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Joaquin Miller Elementary School3
Posted June 06, 2014
- a parent
We've had kids at Joaquin Miller for several years, and we've been very happy overall. Unfortunately, this year has seen a sharp decline. The environment is toxic. There is no transparency with decision-making. The principal s leadership style has become autocratic and bullying. Class size is off the charts-the school is overstuffed. The fantastic computer program (new Macs, dedicated lab space, wonderful instructor) has been decimated. After the computers were stolen, decisions were made (convert the lab space to a tiny classroom, fire the wonderful instructor) with no input from the committee of parents and teachers that came together in the wake of the burglary. The after-school childcare provider, an integral part of the JM community for decades, was treated so badly this year that they've refused to return next year. The committee of parents and teachers that invested countless hours on the aftercare issue was ignored. And the lack of sufficient after-care space to accommodate the influx of new families is still not solved. Families are choosing not to return; others are disillusioned and cutting back on their involvement. It's such a shame. Our kids deserve better.
This used to be a very good school but it has fallen on very hard times. We are currently in our seventh calendar year here and 12th kid year as we have three - one who finished up last year. The classroom instruction continues to be quite good. With almost every teacher performing at a very high level in the classroom. But anything that the current principal has touched has turned to mud. She has fostered a culture that is so divided and so distrustful, that the school is just a hollow shell of its old self. Where we used to smile and be happy every time we walked onto campus and were almost universally greeted with the same level of happiness and contentment from parents, student and teachers, now everybody we talk to seems to hate coming onto the campus. It seems like every moment between parents and teachers turns into a gripe session about how bad the principal is. It is so bad right now that a fund raising party hosted by a group of parents and having a 25 year tradition on campus, which has always extended a free invite to the principal, did not do so this year. Most of the people hosting the party didn't even want to be in the same room with her.
Pros: Outstanding teachers from K to 5, very involved community, great living history program for each grade, PTA-funded library and teachers aides. Cons: Principal lacks communication skills, disregards community input via forums and committees, attempts to squelch open dialogue on concerns about her executive decisions. Subsequent very poor morale and high burn-out rate among parent volunteers.
Joaquin Miller is an exceptionally strong school with a highly engaged Principal, an active teaching staff and committed parent community. While some teachers are stronger than others (as at any school), at the high end, Joaquin Miller's teachers are truly exceptional. Indeed, on teacher both our children were lucky enough to have is the best teacher we've seen anywhere, including at private schools. The community is inclusive and generally quite nurturing. While some high achieving kids aren't as challenged as they could be in class, there is an effort underway to address this and good progress is being made. The facilities are reasonable though they lack a grass yard which would be a nice improvement. Overall, we are very grateful to be at JM and have decided to keep our children there rather than explore private school options, largely because of the commitment of the Principal and teachers and the energy of the parent body.
Tucked in the affluent Oakland Hills, Joaquin Miler Elementary is a gem. What makes Joaquin Miller Elementary a special place with some of the most impassioned teachers, a dedicated and caring principal, an active parent community, challenging academics and a culture of inclusion, quite rare for a modern-day public school--especially in Oakland, California! Families who can afford to send their children to expensive private schools choose to send them children here because of the culture and community. This is a very special place. I feel privileged to be a part of this community.
We've been a Joaquin miller family for seven years (two kids, 4 years apart). JM is a great community school, where the kids feel a real sense of home. The teachers are terrific- there's probably one or two teachers that are just average, but that's saying quite a lot for any school. Parent involvement is high with the PTA funding the kind of extra programming that is so essential and used to be standard- like the lovely library and great librarian, computer classes, and music. The after-school enrichment classes offer an incredible source of added fun and learning, plus the school is so lucky to have Adventure Time on site for its regular after care. Unfortunately AT is not able to accommodate all the families that need AT. That is an issue for some families. The quality of caring and community at JM is what makes it even more special than it's class room resources. The principal is 200% dedicated to the students and to making sure that each child feels respected and safe. I would be great if JM had updated facilities like better technology in the classrooms, but we are a California public school so that's dream, for now.
This is our third year at Joaquin Miller and we could not be more pleased with the principal, teachers and PTA/level of parent involvement we have experienced. JM is blessed with an extraordinary community of people all working together to help the students achieve but also excel. One of the things we like best about JM is the extra attention paid to the kids "at the top" as well as "on the bottom" through tutoring, PTA-sponsored teacher's aids and programs such as the after school enrichment programs which offer everything from languages such as Spanish, Mandarin and French to music instruction, public speaking , chess, science, dance, Ecology Club and Odyssey of the MInd. In addition, we boast a diverse student body that represents everything we love about Oakland! We also have a classroom of learning-disabled children whose scores are folded into the overall school's scores--so don't be fooled by how JM's scores look a little less robust than neighboring Hills schools. Joaquin Miller truly is a Great School.
This is our first year at JM, and we're really pleased. We moved from a state where funding for librarians, music programs and computer teachers, etc. is provided by the state, so coming to California was a bit of a shock for us. But we are so impressed by how the JM parent and teaching community has risen to the occasion, and through fundraising and creativity, have kept important programs alive and high quality. Our child's teacher is a gem. Our child is learning so much and loves doing it. Socially, I have found the other parents to be friendly and approachable. I'm glad we are here.
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