This will be my last message for this year. There are so many things I could write about, as it has been an incredibly eventful year! It was a good year to be sure, but not one without sadness, especially with the departure of more than a few of our beloved staff members.
And so for this final Principal’s message, I would like to pay tribute to the man who has published this newsletter so capably for the last 13 years: the great Eric Getter.
Since Eric often works behind the scenes, many of you may not know what an important part of the Beechwood community he has been. From my perspective, he has been a dream to work with. He is extremely dedicated and has high standards for his work. If you ask him to do something, he will do it well. If he does not know how to do something, he will figure it out. The guy is amazing.
Each year Beechwood admits 10 students into our Kinderprep class. In addition to their tremendous cuteness, they come to us with a ton of energy and many needs. These youngest members of our community (and their families) are indeed fortunate: their teacher for their first year will be Mrs. Veronica Elias.
On Thursday evening, Mrs. Elias will become the third Beechwood teacher to receive Acknowledge Alliance’s “Outstanding Educator” award at a special fundraising dinner. Mrs. Elias will receive her award in front of her colleagues, an audience of donors and most importantly, her loving family.
Black History Month has turned out to be a true team effort here at Beechwood. Our display in the lobby has contributions from Mrs. Connolly, Mr. Getter, Coach Hughes, Mr. Auzenne (Jala’s dad) and Ms. Jenkins (Aaliyah’s mom). Be sure to stop in and see the cool artifacts, interesting quotes and even some uniforms from the Negro Baseball League.
On Friday we will have our first ever, parent-organized Black History program. Please see the attached flyer and thank you to all the parents, teachers and kids who are working on this project.
We are continuing to celebrate Black History Month here at Beechwood. We hope you will be able to stop into the office to see the Black History display that we have started. There are quotes, artifacts, books, pictures and an amazing timeline. If you have anything to contribute, please let us know.
This week’s contribution to our series, “Black History Heroes,” comes from Cedra Wright. Her son Johno is in the 5th grade and her daughter Jamiese is in our 6th grade. We appreciate her willingness to participate in this project.
If you come to Beechwood at lunch time, you will see a 4th grade student standing next to each recycling area in the eating area. Their job is to make sure that trash is properly placed in either the recycling, garbage or compost. These students are proud to be taking care of their environment and keeping Beechwood looking good. What they are doing is part of a larger movement that is taking place at Beechwood, a movement we are calling “A Culture of Care”.
This is a hard thing for a school Principal to admit, but I rarely read books. It has become increasingly hard for me to carve out time for reading and when I do, I find it difficult to stay focused on the text. There are so many distractions these days: the television, the computer, the games on my phone, etc.
This summer however, with things running so smoothly on campus, I decided to try to read a little bit each day. I have so many great books related to education in my office and each day I would take one off the shelf and read a few pages. The books I read have provided some fresh perspectives for me and I was eager to share them with our staff to open the school year. Today I would like to share these books with you and invite you to join the discussion that we are having amongst the staff.
The Homework Myth, by Alfie Kohn
Summary: Mr. Kohn believes that the homework that our children are required to do is not helpful to them. He points to research that shows that homework in fact does more harm than good. He urges schools to rethink how children learn and to reconsider their homework policies.
Quote: “It’s worth asking not only whether there are good reasons to support the practice of assigning homework but why that practice is so often taken for granted even by parents and teachers who are troubled by its impact on children.”
Discussion questions: What are your feelings about homework? Do you think that it is beneficial or harmful? Do you think Beechwood should change its approach to homework?
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
Summary: Mr. Ruiz has put together what he calls, “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom”. The Four Agreements are: “Be impeccable with your word,” “Don’t take anything personally,” “Don’t make assumptions” and “Always do your best.”
Quote: “Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
Discussion questions: How do you work to maintain a positive outlook each day? What can we do as parents and teachers to help our children avoid negative feelings and anxiety?
Play, by Stuart Brown
Summary: Dr. Brown urges all of us to make time every day to play. Not just because it is fun to play, but because it is essential to our physical and mental health.
