As the principal of Union Middle School, I would like to thank the community members who have shared their thoughts within this forum. Union Middle School recently received a 2008 Caring School Climate Award, was recognized as a California Distinguished School in 2009 and also in 2013, was named a National Forum s School To Watch, and selected as a CalSTAT Leadership Site in 2010, 2011 & 2012. Union Middle School is also visited by hundreds of California Educators each year wanting to learn about the great things happening in our classrooms and on our campus. Additionally, our most recent API was recorded at 938, thanks to the great work of our staff, dedication of our community, and the great student scholars attending our school. If you have any questions about Union Middle School, please do not hesitate to contact me. We will be glad to answer your questions and assist you with any and all of your concerns. Go Tigers!
April 18, 2014
This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Our family has had a very good experience at UMS since my son started there in 2015. His 6th grade core teachers (Peers & Hamm) and Principal Feinberg were so involved and caring when my son had trouble transitioning to middle school. All of them are supportive, fair, tireless, responsive, dedicated, enthusiastic, passionate and love their jobs.
The school has so many programs to engage and assist the students such as the previously mentioned robust sports and band programs,
plus other groups such as WEB, M-Power, homework club, Win on Wednesdays and many more.
UMS is a good school with an innovative, forward thinking and responsive principal.
The campus is outstanding. Clean and fresh!
Teachers seem to be grappling with the one to one Chromebook initiative and Google classroom, with some using the technology effectively and others, shying away from it. Hunting down your child's homework load (just to get a snapshot, say, when your kid is sick or if there's a break coming up or if there's a busy week outside of school to plan) requires the skills of an experienced detective; it's in no one place. Unless your child happens to land in a class with teachers who post hw regularly (and there are those teachers who do), the hunt will be an arduous one and even emailing the teacher doesn't help. We're supposed to be hands-off as parents in middle school but sometimes, we just want to get an overview of the homework load our kids our carrying.
My child's language arts teacher will have her class watch a video, take AR and Newsela quizzes, put together Powerpt or video presentations and listen to an audio book, all on their Chromebooks. Iti's all very techie but I am hoping there is also some real teaching going on as all those things could be easily done at home like an online class!
PE can be fun or it can be stressful. There is one PE teacher who grades on ability rather than effort. Hurt your leg and can't run the required mile? Without a doctor's note, you might get an F. Other PE teachers seem to be much loved but they have their favorite sporty kids whom they groom for after-school sports.
Demographics of the school is *somewhat* diverse. But I get the feeling not many come from outside the area; there doesn't seem to be many first or second generation families. Many of my neighbors live in their grandmother's or parents' homes (inherited, bought under market rate or living with them) and attended the same schools their children now attend. As Silicon Valley boomed, so did the value of the homes in the Union School District and therefore, many long-term residents are now doing quite well. However, I would love to see some families move in from outside the established demographics (like H1B visa families). Would make for a much broader and diverse community.
This is just my experience. There are many happy kids and families at this school and we are not unhappy.
We appreciate the no homework family nights but some teachers just shift homework to a weekend, making the effort a bit useless. So much work is done in class on Chromebooks and via online quizzes that it's hard for parents to ascertain the amount of work that's being done. Would like more reading and grammar assignments. AR seems more for reluctant readers.
As those grades rain down in PowerSchool, some grades drop to scary lows for various reasons (like a week of being sick). These are often resolved (takes time) and kids learn to follow through on assignments and grades.
If your child is part of a big social group (say, band or sports -- sports are big here!), then they will more likely have a social wall of protection around them; but free agents (say, special needs kids, awkward kids, nerdy kids) not yet in a clique are more vulnerable to bullying or teasing (quite a bit of under-the-radar racial slurs being tossed around). I don't know what the school can do about this because kindness and tolerance should be taught in the home.
There's no perfect in life. No cookie cutter formula for all kids. UMS is not perfect but it is and have been a great environment (for learning, failing, experimenting, meeting friends...etc) for our three kids and us. We are who we want to be or not be. Put in the work, get involved, push back/question admin when required. So far we're still very happy campers...
I'm shocked at some of the reviews on UMS. First of all, the teachers are spectacular. What most impresses me about them is their PASSION for what they do, their genuine affection for the kids and their commitment to the whole child. They are incredibly hard working--and they set a high bar so that the students will stretch and grow. After all, if it's easy, you are not learning anything. I wish I had had teachers like the ones at UMS. Principal Feinberg runs a tight ship and navigates all the different audiences--students, staff, teachers, parents, community--with a unmatched responsiveness and a wonderful sense of humor. I have found him to to be smart, fair, decisive and compassionate. The recent ruling on the Grad Party is just one great example of the thoughtfulness with which he approaches his very difficult job. There have been a story or two that I have heard through the grapevine but I try really hard not to judge when I'm not privy to all the facts and/or don't have first-hand knowledge of the situation. When people say there is no bullying, that just can't be true. It's tween/teen humans, OF COURSE there will be bullying. However, I feel that the school does a good job creating a supportive environment for the kids and responding with tangible action when something goes beyond the normal kid stuff. Kids do need some tension in order to build their resilience and coping skills. All in all, I think UMS is a very good school and feel incredibly fortunate to be in this school district.
My child is in 7th grade and I can't say enough great things about this school and community. Where to start? Well, our principal is IN-volved. He's out in front every morning greeting the kiddos at drop off, at dances, always ready to assure parents with a friendly and reassuring smile. He is there at every board meeting and returns texts and emails almost instantly. Seriously the BEST responsiveness ever. Aside from THAT, our technology environment is unparalleled and I feel my child is being given opportunities that he would not otherwise have at a school in a neighboring district. My child's teachers and the staff seem to be truly invested in the children's educational and personal growth. I can't say enough about how much I love this school and that my child is attending.
UNION S.D. = THE NEXT CUPERTINO
As we've had a very mixed experience with this school - in short, the community's great, the school less so - it's only fair to rate each aspect separately, as follows:
Teachers - 3 stars: mostly so-so, with rare exceptions. The worst teacher was forced into retirement, but other stinkers remain. Only one of our child's teachers has been knowledgeable, hardworking and inspiring.
Principal - 2 stars: The current UMS principal is the weakest link in the UMS chain. He runs a tight ship on disciplinary matters (good) but is insecure, dismissive toward parents, and confused and even out of touch with reality when it comes to curricular issues and teacher management. Has been a complete failure in managing the roll-out of the new math curriculum ("Common Core").
Clubs & Activities - 5 stars: many dedicated, even heroic people doing good work in these areas. Outstanding sports and music programs. Your kid is lucky if she or he is into sports or band.
School atmosphere - 4 stars: much better than expected: no bullying, kids generally well-behaved and hardworking. No complaints.
Families & community - 5 stars: Of course, the biggest reason for Union's high API and other scores is none of the above. As with nearly all California public schools, the demographics are what drive student achievement, and here is where Union shines: the area is rapidly changing to include many more high-achieving families of the sort who, 10 years ago, might have bought houses in Cupertino or Saratoga but who are priced out of those markets by today's bubble.
In short, Union is another Cupertino: so-so teachers and bumbling principal saved by an ambitious, high-achieving local demographic.
All in all, it's worth putting your kid here as bad teachers get pushed out and as the principal, one hopes, finds his bearings and settles into his role.