Weekly Letter (Oct 16 ’17)

Dear Parents,

I’ll keep my letter very short this week because the Conference Requests must be turned in soon.


It’s that time of year when we begin looking to our annual mandatory Parent / Teacher Conferences. We wait until the end of the first quarter because by this time the teachers are better able to point out strengths and areas in which growth is needed.

Looking back at my approach to conferences as a new parent, I remember them being nerve wracking. And as a new teacher, I was just as nervous. But as the years passed and my experiences deepened, I’ve come to really enjoy conferences. It is a time when all involved parties: teacher, parents, and students (in the third floor classrooms) have dedicated time to reflect on each student’s successes and challenges. It is a time to get to know one another, decide on goals, and set up a plan.

Conferences are 15 minutes long with your child’s homeroom teacher and are mandatory.

This year, the sign ups for preferred time slots is on-line, which you can find at this link.

We will organize the schedule making every effort to give you the time and date you chose, but this is all done on a first come, first serve basis. Please do not ask for an exact time, we simply cannot do that with 230 conferences to schedule. Any family who does not get this form back to school by October 28 will simply be assigned a time. Thank you for your prompt reply to this, and we look forward to productive conferences.

Mrs. Theresa Poon


Weekly Letter (Oct 10 ’17)

Dear Star Families,

When it comes to the planning of our annual Stella Maris Gala, I’ve been feeling like the White Rabbit of Alice and Wonderland — like I should be running around with a pocket watch announcing to all and sundry that “I’m Late! I’m Late!” But, fortunately, I’ve just learned there is still time for each of us to fully participate in one of our most anticipated evening events!

The Gala is only a few weeks away and we still need all community members to donate auction items and buy tickets to attend. Not only do we honor two of our most beloved members of the Star community but the Gala is our biggest fundraiser of the year, all funds benefit the entire school. We greatly depend on the generosity of our families for the success of this event.

I’ve already offered up my 8th grader to act as wait-staff and put “Principal For A Day” and two batches of “Mrs. Poon’s Homemade Lumpia” (ready for fryer or freezer) on the auction block.

So, how can you contribute to making our Gala’s evening at the Mad Hatter’s Table a night to remember? Well, I’ve cut and pasted the next section to help you see how easy it is to get involved.


This is a gentle reminder to all, that every family is required to either donate or solicit an item to be included in the Gala’s auction. Currently, family participation is extremely low.  The Gala is less than 4 weeks away and Gala organizers ask that you please bring your donations to the school office ASAP.

The Gala’s Online ONLY Auction will go live this week.  For your item to be featured in the auction, be sure to get your items in within the next two weeks.

Monday, 10/23/17, is the cutoff date for recognition in the event program.  

Please complete the donation form and submit it to the office or e-mail it to [email protected].  Physical items and certificates may be turned into the school office with the completed form.

Please be reminded that all families are required to either solicit or donate an item to the annual Gala, which helps us raise funds for our beloved school.

Additionally, if you haven’t purchased your Gala tickets yet, it’s not too late! The RSVP form is also attached. Thank you for supporting Star!

Mrs. Theresa Poon

Weekly Letter (Oct 2, ’17)

Dear Star Parents and Families,

This week we celebrate the feast of our city’s holy patron, St. Francis of Assisi. I grew up in my Catholic school, St. Patrick’s in San Jose, listening to the Prayer of St. Francis during Mass. It is one of my favorite songs to sing. In fact, I am listening to it now as I write.

As the lyrics fill this room, I realize I have had the job of being a peacemaker for quite a long time. After all, I worked in the 5th-grade classroom for over a decade. During the course of that time, I watched the power of peace in action — which was most often during the ten minutes after recess.

Ten-year-olds, you see, are amazing people. They are so readily able to discover a place of peace among themselves in times of utter discord with their neighbor. Even though they can be the worst at holding grudges about wrongs done as far back as preschool, it always amazed me when I witnessed how they still found ways to peacefully and cooperatively work together in the classroom simply because it is what we ask of them at Star.

In short, we ask them to practice the healing power of forgiveness, and often miraculously, they rise to expectation.

So, as I listen to St. Francis’s Prayer, I realize just how fitting the prayer is when I consider the work we are meant to do at Star this year.