Quote: “Play is nourishing, but you have to take time out for play, just as you would take time out for a meal. A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition. It is a risk to your body and mind.”
Discussion questions: Are you making time in your life for play? What activities make you feel positive and healthy? What is it about modern life that keeps us from engaging in regular play?
If you would like to respond to any of the discussion questions, feel free to email me at . All of the books are available to borrow and any time spent reading them will count towards your parent education agreement. (The Four Agreements is also available in Spanish). I am happy to be rediscovering reading and I am hoping to hear from you soon about these important topics.
Parent participation has always been a hallmark of the program at Beechwood School. Volunteering, taking classes, conferencing with teachers and paying tuition are all part of the commitment that Beechwood families make when they agree to become part of our school community.
Recently, I am observing that Beechwood parents are taking their involvement at the school to a higher level: from participation to true engagement. When parents are truly engaged they are viewing the school and the broader community with a critical eye, they are making suggestions for improvement and communicating those ideas to the people who make decisions. Engagement means that parents are not just waiting for directions and following them but, rather, making the leap to being equal partners in the process of improving the school.
1. The parent support group led by Bella Aguilar, whose daughter Celeste is in the 6th grade, has been a great addition to our Parent Education program. I was able to be with this group twice and was so impressed by Ms. Aguilar’s ability to facilitate a meeting and with the parent’s insightful observations about Beechwood. The environment that has been created in the Parent Support group makes it safe to say what parents are thinking, even if it is critical.
Here is a quote from Ms. Aguilar:
Facilitating the Parent Support Group was an amazing experience. I overcame my fear of speaking and translating in a group setting. The group was very welcoming; I felt respected and acknowledged. The most rewarding part was interacting with fellow parents who were willing to listen to each other, being supportive and sharing great ideas. The group was very engaging and with a great desire to be involved. I am grateful to be part of the Beechwood Community.
2. Parents were recently invited to a meeting with Menlo Park Police to discuss issues of safety and crime in Belle Haven. Despite short notice, we had over 30 families come out for the discussion facilitated by Beechwood parent, Alejandro Vilchez. The level of engagement at this meeting was impressive as well. Parents asked pointed but respectful questions about issues ranging from the racial makeup of the police force to rules about overnight parking. It was everything we hoped the meeting would be and I am sure that the officers from MPPD left feeling that Beechwood parents truly care about their community.
Here is a quote from one of the parents in attendance, Tiffany Butler, whose daughter Eniya is in the 2nd grade:
Thank you again for setting up the parent meeting with the Menlo Park Police Department. Originally I did not know what I should expect of it and was very pleased with the outcome. I felt that the meeting was very useful and insightful. I especially thought the meeting was not only facilitated to perfection but a well-organized forum which helped bridge the Beechwood community with our local police department. Parents were provided with a safe platform to share personal experiences, discuss neighborhood developments. This helped the parent body understand the shared vision of officers and community of maintaining a safe neighborhood. Furthermore, it was great to see that after a recommendation for a similar session with the EPA Police department, you took immediate action to have something scheduled. The voices of the Parents are heard and were responded to!
3. At each monthly meeting of the Beechwood Board of Directors, the parents are represented by Mandy Goldman, whose daughter Bowie is in the 2nd Grade. Mandy does a great job of listening to parents concerns and then passing that feedback onto the Board. At our most recent meeting, there was much discussion about future plans for the Beechwood playground. It was a valuable discussion initiated by Mandy and the constructive criticism she was hearing from parents.
Here is a quote from her:
During my short time as Parent Board Rep, I’ve come to recognize just how valuable our parent feedback truly is and that communication is crucial. In addition to the Board’s responsibilities such as funding, energizing parent education and finishing the new campus, they are also grateful to hear our ideas, questions, hopes and concerns. By engaging in this dialogue, the Board and faculty can make appropriate decisions that positively impact the school and of course most importantly, our children’s education. Providing feedback from parents has given me an outlet to connect with other families at school so the experience has been very rewarding!
Congratulations to these amazing Beechwood parents and to all of the parents who are challenging themselves to take on a greater role in the future of Beechwood. I appreciate you!