Redwood Day is an independent, diverse K-8 school   |   510.534.0800

History of the School

Like all great institutions, Redwood Day began with an inspired idea. In 1962 Mrs. Ann Wallis of Piedmont was looking for an alternative to the local public schools for one of her children. After attending a lecture given by the prominent educator, Mae Carden, Mrs. Wallis decided to create an independent school based on the Carden curriculum. A year later, in 1963, the Mae Carden Center School officially opened its doors at 360 42nd Street in Oakland (the future site of Park Day School). The Mae Carden Center School of 1963 eventually would become the Redwood Day School of today.

The 1963 student body was comprised of 12 students, a far cry from today’s enrollment of nearly 387 children. For its first 31 years Redwood Day leased various facilities – first in Oakland, then in Alameda. The school changed names as well as location: The Mae Carden Center School became St. Paul’s Carden School in 1965, then Carden Redwood School in 1975. The 1989 school year began with a new name – Redwood Day School – with a new, non-Carden curriculum, full accreditation by the California Association of Independent Schools, and membership in the National Association of Independent Schools. One final step remained in creating today’s Redwood Day – finding a permanent home. And so in 1994 the school purchased the Jewish Community Center in Oakland.


List of 7 items.

  • 1960s

    In 1962, Mrs. Ann 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.
  • 1970s

    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.
  • 1980s

    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 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 began in 1989, and the Auction was upgraded becoming a major fund-raiser. Held at the Claremont Hotel, it raised an unprecedented $56,000 in its first year.
  • 1990s

    In 1990, the first summer program concluded with a theatrical production entitled "Monkey King," and the P.E. program evolved into one that included competitive athletics with other East Bay independent schools.
    Joel Rosenberg became Head of School on July 1, 1993, and hired Kathy Duhl as a curriculum development consultant to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the materials, methods, and teaching styles at Redwood Day. Duhl helped the faculty develop a "scope and sequence" plan to map every student’s progress in math over the years. Later, Duhl tackled the language arts curriculum in the same manner.

    In 1994, Redwood Day School bought the Oakland/Piedmont Jewish Community Center on Sheffield Avenue. The site had the acreage needed and included 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 8th grades starting in 1996.
    Rick Clarke became the Head of School in 1996.
  • 2000s

    By 2001, the student population had grown to 275 students. 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 served a multiethnic, socioeconomic mix of families, reflecting the larger community of Oakland and the greater East Bay.

    In the fall of 2001, Redwood Day School was granted a conditional use permit that allowed growth to 387 students, the maximum enrollment 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 the Head of School. Under his leadership, Redwood Day School became recognized as a premier independent school, both in terms of academic rigor and social-emotional development.
  • 2010s

    In 2011, John Loeser became the Head of School. Under his leadership, we built upon our strong K-8 model, enhanced program experiences, and continued to be at the forefront of best practices in education to engage, prepare, and inspire our students to thrive.
    In 2013, the Board of Trustees approved a Campus Master Plan that included both our growing need for classroom space and updated and improved facilities to support our program. The Board also conducted a Feasibility Study to evaluate our community’s ability to support a capital campaign. The completion of these studies resulted in the Board’s decision to move forward with Phase 1 of the Master Plan.
    Our Middle School Expansion project, initiated in 2013, allowed us to expand our Middle School enrollment from two sections in grades 6-8 to three sections. Through the expansion, we have welcomed approximately 20 new students to our 6th grade cohort each of years
    Coupled with the expansion, Redwood Day School embarked on a comprehensive program review to ensure that the School remains at the forefront of innovative practices in the field. Recent enhancements include the implementation of Math in Focus: Singapore Math (K-8), Columbia University Writer’s Workshop Model (K-8), a new K-5 Science Lab, a new Spanish curriculum (K-8), and innovation-related courses such as robotics, programming, and Design Thinking guided by the Stanford University School of Design.
    During the 2013-2014 school year, we celebrated the school's 50th Anniversary. In April, our entire community, including our extended family (alumni, former trustees, teachers, and friends) came together for a huge 50th Anniversary Celebration.
    In 2014, we embarked on the Here We Grow capital campaign to renovate existing spaces and build a brand new 10,000+ sq. ft. building that includes educational spaces that are mission-consistent and representative of the creative, dynamic thinking processes we want students to engage in as learners. The building is a physical manifestation of our educational philosophy that all disciplines are interconnected. Construction began in the summer of 2015, and when you walk onto our campus today, you will see our beautiful new spaces.
  • 2020s

    In 2022, we published our new 5-year Strategic Plan, Creating Opportunity. This Strategic Plan was born from an aspirational idea - to expand access to a Redwood Day education. Grounded in our guiding principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, Creating Opportunity lays a foundation for inspiring work that will positively impact our School for generations to come, reflecting the School’s commitment to keeping our curriculum and program at the cutting edge while expanding opportunities for all students to grow and stretch in their optimal learning zones and participate in more robust enrichment, extracurricular, experiential, and summer learning opportunities. Centering health and wellness, our plan carefully stewards our resources to take exceptional care of our students, faculty, and staff as we all navigate emerging from years of impact from the pandemic. With a strong focus on financial sustainability and careful fiscal planning, Creating Opportunity also sets the groundwork for our Futures Committee of the Board of Trustees to ideate various potential future initiatives that will further capitalize on the “seed” that started our plan - expanding access.
3245 Sheffield Ave
Oakland, CA 94602