The song is a call to the greatest form of love, one that transcends old hurts and pain. One that reminds us of what we as Catholic Christians strive to do:

To be an instrument of God’s peace
To show love where there is hatred
To bring harmony to discord
To pardon an injury
To bring truth where there is falsehood
To show faith during times of doubt
To clasp onto hope when there is despair
To bring light into darkness
and to find joy despite heart rendering sadness.

This is by no means an easy call, but here in this place, it is one in which we firmly believe and work toward every day. So, as always, I look to the children as models. They are the ones who remind me on a daily basis that such peace is possible and worthy of being accomplished.


This week, I wish you much peace,

Mrs. Theresa Poon


Weekly Letter (Sep 25 ’17)

Dear Star families,

Through my life’s most difficult trials I have been told that God does not give us more than we can handle. It’s an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13. After the month we’ve had so far, I have to admit that there have been moments, even whole days and nights, when I have called into question the veracity of this Scripture reading.

Upon preparing to write this letter, I have thought on this saying and forced myself to gather my thoughts away from the overwhelming fatigue, grief, and stress of the last few weeks. Instead, I have sought to pay attention to the life lessons as taught by the children who fill Star’s halls and classrooms.

For example:

  • The light in an 8th grader’s eyes when she figures out an equation in Mr. Chen’s room.
  • The 7th grader patiently caring for his little Church buddy during an all school Mass.
  • The 6th grader showing off her very first Social Studies test grade to her father, ecstatic by the results.
  • The 5th graders grinning ear to ear every time I visit my former classroom.
  • The 4th graders scribbling down notes, listening attentively as I pass by their open door.
  • The 3rd graders telling me to look at their science experiment on germs clearly labeled next to the door. It’s pretty gross, by the way. 
  • The 2nd graders learning to be quiet and considerate in the halls and their silly attempts at shushing each other.
  • The 1st graders’ excitement about their recent “trip” to Latin America.
  • The Kindergartners’ shockingly strong high-fives.

Even the preschoolers show me again the excitement of the future as I was recently regaled with their numerous proclamations of soon reaching their 4th year of life and how I am definitely invited to a number of their birthday parties which, you should all know, are in February.

They’ve all retaught me that there are still reasons to smile, even laugh, and find the strength to take on the daunting and oft uncomfortable tasks that are the sole duties of a school principal.

So now, while I still find little comfort in the overused recounting of the Bible verse above, I have discovered great solace in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, in which it is written, “God will give you all the grace you need in every situation you face.” This grace is very much alive and real.

I’ve discovered through Fr. Vito, Fr. Illo, and Fr. John as they have helped guide me in the ministerial aspects of this job. Grace is given to me by the faculty and staff, who have gone beyond the call of duty to bring the school back to feeling like a grade school in the September days approaching fall and who have helped return the joyous sound of children at play during recess – a sound I know Mr. Hanley so loved.

I have discovered God’s grace in you, the parents, who’ve not only cared for your children through this most trying of times, but have brought your love and support to the schoolyard where you are most visible and appreciated by all who work here.

Mostly, however, I discover daily grace through Star’s students, who I love with an abundance, a love of which I had not been previously aware. It is for them that I work tirelessly and this is a promise I will keep for as long as I am given the privilege of fulfilling this role left by one of the most wonderfully understanding and compassionate men for whom I’ve had the pleasure to work.

The gift Mr. Hanley left me is the full realization of the beauty and joy found in what I’d always considered a thankless job. Because now, in doing it, I more completely understand how it is we, together have and will continue to do the Lord’s work here at Star of the Sea.


Have a blessed week.

Mrs. Theresa Poon

Weekly Letter (Sep 18 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

I thought it fitting this week to send Mr. Hanley off in style – his very own. Below are words he wrote himself, ones he told me years ago he’d written and continually edited. This eulogy was read by his son, Mike, during Mr. Hanley’s funeral Mass and is here now for you to cherish.

My first job was at Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Store on 24th and Irving. It was without a doubt the best job a teenager could ever have. The pay was terrible ($1.25 per hour) but the benefits were incredible. People loved us! They gave us a few bucks and we gave them ice cream! They felt like I was the Wizard of Oz bestowing a great gift on them. I loved being loved. But eventually it occurred to me that the customers were not always right. They loved the scoopers who handed them the ice cream, but completely overlooked the multitude who were far more responsible for getting the ice cream to them.

