Weekly Letter (Oct 15, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

There is a lot going on at Star of the Sea School over the next couple of weeks. Our next Open House, our most important admissions event, takes place on our campus on Thursday, October 18th, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.  Please encourage all family and friends with prospective kindergarten students to attend this amazing event. As we move closer to the month of November, keep in mind that we will have two more Open Houses on the 1st and the 15th.

Children and teens love to sing. It is an expression of emotion and helps bring us closer together. We have three wonderful music teachers this year in Mr. Gresens, Ms. Ascoff, and Mr. Kraehling who are doing some great work with our students. In addition, during the week of October 29th we have a great opportunity for our students to learn the Catholic Church’s original style of music: chant.  That week we will have a chant teacher from the Benedict XVI Institute, an organization dedicated to sacred music and art, come to Star of the Sea School to teach our students chant which they will then sing at our All Saints Day Mass on November 1st at 2 pm. Towards the end of the school year we have the opportunity to be included on the professionally recorded CD Children Chant SF. Proceeds from the CD will be returned to every school or parish that participates in order to support our music program.

Our Halloween Party will be on the 26th of October in the auditorium and we will have our annual Halloween Parade and Costume Contest on October 31st at 2:00 pm. Students are allowed to dress in costume on that day but we do have some guidelines. These guidelines were sent home with the students but I will reinforce them here. Please avoid any gore, violence, or blood. Do not dress up as characters from horror films and there are no weapons allowed as a part of a costume. What we would like to see are students dressed as people that we look up to and admire such as a scientist or inventor, a fictional character from a  book, someone famous from history, a great athlete, or maybe even…a saint.

Take care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Oct 09, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

The month of October is one of two months dedicated to Mary. The month of October is also dedicated to the Holy Rosary. The Rosary calls to mind the most important events in the life of Jesus. October 7 is the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

According to an account by a fifteenth-century Dominican priest, Mary appeared to St. Dominic in 1206 after he had been praying. Mary praised him and then gave him the Rosary. She explained its uses and effectiveness to St. Dominic, and told him to tell other people about it.

Praying the Rosary regularly encourages us to slow down in our very busy lives. This, in turn, should encourage us to live life at a slightly slower pace than most people. We learn from Mary how to look at an experience and think about what it means for us. This slower pace also allows us to be present, to notice when someone needs help, to wait patiently for our turn, to focus on what is happening now. The Rosary will teach you this and that is why all Catholics should pray the rosary, especially during the month of October.

Report Cards will be sent home on November 5th and parent-teacher conferences will be held on November 6-9. Please sign up for times and days using our online scheduling system. Parent-teacher conferences last for fifteen minutes and are mandatory for all parents. If for any reason, you are unable to schedule a conference during that week, send an email to the teacher to schedule an appointment for a suitable time. There should be no “surprise” grades because progress reports went out last week and report cards will be given out before conferences.

Thank you for your support in every area of our school. Our parent volunteers have given so much of their time so far this year and have many fun, community building events planned for the coming months.  A special word of thanks to the those of you who volunteered at our first Open House of the year last Thursday, especially to our 8th grade tour guides, Vincent, Sinead, Johann, Aubry, Leia, Bailey, Kianna, Kay, Eva, and William.

Take care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Oct 01, ’18)

Dear Star of the Sea Families,

Our mission at Star of the Sea School is to form Catholic leaders. Family and school represent the primary environments in which our children grow and develop, and at Star of the Sea, we value your involvement as parents. The foundation for good parent-teacher relationships includes frequent and open communication, mutual respect, and a clear understanding of what is best for each individual student.

We will host our first Open House of the school year this Thursday, October 4th, at 9 AM in the auditorium. We will have subsequent Open Houses on the 18th of October and the 1st and 15th of November. Open Houses are generally for families who are looking for a quality Kindergarten program. So why am I informing parents whose children are already enrolled in our Kindergarten through 8th grades about our Open Houses?

