Madera Elementary School

El Cerrito

Phone: 510.231.1412
8500 Madera Drive El Cerrito, CA 94530
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

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  • What is teacher retention like at Madera?

    (2 replies)

    We are considering transferring our elementary school child out of WCCUSD (Madera) and into an elementary school in Albany.  We understand the difficulties of getting WCCUSD to release us and Albany to accept us, but my concern is not so much about that as it is about the current state of things at Albany elementary schools.   It seems teacher turnover is a problem everywhere right now, but it is of major concern to us in our current school (Madera) and seems to have been a problem already for the last couple of years since the new principal came in.  Can someone who has current experience with Albany elementary schools chime in about the state of teacher retention at Marin, Cornell and Oceanview?  What is teacher and administrator morale like at those schools right now?  Are families happy with the teachers and administrators they are encountering at those schools?  Any insight would be truly appreciated.  Thank you.  

    Not sure how long you've been at Madera and if you're trying to point the finger at the principal for the the turnover rate, but the last few teachers who've left Madera have largely been due to retirement. Also, don't know if you're aware of the number of teachers we still need at other WCCUSD schools (not to mention across the nation!), but I recommend you look at the turnover rate and hiring gaps in WCCUSD in general, and you'll find that Madera is actually in a better position than most WCCUSD schools (at least it was at the start of the 2022-2023 school year). I would say that this is largely due to the principal's efforts. I know this as I've also been in touch with him to not only express my concern but to see how we can better support him and the school overall when it comes to teacher/staff hiring, I recommend you do the same if you're that perturbed by it. I know this doesn't directly answer your question about Albany teacher retention rate, but you've already answered part of your question by noting that the teacher turnover is a problem everywhere. 

    WCCUSD offered a retirement incentive a few years ago and many teachers at Madera took advantage of it.The new principal there is great and I do not believe turnover has anything to do with him.Parents and teachers really like him.

  • Why no school buses in El Cerrito?

    (1 reply)

    Where I grew up all kids elementary to high school got bussed to school.  I know there’s public transportation but elementary school kids can’t ride alone. Seems like a big burden on parents and creates unnecessary traffic. Is this a budget issue? My kid will go to Madera and we live down the hill, there’s no way to walk Potrero every day with a 5 year old and a stroller. 

    Yes, it is a statewide budget issue. When Proposition 13 passed in 1978, it fundamentally changed California school funding, and school transportation was among the things that was cut. Today, most districts only provide busing if it is required by a student's IEP for Special Education or if students live in rural areas with no other way to get to school. A few districts--most notably Berkeley in the East Bay--opt to pay for busing themselves for other reasons. (In Berkeley, it allows the district to have more income-diverse schools by having broader school attendance zones.) But it's less feasible in larger districts like OUSD or WCCUSD that cover large expanses of land. AC Transit does run buses to middle and high school students and deeply discounts student fares, so once kids are old enough, there are at least some options, but it's one (of many) unfortunate losses in California's woefully underfunded public school system.

  • Hi there,

    My 8-year-old is heading to school next year for the first time. I'm hoping to hear from parents of other former homeschoolers about transitioning to Madera. For example, what was it like? How welcoming did the school feel to a newly schooling child? How supportive was the staff? Are there any ways in which Madera seems like a particularly good (or bad!) school for a child making this transition? Anything else a former homeschooler should know about Madera? Thanks!

    Hi there - Are you just looking at Madera or considering other schools as well?  My kids attend Crestmont School, which is a private K-8 co-op school (financial aid available and applications/admissions still ongoing), just down the road from Madera, and there are many families there who have homeschooled.  I myself had been seriously considering homeschooling my kids before deciding on Crestmont.  I think a lot of homeschool families are drawn to it because of the individualized approaches, project-based learning, and the priority placed on fostering kids' innate love of learning.  It's not a place where kids are expected to all proceed at the same pace or reach particular benchmarks.  The pedagogical approaches are really fantastic - they're fun and engaging, very hands on, and correspond to the ways kids actually learn.  There are no grades or tests, and no homework in the lower grades (and upper grades have meaningful projects, not busywork).  The teachers are top notch, and the community of families is awesome.  Because it's a co-op, parents can find their own ways to meaningfully contribute to the school, and we all get to know each other and the staff and students.  Please don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like more info.  We still have some spots for next year.  Good luck with the transition, whatever you decide!

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Madera school, after-school care

Jan 2015

Hi there, we're looking at Madera elementary for our daugther who will enter K next fall. I would like to learn more about your experiences (feel free to email me directly if you want); my daughter is currently in a full-day preschool program. We went to the Madera info day and it's highly confusing to me - the beforecare and aftercare is administered by the city and the Madera staff couldn't even tell us for sure when they opened in the morning; I would be particularly interested to hear how people organize afterschool after 3pm. We both work full-time and not too close to our home so transportation to afterschool is an issue for us. How easy is it to get in the Madera afterschool program? What's the quality like? Who do the afterschool teachers report to (apparently not the principal?). Who else is offering good afterschool in El Cerrito and offers pick-up from Madera in the afternoon? Thanks so much for your help! Julia

The City of El Cerrito's Recreation Department runs on-site childcare at Madera. See their website for details: or call Cori Diaz at the Rec Dept, who is the supervisor (the head of the program at the site, Cheryl, has been there for a long time, and is very nice). The registration form on the web gives you the current rates for different timeslots. The daycare program is staffed from 7 am to 6 pm. Before-school care is available from 7-8:30 and you can select either 3-5:30 or 3-6 pm for after-school care. There is also AM and PM care for kindergarteners who are not in school for the full day. You pay only for the days and timeslots that you use.

I found the quality to vary with staff changes over the years, but generally, it's very good for the younger kids. It starts to get ''boring'' for older kids. The staff keeps the younger kids separate and they do age-appropriate activities until around 5 pm, when the age groups combine. The Rec Center also runs ''enrichment'' classes (art, Lego Robotics, etc.) for an extra fee (see the MASEP program on their website). The fees are quite reasonable and the Rec Center only charges for the dates when school is in session, so the cost varies each month. Frankly, it was a god-send for us full-time working parents. The Rec Center also runs day camps on school holidays and summer camps with the same staff, which is nice. While there are a few organizations that offer transportation to their classes (e.g., a local martial arts studio), I know of no other place that offers the coverage that the Rec Center does. Grateful Working Mom

My son attends Madera and is enrolled in the before and after-school care programs. He absolutely loves it. It's like a play date with his friends every day.

There are three different programs that you can choose. Before school care starts at 7:00 and ends when class starts. After school care begins when class ends and ends at 5:30. Extended after-care begins at 5:30 and ends at 6:00. If you are in PM kindergarten it's a little different but you'll be able to figure it out. Just know that there is care available from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

The counselors are all really great. The program is run by the city of El Cerrito and the same people who do the program at Madera teach at the holiday and summer camps. They do a variety of programs every day. They do art, cooking, sports, etc. Kids that are interested just put on a talent show that was really fun. My son practiced for months to get ready.

In addition to the after-case program there is MASEP (Madera After School Enrichment Program). For additional cost, you can sign your child up for classes that are held after school. These have also been great. My son has taken soccer, basketball, flag football, lego robotics, young engineering, cooking, and art. There are a lot of other classes offered also. Most of the classes are on campus and the after school program gets them to and from their classes. Some are off campus and you can pay a little extra for busing.

Signing up for all of this is very confusing. The El Cerrito Website is not user friendly at all. Their bills are also very hard to understand. I've had to call the community center for help many times. It helps to have the handouts in front of you when trying to register so that you have the activity number. But know that the difficult website is not indicative of the quality of the programs.

It's not hard to get into the child care program. It looks to me like there is room for everyone. But I would sign up early just to relieve your stress. I think that you can get information about it at the kindergarten registration. Some of the MASEP classes fill up really fast so it's a good idea to register for those right away.

Happy Madera working parent

Madera Elementary School Special Education

Sept 2014

Dear BPNers, I have a preschooler who's been diagnosed with autism. Our neighborhood elementary school is Madera. I would love to have my child go to our neighborhood schools, but with a child with special need, I need to do more research. I've heard some good things about Madera, but never heard of anybody talking about their special education. Do you or someone you know have a child with special need attending Madera? How is your experience? Do they have fully inclusive classrooms? Do the children get appropriate support in the inclusive classrooms? Thank you very much! Anon

My son goes to Madera and he has shared classrooms with special needs kids for a couple of years in a row. It has been a fantastic experience from our point of view. I believe that ''Miss Mary'' would be the special ed teacher for your child ... She is remarkable, such a cool, energetic and compassionate educator. My son learned a lot about making friends with different kids of kids across the ''spectrum'' and the whole experience was very positive. I do hope you consider Madera. Your kid is welcome here! Madera mom

Madera Kindergarten enrollment --- waitlist?

