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

Weekly Letter (Feb 5, ’18)

Dear Star Family,

And just like that, January breezed by, making way for lots of February fun and, hopefully, continuing warm, sunny days!

With the end of our Catholic Schools Week celebration, I want to express my continued appreciation for the sacrifices you make to send your children to Star of the Sea. We are so blessed to have your family as part of our ever-growing and evolving parish school community. Our students are a constant bright light in a rapidly moving and complicated world.

We have had a great time celebrating Catholic Schools Week, with dress-up days, learning about our class’s chosen saint and our culminating annual class olympics last Thursday. It was the one day I was sad not to be in possession of a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt to cheer on all the teams, but our ever enthusiastic Tech/Science teacher and Student Council Supervisor, Mr. Christopher Kaiser, more than made up for my lack of appropriate rainbow attire. My thanks to him and our hardworking student council for planning an active and fun-filled week.

With Kindergarten acceptances being sent out this week and the completion of our 8th graders’ high school application process, we now return our focus on refining the inner workings of what makes Star an awesome place to learn.

We begin the month with another round of STAR Renaissance testing to help inform our teachers about student progress. The ACRE test, too, will be administered to our 5th and 8th graders. The ACRE helps us Catholic school educators assess the strengths and challenges of our catechetical programs.

Teachers are incorporating the celebration of African American History Month into our curriculum, some are going on various educational field trips. Robotics will soon be part of our tech classes which have also been working on coding and keyboarding. Students will.continue to be involved in project-based learning and STEM work with our upcoming science fair and a number of in-class projects from developing group videos about the quadratic equation for our 8th graders to the Mission Project in Grade 4.

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I failed to effusively thank our enthusiastic Campus Enhancement Committee led by Mr. Terry Trevino and our ever-vigilant Tech Committee being led by Mr. Owen Tran. It is through their tireless work in partnering with the parish staff that we are able to maintain the best possible physical environment we can possibly provide for our kids and staff.

The new fountains project is underway, with the 1st grade/Kindergarten fountain already placed thanks to Mr. Jim McCarthy, dad of two star students, and one graduate now at Sacred Heart. Our heating system is back up to speed and may soon be automated. Our hallways are getting cleaned up and I am working on updating our emergency procedures and upgrading and replenishing our emergency supplies.

The spring-like weather brings me great joy and I am so happy for the blessing of having all of you with whom to share in this sacred work of educating our children. Thank you for all that you do. Oh, and don’t forget to buy your Crab Feed tickets. I can’t wait to see you all there!

In partnership,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 29 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

National Catholic Schools Week began yesterday. This is when all Catholic schools celebrate what makes us unique from all other educational institutions. While here at Star this means great fun for students as we celebrate Spirit Week, we also take this time to focus on the gift of Catholic education. We reflect on the high quality, faith-focused, value-added education that we offer at Star and are reminded of the vital part we play in raising generations of people who go on to make positive impacts in our world.

This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” This theme recognizes and celebrates how our school’s traditionally high academic standards, supported by strong moral values, help develop students and form graduates who go on to make significant contributions to our local, national, and global societies.

We are very proud of our diverse community, serving students from all backgrounds and giving each a strong academic and moral foundation. Our diversity gives us a larger understanding of our neighbors’ needs. Even in elementary school, our students undertake many service projects that benefit our surrounding community. Giving back and helping others are values instilled in every Catholic school student, particularly here at Star, where we are committed stewards of our faith as we visit our elderly and our veterans, feed our hungry, clothe our poor, and raise money for those in need all around the world.

Therefore, on this week that celebrates our Catholicity, it is important to take time to congratulate ourselves: our alumni, our parish, our students, our families, our teachers, and staff for all the good that we do here. After all, it is here that we help enable students to succeed in not only their nuclear families but to also lay the groundwork to help them find their vocations whether in religious life, government, industry, business, nonprofit, or education. Kindness matters in all of these, especially here at Star.

Enjoy the week!

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 22, ’18)

Dear Star Families,

As promised at the last Parent Club meeting, here is our School Vision: CLICK HERE TO VIEW.  Fr. Joseph, Mrs. Lundy and I, based the writing of this vision on the current school mission and philosophy, viewable on our school website. Both academic excellence and Catholic identity have been highlighted as focal points together with strengthening ties with the Star parish community. The school board will now be established; invitations to serve are forthcoming.

