Closing in on the end, and looking forward to where we begin…
With the closing of my first year as the Head of St. Paul’s School on the horizon, I am truly amazed with the support, generosity, and commitment of our St. Paul’s School community. For starters, it’s hard for me to express the level of gratitude I feel for our generous donors who have provided the financial spark to push us forward in our deep investigation of our educational vision. There were many who worried that fundraising for teacher professional development and the integration of inquiry centered and project based curriculum and pedagogy might not be tangible enough to inspire the level of fundraising that we’ve enjoyed over the past few years. But our community proved it otherwise. Without question, there is no greater asset in our school than our teachers, and no greater tool than their curriculum and the classroom practices in which they engage. Investing here is truly an investment in our school’s future, and our St. Paul’s School community responded to this message unmistakably. Truely, I am humbled.
And it is with this humility and respect for your investment that I take the planning of our future professional development opportunities and curricular and pedagogical growth with such gravity. I must admit, there is a temptation to excitedly steps forward and hastily make plans for our educational growth, but prudence suggests otherwise. At this point, instead of rushing forward, I think the next best move is to dig in deeply to where our practice is now. We need to better understand and articulate how our current practices promote our mission’s promise, and where our current commitments might fall short, so that we can invest our hard earned money in ways that will benefit our educational staff and students most efficiently and effectively. With that said, I want to assure you that these donation dollars will be invested wisely and transparently, and will be predicated on the true needs of our school, even if that is at a slow and steady pace.
There are other areas of community strength that deserved to be recognized in kind. I certainly have been impressed with the continued outpouring of parental support I see on a weekly basis. I would like to express a debt of gratitude to all of the parents who have dedicated the time, energy, money, and delicious treats so that our Snack Shack and lunch service remains a vibrant part of our school’s life. I would like to express a collective thank you to Brandon Ford Construction, who has donated time, energy, and money to see the fence project through to completion, and the replacement of the exterior doors on the 100 building. In truth, there are so many others that are worth mentioning, and any effort to do so will likely run the disastrous risk of excluding someone pivotal to our success. But that is all to say that of the myriad blessings in being a part of the St. Paul’s School community, the commitment and generosity of our parents are truly one of a kind. Thank you.
As we close this year, I hope you all know how committed I am to see our school and our community into the future. There is still a lot of work to do, but the outpouring of community support that I’ve received this year proves to me that we have the community and the backing to accomplish anything to which we put our hearts, minds, and hands. It would be disingenuous of me to say that I’m not looking forward to a well earned rest here in the coming months. Still, I am eager to get back to work this next fall, and to continue to build St. Paul’s School into the best school that we can be. Of course, this will only be accomplished through the support of the most generous and dedicated families in the central valley.
Until the fall.
West Coast Wonders
By, Isabella Ruiz-Rivera
I know that many of you have visited the coast at least once. The delicate, dramy sand underneath your feet, while you hear the sounds of the rolling waves crashing, and before you notice, a wave creeps up with a graceful touch of what seems like spring water. The water swims around your feet, then leaves behind an open panorama of elegant shells and rocks, that suddenly become noticed; like if they weren't there before. A while ago the 7th graders have had the privilege of visiting the west Coast of California with their classmates. With many Lavish scene, they experience many of the sensacional places the coast has to offer. They visited the exquisite elephant seals, Morro Bay's clear waters, Montana de Oro´s unique tidepools, and the aesthetic Hearst Castle. The students visited the coast for a educational experience out of the classroom. One of the students said “The trip was geological, biological, and most of all, fun!” (Ellie Gilbert). Another peer, stated “It was a learning experience jam packed with friends and fun!” (Tessa Carney). This Trip included some of the international locations that people from all around the world travel, to see (Hearst Castle). Others are just a pleasure that we are blessed with here in California, to be able to visit whenever we want. All in all the 7th graders trip was a journey not many know and even fewer take; still within school’s curriculum.
Now, and to the future...
It has been a busy winter here at St. Paul’s School, and we’re eager and excited to welcome the coming of spring. Our maintenance and grounds staff has been busily battling the blessings of rain, while at the same time getting our campus ready for our accreditation visit. Our lunch staff has updated their menu options with fresh, delicious, and healthy items; and new lunchtime procedures are in place that facilitate efficiency. We’re also working on clean up procedures that instill a sense of school ownership in our students in an effort to evoke an ethic of care. The Snack Shack continues to offer a wide array of healthy and delicious choices to students, with the hottest items being the homemade avocado toast and breakfast burritos. However, for those who like to snack on sweet bites, we have a few options for them as well. Overall, we are quite proud to offer our children a wide array of delicious and healthier snack options.
The teachers have been quite busy as well, digging deep into their curriculum and pedagogy to provide the best educative experiences that they can. One of the identifying commitments of St. Paul’s School is our focus on experiential learning through meaningful, academic oriented field trips; and we’ve had a bunch of them this late winter. Inside our classrooms, our primary and intermediate teachers have been working hard to blend the learning experiences of students, and are committed to increasing the educative value of their centers. Beginning this second semester, our coaches are facilitating peer to peer observations, a fundamentally important component of professional growth. At the middle school, we are taking a deep breath and evaluating our practices and procedures in an ongoing effort to provide a unique learning opportunity to our students. Along with an increased STEAM orientation of our middle school, our teaching staff is imagining what learning experiences might look like when we place student production and performance at the center of their schooling. We do not want our students to be passive recipients of information, rather meaningful producers of understanding and knowledge, and civically engaged in their communities. Needless to say, this is no small undertaking, but our staff is dedicated to meeting these goals while continuing to offer a top notch academic environment for our student. To that end, we are also focused on piloting the implementation of Pre-AP courses in the 8th grade. The College Board will make this curricular designation available to middle schools in the fall of 2020, and we will work diligently to be one of these pilot schools.
In the front office, we’ve been laser focused on creating a budget that is financially responsible, but also one that addresses the ‘need for’ and ‘commitment to’ academic excellence in a shifting educational landscape. In an overall sense, our projected budget is predicated on a few needs and values that we think articulate well with St. Paul’s School’s historic mission, but also establishes a firm foundation as we look forward to our future. What follows is a brief explanation of our greatest commitments for the 2019/2020 academic year. In a nutshell, our budget goals are all about our teachers. The projected budget is built in the hopes of maintaining current staffing levels, and a commitment to build a salary schedule that is more competitive with our surrounding districts. Our goals here are quite simple, we want to retain and recruit the best educators that we can. Although our evaluation of practices has led us to the conclusion that we can staff our school more effectively, our needs and growth mindset warrant staffing levels to remain consistent, and for their salaries to improve. Additionally, following our first round of teacher observations, we feel that an increased investment in teacher education and professional development opportunities (increase STEAM orientation) is one of the best ways for us to continue to pursue academic excellence for our students, and to address the pedagogical and curricular needs of our teachers. Although schools are complex ecosystems with myriad fundamental parts, it’s hard to argue against the fact that teachers are very much the heart and soul of our institution. Thus, it is my commitment to our St. Paul’s School families to continue the professional growth opportunities for our current teachers, and when the need arises, to recruit the best teacher candidate that we can.
We have a lot on our plate here at St. Paul’s School, but we’re eager for the coming year and the opportunity to provide a unique educational experience of “love and learning” for our students, and for the greater Visalia community. If you would like to discuss our plans and goals for the coming year, or wonder how you can become a bigger part of our school and our efforts, please get in touch.
Seth W. Yocum
Head of School
St. Paul’s School
On January 24th the 7th grade went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA. As we walked up to the entrance of the museum we were greeted by a large white dog sculpture designed by contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara. The class was divided into 3 groups and each group was guided by a docent. Our docent guided us to an exhibit of a traditional Japanese tea house. The docent had pointed out a vessel that was traditionally used to cleanse your hands before entering the tea house. After the tea house, our docent took us to a large statue of Buddha and explained the importance of meditation. We were then introduced to the traditional art of Japanese brush painting. Each of us were given hemp seed paper, a brush made out of horse hair, and a small bowl of ink. We were taught to paint a bamboo tree, as well as a painting created with one stroke of the brush. Following our painting instruction we were allowed one hour of free time to explore the rest of the museum with our group. After our hour of free time, the class boarded the bus and headed back to St. Paul’s where our parents were waiting to pick us up.