Weekly Letter (Feb 11, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

In last Sunday’s gospel reading, Luke 5:1-11, Jesus was trying to teach the people on the crowded shore when he saw two boats close by. He recognized one of them as belonging to Simon and Jesus asked to come aboard. Then Simon and his partners moved out from the shore so Jesus could speak to the people.

After speaking, he told Simon, “Put the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” Simon responded unenthusiastically. He and the others had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Simon did not want to go fishing again but because Jesus asked him, he went farther out on the lake. The nets in both boats became so full that when the fishermen pulled them in, the huge load threatened to sink both boats. Simon, along with James and John, who were his partners on the boats, were very surprised at the large catch.

Simon had to make some difficult decisions that day. He he had to decide whether or not to allow Jesus to use his boat. He also had to make the difficult decision to agree with Jesus and move his boat into deeper water to cast the nets again. Simon must have believed that this would be futile. He was the professional fisherman and the fish were not biting. Jesus was a carpenter who grew up fifteen miles away in Nazareth. He had reason to be skeptical.

By the end of the passage, even though they had just brought in the greatest catch of their careers, Simon, James, and John decided to leave those boatloads of fish behind and follow Jesus. This encounter completely changed the focus and direction of their lives.

There was nothing extraordinary about Simon and his fishing partners. They were normal fishermen, doing what they had done every day, minding their own business, cleaning their nets after a long and disappointing night of work. Then Jesus comes along, enters into their average, normal lives and changes everything.

What does it mean for us to go fishing in deep waters? To trust and follow our consciences and make decisions when we feel we are outside of our comfort zones? To let go of what we know works, of what is certain, to have our lives reoriented? For most of us, this will not mean leaving our current professions behind as the disciples did. More likely it means being called each day to align our priorities with God’s and to use the gifts He has given us in service to others. Even in the middle of our busy and complicated lives, Jesus’ words to Simon are also words to us: “Do not be afraid.” He will keep working with us and through us. The catch is in God’s hands and His desire is for our lives to be as full as the nets the disciples pulled up.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 4, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Thank you to all of the parents and students who attended our Catholic Schools Week Mass and Open House. A special thank you to all of our teachers who worked so diligently to make their classrooms and our hallways look tremendous and to our parent volunteers for their warm hospitality. Attending Open Houses, Back to School Nights, Parent-Teacher conferences and other school events, such as our Talent Show on Thursday, V.I.P. Day on Friday, and the Stella Maris Crab Feed on the 23rd, are sometimes difficult for parents to attend. They are time consuming but they are also important to your child’s education for a few reasons.

First, it is important to get to know your child’s teacher. Students spend about seven hours each day at school, not counting sports practice, after school enrichment programs and extended care. Teachers have a positive influence on our students and it is important to get to know all of the important people in the lives of our children.

Second, attending school events reinforces positive parent-teacher relationships. Parental involvement is supremely important in the education of children but success is also dependent on us all working together toward a common goal. When parents attend these events, they send a message to their child’s teacher that they are serious about the role that they play in their child’s education. It also makes it that much easier for the teacher to initiate future conversations with parents since it has already been established that you are both on the same page, working toward the success of your child.

Third, school events allow parents to see the resources of the school and classrooms. Not all schools are created equal. Every school has problems and parents can play a major role in solving them. But we cannot solve problems that we are not aware of. In the same way, if parents are not aware of the resources of the school, then they will not know what is available to help their child become successful.

Fourth, parent involvement makes the school better. There has always been an interrelationship between the success of a school and the number of parents involved. Not only does it help the child succeed, but it also helps keep us, the teachers and administrators, accountable because it builds positive two-way relationships.

Lastly, it sends a great message to your child. It says, “not only do I want you to succeed; I am willing to be an active participant in the process of your success.” Of course, attending an Open House or the Talent Show alone would not be enough to continuously convey this message but it is a positive start. Your sacrifice of time and effort in your children is NEVER in vain.  I honor each parent who actively participates in the life of Star of the Sea School. It definitely makes it easier for us to do what we do. Thank you.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 28, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

This evening we will host Michael Ortner as part of our Star Speaker Series. Mr. Ortner will discuss an Integrated Classical Program as a foundation for STEM education. I have been asked to speak following Mr. Ortner’s lecture which is tonight at 6PM in our auditorium. The following is the text of what I will present tonight in case parents are unable to attend.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

 

A curriculum is important in any educational system. It helps teachers and administrators plan the education procedures for a given period of time: a period, a quarter, a semester. As Benjamin Franklin, the father of time management said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Curriculum consists of a chain of teaching and learning that students and educators use to translate the school’s educational goals into skills, knowledge and perhaps even changes in student behavior. A lesson plan for example is curriculum used by the teacher in the classroom.

Now, imagine a teacher going into the classroom not knowing what to teach or how to teach it. That would be disastrous because at the end of class the students would not have learned anything, except maybe that the teacher is confused or stressed out.

For a school to achieve its educational goals, it needs a curriculum that is functional and relevant to student needs. The most important facet of the curriculum for a classical school is the humanities: history, language, literature, and religion. Beginning next school year, Star of the Sea Classical School students will study Mathematics, Science, Music, Art, Physical Education and Grammar, as they always have. They will also study Latin and homeroom teachers will integrate the subjects of Religion, History, and Literature.

In Literature classes we will teach and read the Great Books, the classics, from the Greeks up through the Romans, then the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into modern times. In addition to studying the Great Books, students will also read and recite poetry.

History will be taught logically and systematically, a bit like a story, The logical way to tell a story is to begin at the beginning and continue to the end. A story does not make sense when it is told in bits and pieces. Imagine that you were telling the story of “Hansel and Gretel” to a young child. What if you began with telling them about the gingerbread cottage with the window panes of clear sugar? This would probably be the most interesting part of the story to the young child. But then you backed up and told about the stepmother’s secret plans for the two children that Hansel and Gretel overheard? The story will be neither clear nor relevant.

History is no different. Yet we often teach it unsystematically in our schools, as a series of unrelated events: California history this year then American history, ancient history the year after that. By the time you graduate from 8th grade, you will have studied the Reformation, the American Revolution, the Spanish missions in California, and the city-states of ancient Egypt. Most likely you studied these subjects in different years, out of different textbooks. It can be difficult for students to put these into chronological order in their own minds.

A common misconception made by departments of education and textbook publishers is that young students are not able to understand or are not interested in people and events that are not part of their immediate experience. So History is renamed Social Studies and begins with what the child knows: one’s self, the family, the community, the state, our country, and then the rest of the world. Very self-focused, encourages the student to relate everything to herself, to measure other cultures and customs by her own experience. If we begin our children with themselves and then move outwards, we tell that they are the center of the universe, and that history does not have anything to do with them because there is nothing similar to their own desires and preoccupations.

The goal of history in the classical curriculum is different. Students learn the proper place of their community, their state, and country by seeing the wide scope of history from the beginning and then fitting their own time and place into that pattern.

Classical curriculum also includes the study of Latin, considered by some as a “dead” language, no longer spoken by the people of a country or region. But many living languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French, evolved from Latin. So by studying Latin it becomes easier to learn those languages. In fact, we now call these languages “Romance” languages because they developed from the language spoken by the Romans.

Latin helps students to improve vocabulary since English has borrowed many words from Latin. Latin is the language of medicine, law, science, and of our Church. Latin grammar and forming Latin sentences is a little like fitting puzzle pieces together. Students who enjoy math and music usually do well in Latin because it requires the same logic skills as these disciplines.

Too much of education today is based on standardized test scores, getting kids into a top high school, and careerism long before one’s career begins. This is understandable. We want our students to think ahead, to aim high and strive for lofty goals. We are living in a fast-paced age. Things change quickly. It can be easy to forget about the value of slowing down, of contemplation, of conversation, of living in community.

Apple CEO Tim Cook made a commencement speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016 saying: “I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion or concern for the consequences…That is what we need you to help us guard against. Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we have been and the danger that lies ahead.”

Of course, we cannot predict the future or know what careers lie ahead for our children. We do know that one-third of jobs in 2024 will require skills that are not common today. The best way to equip our students for the journey ahead is a well-trained mind and a nurtured soul.  An integrated classical program provides that for our students.

Weekly Letter (Jan 21, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Every third Monday in January, we honor the United States’ most famous civil-rights activist, Martin Luther King. King experienced injustice but neither responded with violence nor remained silent. He showed great faith in God and practiced the kind of active love that holds human dignity so high that it has the power to transform society. The movement he led did not use weapons or armies but gained civil rights through nonviolent protest.

It has been over fifty years since King’s death and today, another world leader who fully grasps the commitment to nonviolent action is Pope Francis. In his World Day of Peace Message for 2017, Pope Francis called for a “politics of nonviolence.” “Violence is not the cure for our broken world,” he wrote. “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” Pope Francis is careful to note that peace building is not only a Catholic activity “but is typical of many religious traditions for which compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life.”

As Catholics, we are committed to the social teachings of the church which call us all to work for the common good, help build a just society, uphold the dignity of human life and lift up the poor and vulnerable in our society. King’s work reminds us that to be Catholic is to imitate Jesus and lift up those who are most oppressed. The pope’s emphasis on nonviolence not only reflects the peacemaking legacy of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, but also helps ensure that the message of  King, and many other nonviolent prophets, continues to be remembered and put into practice.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 14, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

I hope your Christmas vacation was filled with family time, some fun activities, and finding joy in the simple pleasures of life such as watching a beautiful sunset, getting some extra sleep, or biting into a crisp, juicy apple.

January 27th marks the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. I invite all of our families and those interested in Star of the Sea School to join our staff at the 9:30 am mass on Sunday, February 3rd. Following the mass, Star will have an Open House for families interested in seeing all of the wonderful things our school has to offer. During the Open House, families will have the opportunity to tour the school and meet our excellent faculty. This is a great opportunity for you, our current Star parents, to spread the word about the positive qualities of our school to friends and neighbors who are interested in sending their children to a school that instills strong academic excellence and a place where we grow closer to Christ each day. In addition, our Preschool will also be open to tour as well.

The 8th grade students have all completed their High School Placement Tests. We are all very proud of them and know that they will be accepted to our many excellent Catholic high schools.

Our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Stella Maris CrabFest and Auction, will take place on Saturday, February 23rd in the gymnasium beginning at 6 pm. Do not forget to sell and/or purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win a Mercedes Benz. Quite a prize for just $50!

I cannot thank you enough for allowing our teachers and staff to educate and guide your children.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 7, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Happy New Year!

As we begin this new year many of us engage in the ancient practice of making New Year’s resolutions. According to History.com, the ancient Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions about 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to celebrate the new year, although for them the year began in Spring when crops were planted. During their massive celebrations, they made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects that they had borrowed from their neighbors, what we might call the first New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept their resolutions, then their pagan gods would favor them for the coming year. If not, then they would fall out of the gods’ favor.

The ancient Romans, under the rule of Julius Caesar, established January 1 as the beginning of the year. For the early Christians who lived during that era, the first day of the new year became an occasion for thinking about past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future.

Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are mostly a secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions to themselves and focus mainly on self improvement, such as getting  organized, traveling more, spending less time with a screen, or losing some weight. However, making a new, healthy habit is only half of the battle. Going to the gym five days a week is a great habit to start but it can be difficult to sustain unless we also let go of some of the bad habits from the past, such as being overly indulgent.

Perhaps this year, we should think more along the lines of the ancients and make our New Year’s resolutions more faith based. For example, we can become more involved with our parish by singing with the choir, joining a bible study group, or volunteering to lector at mass.

As Catholics, we should always be striving to strengthen our relationship with Christ. One of the best New Year’s resolutions we can pledge is to strengthen our bond with Him.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Dec 17, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

Thank you all for attending last Wednesday’s spectacular Christmas concert. A special thank you to our wonderful music teachers, Mr. Kraehling, Miss Ascoff and particularly, Mr. Gresens, for practicing so diligently with the students. And of course, thank you to the real stars of the evening, our students, who sang so beautifully and reverently in the church, and so joyously and vigorously in the auditorium. That was a fun night, as I have heard so many parents tell me. If you see Mr. Gresens around school, be sure to thank him too.

It is difficult to believe that January is fast approaching. The last day of class is Thursday, December 20 and we will resume school on January 7, 2019. On either January 5 or 12, our 8th grade students will take their High School Placement Tests. We wish them much luck on another important milestone in their journey towards high school.

On Sunday, January 27th, we will kick off Catholic Schools Week with a family school mass at 9:30 AM, followed by our Open House from 10:30 until noon. Please continue to spread the word about our fantastic school.

On behalf of all the teachers and staff of Star of the Sea School, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and joyous New Year.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principa

Weekly Letter (Dec 10, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

Last Friday morning I was upstairs in the Music room listening to the kindergarteners practice their songs for our Christmas concert which will take place on Wednesday, December 12 at 6:30 PM in the church. They were singing “Away in a Manger” with Miss Ascoff and Mr. Kraehling. In years past we have sung formal, more sophisticated Christmas songs in the church. We will still do that but, thanks to our new music teacher, Mr. Gresens, we will add a more communal and traditional portion to our Christmas program. After the more ceremonial part, which should last about 45 minutes to one hour, we will convene to the auditorium for light refreshments and heavy caroling. Our evening should conclude at 8 PM.

Music has always been a great way to bring people together, and what better way to bring the Star of the Sea community together than to sing carols at Christmas time?

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 20 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

Last week, we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day on Tuesdaywith red hearts and candy and received our cross of ashes during Star’s Ash Wednesday School Mass prepared by Fr. Joseph and the 5th Grade. Some of our classes received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attended Friday Stations of the Cross with Fr. John. As we began our solemn observation of our Lenten season, there was another tragic school shooting. The teachers and staff here at Star of the Sea were shaken by this news and our hearts go out to the students, families, and educators who were directly affected.

Even before this tragic event, due to the recent earthquake, fires, and what seemed to be an early rainy season, the faculty and I have been revisiting all of our safety procedures and updating all of our first aid and emergency kits. The school protocol for responding to emergencies, like an earthquake, has been long established as has our lockdown drill.

While we regularly practice our emergency drills with the students, we have not discussed the details of the lockdown protocols with them. We believe it is more developmentally appropriate for us to focus on preparing the adults to respond effectively if faced with a crisis. The faculty will be working with SFPD in March to ensure our current lockdown procedures are as safe and effective as they can possibly be. Once we review our protocol with SFPD, we will then practice the lockdown procedure with the students. This needs to be done with care since I am fully aware that just practicing this sort of protocol can be really scary.

Last week, while we prayed and offered a moment of silence for victims and their families, we did not formally discuss the tragedy with the children. We were, however, prepared to discuss and provide any needed support, particularly for our older students. The links below provide some valuable advice as you consider discussing the Parkland tragedy with your child(ren).

For families observing the Season of Lent, here are some helpful resources: http://www.catholicfamilyfaith.org/lent.html.

Star’s own Lenten services schedule may be found here.

Let’s all give our kids some extra hugs this week,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 12, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. The entire student body will attend Mass at 9 a.m. with Father Joseph 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 internet after 9 p.m.) 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 in the church, either at 1:30 on our class Mass days or 1:15 when the whole school attends Mass. Please feel free to join us if you can.

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal