I have had two children graduate from the Piedmont school system - K-12. and yes, it is heavily academically oriented. I believe most parents move to Piedmont in order to put their children in these excellent schools. We have never been sorry we moved to Piedmont, and most of our friends moved here from various parts of Oakland - for the schools. A key for me is the ability PHS graduates to compete at top colleges. Those I know have reported no problems with their preparation and work ethic and thrive even at large UC campuses like UCLA and Cal. PHS offers a full range of academic and arts, music and drama program. The choral program is top notch and the drama program produces outstanding productions. Sports, including an outstanding rugby club, are competitive and rewarding for participants.
I am an alumnus of Piedmont HIgh School. I received an excellent education there. The school's major problem is the power and exclusivity of the student cliques. However, serious students who ignore the social environment will obtain a superb education there. The school is almost entirely college-prep oriented.
My daughter is a transfer student from out of state and had an extremely easy time making friends. We'd heard that Piedmont is a very 'cliquey' scene but for new kids it presents a world of opportunities to make friends in various social groups. PHS is indeed very clique-oriented but this so far has not been a challenge. As far as academics go, there seems to be quite a lot of grade inflation, however there are some excellent teachers in the english department. The arts are taken very seriously; don't expect to enroll in art class for an easy A! Counselors are few but excellent. College and career center is helpful also.
My two sons recently attended PHS while the previous principal was in charge. It was extremely academic (even ceramics required term papers). Many 'average' boys got left in the dust...I think the new principal is interested in changing this but only time will tell if he succeeds...
Overall, the academics are very good, although the quality does vary quite a bit between teachers. Sports programs seem to also vary. I don't know how it is at other schools, but Frosh and JV teams hardly get any attention, and the quality of varsity coaches vary quite a bit. The fact that hardly anybody really gets cut from a sports team can be a good or bad thing depending on where your child falls in the spectrum. There also seems to be some amount of 'politics' in the relationship between parent involvement and athletic participation. Parental involvement in the school is very high, almost overwhelming. Parents, especially the many stay-at-home moms, seem to climb over each other for the chance to serve on boards and committees. This, of course, is very positive in general, but it also very much creates a social hierarchy, and an atmosphere of favoritism.
While my son has had an excellent educational experience at PHS, I've been shocked by the poor attention paid to the music program there. It's unorganized, classes are poorly managed, and goals (for the program and students) are not set high. The principal is new and young; I think his ability to lead is yet to be tested. Parent involvement and community support (including financial) is VERY strong.
I have three kids in the piedmont school system. One of my kids has a relatively minor learning disability that affects the speed at which she can complete assignments and tests. Piedmont is such an aggressive and academically-oriented school system that certain kids, like mine, get steamrolled and left behind. If your kids are bright and show academic prowess, you will not find a better school; but if they are even a half-step behind, then watch out.