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!


Terrence Hanley


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