Dearest Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Families,
I hope this letter find you and your family in good health and happiness. For me, this beginning of the year letter is always a little bittersweet to write. It is bitter because it signifies the end of my summer break and the freedom that each day allows, yet sweet because it brings about in me the excitement for another new school year and the reminder that I am fortunate to be in a profession that allows for me to have such quality time with my family. I wouldn’t be totally honest if I said that the Harvey Milk staff (myself included) wasn’t holding on to every last second of summer break, just like many of the kids are still doing. That said, I also know that all of the teachers and staff are excited for the upcoming school year. I have seen many relaxed employees throughout the building already, coming in early to start setting up their rooms and offices after packing them away into small boxes at the end of last year to prepare for the floors to be cleaned. Our floors look amazing, by the way!
In my excitement for this new school year to begin, I look forward to getting to know our new students and families that are joining our community. I am also eager to continue to strengthen my relationships with our “veteran” students and families. I have said this before, and I will continue to say that our community is amazing. The care, commitment and effort that is put forth by each and every person in our circle proves again and again that we are passionate about our children’s education at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy (HMCRA), and that the children are at the forefront of every decision we make to help prepare them for a contented and successful future. We are all privileged in sharing this journey together with our children.
As I’m sure you know, we have a fantastic team in place here at HMCRA. I have been impressed at every turn by the professionalism and dedication of each staff member. I assure you that your children will be in very capable and caring hands during their time here. There have been some changes over the summer, as some staff have moved on to a different chapter in their lives (Mr. Sato, Ms. Shimoda, Ms. Clark, Ms. Barrett, Syneicia). Joining the crew are a few new faces in existing positions, familiar faces in different positions, new faces in added positions, or no faces in some positions (We are still trying to hire for 2 support staff positions). Please join me in welcoming:
Ryan Swick - Kindergarten
Jennifer Fan - 2nd grade
Thomas McBurney - 3rd grade
Kay Kirman - 4th/5th grade
Lorenzo Buchanan - Resource Specialist (Special Education)
Skyler Bergman - YMCA Program Director (morning and after school)
Grace Crumpet - Outside Education Instructor (Garden Teacher)
Suzette Miranda - Night Custodian
TBD - Resource Specialist (Special Education)
TBD - Reading Coach
Looking ahead to the coming school year, I am very excited about our upcoming changes. Some of these are described below.
Civil Rights Monthly Themes
As you know, our nation has been besieged this summer by many more killings of unarmed African Americans. Topping that with outward racism and bigotry being displayed via news outlets and social media from various political parties, our work with and support for all of our marginalized students and families becomes ever more important. Over the summer, the staff and I read “Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond. We will be utilizing this book to guide some discussion about it’s topic, but it will also serve as a launching point for the race and equity work that we will continue this year, for our African American students and all students and families that are faced with bias and oppression on a daily basis. I don’t believe that there has ever been a more important time to stand up against the injustices we are seeing and that many are experiencing across our nation. For us, the work starts in the classrooms and throughout the school, in ensuring that we are not part of this system of oppression, rather part of a change agent, fighting for true civil rights for everyone, despite our differences.
Arts and Enrichment
We have teamed up with SFArtsEd and have scheduled two 10-week art/enrichment sessions for each class. This is in addition to each class being provided with a Visual and Performing Arts teacher once per week for the entire school year. It is our first step in helping to ensure that each of our students has multiple opportunities to explore and express the artistic side of themselves. Please look forward to hearing more about this from your classroom teacher.
4th & 5th Grade Blended Classes
All three of the upper grade classes will be “blended” classrooms, making each a 4th/5th grade combination class. Each of our teachers, John Muratet, Tom Nishimura, and Kay Kirman have had experience teaching 4/5 blended classes and are excited to begin this new partnership together. Some of the benefits include a more succinct and aligned opportunity for planning and collaborating with each other; more classrooms to place our students into to help create balanced classes, and the possibility (not guarantee) for students to loop with the same teacher and hit the ground running in their second year with him/her. I am so grateful for the 4th/5th grade teachers’ enthusiasm in this new endeavor for our school and students!
It is our goal to strengthen and streamline communication to our classrooms’ families and our school community. You can expect that each teacher will send out a monthly newsletter to their parents/community, with the first letter being sent home by the end of the 2nd week of school. Newsletters may be done in collaboration with their grade level partner teacher or by the individually by teacher. The purpose is to provide information about what is happening and what is going to happen in your child’s class, with insight into some of the academic standards the students are working on. In addition, a strategy to help with the dissemination of the week to week information will be to recruit 1-2 Room Parents for each classroom. The Parent Faculty Club (PFC) will be working to support teachers and Room Parents to help make this a successful reality, with the goal of creating more communication and transparency. Please look forward to an actual description of what being a room parent entails at HMCRA and contact you’re the PFC or your classroom teacher if you are interested being a Room Parent. For more general information about the role, please click here: Understanding a Room Parent's Role.
We have partnered with a garden organization called Education Outside who will provide us with an garden educator for 30 hours per week for the entirety of the year for 2 years. Education Outside’s goal is to “advance science education in urban public elementary schools through hands-on learning in school gardens. [They] strive to spark children’s interest in science and connect them to the natural world by teaching outdoors.” This is a really great opportunity for our teachers, students and families. Please look for more information to come soon.
The first day of school is Monday, August 15! It will be here before you know it. A great way to help ensure a smooth start for your children is to begin getting them into school routines well before the first day. It’s a good idea to get back on a school schedule in advance. For example, getting to bed early and rising early the week before school starts will make the first days less of a struggle—if they give you any flack on this one, blame me! A little planning will make getting back to school a piece of cake. Remember, our school day is 9:30 A.M. – 3:30 P.M. We will continue to begin each school day gathered in Morning Circle on the upper yard by 9:30. For the first couple of days of school, each teacher will be holding a sign indicating her/his name, grade level and classroom number. Students not enrolled in the morning program should not be dropped off before 9:15am, as we do not have adequate supervision before 9:15am each day.
Class placements for students will be sent to each family via the email(s) we have on file. You should receive these emails by the afternoon of Thursday, August 11*. In addition, class rosters will be posted on the exterior doors of the school for you to come by and check if you’re in the neighborhood. The YMCA will also be available during the Back to School Picnic on Saturday, August 13 from 1pm-3pm. Please join us in kicking off the 2016-17 school year. See your child's class assignment, get your HM swag, enjoy a community potluck, see old friends, and make new friends.
*If you need to update your email(s) on file with the school, please sign up on our webpage at harveymilk.com.
Please note that neither the before school program nor the after school program will be open for the first day of school. The staff will be utilizing this time to plan and develop a quality program. Due to the fact that they run summer programming through the Friday before school begins, this is their only chance to meet and get everything in order. Thank you for understanding that the morning and after school program will not be open on August 15.
I look forward to seeing each of you again in the near future. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need anything. Until then, enjoy every moment of the dwindling days of summer.
Principal, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy