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In 1962, Mrs. Edward Wallis of Piedmont attended a lecture by Mae Carden and opened a school using Carden materials and methods. The Mae Carden Center School opened in 1963 with twelve students at the Matilda Brown Home in Oakland.
By 1972, the school had grades Junior First through Sixth and, housed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, was called St. Paul’s Carden School. Pressure to include a religious component in the curriculum resulted in the School’s moving to a new site and establishing its first Board of Trustees. The school—now called the Carden Redwood School—opened in September 1975 in a Lutheran church building on Redwood Road in the Oakland hills.
The Parent Association was started in 1979. Its by-laws stated that it would report all of its activities to the Board in order to ensure that the two were well informed about each other’s activities and could therefore work together as efficiently as possible. Hot Dog Days was the first fundraiser started by the Parent Association.
In 1983, the School, with its disciplined program and strict Carden structure, soughts it first full accreditation by the CAIS (California Association of Independent Schools) and was turned down. At about this same time, the Middle School was founded and a new head of school was hired. Mr. Ray Boring brought with him experience acquired as Academic Dean and teacher at Marin Academy.
In April 1985, faced with rising rents, the School chose to move to Alameda. The new site offered new ways to enrich the program, but some Oakland families chose to pull their children out of the school in the face of the commute that would be required of them after the move.
In 1986, after settling into the new Alameda site, Ray Boring and the Trustees began a complete curriculum review, and the School began to move away from the Carden materials and program. The Carden Foundation administrators approved changes to math and science, but stated that any changes to the reading and language arts curriculum, the heart of the Carden system, were absolutely prohibited. Based on these curriculum changes, Carden Redwood School received provisional accreditation from CAIS in 1986.
In 1988, Joyce Evans, formerly of Marin County Day School and San Francisco Day School, was hired as Head of School. At the time, the School was plagued by low enrollment, a $40,000 operating deficit, cash flow problems, and three vacant faculty positions. Evans’ hard work and enthusiasm enabled the the School to open that September with 137 students, a fully enrolled new kindergarten program, refurbished spaces, and high hopes.
By the fall of 1989, enrollment had risen to 160 students, the deficit had been cut by a third, a part-time business manager/math teacher was hired, curricular changes including a new reading program were implemented, and a new name—Redwood Day School—was adopted.
In 1989, the School received its first full six-year accreditation from CAIS, along with membership in the National Association of Independent Schools. The Annual Giving campaign was begun in 1989, and the Auction was upgraded to a major fund-raiser. Held at the Claremont Hotel, it raised an unprecedented $56,000 in its first year.
In 1990, the first summer program concluded with a theatrical production entitled "Monkey King," and the P.E. program evolved into one including competitive athletics with other East Bay independent schools.
Joel Rosenberg became Head of School on July 1, 1993 and hired Kathy Duhl as curriculum development consultant to conduct and in-depth evaluation of the materials, methods, and teaching styles at Redwood Day. She helped the faculty to develop a "scope and sequence" plan to map every students’ progress in math over the years. Later, Duhl tackled the language arts curriculum in the same manner.
In 1994, RDS bought the Oakland/Piedmont Jewish Community Center on Sheffield Avenue. The site had the acreage we longed for, an outdoor pool, a gymnasium, a multi-purpose room with a stage, classroom buildings, and off-street parking.
Enrollment for the 1995-96 school year stood at 196 students. A decision was made to double the Middle School by adding a second class section to seventh grade starting in 1995, with two eighth grades starting in 1996.
Rick Clarke became Head of School in 1996.
By 2001, the student population had grown to 275 students. Math and science classes were realigned according to gender in 1996. Boys learned math or science with other boys and girls with girls, based on the understanding that there are differences in the ways that the two genders approach learning and the acceptance they feel in the classroom. This program continued for six years.
The Middle School advising program was developed more fully, with students being assigned a faculty advisor in a grade-level group of about eleven students. Advisories began to meet several times each week to help support students in all areas of school life – academic, social, and emotional.
The School increased its commitment to diversity and academic excellence. The financial aid budget doubled, and the school became known for having a strong academic program that serves a multi-ethnic, socio-economic mix of families, reflective of the larger community of Oakland and the greater East Bay.
In the fall of 2001, RDS was granted a conditional use permit that allows growth to 387students, the maximum enrollement that would result from doubling the Lower School to two sections per grade. In 2002 and 2003, RDS added 11,700 square feet of classroom and multi-use space to the Lower School and 4,800 square feet of classroom space to the Middle School, replacing aging portables.
In 2004, Mike Riera became Head of School. Under his leadership, RDS has come to be recognized as a premier independent school, both in terms of academic rigor and social-emotional development.
In 2011, John Loeser became Head of School. Under his leadership we are excited to build upon our strong K-8 model, enhance program experiences, and continue to be at the forefront of best practice in the field of education to engage, prepare and inspire our students to thrive.