Weekly Letter (Apr 10 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

We are now in the last few days of the Liturgical Season of Lent with Palm Sunday yesterday and Holy Week this week. For those unfamiliar with the story it was on Palm Sunday that Jesus went to Jerusalem. Some thought He was going to proclaim a new earthly kingdom, some welcomed this, some feared this, but few if any knew that His kingdom was not to be “earthly.”

“Palm Sunday” refers to the fact that many laid down palm branches to pave the road for Jesus just as we now might roll out a red carpet for a special dignitary. Crowds greeted Him with joy and enthusiasm. But as the following week unfolded, Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested and beaten, abandoned by His friends, condemned to death and crucified. This is not the foundation of any earthly kingdom. Were we to stop at the crucifixion, Christianity would simply be a failed social experiment.

But Christians believe that there is more to the story. We firmly believe that on the Sunday after His execution, Jesus rose from the dead. When the disciples went to His gravesite that Sunday morning, they found an empty tomb. An angel told them, “He is not here, He is risen.” Even death could not hold power over Jesus and He promises us that as his sisters and brothers we too are called to an eternal life in God’s loving presence.

Until this year, I was Star’s 6th grade Religion teacher and from time to time students would ask me why or how I believed this story. For me the answer is simple. I was taught this article of faith throughout my life by family, Sisters of Mercy, Christian Brothers and Jesuits. But more than that, I too have lost loved ones to death. If I was not absolutely sure of their continued life in God’s loving presence, I do not know how I could continue to exist. Yet, I continue to live, to laugh, to love and to learn. The love I shared with those I seem to have lost is just as real today as it was when they were with me here. The resurrection is real, the promise of eternal life is true. May God’s love be clearly present to us all as we conclude Lent and move towards the joyful celebration of Easter.

God Bless You All,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Apr 3 ’17)

Dear Parents,

I received a letter from Archbishop Cordileone on March 20th and he asked that I share some of his thoughts with you. First of all, the Archbishop wants to express his gratitude to all the parents who have met with Father Illo, with the goal of seeking to understand each other better. It is his belief that continuing with such meetings will go a long way toward building greater unity in the school and parish. His idea is simply to meet together to speak and especially to listen to each other. Through this we can get to know each other better and seek to understand each other’s point of view. He suggests no defined goals, no action plan, or resolution. His request is simply that we meet, listen and get to know each other better.

The Archbishop also asks that the school and parish undertake some small projects together, in the hopes that we find ways to build trust. We have already started this process as you know. Father Illo has met with several of the faculty / staff members and he and I meet at least once per week to discuss what’s going on in the school. Father Illo was able to spend some time with the WCEA Team that visited, the kids in grades 4-8 are leading Stations of the Cross (as they do every Lent) at 11:30 on Fridays so that parishioners may join us. The Festival is coming up and it will be a joint effort by school and parish. And as you can see Father Illo will be writing a paragraph in our Monday letter starting this week.

God Bless You All,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 27 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

Over the last few months the Ratcliff Architects has been working on the “master plan” for Star of the Sea Parish and School. In early January, the Ratcliff folks met with our Seismic Committee to discuss in very general terms our hopes and dreams for the future. They also reviewed the seismic reports that were prepared last year to ascertain the safety issues we face as we repair or replace various structures on campus.

In February Ratcliff met with “user groups” to get ideas from those of us who use the facilities most often to assess space needs. The three “user groups” were the seismic committee (comprised of parishioners and parents as well as Father Illo, Father Vito and Mr. Hanley); the faculty, staff, Athletic Department, and a few Moms who are very involved in setting up fundraisers and parties here; and the rectory staff including some parish volunteers.

Quite bluntly, we do not have a lot of money, but we do have property that we might be able to leverage to help finance building and site improvements. We may have the largest Parish / School complex in San Francisco. We have a convent, a church, a rectory, an elementary school, a preschool, a high school (the Laurel School was originally Star of the Sea Academy, one of the finest high schools for young ladies in San Francisco), and a gymnasium. One major reason for a “master plan” is to help us figure out what is possible. I admit it is an exaggeration, but right now we are looking at what works best from “everybody bring duct tape” to “let’s rebuild the whole place.” At this point, all our buildings are in play for improvement consideration except the Church.

