Weekly Letter (Oct 20, 2014)

 

Dear Parents and Students,

The following is an old story that I think you will really love. I wish I could tell you where I found it or who wrote it, but that information is long gone. Enjoy.

Four-Foot Forks

One night a man had a dream that he had died and gone to heaven. Or at least he thought so. After all, there he was standing with Saint Peter who was leading him down a long hallway. Peter opened the large doors into an elegant dining hall. The man couldn’t believe his eyes! He stood just inside a beautiful room that was ornately decorated and the table itself resembled nothing he had ever seen in his life. There were delicious hors d’ oeuvres, platters full of luscious vegetables, a wide variety of meats cooked to perfection, and desserts to die for! The man knew he must be in heaven, for only God could create such a banquet!

Peter gently pulled the man aside and said, “You need to see this.” The man watched as the large doors opened again and this time a crowd of people headed for the dining hall. But something was wrong! They walked in silence, with their heads down. The man couldn’t comprehend this. How could anyone approach such a delicious meal so somberly?

Again, Peter gently told him, “Watch this.” The crowd took their seats, the maitre de rang the dinner bell and each person seated at the table picked up a fork. That was the problem! Each fork was four feet long. Try as they might, not one person could manipulate the fork to pick up even a single delicious morsel and guide it to his own mouth!

The man realized he was not in heaven at all. Indeed, he thought he was a dinner guest in hell!

Peter gently took the man by his elbow and guided him out of the dining room, across the hall, and into another dining room equally as beautiful as the first, with a meal just as delicious waiting to be devoured. Again, Peter whispered, “Watch.”

The man’s eyes immediately went to the table where he saw that these forks were also four feet long. His heart sank as he heard another crowd of people heading toward the door. But something was different. He heard conversation and laughter coming from the people. They walked briskly into the dining hall and took their seats. The man realized that they did not know that their banquet would be ruined by the unmanageable four foot forks. This seemed too cruel and the man turned his head away to avoid seeing their hopes dashed.

Once again, Peter whispered, “Watch.” The maitre de rang the dinner bell and each one picked up a four foot fork and ……….. fed the one seated across from him.

The moral of the story is that heaven and hell may not be geographical locations so much as states of mind, and it may be time to feed our sisters and brothers.

Thank you all for your generous contributions to our annual SF Food Bank Drive.  We will be  returning ten barrels full of food and have taught our children that they can make a difference. It should also be noted that our 7th graders have already volunteered twice at the San Francisco Food Bank this year. Love needs to be shared and your children (our students) have done just that.

God Bless You All,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Oct 13, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 From time to time it’s good for us to get away from the noise and the crowd, turn off the cell phone and ignore the computer. These quiet moments can be that simple, quiet moments or they can evolve into reflection or prayer. Recently in a reflective mood I thought about what Catholic education means to me.

 I have to admit that I could be the “poster boy” for Catholic education. Since September 1959 I have been linked to one Catholic school or another (at times more than one) as a student, coach, teacher, principal or parent.

 Once I took the time to figure out how much all of that Catholic education cost me. Two kids (Kelly and Mike) through nine years each at Good Shepherd, four years each at Sacred Heart Cathedral, seven years of Catholic colleges (Holy Cross, Providence, and Notre Dame) added up to over $250,000 in tuition! I would love to have that money back, but I would never return the great education my kids got at those fine schools.

 I am not trying to down play the value of public school, they are the backbone of any free society, but Catholic schools give something extra. We sell chocolate and hold Galas and festivals to help keep tuition costs low, but we also reach out to help others.

 Every class has a community project: K and 8th both participate in environmental projects in the Presidio, 1st raises extra funds for the Leukemia Society through their “compound word snack sale”, 2nd and 6th both visit Saint Anne’s Home, 3rd graders visit Institute On Aging, 4th goes to the VA Hospital, 5th works with P.I. Malakas Outreach,  and 7th volunteers at the San Francisco Food Bank.

 On top of all that, the school has a few major projects. Right now we are collecting for the Food Bank, on October 25 we will participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Golden Gate Park. At Christmas we will adopt 3 or 4 families and buy gifts for them. In the spring our biggest outreach program is Pennies For Patients. Students bring in loose change (we aren’t crazy, we accept checks too) to help conquer leukemia and lymphoma. I often tell them about how this country conquered polio in the 1950s and 60s, and I assure them that they will see leukemia eradicated in their lifetime. And then I ask them which disease they want to beat next. Believe it or not, they all have answers.

 Our outreach programs may seem simple, the $5000 we collect for Pennies For Patients probably pays for a few minutes of research, but together with others across the country our kids learn that they can make a difference. What Star students do today is not nearly as much as Star grads will do in the future. Research shows that Catholic School graduates are far more likely than their public and private school counterparts to become firefighters, police, social workers, nurses, doctors, teachers and other professionals who serve the community. They also tend to be more involved in politics (on all different sides) and charitable fundraising.

 Years ago, the phrase “educate the whole child” became popular. It referred to an education that was not simply academically oriented but also addressed the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the child. This is where Catholic education comes from. It isn’t just the head, it’s the heart and soul too.

 God bless you all,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Oct 6, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,
It’s so nice to have IOWA Test week behind us and begin to get into our regular school rhythm. You will be receiving your child’s IOWA results at Parent Teacher Conferences and I will share the school scores with you as well. In preparation for Parent Teacher Conferences, I have attached a form for you to request your conference time and date. Please note that these conferences are mandatory for all parents and your prompt reply is appreciated. Conferences will be held on November 10, 11, 12, and 13. School will dismiss at 12:30 each of those days and Extended Care will be open from 12:30 until 6:00. Friday November 14 is a school holiday.

Sincerely,

terry
Terrence Hanley
Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 29, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

Sandra and I bought a new car this summer. It’s the first truly new car either of us has bought in many years. But the old car had three outstanding recalls and there seemed no fix in sight from the manufacturer so we went out shopping.
We got a pretty good deal and really like the new car. My favorite feature is the dashboard display that shows mileage every five miles in graph form. The old math teacher in me thinks that is really cool. And this graph helps me to learn to drive in a fashion that conserves fuel. The tough part is that the driver is not totally in charge of getting good mileage in this car. The terrain of the roads we drive makes a big difference in mileage. This car is not meant for high speeds, it is an “around town commute” car. So when I hit 280, mileage is comparatively low. As I cruise through Golden Gate Park or along Great Highway, the mileage almost doubles. This creates a graph that has a lot of ups and downs.
Which brings me to the point of this letter. Life is very much like that graph in my car. High speeds and driving up hills really affect mileage in a negative way. Driving at a reasonable speed and cruising down hill, the car gets great mileage.
This “herky jerky” graph could probably represent good times and tough times in life as well. So whether it’s you, me, or the kids, don’t expect that graph to top out and stay perfectly consistent. That is not real life. We do the best we can and sometimes we are better humans for struggling through the tough times. And as parents and teachers we can use those tough times as “teaching moments”. Teach the kids and correct them, but do so in an encouraging way. Our lives should not be judged by every moment on a graph but by the positive direction in which we head.
Last week I found a new button on the car. When I push it, it tells the mileage the car has gotten from the day I bought it. It’s an electric car and when I did the math I found out that it gets 91 miles for the cost of a gallon of gasoline. When we look at the big picture we will probably see that in spite of a low point here and there, our kids are also getting great mileage!
Have a good week,

terry

Terrence Hanley
Principal

PS – My son Mike and his wife Allie are expecting their first child in early April. Not bad for a kid who had a lot of his own ups and downs.

Weekly Letter (Sep 22, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

Today is the first day of IOWA Testing for grades 2-8. This is a standardized test used nationally and every Catholic elementary school west of the Rockies has administered this test series for at least 13 years. There are subtests in various academic areas including Reading, Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science and Reference Materials. The results of this test do not affect any student’s report card but they are a good snapshot of each child’s skill level. This is also a great practice test for eighth graders looking at entrance or placements exams in the near future.

At Parent Teacher Conferences your child’s teacher will review IOWA scores with you. Teachers and parents can use test results to help or to challenge individual students. As a group, IOWA scores help teachers focus on lesson plans to make the best use of classroom instruction time.

But please remember that IOWA Tests do not assess the quality of a child’s sense of loyalty, empathy or friendship. Nor do they measure dedication or commitment. We are working together to raise your children to be intelligent, but more than that, kind and loving.

Just for your information …

Star of the Sea (along with all Catholic elementary schools west of the Rockies) administers the IOWA Test of Basic Skills to our students every autumn. For the last five years Star has averaged in the 75th %ile, meaning our kids outscore 75% of the students in the nation who take this test. And inspite of (or perhaps because of) our diversity our Language Arts average score in those five years has been in the 79th %ile! We do not seek geniuses, just great kids who want to develop good study habits, and we are all very proud of our children / students.

Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 15, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

Every week in school is important but this coming week is especially important for the members of the Class of 2015. We have invited each of the Catholic high schools in San Francisco to send a representative to meet with the eighth graders. This is one way that Star helps students make informed choices about their academic futures. Admissions directors from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Saint Ignatius, Archbishop Riordan, Mercy, Stuart Hall, Convent of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Conception Academy will each spend an hour with the students discussing various aspects of their programs.

Eighth graders are also allowed to “shadow visit” as many as three high schools to get better familiarized with them. Mr. Gallagher has already sent home dates, times and phone numbers so parents can set up visits and know when Open Houses are scheduled. (Mr. Chen has done the same for his seventh graders.)

We also are more than happy to talk with students and families about their decisions. Several of us have either graduated from these schools or put our own children through them.

Finally, in the past few years we have had meetings specifically for seventh and eighth grade parents to answer their questions about high school applications as best we can. If you are a seventh or eighth grade parent who would be interested in such a meeting, please email me and let me know.

This process is at times a bit intimidating, but it does not have to be. Rest assured that we are here to help you and that our students do very well in their efforts to gain admittance to some incredible high schools here in The City.

Sincerely,

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 8, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 Recently I was an invited guest at an event I attend every year. I arrived early out of habit and as I entered the main room, I noticed that there was only one volunteer running around, trying to get everything ready. In her haste, she accidentally knocked over and broke a lamp. I told her that if she could get me a broom and dustpan, I would clean it up so she could continue to prepare for the ceremony. She was very grateful and asked me to wait while she got them.

 No sooner had she run off to get the broom, then a gentleman gruffly told me to “get away from the mess.” Later, as I was sweeping, that same gentleman came over and pointed out that I had missed a few pieces of glass. My “mean teacher mode” kicked in and I asked him “not to grade my essay before I had a chance to finish writing it.”

 Everything got cleaned up and the evening was quite enjoyable. The gentleman sought me out and thanked me for helping. But that one brief encounter has bothered me for nearly a week.

 When I sat down to write this letter, I had a very different conclusion in my mind. But as I wrote, I couldn’t help but think of the times I have been so stressed out about something that I forget to treat people with respect and affection. I also suspect that I don’t say “thank you” enough. At another time or another place, I could have been that gentleman.

 So, even though it is way early in the school year, I want to thank all of you students, parents, and teachers for volunteering to go above and beyond to help serve this school. Our lives are full of events, but events do not define us. It is our relationships that define us. Showing respect, affection, appreciation, and patience help us all to grow as God’s beloved children.

Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley
Principal

Weekly Letter (Sep 2, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 Every August the Department of Catholic Schools kicks off the new school year by inviting all principals, vice principals, and pastors to Saint Mary’s Cathedral for Mass followed by dinner. It’s a great way to start the school year because when we gather together as Catholic school administrators we remind each other of the importance of our vocations.

 There must have been 25 – 30 priests concelebrating the Mass (including Father Illo) and most principals took this as a great show of support. The main celebrant was Father Stephen Howell and he chose to read from the Gospel about the Transfiguration. (I don’t recall if he read from Matthew, Mark, or Luke’s Gospel as the story appears in all three.)  But I do recall the verse that deeply touches my heart, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” This same line also appears in those three Gospels when Jesus was baptized by his cousin John.

 I can’t help but think that if God the Father proclaims that Jesus is His beloved son and He is well pleased by Jesus, that we human fathers (and mothers) should follow that example and tell the world, and especially our own kids, that we love them and are pleased by them. 

 I’m not suggesting that we should praise them even when they do something wrong or in a time and place that would embarrass them, but a pat on the back, a hug and the words “I love you” are probably among the most important things we parents and teachers can do for our kids. When we know we are loved, we are more capable of sharing love with others. And that is what God calls us to do.

 Be at peace this week and know that you are loved.

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Aug 27, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 Welcome back! Or to our new families, welcome to Star! I can’t help but be excited about the beginning of a new school year. As much as I love working here, it isn’t about “here”, it’s about “who”. Star of the Sea School is in a great old building but that building is not the school. We are the school! Students, parents, teachers, priests, administrators, and alumni make Star.

 I want to extend a special welcome to our new Kindergartners and new students in other grades. That same warm greeting is extended to our new staff members; Ms. Coldren (K Aide), Ms. Gerlach (3rd Grade Teacher), Mr. Kaiser (Junior High Science Teacher, and Mr. Cohen (Counselor).

 Finally, I wish to welcome our new Parochial Vicar, Father Patrick Driscoll and our new Pastor, Father Joseph Illo. Both have been on campus for about a month and you will get a chance to meet them in the schoolyard or at Back To School Night, or at Mass here at Star.

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal