This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Hillcrest Elementary School5
Posted November 26, 2014
- a parent
My child is in kindergarten, so we're new to the school. I find it too academic for kids that age sometimes (very focused on learning to read, etc.) but I'm pretty sure all the CA public schools are this way right now and the kids also get to do a lot of fun activities. I'm not sure why there have been some complaints about the principal in reviews here, she seems great so far and I haven't heard anything negative about her from actual parents. The school is also more diverse than one might expect from its reputation.
My kids spent a few years at Hillcrest and then switched schools. It is not a perfect school. The principal is hardworking but she is a very polarizing presence, and a lot of teachers are pretty disgruntled. Some teachers are good, a few are great, some are pretty terrible. The parent community, like the teachers, are also a mixed bag. But I do have to address that one comment from the art teacher, because it's biased. Last year we had a HORRIBLE art teacher who only lasted one year. She seriously did nothing with the kids, and we parents were pretty mad about it. Is that negative review from her? Probably. I hear the new art teacher is much better. And yes, the PTA pays for art and that's not ideal, but on the other hand THE PTA PAYS FOR ART. So there you go! An unbiased review from a former parent.
1. Learning happens. It is not unusual for grades to complete their curriculum for the school year in advance. Test scores for most are very high and students are generally quite prepared for middle school or high school. External support plays a major role, but Hillcrest delivers the goods. 2. The principal provides budget and programming for faculty professional development. 3. Some of the teachers are exceptional. All of the teachers work hard. 4. The parent community adds incredible value. They drive for field trips, assist in classrooms/library/computer lab, produce academic and extracurricular programming, upgrade and maintain the gardens and facilities, purchase and implement technology, organize the community service program, recognize and reward teachers and staff, and... raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. 5. The K-8 student body is small, around 300 children. With smaller numbers in each grade, it sometimes means not every child finds a good fit socially. 6. In our time at the school sports participation was a big part of the culture. Social standing among boys especially was connected with sports.
I have been a parent of a Hillcrest student for the last 8 years. I as very happy with the school in the beginning. However the last few years after we received a new principle I have seen it deteriorate. It is sad to see. I wish my kids last years at Hillcrest could be as good as the first years.
I have had the privilege of being a teacher at Hillcrest School for many years. The students at Hillcrest are brilliant, parents are incredibly supportive and dedicated to the success of their children, & the administrator is one of the hardest working leaders I have ever had the pleasure to work with in my twenty plus years as an educator in the Oakland Unified School District. As a staff, we are transitioning successfully to the California Common Core State Standards under the leadership of our principal, who had the foresight to anticipate the various support structures and professional development offerings that would be needed for these rigorous changes. There has been a heavy financial investment in technology to support us in becoming more comfortable with 21st century instructional technology tools & our schedule has time carved out during the school day to allow us collaboration time "between the bells" with our grade level partner. Teaching is an incredibly difficult job, but with support systems like those found at Hillcrest School, all teachers could easily make the transition to teaching and reaching all students with the CCSS.
Hillcrest is such an amazing school! My son is so happy there and I simply love the community and all the amazing resources that are provided to all students. Contrary to the post below, there is NOT an issue with bullying behaviors at Hillcrest School. As a parent who volunteers often at the school, I am simply amazed at the wonderful "hands-on approach" the school administrator takes when interacting with her students and the very matter-of-fact conversations that she will take time to have with students who may need extra encouragement or support in order to be successful socially, emotionally and academically at school. In fact, I don't know any other principal in Oakland who supports her students like ours does! She has even gone as far as to picking up a student from the BART station each and ever day in order for him to be on time to school . Now that is what I call a supportive principal! What more can I say? The academics are great, students are well-behaved and the community is outstanding!
Bullying is an open secret at Hillcrest. There is no policy in place to either prevent or deal with it. The new principal has the mentality of "survival of the fittest" which means the vulnerable are not safe. There is an "anti-snitch" playground policy that only fuels this system of protecting bullies. The school is popular because it gets a lot of money from wealthy parents, some of who control the PTA. These same parents have an air of entitlement and the social experience is unfriendly and exclusive. There is a lot of pressure to donate to the school regardless of financial standing. There is little diversity so white, conventional families will feel most comfortable here. Ironically, people clamar to get into the school because of the middle school and high test scores tho Chabot and Thornhill are right up and I've heard they offer a more diverse and friendly atmosphere. Teachers are stressed to make sure kids continue to test high and this puts pressure on the kids. The kindergarten teachers are great but they aren't on the playground to watch out for the little ones who get teased as the 'babies' of the school at recess. Another open secret hazing reality. Change needed.
I currently have a child in the middle school. Hillcrest's strengths include a dedicated group of veteran teachers and extremely involved parents. The school's weaknesses have always included its extremely small size, which limits the range of courses available and can also be socially confining. An additional problem: a very new principal, now in her second year, has made a series of organizational changes that have been poorly communicated to parents and have produced general dismay in the Hillcrest community. It is unclear where this school is going.