Ratcliff is currently working on creating two master plan options – one closer to “duct tape”, one closer to “rebuild the whole place”.  When those are ready, Ratcliff will hold several open workshop meetings for parents, parishioners and other stakeholders to attend and give input. The original deadline for all of this was early May, but it seems that we may not meet that deadline.

Father Illo and I want to thank all of you who have been involved in this process so far and encourage the rest of you to attend the open meetings when they are scheduled.

God Bless You All,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 20 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

Aside from the WCEA visit last week there were three other major events: the feast days of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph and the high school acceptance announcements.

Perhaps you know that I am of Irish ancestry, so of course Saint Patrick is important to me. But I sincerely believe that all cultures and maybe all individuals have had their own “Patrick.” Whether it was a saint, a grandparent, a parent, a priest, or a group of nuns, somebody (probably all of them together) brought each of us closer to understanding God. So for all of us who owe a thank you to those who helped us build our faith, “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!”

When I think of Saint Joseph I have two immediate thoughts: the most underappreciated Saint ever, and Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet who staffed our beloved school for the first 98 years. The faith and the love Joseph quietly shared with Mary and Jesus should be an example to us all. And God bless the dear Sisters of Saint Joseph for coming to the edge of the world (in 1909 anyway) to teach the children of San Francisco.

Finally, I want to congratulate all of our eighth graders who received their high school acceptances last week. This is a big deal and I am so proud of you all.

Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep                          19 accepted, 11 with Honors

Saint Ignatius College Prep                            6 accepted, 6 with honors

Archbishop Riordan High School                   4 accepted, 1 with Honors

Mercy High School                                         3 accepted

Convent of the Sacred Heart                          2 accepted

Immaculate Conception Academy                 1 accepted

Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton)                         1 accepted

Lowell High School                                        3 accepted

Private schools and Catholic schools outside the City do not usually inform us of their decisions so if I left off any schools please let me know so I can update this information. (But remember that you still are Star students until you walk out of Church with that diploma.)

Next week I will give an update on the master plan for repairing or rebuilding the campus. The short version is that the “user meetings” were held last month and were actually very exciting.

Sincerely,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 13 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

This is the week we have been working toward for over a year. The evaluation team that represents the West Catholic Education Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges will be here on campus to visit our school. I want to thank all of you who have helped make Star of the Sea School such a great Catholic school. Some of you are very much in the limelight (teachers, Parent Club and Finance Committee members) and some of you show your support of the school in very quiet ways. But to all of you I extend my most sincere gratitude.

After all of the hard work we put in, we had to document “all of the hard work we put in” so the visiting team could have an idea who and what we are. This week they get to see Star in action. My Uncle Jim (the Jesuit) told me an old trick he always used: if the visitors ask any question, all of you should raise your hands, right hand if you actually know the answer, left hand if you don’t. But I’m pretty sure he was just joking. What I want the Visiting Team to see is the real Star. They should see the same thing any parent who tours the school would see. They should see students who take responsibility for representing our school, parents who tell them why they chose Star of the Sea for their kids, and teachers who are devoted to sharing their faith and their knowledge with the students.

This process produces no instant gratification; we will be informed this summer of our term of accreditation. But I am certain that Star of the Sea School will get the same full term of accreditation that it has gotten since this process was started in the mid 1970s. And next Monday we will start all over with more hard work. But, for some reason, these kids make it all worthwhile. God bless you all.

Sincerely,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 27 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

Over the course of my career, the focus of education has dramatically changed several times. Education used to be “what the teacher gave the kids” but it evolved into “what the kids could give back” to the teacher. At the dawn of the digital age, education became a question of “what teacher and students can share”. But now, in the twenty-first century the focus of education is all three of those followed by the question, “So what now?”  Get the facts, put them into historical perspective, see how the lessons of history affect current events and figure out what to do next. That is education today.

What have we at Star of the Sea learned over the last three years? I suspect each of us have learned a unique set of lessons depending on our point of view and circumstances during that time. But we are here now to figure out what to do next. 

Some, perhaps all, of us have experienced pain and the source of each individual’s pain may be different. We would be foolish to nurture that pain we feel or to act in ways that would perpetuate the pain of our sisters and brothers. So the question must be asked, “What do we do next?” Just as we can’t let the pain continue, we can’t equate the sudden lack of pain with being healed. To assume that because the pain is gone we are healed is too simplistic.

Does anyone here want to imagine that ten years from now, someone looks back and states that Star went through a tough time but has managed to get beyond it? As principal, I have too much pride in this school to settle for that. The faculty and staff here have too much talent to be satisfied with that. The kids have aspirations and dreams far beyond that.

So, what do we do next? The answer is as old as human history, we reconcile. To do that we all have to become one community again.

Star has a great sports program. God bless all the coaches. It is a parish program for the kids of our school and parish. FAASTAR, the Filipino American Association at Star of the Sea is one of the school’s biggest and most loyal supporters. It is made up of parishioners who created and sponsor an award for graduating Star students every year.

Veteran Star parishioners may or may not know my name, but they know my job title and they always ask me how the school is doing. They also love to share stories from the time when their kids were students at Star.

It should surprise no one that even during these difficult years there were always others reaching out to our school community. Now we need to reciprocate. It is our turn to reach out, not just to those who have extended their hands to us but to all of our sisters and brothers.

I know that many of you attend Mass at other parishes and some of you are of other faiths. I also know that in a survey taken a few years back 96% of our Catholic 5th graders stated that being Catholic was important to them. But it is even more noteworthy that 65% of our non-Catholic 5th graders stated that being Catholic was important to them too.

To heal, we must reconcile. To reconcile, we must reach out. So in the spirit of reconciliation, I ask that you come back to Star. Come back to the degree that you can. Daily Mass, a short prayerful visit to Church just before dismissal, or coming to Sunday Mass are all options to you. At a minimum, join us at our monthly school Mass when we restart that parish/school tradition. Father Illo is available to meet with individuals or families to try to reconcile. If you care to meet with him, please email him at [email protected] to set up an appointment.

God Bless You,

 

Weekly Letter (Feb 21 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. The entire student body will attend Mass at 1:45 with Father Vito celebrating. The Lenten season is a time when many Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Many of us see this as a time to get ready to celebrate Easter. In a sense it is the preparation period for us. And just like we prepare to have visitors in our home, we want to be ready to celebrate and share in the resurrection of Jesus. I would encourage you and the kids to both give up something (bye-bye Diet Pepsi) and take up something (hello expanded prayer life).

During Lent the students in grades 4 – 8 make a practice of attending Stations of the Cross. This is a way to remember and reflect on the trials and tribulations of Jesus. This year we will be attending Stations every Friday at 11:30 in Church. This time was selected so parishioners who are here for the noon Mass can join with the kids. Please feel free to join us if you can.

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 13 ’17)

Dear Parents,

There are over fifty banners hanging on the wall at USF’s Memorial Gymnasium. They all look pretty much the same, either green lettering on gold background or the other way around. They also are hung there for pretty much the same reasons. They either acknowledge an athlete who had a great career on The Hilltop or a team that won the conference or played in a national tournament. In fact, there are even banners that remind everyone that USF Dons Basketball teams have won three national championships!

But one banner stands out from the others. It does not proclaim any individual who had a great season or career, nor does it acknowledge any team for winning a championship. It simply reads

In 1951 the Dons had a great football team, they went through a tough schedule and won every game that season! In a time when there were very few football “bowl games,” USF was considered by the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Gator Bowl. Unfortunately, each bowl stipulated that they would invite USF only if they left two of their players at home. Ollie Matson and Burl Toler were the only two black players on the team and the bowls did not want them to participate (1951 in the south).

