news at sffs
As we celebrate the Pride Parade returning to San Francisco this summer, we wanted to re-share an essay by SFFS parent John Tighe P'24 on the beauty of marching with SFFS Friends. This essay was originally published on our site on May 26, 2017.
Since moving to San Francisco as a newly out young gay man more than 25 years ago, LGBT Pride weekend has always felt like a major holiday for me—a chance to celebrate with thousands of people that are a core part of my being, which, for many years, I felt too much shame to acknowledge, let alone celebrate.
In my first years of either marching in the parade or watching along the sideline every year on the last Sunday in June, two contingents stirred me most: 1) PFLAG, the group of parents and allies of LGBT people, and 2) elementary schools. The PFLAG group raised goose bumps as I watched throngs of parents march to affirm their LGBT children, an affirmation I’ve been fortunate to have from my own mother. Years before becoming a parent, the elementary schools contingent led me to see both that there were LGBT parents and that these parents were joined by straight parents who were their allies. It also led me to fantasize that I, too, might one day be a parent.
After our son, Gabriel, was born in 2010 (by the way, he was born on Pride Saturday on the eve of that year’s parade) the significance of the day didn’t lessen. When Gabriel was an infant and toddler, my partner, Gabriel, and I joined the contingent of Our Family Coalition, an LGBTQ families group. Last year, as a kindergarten family, we joined a group from the Friends School. The SFFS group was part of the large contingent of Bay Area independent schools.
Our Friends School group was a bit ragtag; we didn’t have matching T-shirts like the huge Apple contingent. But, those things didn’t make a difference to us. We were a group of parents of all orientations, along with kids of all grade levels—and some toddlers, too—and teachers and friends, celebrating our school, our families, and the day. We marched, taking turns carrying the Friends School banner, we blew our whistles and shouted with joy, we waved, we applauded, and were applauded.
The parade is a back-and-forth exchange of love and celebration like no other. Marchers are celebrating themselves as well as the spectators, and spectators are celebrating themselves as well as the marchers. It’s part political rally and part party, giving all a chance to “come out,” walk with pride, and be whoever they are, regardless of orientation.
As I marched, I had images of Harvey Milk and other political activists marching in the 1970s to celebrate gay liberation and to stand up against a statewide political initiative at the time that sought to ban lesbians and gays from being school teachers; and I had memories of myself at an earlier age daydreaming that some day I could be a parent. Our son’s memories of the day may be different from mine: he remembers being able to stand in the middle of the street with his school friends, surrounded by lots of people having one big party.
The reasons for the parade and the reasons people march have changed in some ways over the years. While once a gathering mostly for LGBT people, the parade is now a Bay Area-wide celebration involving everyone who wants to be involved, whether as a marcher or a watcher. And, yet, every year, whether it has been to celebrate coming out or being allowed the right to marry, the need to stand up and speak out remains, and it is especially present in this politically turbulent year. This year’s theme is "Celebrate Diversity: Resist regression, stand up against exclusion, demand equality." It sounds a lot like core values of the Friends School, and speaks to at least a couple of the Quaker testimonies.
Join the San Francisco Friends School in the parade. For yourself, your family, and your community, and for fun.
Each year, we learn that we will be saying goodbye to colleagues who are moving on or retiring from their positions at SFFS. As we encourage risk-taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves, we celebrate our Friends as they continue their adventures and journeys outside of 250 Valencia, and we thank them for their contributions to our community. This year I reached out to colleagues for some insight about our departures. The quotes you will read below are from unnamed faculty members who have years and decades of collaborative experience with our departing colleagues. I hope their words help convey a fraction of the debt we owe them as instructional leaders and community members. We encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those who are departing, while also welcoming those who will soon be joining this special community of learners and Friends.
Evelyn departs the Middle School after 13 years as an humanities teacher, advisor, and leader at SFFS. Evelyn has innovated curriculum, developed and deepened our advisory program, and demonstrated a clear love of learning and empathy towards students. Colleagues will tell you that Evelyn is a skilled listener and a team player. She asks thoughtful questions of colleagues and listens for deeper meaning when engaging the answers. Watching Evelyn run a morning meeting or seeing how she speaks with students and advisees is educational and inspirational. She speaks clearly, with total attention to others and brings humor and simplicity on a regular basis. Evelyn demonstrates that learning is something we do for our entire journeys as teachers. She continually took on new challenges in the middle school and she recently worked as a curriculum integrator and is among the team leads within the advisory program. Evelyn leads with enthusiasm and shows concern for every member of the community. She has a wealth of knowledge regarding how the school runs, but most importantly how the school should feel! Evelyn’s care and concern for others has helped make the middle school an environment that a generation of SFFS student leaders can call home. She has helped define what it means to be a great teacher at SFFS. We wish Evelyn the best of luck as she moves into a world beyond the classroom.
Mitch Neuger departs SFFS to relocate for new adventures in Monterey, California. Mitch has been a critical part of the Learning Services Team since 2007. Mitch is well known for his empathy, self-deprecation, and wisdom. He cares deeply about how kids learn and is a strong advocate for the dignity of all learners. Mitch’s ability to help students speak about their needs, their concerns and their hopes is a special gift that has allowed so many students to find their stride at school. Mitch is also a guide and a resource for teachers. He helps as a collaborative partner, joins classes, offers insight on a range of topics, and does it all with humility and grace. Many people go to Mitch with complicated questions and ethical dilemmas. His sense of service to the school, to students and to the world around him is startling in its depth and authenticity. Students who have worked closely with Mitch know this well. We will miss his unwavering desire to make learning at SFFS more equitable and effective.
Diali is departing San Francisco Friends School to become the Director of Teaching and Learning at the Julia Morgan School in Oakland. Diali has been a key leader in the middle school for over a decade. She has helped define what it means to be a great teacher at SFFS. She is serious, curious, hilarious, a total softy, a no-nonsense math teacher, a serious advocate for kids, a collaborative colleague, a curricular leader, a tone-setter, an affinity group leader, and much more. Perhaps most critically, Diali has been a fierce advocate for upholding and deepening our understanding of Quaker values and practices at school. She has served as the faculty clerk of the middle school over the last three years, helping run faculty meetings, partnering with a range of teachers to develop programs, design curriculum and have fun! Most community members won’t know this, but Diali hosted faculty meetings during the bulk of the pandemic and led the faculty in a number of games and activities, online dance parties, trivia, and other activities to keep us all going. There is no doubt that Diali will be missed by parents, teachers, students, and alumni. We wish her all the best and look forward to our next opportunity to dance, learn, and have fun in her presence.
Bora Shin departs SFFS after a brief, but impactful tenure as the design instructor during the 2021–2022 academic year. Bora’s work in the design program has reinvigorated the intersection between art and technology at Friends. Bora’s attention to detail, her determination that kids understand and own the importance of the design process and her focus on skill development and safety have shown students that understanding the process of creation is just as important as the final result. Bora’s technical acumen is overshadowed by her care for kids and the care with which she engages colleagues and students alike. Bora is humble and skilled, compassionate, and outspoken. Although Bora will be leaving for Korea this summer, her work in redeveloping the design lab will have long-lasting impacts at SFFS.
Patrick concludes an exciting and eventful tenure at SFFS. Patrick served as a Middle School teaching assistant and basketball coach during the pandemic years. Patrick demonstrated resilience and leadership during these unpredictable times. He subbed, observed, led, cajoled and partnered every day. Patrick’s ability to respond to situations brought him to all corners of the school. He worked closely with 5th-, 7th-, and 8th-Graders during his time at SFFS. He showed great skills in connecting with kids, learning about their interests and challenging them to go further than what they imagined. As a coach, Patrick held high standards and encouraged his players towards excellence each day. Patrick dethroned Mike as the tallest student at school and may have had the biggest heart, as well. He will go on to be a middle school math teacher in Oakland next year and will no doubt lead with love and joy. Best of luck, Patrick!
Ashley ends a long tenure at SFFS this spring. Ashley joined the middle school as a teaching assistant last fall, but worked as a member of the A3 staff for a number of years. Ashley is an understated leader and advocate for students. Ashley’s relationships with students and the work she puts forth to support their experiences is tremendous. As a member of the 7th Grade team, Ashley’s ability to partner with, support, and understand students has helped many kids through this challenging time. Ashley has led affinity groups, designed activities, actively substituted classes, and worked in the after school program. Quite simply, Ashley brings real joy to school each day. To spend time with Ashley is to be welcomed into a world of curiosity, caring, and enthusiasm. Her eyes light up and she brings a big smile when talking about kids, her family, and Tim Duncan. Ashley’s time as a Middle School TA has been marked by great uncertainty and change, but she has provided consistency and effectiveness without fail. Her ability to stay attentive and flexible during this time is a testament to her professionalism and character.
