All public schools have their limitations, but given the financial and legislative restraints, Cragmont does an excellent job. Yes, the common core math is repetitive and rudimentary, but the school doesn't have the funding for differentiated learning.
So, that said, here is the wonderful: we have twins in kindergarten. Principal Fortich is warm, communicative, and welcoming. She seems to know everything about everyone at the school and cares deeply about our children as people and as learners.
Our kindergarten teacher is exceptional. She knows how to foster confidence and excitement about learning. Our children adore her and feel extremely safe in her classroom.
The PTA funds art, science, gardening, singing, and dance classes during the school day.
We see our kids using the social emotional learning tools that are part of the curriculum in their daily lives.
Is it perfect? Far from it, but on the whole, we are very, very impressed.
Kindergarten is a total loss for our child. He's bored, he's showing less creativity than he did before school, and he doesn't like to go. It's probably ok for kids who struggle to read, but that's the only emphasis: reading and math. Constant worksheets. Repetitive homework packages every week. If you can afford an alternative, don't hesitate. BUSD isn't geared toward kids who are prepared and love to learn.
I have been a parent at Cragmont for several years. I agree with a previous reviewer that the school office administrator is rude, passive aggressive and flat our unfriendly the majority of the time. It is very unfortunate that parents feel intimidated and uncomfortable communication anything through this employee. I will never understand why it's tolerated. There are many great teachers at Cragmont, a strong PTA, and good enrichment (although we just lost our art room). However, if there is a problem with a teacher, I feel the parent input is undervalued and it is very difficult to affect any change.
I wanted to share some more recent experiences with Cragmont, as many of these reviews are dated. I have two children at Cragmont and am very satisfied with the academics as well as the enrichment. There is a small but very dedicated core PTA there and parental involvment is increasing with each year I have been there. Due to the strong and effective PTA, there is a wide array of enrichment. Dance, art, theater, MOSAIC, PE, music and garden. The most important thing I have experienced is that the vast majority of the kids here are kind, unspoiled, and used to living in a diverse environment. This attitude of caring and kindness is fostered by a great teaching staff. Cragmont is a gem if you are lucky enough to get in.
Cragmont Elementary has been a very good school in most aspects. The issue that we have is that the office administrator is an obstructionist, petty, not even handed, and feared by many parents. We had to take our child out of school for a week of vacation last year. Our child performs at a very high level (GATE program, etc) and this vacation was educational. The admin refused to give us an independent study packet and threatened that we'd likely receive two truancy letters (we received one). Later in the year, we found out that two other families took their children out of school for longer vacations and they were given independent study packets, and never received truancy letters!? Both of these families are friendly with the admin. Although our child is not often absent, this year, the admin has asked for doctor's notes. We feel like we are being harassed (legal counsel?)! Other parents fear the admin because she imposes trivial rules, and behaves like a petty bureaucrat instead of acting as a facilitator. Although we are quite active in the school, we certainly won't miss this aspect of an otherwise great school. The admin has really colored our years spent here.
The principal's dishonesty and lack of clarity in communications with parents and other community members trickles down through teachers and staff. Teachers are for the most part very good, but lack of oversight has brought the teaching quality way down over the past few years. Students are experiencing much more bullying and lack of respect from both fellow students and, surprisingly, staff members. We couldn't keep our children there, for both our sanity and their well-being, and were fortunate to be able to transfer both to another school at the same time.
I have two children at Cragmont and I have been very happy with it. We have had excellent teachers and I know that it has the highest parent participation of almost any Berkeley school. I think the principal is very good. I've found her very responsive. Cragmont does have some challenges. We have the one of the biggest "learning gaps" of any school in California, so despite the great teachers, they are dealing with such diversity in the classroom that it would be hard for any one teacher to address all individual needs. I love the families and the community here. Unfortunately, there is a small but loud minority of very entitled parents who spend more time complaining than they do supporting the school/teachers. But despite the small group of nasty parents, the rest of us love the school!
It has a great garden program where children sample fresh (like pulled right out of the soil) vegetables and fruits, and learn to love them! They have a great dance program, art, as well as a strong academics program, with many layers of assistance for struggling students. The library is gorgeous, the whole school has a fantastic view of the San Francisco Bay, and the teachers... They are these fantastic human beings that do a job so good I can't even imagine how they do it! motivating struggling students,pushing the high achieving ones, and mediating all the interpersonal issues. I am so happy with this school!
I'd just like to say that Cragmont was my first choice and my son got in. So it always worth a try. My son is both gifted and Talented (determined by STARS testing) and at the same time lower incomed. So how can ther focus on 1 vs. the other when some children are both. Cragmont is a great school coming from the mother of a 5th grader, who started in kindergarten. Helping the lower income is great because a lot of them are brilliant.