We were briefly a Hillside family for a year after moving from out of state, and before relocating to another elementary school within Niskayuna, so feel we have a fair if brief basis for comparison. The Hillside community is nicely defined by the neighborhood setting; a number of kids walk to school and the playground serves as the informal meeting space for kids and parents alike. As such we found there was more interaction among families than at "bus" schools, uniquely so in the district. A strength of the district is it allows each school to retain an identity within an overall structured curriculum. The special ed services were in a bit of a turnover as we went through, so I can't comment on how they are now, but the core teachers were outstanding professionals and the principal is dedicated and "embedded" in the school, not a stick-to-the-office type at all. The school is a bit on the small side - smaller classrooms - but does have a large enough gym for monthly all-school collections ("Hello Hillside") which are really wonderful, parents invited. It's a highly-functioning public school in one of the best districts in the state. I could pick nits, but they'd be just that.
I am really writing in reference to the post about the new teachers. The teachers with "years of experience" have retired and when you rehire you want younger teachers so that they will be with the school for years to come. My oldest had all of the teachers that have recently retired and my second child has the new teachers, my children and I have love them all! They have a lot of energy and great new ideas and my son's all time favorite teacher was a teacher that had only 1 year of experience at Hillside prior to his class. Also the teachers still have tenure, it's the state that has placed all of the new stress on the teacher, not the principle. I have spoken with parents from other Niskayuna elementary schools where the principles have said they are not allowed in the school for parties, here at hillside everyone is welcome:) I am a homeroom mom and I am able to be 100% completely involved, if I wanted). I think Hillside is one of the best schools and I am very excited for my youngest to start next year!
Our daughter is at hillside and loves it. The teachers are attentive to each child's needs and individual progress. I have been pleasantly surprised by the level and variety of material that they teach, and the challenges they provide for the children. The interface with parents is wonderful. School system's food service has also been impressive of late with their focus on nutrition and quality/variety of meals. School system's transportation could use some improvement.
This school used to be the best in Niskayuna for elementary schools. Since our current principle was hired in 2004 the dynamics of Hillside's community has changed drastically. Most of the best teachers who had years of experience with love, compassion and understanding, from having their own grown families, are gone except for two or three. All new, young, inexperienced teachers that are in their 20's, who do not have school aged children of their own, are replacements. Now that they do not have tenure they are venerable to being fired or forced to resign over almost anything causing a stressful atmosphere for children, parents and other staff in the building. If you have children with disabilities please beware and do your homework if you choose this school. I am sad to write a review as this one for a school that was so wonderful for the first few years of my16 year old son, My younger son who has been professionally diagnosed with a reading and writing disorder has not been as fortunate. I will fight for him to get the services he needs. Once the principle and the new teachers have school aged children of their own, they may understand how to better understand children.