My child has been attending this school for 2 years. The place and staff reminds me of the Stepford Wives. From what I can tell and hear from other parents, Carver is the better elementary school in San Marino. I feel like Principal Shields is the problem. She cares more about donations and fundraising. Maybe next year we'll try to get our child transferred to Carver.
The only "drawback" here is that parents are heavily encouraged to donate to the school. Supposedly the majority of the school's funding comes from private donations and not from the city or state. However it's of course not mandatory so we have so far avoided giving any donations. Our kids do get mad at us that they are supposedly the only kids in their classes without a sign on their yard stating that a donation was made to the school, but that passes quickly. And we live on the San Marino border near San Gabriel so none of their friends and their parents would ever see our house anyway. Overall our experience with the school has been excellent and seeing our kids doing so well with their grades but more importantly happy throughout the year, except for the week the yard signs come out, is more than any parent can ask for.
When we moved to San Marino and enrolled our kids at Valentine, the change in their attitudes seemed almost immediate. Now they looked forward to school in the mornings, were beaming when we picked them up in the afternoons, and didn't make a fuss about doing their homework. They also became more creative, making cards and artwork for us all the time, and not just for holidays and special occasions. The culture seems different here where the kids love Saturday soccer at the middle school and summer swimming at the high school so it's not just all about academics. Having a world-class museum and gardens nearby at the Huntington Library doesn't hurt either, where the kids go annually for field-trips, and where we go on weekends occasionally at the urging of the children.
Valentine is easily among the best elementary schools in all of California, public or private. Yes, it's also consistently one of the highest-rated with the best test scores, but what really sets the school apart is not just how well the students do in statewide standardized testing, but how well the students respond to the teachers and the curriculum. Before my husband's office was relocated from Cupertino to Los Angeles, our two kids were enrolled at William Faria Elementary, another highly-rated school. What we were surprised to see was the school seemed singularly focused on academics and teaching children how to do well on tests. It wasn't a system where kids were taught to use their imaginations or foster their creativity. Parents were also encouraged to enroll our kids in after-school sessions at independent tutoring centers where the "mission" was performing well on multiple-choice testing rather than to sign them up for after-school activities involving sports, music or art. While our kids did well in school, they also seemed vaguely disinterested. They didn't show much enthusiasm for anything school-related at all.
My son was there for just one year (first grade) before transferring to Carver. Great campus, great teachers (my son had the best first grader teacher), great staffs, great kids, and great parents. The only complaint I have is the current principal. I tried to set up a meeting with her at the beginning of the school year to talk about my son's condition. I must have left her at least 6 messages via her secretary, email, voicemail, note... never got a call back in the whole school year. Rumor has it that she only speaks to PTA parents. I know I was not the only parent whom she ignored. What a different from Carver's principal!
It's important for people to know that the teachers at this school are outstanding. I have three daughters at this school and they are all receiving a tremendous education. The parent involvement is also excellent. Unfortunately, the school district made a bad decision in hiring the current principal. Colleen Shield is an uncertain and meek leader who does not understand children or families. Colleen Shields does not weigh both sides before making decisions, and many parents are frustrated and disappointed in her lack of balance. She is well below the high standards of this school. Her leadership is flat and not well orchestrated. She has almost no presence and will take sides without weighing all angles. She takes positions that she has no knowledge of with harmful effects to the children of this school. The district really needs to address the scores of unhappy parents because of her failure to lead.
It's an awesome school! I know it because I went there. The Principal, Dr.Schreiber is cool! We have many events and field trips. We also have cool teachers and play equipment. THIS IS THE BEST EVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! P.S. It is right next to Huntington Middle School.
Community support of schools is impressive. San Marino privately donates >$1 million annually to make up shortfalls in state funding. The city consistently passes ballot measures that raise additional property tax earmarked for education. All the parents I know volunteer through PTA. In 2 months, the PTA has already put on the annual Valentine fair, pumpkin patch, Halloween craft fair, art contest, and book fair. There are many extracurricular activities in this community. Chinese school is conveniently on site during afterschool hours & children can participate anywhere from 2-5 days weekly. Sports, art, music & daycare is available through Recreation Department. AYSO, Little League & Boy Scouts are also very popular here. The San Marino community is truly unique in its commitment towards education, and everyone gives back to its community to make it a better.