This spring also concludes Liz Peterson’s tenure at San Francisco Friends School. Liz served as the 6th Grade teaching assistant this year and spent many years working in the after school program. Liz has long-standing personal experience with Quaker traditions and practices and regularly brought them to school. These values are regularly reflected in her decision-making and her relationships with all community members. Liz is a deeply empathetic person and teacher. She cares deeply about fairness and consistently paid close attention to making sure that all students experience fairness as an essential part of their time at Friends. Liz regularly served as a substitute teacher and supervisor of students on the yard. Liz’s attention to fairness and conflict resolution in these spaces helped set the tone for the 6th Grade. Her determination to help kids see fairness and equity are lived experiences helped 6th-Graders pay close attention to the relationship between values and real life. Liz will no doubt make valuable contributions in her next school and we wish her well along the way.
Carl concludes his time at SFFS after playing numerous roles over the last three years. Though many may know him as the friendly mustachioed man at the morning carpool, Carl first joined as a 5th Grade math teacher during what we imagined was a brief maternity leave. Carl ultimately finished the year and stayed on to play many roles in the Middle School. Carl helped with a range of administrative duties including scheduling, attendance management, substitute teacher coordinator, and general logistical support. Carl is perhaps the most organized person you will ever meet. His attention to systems proved invaluable during the pandemic as it seems like systems have had to change each month. Carl is always eager to pitch in with solutions and offers useful and effective critiques of existing challenges. Carl is also hilarious. He is tough, but he loves to laugh. He is dedicated to making sure the school is arranged in a way that helps students get the most out of their experience. We initially thought Carl would only join us for a few months and are tremendously grateful that he has stayed for three years. His work behind the scenes at Friends has been monumental. We are grateful for his time and wish him all the best.
We are preparing for the 2022–2023 school year in earnest already, and we do so with optimism for a bright future at SFFS. The vibrating spirit of professional and personal growth and change is alive and well in our school culture, unabated, and there are several internal shifts, and a few moving on transitions, that we want to share with you now.
For the past several years, Tracy Coleman and Erin Kendrew have been in a job share partnership in the 1st Grade, which will come to an end at the close of this year. Erin and Tracy have been such a deeply experienced and special team, and made the job share work beautifully in service to the students and families. Erin has made the decision to leap, and devote the bulk of her professional work outside the classroom, and in the realm of teacher coaching and mentoring. Tracy also spends half her time as a BATTI coach and supervisor, which she will continue doing next year. To no one’s surprise, the two of them are poised to make an impact as leaders in the field. We will share more about their next steps soon, and certainly be celebrating their incredible service for more than 15 years, each of them in various capacities at Friends.
Tanya Hernandez (Cotom) has served Friends as a TA, our Lower School Spanish teacher, and most recently as a 1st Grade lead teacher. Tanya’s poise and kindness have been gifts to the school for many years. Tanya, and her partner, Daniel, will be relocating to Fort Worth, Texas this summer, to pursue a job opportunity for Daniel. We are thrilled for them as they embark on this journey together, and know they will remain close community members here at Friends, as the Cotom family has deep roots at Friends forever.
With the 1st Grade team moving on, we had two lead teacher openings to fill. With that news, the Lower School team began to ruminate, and after a short period of reflection, the teachers decided to make some internal grade changes before we began our hiring process. Here is the news:
Noah Bowling: After many years holding down the fort on a stellar team in Kindergarten, Noah has decided it is time to loop back up to 1st Grade, where he has much experience—in fact, it is where he started his career at Friends 17 years ago. (It is also worth noting here that the two amazing Kindergarten TAs, Lily Layman and Jeremy Mikush, will loop up with the K children to 1st Grade, too!)
Gavin Odabashian: Our current 4th Grade teacher is thrilled to return to her first love, rounding out an amazing 1st Grade team with Noah next year.
Andrea Snyder: By her choice, and our good fortune, our current 2nd Grade teacher will return to her experiences and roots in Kindergarten joy, joining Nick McGrane on that team next year.
Welcoming a New Hires:
In light of Frances Dickson’s departure, the Developmental Support (DS) Team will be undergoing some changes, too.
Stefani Wulkan will be joining the DS team as our other Lower School Learning Specialist. She has been in the field for more than 18 years, primarily in the East Bay, and for her this move represents a welcomed re-orientation towards students and learning in a school context. She will be focusing her work primarily in 3rd and 4th Grades, including the important transition into Middle School. In the Lower School DS realm, Stefani will work closely with Kim Gitnick, our other Lower School Learning Specialist, Rebecca Mallabone, our Lower School Resource Support Teacher, and Katherine Preston, our School Counselor.
To round out our Lower School teaching team next year, we are happy to announce two new lead teaching hires. We are incredibly lucky to have enticed them both to join our team next year.
Cathy Aragon, a long time former SF Day School teacher, and more recently the director of professional development programs at CATDC, will be joining Anhvu Buchanan in 2nd Grade as the other lead teacher. She is eager to return to the classroom, having missed students and the context of a vibrant school community too much. Her reputation, expertise, and leadership on the team will be incredible.
Houston Holmes will join us from Texas and complete the 4th Grade lead teaching team. He has been teaching both overseas and in 4th and 5th Grade classrooms for the past seven years. Houston has been eager to move to San Francisco for some time, and we are more than confident that Houston’s positive spirit and his self described “calling” to teaching will find a wonderful home here at Friends.
We will share even more biographies about these new hires soon, as well as the placement of the rest of our assistant teachers as we begin the process of welcoming them into this amazing community later this summer.
Lead Teams for 2022–2023:
Kindergarten: Nick McGrane & Andrea Snyder
1st Grade: Noah Bowling & Gavin Odabashian
2nd Grade: Anhvu Buchanan & Cathy Aragon (new hire)
3rd Grade: Luis Hernandez & Andrea Green
4th Grade: Maureen Ray & Houston Holmes (new hire)
One of the first conversations that I participated in when I joined Horizons at SFFS, in late February 2020, was a very honest debrief of Horizons’ fundraiser at Bimbo’s 365 Club. The central discussion questions: the benefit at the new venue had been successful, but had it been inclusive? Did it uphold Horizons’ values grounded in equity and social justice? Was an event really “the Horizons way?”
I’ve carried that conversation with me for the last two years. It has been a big part of what has pushed me to think critically about the way we engage in philanthropy, to ensure that we stay true to our values.
Sometime in 2020, I was introduced to the idea of Community-Centric Fundraising (CCF), a movement in philanthropy that pushes for fundraising practices to be grounded in racial equity and justice. There are ten principles of CCF, they include things like 1) We recognize that individual organizational missions are not as important as the collective community 2) We appreciate those who contribute time, talent, and connections as much as we appreciate those who contribute money 3) We treat donors as partners. And my personal favorite: We promote the understanding that everyone (donors, staff, funders, board members, volunteers) personally benefits from engaging in the work of social justice – it’s not just charity and compassion. I know with certainty that Horizons at SFFS embodies this principle. That’s why the answer to all those questions we asked ourselves about the event is yes. Let’s unpack that a bit.
According to that principle, “we must avoid creating a sense of charity or pity among donors toward other community members and instead encourage donors to see how they and their families also benefit from the work they are donating to sustain.” In our case, Horizons brings SFFS’ Quaker values to life. SFFS staff, students, and families are inseparable from the Horizons community: they are our summer teachers, high school volunteers, mystery readers, board members, and more. We don’t have to look hard to see that Horizons brings us closer to our goal of being a school with a public purpose. Our partnership is one tangible way that we deepen our commitment to being an ever more engaged and inclusive community. This is at the core of our annual fundraising event.
At Horizons’ annual benefit, you won’t see stories of pity and charity. We won’t focus on the barriers that are statistically and systemically stacked against Horizons students, or the many ways in which these challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. We will not come together for charity, we will come together in partnership because that is the Horizons way.
We will celebrate that our first class, which started with us as Kindergarteners in 2014, is now graduating eighth grade and off to high school. We will celebrate that we are poised to welcome yet another incoming class to serve a total of 153 students on SFFS’ campus this June and July. We will celebrate that our program has expanded beyond the summer into the school year and high school. And of course, we will celebrate that we can be together.
I hope that you will join me to learn more about, and support, Horizons at SFFS’ mission, work, and impact at our Annual Benefit on May 12th at Bimbo's 365 Club at 6pm. Community Level tickets begin at $100, and Early Bird tickets are available until April 18th. For more information on tickets, tables, and the celebration visit our event page.
Hopefully you noticed our beautiful, redesigned website, which we just debuted this week. We've been working on this new site for awhile, and we're excited to be able to share it with you now.