None of them considered the manager who set our work schedule and ordered the ice cream. None of them cared about the owner who had invested a big chunk of money and time in the store. Not a thought was given to the teamster who delivered the product to us each week. Mr. Baskin and Mr. Robbins, who were so instrumental in creating hundreds of delicious flavors, were never mentioned. And Lord knows that nobody, not even the scoopers ever thought to be grateful to the cows that had given the milk that was processed into ice cream. I do not mean to imply that any of you are cows, but it’s clear to me that I have basically the same job now that I had then. Thank you for all you have done for Star and thanks for letting me be the face of our beloved school.

I like to think that I learned one real life lesson at every school I ever attended. At Holy Name I learned that some people were going to root for the Yankees against the Giants not because they were from New York or because they knew a player on that team, but because they cared more about jumping on the band wagon of a winner than about their own home team. These people are called front-runners and they are not good role models.

At Sacred Heart I learned a poem:

Not to the swift the race

Not to the strong the fight

Not to the righteous perfect grace

Not to the wise the light

But often faltering feet

Come surest to the goal

And those who walk in darkness

Meet the sunrise of the soul

At USF some professor told me that the only cause worth giving your life to is a hopeless cause.

So I became a teacher in an underfunded system that teaches that we should all love each other. I was destined to fail. But my failures and those of my beloved colleagues have been glorious.

In the spring of my junior year at Sacred Heart I was called into the counselors office to discuss my senior year schedule. Everything seemed fine until the counselor told me they had me all set to take Physics. I hated the sciences, mainly because I couldn’t BS my way through them. I panicked! I blurted out the first lie I could think of, “I can’t take Physics next year!” When asked why not, the second lie came out even faster, “ I need to take two English classes, cuz I want to be a teacher!” The counselor smiled and changed my schedule. It took me years to realize that I hadn’t lied, I simply was forced to go deep into my soul to speak the truth, “I want to be a teacher.”

Perhaps the most important lesson I ever learned was that every time I give away something I have, I am left with less of that something. There is only one exception to that rule. The more love I give away the more love I have to share with others.

There are about a half dozen people who have supported me as I moved from student to teacher to principal and they served as my main source of encouragement for all those years. I hope they know that I have tried my best to never let them down. But I have learned over the years that wanting to impress them was not enough. Wanting to succeed was not enough. For me, the prime motivation for succeeding has been a terrible fear of failure. In a few days I will be able to let that burden go. But that burden was a small price to pay for such a great career!

I have a recording I want to share with you. It paraphrases Jesus and St Paul. Please listen carefully and join in if you can.

(Play All you Need Is Love by the Beatles.)

We will always remember with love and gratitude Mr. Hanley’s zest for life, his strong faith, his terrible jokes, and his constant mission to faithfully work to bring about not only tolerance, but acceptance. After all, as his favorite song goes, all we need is love.

May peace be with you,

Mrs. Theresa Poon


A Heartfelt Thank You to Parents and Students: 

The outpouring of love and sympathy from the Star of the Sea community has been very helpful to us over these last few weeks, some of the most difficult that we, currently on staff have experienced during our tenure. Your presence around the school during the days and evenings has been a great comfort. 

This week looks to be a little better. We have a new principal. Our daily schedules are back on track. And though we know that grief takes its own time and is out of our control, we find time to reflect on how grateful we each are for the years we worked with and for Mr. Hanley. And in addition, now for the most recent times, we have been able to spend with Star’s parents, students, alumni, and friends. 

Please accept our sincerest thanks for everything: the flowers, the food, and the cards. But mostly thank you for your presence, the time spent in the classrooms, the front office, the yard, and the church. 

Your kindness and compassion would make Mr. Hanley very proud. 

God Bless, 

Mr Gallagher, Vice-Principal
and the Teachers & Staff of Star of the Sea School

Weekly Letter (Sep 11 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students, below is a note from Mr. Hanley’s wife, Sandra:

Star Family,

I wish that I could find the words to say thank you for your kindness in remembering Terry with your thoughtfulness and generosity.

We appreciate everything you have done to be there for us.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your support during this difficult time.  You have made an awful time in our lives more bearable.  We truly appreciate what a wonderful supportive family we have in Star of the Sea.

