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

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