I’d also like to address the questions many of you have about the pastor and chaplain roles as we move forward. Fr. John will continue to act as our primary liaison to the parish. He will celebrate the majority of school Masses, lead class retreats, and teach in the sacramental programs. He will continue weekly visits to classrooms. Fr. Joseph will continue to celebrate the school Masses on a monthly basis and in the absence of Fr. John. There will be no changes to student liturgies this year. Fr. Joseph will visit classrooms as his schedule allows, for about 15 minutes each session. Both Fr. John and Fr. Joseph will be more visible in the school yard during assembly and recess and will continue to be invited to attend school functions and activities.

Last week the Archdiocese began advertising for principal opportunities throughout the Archdiocese. I find it necessary, now, to formally announce that I have chosen not to be considered, nor will I be returning to teach at Star next year. Pamela Lyons, School Superintendent, will chair the search committee, which will include the Associate Superintendent and a balanced set of representatives from the parent, teacher, parish, and preschool communities and will be led by the Pastor. Parent representatives will be chosen from the leadership already in place in the Parent Club and our various committees. I do have the utmost confidence that the Department of Catholic School’s standard protocol for the Principal Search will bring our community the best candidate for the job. After all, it is the same rigorous and inclusive procedure that brought Mr. Hanley to us.

As I sign off for this week, please know that my decision to leave Star has little to do with my experiences here, because if that was truly the sole factor, I would never leave. In truth, my decision has everything to do with me. Terry knew that I planned to leave Star this upcoming school year to explore other opportunities in the high schools, or find a job utilizing my experiences in tech, education, and communications. As it happened, his wish that I try out being principal came to fruition and it has been pretty awesome to serve all of you. For the record, because he’d want me to admit it loudly and proudly, Terry was right about a lot of things, particularly that I would come to love our community even more while I sat in his seat. For now, however, I find that being principal is not quite right for my family and where I am in my life. I am confident that someone else who is just as dedicated as I am, will be able to enthusiastically throw their whole self into making Star truly shine. I want to sincerely thank both Fr. Joseph and Fr. John for their boundless support as I learned the ropes this first semester. It has truly been an enjoyable experience getting to know them both as we worked together.

With all of this being said, I want to let each of you know that I am fully committed to faithfully serving out the length of my contract, which lasts until July 31. And I am 100% dedicated to ensuring we all have a wonderful rest of the school year. My personal goal is to ensure a seamless transition with whomever our search committee chooses to take on the leadership of our beloved Star of the Sea.

With all my thanks for all that you do,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 16, ’18)

Dear Parents,

“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” – Pope Francis

Our Star students are taught that they are disciples of God and here Pope Francis speaks of each of us being open to sharing friendship and love with others, a message that we reinforce in our classes. Our Pope’s words also speak to our weekend celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of us spent Monday performing acts of community service in his name.

Our Star students are taught that they are disciples of God and here Pope Francis speaks of each of us being open to sharing friendship and love with others, a message that we reinforce in our classes. Our Pope’s words also speak to our weekend celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of us spent Monday performing acts of community service in his name.

Last Sunday’s scriptures introduced us to the ancestors of our faith who answered God’s call to share such unqualified love. Their responses to His call changed not only their lives but also the world around them. Thank goodness for the people in our lives who, like Dr. King and Pope Francis, labor in service to others and bring us the message of friendship and love. These are the people we wish to emulate, the ones who have and continue to help make the world a better place.

How often, I wonder, do we miss God’s call to love in this way? I read that Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

A reminder, I think, that sometimes we need more than just a dream on which to hang our hat. Sometimes we need to actto make our dream come true. And, has been demonstrated at Star, it is with many hands that much can be accomplished.

Thank you for your love of this school and all within it. Your generosity makes it such a pleasure for me to serve Star and her community.

May this week be one full of friendship and loving action,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 8 ’18)

Dear Parents,

First some happy news. The heat is back on! Thanks to the tireless work of Mr. Terry Trevino, Mr. Szymon Dziadzia and the engineers with whom we’ve contracted, the chill is out of the air. A section of the hallway floor is still under construction, however, and will be through the week.  The boys’ bathroom will remain accessible and in full service. We’ve also established detour emergency, entrance and egress routes for the classes that usually use the hallway to access the building during reconstruction. A big hearty thank you to the parish and preschool for assisting with covering the cost for this unexpected work.

