Weekly Letter (Apr. 30 ’18)

Dear Parents,

Your decision about where your sons and daughters go to school is one of the most important that you will ever make and will often influence the decisions that they make later in life: choice of career, enduring friendships, pastimes, faith and worship practices and primary values. Therefore it deserves great attention and discernment on your part.

The intent of this week’s letter is to emphasize the value Catholic Liberal Education (CLE) can provide your child and to address the concerns that have been expressed to me from the various conversations that I have had with parents regarding a move to a liberal model. Many do not fully understand what exactly is meant by a Catholic Liberal Education and some, at this point, are not sure of its value.

More than simply preparing children for high school, college, and career, a liberal education focuses on developing a coherent vision of life by means of a curriculum rooted in truth, goodness and beauty. It has proven a most effective preparation for developing the practical skills and technical education so needed in today’s technological careers. Rather than educating for immediate test scores, it focuses on learning to think in in the broadest application for all disciplines. CLE develops in the child capacities of wonder and awe. In this way it fosters true creativity rather than mere productivity.

I would like to emphasize that as Star of the Sea moves forward into CLE, we will do it slowly and purposefully. There will be no changes in the core curriculum or textbooks during the 2018-19 school year. During this time our teachers and administrators will participate in CLE training beginning with my trip to Washington, D.C. in July. We will develop professional connections and relationships with other schools who have had success with CLE, particularly St. Theresa in Alhambra. We will form committees of parents, teachers, parishioners, clergy, and experts in CLE to study curriculum, pedagogy, and how to strategically market the school. We will conduct meetings and surveys to gain input from parents, answer their questions, and listen to their concerns.

The first meetings will be this week – and we do apologize for the short notice but we are keenly aware of the need for information and clarity –

Wednesday, May 2, for parents of kindergartners and first graders

Thursday, May 3, for parents of students in grades 2 and 3

Friday, May 4, for parents of students in Grades 4 and 5

Meetings will begin at 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday nights; on Friday the meeting will begin promptly at 6pm.  Childcare will be provided in the AV/Extended Care room on all three days.   Parents should gather in the techology lab on the second floor across from Mrs. Poon’s office.

Catholic elementary schools in San Francisco face the challenge of dwindling population year after year.  Each year there are closures.  If Star of the Sea is to remain viable for the foreseeable future, work must be done to update, invigorate and market our school every year.  Sometimes the emphasis is on marketing, sometimes on test results, sometimes on the WCEA/WASC evaluation.  This year it is on curriculum and through the Archdiocese, the suggestion of adopting a liberal curriculum will give Star of the Sea a unique spot on the spectrum of Catholic education; it is hoped to rally the community, inspire the faculty, and renew the school once again.  Looking at the satisfaction level associated with this model makes projection for Star of the Sea very positive.

In sum, we wish to support you in developing an understanding of the Catholic Liberal Education. Visit the websites of schools that currently use this model particularly St. Therese, Alhambra.  https://sainttheresecarmeliteschool.com/

Read the educational plan of St. Jerome’s Classical school, particularly the sections that apply to your son or daughter’s grade level where you will find concrete information on curriculum: kindergarten begins p. 23.  St. Jerome School Educational Plan

Every family is valued at Star of the Sea and it is difficult to see even one family leave. Studying the value of a move towards a new curriculum model is done solely with the interest of the Star community in mind. Under my leadership the faculty will continue to provide quality education in a community of care and love.

Yours in Christ,
                                            
David R. Gallagher

Weekly Letter (Apr 23 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

“The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”

~ Stephen R. Covey, educator and author of, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Change.

Like it or not, change seems to be the theme of our 2017-18 school year. Despite all the crazy we’ve had to deal with these last 8 months, I’d like to believe that we have weathered, and continue to courageously face, all the bumpy, scary stuff by gathering a deeper understanding of who we are as a school community, identifying the best parts of who we are, and continuing to steadfastly hold onto what we value most.

No one has lived up to this belief of mine better than my colleagues who show up every day to hold my hand, pat my back, tell me jokes, and offer advice as I endeavor to serve you as principal. Star’s faculty and staff bring the best of themselves to their work, especially to the most precious part of our vocation: our kids. Though each of us have, and continue to weather our own personal challenges, as always, we lean on one another, giving each other the strength and support to continue doing what we value most as a faculty: ensuring our students’ growth in every aspect of their beings, their happiness, and their safety. This is what we make priority and hold most dear.

Our dedication to Star students will not waver even if within our ranks there is a changing of the guard. So, keeping all of this in mind, here’s the news you’ve been waiting to hear.

Our dedication to Star students will not waver even if within our ranks there is a changing of the guard. So, keeping all of this in mind, here’s the news you’ve been waiting to hear.

Star’s classroom teachers who will be returning next year are: Mrs. Mimi Robinson, Ms. Erin Scoblick, Ms. Cindy Conway, Ms. Rosie Dominguez, Ms. Jasmine Mosuela, Mr. Christopher Kaiser, Mr. Frank Chen, and Mrs. Maureen Lundy.

We are all excited for Mrs. Bianca Hill, who is on her way to achieving a longtime goal. She’ll be making the leap into high school to teach United States History. We are also very happy for Ms. Leila Stoner, who has decided to take a year’s leave to focus on being the best mom for her beautiful daughters. She has graciously offered to remain on our substitute teacher list next year and we, of course, have happily accepted.

Our Specials instructors (Library, P.E. etc.) and other hourly staff members (aides, extended care etc.) were given their offer of continuation of employment letters last week and have a few weeks to consider whether they will return. A full staff and faculty roster will be included in our end-of-year mailing.

Our search is underway for our new 8th grade, 6th grade and 3rd grade instructors. The candidates who we’ve already begun interviewing, and from whom we have received resumes, are veterans in education and have expressed excitement to join our team at Star. Mr. Gallagher, Mrs. Lundy, and I are hopeful that within the next few weeks we’ll be able to announce our new teacher hires.

I now hand off to both Ms. Stoner and Mrs. Hill to finish off this week’s letter:

Dear Star Community,

I am writing to let you know that I will not return to teach at Star next year because I have accepted a position to teach United States history at the high school level. I have always envisioned teaching at the secondary level and after ten years at Star, I am ready for new challenges and opportunities for growth. I am so very grateful for all the support and encouragement that you have given me over the years; teaching your children has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. I love Star, I will always feel connected to this community, and I am confident that Star will continue to thrive in the coming years.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Bianca Hill

~ ★ ~

Star Community,

I am writing to let you know that my family and I have made the decision that I will not return to teach full-time at Star next year, but will be taking a year to focus on my family.  This was a hard decision, but the the best one for our family’s needs right now. I want to make it very clear that even with all the changes over the past year there is still no place I’d rather work than Star of the Sea.  If I could keep my 3rd grade teaching role forever, I would! I know the students and families will be in great hands next year and I hope to be present in a different capacity to help wherever I can. Star is a family, and I am proud to be a part of it.  Thanks for all your love and support over the years. See you in the halls! 😉

Love,
Ms. Leila Stoner

~ ★ ~

It is with big hugs and many well wishes to both Mrs. Hill and Ms. Stoner that I sign off this week.

I want to additionally thank you, each and everyone, for all that you do to make Star a place we will always consider home.

In faith, love, and partnership,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Apr 16, ’18)

“My job is not so much to teach my students what they have to learn, but to teach my students how to learn and tolove doing it..”
– Mrs. Poon to 5th grade parents at Back to School Night, annually

Dear Star Families,

I am overjoyed that Mr. Gallagher is Star’s new principal. Having worked with him for nearly two decades, I am confident in his ability to lead Star as the Catholic Liberal Education (CLE) model is investigated.

This letter is jointly written by Mr. Gallagher and myself and is meant to inform you of our current professional understanding of the methodology and why putting a name to the work we do in educating your children is an idea we both welcome and embrace.

While Star’s faculty is excited about the possibilities of this new model, we do share your questions. As lifelong learners, we must find our answers before moving forward. We assure you that School Year 2018-19 will not see any significant curricular changes. During this time, a focus group will consider the model’s viability in our school. A curriculum adoption plan will be carefully developed and firmly established before any implementation will occur.

Currently, we know that CLE is neither Catholic indoctrination nor is it exclusively for Catholics. At our school, faith has always been an invitation, never an imposition. This has always been and will always be true. We also know that CLE means: Catholic Liberal Arts Education. Such a model has the potential to give Star’s faculty the vital instructional tools and support to help us more effectively fulfill our mission of “helping children develop their God-given potential in order to lead them to Christ.”

As educators, we recognize the pedagogical tenets in CLE. The instructional methods are ones we already use but, admittedly, not to their fullest potential. At its foundation, CLE’s goal is to develop in students those abilities that will more deeply establish the habits of lifelong learning. This is one of our primary goals but is only one part of our mission here at Star.

The CLE model, in our view, gives our faculty professional recognition as Catholic educators who teach through the lens of our faith. Star’s administrative team is committed to hiring professional instructors of the highest caliber. The commitment and support from Fr. Joseph and the Archdiocese mean regular professional training which further strengthens our work as faith-based educators. The result will be the sort of instruction that cultivates not only active lifelong learners who meet high academic standards but also ones able to face the future with a deeper sense of their spiritual and moral selves.

Further, the CLE model validates our current teaching methods, which include most of the educational buzzwords.  Our current academic and spiritual “baseline,” as recognized through our 6-years WCEA accreditationStar Renaissance Testing Scores, and ACRE test results, when informed and enhanced with dedicated professional development training can only serve to improve our work as your children’s instructors.

READ MORE                                         
With love, faith and hope,

Mrs. Theresa Poon & Mr. Dave Gallagher

Weekly Letter (Apr 9, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

We at Star understand how difficult it is to keep up with how our children use new and ever- changing technologies. Our children are immersed in a society that seems to have become dependent on powerful computers, including iPhones, gaming stations, tablets, and other portable digital devices. Children as young as elementary students are extremely savvy in the use of technology. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Internet is now the favored forum for socializing, and the preferred method of communication among children and teens.

Students communicate with each other via text, and on the Web through text, IM, email, chatrooms, blogs, and other social networking sites. The addition of social networking apps make it very easy for children to post personal information about themselves including their name, age and photograph, their likes, dislikes, interests and friends. It is a common and disturbing reality that while students would not share this information with a stranger on the street, they somehow feel comfortable when sharing such information on the Web for everyone to see. These networking sites and apps also provide features such as instant messaging and email so that visitors, and strangers included, can communicate and have a direct discussion with your child.

Star of the Sea School uses the GoogleApps suite for education and other safety features implemented by the Tech Committee to restrict access to these websites and apps in school. With the safety of our students foremost in mind, we strongly recommend that parents limit and monitor their children’s Internet use and screen time at home. We also encourage parents to learn about Internet safety and to play an active role in discussing the issue with their children. Please remind your children that posting pictures, videos or comments about another person on line without their consent can be construed as harassment according to Archdiocesan and school guidelines and in some cases may also lead to legal problems.

Through lessons provided by classroom teachers, and the Technology and Cyberbully Prevention programs we have through the Archdiocese, we do our best to provide Star of the Sea students with the awareness and knowledge they need in order to recognize and avoid dangerous, destructive, or unlawful behavior and to respond appropriately. It is, However, only through a collaborative effort between parents and teachers that we will succeed in creating responsible and safe cyber citizens.

Oh, and by the way, 5th grade families: Yay, Family Life!

Welcome Back

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 20 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

Last week, we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day on Tuesdaywith red hearts and candy and received our cross of ashes during Star’s Ash Wednesday School Mass prepared by Fr. Joseph and the 5th Grade. Some of our classes received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attended Friday Stations of the Cross with Fr. John. As we began our solemn observation of our Lenten season, there was another tragic school shooting. The teachers and staff here at Star of the Sea were shaken by this news and our hearts go out to the students, families, and educators who were directly affected.

Even before this tragic event, due to the recent earthquake, fires, and what seemed to be an early rainy season, the faculty and I have been revisiting all of our safety procedures and updating all of our first aid and emergency kits. The school protocol for responding to emergencies, like an earthquake, has been long established as has our lockdown drill.

While we regularly practice our emergency drills with the students, we have not discussed the details of the lockdown protocols with them. We believe it is more developmentally appropriate for us to focus on preparing the adults to respond effectively if faced with a crisis. The faculty will be working with SFPD in March to ensure our current lockdown procedures are as safe and effective as they can possibly be. Once we review our protocol with SFPD, we will then practice the lockdown procedure with the students. This needs to be done with care since I am fully aware that just practicing this sort of protocol can be really scary.

Last week, while we prayed and offered a moment of silence for victims and their families, we did not formally discuss the tragedy with the children. We were, however, prepared to discuss and provide any needed support, particularly for our older students. The links below provide some valuable advice as you consider discussing the Parkland tragedy with your child(ren).

For families observing the Season of Lent, here are some helpful resources: http://www.catholicfamilyfaith.org/lent.html.

Star’s own Lenten services schedule may be found here.

Let’s all give our kids some extra hugs this week,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 12, ’18)

Dear Parents and Students,

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. The entire student body will attend Mass at 9 a.m. with Father Joseph celebrating. The Lenten season is a time when many Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Many of us see this as a time to get ready to celebrate Easter. In a sense it is the preparation period for us. And just like we prepare to have visitors in our home, we want to be ready to celebrate and share in the resurrection of Jesus. I would encourage you and the kids to both give up something (bye-bye internet after 9 p.m.) and take up something (hello expanded prayer life).

During Lent the students in grades 4 – 8 make a practice of attending Stations of the Cross. This is a way to remember and reflect on the trials and tribulations of Jesus. This year we will be attending Stations every Friday in the church, either at 1:30 on our class Mass days or 1:15 when the whole school attends Mass. Please feel free to join us if you can.

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Feb 5, ’18)

Dear Star Family,

And just like that, January breezed by, making way for lots of February fun and, hopefully, continuing warm, sunny days!

With the end of our Catholic Schools Week celebration, I want to express my continued appreciation for the sacrifices you make to send your children to Star of the Sea. We are so blessed to have your family as part of our ever-growing and evolving parish school community. Our students are a constant bright light in a rapidly moving and complicated world.

We have had a great time celebrating Catholic Schools Week, with dress-up days, learning about our class’s chosen saint and our culminating annual class olympics last Thursday. It was the one day I was sad not to be in possession of a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt to cheer on all the teams, but our ever enthusiastic Tech/Science teacher and Student Council Supervisor, Mr. Christopher Kaiser, more than made up for my lack of appropriate rainbow attire. My thanks to him and our hardworking student council for planning an active and fun-filled week.

With Kindergarten acceptances being sent out this week and the completion of our 8th graders’ high school application process, we now return our focus on refining the inner workings of what makes Star an awesome place to learn.

We begin the month with another round of STAR Renaissance testing to help inform our teachers about student progress. The ACRE test, too, will be administered to our 5th and 8th graders. The ACRE helps us Catholic school educators assess the strengths and challenges of our catechetical programs.

Teachers are incorporating the celebration of African American History Month into our curriculum, some are going on various educational field trips. Robotics will soon be part of our tech classes which have also been working on coding and keyboarding. Students will.continue to be involved in project-based learning and STEM work with our upcoming science fair and a number of in-class projects from developing group videos about the quadratic equation for our 8th graders to the Mission Project in Grade 4.

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I failed to effusively thank our enthusiastic Campus Enhancement Committee led by Mr. Terry Trevino and our ever-vigilant Tech Committee being led by Mr. Owen Tran. It is through their tireless work in partnering with the parish staff that we are able to maintain the best possible physical environment we can possibly provide for our kids and staff.

The new fountains project is underway, with the 1st grade/Kindergarten fountain already placed thanks to Mr. Jim McCarthy, dad of two star students, and one graduate now at Sacred Heart. Our heating system is back up to speed and may soon be automated. Our hallways are getting cleaned up and I am working on updating our emergency procedures and upgrading and replenishing our emergency supplies.

The spring-like weather brings me great joy and I am so happy for the blessing of having all of you with whom to share in this sacred work of educating our children. Thank you for all that you do. Oh, and don’t forget to buy your Crab Feed tickets. I can’t wait to see you all there!

In partnership,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 29 ’18)

Dear Star Families,

National Catholic Schools Week began yesterday. This is when all Catholic schools celebrate what makes us unique from all other educational institutions. While here at Star this means great fun for students as we celebrate Spirit Week, we also take this time to focus on the gift of Catholic education. We reflect on the high quality, faith-focused, value-added education that we offer at Star and are reminded of the vital part we play in raising generations of people who go on to make positive impacts in our world.

This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” This theme recognizes and celebrates how our school’s traditionally high academic standards, supported by strong moral values, help develop students and form graduates who go on to make significant contributions to our local, national, and global societies.

We are very proud of our diverse community, serving students from all backgrounds and giving each a strong academic and moral foundation. Our diversity gives us a larger understanding of our neighbors’ needs. Even in elementary school, our students undertake many service projects that benefit our surrounding community. Giving back and helping others are values instilled in every Catholic school student, particularly here at Star, where we are committed stewards of our faith as we visit our elderly and our veterans, feed our hungry, clothe our poor, and raise money for those in need all around the world.

Therefore, on this week that celebrates our Catholicity, it is important to take time to congratulate ourselves: our alumni, our parish, our students, our families, our teachers, and staff for all the good that we do here. After all, it is here that we help enable students to succeed in not only their nuclear families but to also lay the groundwork to help them find their vocations whether in religious life, government, industry, business, nonprofit, or education. Kindness matters in all of these, especially here at Star.

Enjoy the week!

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 22, ’18)

Dear Star Families,

As promised at the last Parent Club meeting, here is our School Vision: CLICK HERE TO VIEW.  Fr. Joseph, Mrs. Lundy and I, based the writing of this vision on the current school mission and philosophy, viewable on our school website. Both academic excellence and Catholic identity have been highlighted as focal points together with strengthening ties with the Star parish community. The school board will now be established; invitations to serve are forthcoming.

I’d also like to address the questions many of you have about the pastor and chaplain roles as we move forward. Fr. John will continue to act as our primary liaison to the parish. He will celebrate the majority of school Masses, lead class retreats, and teach in the sacramental programs. He will continue weekly visits to classrooms. Fr. Joseph will continue to celebrate the school Masses on a monthly basis and in the absence of Fr. John. There will be no changes to student liturgies this year. Fr. Joseph will visit classrooms as his schedule allows, for about 15 minutes each session. Both Fr. John and Fr. Joseph will be more visible in the school yard during assembly and recess and will continue to be invited to attend school functions and activities.

Last week the Archdiocese began advertising for principal opportunities throughout the Archdiocese. I find it necessary, now, to formally announce that I have chosen not to be considered, nor will I be returning to teach at Star next year. Pamela Lyons, School Superintendent, will chair the search committee, which will include the Associate Superintendent and a balanced set of representatives from the parent, teacher, parish, and preschool communities and will be led by the Pastor. Parent representatives will be chosen from the leadership already in place in the Parent Club and our various committees. I do have the utmost confidence that the Department of Catholic School’s standard protocol for the Principal Search will bring our community the best candidate for the job. After all, it is the same rigorous and inclusive procedure that brought Mr. Hanley to us.

As I sign off for this week, please know that my decision to leave Star has little to do with my experiences here, because if that was truly the sole factor, I would never leave. In truth, my decision has everything to do with me. Terry knew that I planned to leave Star this upcoming school year to explore other opportunities in the high schools, or find a job utilizing my experiences in tech, education, and communications. As it happened, his wish that I try out being principal came to fruition and it has been pretty awesome to serve all of you. For the record, because he’d want me to admit it loudly and proudly, Terry was right about a lot of things, particularly that I would come to love our community even more while I sat in his seat. For now, however, I find that being principal is not quite right for my family and where I am in my life. I am confident that someone else who is just as dedicated as I am, will be able to enthusiastically throw their whole self into making Star truly shine. I want to sincerely thank both Fr. Joseph and Fr. John for their boundless support as I learned the ropes this first semester. It has truly been an enjoyable experience getting to know them both as we worked together.

With all of this being said, I want to let each of you know that I am fully committed to faithfully serving out the length of my contract, which lasts until July 31. And I am 100% dedicated to ensuring we all have a wonderful rest of the school year. My personal goal is to ensure a seamless transition with whomever our search committee chooses to take on the leadership of our beloved Star of the Sea.

With all my thanks for all that you do,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal

Weekly Letter (Jan 16, ’18)

Dear Parents,

“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” – Pope Francis

Our Star students are taught that they are disciples of God and here Pope Francis speaks of each of us being open to sharing friendship and love with others, a message that we reinforce in our classes. Our Pope’s words also speak to our weekend celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of us spent Monday performing acts of community service in his name.

Our Star students are taught that they are disciples of God and here Pope Francis speaks of each of us being open to sharing friendship and love with others, a message that we reinforce in our classes. Our Pope’s words also speak to our weekend celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of us spent Monday performing acts of community service in his name.

Last Sunday’s scriptures introduced us to the ancestors of our faith who answered God’s call to share such unqualified love. Their responses to His call changed not only their lives but also the world around them. Thank goodness for the people in our lives who, like Dr. King and Pope Francis, labor in service to others and bring us the message of friendship and love. These are the people we wish to emulate, the ones who have and continue to help make the world a better place.

How often, I wonder, do we miss God’s call to love in this way? I read that Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

A reminder, I think, that sometimes we need more than just a dream on which to hang our hat. Sometimes we need to actto make our dream come true. And, has been demonstrated at Star, it is with many hands that much can be accomplished.

Thank you for your love of this school and all within it. Your generosity makes it such a pleasure for me to serve Star and her community.

May this week be one full of friendship and loving action,

Mrs. Theresa Poon
Principal