Terry always said that each school he worked at was great, but being a part of Star was a “little grater.”

Weekly Letter (Aug 28 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

Three days done and 177 left to go! I cannot express the joy I feel having the kids back in school. There are many important tasks that need to be done every summer, but none of them brings the energy or enthusiasm of the children. As I told them at line up on Wednesday, I thank God that they are back, and pointing to the building, I tell them this building is not Star, we are Star. Welcome back to all the students, parents, teachers, staff, and clergy.

Back to School Night is this Thursday starting at 6:30 in Church. All parents from K -8 are required to attend. Extended Care will be open from 6:15 until 7:50 ($5 per child).  The evening will start in Church with a greeting from the principal and pastor. Teachers will be introduced and Parent Club Co Presidents will make a short presentation.

At that point parents will be directed to their child’s classroom and teachers will share their programs and plans for the year with you. The presentations will be very general as there is always time for specific questions later. For those of you with two children attending Star, each teacher will do an encore presentation. Parents with three or more kids here at Star will have to “divide and conquer” to hear each teacher. The event will end at 7:45.

Please be sure to pick up your copy of the FAMILY HANDBOOK in your child’s classroom. Please sign and turn in the cover page before you leave and please be sure to read it.

I look forward to a wonderful year at Star and I know you do too.

God Bless You,


Weekly Letter (Aug 20 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

I hope that your summer vacation has been tremendous and I know you look forward to Wednesday morning when school starts up again.
There is some very good news: both the West Catholic Educational Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges have awarded Star with a full six year accreditation! At this late date, I know this is anti-climactic but getting the official word is still exciting.
We have two new members of our staff who I would like to welcome. Ms. Michaela Ruiz will be our Kindergarten Teachers Aide this year and Ms. Donna Bruno is our new Music teacher. I am excited to welcome both of them to Star! You should also know that besides Father Illo and Father Vito we have a new Parochial Vicar Father John Chung. He will be making regular classroom visits this year and the kids will love him.
Mr. Kaiser will be out for four weeks on his “paternity leave.” Mr. Lacey, who covered his Science and Computer classes last spring will be covering them again. They worked very well as a team coordinating planning, grading and other aspects of the classes last year.
I am looking forward to the upcoming year and am so glad to have the kids and their energy back in the building! I’ll see you all Wednesday morning before 8:00. Dismissal will be at 12:30 and Extended Care is open.

God Bless,

Terrence Hanley

Summer Family Reminder (Jul 25 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

The new school year will soon be upon us and as a reminder, attached are all the documents that were sent out at the end of last school year. Please note that many of these documents are due the first day of school.

NEW FAMILIES, this is a reminder that New Parent Orientation will take place on Wednesday, August 16 at 6:30 pm in the Auditorium.
If there are any questions, feel free to call the school office at (415) 221-8558.

Have a great rest of the summer!


Terrence Hanley


Weekly Letter (May 15 ’17)

Dear Parents and Students,

I want to share two thoughts with you today; one spiritual and one corporal. Let me begin with the spiritual. This time of year between Easter and mid-June can be very emotional for me. Confirmation, First Holy Communion and finally Graduation are three very special spring time events. It is so touching to watch parents as they pass on to their kids the truly important aspects of life. The intimacy of Christ in our lives through the Eucharist and the joy of full initiation through Confirmation are two of the deepest spiritual moments of life. To be able to watch the joy of children (young women and men), parents, and grandparents as these sacraments are celebrated is a gift to any teacher. Compared to these two, Graduation is minor, but I am a teacher, so watching our kids move on always touches my heart.

On the corporal side, I want to strongly encourage you all to attend the final “Workshop” with all stakeholders on May 24 from 5:30-7:30pm in the auditorium. This workshop is to reach a conclusion on the Master Plan. All are invited–parents, staff, parishioners, etc. Ratcliff will have large boards with several options for small group discussion (6-8 per table) and try to reach some consensus. The future of our physical plant may not affect us directly, but it is time for us to share our ideas and dreams to assure the best possible future for Star’s physical plant, students and parishioners. Please join us.

God Bless You All and Happy Mothers’ Day to All the Moms,

Terrence Hanley