This week, our 8th graders are in the throes of high school entrance testing and interviews. And we’re looking forward to soon meeting our kindergarten applicants. So, to sustain us as we close out the Christmas season and continue our work (thawing out) here at school, here’s a slightly edited throwback on our celebration of the Epiphany. It is one of my favorite Mr. Hanley letters:

epiphany |əˈpifənē|
noun (pl. epiphanies) (also Epiphany)
• the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
• the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

It is a story we all know, but have we really spent much time thinking about it? The three wise men (or Magi) who followed the star to Bethlehem were doing so because they believed that a king had been born. But they had no clear idea of what kind of king he would be, so they created a test for the baby king.

They brought with them three gifts: gold, frankincense and myhrr. Their thought was to place each of the three gifts in front of the baby and see which one he reached for. After seeing which gift, he chose they would know what kind of a king he would be.

If the child chose the gold, he would be a “worldly” king interested in the things of this earth. If he chose the frankincense he would be a “heavenly” king offering incense to God. If he reached out for the myhrr he would be just like every other man and his life would end in death.

They must have been surprised and a bit confused when Jesus reached out and took all three gifts. Jesus chose to live among us as one of us. His love for us was (and still is) so strong that he had to share our earthly experience with us. In that sense He was a “worldly” king. But by grabbing the frankincense Jesus indicated that he was also a “heavenly” king whose mission was to bring the people closer to God. Finally, by taking the myhrr, Jesus foretold of His own death. (Myhhr is a type of perfume that was used to anoint the dead.)

The concept of resurrection was probably not one that the Magi were familiar with. Yes, Jesus would die just as every other man or woman has or will. But He rose from the dead to show us that life does not end but it changes.

Change is part of life and adapting to our new circumstances is what makes us human.

To be sure, the love of God is eternal and it is ours. Be at peace as the Christmas season ends and always remember that God loves you.

In God’s Light and Love,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 2 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

Welcome back from Christmas Break! I hope that you were able to enjoy the time to relax and share some memorable activities with family and friends. As we move into the second half of the 2017-18 school year, I’d like to take a moment to welcome our newest students and their families to Star, know that you are a valuable part of our school family.

Every year, I like to start the new year with a clean house, so this letter is more a housekeeping one than one of spiritual inspiration.

This week students will return to school on Wednesday, January 3. If like mine yours have been glued to their new things, it is a good idea to begin re-establishing the necessary sleep and morning routines to ensure regular, timely attendance. The uniform policy should also be reviewed, particularly by our middle school students, as we enter Star’s learning environment once more. The Think Sheet and consequences that were established earlier this year for disciplinary issues are still in effect and the faculty will be issuing uniform violation forms for regular offenders.

In addition to these routines, I also ask our families to remember the sign-out and sign-in procedure in the front office for the occasional day your child must leave school for an appointment or urgent family need. These pull-out or early dismissal days should be kept to a minimum as this loss of instructional time can certainly affect a student’s performance.

As always we appreciate your support as we strive to maximize instructional time and ensure an engaging learning environment for our students every day.

Facilities news and updates: The water fountains will be tested for lead early this month. This is an Archdiocese-wide precautionary and proactive test. There is no immediate concern of lead in the water. On Tuesday, before the break, the heating system broke down. We are currently working with C.R. Reichel Engineering Co. Inc. to fix the problem which may require excavation of the boy’s bathroom hallway. In any case, please ensure your children are dressed warmly while we get the heating fixed. And finally, our fire alarms were tested over the break and all are in tip-top shape. We continue to work on classroom and hallway lighting, there is work being done toward repainting the gym interior, and as soon as the lead test results are in, we will continue with our new water fountains project.

Finally, a prayer and reminder for our 8th graders. Make 2018 a great year! Have a strong finish at Star, graduate, start strong at your high school. Learn. Learn. Learn. To those of you taking your entrance exams this weekend and next week, good luck! Breathe and know you have been well prepared.

