Gateway to the Holiday Season

December 13, 2017

The joyful music, song, and voices of our students in the holiday assemblies have become the gateway to the season for me. Our spirits are lifted and the tone is set as we prepare gatherings with family and friends. As we head into a well-deserved winter vacation after this Friday, I want to update you on all that has taken place since the Thanksgiving break.

As ready as our faculty and staff were for their Thanksgiving dinners, we spent three days engaged in meaningful and productive professional development before heading out. Time was allocated to continuing the work of aligning the curriculum along a K-8 continuum. The faculty participated in a highly interactive webinar with the Universal Design for Learning consultants. Together, they reviewed and refined their lesson designs to incorporate more variability and choice into our students’ learning experiences. Loren Moye and Betsy Brody led deep discussions helping us explore what it means to be a diverse and inclusive community and advanced the integration of a social justice curriculum from kindergarten to eighth grade.

The CAIS self-study was a major focus of the professional development days. Dr. Sokolov, along with the accreditation steering committee and a host of faculty facilitators, engaged our entire faculty and staff in a series of reflective activities. Faculty began gathering data for the various self-study chapters, including School Mission, Educational Program, Student Learning Experience, Faculty and Pedagogy, Climate and Community, Health, and Safety and Wellness.

We also took advantage of the students being out of the building to conduct a “shelter in place” drill, part of the review we are doing of all our safety procedures. In the upcoming months, we will provide an update on the modifications we are making to our fire, earthquake, and security procedures.  Before we headed off to the break, Wendy and I hosted a “pau hana” for everyone at our house, a casual Hawaiian-style gathering at the end of a productive workday

After Thanksgiving break, SF Day hosted meetings for parents and neighbors to provide updates on our campus master planning. The architects from Studio Bondy were with us as we shared an overview of the programmatic aspirations outlined in the October Town Hall meetings. We could not have been more pleased with the tone and outcome of the meetings. Attendees appreciated our gesture of inviting them in for this preparatory meeting and responded well to our planning and openness.  In addition to displaying preliminary design concepts showing the potential scope and scale of the facility, we discussed our plans to submit an update to our Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in January.  Our CUP is regulated by the City of San Francisco, and it governs campus use, including the maximum number of students we are able to enroll. We intend to apply for a modest increase to the enrollment cap of 10-20% to allow for flexibility in the number of students on campus as we look towards the future. This does not necessarily mean that we will increase the student body by this number, but recognizing that schools submit these applications once every thirty years or so, we are positioning SF Day for the unforeseeable future.  Assuming we receive permit approval, any changes in enrollment would not be actionable until 2020. Should we proceed, changes to enrollment would be incremental and focus on the upper grades where we could add students with current staffing levels.

This week, we will host the final admissions tour of the year. We have received very positive and compelling feedback on the theme of “Intellect and Imagination Intertwined.” Last Thursday evening, we hosted a successful “Windows and Mirrors” reception for prospective families. Once again, our faculty and parent body were our best ambassadors, speaking to and exemplifying the school's commitment to creating an environment that is diverse and inclusive.  The format of the evening invited all present to share in the tough and ever important conversations our students, faculty, parents, and board lean into every day as we explore what it takes and means to be a diverse and inclusive community. It was clear by the high level of engagement that we all value the individual and collective growth that occurs when we are part of a diverse community. 

As we wrap up this year and head to the next, I want to thank our parents for all the ways you continue to support our school. We will be hosting a coffee cart this Friday morning before the Holiday Assembly as a small token of appreciation for your support of our Annual Fund. Our community’s incredible generosity enables our students to delight in the discovery of connection: in their academic and creative pursuits, in their relationships, and in all that they experience at SF Day.  I am looking forward to the song and music this Friday, and I wish you all a safe, serene, and joyful holiday season.