It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through the school year. It seems like September was just a few days back, but I guess that is the way life goes. The older I get, the quicker it passes me by. With that said, it is nice to have a few minutes to enjoy the Christmas spirit, to reflect on the life of St. Paul’s School these past few months, and relish in the uniqueness that makes us a one of a kind school in our greater community.
From a governance standpoint, the St. Paul’s School Board of Trustees have been busy at work. As mentioned in an earlier blog, one of our major accomplishments this past year was receiving a seven year accreditation from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), a significant accomplishment in the life and legitimacy of our school. With this accreditation, CAIS provided us with a list of seven major recommendations that should guide a great deal of the goal setting and strategic planning we will undertake in the coming years. Earlier in December, we submitted our Future Planning Document to CAIS which maps out our intended efforts in addressing these recommendations in the years to come.
As an additional part of our governance work, we were also able to submit a projected three year budget that strategically prioritizes continued teacher professional development, compensation, and recruitment, as well as additional considerations for increased student services and facilities and grounds personnel. Although we are still very much in the deliberation stage of setting a 2020/2021 budget, this long range budget projection will serve as a nice jumping off point and should guide our discussion about tuition and fundraising priorities for years to come.
It is also worth noting that under the accomplished leadership of our Board Chair, Jocelyn Iverson, our board has been actively engaged in meaningful committee work and continues to develop new and efficient ways to operate in the fiduciary, strategic, and generative modes that exemplify highly effective independent school boards. Currently our board and its committees are focused on facilities improvement, long range planning, financial sustainability, advancement and fundraising, and governance/succession planning. These are no small tasks to undertake, but our Board of Trustees are dedicated to the cause, and keeping an eye on the future of our school.
As is always the case, our education team has been busy educating our students and making increased efforts to stay up on professional learning and current curricular developments and trends. Thanks to the generous support of our St. Paul’s School families, nearly 70% of our faculty and staff have attended (or are scheduled to attend) professional development opportunities that address their specific goals and needs. One of the greatest investments that we can make in the education of our children is to the education of their teachers, and we are working hard to make sure all of our teachers and staff are supported there.
Our education team is also busily evaluating and implementing new science and social studies curriculum in an effort to find a “best fit” for our school with the intention of adopting new curriculum for the 2020/2021 academic year. Although curriculum evaluation and adoption is a recursive process in education, it is our commitment to provide top rated and thoroughly evaluated curricular materials to all of our students. With the myriad resources out there, careful piloting and consideration are necessary for us to make a responsible choice. I cannot express my gratitude enough to our Educational Leadership Team and all of our teachers for the careful consideration they are putting in to this work.
In an overarching sense, one might consider the theme of this year as a movement back to our foundation, and making sure that all of our work is mission aligned. With that said, our education team has been tasked to imagine what this would look like in terms of teacher evaluation. During their division meetings, our teacher teams have been breaking down different aspects of our mission statement and then building them back together in terms of what each particular principle would look like in a student. From there, our teachers are asking themselves to evaluate the pedagogical competencies they would need to possess in order to educate our students in light of our educational priorities and our mission. The hope is that by this spring, we will have a teacher evaluation tool and protocol that will largely be teacher developed and reflect the specific principles and values that make St. Paul’s School such a special place to be.
In truth, the list does not stop here, and this only reflects a small part of the life and work of our school. The board, faculty, and staff of St. Paul’s School are some of the hardest working people I know, and are committed each and every day to maintaining a one of a kind educational experience for our children and your family. Certainly we are far from perfect, and we still have a lot of room for growth, but in our dedication to mission and to cause, we will continue to grow in healthy ways. I hope that you are all able to enjoy this holiday season, to spend time with family and friends at Christmas, and to celebrate the coming of yet another decade. Before long we will all be back here at it again. In the meantime, find time to rest and be thankful.
