Head’s Corner

Today, our eighth graders left for Washington, D.C. for their annual trip to study the nation’s government and experience the many cultural and historic sights in the capital city. The students have been very excited about this trip, and I am happy that we are able to arrange all the details of this remarkable learning adventure to ensure that our students have a safe and positive experience. A big thank you to Mr. Prestianni and Ms. Parks, who have been running this trip for many years and give so much of their time and energy to make this happen for our students. This year we have added a third chaperone, Ashley Jennings, who will assist our fearless duo in making the Washington D.C. trip something our graduates will remember for a lifetime.

IMG_2171Overnight, multi-day field trips like this one are a part of what makes the Saklan academic program so rich and engaging. Allowing our students to have hands-on and real-life experiences is a way that we broaden their understanding of the topics they study. We believe that these experiences are part of the curriculum, and as such we build the cost of field trips right into the tuition. This is different from many other schools where overnight field trips are an additional expense. At Saklan everyone participates and field trips are part of the learning fabric. In January, 7th grade will spend a week in Hawaii; in March, our 5th graders will spend three days at the Marin Headlands; in April, our 4th graders will go to Coloma overnight to study the Gold Rush. Throughout the school, trips enhance the learning experience of our students. The teachers at Saklan are to be commended for the extra effort it takes to make it all possible.

For the past few months, we have been working on the production of a video clip about Saklan for our website. This video is now live and you can find it on our home page. There are a lot of great images of our students and faculty engaged in the many exciting activities that are part of the daily experience at Saklan. Many thanks to Emoke Veres, our Communications Manager, for organizing and coordinating this production. She was helped by Melissa Zippin, our Director of Admissions, and Toshie Baba, our Board of Trustees Co-chair. Also, thanks to the parents, faculty and students who are highlighted in the video.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

The enrollment season for the 2018-19 school year has started and today we had our first Middle School Open House. Interest in our middle school program is high and we had 14 families in attendance to learn about our outstanding program and meet our teachers.  According to data provided by Melissa Zippin, our Director of Admissions, new student inquiries are up 39% over last year and school tours have increased by 41%. All of the indicators are that Saklan enrollment for next year will be very healthy. Of course parent referrals count as our biggest promotional tool, so please continue to tell your friends and neighbors about Saklan. Tours are easy to organize and typically result in an eye-opening experience for prospective families.

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At Flag today, I was very pleased to inform the Saklan community of the award that we won in this year’s edition of the Walnut Creek Twilight Parade. Saklan was awarded 1st place in the category of Educational Institution. On hand to receive the award was our parade organizor and Director of Marketing, Christine Kuckuk. In order to give some more background on this event I asked Christine the following questions:

How did Saklan get involved with the Twilight Parade?

A dedicated group of Saklan parents from Walnut Creek initially coordinated Saklan’s participation in the Twilight Parade. They felt it was a good way to reach Walnut Creek families and a lot of fun for our students.

Why do we continue to participate?

The Twilight Parade is a great community building event for Saklan families. It’s a unique opportunity not to watch, but actually participate in a parade. Family members can participate with their students and all participants receive a new Spirit Wear T-shirt to show off their Saklan pride. Our students love it!

What was different about this year and why do you think we won?

Thanks to our new cheer, we were loud and proud! Our Student Council Members will be teaching this to students at the Friday Flag Assemblies in 2018. Here it is:

Well I don’t know but I’ve been TOLD,

Saklan kids are good as GOLD!

When work gets tough, we don’t FOLD,

Cause we’ve got grit that makes us BOLD! 

Gimme an S! (S)

Gimme an A! (A)

Gimme  a  K! (K)

Gimme an L! (L)

Gimme an A! (A)

Gimme an N! (N)

What’s that spell? SAKLAN!

As of today, we have two weeks of school left before the winter break and the end of 2017. These will be a busy time at Saklan with a couple of important events on the calendar. Next week, our 8th grade students will spend a week in Washington, D.C. with Mr. Prestianni, Ms. Parks and Miss Jennings for their yearly field trip to study US government. On Friday, December 15th our grades 3-5 students will put on the musical, “The Lion King KIDS” at the Willow Spring Church. This will start at 10:30AM and is open to the entire community. I highly recommend that you come out to see our very talented students, who will certainly send us off to the holidays with good cheer.

And finally, the 1st trimester report cards are going out in the mail today.  Look for them in your mail box early next week.

Have a good weekend,

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

This week, we had Moving Up Day for our fifth grade students. Fifth grade is a crucial year and getting ready for the move to middle school is an important goal of our program at Saklan. Our fifth graders spent a morning in the middle school getting to know our faculty and learning about what a middle school program looks like. They learned about some of the big changes and challenges of being a middle school student, like moving between classrooms, being in an advisory group, organizing their lockers, being more autonomous and responsible, having elective classes, and of course the week-long overnight trips. Our Middle School Dean, Miss Parks, lead the class in a lively discussion about what it’s like to be a middle school student which ended with lively Q&A using the snowball activity. Students write their burning questions on a piece of paper, crumple it up and then toss them around like snowballs. Each student then reads the question that they end up with.

SOS snowball fight

Today was the day of Saklan’s Annual Fall Follies. This is a fantastic and fun event which brings out the talent, creativity and confidence that are characteristics of Saklan students. Many of our students are truly in their element when on stage. It is impressive how each and every student was willing to take risks with their performance and showed their inner courage. I commend the students on their excellent performances and the audience on being supportive and compassionate. Mr. Prestianni has done another outstanding job organizing the show, auditioning the performers and putting together the program. Hats off to Mr. P for putting together this stellar event for yet another year and providing our students with such an amazing learning opportunity.

Thanksgiving is on our doorsteps and this is naturally a time for gratitude. I would like to express my gratitude for the wonderful community that is our school and to the creative, courageous and compassionate teachers, staff, parents and students that share and work towards our common goals. Please take a moment and think about what Saklan is doing for your children and, if you have not already done so, support our Annual Giving Fund.

Today is the last day of the first trimester and report cards for K – 8 students will be sent home on Friday, December 1st. Report cards are used to validate the growth and progress that each student has made on their educational journey. I encourage all parents to both celebrate the accomplishments that your children have made and reflect upon goals for the next trimester. This will also be a good time to plan to connect with teachers to discuss any concerns or questions that may have come up as a result of the report cards. All K – 8 reports will be mailed home.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday and thank you for being a wonderful and supportive community!!!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

As I am sure you already know, Saklan is recognized for the outstanding quality of its faculty. I was recently thrilled to find out that our Science/STEM teacher, Vickie Obenchain has been selected for the 2017-18 Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellowship sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. The selection process for the program was highly competitive with 76 teachers being chosen from over 450 applications from across the United States. The Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (TGC) is a year-long professional development program for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school teachers to become leaders in global education. Global education is integral to building 21st century skills in students, and teachers are the greatest resource to empower our students as global citizens. The TGC program equips teachers to bring an international perspective to their schools through targeted training, experience abroad, and global collaboration. The TGC program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and implemented by IREX, an international non-profit organization.

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The TGC program begins with a ten-week online professional development course. Upon successful completion of this course, participants will participate in a Global Education Symposium in Washington, D.C. in February, 2018. At the Symposium, TGC Fellows will collaborate with teachers, administrators and education leaders from across the United States in a two-day conference on Global Education. Following the Symposium, TGC Fellows will travel with a cohort of other U.S. teachers for an international field experience and have the opportunity to meet with school teachers and educational leaders in one of the participating host countries. Throughout their fellowship, TGC Fellows will explore the themes and applications for global education in the classroom and bring these back to their own school and community. We look forward to all the new ideas that Vickie will be bringing back to Saklan as she goes through this prestigious program. Congratulations, Vickie!

Don’t forget Fall Follies next Friday at 10:30AM. This is also the end of the First Trimester which means report cards will be on their way. They will be sent out by mail on the Friday after Thanksgiving Break.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

The big event of this week was undoubtedly the Halloween and Harvest Festival on Tuesday. This is the second year that we have put on this event and it was tremendously successful by all accounts. This event was sponsored by our Student Council and our students played a big role in organizing the event and running many of the activities.  A big thank you to Kim Parks and Lisa Rokas, who are our Student Council Advisors, to the team of staff and teachers, and to the numerous parent volunteers who helped in many ways.

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Of the many activities that were organized, the haunted house was as big a hit as ever. The costume parade and competition was fun and colorful and our students enjoyed dressing up in unique and creative costumes. Our Lower School students had fun going to the AEGIS and Moraga Royale assisted living homes and singing their Halloween songs. And finally, the middle school deck was turned into a spooky disco which attracted students of all ages and parents as well.

Please remember that next Friday, November 10, the school will be closed in observance of Veterans Day. The day before, you will receive a text message reminding you about this holiday. As of this year, we have implemented a new mass notification system through Renweb that allows us to send emergency and non-emergency text messages in addition to emails. This will be the first school-wide test of the system, so please give us any feedback you may have.

Also, in two weeks on Friday, November 17, we will have our Fall Follies. It will be held at the Willow Spring Auditorium and will start at 10:30AM. I look forward to a big crowd to experience this fun showcase of Saklan talent.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Parents,

Last week, we held an all-school earthquake drill. Saklan students did an outstanding job of following the prescribed procedures of duck and cover, and then evacuating the building in an orderly fashion. To simulate what might happen in a real earthquake, we had one staff member hide in the restroom, which required our search and rescue team to go back and find her.

Earthquake Drill

Being prepared in an emergency is something we take seriously and practice regularly at Saklan.  Every month, we do an earthquake, fire or lockdown drill, and our faculty and staff have done an outstanding job in emergency preparedness. After every drill, we do an evaluation and look for issues and improvements. We have also improved our communications plan in the event of an emergency. Contacting parents during or after an emergency is critical, and we have recently implemented a new feature through Renweb which will provide a more efficient and broader range of contact options to include text messages in addition to emails. For this to be effective, all parents must make sure that their information on Renweb is up to date and all emergency contacts are included. More information on our safety procedures can be found in our Crisis and Preparedness Plan, which is found on Renweb.

Security is an important consideration at Saklan and we have recently changed our gate code. Please be very careful in sharing this code with others. In the next few weeks, we will be upgrading our alarm system and adding surveillance cameras. We will also be replacing the external door by the Admissions and Business Offices with one that is more secure.

Another safety issue that we have addressed this year is that of the parking situation. With the increase in traffic on School Street over the past few years, the crossing of the street without an official crosswalk has resulted in the need for a safer solution. Having negotiated a new parking agreement with the Holy Trinity Church, parents no longer have to cross the street to get to the school.

Another safety issue, which has come up a few times this year, is that of smoke from wild fires affecting the air quality. In these instances, the school evaluated the information provided by the EPA and followed the lead of the local school district in deciding on the need for school closure. This did, however, result in our decision to keep the students indoors for recess and PE classes, and advising parents to keep their children at home if they have respiratory problems.

We are all looking forward to our Halloween and Harvest Festival next Tuesday. The fun starts right away in the morning with the costume parade and ends after the Harvest Festival with an early dismissal at 2:00PM.  Please note that extended care will be available on that day.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

The Fall Session of our after school enrichment program has gotten off to a great start.  We have nine different sections which meet after school from Mondays to Thursdays, with a total of 85 students participating. I am pleased to announce that Saklan will again be participating in Mathcounts this year. The Mathcounts Competition Series is a national program that provides students the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers. Mr. Zippin will be coaching our Mathcounts team, which is open to students in grades 6-8. This is the second year that we have participated in Mathcounts. Last year’s team of seven students had a great time participating in our local Diablo Chapter Competition. Feedback from the students who participate in the program includes comments such as:  “I enjoy math,” “I like solving complicated problems and being challenged,” I did it last year and really enjoyed it,” “It’s fun doing math in a group.”

mathcounts

This year’s Mathcounts Team, which meets on Mondays from 3:30 – 4:30 is currently made up of six students. During the weekly meeting, the students will typically do a warm up exercise followed by reviewing some math concepts that come up in the problems that the students are working on. After this, the students will get into teams to get practice in working collaboratively on the problem of the week. They end the session with a workout on some harder problems. A big thank you to Mr. Zippin for coaching the Saklan team. This activity allows students who like math to get together and have a different kind of problem solving experience. Plus it’s fun!

The goal of the Mathcounts Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is to provide engaging math programs to U.S. middle school students of all ability levels in order to build confidence and improve attitudes towards math and problem solving. The Foundation believes that middle school students exist at a critical juncture in which their love for mathematics must be nurtured, or their fear of mathematics must be overcome. Mathcounts thus provides students with the kinds of experiences that foster growth and transcend fear to lay a foundation for future success. You can get a taste of the kind of problems that Mathcounts students solve by looking at the problem of the week on the Mathcounts website.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

Our Director of Development, Carol Goldman, will be launching the Annual Giving Fund Campaign next week. In the next two months, you will be receiving requests to participate, and I urge you to support the work that the faculty and staff do here at Saklan. Our AGF allows us to achieve our goal of going above and beyond and accomplish things like our performing arts program, student leadership opportunities, and facility improvements like the new turf field. I can assure you that we are never short on ideas for improvement and, like all independent schools, we rely not only on tuition, but also donations to provide our students with the highest quality education. Each student at Saklan is in some way a beneficiary of the contributions that you give and all donations are tax deductible, unlike tuition.

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Please remember that school will be closed next Friday, October 20 for a professional development day.  This year all of our faculty will be attending a workshop on Improving Literacy Achievement at Saklan. This workshop will be led by Dr. Kathy Perez, an award-winning classroom teacher, administrator, and author who has worked with students from preschoolers to college graduates. Dr. Perez is currently a Professor of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California and is an acclaimed international educational consultant, author and motivational speaker, specializing in literacy, instructional strategies, and creative approaches to brain research, student engagement and leadership development. She will draw on material from her latest book, “200+ Proven Strategies for Teaching Reading in K-8,” to help our teachers in all disciplines make great strides in literacy achievement.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

AT Flag this morning, our first graders shared what they had learned from their study of Communities. One of the highlights of this unit was a field trip to the Moraga Safeway Supermarket, where they were able to observe and learn about goods and services. Each student shared an important idea that they had studied. For example, Maximillian told us that “communities are where people live, work and have fun.”  To make the presentation more interesting, the audience was treated to three short poems titled, ‘City, Suburbs and Country.’

2nd Grade Drum Circle
2nd grade drum circle at Flag

Next week, we will hold our first Parent-Teacher Conference Session of this academic year. This is an important opportunity for you to learn about your child’s progress and development at Saklan. To accommodate the conference schedule, school will officially end at 12:00PM on Thursday and Friday, with the afternoon dedicated to meeting with your homeroom teacher or advisor. Please note that there will be no hot lunch on these days. The school bus will leave school at 12:00PM and follow the regular route. Arrival times can be found on our website under Transportation. Due to the conferences, there will be no bus monitor in the afternoons. We will have extended day until 6:00PM as usual, and there will be no enrichment classes on these days. All parents coming to the school for a Parent-Teacher Conference will be offered coffee and snacks provided by our Development Office.

Please remember that school will be closed on Monday for a holiday.

Have a great long weekend!

Peter

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

This week, we had our first Family Group session of the year. Our ten Family Groups are made up of 7 or 8 students ranging from 1st to 8th graders. Each group is led by one or two 8th grade students, who are responsible for running the group activity for the session. The Family Group activity presents a wonderful leadership opportunity for our senior students, helps to build a cohesive school community, and is a vehicle to promote the themes of our SEL program. In this session, the activity was focused on self-regulation, which for students is defined as recognizing or identifying that you need to help yourself to achieve a goal, task, assignment, or being able to get yourself back on track. The Family Groups did a number of activities around this theme and each group produced a poster with suggestions and tools on how to handle a variety of common issues that students are confronted with in school.

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Please have a look at these posters that are displayed on the bulletin board in the entrance way. Here are some samples of what our students came up with:

If you have problems with focus – have a good night’s sleep.

If you have problems with stress – meditate.

If you have problems with silliness – take a deep breath.

If you have problems with anger – walk away and talk with a friend.

If you have problems with giggles – relax and drink some water.

If you have problems with regulation – stop and count to ten.

I was able to visit many of the Family Groups and was highly impressed by the leadership abilities of our 8th grade students. Part of the activity involved taking the Family Group through a tour of the Moraga Community Gardens which is located just down the street from us. Our 8th grade leaders did an outstanding job in describing the organization of the gardens and showing good communication and leadership skills.

This was a great way to start our SEL program for the year. Compliments go to Vickie Obenchain, who is our Family Group Coordinator, and all the teachers who supervised the Family Groups. Our next theme is perseverance and I look forward to seeing how this theme is presented over the next month.

Have a great long weekend!

Peter