Weekly Letter (Jan 5, 2015)

Dear Parents and Students,

Merry Christmas and welcome back to school! I hope you had a great vacation and that the joy of Christmas will remain in your hearts all year.

The years go by so quickly and sometimes I need to remind myself to slow down and take a good look at my little world today. The babies who came to Star a short eight and a half years ago, are now The Class of 2015! Soon they will be taking their HSPT (High School Placement Test), which the Catholic high schools use in conjunction with transcripts and teacher recommendations in order to determine which students are accepted to which high schools. Star students have a very good track record getting into some incredible high schools, and I expect lots of good news from the high schools in March. In the meantime, I’d encourage the Class of 2015 to take my advice. Slow down, take a look at your little world and commit to making these last six months the best ever. Get those high grades, hang out with those friends (especially the ones who will be heading off to different high schools). Finish this race with the same enthusiasm with which you started it. You will be amazed at how quickly four years of high school flies by. 

I wish you all a happy and fun new year!

Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

PS: The “Grinchier” side of Terry has to come out once in a while. Though I enjoy Christmas music, there is one song that really bothers me. “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen tells the story of two World War I combatants who do not fight on December 25 simply because it is Christmas. But they know that they will fight another day.  Let’s do all we can to keep the Christmas spirit of God’s great love for all of us alive every day of the year. Be at peace and share God’s love.

Weekly Letter (Dec 15, 2014)

 Dear Parents and Students,

 We are halfway through the Church Season of Advent and joyously anticipating Christmas. As Catholics we look forward to meeting Jesus at Christmas, and seeing God in the face of all of our sisters and brothers.

 On behalf of Father Illo, I want to invite all of our students and their parents to join us at 4:30 Mass on Christmas Eve. Celebrating together as a Star of the Sea School community will be very exciting.

 Finally, on behalf of the entire faculty and staff at Star, I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Dec 8, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 For many years it has been our custom to “adopt” less fortunate families and present them with Christmas gifts. We were able to do this because we had a friend who worked for San Francisco Social Services. Three years ago our friend retired and yet he was able to continue to provide us with names of families who could use our help. Friday afternoon I learned that he was not able to get the program set up for this year.

 Though I am saddened by this sudden change, I do see two alternatives. For many years Star has had a close relationship with Saint Anne’s Home over on Lake Street. Father Driscoll has been in touch with them and they have sent a list of simple things that the seniors could use for Christmas:

Facial Tissue                                      Denture tablet cleaner

Fixadent                                             Mouth wash

Toilet Tissue                                      Batteries AA and AAA

Kleenex tissues                                 Tooth Brushes

 If you choose to purchase some of these items, please bring them to the school office by December 18.

 The second alternative is to support the Moms and kids who live at Star Community Home in our old convent. Simply go in to Church and take a tag (or two) off of the Giving Tree. Purchase the item listed on the tag, wrap it in Christmas giftwrap and return it to the rectory or school office by December 18. Tape the original tag on the wrapped gift so it gets to the right family. A simpler alternative would be to purchase Target or Walgreens gift cards and donate them directly to Star Community Home.

 I apologize for this sudden change in plans, but I have no doubt that your generosity will shine through as it always does.

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Dec 1, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Sandra and I had a wonderful time in Casa Grande, Arizona where I was able to meet up with my son, his wife and their as yet unborn baby (Emmett Jameson Hanley). That’s my excuse for not writing much of a letter this week.

 God Bless You All,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Nov 24, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

Every teacher knows that each month has a theme; this is how we decorate our bulletin boards and plan some of our fun academic activities. Lately I have been thinking that November has not several themes but one major theme … remembering.

The month actually begins with a preview. Just as January is previewed on New Year’s Eve; November is previewed by Hallowe’en, or All Hallows Eve. This ancient Irish Druid festival was changed to a Christian Holy Day called All Saints’ Day followed by All Souls’ Day. On these two days we remember all who have gone on before us; the saints recognized by the Church and those who may one day be saints (or who simply haven’t been officially recognized by the Church). We pray for them as well as look to them for guidance.

Armistice Day has long since been changed to Veterans’ Day but both are truly worth remembering. Armistice Day celebrated the end of The Great War (later referred to as World War I) because many believed that it was the war that would end all wars. Now on November 11 we celebrate and remember those who have served our country. We pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those whose lives were forever changed by their experience in uniform.
Thanksgiving is also a time to remember. My immigrant grandparents would look back fondly at the country they came from, but were always grateful for the opportunity to raise their children and grandchildren here in the U.S. I remember a line from an old television show when one character bragged to another of his impressive family lineage. He then condescendingly asked the second character where his family was from. The young man gave a simple but powerful reply, “Ellis Island.”

From all of us on the Faculty / Staff at Star to all of you, “Have a Happy Thanksgiving.” Please take the time to remember this weekend. Remember all the blessings God has given you and remember all the people who have helped you with the challenges life has sent your way.

God Bless You All,

terry

Terrence Hanley
Principal

Weekly Letter (Nov 17, 2014)

Dear Parents and Older Students,

 Years ago when I was in kindergarten there was an eighth grade boy assigned to help us little guys learn how to play organized games in the schoolyard. His name was Richard Wheatly and he was so cool. He knew us all by name and truly seemed to care for us.

 By the time I got to first grade Richard had graduated and I rarely thought about him. But a few years later he appeared at our front door announcing that he was the new Chronicle delivery boy and that he had come to collect for last month’s service. It was exciting to see him again especially because he remembered my name. For the next few years, I would see Richard once a month when he came to collect and he always took the time to chat with me. Older kids can make younger kids feel so important. But again, Richard drifted out of my life and I rarely thought about him.

 In the spring of my eighth grade year Sister Mary Euphrasia announced to the class that one of her former students, Richard Wheatly, had been killed in action while serving our country in Vietnam. She asked that we pray for him and his family. This made quite an impact on most of us.

 Over the years, I’ve told this story to my kids and my students many times. In fact, about nine years ago, Kelly and Mike visited a traveling version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall and found Richard’s name. I’ve been thinking about him the last few days because I’m still puzzled that a committed pacifist like myself can be the proud father of a US Marine.

 Mike (my son, the Marine) celebrated his tenth birthday on September 13, 2001. This was two days after the Twin Towers were attacked in New York. Although I am still a pacifist, I understand his reasons for enlisting in the USMC. He and his band of brothers have pledged to go into whatever trouble the president and / or congress send them. As a Dad, I must support my son. As a citizen, I must be actively engaged in the political process that determines when and where our troops are put in harm’s way. As a Catholic, I need to know my Church’s moral teaching. Below is the teaching of the Catholic Church on “just wars”. Please read it carefully and consider the implications.

 The Catholic Church begins with a presumption against war, always promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes. However, in extreme cases (like unjust aggression), as a last resort, the Church recognizes that governments have the right and responsibility to pass laws to enlist citizens to help defend the nation. It is possible for Catholics to fight in a “just” war if all the following conditions are met (CCC, 2309):

1.         There must be a real, lasting, grave, and certain damage inflicted by an aggressor on a nation or community of nations. Examples of these situations include the violation of basic human rights, killing of innocent people, or the urgency of a nation to defend itself.

2.         War must be a last resort. All peaceful alternatives must have been tried and failed.

3.         The rights and values in the conflict must be so important that they justify killing.

4.         A war cannot be just unless waged for the noblest of reasons and with a commitment to postwar reconciliation with the enemy. No just war can tolerate needless destruction, cruelty to prisoners, and other harsh measures like torture.

5.         Only proper representatives of the people, entrusted with the common good, have the right to declare a war of defense.

6.         The chances for success must be calculated against the human cost of the war to prevent hopeless use of force and resistance when either will prove futile anyway.

7.         Armed conflict must not create even worse evil than that to be eliminated. Therefore, military damage and costs must be proportionate to the good expected.

Finally, I ask that we keep in our prayers all who serve our country and their families. And as I’ve learned in these last several years, nobody prays for peace more than the families of our young men and women in uniform.

Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Nov 10, 2014)

Dear Students,

 The season is over, the play-offs are finished and for the third time in five years our Giants are the heroes of the World Series. I have to admit that I am not a sports fan; I am a home-town fan. If the Giants weren’t playing, I wouldn’t have watched even one game of the World Series. Without a doubt, my son and I will talk about these three World Series championships for years. In 2010 Mike was deployed to the South Pacific with the United States Marine Corps, in 2012 he was deployed to Afghanistan, and this year my daughter Kelly is “deployed” as a teacher in Santiago, Chile. It seems as long as one of my kids is out of the country, the Giants manage to win the World Series. It really isn’t a fair trade off to me.

 But the events of last week really made me consider my own definition of a hero. My online dictionary defines hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” Last week many of us talked about Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner as heroes. And in a sense they are, but only on a small stage. A great year at work is certainly to be admired, but as I age, my heroes need to be “great” over an extended period of time.

 So, who are my heroes? Easy to answer. They are the Moms and Dads, the Grandparents, the Teachers, the Priests who don’t use the phrase “24 / 7” to describe their work hours, but actually are on duty at all times of day and night for all kinds of situations. I used to ask my Dad when he felt he was a “retired” parent. His response was always to roll his eyes and laugh.

 Take the time this week to thank a real hero in your life. A phone call, a hug, or the simple words, “I love you” are great places to start to acknowledge the real heroes. God bless you all.

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

Weekly Letter (Nov 3, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 I have just spent the better part of a weekend studying the latest IOWA Test results. As noted in previous letters, the IOWAs are a standardized test used across the nation and by every Catholic elementary school west of the Rocky Mountains. They provide a snap shot of student skills in a wide variety of areas across the curriculum. It is my habit to look at these scores from three different perspectives. First I look at the school (grades 2 – 8 are tested) as a whole. Then I look at each class. Finally I take notes on the scores of each individual who took the test. This is time consuming, but I believe that studying test scores over the years truly helps the faculty to diagnose the strengths and needs of each class and each student. This helps us to focus our curriculum for the students we work with each day.

 So let me share some insights from the IOWA Tests with you. First of all, even though every subtest is important, the “big four” are Reading, Language Arts, Math and Composite. These four tests represent the heart of an elementary school education. That isn’t just my opinion either; those are the scores every high school asks for when our eighth graders apply.

 You will find attached to this email a rather large set of graphs that give a vivid picture of the school scores in each of those areas over the last thirteen years (since the Archdiocese began administering the IOWA Test of Basic Skills). The black line on the far left shows the average score on this test across the nation as 50%ile. The various colored lines to the right of the black line show Star’s school-wide scores from the 2002-03 school year through this year (2014-15). Please note that each and every one of those lines is from 15 to 32 percentile points higher than the national average.  These are scores we are very proud of. They represent the hard work of parents, students, and teachers.

 Star’s Reading score was up 2% over last year and we’ve only gotten a higher score in Reading twice in the last thirteen years! In fact, our average Reading score over the last five years is higher than any Reading scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 In Language Arts our school-wide average was up 3% and is tied with our best scores over the years. Again, if you isolate the last five years of scores, our average is higher than any Language Arts scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 Our Math scores jumped up 4% and we’ve only gotten a higher score in Math twice over the last thirteen years. This indicates that the new Common Core math is not presenting a problem to our students in general. The standard got tougher, so did our kids!

 Finally, our Composite Average jumped 5% and is the second highest Composite score over the last thirteen years! And again, if you isolate the last five years of Composite scores, our average is higher than any Composite scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 On a class level, there is also exciting news to report. Every class average showed growth ranging from 3% to 20%, and averaging 8.7%. I was also pleased to see that Math growth surpassed that, ranging from 3% up to 25%, and averaging 13.7%. Students who scored in the lowest quartile last year, were able to raise their scores an amazing 13.29% across the board!

 Individual reports are not appropriate in this email so you’ll get them at Parent Teacher Conferences, but I do want to point out that 74 of our students (that’s 33% out of 192 tested) qualified for the Johns Hopkins Search For Talented Youth program by attaining scores of 95%ile or more in a total of 221 subtests! Yes, seventy-four students and two hundred twenty-one subtests!

 This certainly doesn’t seem like most of my weekly letters, there are way too many statistics, but as parents, teachers and especially students, we have great reasons to be proud of this year’s IOWA Test scores! Way to go guys!

 Sincerely,

terry

Terrence Hanley

 PS Several people have asked me about our Science Test Scores. The numbers are as follows:

Grade              Grade Equivalent                    Difference

                        Score

8th                    10.1                                         2 years I month ahead of grade level

7th                    9.1                                           2 years 1 month ahead

6th                    9.0                                           3 years ahead

5th                    8.4                                           3 years 4 months ahead

4th                    6.1                                           2 years 1 month ahead

3rd                    4.3                                           1 year 3 months ahead

2nd                    2.1                                           1 month ahead of grade level

Weekly Letter (Oct 27, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

Just as each year in nature is marked by seasons, each year in school has distinct seasons too. So with summer long gone and autumn days growing shorter, eighth graders are focused on “high school application season”. Members of the Class of 2015 and their parents have been thinking about high schools for at least two or three years.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to hear some of our students say that they decided on their first choice of high school way back in second grade. With great Catholic schools and several excellent private and public schools, some students really do make their choice at a very young age.

At any rate, Star helps students and families to make the best decision for each individual student. As early as sixth grade, I start asking the kids what high schools they are looking at. Catholic San Francisco publishes an edition every September devoted completely to the Catholic high schools in our Archdiocese. Star makes sure that every seventh and eighth grader gets a copy. Information regarding high school summer programs is shared with junior high students every spring. It has been our custom to give seventh graders a blank copy of the evaluation and transcript forms that Star sends to the high schools. This clearly shows what is expected of them. Admissions Directors from all the Catholic schools visit our eighth grade classroom every September. Eighth graders are allowed to miss three half days to “shadow” at high schools they choose. Finally, our junior high teachers give both time and guidance to students when they write their “high school essays”.

For the students in the Class of 2015, all of that preparation is coming to an end. Soon, the applications will be due and all that will be left is for the junior high team to meet and fill out evaluations.

And then we begin the next season of the school year … “test and wait”.  From the application deadline until mid-March, students have to wait for someone else to decide their fate. At least that’s how the kids feel. In truth, they have been working for those good evaluations and impressive transcripts for a few years. They have also prepared for the entrance exam over several years of taking the IOWA Tests.

The “waiting” season is tough. All too often our children (students) are used to immediate gratification. This can be a very stressful time or an opportunity to grow. I often wish we teachers could tell kids if they have been accepted (we learn about a week in advance) but that would be unfair to them. For many of our students, making the choice to apply to a particular school is the first choice they ever make that actually has long-term consequences in their life. I encourage parents to listen carefully to their daughters and sons when discussing their high school choices. I also strongly encourage parents to let the kids open that letter (or go online) to be the first one to know the decision. It was many years ago, but I remember opening that envelope from Sacred Heart and I remember the four years I spent there with great joy. My older brother has similar feelings about a different school (that school used to be on Stanyan Street now it’s on 37th Avenue).

One thing that we can share with students is that historically Star students have been accepted to some great high schools at a very high rate. Over the last ten years our students have a better than 90% acceptance rate in Catholic schools. In the last six years, Star students who have applied to Lowell High School have been accepted at a 55% rate. That may not sound impressive, but the average rate for acceptance at Lowell is 33%.

For the eighth graders, this year will fly by faster than any other year of their lives so far. When they learn their fate, the next season is often called “senioritis”. It is a very short-lived season during which some students forget that they have to finish eighth grade before starting ninth grade. Fortunately there are a lot of great teachers, a cranky principal, and loving parents to remind them to enjoy Star while they can.

Have a great week!

terry

Terrence Hanley

Principal

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