Windrush School

El Cerrito

No longer in business
Private School
El Cerrito, CA
Editors' Notes: 

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Sept 2011

I wanted to share a gem of a school with all of you: Windrush School in El Cerrito. I have two boys there now (a kindergartner and a fifth grader) and find the place MAGICAL.

There were so many signs when I looked at the school that told me it was different.

First on the tour they allowed us to interact and talk with the children. I have visited over 20 schools over the years and never has it been allowed or offered to engage with the children. This was the first.

Second, no matter what class or grade level I visited, the children were REALLY engaged in what they were doing. I visited the kindergarten classrooms, 4th grade math class, 7th grade literature class and 2nd grade art class. In EVERY SINGLE class the youth were REALLY engaged and more than happy to share with you what they were doing. They appeared very confident and grounded. I had never seen this in my 8 years of visiting many many many schools.

Every interaction we had in the application process told me Windrush was a very special place:

* I stopped by with my boys one afternoon to show them the school to see if they were interested and the boys were given their own impromptu tour by one of the staff who spoke directly to them. It was beautiful how she took time out of her schedule on the fly and gave my children a tour.

* The admissions director again and again surprised us with his kindness and thoughtfulness. We had scheduled my oldest sons visit on Valentineís Day. He called me up and said he realized my son might be missing out on a celebration at his other school and said I should ask my son if he was ok with that and call him back. WOW I thought, you actually care what my child thinks how cool!

* On another occasion when visiting Windrush, I could have easily been pulled in two different directions with two children attending two different events. The minute we got there, the admission director said he would take my older son and get him settled with some buddies so that I could focus on my kindergartner. Later the head of school came up to me and said she had checked on my older son and he was having a blast with all his buddies around him. Again I thought WOW, they are so tuned into the emotional well being of not only the children but the parents as well. How beautiful!!!!!!!

* My youngest son was pre-schooled at home so going to kindergarten promised to offer some stress for him. On his visit day, he and 30 other children came running and skipping back to the school library where parents were waiting with smiles and laughter after 2 hours with 4 strangers they had never met. I thought how did they do it? Not one child was crying or looked sad.

* On my older sons visit, he came out talking and talking and talking about his day. He talked about creative writing, art, magnetism (that they were learning in PE by the way) and more. He told me he wished I had not come to pick him up. I was full of tears of joy given how this is the child who hated school and never shared anything about his day.

We are now in week three at Windrush and I know we made the absolute right decision. My youngest son who was incredibly fearful about kindergarten wants to be the first to school every morning. He comes home and plays with letters and numbers instead of his super heroes. My oldest son who hated school before, wants to stay for the after school programs and is eager do his homework and read every night on his own.

Both my sonís teachers made time for me on day TWO, allowing me to share what I know about my children. They actually listened and asked questions and said thank you so much for sharing.

The pieces that impress me the most about what I have seen at Windrush so far include:

* They pay CLOSE attention to a childís emotional state and helping them through emotional challenges that get in the way of them being open to learn. The ENTIRE school staff works as a team to create a nurturing environment where they REALLY get to know your child and SHARE with one another what they know.

* They teach the children to become aware of and deal with how they are feeling before they try to teach them. They give youth tools to understanding themselves and to work with who they are that most adults today do not have.

* They use differentiated learning to help children engage in learning from where they are not where they should be. This reduces the competition with one another and gets the children to focus on their own ability and moving forward. WOW!!!!

* They work hard to learn about how your child learns best (with your help) and create an environment that works for them so that their lights turn on and they LOVE to learn.

* They integrate their learning across subjects and make it relevant to the studentís world so that their resistance to quality rigor is low and their desire to learn is high.

* They actually listen and respect you as your childís parent. They take what you say in stride and incorporate it in the way they interact with your child and share it amongst the staff so everyone gets to know your child, not just your childís teacher. WOW WOW WOW!!!!

WOW and MAGICAL are my favorite words to describe what goes on at Windrush. It is amazing to see how turned on my children are already. I look forward to learning from Windrush tips and tools I can use at home to be a better parent. It is wonderful to be someplace where I know my children are emotionally safe and their desire to learn is especially heightened. It allows me to move from defending and explaining who my children are to learning more about them. My children are not the only ones learning from Windrush. I feel like I am already a better mom.

Another bonus is that the campus itself is gorgeous and large (over 4 acres I believe) providing ample space for the children to play both inside and out. They have a beautiful library, amazing gym, art studio, computer lab, playgrounds, a large field and much more.

For those of you wondering, it is incredibly diverse and eco-friendly too!

For those looking, I hope this gives you some valuable information about Windrush to help you determine if it should go on your list of schools to look at. Good luck! Lynne

June 2011

Re: Recommendations for a good school
Your friends will be well-served to visit Windrush School in El Cerrito. The academics and community commitment are first rate, and they will be hard pressed to find a school that has a more warm and embracing vibe from teachers, administrators and families. On the same page

Nov 2010

Our family loves Windrush School. My son who is now in 6th grade transferred in this year and although he was nervous at first, is now absolutely thriving and eager to go to school. My daughter is in 8th grade and is in her third year with Windrush.

My admiration for Windrush is threefold; first, the academic standards are first rate. Have a look at the comprehensive and progressive curriculum. My kids come home and tell me about why the constitution is structured they way it is and how it is being applied today...! The teachers clearly strive to remain cutting edge with their skills and they are very committed to understanding the way in which each child absorbs new learning.

Second, the parent/school relationship is extremely respectful -- I would even call it professional! Something I truly appreciate as well. Suggestions and observations I have brought to the administrative team, parent advisory and head of school have been welcomed every time. Thereafter, action is appropriate and well thought out. I come from a family of educators myself, I know that being good with both children and adults is somewhat of a rare thing.

I've got to mention the kid culture. Do you remember middle school? What I am seeing is a group of highly conscious pre-teens who support each other in doing really well in school. Yes, there is the unauthorized drama production within the ranks from time to time, but via parent solidarity and an excellent school councilor who's really on the ball, the kids learn -- again and again to understand and respect one another. That's something that will serve them well all their lives.

Go Windrush! Robin

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
For the person inquiring about progressive independent schools in the East Bay, I want to recommend Windrush School in El Cerrito. Our daughter started kindergarten there this year, and we have been very pleased with the experience. The school community--administration, teachers, families--really strives to provide a caring, authentic, thoughtful education for all students. We have been impressed with the diversity of families represented there, and we appreciate the school's attention to developing kids' social awareness and communication skills, along with their academic and intellectual aptitude. I encourage you to check out the website at and visit the school. We have not been disappointed!

Oct 2010

Re: schools in Hercules
My children have been at Windrush in El Cerrito since Kindergarten (they're 8 and 10 now) and we love it. There are several families at Windrush from your area, as well as Vallejo, Pinole, and beyond.

All kindergarteners have structured specialist classes in music, art, PE/movement and spanish several times a week, in addition to lots art and music in their regular course of study. Both the kindergarten teachers are outstanding (Annie is the very best teacher I've ever experienced, anywhere, period. ''She's a rock star'' to quote my daughter.) If an independent school is part of your consideration, it's worth going on a tour.

When we first came to Windrush, I liked it, and felt my kids would have a good solid experience there. Now, however, after several years, I love it, and am truly grateful we chose this school. It's been a good fit for our whole family in so many ways. A few years ago when I went through a divorce, all of us received a lot of support. I've seen the community reach out to many people in difficult times. But most importantly, my children are thriving there. Academically and socially, they are supported, challenged, and encouraged to stretch. My kids regularly report (unprompted) that they LOVE going to school and are not shy about chastising me for not ''letting'' them attend afterschool more often. With kids in 3rd and 5th grade now, I've noticed a definite step up in the academics, and I believe my children will be well prepared for a high school and college experience that is a good match for them. I can't say enough about what a wonderful place I've found Windrush to be. Not perfect (because no school is) but perfectly ready to encourage my children academically, support them socially, and respond when issues arise. Perhaps the strongest thing I could say is that the students (even the middleschoolers!) are, well..., nice. They're kind, they're plugged in, they care. Lots of places churn out smart kids, but Windrush seems to value that intangible stuff, too. Good luck in your search. Happy Windrush Parent

Oct 2010

For those families looking for a k-8 or 6-8 school, I would enthusiastically like to recommend Windrush School in El Cerrito. My two children, now in fourth and seventh, have had a fabulous experience in every way...academically, socially, emotionally, physically... since they began in kindergarten. Not only are the teachers/administration caring, smart, fun, and communicative, but the value system the kids absorb is truly one of kindness and shared community. I was looking for a school that offered diversity in all its forms, a challenging academic setting, and a genuine focus on ''the whole child''...admittedly a rare combination when it comes to actually ''walking that talk.'' Windrush, however, has lived up to all of those needs and more, engaging both my sports minded, on the move child, as well as my arts minded, focused child. They are both engaged in school in a deep and creative way, enjoy the positive friends they've made and the teachers who know them so well, and feel confident and happy as students at the school. What more can I ask for?! Very Happy Windrush Parent

Dec 2009

Re: Private Middle School for a math enthusiastic son
Our child started school at Windrush Middle School in El Cerrito this year and we have been very pleased with both the strong math program and the excellent math/science teacher. The math program is academically comprehensive, with a great deal of individual attention. We love the fact that our child is learning math skills in such an engaged and supportive environment. We are extremely happy with all other aspects of Windrush Middle School as well -- it has been a great place for our child. New Windrush Mom

Dec 2009

Re: Private Middle School for a math enthusiastic son
Dear parent of ''math enthusiastic son'',

As a parent of a bright 12 year old 7th grader (a girl) with many interests, who enjoys math and science, and needs constant academic challenge, I would suggest you take a strong look at Windrush School in El Cerrito for your son. Windrush is a K-8 school with a separate middle school that goes from 6th to 8th grade. My daughter is my second child to attend Windrush middle school. My son (now a freshman at a private university on the east coast) was much like your son -- if not intellectually challenges could becom mischievous. Fortunately, the teachers and the curriculum at Windrush kept him engaged academically and helped him channel his energies in positive ways.

As far as math goes, Windrush has a great program. The two math teachers are engaging and have deep math knowledge. They make math fun my daughter reports (I hear there's food involved sometimes to keep math real). There's a math club for kids who are really into it. Across the curriculum there is an emphasis on project-based learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking. All teachers use some form of differentiation in their classroom to support and inspire all students to higher levels of learning.

As private schools go, Windrush is growing in its diversity. (We are an African American family). That diversity -- racial, social, economic -- adds to the richness of the community teachers, students, and parents create. Our family has really enjoyed being part of that community.

I would encourage you to take a tour or attend one of the upcoming middle school information sessions. You can check the website for upcoming dates and more information about the school at Feel free to email me if you'd like more details of our experiences at Windrush.

Good luck in finding the right place for your son, Zaretta

Nov 2009

Re: Challenging Progressive School?
If you are looking for a challenging progressive school, you should definitely look into Windrush School. It is progressive education at its best. The curriculum is very carefully developed integrating progressive principles with a clear goal of academic excellence. The teaching is age appropriate and engaging for the kids in each grade. Windrush has a new Head of School who is in her third year and she has really brought up the academic standards of the school. In addition, some other great things about the schools is the outstanding before and aftercare program (the kids clamor to stay longer when we get them), Spanish beginning in Kingergarten, they are now offering Mandarin, they have a really nice gym and great space over all and it is K-8. I recommend you look at the website and read the strategic plan and information about their progressive approach. I have two kids there who are thriving academically and emotionally. It is a great community of diverse families too. Good luck, Windrush Parent

Oct 2009

Re: Anxiety about affording the ''right'' Kindergarten
Deciding on school is a very stressful experience. A couple of things about private schools. It is not as much competitive as it is about finding the right match for you and your family. In your area there a lot of private schools to consider. I would recommend exploring those and, if you find any that you feel are a match, applying for financial aid. Many schools including ours offer significant financial aid for those who need it.

My kids are at Windrush School in El Cerrito. It has been an excellent match for our family. A great community of families, a very strong academic program and an extremely caring and nurturing environment for the kids - they put a lot of emphasis on the social and emotional needs of the kids to enable them to succeed academically and in the world as citizens. It is on the small size which makes the transition to kindergarten very smooth for the kids. They say that the two most challenging transitions for people are to kindergarten and to college. I felt that having that level of attention in that first year was really important.

Private schools are offering tours, I encourage you to sign up for those and the information days/nights to see what is out there. Good luck with your search. I know it is not an easy time. Anon

Feb 2009

Re: Windrush School and Park Day School
Our daughter has been at Windrush School for the last three years (she is currently in 2nd grade). Our family has been very happy there. What we like about Windrush is that it is a really sweet place. There is an undefinable kindness and joy to the school. When we pick up our daughter from school there is a buzz of happiness and excitement at the school. The curriculum is most definitely hands-on. To give you an example, the kindergarten class built a miniature town out of wood. Each child used a saw to construct a building - wood block by wood block. Each child had an industry. One had a bookstore, another a pet store, another a sporting equipment store and on. The town had streets, signs and even a park. Our daughter will never forget it! The academics are excellent. Our daughter is very excited about what she is learning in school. Last fall the class focused on birds and the whole class was in a whirl of excitement over birds. We spent most of our weekends bird watching because of our daughter's enthusiasm.

The diversity is great at Windrush. Half of our daughter's class is other than caucasian. We have a lot of economic diversity too. It's really wonderful because your child is in an environment with all kinds of kids/families. All children and families are completely accepted. The school environment is deeply, deeply kind and accepting. It's pretty idealic.

Windrush is also known for its afterschool. There are a lot of working families who need full-time care. We don't use it that much but I hear nothing but good things about it. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Madeleine

I have 2 children at Windrush School and can tell you that it definitely lives up to its promise for hands-on learning based on the principles of progressive education. The teachers use multiple methods of teaching every subject and topic, they address social and emotional needs as well as offering the highest quality academics, and the classes are integrated across subject areas. For example, the Kindergarteners don't just learn about communities and stores and money by reading books or listening to someone talk, they build their own houses (complete with measuring the lots and counting the ''bricks''), they address community needs and issues together, they make good to sell and they run a market day where they have to count money and make change as they buy and sell from/to one another. This integrated, hands-on progressive approach continues through all of the grades in age-appropriate and content- appropriate ways.

My children have not graduated, so I cannot talk from personal experience about how well prepared they will be. The alumni who come back to visit all seem to feel very confident about their abilities and completely well-prepared whether they went to public or private high schools. From my perspective, I am completely confident that my children will graduate as confident learners, know how to ask critical questions and know how to find answers - whether through research, problem solving or experimentation.

The school has a very diverse student body. Students of all races and religous backgrounds are welcomed and there is a tangible sense of inclusion and authenticity in the relationships between the kids.

The afterschool program is a jewel. My children both love it. They are safe, happy and cared for. The afterschool teachers are on campus for a large part of the day, covering recess and lunch, so the kids really get to know them and they get to know the kids. Each of the afterschool teachers brings his or her own interests and talents and shares them in ways that really enhance the experience. As far as safety goes, the teachers all have radios and keep connected that way. The kids can move from one activity to another and the teachers can communicate about what is going on. I have not had any concerns about the safety in afterschool.

All the best for your admissions process and choice of Kindergarten! Extremely Happy with Windrush

Jan 2009

Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
I would encourage you to consider Windrush School in El Cerrito. I have two children there and have found the school to be outstanding. It has a fabulous, warm, interesting and unpretentious family community. The teachers and administrators are really top notch. The new head of school (in her second year) is a masterful leader - smart and engaged and able to connect with parents, the outside community and the kids of all ages wonderfully. The school has a new ''green'' middle school building that the Board took great care in planning so that they could expand and improve the space of the school without overextending the school financially. Most importantly, the kids do really well there. The program is rigorous academically and the kids have a lot of fun in the process. This is progressive education at its best. The kids get into the schools of their choice from Windrush and the alums have nothing but wonderful things to say about the school. I could go on and on.... Lots of kids from Berkeley attend Windrush and it is near a Bart station for easy commuting. Good luck with your search. parent of two Windrush kids

Nov 2008

Re: Private school interviews with a shy child
Dear Mother of a Shy Child,
We also have an extremely shy child. In fact, our child did not talk on any of the private school assessments. She ended up getting into the schools that cared enough to call her preschool teacher to see if she was talking in preschool. We ended up going to Windrush School because they cared enough to visit her at her preschool. She is now in 2nd grade and is thriving at Windrush. If a school does not understand that the assessment process is stressful for your child, then it is not the school for you. Mother of a shy child

Oct 2008

Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
Our experience was with Windrush School, and we loved it. Our family experienced an atmosphere that was warm and loving, and, indeed, incredibly supportive to the whole child. One year my child had difficulties and the class teacher emailed us with a special update at the end of every single day of the school year. That is the kind of school that Windrush is. The staff's special mission is to see every child's unique potential and seek to develop it. Windrush also has a new Principal, by the way, who has really focussed on taking the academic curriculum of the school away from 'soft and fuzzy', a criticism often made of very supportive school cultures. The new Principal is cutting-edge and fantastic, and has hired some excellent new staff who complement the existing culture while infusing energy into the curriculum. (And, with the children themselves, she has the allure of the Pied Piper!) Satisfied Parent

April 2008

Anyone have somewhat recent experience with Windrush or Prospect Sierra? Any and all input (relative to staff, academics, parents, etc) would be appreciated. exploring our options...

I am always suprised when people are choosing between Windrush & Prospect because they are such VASTLY different schools.

Our daughter is a kindergartner at Windrush & we LOVE LOVE LOVE it-- the teachers are fantastic, the curriculum is engaging & challenging (in a good way, not a pressuring or intimidating way), the kids are bright, the community is warm & welcoming, the new head of school is AMAZING (& all the staff, really), there is a focus on all kinds of diversity, justice & environental stwerardship... I could go on & on.

Good luck with your decision, I drank the Windrush Kool Aid...

I thoroughly recommend Windrush school. Our son had a fabulous elementary and middle school experience there. The school allows kids to have a real childhood, and the teachers are deeply caring. Their goal is to get to know your individual child and to help your child develop his/her own unique way in the world. The new Head, Ilana Kaufman, is amazing. philippa

Our son is in first grade at Windrush. We are very happy there. Windrush takes the best of progressive education (integrated curriculum, learning by doing, depth learning, community action, and more) and puts it into action. I've been very impressed with the depth of learning in the classrooms across grade levels. I've also noticed that the quality of the faculty is remarkable. These are people who love kids and love teaching--both! You can see some of the results of this love of learning in the traditional measures like ERB test scores and high school acceptances but more importantly, in the eagerness of the kids to come to school!

The sense of community is also wonderful. Windrush is a diverse and thriving community on so many levels. This diversity is real and vital, and extends to faculty and staff as well as families. We've developed deep friendships with many parents, and love seeing our son developing friendships with classmates as well as kids from other classes.

Windrush has a buddy program matching kids from older grades with the younger kids. The friendships developed in this program last throughout the years. It also helps that the whole K-8 school is on one campus, so there are frequent opportunities to get together formally and informally. Many parents will tell you about the kindness the older kids show to the younger ones. I think it makes a huge difference, you see it in the confidence of the younger kids and the kindness of the older ones.

This year we have a new and truly remarkable Head of School, Ilana Kaufman, and I must say that I see great things now and ahead under her leadership. She has conducted an extraordinary study into what people love about Windrush, and what really needs improvement. She spoke with faculty, parents, students and alums and has started a number of programs that strengthen what works well and will tighten up those places where things felt a little slack in the past.

I'm a big fan of the Windrush Farm stand program, which brings organic produce from several local farms to the school and the families who subscribe to buying a box weekly. Starting next year this will be incorporated into a program that includes curriculum on physical, emotional, and intellectual wellness. The kids will have lessons in nutrition, cooking, and farming (complete with a 5th grade overnight field trip to a working farm). Wemve also heard about enhancements to the academic programs to support individual achievement as well as innovative group projects.

Our new "green" classroom and library building will be finished by the fall of 2008. This added classroom space will finally allow the student population to grow, which is why it's a great time to apply now. We have about 260 students now, and wemll gradually add about 60 more students over the next few years, which is pretty much a perfect size in terms of having a sustainable infrastructure to support a strong program, and at the same time being small enough that every child is known. No one falls between the cracks here.

It's really a great time to be at Windrush, and I encourage you to come by and visit if you haven't already done so. Take a look at the lgreen buildingn construction, but more importantly look at the strong relationships in the classroom and on the playground. And if you come on a Wednesday, you might see Ilana Kaufman handing out samples of organic fruits and veggies on farm box day! The nourishment kids get at Windrush School is real q wemve found it a socially, intellectually, and culturally nourishing place to be for the whole family. Feel free to send me questions via email if you'd like more info. cbw

[Editor note: reviews were also received for Prospect Sierra]

April 2007

Re: Private Middle School for Nature Loving 6th Grader???
We have been very pleased with Windrush School in El Cerrito (k-8)--serious about academics, but also opportunities for student and parent involvement in community service, creek restoration projects, green energy approach, etc.

Sept 2005

Re: Switching School at the Middle School Level
In response to the question about switching schools at middle school level, I asked a parent in my daughter's 7th grade class about her daughter's experience of transferring to Windrush in the middle of sixth grade last year. I'm passing along what she said...

''We initially sent my daughter to Albany Middle School after attending Kensington Hilltop, but we were fortunately able to transfer her to Windrush a few months later. My daughter had no problems adjusting to Windrush; it was a very smooth transition even though she came in the middle of the year. The smaller class sizes really helped; she was more in touch with her teachers and other kids. Academically it was much better for her. Expectations are high and she takes herself seriously as a student. When she was in fifth grade, there were so many kids out of line that whenever she tried to ask questions, she was told to wait until after class. At Windrush teachers don't always wait for kids to volunteer; they engage them directly, and everyone is expected to be prepared for class. I asked my daughter how she feels about that andshe said it9s great! She has always loved school, and now it9s even better. She says it9s a great feeli! ng to be able to participate and have somebody really listen to her. All of the middle school kids seem to be involved in lots of activities, but schoolwork always comes first. And they have fun with it! They call each other about homework and work on projects together. Socially, it's hard to imagine your daughter wouldn't slide right in to the Windrush routine. It's a very friendly and accepting community. To prepare for the transition, I would recommend walking around the campus and talking about the school a bit. We told my daugther just to visit and see how she liked it. When she came back from Windrush, she was said ''Ok, I'm ready to go there!'' It was so easy! I don't think even shy students would have a problem finding other kids like themselves. All of my daughter's friends are different, but they all seem to come together and hang out together.'' - Pamela, mother of 7th grader at Windrush

Sept 2005

Re: Looking at Prospect Sierra and Windrush

I thought I'd answer the Windrush vs. Prospect Sierra question as most responses have been from Prospect. My son is in his third year at Windrush and I am thrilled with his experience. I think what makes Windrush special is that it is a private school that is neither too touchy feely, too ''out-there,'' too elitist, or too achievement oriented. Rather, it is a great middle choice between a super progressive school and a super traditional school, plus it has a diverse student body that is 40% non-white and draws from various areas. It has a developmental philosophy that is played out by kids with varying learning styles being taught in a variety of ways that enable every child to feel successful, to learn what is needed at each grade, and to be engaged in fun ways. The staff is smart, responsive and caring to each family and it is a nurturing, ! creative environment that fosters respect and facilitates healthy communication between all its community members. I looked at Prospect and know many nice families who are happy there. My sense is that Prospect is much more academically-achievement oriented, has a much higher income base population that resides predominately in North Berkeley, and is bigger-feeling in terms of how it is governed than is Windrush. The facilities at Windrush are not as snazzy as Prospects, but they more than meet the needs of its students, especially the inviting grass playing field, the nice gym, and the chock-full-of-activites afterschool room. I believe that a family who wants a kind but challenging learning atmosphere, a simple but pleasant and engaging campus, a sensitive and approachable faculty, an involved group of unpretentious thoughtful parents, and a fun yet serious but-not-life-or-death- attitude towards elementary and middle scho! ol, would find a wonderful match in Windrush. Good luck with your choices. Happy Windrush Mom

My child attends WR, so I will comment on that school only.

As a Windrush parent, I must say that much of the information that was given by the three responses to your inquiry were simply outright false. First of all, there are two kindergarten classes (each with ten students), two first grade classes, and two second grade classes. One grade-per-class does not begin until third grade, and it has not been a problem in the least (we have a first grader and a fourth grader).

Thus far, in terms of report cards, we have only received very lengthy narratives at each ''grading'' period, not only from the grade teacher, but also from the Spanish teacher, the music teacher, the computer teacher, the art teacher, and the P.E. teacher. I continue to be amazed and moved at the time and effort that these teachers put into these evaluations, and how insightful they have been.

When our kindergarten daughter had trouble learning how to read, her teacher tried a variety of emerging literacy techniques with her, to see which one she responded to. She used sensory materials, hand movements, and a variety of other ''tested and approved'' methods to help her access reading. The teacher by no means taught reading strictly by phonics, nor did she fail to modify and adjust her teaching for each and every student in her class.

Students at WR are encouraged to ''talk it out,'' with the teacher's and/or the principal's help. They do a lot of work on conflict resolution, respectful talking and listening, and students seem to feel very empowered to work out their problems in ways that are dignified for all concerned. Teachers are extremely respectful of students, and students, in turn, treat each other with respect.

We have been very happy with our experience at WR. The administration has treated us with extreme thoughtfulness, the teachers are warm and engaging, the curriculum is novel and interesting, and our children feel that they are true members of a caring and supportive community.

Again, I would never dream of saying anything negative about PS, but I hope this has helped to shed a little light on our experience at Windrush. Good luck with your choice! Mary

I just wanted to weigh in on Windrush since most of the responses have been about Prospect Sierra. We are a Windrush family and couldn't be happier. My daughter is now starting her third year there as a second grader. All three teachers have been wonderful. The music, art, PE and Spanish programs have all been great. The academics is completely appropriate and my daughter is learning alot and enjoying the process of learning. I think that the person who judged Windrush just by virtue of one visit left with a lot of erroneous assumptions. Reading at Windrush is taught with a variety of methods, not just phonics as was surmised. The school totally adheres to a ''talk it out'' method of working out problems between children. My child feels safe addressing conflicts with other children primarily because of the very caring a! nd trusting environment in which she finds herself at Windrush. My child has gained great self- confidence, made great friends, brought home interesting art and is having a great learning experience. She has joined Chorus and loves that and the after school program is so fun most kids want to stay for it. While it is true that Windrush does not have a facility as nice as Prospect-Sierra's, the commitment to academics and to creating a nurturing environment for kids to learn and grow in is wonderful. And the facility itself is quite pleasant. There is a nice gym and a wonderful grassy area to play in and nice trees. It seems like a nice place to spend the day and my daughter certainly thinks so. They have a nice play structure and planting beds and a butterfly garden. It's a great school. dk

While I cannot speak about Prospect Sierra, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Windrush as a school choice for your precious children. My son is now in the first grade at Windrush, and we truly feel that he found his place. He is having a great time!

Our experience with Windrush has been very positive so far. It is a warm, relaxed, and supportive community for children to learn. Windrush offers stimulating, hands-on, and well designed interdisciplinary curriculum, but it is not too overloaded and stressful to children. For example, in my son's class this year, his teacher used one recent news about a giant squid found by Japanese scientists. They talked about where it was found, how deep it was in the oscean, how big and long it is, actually drew the actual size of its eyes, and drawing its length by inches and centimeter, and compared it with themselves. They had ''scquid dissection'' to learn about its body (and yummy calamari smell) too. Windrush also embrace each child's academical strength and weakness as a whole, and support positive learning in individual level. While my son was in Kindergarten, my son, who is bilingual and wrote and read better in his native language, one time refused to write in English. His teacher gave him an option to write stories in his own language, and later asked him to translate them orally to his friends during circle time. Althogh not in English, his story was an elabolate 17 pages adventure book! I appreciated his teacher for not rushing or forsing him to write in English, as language is merely a tool to express his or her thinking, and thinking skill, to us, is far more important than being able to write correctly and well in English. Later his English writing and reading skills catched up and now he reads well, as an avalage first grader, and writes wonderful stories. I felt the school understood his needs and strength, waited his English ability to follow, and made sure to provide right amount of opportunity for him to develop his English writing and reading skills.

Windrush is also a wonderful place as a community. Our situation was unique last year. When he was in Kindergarten, my son got seriously ill (cancer) a month after he started school, and had to be hospitalized for a month for chemotherapy. During this difficult time for our family, school and parents showed tremendous support to us in various ways. First, a letter was sent from our director, Lynn De Jonghe, to all Windrush community for supporting our family. Kindergarten teachers visited my son right after his hospitalization. His classmates sent drawings to my son and made a barner to hang to a wall. The Elementary school head, David Bond, crated a class activity DVD for him, which had messages from his classmates and showed classroom activities. After discharged from a hopsital, he could not return school right away either. His kinderg! arten teachers also created special ''at home'' kindergarten work for us to do, so he did the same thing when he could not go to school.

When he was ready to go back to school in late November, we needed to ask school to apply some new rules (hand washing) so that a classroom is safe for my son. We were obiously nervous to send him back to school. To make sure not only my son but his classmates feel positive about his return, teacher had lots of discussion about how to welcome my son to a classroom with his classmates beforehand. Children made some good rules by themselves and truly welcomed him. They were very caring to my son, and made sure that he is well protected and safe. The classroom environment was open so that my son could talk about his desease in his words, and he never seemed to have felt discriminated or sad.

Communication between teachers and us were excellent. His teachers were always checking with me ahead of time when they were planning some special activities such as touching fish, insects, and field trips, and see if it is safe for my son. At one point he lost his hair due to treatment. While it drew some curiousity from children in other grades and received some innocent questions about why he does not have hair, he was never teased by it, thus he never cared about wearing a hat. This unique experience truly told us that Windrush cares. Windrush cares about students in many levels, both academical and emotional. Windrush cares about its community. Feel free to e-mail me if you would like to learn more about our experience. Mika

June 2005

Re: Prospect Sierra - Grade 3 and Up

I understand you're looking at Prospect Sierra, but I'd like to put in a plug for Windrush School. I have and 8 year old, who just completed 2nd grade and a 12 year old who completed 6th grade.

Both of my children have had very good academic experiences at Windrush. The staff has been extremely supportive and the parent community has been very warm and inclusive. I've found the math and literacy programs in both elementary and middle school to be strong and, in response to your concern about foreign language, Windrush provides Spanish within the elementary curriculum to lower grades.

What I like most about Windrush is the holistic instruction provided by the teachers. The kids work on thematic projects, which provide learning across the curriculum spectrum. This past school year, my son experienced the most amazing education I've seen in an elementary school. They studied about Africa, birds and the Rain Forest, and worked on projects for each topic. The class invited parents to presentations of these projects in the evenings, where parents actively participated. Toward the end of the school year, the class invited parents to an Author's Night, where each student read a chosen piece from their own work to the parents. Afterwards, the students had a slumber party in the classroom.

I cannot say enough positive things about Windrush. I feel very fortunate to have my kids there. I encourage you to take a school tour in the fall. If you have any questions about the school, please don't hesitate to contact me. Beth

Jan 2005

We are really impressed with Windrush and are strongly considering sending our children to the school. However, we have heard through various indirect sources that the school suffers academically. Is this true? We have also been cautioned that its small class size may be a hindrance. We would appreciate hearing a direct response to these queries from any parents at the school. Thank you.

I have a first grader at Windrush and I couldn't be happier with the school. I heard some concerns also from kindergartner parents last year with respect to academics, but it didn't resonate with me at all. I think some of it may be due to, what appears to me, as an overemphasis on academics in the public school kindergartens. I think what they teach and how they teach at Windrush is totally developmentally appropriate. While not all the kids were reading at the end of kindergarten, I believe that all or most are reading in 1st grade. If you're into a very traditional academic approach, Windrush might not be for you. But if you're happier with a project based program that espouses a love of learning philosophy and that works for most children, Windrush is great. They let the kids do ''kid'' spelling in kindergarten and this really gave my daughter permission to write more creatively than she would otherwise have done. They are focusing more on conventional spelling in 1st grade. They did an intensive study on birds this year and my daughter learned alot. The reading, writing, math and science all seem very appropriate. I know that my daughter is learning alot and is very happy there. Also, I know she really enjoys the Spanish, art and music classes. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss it further. dk

Class size isn't the concern as much as how the teacher socially supports and encourages the children. My child is at Crestmont Co-op with only 14 kids in the class. I can honestly say they play together beautifully. They play in small groups and large groups. The teacher has done a great job helping them to get to know each other: parents come and tell their child's ''name story'' (how they got their name); during the daily sharing time, some children share their art, a rock they found, a joke. She is very good at helping them to communicate with each other, resolve conflicts, and she stays on top of the social dynamic. She has many ways for them to connect and get to know each other. Also, the kindergarteners do play with some of the older kids. The school has an inclusion policy that the children and parents support. Finally, in the beginning of the year, my child hurt the feelings of another child to the point where this child didn't want to come to school. The teacher immediately called me to let me know about this. The girl wrote a note to my daughter (it was easier than talking about it). My daughter wrote a note to the girl and it was resolved in a way that worked for everyone. So, ask questions regarding how the teachers foster the children's friendships and ways of getting to know each other, etc. grateful parent

In response to the parent who was impressed with Windrush but had heard that the school might not be strong academically: I have two kids at Windrush who excel academically by any number of measures: ERB scores in the 99th percentile, enthusiasm for learning, passion and accomplishment in science, Shakespeare, Spanish, and just about every other subject they've encountered. And they are not unusual - I'd say they're typical Windrush students. About 40% of Windrush kids qualify for the Johns Hopkins Gifted and Talented Program (which is based on ERB scores); but more importantly, all of them like to come to school, all the way up through middle school!

You can find a ''challenging'' curriculum at many schools - what distinguishes Windrush's approach is that the children welcome and rise to the challenge because their teachers know how to create enticing, developmentally appropriate, multifaceted learning activities which stimulate their curiosity, allow them to collaborate with others in finding solutions to problems, and challenge each student at just the right level.

Now that my older child is in Middle School, I really see the payoff to the Windrush philosophy of education. The middle school curriculum is very challenging; my child has to be very organized, independent and responsible in order to carry out the homework and classroom assignments. She has risen to the challenge with enthusiasm because (a) her teachers are amazing and she doesn't want to disappoint them, (b) the assignments are really interesting and (c) everything she's done at Windrush up to now has prepared her to ready to meet academically challenging material with competence, confidence and curiousity. I am in awe of the Windrush Middle School teachers and wish more kids could take advantage of this superb preparation for demanding high schools. I know Windrush graduates who are currently at demanding schools like Bentley, CPS, Lick Wilmerding, Marin Academy, as well as kids excelling at Berkeley High, and their parents all tell me how well Windrush prepared them to be enthusiastic students.

For an understanding of why the Windrush educational approach works so well to motivate students to learn both now and throughout life, you should come hear Deborah Stipek, Dean of Education of Stanford University, who is coming to speak at Windrush on February 1st. (You may also want to pick up her book, ''Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning'' - the pages on choosing an ideal elementary school on page 202 describes Windrush exactly!) It's nice to have the research to back up what we felt intuitively when we first came to Windrush - this is a place where the academic approach is meaningful; teaching to the test or flashcards in kindergarten have no place here. Instead you'll find kids with their hands up, their eyes open, and their minds on! As my father (who is not only a proud grandparent, but also is a well-known educational researcher) says, whenever he visits Windrush, ''this is the way school is supposed to be.'' =Fortunate to be at Windrush=

We did not find Windrush challenging enough for our son, academically. He was happy socially and so that meant a lot to us. Eventually, however, he moved on to King Middle School where he was able to take Geometry at Berkeley High as an 8th grader at King. ERB scores relate more to a student's comfort level and standardized test-taking abilities than it does to the school that the child attends. I do not credit Windrush for my son's high ERB scores. There were very bright children in his class, getting As, who did mediocrely on the ERBs. Some kids are good standardized test-takers, and some are not. You also have to factor into the equation that kids are not only being tutored for the SATs now but also for the ERBs, so it is hard to know to what to attribute ERB performance. Former Windrush Mom

Jan 2005

Recent comments on Windrush have been interesting. Can some parents of children with learning disabilities or special issues comment on how the school has responded to their child's needs? Thank you! -Visits aren't enough

I have two children with significant learning differences who have attended Windrush. Though I love the school and the parent community, in neither case was the school able to successfully address my children's needs. However, I suspect the same would have been the case at any of the small private schools in the area. In the early grades at Windrush the teachers were very supportive and flexible in working with both of my children. In fact, in both cases, a very experienced teacher identified learning differences far before I did. For this I am extremely grateful. It enabled me to proceed with testing to identify the nature of the ''differences'' along with appropriate startegies for addressing them much earlier than would otherwise have been the case. The school also has two very good learning specialists who can do initial screening, provide advice as to how to proceed, and some advice for teachers. Unfortunately the learning specialists' hours are extremely limited, thus limiting what they are able to accomplish and they are not available to work one-on-one with individual children.

While Windrush prides itself on being a school for all kinds of learners, that is in fact an overstatement. Certainly the school is willing and able to work well with a wider range of learners than some of the traditional academic schools. But it is a small school, and teachers can only accomodate so much. My older child fell outside of this range and now is doing very well at Raskob Day School. My younger child may soon be joining her. ak

Nov 2004

Re: School for bright 7th grader diagnosed with Selective Mutism
Check out Windrush in El Cerrito. In my book they rank "good" in academics and "superior" in social support/values/community building.

Nov 2003

Windrush? General impressions? Expense for house poor ''middle class'' family?

My son is a Windrush kindergartner and he loves school! Outside of his ringing endorsement, I've been impressed myself. There are 14 kids in his class, and 14 in the adjoining class of kindergartners. With a shared aide and a teacher for each class, the adult/student ratio is remarkably low. There is an absolutely outstanding art program and a first-rate music program, as well as Spanish and library visits every week.

The parent involvement at Windrush is phenomenal, especially given the economic and cultural diversity of the community. (The tuition is relatively low for private school, but that's still an enormous amount compared to public school.) Many different kinds of families exist at all levels. The ethnic diversity leaves a lot to be desired, but it's the only weakness in an array of strengths.

For me, the students themselves are the best selling point of this school. As a former middle school teacher myself, I have been shocked (though delighted) that I have not yet met a rude kid in this K-8 school of 250 students. Impatient, impulsive, playful - yes. Rude, inconsiderate, or hurtful - no. I've been on campus a LOT over the last month, and seen all levels of kids out at play, in the office, and transitioning between classes, and NOBODY has been mean to anyone. One recent example comes to mind: my son enjoys some things that may seem ''feminine'' to others, such as a hair bow sometimes. He was teased at preschool, but not here. Nobody teased him or gave him any reason to think his brightly colored bow was unusual in any way, not even the other kindergartners.

If I'm going to leave my child some place without me for hours on end, every day, that's the kind of environment that makes me feel comfortable about doing it. I couldn't recommend Windrush more highly.

Happy Kindergarten Mom

I highly recommend Windrush elementary School in El Cerrito. My child started here in the later elementary grades last year and immediately felt a part of a community. The school prides itself in teaching critical thinking, as well as the fundamentals of academics. NO TEACHING TO THE TEST, yet the kids still seem to test highly on the Independent School Exams. There is a major emphasis on social interaction as it relates to peers, the school & outside community ? as well as helping the environment. Bottom line - the students are engaged and love learning.

At our Welcome to New parents Night, I was in shock when the elementary school head genuinely invited parents to approach administration with any issues or problems that couldn't be resolved in the classroom. I haven't had to use to use that opportunity because the teachers have been so energetic, talented, capable, concerned and approachable. I love the fact that Spanish, Art/Drama & Music are incorporated into the curriculum. Having a gymnasium and PE teacher are wonderful extras. The Parents' association is extremely inclusive and focuses on the kids needs - not egos. The teachers work well with parents and admin, and the kids adore them. The entire school has a buddy program. The middle schoolers are very protective and respectful of the littler ones. Each younger kid has a buddy in the 5- 8th grade with whom they meet once approx. 1/month. It all adds to the community feeling. My child loves going to school every day. All of this is a big change for us from our public school experience!

The after-school program is incredibly nurturing and has something for both the physically and artistically inclined, or for those who would like to be. The fifth graders have their own corner. To me, the facilities look like a large home rec. room with art studio.

No school is perfect and Windrush elementary could use some improvement in its ethnic diversity. It seems to be much better in Middle school.

As you can tell, my expectations have been more than met. There?s not enough space to tell you everything. If you have any questions about the older elementary grades or the school philosophy, feel free to e-mail me. If you have a potential kindergartner, I can refer you to other Windrush Parents who can address those questions. Good luck in your search!

Happy Windrush Parent

While it has been several years since my daughter went to Windrush, and things may have changed, her experience there (grades 4-8) was not entirely positive (yours may be different).

Academically it is an excellent, challenging and engaging school with dedicated teachers (some more prepared than others -- my daughter says she had an English teacher who insisted that JD Salinger was a woman).

Socially it can be more difficult. Despite being relatively small, there are still cliques and it can be difficult to fit in. My daughter complained that she was teased a lot, which the school wasn't aware of until we brought it to their attention. My daughter said that kids know better than to do it in front of the teachers, but that doesn't stop them from doing it. The school wasn't completely supportive, either. According to my daughter, she was told things like ''I'm sure he didn't really mean it''.

We ended up pulling her out in the middle of 8th grade and sending her back to public school, where she is thriving.

anonymous parent

I just read the posting from a parent who was unhappy with the social scene at Windrush, and felt I ought to comment. Our daughter, an 8th grader who came to the school in 6th for middle school, has been completely happy there. I think social life may vary from class to class, and she may just be lucky to be in a class of really nice kids, but -- it does seem to me that the school makes real attempts to foster kindness and inclusion in the kids. She has really flourished -- the school is academically demanding, but she's having a lot of fun. I like all of her teachers this year a great deal. She's working hard and is happy to be there. She's got a great group of friends, but it seems in general (to a parent, at least) that the kids are all pretty inclusive and welcoming. It also seems to me that when I compare my daughter's class to classes of her friends and age-mates at other schools, I see far less make-up at Windrush. I'm not sure how this is achieved, but it does seem to me that the kids are not in such a rush to look like they're 17 at Windrush. Anonymous

Dec. 2002

I've checked previous recommendations about Black Pine Circle and Windrush schools, but have found the entries from 1997 - 1999. Since schools/teachers change, I'm wondering if anyone has recent feedback about these 2 private schools (especially kindergarden, since much of the feedback is on the older classes). thanks betty

Hi -- We only know about the middle school at Windrush, but we are really happy. The facility is good. The teachers are excellent. The kids are very nice (and I don't think this is an accident.) Lately, I've been really impressed with the director. She has a background in education -- which seems like an obvious sort of thing but is not actually a requirement in private schools. She's a very smart woman, and she also seems to be fairly sensible, too. Anyway -- we are quite happy with the middle school. Our daughter is happy, and she's getting a good education, too. ctarr

We have two children at Windrush, one of whom was in Kindergarten last year. There aren't enough superlatives to describe my youngest daughter's kindergarten teacher, Shawn Brokemond, who came to Windrush two years ago from Marin Country Day School, and boy, are we lucky she made the move to Windrush! Shawn is smart, dedicated, thoughful, creative, and devoted to working with the children to meet and move them on every level - social, emotional, academic, artistic... I volunteered in the classroom, and it gave me the deepest respect for what she does (as well as the clear understanding that teaching kindergarten is no piece of cake!)

My kids have so far had 6 different teachers at Windrush, and five of them have been people that I wished I could adopt, or marry, or somehow bring into my family - they were that good! (The other one was competent but just not as inspiring.) The head of the lower school, Matt Ellinger, is a superb educator, an experienced teacher, an honest, caring and decent human being whom we are privileged to have had devote most of his adult life to Windrush. Our director, Lynn De Jonghe, is passionate about the school and has been instrumental in helping the board, staff and faculty carry out the mission of nurturing growing minds. Oh, and the afterschool - we have to drag our kids kicking and screaming away from it. They don't want to go home!

Three years ago we briefly hit a rocky patch with the departure of the two teachers (who were married), well respected educators but with points of view which clashed with others. We also lost some middle school teachers at the same time for unrelated reasons. A last minute replacement in the kindergarten didn't work out, and that's when Shawn was hired, thank goodness! She and her co-teacher, Kathleen, make a great team, and the school is on very solid ground with a terrific group of teachers in the lower school (I don't know the middle school yet, but I've been told about several excellent ones.)

Every school goes through ups and downs at some point. It's important to get a sense of the board, community, administration and faculty to see whether there is a strong sense of mission which will carry the school over the inevitable bumps in ther road. Talk to everyone you can.

One last word of advice - don't forget to look beyond kindergarten! Your child will have many teachers, and you want to get a sense of the faculty, curriculum, and philosophy overall. Ask lots of questions, visit more than once, and ask for names of current parents to talk to. No school is perfect, but some will certainly be a better fit with your family and child than others. Find ways to be positively involved with whatever school you choose.

Good luck! =Windrush Parent=

October 1999

we have both of our kids (a girl in 2nd grade and a boy in 5th grade) at Windrush and have been there since kindergarten. We are very happy with the school, and I encourage you to take a tour and see for yourself the feel of the classrooms, get a sense of the style of teaching and the warm and inclusive atmosphere. The grounds are beautiful, the school is very supportive of working families (including a before-school program that begins at 7:00AM and an after-school until 6:00PM). There's even an after-school program for middle school, which I find reassuring for next year. The school works hard to teach how to make good decisions and to learn about things in depth - the speciality classes, art, music, physical education, spanish and computers, are excellent, and the teachers are incredibly devoted. Class size is very small so there's plenty of attention for all the students. Helen

We have a daughter in first grade at Windrush, but we seriously considered Prospect-Sierra as well. Windrush and Prospect-Sierra are similar in many respects; most families at P-S would be happy at Windrush, and vice versa. (The developmentally based curriculum is virtually identical.) I wouldn't call the differences between them "positive" or "negative" in the abstract; it simply depends on what fits best with your family and child's needs and expectations. But here are the differences I have observed, based on my encounters with both schools (I have many friends who are at P-S), as well as reasons why some of the differences were important to us.

Size: Prospect Sierra has almost 500 students, Windrush has 250. P-S is split between two campuses (K-4 and 5-8). Windrush is on one campus. We liked having the older kids on the same campus at Windrush, as this made their "buddy" program much stronger. We also thought that 5th graders didn't belong at the middle school. Kindergarten at Windrush has two classes of 13 kids, and grades 1-5 have 16 to 20 kids per class. Prospect Sierra has two classes per grade, including K, with 22-24 kids per class. For us the smaller class size was a plus. In the lower grades most kids find it easier to manage fewer social relationships. If your kid is outgoing, they might be okay in a larger classroom. But we liked the feeling that kids don't "get lost", and both parents and kids have told me that at Windrush the smaller class size means there is much less of a tendency for kids to form exclusive cliques. We did worry that there wouldn't be enough kids to find a "best friend", and that absolutely hasn't been the case. The teachers certainly enjoy having a smaller class.

Tuition and Socioeconomic Diversity: Windrush tuition is significantly lower than P-S. Windrush tries to keep their tuition lower than comparable schools in order to attract a more socio-economically diverse student body. (Other schools try to achieve this through scholarships, but this leads to a bi-modal distribution, with the wealthy and the scholarship groups, but at Windrush you get more of a continuum.) We worried that this might mean that teacher salaries aren't competitive, but teachers I've talked to have said they're close enough, and again they find the smaller class size to be a plus. A wealthier parent body at P-S probably means that they have more resources to draw upon for fundraisers, but for parents of moderate means, or more affluent families who prefer that their kids not take affluence for granted, Windrush may be a more comfortable fit.

Families/Students: Prospect-Sierra draws heavily from Berkeley (60%) and surrounding communities, while Windrush has just under 50% from Berkeley, and a significant percentage from El Cerrito and north. Since we're from Berkeley, that gave us pause. However, it turns out that half of the kindergarten class is from Berkeley, which is plenty. Windrush and P-S are probably similar as far as the ethnic makeup of the student body, but along with the greater socioeconomic diversity at Windrush there is also a real commitment to seeking out and working with kids who have different types of "intelligences" (musical, mathematical, literary, social...), so it doesn't feel competitive - kids learn from other kids who have different learning styles and strengths. Site: The Windrush campus is 4 acres on a hill with lovely views and extensive landscaping; small trees to climb, rocks to play on, and the buildings have a lot of character - it was formerly an orphanage for Chinese boys built about 80 years ago. The Prospect-Sierra facilities were both formerly public schools, with buildings much like those I attended in the 1960's.

After-School Program: The Windrush program is acknowledged to be one of the best in the area. We have friends at P-S who send their kids to Windrush for the summer program (which is run by the afterschool director), and they've told us that they wish their afterschool program were as good. If your child is going to spend significant after-hours at school, you may want to find out more about how each school runs that program. I'm sure there are many strengths at P-S that I don't know about, and a P-S parent can step in here to fill you in. Good luck in figuring out what works best for you. Be sure to go to both the open houses and the tours at both schools, and ask the admissions offices for parents to talk to. Also, check out the Neighborhood Moms directories for more information, as well as the School Daze web page:

November 1998

I recently read very positive things that had been written about Windrush School. I went to Windrush in 4th grade and graduated from there. I am now 17 and in high school and am still very close to all my Windrush friends, some of whom i have known since I visited there in 3rd grade. It was a very positive experience. I was there when Becky was the director, and then Elizabeth. It was one of the best experiences of my life socially and academically.

I would definitely recommend sending your child there. When I arrived in fourth grade from Black Pine Circle, I was behind in math due to a lack of mathematical education at BPC. However my fourth grade teacher Martha helped me get back on track and from then on I was never behind. I do not know the new director and many of the faculty now, as I graduated years ago, but I know it still follows the old principles and mission, and that, with the atmosphere is what makes Windrush a great place. Almost everyone in my 8th grade class agrees to this day that eighth grade at Windrush was one of the best years of our lives. The old Windrush slogan "Windrush..a community supporting one another" may be corny but it was true. Leah

Our daughter is in kindergarten at Windrush, where we couldn't be happier (aside from lingering guilt about not being in a public school.) We applied to Windrush, Prospect-Sierra and Head Royce (and also strongly considered Park Day, St. Paul's and Black Pine Circle) because we were looking for schools which took a developmental approach to education, placing academics in the context of the development of a well-rounded, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent person. We were particularly drawn to Windrush for a number of reasons. First of all, during the stressful process of school tours, open houses and "interviews", we felt that we were consistently treated most humanely at Windrush. We were made to feel genuinely welcome, we were given many opportunities to ask questions, and the Admissions Director, Harriet Finkelstein, was so kind, thoughtful, and available, that we never felt any hesitation in calling her to ask just one more question. We didn't feel, as we did at some of the other schools, like pathetic supplicants, granted only brief peeks at the school which would be taking our child and tuition money.

We also chose Windrush over the others because we liked the smaller class size. There are 13 children in two kindergartens, so there is a nice small group for the child to initially bond with, but they can expand their world to 26 children when they're ready for more friends (the two classes engage in field trips, recess, and singing together). The older grades have 16 to 18 per class. At first I was concerned that such a small class might not yield enough kids for a child to find a "best friend". However, one of the things that Windrush does well is to make sure that each child finds a way to get along with every other child. There is less room for forming exclusive cliques in small groups. There is also a buddy system, so my daughter basks in the attention of a sixth grader (Windrush is K-8 on one campus). She has met 3rd graders who showed her tricks on the monkey bars, and she has an art class and a cooking class with older kids.

I volunteer in the classroom for two hours once a week, and it's been delightful to have that window on the kindergarten world. (My daughter sometimes deigns to tell me something of her day, but the nuggets of information are still precious and few.) The teachers, Buff Bradley and Annette Bauer, exceed my expectations. Annette brought in masks from Chinese Opera and the kids discussed the symbolism of color used in those masks, and made their own. They went to SFMOMA for the Calder exhibit and made their own mobiles and stabiles after figuring out the concept of balancing weights. There is no homework or worksheets per se, but my daughter is learning to read and write quite naturally, just through the daily activities of reading aloud, dictating stories in her journals, etc. She is learning math through identifying patterns, counting the days of schools and sorting objects into groups of 5 and 10. Windrush is not the only school to take this approach...I've compared notes with friends at other schools and many are doing the same activities. It's important to remember that there is no such thing as "the best school", but some schools will fit your families needs better than others. The differences between many of the schools resides more in things like the campus, location, "feel", the types of families there (income, ethnicity, attitude), after-school programs, tuition, etc. Test score differences between schools such as the ones we considered were not statistically significant, and for the most part reflect the selection process, not differences in curriculum or teacher quality. Windrush kids go on to CPS and other selective private high schools as well as schools like Berkeley High. The middle school is superb, and particularly known for its strength in science.

Another reason we chose Windrush is that we wanted the quality of a private school without putting our children into a protected bubble with affluent families. Windrush's tuition is kept somewhat lower than comparable schools, so there is less of the barbell effect, with one side weighted toward the wealthy and the other toward the kids on scholarship. There are more middle income people at the school, as well as a strong scholarship program. It is a very unpretentious environment. The children are fairly diverse (the D word) for kids in a private school. My daughter's class is both ethnically diverse (50% anglo, 50% something else) as well as diverse in personality, abilities, and family structure & background.

The after-school program is superb. There are classes, such as painting, science, baking, and music, as well as time for free play, sports, or directed activities by the after school staff. The first time I left my daughter in after-school she didn't want to leave. I came to pick her up at 4:30 (two hours after regular school lets out) and she said "Mom, you're here too early!"

We also love the campus, which has hills and trees and rocks and an interesting main building (it used to be a school for Chinese orphans). There is no substitute for visiting a school as much as possible. Loiter on the playground, accost parents, do whatever it takes to get a better feel for the schools.


June 1997

For all those interested in middle schools, if you are thinking private schools, please check out Windrush School in El Cerrito (just above the Del Norte Bart Station). My son is just finishing 2nd grade there, but from what I've seen of the middle school kids, they are doing something right. The older kids are "buddies" to the younger kids, and get together with them once a month. This year, the 8th graders visited my daughter's pre-school down the street once a month, and my daughter speaks rapturously of each visit. The academics are strong, the creativity and freedom high, and the kids meet your eyes and say a clear hi when you run into them on campus. By the way, I believe they still have a few openings in elementary and possibly middle school, if you are looking for next fall. Their phone number is 970-7580.


My son, who started Windrush in kindergarten, is now in the third grade at Windrush. He was also diagnosed with a learning disability between first and second grade. His first grade teacher told us about it and kept after us until we had him tested. His second grade teacher worked directly with his learning specialist all last year and had periodic meetings with all of the resource people we hired to help him. As a result, this year he is starting out with great self-confidence from all of the help and acceptance he received at school. This sounds like a morality tale, and I don't mean to be so black and white about it, but this was my experience. I am sure there are many other points of view out there. Jean

March 1998

Our daughter was fortunate to be accepted at Windrush too (and Black Pine Circle, and waitlisted at Bentley). What can I say about Windrush as a potential incoming parent? Of all the schools I visited, I was most impressed with Windrush overall. My impression was that the administration (esp. Harriet Finkelstein) have their act together. Children there seemed very happy and involved and their work as exhibited on classroom and hallway walls was impressive (I was especially surprised by the handwriting quality of the 4th grade class). Windrush doesn't have as broad a language and arts program as does Bentley, nor do they come close to the emphasis on music at BPC. When compared to these other 2 schools, Windrush seemed to have the best defined education philosophy while the teaching staff seemed comparable. I visited Windrush last of all the schools and was left with the strongest and most positive feelings. Clearly, Harriet is very personable and articulate; her excitement about the school was genuine and infectious.

Unlike Bentley and BPC, there were no obvious negatives at Windrush (Bentley leaves me worried about child - and maybe parent - burnout; BPC has limited facilities and outdoor play area).

- Anon.

To the person who is concerned about the level of academics at Windrush, please don't worry! The Windrush ERB scores are similar to those you'd find at Prospect-Sierra, Head-Royce, and any of the other hyphenated schools! The teachers are superb, the kids are bright, and the administration is committed to "excellence without exclusivity." If your child is ready for an accelerated curriculum, she will be challenged, and if your child needs extra help in some area, she will be given the help she needs. I don't know why people assume Windrush might not be academic enough - believe it or not it is possible for a school to both be a friendly place and an excellent school!

The new director, Lynn De Jonghe, has a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and was most recently at the Athenian School, which has a strong academic reputation. She is a very caring, thoughtful person who will carry out Windrush's mission of challenging academics in a supportive community. We parents are delighted that she is taking over from Elizabeth Fox, who is leaving to spend more time with her young daughter. I know that my own daughter is getting an excellent education in a very caring community. The kids who come from our middle school have done very well at being accepted to some of the most selective high schools. If you like the feel of Windrush, then I'm sure you'll be happy here and pleased with the curriculum.


Having two kids at Windrush now, a daughter in K and a son in 3rd, here's my view of Windrush' academic program. The academic emphasis in K and 1st is not very obvious - they spend a lot of energy on skill building, especially social skills. They do lots of math/science/reading activities, but are not pressured/tested/made to perform in any way the kids are aware of. This starts to change in 2nd grade, where they get "homework," have some spelling and phonics type work, and do more work that is recognizably academic. By 3rd grade, it all gets very real, with daily homework in specific subject areas, weekly spelling and math tests, research and report writing - all very specific and academic. I hear that this trend continues, and that the academics in 4th and 5th, and then middle school are at a very high level, and that the graduating middle schoolers get into the high schools of their choice. The child's progress is tracked individually and as it relates to whether or not they are at grade level for every subject. For instance, my son has had troubles with reading/writing/spelling throughout these years, and each teacher has worked on specific problem areas to help him get to where he needs to be. This has included us having him tested to make sure there were no learning disabilities (there don't appear to be), special assignments in phonics and basic rules, and some individual tutoring before school starts. He is doing better (although I think he will be one of those people who just can't spell) and the support has been there for us. He has never been made to feel that he is doing poorly, only that he has areas which need extra work. The school works hard to make each kid feel special and valued, and their self-esteem is important. I am happy to answer any questions individually, so feel free to contact me. Helen

June 1996

If anyone is looking into private schools, I strongly recommend Windrush - they offer K-8 on a 4 acre beautiful site, with excellent staff and great programs including art, music, Spanish and computers (along with the regular stuff). Classes are small 12-16 in grades K-2, 20 in grades 3-8. One of the best things about Windrush is the excellent after-school program. I believe they have a few openings in certain grades for the Fall, and I'd be happy to talk to anyone interested.

To Kay, looking for a good summer camp for next year - I highly recommend Windrush's summer program. The school is located above the Del Norte Bart station in El Cerrito. They offer weekly sessions all summer except the first and last weeks. Cost this year was $180 per week for full days (7:00AM - 6:00PM), slightly less for shorter days (8:30-3:30). They do lots of interesting activities, from arts and crafts to sports, with usually 2 field trips per week to places like MarineWorld, A's game, Crown Beach, IceLand, etc. They have one overnight camping trip and this year had one overnight at the school. The first 3 weeks included swimming lessons at the El Cerrito pool most mornings. They had about 50 kids this summer, ranging from K-5th Grade. My son attends the school and is of course familiar with the staff (they also run the after-school program during the year teach some of the art/drama classes) but the kids who do not attend the school seem very happy and fit right in. My son has made friends with some of them summer to summer (this is his second summer there, and he is entering 2nd grade).

By the way, I understand that there is still one opening for a 2nd grade boy for the Fall, so if anyone is interested, please contact the school at 970-7580. From: Helen