When informed of this, the team did not discuss the situation, nor did they vote on anything. They simply decided not to go to a bowl game. That moment they lost a chance to play for a national championship, and because of the budget at the time USF could not afford to play NCAA football again. But the young men of that team never felt that they had lost anything. They had stood in solidarity as a team of brothers. They had chosen HONOR OVER GLORY.

Some might think that the dream of being National Champions was just that, a dream. But if one considers the record, I think it is clear that the 1951 Dons were the best team both as players and as brothers. One player was a consensus for All Americans, ten players were drafted by the NFL, five played in the Pro Bowl at some point in their professional careers, three are in the NFL Hall of Fame and one became the first black man to be an NFL referee after blowing out his knee in a pro try out. At least three of them were teachers and coaches in City high schools (one at SH, one at SI, and one at Ben Franklin Middle School). One served as mayor of Daly City, and the team’s public relations guy was a long time Commissioner of the National Football League, Pete Rozelle (also in the NFL Hall of Fame, but not as a player).

Often we get caught up in a competitive environment, we need to win, we need to be and have “the best.” It might be good to note that of the more than fifty banners hanging on the wall at USF’s Memorial Gym, the one that people respect and appreciate the most is hung in honor of a team that did not win that last game, because they loved each other like brothers.

God Bless You My Sisters and Brothers,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 6 ’17)

Dear Parents,

In the late 1970s the Archdiocese of San Francisco initiated a process of formal evaluation and accreditation of all of our schools. The governing body we have been affiliated with all these years is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. At that time WASC was accrediting public, private, and Catholic schools in twelve states. Over the years WASC expanded both in the number of states they cover and in the number of schools they accredit.

At the same time Catholic schools in the many dioceses in the western United States began to establish goals that were particular to Catholic schools. It was through this process that the Western Catholic Education Association was formed. As the years passed, WASC and WCEA became full partners and in recent years the WCEA has become the major partner in accrediting Catholic schools.

Next Monday a group of Catholic educators from the Archdiocese, led by a Catholic educator from the Archdiocese of San Diego will come to Star for their “pre visit.” I will be picking up the Chair at SFO mid-morning and bringing her here to meet the Star “leadership team” which is composed of Father Vito, Mr. Gallagher, Mrs. Lundy, Mrs. Poon and myself. Bret Allen, the Associate Superintendent of Schools will also be present, as will the members of the Visiting Team. We will spend some time getting to know each other and sharing the process of creating our self-study as we eat lunch.

After lunch, the Visiting Team will need some time to themselves working on their schedule and specific assignments. Before the end of the day I will give them a tour of our entire campus. Finally, right after dismissal, all the faculty and staff will meet with the Team for a brief social gathering. By 4:30 I will be headed back to SFO with the Team Chair and then we will wait for our formal visit on March 15, 16, and 17. I’ll share more about that with you in a future letter. Have a restful week.

Sincerely,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 30 ’17)

Dear Parents,

Last Friday we sent home report cards and, for students in grades 2-8, STAR Renaissance Test scores. Please review both with your child and praise her/his success and encourage her/him in the areas that are a struggle. At our next Parent Club meeting I will share class results on the latest round of STAR Testing. Overall I have to say that I am very pleased with the results. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told us that the majority of their students actually got lower scores the second time they took the test. Each of our classes earned higher scores in both Math and Reading. On nine of the twelve tests, our students have already exceeded the June 2017 target scores, in some cases by quite a bit. But bear in mind that these test scores reflect potential. Most students took 15-25 minutes to complete each test and all students took nine weeks to earn their report card grades. So report card grades are a more accurate reflection of student skills.

On a slightly different, but still academic note, we spent a lot of time in the last two weeks assessing preschoolers for entrance to our Kindergarten next fall and evaluating our eighth graders to send them off to high school. It amazes me that elementary schools lose the top 11% of students every year; the ones who are oldest, most experienced, and smartest. Then we replace them with kids who still can’t read and have trouble getting to the bathroom on time. Somehow it all works out and there is no other job that I’d rather have. God bless you and have a great week.

Sincerely,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

PS Happy Lunar New Year!