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.

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


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.

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! 😉

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

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.

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With love, faith and hope,

Mrs. Theresa Poon & Mr. Dave Gallagher