Remember that God loves you,

Mrs. Theresa Poon

Principal

Weekly Letter (Dec 18 ’17)

Dear Star Parents,

This is the third week of Advent and we light the pink candle. The Candle of Joy. I didn’t know this when I first began teaching. My fourth graders protested loudly when I lit the purple one for my first Star students 17 years ago. I sourced their 9-year-old insistence about the practice by speaking to Sr. Mary Elizabeth. She said, “We light the pink candle in joyful anticipation of the birth of the Christ child.”

Joy.

What a wonderful word and feeling! And it’s all over the place here at Star. From the 2nd graders’ thoughtful and sometimes hilarious write-ups of the snacks they’re leaving Santa, to the 4th graders’ descriptions of ugly Christmas sweaters and the random Christmas carols being belted down the hall as students walk by on the top floor. Joy is all around.

And my joy is coming in every day to witness it all. Despite the sadness and turmoil of the beginning of the school year, I find myself contented and happy to be serving all of you as Star of the Sea’s principal. Each of you has made me feel incredibly supported as I continue work to bring to fruition the vision that Terry and Fr. Illo began together. Thank you for all that you have done to help ease my transition into this position of service and leadership.

I am also so fortunate to have such a dedicated and hardworking staff and faculty, men and women who go the extra mile to provide our students with the best possible education. It is a joy to work with each of my colleagues and I do love seeing and interacting with them every school day.

And it is a surprise joy now to have students of all grades coming into my office “telling on one another” for doing something that warrants a Citizen of the Week Award. It’s gotten so popular to praise one another that I’ve now a long list of good Samaritans and have to think of a new way of awarding STAR behavior in the new year. But this is exactly what I love about Star. When goodness is acknowledged, everyone begins seeing it everywhere. What a true joy it is to see so many living out our student learning expectations!

May we continue to strive to be the best we can be as we journey toward 2018. And may this Christmas season fill all of you with God’s choicest blessings and a New Year filled with happiness and good health for you and your families.

With much joy,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Dec 11 ’17)

Dear Star Parents,

 Advent Week 2: When I taught 5th grade, one of my favorite supplemental sites for religion class was Busted Halo. This week, I thought I’d share what I showed the kids last year: What is Advent?

 Yesterday, on Sunday, we lit another purple candle, the Candle of Love. Reflecting on the past week, I realize I have witnessed many instances of love at school. I saw love of neighbor and environment when a third grader came to tell me of a kindergartener’s thoughtfulness in picking up after the older kids in the yard, without being asked!

 I saw parents chaperoning field trips, most notably those driving carloads of preteens all the way to San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Now, if that isn’t a show of love, I really don’t know what is. One of our Kindergarten dads lovingly prepared the main entree for hot lunch on Thursday, providing a healthy and delicious hot meal to those with lunch tickets as well as hungry teachers (and principal)! I saw Fr. John sharing his love of faith in the classrooms and teaching about Adoration. I was further blessed to witness a most beautiful Immaculate Conception Mass, prepared by the 4th graders who reminded us of Mary’s gift of love when she said, “Yes,” to God’s call.

 In Sunday’s gospel we hear John, Jesus’s cousin, calling us to, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.” When I heard this, I thought, Well, how am I to know if Jesus will come through this path that I am preparing? How am I supposed to recognize him when he comes into my life this Christmas?

 But in writing this letter, I realize preparing the path isn’t about all the stuff we, as parents and educators, are doing to prepare for Dec. 25. No, it’s about purposefully pausing during this busy time to recognize and share acts of love, like the ones I enumerated above. What is wondrous, is that those were just a few of the ways I witnessed His grace and loving presence in my life last week. There were and continue to be so many others.

 In this quiet time of reflection, I see how this school would not be the place it is and I could not help make it flourish without all of you and the love you have for this community. Each of you, no matter the role you have at Star, uniquely embody the love Jesus asks us to give one another in the Great Commandment.

 So, as we enter into the second week of Advent, I invite you to pause in the midst of all the activity to remember why we are doing what we are doing this busy holiday season and why we find ourselves here together.

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (John 3:16)

 Without this belief, Star of the Sea would not exist. And we Catholics believe He is the reason for this season. So, at least for myself, I know my job is and always has been more satisfying when I actively recognize the ways I witness God’s love in the hearts of others. This practice helps me pave the way for Jesus in my own heart, because it’s through the goodness of you that I find Him in me.

 Much love this week,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal