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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Letter (May 14, ’18)

Dear Star Families,

It is Saturday and I am in the principal’s office writing this week’s letter. The sound of laughing children, the whir of the air filling the jumpy house, the hooting of horns and clanging of fire truck bells fill the air and has me reminiscing about all of the other Star festivals I’ve attended.

Though downsized since the time of warm October fall fests, there’s still a lot that is the same. The booths are still manned by parents cheering the kids on, the food, popcorn and corn dogs, are still readily consumed and the beer garden is still well attended. The Parent Club leaders continue to do amazing things using the plethora of stuff in the stockroom to create a carnival-like atmosphere.  I’m still impressed by the versatility of black and white striped cloth! The hula dancers still bring some Aloha to our little corner of San Francisco. The sight of all our volunteers who took time from their busy Friday and Mother’s Day weekend to help put on the event remains one of the most heartwarming aspects of Star’s Festival.

All of this we do because of tradition and the kids – from the youngest babies in strollers, to alumni now bringing their own children back to explore the trucks on 8th and every age in between – the smiles, the pleas for more tickets, the squeals of triumph when winning a game, it all sounds and feels the same.


It is this innocent, fun-loving joy that we as parents – mothers more specifically – that we treasure and seek to preserve for our children. So, here’s to all the moms reading this on the day after the celebration of you. During May we celebrate our Blessed Mother, and through this celebration of Mary, we are reminded of the importance of our vocation as parents. I hope your Mother’s Day was one in which you felt the gratitude of your children for the unconditional love you give to your family. I hope that you were praised for the grace you give your child/ren even when they might not deserve it. I hope you were thanked for the belief and faith you have in your child/ren.  And I know your compassion and concern were recalled and reciprocated with love – all likely commemorated with artsy self-portraits, macaroni jewelry and a handwritten booklet of coupons for hugs and kisses.

We have a very busy week ahead for our 8th Graders (and their moms), so do take a look at the notes below.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the Spring Concert at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

In love and faith,

Mrs. Theresa Poon

Weekly Letter (May 07, ’18)

Dear Star Parents,

It is Teachers Appreciation Week. This week, we take some time to pay tribute to our hardworking, dedicated instructors who work tirelessly to help guide and promote the academic and spiritual growth of each child in their classrooms. Not only do Star’s faculty members teach and inspire our students, they do the same for one another and especially for me. My colleagues have been central to both my professional and personal growth and are among the chief reasons I stayed at Star for nearly 18 years. These men and women are among the most thoughtful, prayerful, loving, humorous, and intelligent co-workers with whom I have had the pleasure to work. It is with great pride that I have always spoken of my Star colleagues. And it is with great pride and joy that I welcome into the fold our most recent hires for Grades 3 and 8 (see below).

As we begin this very busy week, I have to give an advanced shout out to all of the parents volunteering to cover yard duty and for those planning the much-anticipated Friday teachers’ lunch. How wonderful it is to hear from so many parents who have had such wonderful things to tell me about our amazing instructors. While the teachers have asked to keep things simple this year, I know from experience that a handwritten card, or a thoughtful email, has always been a most cherished teacher gift. Such a sentiment would be very well received if you are wondering (and hopefully not stressing over!) what to give.

I also want to take this opportunity to give a very special, heartfelt thank you to Ms. Meghan Parent, and all of the volunteers on the Hospitality Committee. Each has given so generously of their time, talents and treasures this year to help put Star in her best light – from each of our fall Open Houses, to this week’s most anticipated Grandparents & VIP Day. I would not have been able to have managed all of this, or dealt with the initial jitters of talking to a room full of adults (and not just 5th/4th graders) without Ms. Parent’s assistance, pep-talks, and good cheer.

As I close this letter, I offer my deepest condolences to the Sellai family – and to all our Star family members who have lost a loved one this school year. It is truly a testament to the strength of our community that despite the many collective and personal hardships, we still continue to lean on and love one another.

I am so grateful to each of you for all that you do for Star and this school family. See you at the festival!

Have a wonderful and happy week,

Mrs. Theresa Poon


Ms. Michaela Ruiz, well known to our Kindergarten parents, will be our 3rd Grade teacher next year. Ms. Ruiz is graduating this month with an M.A. in Teaching and a California Credential from USF. She earned her B.A. in Sociology, Minoring in STEM Ed with an emphasis in Computer Science and Asia Pacific American Studies. She has recently been published with UCLA’s Amerasia for her work on Pacific Islander linguistic and cultural maintenance. This year, she has additionally acted as our substitute teacher covering just about every grade level (our not-so-secret way of putting her through the rigors of Star’s unique teaching practicum). It was a pleasure for me to observe Ms. Ruiz put into daily practice all that she’s learned at USF. But, as each teacher in the building knows, everything we ever really need to learn about running a classroom we learn teaching Kindergarten. Ms. Ruiz has truly earned her stripes under Mrs. Robinson’s tutelage, going solo with our youngest students for what will be a total of four weeks before the year’s end — a most daunting task even for this long-time educator! We are so pleased to officially welcome Ms. Ruiz onto the faculty.

We also welcome Ms. Debra Dharmer, our new 8th Grade teacher. She comes to us from Kittredge School where she has served as the 7th and 8th grade Literature and Language Arts teacher for 12 years and is well-versed in navigating San Francisco’s high school admission processes. She is a seasoned educator with a dual degree in History and English from SUNY Stony Brook and an MFA in Creative Writing from USF. Ms. Dharmer began her teaching career in high school at both public and charter schools in Massachusetts and in California, but serendipitously found her way to teaching middle schoolers, a population she finds engaging and inspiring. A crux of her teaching philosophy is that the teacher must take into account the mind as well as the heart of each student and seek to educate the whole child. Not only do we welcome Ms. Dharmer to our faculty, but she also recently joined our Catholic community. We are delighted that she has chosen to begin her career in Catholic education with us here at Star of the Sea.