This school a really nice community for kids, parents, and teachers. It is now the designated elementary school, district-wide, for Berkeley's Dual Immersion Spanish/English program. The new Principal is great and teachers love their kids and are responsive to parents. I was skeptical about BUSD at first but really think they do a good job!
I am a proud parent to a Le Conte learner. My son has been attending Le Conte elementary since kindergarten. He is a second grader now. We are in the dual-immersion program. He REALLY loves his school and actually likes to go to school. I have met some pretty amazing parents, kids and teachers. Principal Wilson knows all the kids by first name, she truly loves her job and it shows.
Pros: -Great Principal -Nice Playground/yard area -Great teachers. Dedicated and talented teaching staff (mostly...that's public school) Cons: -A couple weak teachers -Slight racial tension (normal urban school levels) -Anemic parent involvement (though strongly improving) Overall synopsis: I'm happy with the school. The staff and involved parents are dedicated to creating a positive learning environment for all. Unfortunately, a number of kids there seem to be quite unsupported by their families and show up for school unready to take advantage of it. Every kindergarten class will have kids who have been read to every day sitting alongside kids whose parents have never read them a book. The staff does a fantastic job of serving those very different groups. If you are involved in your child's education, this could be a good school for you. If you expect the best but won't work for it, go private. I have never second-guessed my decision to send my child to LeConte.
There is some truth to a feeling of segregation between dual immersion and regular programs at all the TWI schools, my experience at LeConte is that most of the teachers in both programs are very good with only 1 or 2 exceptions - out of 15 teachers (similar proportion is true at many Berkeley schools not just the ones with the TWI/English divisions). So yes I know 2 boys have had one 'bad' year each in our total 8 teachers so far (3rd and 5th with experience in both programs). I think LeConte has exceptionally good K, 1 & 4-5 teachers and actually a high level of integration of the 'tracks' by 4th grade through mixed am/pm classes. The mix used to be 1 TWI and 2 english tracks so that dynamic of limited cohorts was reversed and sometimes it just doesn't work for a child - but no disaster!
What a disaster. While it appears that the dual immersion program here is good and well-supported, the rest of the school is a mess. Our child has had a terrible experience here, and we hear the same from other parents in the English only track. We have a teacher we like, but there is chaos in the class and lack of supervision on the playground. Because Le Conte has the lowest scores in the Southeast Zone and a less-than-desirable reputation, it is the last choice for families in this zone, unless they are requesting the school because they want the dual immersion program. That means that the English-only classrooms are the dumping ground for this zone. Additionally, because there is only one English-only classroom per grade, there is no possibility for moving kids around when you get a class with a bad group dynamic. Sad.
Now into our second year at LeConte, I cannot imagine a better public school for our son. Why? It is a small, culturally-diverse, friendly community led by a phenomenal principal: Cheryl Wilson knows and genuinely interacts with each student, practices what she preaches which is to put people 1st over paperwork, is a skilled administrator/manager (so the paperwork somehow does get done) and academically the school is making gains, her leadership sets the tone for the entire school -- inviting, inclusive, engaging, and safe. The dedicated teachers and staff specialists are also nurturing, gifted educators. From cooking, farm and garden to music, dance and art, the integrated curriculum provides an enhanced learning environment. Coming from another school district, we told friends we moved to LeConte for the organic food served...enriching after-school offerings, as well as the chickens visible from the lovely library are other parent and kid-pleasing plusses.
I confess that I was nervous about LeConte when we were assigned this school from the district, but my worries have been more than put to rest. My daughter has had a wonderful experience at this school. The principal is FANTASTIC! Not only does she know every child by name, but she makes an effort to develop a personal relationship with each of them - far more than anyone should expect from a principal. Her warmth, enthusiasm and dedication permeates the atmosphere. The teachers are caring, creative and involved. Parent involvement is growing and building upon some highly dedicated individual volunteers. All students receive enrichment classes in farm & garden, cooking, art, music, library & PE. And the after school program is wonderful with tie-ins to class curriculum. LeConte is a school where children feel safe, excited and appreciated: just exactly the right kind of environment conducive to good learning.
Although we had some trepidations at first, LeConte has been a pleasant surprise in so many ways. Perhaps most importantly, the teachers are accomplished, communicative, and committed--and inspired by a great principal (I can't imagine someone better or more energetic). But that's not all: wonderful, creative after-school enrichment classes and programs; a cooking and farm & garden program that must be among the best in the country (few private schools could match this); visits and readings from authors and illustrators; a librarian who's a reading guru; engaging field trips--and a tight bunch of involved, active parents who contribute on so many levels. The school is going to be renovated this summer, so things just keep getting better at LeConte.