The reason is simple: Word of Mouth. Even though the school has an active marketing committee and has dramatically increased its presence on social media (check out our Facebook page), Word of Mouth remains the most valuable form of marketing—the one that parents trust above all others and the one that is most likely to increase enrollment for the school. If we want to generate interest in and publicity for all the great things that we do at Star of the Sea, we need to unleash the power of word of mouth. According to a Nielsen Consumer Survey, 92% of the people surveyed believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. That is pretty powerful. So spread the word about what a great school this is. Like that old shampoo commercial from the 80’s said, “It was so good, I told two friends about it, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…”

Thank you for the sacrifices you make and for your constant support of Catholic education and the mission of Star of the Sea School. Let us ask God for the conviction to live our Catholic faith and to carry Jesus’s message into the lives of our children, creating Catholic leaders and ultimately – saints!

Take Care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 24, ’18)

Dear Star of the Sea Families,

This past Thursday Miss Ruiz and the third grade had a very special visit from two Carmelite sisters, Sister Scholastica and Sister Gianna. Carmelite sisters are religious women completely dedicated to serving God and the Church. The sisters care for the elderly, staff and administer at schools and child care facilities, and conduct retreats so that people can grow closer to their faith. The Carmelite sisters spent the morning with the third graders praying, singing, and discussing the religious life.

If you stop and think about it, we, as a school, have a lot in common with the sisters. We both pray daily together. We both express our faith through good works and service to the community. But the most important thing we have in common is our devotion to Mary, Star of the Sea, our guiding light who remains with us as we attempt to live in union with God and to respond as she always did, in complete devotion to Jesus.

I spent a lot of time this week visiting classrooms and spending time at lunch and at mass with the students This is what I saw. I saw a first grader after school in the yard burst from the group of waiting classmates and jump joyfully into her father’s arms. I remember when my son used to do that, though now it would likely break my back. I saw the 7th and 8th graders with their little mass buddies guiding them in the ways of the liturgy and helping them to calm their wiggles and focus on their faith. I saw all of my faculty and staff members working tirelessly to be the very best they can be and share their passion for learning with their students. It is my hope that the Star of the Sea community can glimpse even a glimmer of the same, so keep your eyes open. It is a beautiful thing to see!

Take Care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 17, ’18)

Dear Star of the Sea Families,

Last Wednesday we had our first Parent Club meeting of the new school year and it was fantastic. I have attended many Parent Club meetings here as a teacher or to occasionally fill in for Mr. Hanley and I have never seen such an impressive turnout of parents. Let’s try to carry this positive energy and enthusiasm all the way through June 7th, and beyond. A large thank you to all of the parents who came out to the meeting and are serving the school on various committees, and an extra large thank you to our Parent Club co-presidents, Leah McLean and Ruth Callanan, as well as to all of our committee chairpersons. Our next PC meeting will be on October 10th at 7 PM in the auditorium. Mark it on your calendars because the class with the highest percentage of parents attending will be awarded with a free Thursday Lunch the following month.

Students and teachers finished our September Star baseline tests this week and the results are impressive, as usual. In Math, 46.3% of our students scored at the 75th percentile or above and in Reading, 40% of our students scored at the 75th percentile or above. Standardized test scores, along with in-class assignments and teacher observations, are used by teachers in several ways: to make instructional determinations, to set obtainable goals for students to work towards, and to help inform decisions such as choosing students groups, creating seating charts and differentiating curriculum for individual students. Test results will be shared with parents during Parent-Teacher conferences in November but remember, one test score does not determine all that a student is or isn’t. It is useful data but teachers spend the entire year collecting all sorts of valuable information that informs and influences how they teach, as well as where and what they review, readjust and reteach.

Take Care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 10, ’18)

Dear Star of the Sea Families,

Thank you to all of you who came to our weekly school mass on Wednesday to celebrate the life of our former principal, Mr. Hanley. It was nice to see so many familiar faces and spend a little time together reminiscing and catching up.  Thank you also, and a belated welcome, to Fr. Taheny, one of our new priests who we will have around campus to visit classrooms and say masses. We look forward to working with you this school year.

This Wednesday is our first Parent Club meeting. We would like as many parents as possible to attend Parent Club meetings this year so we are adding a little more incentive to attend, in addition to our normal free dress the following day. More details will follow in the coming weeks but suffice it to say, your kids will be happy if you come to Parent Club meetings, especially if a lot of parents from the same class attend (hint). Parent Club meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7PM in the auditorium. There will be refreshments.

Each month, starting this week, I, or another member of the faculty, will write a small article about our efforts to move toward a classical curriculum. It will be called Classical Corner.

Take care and God bless,

Weekly Letter (Aug 20, ’18)

Dear Star of the Sea Families,

I am very excited to introduce myself as the new principal of Star of the Sea School. It is an honor to have been selected to succeed Mrs. Poon and lead an educational institution which is known throughout the City as a Catholic school dedicated to academic excellence, but more importantly, to the formation of virtue in children.

I will spend a lot of time with the students of Star of the Sea, getting to know their personalities, learning styles and interests. I will celebrate their successes, small and large. I will encourage them every day and let them know they are valued as children of God and have a special place in our school community.

Not only am I excited to begin working with your children, but I also look forward to the work we will do together. I cannot wait to share with you the great things they do throughout their days here at Star of the Sea. And of course, I will be here to work with you should they need any help navigating any aspect of the school day. My goal is to ensure that all children are healthy, happy and safe, so that they learn as much as they can.

This has been my philosophy since I began my career teaching with the Castro Valley Unified School District twenty years ago. I worked in Castro Valley High School for three years where I taught Freshman English and American Literature. I then moved here to Star of the Sea where I was the sixth grade teacher for six years. I supervised Student Council and coached basketball. I then moved up to eighth grade where I was given the honor and privilege to support students as they prepared for the high school entrance process. I developed a High School Placement Test preparation class, started a summer school with Mrs. Poon and ran that for ten years, prepared students for Confirmation and graduation, and was appointed Vice Principal in Charge of Testing.

I will work to ensure that your children have the best possible experiences while at Star of the Sea. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to bring all that I have experienced and learned with me in my new role as principal. I look forward to getting to know you and your children. I have been working with our faculty, staff and parents this summer to ensure a smooth transition and opening on the first day of school, August 22. We will also be having an informal gathering that morning in the auditorium after classes begin. There will be light refreshments so  please stop by to say hello and have a cup of coffee. I look forward to meeting you soon.

Take Care and God Bless,

Mr. David Gallagher
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jun 4, ’18)

Dear Star Parents,

This week, our school year draws to a close and while there has been a great deal of loss and change in 2017-18, we must also pause to take a moment to celebrate our successes and the many happy memories the children have made within these walls this year.

Such happy times are in most part thanks to our Star teachers who, despite tragedy and change in their own lives, have helped bolster morale in all aspects of school life. Star’s gifted educators, oft unlauded professionals in the building, invest their whole selves in their work, sacrifice their personal time that could’ve been spent with family and friends, and sometimes have given their own funds to ensure Star kids are given the best education we are able to give.

Partnership with the parent body, too, helps ensure a healthy school community. It has been this principal’s blessing to have had so many parents come to meet with me. Not just to share advice, concerns, and caution, but to also take the time to say something was well done and was of benefit to the school and our students. Star has the most generous parents, willing to share their time, talents, and treasures to ensure the well-being of our special community and for this I am grateful.

Most importantly, it is with pride that I look upon our students. They have never failed to lighten the burden of a difficult day with their smiles, desire to learn, and attempts to pull me into play. Our Star students have excelled in so many fields it is impossible to list them all. I am in awe of their achievements, both big and small. Most important of these successes is the kindness and friendliness described in all the notes left by student shadowers at the end of their stays.

I have been working with Mr. Gallagher and will continue to do so during the summer to ensure a well informed and smooth transition. We will be preparing for the opening of a new school year, setting priorities that will build upon Star’s successes. We should always seek to do better; to challenge ourselves and our students by setting the highest standards and to faithfully work towards the fulfillment of our school mission.

I would like to wish you the very best for the summer vacation. Keep reading, keep playing, keep doing good things. Star’s staff & faculty look forward to welcoming you all back refreshed and ready for what will be an exciting, new year.

In Partnership,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (May 28, ’18)

Dear Star Families,

This week is the last for our 8th graders and I wish I had the words to truly express my gratitude to all who have made Star of the Sea School such an incredible village in which to raise our children. This letter is dedicated to our 8th Grade Stars.