March 2014

My son is approaching 4 years old and we have a house in El Cerrito in the Madera Elementary enrollment area. He will be enrolling in Kindergarten Fall 2015 (June 2010 birthday). I though it was enough to live in the enrollment area, but I have been informed by some neighbors that Madera does not have enough spots for residents and that there is a waitlist of some sort. I can't find any information about this on the WCCUSD site. Is this true? And if so, what can I do to ensure my chances of having a spot for my son? Secret lists to be on? Unpublicized dates I need to know about? What's the deal? Preparing for the Kindergarden admissions game

Hi. Kindergarten registration for WCCUSD schools is now in mid-January for the following fall. See for this year's date and instructions. It is advisable to register on that day because there has been a waitlist even for those in the Madera zone for the past 5+ years. Check WCCUSD site or for info next year. Madera mom

I too went totally ballistic when I moved to Kensington and then was placed on the wait list. Seriously? I think your chances of getting in are very good. People always move away over the summer or make other plans. If not, you'll be slotted into another school (probably Kensington) and you will enjoy that just as well. -Don't sweat it.

Considering buying a house in Madera area

Sept 2012

Hello, I am considering buying a house in the Madera attendance area and am curious to learn more about the school, with a particular focus on diversity issues and the level of creativity in the curriculum. As a teacher myself and the parent of a mixed-race child, I am less interested in test scores and more interested in whether the school is an inclusive community for students with different backgrounds and learning styles. I'd greatly appreciate hearing from any parents or community members who have thoughts on these aspects of a Madera education. considering El Cerrito

Madera School is a wonderful school community. Yes, it does have outstanding test scores, but more than that, it is a diverse supportive community committed to education. While we are on the topic, so is Mira Vista School. See reviews on the previous newsletter. These are some of WCCUSD's finest not only staff, but parents who are committed to the finest education in an atmosphere of diversity and acceptance. And yes, parent participation is not required of course but is highly encouraged, in fact, parent participation is one reason these two schools are so good. Former Madera/Mira Vista parent

I cannot speak to Madera but if diversity is important to you I would encourage you to keep an open mind about other public schools in the area too. My children attend Mira Vista School which borders the attendance area for Madera. We are a very diverse community and it is one of the things I love about the school. The parents and dedicated staff ensure that there is art, music, PE, two gardens, and a library that is open all week. Despite the demands of the mandated curriculum, I have found that the teachers find ways to incorporate art, music, social studies, science and more into their teaching. Good luck! Mira Vista Mom

Elementary school - Prospect Sierra vs. Madera

August 2012

We recently moved to El Cerrito and although Kindergarten is still a year away for our son, I am trying to get as much information as possible. We are able to afford private school (yes, we are thankful) but ''in principle'' I like the idea of public school. Our neighborhood school is Madera so basically my question is - how so I decide between Madera and a private school like Prospect Sierra? I know this is not an easy question to answer unless you have children who went to both! I plan to visit the schools and talk to parents but since that is a year away, I am turning to the collective wisdom of BPN. I am particularly interested in hearing from families who may have gone to Madera and went private for middle school - how did the 2 experiences compare? Or if you went to Prospect Sierra for elementary, how did you decide? Appreciate any advice which will be helpful since we are new to the Bay area and are still figuring things out. El Cerrito Mama

I'd suggest giving Madera a try if you are starting at Kindergarten level, and save your private school dollars for later if you need them! Madera has great test scores (best in the district), parents are very active and involved, you can't beat the view from the playground, diverse and interesting student population (you'll find many dozens of native languages spoken), nice facility ... but you can still hit a couple of years in a row with a bad teacher and unsupportive administrator, and think it might be time to make a move. We have a new principal this year, and a *lot* of new teachers, so who knows what this new chemistry will bring. You never step in the same river twice ... It's always a mixed bag, isn't it? What works well for some kids and their parents will be a disaster for others. For us, the last two years at Madera have been wonderful -- two great teachers in a row! It can make all the difference in your experience. Perhaps the quality of teaching at Prospect Sierra is more predictable -- I would hope so, for the money. Our family is saving money for college, so we have moved back and forth between Madera and homeschooling to find our sweet spot, and that has worked well for us. Best of luck to you and yours! Madera Parent, off-and-on

Get ready....California education is a brutal shock.

I also do not have direct experience with Prospect Sierra or Madera, but have many friends that have attended Prospect Sierra. They are both good schools, and in some ways are similar because a sizable population of Prospect Sierra comes from Kensington and Madera. Some of my friends chose Prospect Sierra outright; would not even consider the public school system. Some transferred in. Some transferred in and then back out. Reasons are varied....some finally could no longer afford Prospect Sierra. Some were afraid of the local middle school. Some wanted smaller class size. Some wanted a different experience. Some found more variety in public school.

As for me, I am like you - fortunate enough to be able to write the check for both kids to attend a private school, but I see no reason to do so. I'm sending my kids to public school in WCCUSD, and they are doing great, and our experience has been nothing but positive.

I am writing to encourage you to at least try your public school first. Madera is an excellent school. Good, tight-knit community, good, strong PTA and excellent test scores. I know there were some issues with the old principal, but they have a new one now. It may be too early to tell how that is turning out, but the Supt. of Schools met with parents in the selection process. They were allowed to voice their desires in selection of a new leader.

The WCCUSD school district has tough, tough issues, there is no doubt about it. This is a vast district that incorporates the very well-to-do of Kensington and Madera to the poverty-stricken of the Iron Triangle in Richmond. The needs are beyond diverse. Funding is always an issue. Class size is big. Teachers are underpaid. But we need people dedicated to making it better. And we are turning corners. The district is out of bankruptcy. We have a renaissance happening at Portola Junior High School. We are renovating 30,40, 50 year-old campuses.

A great education should not only be available to those that can afford to send their kids to private school. We need people to make it better for everyone. I am hoping you will join us in any one of the million ways that you can make a difference. It really counts and it really matters! -Public School Advocate

My kids attended a different private school in the area as well as Madera. The answer to your question is quite complex and of course depends on your family, your child's temperament, etc. Madera is a very good school, with a very enthusiastic parent community (seemed like 50%-60% of families in my kids' classes volunteered in the classroom and at school).

Based on OUR experience, here are several areas where the private school worked better for US than the public one:

1) Small classes: At our school, the student/teacher ratio was approximately 10 to 1. At Madera it is now 28 to 1 (even in K) or 33 to 1 (Grade 3 and up, I believe). The advantages are obvious.

2) Tighter community: Madera has over 500 students (maybe even closer to 600). Our school had about 70 families. So you really end up knowing every child and parent.

3) The overall curriculum was a lot more interesting, according to my kids. There was a lot of emphasis on science than at Madera.

4) Much higher diversity within teachers in terms of gender, age and race.

5) Better after-school program.

Here's where Madera worked better for us:

1) Larger classes translate to larger pools of potential friends for your kids.

2) We are not that wealthy, so we (the parents) did not really connect that well with the private school parents, whereas at Madera we had quite and nice group of people to interact with.

3) One of my kids has a learning disability, which our private school had no ability, desire or obligation to accommodate. It was on us to find the solution.

Good luck to you with your decision. anon

We live in El Cerrito and our child has been enrolled at both Madera and Prospect Sierra in elementary school. We have had positive experience with both schools. I would be more than happy to share with you how and why we decided to move from one to the other. Please e-mail me if you'd like to talk. C.

Yours is a difficult question to answer; one school may be great for one family, and not so great for another. It might depend on what you value (Diversity? Religion? Curriculum? Political Correctness?).

That being said, my family has attended both private El Cerrito schools as well as El Cerrito public schools. Here is our take:

- Smaller class size
- Freedom in curriculum (students do not take the state test)
- Slower or faster pace; no need to stick to a standard pace due to testing
- Teachers stay on the kids about homework and turning in assignments (more hand-holding)
- LOTS more money (bigger houses, better cars, electronics, vacations...)
- Higher education of most parents
- Less diversity (mostly white, upper-class families; professional families)
- More family resources
- No advanced classes beyond the grade level and no services for learning problems (''get a tutor'')
- Tight community, but also a community that is removed from the larger community of El Cerrito

- Larger class size
- Not a lot of freedom for core courses
- Must stay on track in terms of curriculum pacing (testing)
- Students must be and act independent and be responsible (not a lot of hand holding)
- More diversity in terms of religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic status
- Kids can take classes at El Cerrito High School during middle school, for more advanced math and science classes
- A community that is interwoven with El Cerrito neighborhoods

Which do you prefer? A lot of families LIKE the struggle of public schools, like being involved with their local communities, and like helping to fund programs that serve ALL students (not just the wealthy). Other families LIKE keeping their kids isolated and removed from the problems that plague public schools (but also withhold their resources, too. Imagine if that $22,000 or $25,000 were given to public schools! Even $1000 would help!).

What one family values may not be what YOU value, and vice versa. To the response someone made about private schools being superior in terms of academics, I disagree. Having had children in both private and public, I am confident in my views. Our daughter transferred from PRIVATE to PUBLIC after two years and was far behind her public school peers. Our son's friends chose PS over Portola and tell him they have little homework and that the expectations are a lot lower than what they experienced in the 5th and 6th grade at their El Cerrito public school. El Cerrito High teachers will tell you that many Portola students are equally prepared for high school as the private school students. Public schools need you

Editor note: additional reviews also received for Prospect Sierra

How are the kindergarten teachers?

Jan 2012

Hi, my kid will be entering Kindergarten (hopefully) at Madera Elem. in El Cerrito in the fall. How are the K. teachers? I understand that there are 4 classes this year. Pros and cons will be helpful. Thanks. Kim

My son just left Madera after 6 wonderful years. I wouldn't get too focused on which teacher your child gets--you don't get to choose anyway. (During our time there, you didn't find out the teacher until the night before, by driving by the school and checking the lists taped to the front door!) For us, some years were better than others, but the education was excellent and my son started 6th grade at a private middle school where he was better prepared than the kids who had been there the entire time (it's a k-8 school). BTW, the aftercare program is also excellent, and they keep the kindergartners in a separate group from the older kids (not that they're tough bullies or anything!). Happy Madera Alums

Nov 2011

Re: New to El Cerrito - Junior High and Elementary

Welcome to El Cerrito! We love it. Great community, wonderful local park and pool, great community center with lots of activities, great sport programs....

Madera is great; so is Kensington. A word of warning: A local private school has come upon very difficult times, and a number of students have left for the public schools. I believe Madera is currently full, as are the other elementary schools. Do call and see. If your local, neighborhood school is full, you can receive an interdistrict transfer to another El Cerrito school.

Good luck in your move, and we hope to see you in our local public schools! It Takes A Village (and we welcome you)

Welcome to El Cerrito! Madera is a ''great'' public school, but that does not mean it works for everyone or that we love everything about it. I have a 4th grader there now. The teacher is creative and energetic and reaches well beyond the canned curriculum and the pressure to teach to the test (yes, it is a major fact of life in public schools). Not all Madera teachers are as impressive.

Madera has a very active parent community which raises money for music, arts, science, PE, you name it. There are lots of events and enrichment activities. It is a diverse and interesting student (and parent) population and all in all a pretty happy campus, with an effective and accessible principal.

Madera just added a 6th grade this year, so Portola is now a 2-year middle school. Some kids do fine there, others do not. (Some kids do fine anywhere -- others would be better served elsewhere for sure.) The mantra is ''if your kid is academically strong and takes all the advanced classes and has a tight cohort of friends and plays in the band and/or plays sports ... Portola is fine.'' In any case, two years is not forever, and lots of kids leave during middle school years (for another district, or homeschool, private school, independent study); some return to the district for high school. Maybe when the new Portola campus is built, this will change.

Best of luck, hope Madera has a slot for you (I can't really speak to that question, although they do make every effort to seat someone who is a resident . Reasonably happy, but learning should be so much more fun than it is

Afterschool Care at Madera

August 2010

I am looking for an after school program or group in Albany, for a six yr old with a disability. Possibly one that has other girls, small, maybe at someones home, and can possibly pick up from a Richmond school. (Am currently seeking transfer to Albany school.) She seems like a normal girl. Her disability is not noticeable to most. But would really like someone who has experience with disabilities, similar to high functioning Asperger's. Would be a miracle if I could find the right support person. Thank you tons.

The City of El Cerrito Recreation Dept runs the on-site afterschool program at Madera. Check their website or stop by the community center on Moeser (next to the pool) for more info. EC Mom

On the wait list, what about afterschool care?

August 2009

My child will be attending kindergarten at Madera this fall. Originally one of the parents was going to be at home and as a result, we did not sign up for the after school care. Well, circumstances changed very suddenly, both parents will be working and now we are frantically assessing our options. We put our names on the wait list for Madera after school care, but I am not sure our chances are really good, since it's now the end of June and everyone has probably signed up in February- March. In retrospect we should have probably signed up for the after school care even though we didn't think we needed it (but then another family would have been waitlisted, so that's not ideal either). If you are familiar with the Madera program, can you tell me if this is a lost cause at this point? What other options we have? If it's a different school, what does one do for transportation. Stressing Out

We noticed several children ''disappear'' from Madera after school care last year due to parental job loss. Call the EC Rec Center to get a sense of where you are on the wait list.

