The Unicorns were studying outer space in April, so we…
This blog post is by Crestmont parent Chamia LaRae Chambers.
My son had been attending a fantastic, private preschool for almost three years when I realized that I had no idea where he’d be going next. The school he was at was a real school (not a daycare center), they had high parental involvement, just enough structure, and a true sense of community. I loved his school, our school, and I questioned where we could find all of those elements in K-5 or K-8. I grew up going to public schools in this area (in what used to be called Richmond Unified School District), and the schools I attended were great. BUT, recently I had heard nothing but horror stories about the public schools in our area. I was frightened by tales of over-crowded classrooms, stressed out educators, eliminated arts and sports programs, and a lack of diversity in both student and faculty populations. My son was a super-star student. He was ahead of the curve leaving his preschool, and I wanted him to attend a school where he would stay ahead of the curve. We needed a plan.
I started by brainstorming and composing a list of qualities and must-haves that I wanted in his new school. Some of the things on my list were:
- An environment where individuality is celebrated and supported
- My son to be taught based on his level of need and understanding
- A diverse student and faculty population
- Arts and extracurricular activities offered
- High parental/community involvement
- Great student to teacher/staff ratio in the classroom
- A school that focuses on helping kids develop into great people, not just good students
Once I had complied my list and knew what I was looking for, I also had a discussion with my son and asked him what he wanted from his new school (including what he wanted that experience to look like). I began to ask other parents (from our preschool) which schools they were considering for their children. I asked the faculty at our preschool which elementary schools they recommended and why. I looked at the flyers posted at our school with invitations to open houses or information sessions at elementary schools, and looked at publications like Parents Press, and Bay Area Parent. Slowly, the list of potential schools began to come together. I researched each school online. If they didn’t have a website (or if they had an archaic looking one) they were off the list. I read reviews online and continued having conversations with other parents.
When I scheduled school tours, I took my son with me. We both had things we were looking for in a school (on our lists), but it was equally important that we felt the “right vibe” on the campus and amongst the staff. One of the first schools we toured had excellent reviews online and had been recommended by several parents and faculty from our preschool. The campus was nice, the staff was friendly, the class sizes were small. It checked off most of the items on our list. BUT something just didn’t feel quite right. We visited and considered others, but they all seemed to lack and unidentified “it.”
I received an email from a former parent from our preschool telling me that she had just moved her son from one of those other schools we’d toured, to this “really cool” school called Crestmont and she recommended that I check it out. I had never heard of Crestmont and was shocked to learn that it was located right in front of my former middle school (Adams). I was a bit apprehensive when I showed up for the tour as I questioned if the campus was big enough (the Crestmont campus is smaller than most public elementary school campuses). I had expected to see just the Kindergarten class, common areas, and have some conversation about the school but was pleasantly surprised when my guide took me into each and every class. I got to meet the teachers from all grade levels, observe each class in action, and then sat down for a full discussion about the school, admissions process, future plans and the co-op structure. I had no idea what a co-op school was/meant, and it initially it sounded like just more work for me. The school was great, the teachers were amazing, and it checked off all the items on our lists, but I was still unsure about the co-op thing. I was sure that my son would love and thrive at Crestmont, but was it right for me? I knew I wanted a school with high parental involvement, but I didn’t like the idea of each family, or rather MY family having a “job” there. I questioned if I could commit to this, even if it seemed like the best place for my little super star.
I shared my concerns with the admissions director and asked other Crestmont parents about the co-op situation (including parents that had children who had previously attended our preschool). They all advised me not to be turned off by the term “family job” and reassured me that it really wasn’t that much. They explained that I had a choice in how I contribute to Crestmont and recommended that I contribute in areas that I like or that were in line with my skills or hobbies. Nothing was forced, everything was flexible, and I began to understand that Crestmont isn’t just a school, it’s a community. I learned that everyone is important and has a role… the students, the teachers, the staff, the parents. We attended an open house for perspective families and that sealed it for me. Sitting in that room with other parents of super stars, listening to their concerns and fears helped me realize that my anxiety and doubt wasn’t unique. The questions I had were indicative of good parenting as we all want the best education for our children. I wasn’t alone. My mind turned from questioning if Crestmont was right for us to, “Okay! When can we start?!”
My son was as excited as I was to attend this magical place, this new school, and to be a part of this new community. He received a letter in the mail from his new Kindergarten teacher, Mama Kay, stating how she looked forward to having him in her class in the upcoming school year. He had connected with Crestmont over the summer through several of their events and activities, and with his teacher. On his first day, I was more nervous than he was. I anticipated a tear-filled goodbye with him gripping my hand tightly for reassurance. He was greeted at the door by a friendly, familiar face and instantly began socializing with his new friends. He turned to me and cavalierly said, “Bye, Mom!”
This was definitely the right place!