You will make mistakes. They’re only mistakes if you fail to learn from them.
You will succeed. Succeed with humility. There’s no need to call attention to your success.
You will lose. Lose with grace and plan for the next opportunity with realism, optimism and hope.
You will win. Be a deserving winner. Congratulate those less fortunate with encouraging words.
You will hurt. Welcome the pain. It will teach you more than pleasure ever will. Recognize it as the low that teaches you to get up and try again.
You will laugh. Laugh with your whole body, mind and spirit for it is cathartic for the soul and all those around you.
You will cry. Cry with abandon. Sometimes nothing else works.
You will be overwhelmed. Write it down. Break it down into baby steps. Then the tasks won’t be so daunting.
You will be tired. Tiredness happens when everything seems bleak and everything bugs you – sleep! It will all look better in the morning.
You will celebrate. Enjoy it and remember that you can have fun while being responsible and mature.
You will be lonesome. Learn to love your own company, for it is the only company you will have every minute for your whole entire life.
You will feel lonely. When it feels like the rest of the world has turned its back on you, your parents, your closest friends, and prayer will always see you through.
You will struggle. Fight. Fight hard to overcome obstacles and challenges, for you have been raised by your parents and shaped by your years here at Star to be resourceful and strong.
You will love. Love openly, with all of your heart. If it breaks, it will heal and you must learn to love again.
You will stumble. I hope you don’t fall but if you do, know you will always have someone to catch you. Even if all you have left is your faith – always remember, God loves you.
Everything is always OK in the end. If it’s not OK. Don’t ever forget: It’s not the end yet.

You are each and everyone an amazing part of the tapestry of who we are here at Star. Know always that you will be welcomed by your teachers with joy and open arms when you come visit.

With love,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Email (May 21, ’18)

Dear Star Families,

I missed a prime opportunity on May 4, to share some Catholic humor as a mother of Star alumna who attended public high school. You see, my wedding anniversary date has now become known far and wide as Star Wars Day. On this day, everyone who is in the know greets others with a: May the Force (fourth, ha ha) be with you. So popular is this day, in fact, that my former students assumed Albert and I specifically picked May 4 as our wedding date because we are Star Wars fans.

Star Wars Day first came to my consciousness during my daughter’s first year at Lowell High School. She came home wearing a Star Wars T-shirt and announced, “So, now I know all the Catholics at Lowell.” As you can imagine, my immediate impulse was to ask, “What? How?”

So, she explained how she’d gone around school greeting people with a, “May the Force be with you.” She looked me squarely in the eye and related with all seriousness, “Mom, you know who the Catholics are when you say that because they always reply, ‘And also with you.’” It’s one of my most vivid memories of our numerous after school conversations. These days, I imagine the automatic response might be, “And with your spirit.”

The gospel this week is St. John’s version of Pentecost, how Jesus came through the locked doors and breathed the Holy Spirit into the apostles, saying, “Peace be with you.” The calming of the disciples’ anxiety in the form of the Spirit is the sort of peace that I have prayed for our Star family and continue to work toward this year.

There is the beginnings of a settling down that is happening here at school. It was felt at all of the Star activities I took part in this weekend: The 8th grade dance, the Teddy Bear picnic, and I also joined longtime parishioners during Star’s celebration of Flores de Mayo. It must be the comfort of continuing the familiar rhythm of the school year, the comforting cadence of saying the rosary, listening to the kids’ laughter in the halls and schoolyard, and greeting happy alumni as they come back to visit. Our earliest anxieties are starting to quiet as we make decisions that are best for our families. And while our graduates are on the cusp of saying goodbye, so many families remain, excited to welcome others into this beautiful space. As our most recent confirmandi know, our spiritual peace will continue to come as we exercise the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom. Understanding. Knowledge. Counsel. Courage. Reverence. Wonder and Awe.

It is with wonder and awe that I thank God for the blessings of you and your family. Everything you continue to do to strengthen the best of our school community does not go unnoticed. We at Star are so grateful for your dedication to the school, the children and our teachers.

This week, may peace be with you.

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal