I have been a parent at Santiago Hills for 11 years. I have seen 4 principal come and go. Over the years the school has continuously improved. The leadership of the current principal is beyond compare. He puts the children first. This year has seen significant change and is taking some time for adjustment with many new staff members. However, the children are still thriving. The amount of new staff is due to retirement, illness, and significant school growth. Yes, the school has a great APPAS program. Acceptance to this program is done at the district level. The principal and APPAS teachers do not have a say in this matter. I have written this in response to the angry, disgruntled person who wrote the review below. I have been actively involved in the PTA at Santiago Hills and have never been shown favoritism and that includes my child not being accepted into the APPAS program. He simply did not get in because his test scores and grades were not as strong as the 34 students that were accepted into Santiago Hills 4th grade APPAS program.
To the parent below me. I just moved here from private school and I think you need to check your facts. The teachers are excellent and Mr. Pace is a wonderful principal. I had a terrible principal at the private school and he knew that and knows how I watch over everything and he is still easy to talk with and supportive.
Don't come to this school unless your child is accepted to APAAS. As the previous reviews, no academic advancement/challenge for advanced kids. The teacher and the principal don't care about them since they believe APAAS already covers smart children enough. Homework and projects in this school are not efficient since most teachers are lazy to think better for children. Even an APAAS teacher used the same questions with ones in previous years, so that my neighborhood made their child memorize several paragraphs for the test. Principal C, please check your writings with your children before you send them out to the parents. After reading several emails from you, my older one who used be in this school sincerely recommends you to attend Mrs. Manchester's class to learn how to write.
I have been a long time parent here. SH used to be great, but now it has one of the highest teacher turnover rate. New principal brought many new teachers who are nice but academically incompetent, and many good teachers, old and new, don't stay because principal is on power trip and acts like a dictator. Principal is so incompetent the district had to do a survey - not in other schools. API and STAR scores lowest in SH history and are sliding down a steep slope, while the school is going drastically downhill. School has strange policies not found in other schools, such as room reps needing teacher approval and school sends "supervisors" to supervise volunteer parents, who are in clear view of teachers. Many long-time PTA committee members quit due to low morale and because they can't stand the principal. PTA activities are virtually none compared to before. School culture is based on sycophantism and flattery, not merit system as it used to be. No academic advancement/challenge for smart kids but only praise for mediocrity. School is so problematic the district has already intervened on several occasions.
My school is great because of all of the teachers, PTA members, front office staff, nurse and principal. Everyone is very helpful & my children have been attending for 4 years. The after school day program Kids Stuff is also excellent.
I love this school!!!! This is our 4th year here and I can't sot loving the people here. The front office staff is awesome and so are the teachers. It's a close knit family and all 4 of my kids love it.
Minus points - 1. One of the office staff is very rude. 2. No good writing programs (Ask the principal! You will know what I mean) 3. The principle has no overall academic vision for the school. He's a just joker. If this school is strong academically, it is because of dedicated parents, not because of the principle or teachers. Besides, most families have tutors or put their children academic programs after school. 4. Strong favoritism to teacher's children. Last year, there were funny wishes among parents: Manchester should have one more child so some children could be pulled out from regular classes to his class for Math, as he did for his old son. This year, one girl whose mom is a teacher here got a priority to get in APAAS in this school after failing in the first place. 5. Useless GATE program. GATE children're usually abandoned with several worksheets for teachers' convenience to teach children who have troubles in Math. Plus points -1. Very involved parents. 2. Wonderful 1st grade teachers! Mrs. Walls and Mrs. Bates, you guys're wonderful teachers! 3. Great APAAS classes (I didn't like one of them, though.)
Santiago Hills Elementary School is a very friendly, low key school, with an age appropriate expectation placed on the kids. If you are looking for a cutthroat, competitive, academically demanding and overachieving elementary school - this isn't it (however, you may want to check out Turtle Rock Elementary or Bonita Canyon). I read a review that complained about the classes being taught at "the dumbest level to accommodate the special ed students" and claims the principal only gives "lip service" to parents. Perhaps that parent would do better at another school where only perfect looking and academically intelligent children attend and where the principal only accommodates the elitists at the school. I have found this principal does not bow down to over demanding parents and encourages the kids by a positive approach. He is pleasant and the kids like him.
My kid attended Brywood Elementary and Santiago Hills Elementary. Both are fine schools, and the academic rigor level and homework amount depend on which teacher you have, but in general my kid (who attends regular class and is in GATE group getting mostly As) told me that: 1. Santiago Hills is more difficult academically than Brywood. 2. Santiago gives more work in form of many projects. 3. Kids in his Santiago class appear to be "smarter" than kids in his class in Brywood. That's my kid's impression, but often, kids' impression is more accurate. Many people say Canyon View Elementary school is the best elementary school in Irvine, while Santiago Hills is 2nd; and I have no reason to disagree with this assessment. Anyway, my kid likes Santiago Hills better, but he also liked Brywood. One good thing about Irvine school seems to be that there are no bully kids. My impression is that all Irvine schools seem to be pretty good, so the most important thing to me is that we live close enough to elementary, Middle School and High School, so our kid can walk or ride bike to school. Other than that, I really care less which school in Irvine or Tustin he goes to.
We just moved our kid to Santiago Hill and love this school. Every one in the school including the Principal is so welcoming. My kid's teacher is excellent and the Principal is nice and very caring for his students.