That is what you get when you choose a catholic school - religion and the history, morals and values that go with it. It is why most people choose it over a public education. That being said, not everyone at St. Jerome's is catholic or even go to church regularly. I choose St. Jerome's not only for it's diversty, but for it's community of wonderful parents, teachers and staff, who are involved in the day to day process of ma! king this an even better school for our children and gives them the environment to succeed in. Kerri
This is in response to the request for information on School of the Madeleine and St. Jerome. Our experience at St. Jerome has been mixed. The school is academically strong, my child will have an excellent preparation for high school. It is a safe environment, everybody knows everybody, there is very little bullying, though there are cliques. There are some wonderful teachers, especially the fifth grade teacher. Having uniforms simplifies life immensely, especially for a girl. The school is bright and clean and attractive. Having said all that, there are some serious negatives too. I've had difficulty before getting negative remarks posted on this board, so the OP can post her/his email & I will gladly send my negative comments directly.
In response to the question about St. Jerome: It is an extremely nice high-quality school with only one major drawback--unfortunately it is very major. Nevertheless, you may still find that it is a good choice for you after all. The teachers are all very good and very dedicated.A few are truly outstanding.It is relatively small--just one class of each grade. The students are extremely diverse -- black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and all points in-between--you would have a hard time deciding what there is the ''most'' of. The children are genuinely fond of one another, and it is a pleasure to see how the older kids interact with the younger ones. The playground is safe, and there is never any fighting. It is definitely a Catholic school. However, if I had to guess, I would say that maybe as much as 40% of the student body is not Catholic. Religion is taught seriously, but it is not heavy on dogma--more of the God-is-Love Jesus-is-the-Good- Shepard Treat-everyone-with-kindness-and-respect Be-good- stewards-of-the-earth variety. Academics are strong, but teaching is generally aimed at the ''high middle'' of the spectrum. If a youngster has an extremely difficult time keeping up or is extremely advanced,it may not always be the best fit. The teachers are always willing to work with any student who needs help. So, what is the big drawback? The administration tends to be very authoritarian and confrontational. Consequences are often out of proportion to the crime and can seem utterly arbitrary. Nevertheless, there are many satisfied parents who find the administration to be nothing more than an occasional annoyance, more than outweighed by the advantages of the school. So, check it out, but be very aware of the situation. So much depends on your child--it may turn out to be perfect for you, or it may turn out to be a nightmare. It is a good school with many wonderful families. anonymous
I would like to pose similar questions about St. Jerome's in El Cerrito that the parent in Berkley did about School of the Madeline.
Would anyone be willing to share some of their experiences at St. Jerome's? We attend church regularly (Unitarian Universalist) and my partner and I have both taught Sunday School but are looking into Catholic School for our son, particularly the late-elementary/middle school years.
What percentage of the families at SJ are non-Catholic? Are students ever accepted for higher grades (3,4), or just K? How are the academics? The spiritual studies?
We are a 2-mom family and my son is part Latino so we are concerned about the tolerance/diversity among other parents, students, teachers, and school administrators. Many thanks.
This is in response to the questions about St. Jerome School. Out daughter attended there 4th 5th and 6th grade. I would discourage you from considering that particular school for some of these reasons... - This is a commuter school with students form the far reaches of CC county. It is not a natural geographic school community and unless you are a member of the church, it may be a little difficult to connect. There was noone from Berkeley in my daughter's classes. - You will be dealing with a larger percentage of religious Catholics than in other schools and I'd be reluctant to attend as a two mom family. There were no families with two dad's or mom's when my daughter attended (4 yrs ago) - Class sizes are BIG.
Having said all this, I should add that you won't find as many discipline problems in the school and I did like the inclusion of teaching moral values in the curriculum. If you'd like more info feel free to contact me. monika
I have two children who have gone to St. Jerome's since kindergarden, they are now in 6th and 2nd grade. I would be glad to share e-mails with more details, but here are some of my general impressions.
In every grade there are several non-Catholics and probably several more who are Catholic but not particularly active in the church. The religious emphasis in each class depends somewhat upon the teacher's beliefs. We are non-Catholic (and also attend the Unitarian Church!) and I have never felt particularly uncomfortable there. There is a very strong emphasis on racial and cultural tolerance which was particularly noteable after ''9/11''. The proportions of different racial backgrounds seems to follow the racial mix of Bay Area society as a whole and the children all seem comfortable with each other and respectful of differences. Students are often accepted for older grades. I don't have recent public school experience to compare, but I know when my daughter was in the end of 3rd grade she could read Harry Potter by herself and many others were doing the same. St. Jeromes is having an ''open house'' this Sunday, the 26th, if this post makes it out in time! Liz
I'd like people to know that we as a family are quite happy with St. Jerome School. This is our second year there and both of our children attend in kindergarten and 1st grade. We have a bi-racial family. My husband is non-Catholic and I am a non-practicing Catholic and we have never felt uneasy about the religious aspect of the school. The fact is that if you attend a Catholic school, yes, there will be Catholics there. However, in both of my children's classes, the split is probably over 50% non-Catholic. The diversity is what has really drawn me to the school both ethnic and religious. We have many religions represented in the school, including Muslim, Baptist and others. This is a school that has changed with the times. I went to 12 years of Catholic school myself and this is absolutely nothing like it. The curriculum embraces diversity and teaches respect for differences in all people. I'm also amazed at how the children really get to know just about all of the other children in the entire school. There are many activities where the younger kids are paired with older ones to do projects and help each other. In the first weeks of kindergarten I was stunned that while walking onto the campus, older children were greeting my children by name. I feel it is a wonderful environment for my children to be exposed to many ethnic and cultural backgrounds and learn how to be a good citizen, to say nothing of the academics. My kindergartner is reading her second book this week and my 1st grader is well on his way to completing a chapter book.
I'm sorry that someone who posted a comment previously did not have a positive experience but things do change in 4 years. Right now St. Jerome's is a good place to be and I am committed to keeping my children there through 8th grade.
Re: Non-Christians considering Catholic School
I am fairly agnostic (with a Christian background) and my husband is fairly agnostic (with a Muslim background); our daughter has attended St. Jerome's for the past 2 years.
There are a surprising number of non-Catholics and non-Christians there, and I think that the teachers there are fairly used to this. I have never felt that there was stigma attached to this, but they do tend to express things in Christian terms, things that my daughter calls "important stuff" because that is probably what her teacher says to get them to sit still and pay attention. Sometimes she complains that there is "too much important stuff in this school, Mom" but I'm not quite sure if this is because she is feeling excluded or because she just finds it boring, since it's never discussed that way at home. They don't seem to be fundamentalists as far as curriculum.
What's really nice about the school is that the students take care of each other....my daughter is never intimidated by the older children (they have mixed after school care from K through 8th grade and they all sit down and work on homework and do art projects together). Kids form strong friendships (which are aided if they all attend church functions together, but certainly are formed with non-church goers as well) and people make a point of greeting you on the stairs, etc. Maybe this friendliness is true of all private schools; my experience with public schools was a long time ago with a much older child.
You do have to be respectful of actively religious people, because that is the reference that the teachers and staff have there for life. I tell my daughter that the "important" things are very important to her teacher and should be respected, even though they do not pertain to what we do as a family. Liz