Weekly Letter (Apr 15, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

It is hard to believe that is already the middle of April. As we spring forward toward the middle of the fourth quarter, I would like to commend all of the students who continue to work hard in their academic coursework and implement Catholic Identity into their everyday lives.

Thanks to all of you who attended the Catholic School Information Fair last Wednesday. About eight Catholic schools were on hand to give information and answer questions. It was a great night to gather as a community and support those parents who are interested in continuing their children’s education in our Archdiocesan schools. Special thanks to our former third grade teacher, Leila Stoner, for helping to organize the event. Thank you also to Parent Club co-president, Leah McLean, for her dedication and creativity in making this night so successful.

When we begin classes again after Easter vacation (April 19-28), there are many exciting and important events on the agenda. On Saturday, May 4th, we will hold our farewell event which will include the annual 8th grade vs. Coaches and Alumni basketball and volleyball games. It will also give alumni and current families the opportunity to gather, share memories, and have some fun. More details will be coming shortly about this event. On May 5th, our second graders will be making their First Holy Communion. God bless them on this sacred sacrament. Also, on May 6th our 8th grade class will be heading to our nation’s capital for five days to learn about American history and government and see some of the most iconic sights in the country.

I hope all of you have the opportunity to spend time with family and friends during Easter vacation. May you be filled with peace and joy this Easter season.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Apr 8, ’19)

April 8, 2019

Dear Parents and Students,

It is with great sadness that I must inform you of the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s decision to close Star of the School at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year with the intention of restarting some classes at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Be assured we have the needs of our students, as well as parents and our dedicated faculty and staff, at the center of the school’s planning for the remainder of the year. We will continue to provide exceptional spiritual, academic, and enrichment programs for our students, as we have done since 1909 through the end of the school year.

Last week, Archdiocesan leadership evaluated whether Star of the Sea had a viable and sustainable future, particularly from an operational standpoint. Beginning at the end of the 2017-2018 school year enrollment has been on a downturn with a 60 percent decline since then. Despite optimizing expenditures and the promise of a generous subsidy from the parish, we could not ignore the enrollment trend. Nor did we want to raise tuition to a cost prohibitive level to maintain the quality of education with significantly fewer students, which made the decision unfortunate, but clear.

I know that many of us were filled with hope at the positive momentum that we generated this fall and winter. Know that I am grateful for the overwhelming support and dedication among faculty, parents, students, our many committees, the Parent Club, and all of the efforts to promote the school. We need our entire Star community to come together to help our students, who are at the heart of our mission, and each other.

In an effort to make the transition to a new school as smooth as possible, Star of the Sea will host an event this Wednesday evening, April 10, from 5:45-6:45 pm in our cafeteria. We have invited several representatives from nearby Catholic schools to give enrollment information and be available for questions. Current Star of the Sea parents are welcome to join us for this event and stay for our April Parent Club meeting which begins at 7 pm.

We recognize that there have been rumors of Star closing over the last few months. However, the decision to suspend the school did not happen until the middle of last week. As disappointed as we all are, we must look toward the future and support our students during this unsettling transition, relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Apr 1, ’19)

April 1, 2019

Dear Parents and Students,

We live in a world where we will surely have worries and distress. Jesus tells us this in John’s gospel, “In the world you will have hardship but be courageous: I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Some of these troubles and sufferings come from simply living our lives and are common to everyone. Others are unique to our specific circumstances. Some of our trials and tribulations are internal while others are caused by forces outside of our immediate control. Whatever the struggles are that we face in life, we know that we need hope in order to persevere and live a life of grace and dignity.

In the Book of Hebrews, hope is referred to as “the anchor our souls have, as sure as it is firm, reaching right through inside the curtain” (Hebrews 6:19). What a wonderful image that is for our lives, an anchor giving us certainty and stability in the middle of a storm. But that is what hope does for us and it does more. We can remain faithful by trusting in God through our hardships and pains. Our hope is rooted in our faith in God and helps us to weather the storms of life. This feeling that the events in our lives will turn out for the best enables us to persevere, not only in isolated situations, but also over a lifetime. Without hope, people will give up. As Catholics, we must not only live a life of faith but also live a life sustained by hope.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 25, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Star of the Sea School has been educating students in San Francisco for 110 years. As we have grown and changed through the years, our focus has not. Jesus has been and will continue to be the focus of all that we do.  The mission of Star of the Sea School is to inspire all students to become devoted to Christ through an engaging, nurturing, and exemplary classical curriculum.  Our students participate in weekly Mass, daily prayer, Eucharistic adoration, a sacred music program, and daily religion classes, all to deepen their relationship with Jesus and follow his teachings.

Our academic programming is rigorous, allowing each student to develop to his or her full potential.  Our curriculum standards prepare the students for success in our ever-changing world.  We have a state of the art Science Lab, where students engage in collaborative, hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Technology, our iPads in the computer lab and Chromebook mobile labs in the classrooms, is integrated into daily lessons. Star of the Sea students are well prepared for high school and beyond when they graduate 8th grade.

In fact, high school acceptance notifications went out last Friday and this year three of our students were accepted into Mercy High School in San Francisco and four were accepted at both Riordan High School and Lowell. 12 of our students were accepted at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and 11 were accepted at St. Ignatius. Congratulations to all of our 8th graders and their families. It is a continuing source of pride for both our parish and our school to see so many of our students matriculate to the finest high schools in San Francisco.

And finally, thank you to our highly qualified and dedicated faculty who work tirelessly to ensure that the needs of each of our students are met. Our teachers get to know all of our students and help them grow spiritually and academically.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 18, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

The Parent and Child First Reconciliation for our second grade students was last  Saturday, March 8. It was a beautiful ceremony organized by our second grade teacher, Cindy Conway, and our Parish School of Religion Director, Clarisse Siu. Congratulations to our second graders for receiving this, the first of the two, sacraments of healing.

This Tuesday, March 19th there will be a 6 PM mass in honor of both St. Joseph and St. Patrick. Following the mass the Knights of Columbus will be graciously hosting a corned beef and cabbage dinner in our auditorium.

Stations of the Cross will begin on Friday, March 22, 2019, at 2:30 in our church for the students in grades 3-8. We welcome you to join us each Friday during Lent.

Thank you for your help and continued commitment to Star of the Sea School.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 11, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

We had a reflective Mass here for Ash Wednesday in which our Star of the Sea students  participated fully. Thank you to the student choir, Mr. Kraehling and Miss Ascoff, and Fr. Mathias for starting us all on the Lenten journey. That morning during prayer, the student council reminded the students to pray more intentionally, fast from unkind words and actions and give more friendship. We will be praying the Stations of the Cross and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent as well.

Don’t forget, this Wednesday, March 13th, is our next Parent Club meeting at 7 pm in the auditorium. Please join us.

Re-enrollment forms went out last Thursday evening at our Town Hall Meeting. If you were not able to attend, the form is included in our weekly email blast. Please return forms by the 15th of March. Thank you.

Our 8th graders will be on retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, a few days consciously set aside for God and perhaps a change of focus. The 8th grade retreat is a deliberate way of stepping outside of the normal routine and withdrawing from the noise and pressures of life in a beautiful natural setting.

A retreat can be an unforgettable experience for a Catholic of any age but perhaps they are needed more for teenagers and young adults these days in their busy and stressful lives. Many of our students live in a world where, because of social media, friends, school, sports and home are no longer separated. They are more connected to others in some ways but not as connected in others.

Teens, and really anyone of any age, who have the opportunity to go on a retreat should take advantage of the opportunity. Some of the greatest insights of the retreat experiences I was involved with as the 8th grade teacher came through the students themselves. My very first retreat as a student at St. Ignatius was so important that it actually planted the seed for me to do what I do now, which is to show God’s love to others and to lead the Star of the Sea School community closer to Christ and his church.

Take care and God bless,

 

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Mar 4, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Our faculty, as well the school’s curriculum committee, have been hard at work researching and delving into classical curriculum and textbooks to be ready for the next school year. The first of our efforts to move in this direction will be integrating the Humanities: Religion, Language Arts, and History. We believe that the integration of content from one subject to another will give our students a wide comprehension of history and the achievements of mankind.

To develop a Humanities curriculum that combines History and Literature with the study of the Bible, a teacher, or team of teachers, will work to coordinate readings and assignments within a chronological framework. We believe that this avoidance of a compartmentalized approach will enable our students to participate in the “Great Conversation,” a conversation that has been going on between writers, thinkers, and philosophers for a couple thousand years. It refers to the way that authors have been referencing and interpreting the works of their predecessors through the ages.

In history, we have decided on the Catholic Textbook Project in grades 4-8. The Catholic Textbook Project produces high quality history textbooks that teach from a Catholic perspective. They are similar to standard history texts in layout but some events are included that might be not be in a secular history book. Even with a Catholic emphasis, the texts avoid the temptation to make the actions of Catholics always look good in contrast to those with other religious beliefs. They are well-balanced, inclusive, and comprehensive History textbooks.

In Religion, our teachers have decided on Sophia Press’s Spirit of Truth series in grades K-8. The teachers felt the text was engaging and will capture and keep our students’ attention. The texts include vivid sacred art reflections, stories of the saints, games, role-plays, and critical thinking questions.

Our Latin program will include offerings from Memorial Press and our next goal will be to research texts and materials for Language Arts. We will keep you updated over the following weeks.

All of us at Star of the Sea, parents, students, faculty, staff, parish, alumni, and countless others, have been working very hard to ensure the future of this great school. Our effort to provide a high quality curriculum in a classical setting is just one. These are difficult times for many of us, times when we need turn to our faith. As Paul the Apostle, one of the most important and influential saints, said in one of his letters to the Corinthians: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 25, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Star of the Sea School was founded in 1909 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. While the Sisters have not been teaching here since 2005, their presence and legacy remains with us in many ways. One of those ways is through our annual Stella Maris award, presented each year to a member of the Star of the Sea School and Parish community who, like the Sisters of St. Joseph, has given outstanding service to our community. The award was established in 2013 by former principal, Terry Hanley, and has been bestowed in the past to teachers, parents, administrators, clergy and sisters. This year the award was presented to Diane and her late-husband Fred Meiswinkel.

Diane and Fred Meiswinkel are both native San Franciscans. Diane grew up in the Bayview District and was part of the first graduating class of St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School. She later graduated from Presentation High School. Fred Meiswinkel attended St. Boniface Elementary School in the city’s Tenderloin District and later graduated from Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. After Diane and Fred married in the late 1960s, they settled in the city’s Richmond District where they raised five children (Lorraine, Carl, Debbie, Kenny, and Jay) and sent them all to Star of the Sea Elementary School.

During the 1970s and ’80s when their children attended Star of the Sea School, Diane and Fred were very active parents. They were both very involved in running the Boy Scout program at Star of the Sea and their son Carl achieved the level of Eagle Scout. Fred and the school’s Fathers Club built the snack bar and kitchen on the second level of the gymnasium which is still used by the school’s sports program. After their children graduated from Star of the Sea, Diane and Fred continued to support the school and parish. The Meiswinkel’s family company, which specialized in plaster and drywall, repaired damage to Star of the Sea Church caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Fred and Diane were also hands-on during the Spring Festival, which was the major fundraiser for the school and parish. Whatever needed to be done for the school or parish, Fred and Diane Meiswinkel stepped-up to the plate and ensured it got done.

It is families such as the Meiswinkels, and individuals such as Diane and Fred, who are the foundation of what we do at Star of the Sea School. They, along with many other families, are the bedrock upon which the legacy of our school has been built. Last Saturday, we had the perfect chance to balance both our legacy and our present as we gathered for fun with friends and family at our Stella Maris CrabFest. This was a fun and well-attended fundraiser. Thank you to all who were present, entered our luxury car raffle or purchased items from the silent auction. A big THANK YOU! to our 8th grade student servers and our many parent volunteers. But a special thank you to our chairperson for the event, Lisa Franzia, for organizing such a stunning event. Way to go, Lisa!

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 19, ’19)

Dear Parents and Students,

Star of the Sea School is on a mission. That mission is to educate students in the Catholic faith as well as  provide them with the knowledge and skills that will help them to live productive and happy lives. School fundraisers, such as our Stella Maris Crabfeed this Saturday, February 23rd, are an important part of fulfilling that mission.

Unlike public schools, Catholic schools receive no funding from tax dollars. All income must come from fundraising, tuition, the generosity of donors, and the parish. In addition, parents rarely receive any tax advantage for sending their children to Catholic schools instead of tax-funded public and charter schools. The National Catholic Education Association estimates that Catholic schools saved taxpayers $20 billion during the last school year. Fundraising efforts, therefore, are paramount to a school’s fiscal health.

In addition to fundraising, we need to continue to not only market our school to families, but also to show Star of the Sea parishioners without school-age children that we are Catholic in more than name. Our students regularly volunteer at and hold food drives for the San Francisco Food Bank, helping to feed the hungry. They make regular trips to St. Anne’s Home and the San Francisco VA Medical Center to visit the sick and elderly. They act as stewards of God’s creation by working with the Presidio Trust in habitat restoration. Our students engage in fundraising to garner aid for victims of natural disasters, such as the recent typhoons in the Philippines. Currently we are soliciting donations of shampoo, soap, and warm socks for the homeless which our parents and students will personally deliver to the needy.

The fact that Star of the Sea is very strong academically and religiously, makes a difference in the lives of the students, the parents, and parishioners. We are a good school with good values and Catholic schools remain the Church’s primary means of evangelization.

In accomplishing any mission, there will be challenges and we are certainly facing our own unique set of challenges in our school. But Catholics have always risen to that challenge by devising new educational models and new ways of financing schools. Much remains to be done, but our efforts are worth it.

Take care and God bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

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