Seth W. Yocum
Head of School
On being back to school…
What an amazing time of year. Without a doubt, the number one question I’ve been asked over the past two weeks is if I’m ready to have the kids back at school. Often the question comes in a bit of jest from parents worn weary of a summertime full of kids and entertainment. More than perception, often I see the look of comfort in their eyes knowing that their kids are safe, learning, and under our care (and out of their hair). I get it. With two daughters over the age of twenty and an adolescent son, I understand the mixture of exhaustion and enthusiasm parents experience this time of year. But rest assured, there is nothing that makes me happier than to see your children here, back to school, under our care, carrying on the St. Paul’s mission and tradition. Maybe what is most amazing of all is how successful and smooth it all goes. I simply couldn’t be more proud of my faculty and staff and the amazing work that they do realizing this monumental feat. There are so many working parts to the successful launch of a school year, yet the faculty pull it off with grace and ease. We are all truly blessed to be a part of St. Paul’s School.
But outside of welcoming back all of our wonderful students and families, it has been a busy past few weeks here at the school. In an effort to maintain our highest commitment to student safety, we’ve retained the services of Hampel Security Consultants to provide a number of safety services throughout the year. Hampel Security Consultants have already provided a vulnerability assessment, a physical plant security assessment, a risk analysis assessment, campus security training, active shooter training, and a continuity book. They also plan to provide traumatic first aid training to the entire staff at the close of the first quarter. Brian Hampel will continue to work with members of our leadership team to help us create the safest environment possible for our children.
Following a great deal of thought, investigation, and consideration, the St. Paul’s School board and administrative team will be pursuing the development and growth of our advancement department. In a nutshell, St. Paul’s School works tirelessly to be viable and unique in an increasingly competitive educational market, and it is important that we develop and control our image and outreach in the community, as well as to seek and develop sustainable philanthropic giving that aligns with our mission, vision, and Christian values. Certainly this is a monumental task as most independent schools have a full time Director of Advancement or else entire departments devoted to such endeavors. But that’s not us, not just yet. Instead, Jennifer Peltzer and Corinne Ramsey alongside the guidance and support of our board of trustees will begin this venture slowly, but with a steadfast commitment to the long term sustainability of St. Paul’s School.
On the academic side, we have an exciting year planned for our middle school team. In a newer twist on the sixth grade, Kyle Womack and Ana Barba will handling a majority of the educative responsibilities. Our intention is to provide a rigorous academic experience for these kids while building in greater systems of support, accountability, and student responsibility. Both Mr. Womack and Ms. Barba will be working themselves to the proverbial nub this year, but have been commissioned to lay the foundation for a reinvigorated middle school program that simply does not exist anywhere else in our surrounding community. More than sports or exposure or a “social life,” what adolescent kids need most is to be to be known, supported, and loved by their community. St. Paul’s School has the unique ability to provide exactly this, while also providing a top tier academic experience for all of our children. This is who we are, this is what we offer, and this is where we need to hang our hat. I couldn’t be more proud of the work these two are doing, and am excited to see this program flourish.
As for our athletics and physical education program, we have a few exciting changes for the 2019/2020 academic year. Beginning in the middle of September, we will once again field a Cross Country team. Myself, alongside Ms. Barba, will be coaching this fine group of young athletes. We are eager to have both a boys team and a girls team, so any student eager to learn more about the lifelong benefits of long distance running, please come out and participate in Cross Country. Additionally, in an effort to get more of our middle school students involved in more elective offerings, St. Paul’s School is piloting a physical education waiver for students who participate in club sports who feel that their practice and competition schedules will meet the mandatory 350 minute of physical education for every 10 days of school. Interested students should discuss these requirements further with their homeroom teachers.
It should go without saying, but I couldn’t be more pleased that we are all back to school. The cyclical nature of education has once again brought us this new beginning, and my hope is that you and your children find this to be an exceedingly rewarding year.
Seth W. Yocum
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.