Also, there is a child care provider on Key Blvd. one block uphill from the Del Norte BART that has a van and I believe picks kids up from local schools for aftercare. It's a pink house. I believe it's called Casa de los Ninos. I stopped and talked to them once, and recall that it was pretty affordable. Best of luck. Madera parent


Afterschool care for kindergartener

Oct 2008

My son will be attending Madera Elementary. Both parents are currently working full time and it is highly unlikely that the situation will change by the time he is in school. It is my understanding that the after school care is provided at nearby Castro School, with kids being shuttled to the location. I would love to hear from Madera parents whose kids are enrolled in the after school care. What is your opinion about the program and this particular arrangement? What does and does not work? Do your kids enjoy it? If you were considering the program but in the end decided against signing up your kid, what were your reasons? Thanks in advance for your responses. anon

Actually, as of the beginning of last year, Madera's afterschool program now takes place entirely at Madera. They expanded the program last year to include more children, and it now uses the school's multi-purpose room and the upper and lower play yards, as well as the afterschool ''clubhhouse.''

My kids have been enrolled in the program both last year and this year, and I am quite satisfied with it -- and they really seem to enjoy it! The staff is great, and they always seem to have fun projects planned for the kids. The afterschool program has four different activities to choose from each day, and kids sign up each day for the group/activity they want to do that afternoon -- play games outside, do an art project, do a cooking project, etc. In addition, your child can sign up for one of the MASEP (Madera Afterschool Enrichment Program) classes offered by the city. These are once-a-week classes and include things like carpentry, art, keyboard, and science, and typically last about 6 to 8 weeks, I believe. Many of the classes take place at Madera, but a few are at the El Cerrito Community Center, and in that case, the afterschool program will provide transportation to and from the class for kids in the full-afternoon afterschool program.

Did I mention how much I like the afterschool staff?

All in all, we've had a really good experience with this program, and I highly recommend it. Sign up early, though! The afterschool program tends to fill up pretty quickly. A Happy Madera Parent

The Madera afterschool program is very good and it is actually located at the Madera site, they no longer shuttle the kids to Castro. The kindergarteners have their own program separate from the bigger kids and are taken very well care of. They do lots of art, cooking, games, and play. The clubhouse has a good selection of art supplies, board games, toys, etc. The staff is enthusiastic and caring. The program is run by the city of El Cerrito, and they use the Madera clubhouse (located right next to the school) as well as the Madera school yard and multi- purpose room. Madera parent

My 4th grade son has been in the Madera Aftercare from Kinder. He is happy there. Kids who go to Madera don't get vanned to castro anymore. It is a large program, (about 1/3 of school goes, so lots of his friends attend) but the Kinder and young elementary children play in a smaller area with attentive staff. The director is great, caring and responsive. The staff are very good. They have a homework time and then many activities both indoors and outdoors. My son loves the organized kickball and other ball games. When he was younger, he loved the playstructures. It's a good way for kids to play with their friends afterschool, but I will arrange separate play 'date' with friends away from aftercare once a week to break up the routine. Feel free to email me with more questions. Amy

Madera after school program is at Madera, don't know where you heard about being bussed to castro but that's not true. My daughter loves it (she only goes 2 days a week) but has since K. The teachers are wonderful, they are young people with a lot of energy and they really care about all the kids. It's a great program. erin

Hi. The Madera after-school program is now permanently housed at Madera, in a separate building called ''the clubhouse.'' It is accessed from Devonshire. The staff will walk your kindergartener to and from their classroom. I think that some of the ''enrichment'' classes (like carpentry) are only offered elsewhere, but some (like art) are also offered at Madera. And they offer childcare during school vacations (usually at another site), which is such a relief!

The program has been wonderful. Our child loves it. The kids get to know children of all ages if they stay after 3 pm, which has been a great experience. They also get to know other kids in their grade-level, which will be helpful next year, when they have a whole new set of kids in their class. In fact, my child has made better friends through the after school program because there is little time to socialize during kindergarten, itself. I have no hesitation recommending the program. Madera parent

After-school care for kindergartener at Madera

Jan 2008

Our 4 year old will be starting up kindergarten at Madera School in El Cerrito in September 2008. After years of full time daycare and preschool, the short school day seems so short! How have other parents with full-time jobs dealt with this? Can you give me feedback about your experience with the El Cerrito (or other) after school care programs? Thanks! Mom of soon to be big kid

We also work full-time and our kindergartener is enrolled in the on-site Madera afterschool care. We are very happy with the afterschool program, which is run by the city of El Cerrito. The short kindergarten day means that there is not so much time for play and fun, but this is compensated for by the afterschool program, where there is plenty of time for play and making friends. The children play, do art, cooking projects, and games. The teachers are really great, easy to talk to, and the program is very well organized. The kindergarteners are separated from the bigger kids most of the day, and have their own program (the Kindergarten afterschool program ends at 3pm, but even after that they tend to have K together with first grade kids only). If you are interested you should sign up asap at the El Cerrito Community Center. Last year I believe we signed up in February. Good luck! -Madera parent

The before and after care program, and summer and holiday programs, offered by the City of El Cerrito Recreation Dept is very popular among many Madera families. Call the city at 559- 7006 and ask to visit the site. --working mom

Your experience in upper grades at Madera?

Jan 2008

I would like to learn more about your child(ren)'s experience in upper grades in Madera school. We are interested in transfering our child next year, to the 4th grade. We have heard many positive comments about Madera, but so far I only know about K to 2nd grades. What kind of special elective classes there are for older kids? How do they handle larger classes? How are teachers enjoying teaching, or being challenged with large group of kids? Thank you very much in advance!

My daughter loved her 4th grade teacher, who is a long-time veteran, providing her students with a rich and varied curriculum. The other teacher has only been teaching at Madera for a few years, but he works very closely with his 4th grade colleague and is very enthusiastic and personable.

My daughter's 5th grade teacher retired after 25+years and the replacement teacher, a former Madera parent of four and very involved and exceptional volunteer, completed her teaching creditials a few years ago. The 4th & 5th grades average about 29 students, but can technically accept 33. My daughter was a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) student, as were about half of her class. While there were no special elective or separate classes for GATE students, teachers prepared more challenging work folders for students to complete. Thanks to one very committed volunteer, we do have special pull-out sessions for our high achievers...but this exists solely from this one parent's extraordinary energy and gift of time and resources.

Madera continues to be one of the top public elementary schools in the state and our API score has been our highest in recent years. A very involved parent community raises funds to support many programs, including computer lab, music, field trips and cultural enrichment. This type of support allows our faculty to excel. vicki

How do you like Madera?

August 2006

Hi, Would parents of students at Madera share how they like the school? My family are considering moving to El Cerrito area and hear about this elementary school. What do you like or dislike about the school? What is learning atmosphere, discipline issue, teacher quality, after school care like? Thanks! anonymous

We have a daughter entering 4th grade at Madera -- our neighborhood school -- and next year we will also have a Kindergartener there. We've been very happy with it overall. All my daughter's teachers have been good so far -- each with different strengths and interests. The school was remodeled recently, the facilities are nice and welcoming. (And you can't beat the views!) We like the diversity of the student body, and appreciate the high level of parent involvement and fundraising which helps offset the lack of district/state money for music, arts, etc. There is a pretty strong offering of after school enrichment classes (e.g., languages, African dance, carpentry), as well as an on-site afterschool program. If you have specific questions you'd like to ask, feel free to contact me. Lori

If you are moving to El Cerrito you actually have three great elementary schools to attend based on where you live. My daughter attends Madera and we love it. What we enjoy most are the teachers, the active parents, the PTA which is providing so many extra benefits for the children such as computer and music classes and the real sense of community. Also the school was recently completely remodeled so the campus is very nice. The teachers enjoy what they do and it gets passed on to the children who love coming to school (most of the time.) Madera is what public schools use to be and should be again. Fortunately Harding and Kensington are very similar. Parents in this community are making very positive changes at the local schools. I know that wherever you end up enrolling you will have a very great experience especially if you are willing to get involved at school. Madera mom

Castro or Madera?

May 2006

We are new to El Cerrito, and will be enrolling our two children in either Castro (our neighborhood school), or requesting a transfer to Madera (also very close by). Can parents chime in on the current standing (socially, academically, physical building issues, and so on) of these schools? Also, our children would be attending the After School Program wherever they end up, so I am interested in that, too. We are looking for a safe, nurturing environement for our quiet kids, and also some help for our son, who is not reading at grade level. So, any comments about reading or resource specialists is also greatly appreciated! Want to Stay Public!

We've attended WCCUSD for the past 6 years and have lived in the area for even more. We did lots of research before we moved here. If I was choosing between the two for my children I would definitely pick Madera. If you are transfering, you better get a move on, the transfer process was moved up this year and happened in Feb/March. Madera is easily the second most desirable elementary school in the district so you may want to call the school office and see how full they are for the grades you are looking into.
Sharing what I would do

Not to discourage you, but I'm pretty sure the school transfer period is closed. The on-site afterschool program is run by the City of El Cerrito. Here is the link: Castro Day Camp (info also at the link) will have pretty much the same kids and staff as the afterschool program, so sign up for a week or two of Castro Camp to get an idea of how that is. I like the afterschool program and the camp just fine, my child has been attending both for two years. --El Cerrito mom

What are your views of Madera?

April 2006

We have just moved back to the area and our local school is Madera Elementary. We have missed all the tours and have been told that it was too late to organize anything now! could anyone who have toured the kindergarten, who know of the kindergarten program, teachers, materials, facilities, aftercare program and other aspects (whether negative or positive) give us their views and impressions? Thank you! anon

My child is in first grade at Madera so we have two years of experience at the school. I'm sorry you missed the tours because I think that orienting and welcoming parents has not been a great strength of the school and it is hard to find extra ways to get familiar with the place. However, this was a topic of discussion in PTA this year and it may be better next year. There should be an informational booklet in the office and I think there will be an orientation manual available in the fall.

The other issue I see happening in the school is a lack of harmony between the PTA and teachers (even though they are both supposed to be part of the group, it feels to me like the PTA is pretty much just parents with a token teacher attending each meeting). I think both groups are very committed but there is some concern expressed by long term faculty (and people do seem to stay for long careers at Madera) that because parents are there for a shorter time, they don't understand the needs of the school as well. Just my impression.

However, I have many positive feelings about the school. All three kindergarden teachers appeared to be wonderful- warm, committed and leading kids into the world of school and ''formal learning'' in a very positive way. The PTA is very active and currently has two co-presidents who I think are doing a great job. You may want to attend the next PTA mtg. May 9 at 7:15 to get an idea of the community. The facilities are beautiful and there are many events, assemblies and after school learning opportunities that are interesting and educational.

If you start at Madera, I would recommend getting involved early with getting to know the other parents and PTA and even volunteering in the classroom if possible. I have found that increased involvement has helped me to know and appreciate the school. Good luck. anon

Our daughter is now in 3rd grade at Madera, and we are very happy with our local public school. The school has recently been renovated, and looks great. We loved our daughter's K teacher Mrs. Severy, but I think (?) all the teachers are well regarded, and you don't get a choice (although you can request morning or afternoon class). We used the afternoon on-site day care only slightly -- a couple of days a week, just to give our daughter a chance to play, since the K day is, as you know, a very short one. It was great for us, but you will probably find people who have used it more recently and can give more up-to-date info. lori

Seeking feedback about Madera

December 2003

I would like feedback about Madera elementary...class size, quality of teachers, curriculum, diversity. Is it a safe place for my child to be? Thanks
El Cerrito Hills Mama

My son will be starting kindergarten next fall. I'd like to hear about experiences with Madera Elementary, especially from parents whose children have attended the school in the past two years. The school does not allow parents of future kindergarteners to visit (per the prinicipal), which makes it difficult to decide if this is the right school for our child. luyo

My daughter is in third grade, and has attended Madera since kindergarten. Overall we've been really pleased with the school--her kindergarten teacher was wonderful, and she loved the whole experience. Madera has test scores similar to those of Kensington Hilltop, so I suspect that the classroom experience would be similar between the two. Madera has about a 50% transfer rate and is quite diverse. I don't have any experience with private schools, and so cannot compare private/public. But if you're looking for a good public elementary school, Madera's great. Jennifer

Our daughter is in 1st grade at Madera, and we are very happy there. Her 2 teachers so far have been wonderful -- very experienced, warm, thoughtful, responsive. I spent some time in her Kindergarten classroom, and I was very impressed. This year I haven't been in the classroom much, but I am spending a lot of time on the school yard at lunch time, helping with yard duty, so I am getting to know the kids, and some of the other teachers. The school is under construction this year, which puts a lot of extra demands on the faculty and staff (and students), but everyone seems to be rising to the challenge. There is a tremendous amount of parent involvement, lots of PTA-funded ''extras,'' frequent special activities for families, and a very strong sense of community. And we can WALK to school! Feel free to contact me for more info. Lori

see also: Anxiety about choosing a kindergarten Madera vs. Hilltop