With this updated platform, we hope to be able to share more engaging content, news about our school, and ways to connect with this wonderful community at SFFS.
If you have any questions or would like to see something on our site that you haven't been able to find, please don't hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy browsing, Friends!
There is so much happening in the news right now that students may or may not be metabolizing in their own ways—and they will inevitably have questions for the adults in their lives. Below are some resources, compiled by Lower School Head Jennifer Arnest, that we hope educators and parents alike may find helpful as we follow the lead of our children in talking about war and responding truthfully, while keeping it simple and appropriate for their evolving minds and growing awareness.
Talking with Kids about War, Resources for Teachers and Parents:
- How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War – Common Sense Media
- Talking to Your Kids About War – Very Well Family
- What to Tell Children About War: Tell the Truth, Keep it Simple – The Harvard Gazette
- How to Talk to Children About War: An Age-by-Age Guide – Today
- Talking about War and Violence in the World – TeacherVision
- Helping Children Cope with Frightening News – Child Mind Institute
- The Day War Came – a children’s book by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (this will be available in the SFFS Library this week)
Resources Specific to Ukraine:
- Honesty, Reassurance: How to Talk to Kids about Ukraine – ABC News
- How to Talk with Students About the Russia-Ukraine War: 5 Tips – Education Week
- How to Talk to Children about Russia’s Attack on Ukraine, Especially If They’ve Been Through Their Own Trauma – The Philadelphia Inquirer
Current Events Resources:
We are delighted to announce that our own Amabelle Sze will be transitioning to a new role this summer when she becomes the next head of the SFFS Lower School. Amabelle has been part of the Friends community for 15 years, and we are so excited that she has committed to an interim appointment that will allow her to test just how much she misses the classroom. You can read Mike and Pankti's full letter to the community about Amabelle's new role—and her long-standing commitment to our school—below.
Dear SFFS Family Member,
We did it! And we are delighted to announce that our own Amabelle Sze has accepted the invitation to serve as the next head of the San Francisco Friends School Lower School. Service is at the heart of Amabelle’s willingness to extend herself in this way, and she has committed to an interim appointment that will allow her to test just how much she misses the classroom. We look forward to welcoming Amabelle officially in her new role on July 1, 2022.
As many of you know, Amabelle has served as a member of the SFFS professional community for over 15 years and has distinguished herself as an outstanding Quaker educator; a professional colleague with high, hopeful expectations of herself and others; and a devoted community member. The words “excellence” and “love” come up repeatedly as those who know Amabelle describe her work with students, colleagues, parents and guardians, trustees, and visitors to Friends. Many of her colleagues note that Amabelle, like no other, receives feedback in ways that manifest her commitment “to grow and stretch in (her) roles of service.” She recognizes and aspires to support teachers in their growth, to deepen and fortify the scaffolding of parents and guardians’ understanding of Quaker education, and to nourish the lives of all students through scope and sequence of not only academic but also Quaker and SEL education.
Amabelle also recognizes the challenges that a transition into a senior leadership role will pose, and without fail puts the experience of students at the center of considerations. As one colleague has noted, “In my years at SFFS, Amabelle has been at the forefront of cutting edge, progressive education. She has led the entire lower school towards teaching practices that have been inspiring and challenging. She is not afraid to jump in with both feet, while simultaneously being thoughtful and forward thinking.” Other colleagues highlight the role Amabelle may play uniquely as a “carrier of culture” during a time of transition at Friends. Their affirmations include the following:
“When I taught with Amabelle... I saw first hand how Quaker values were infused into her everyday thinking, curriculum planning and working with students/working out their issues... I have learned so much from watching Amabelle integrate Quaker values into her practice.”
“I have seen her as a leader and cornerstone of SFFS culture since I arrived. With so many changes, I think it is extremely important to have one of our new members of senior leadership be someone from inside the school who understands where the school has been, what is going well and is challenging now, and where it could go moving forward.”
Special thanks to Academic Dean Tracie Mastronicola, who clerked our Search Committee, and to Search Committee members Andrea Green, Anhvu Buchanan, Frances Dickson, Erin Kendrew, and Yvette Bonaparte. Consideration of an internal candidate requires a high degree of thoughtfulness and care and affords unique opportunities to crystallize opportunities for individual and institutional growth. These dedicated members of our faculty and administration designed and facilitated a highly inclusive process, ensuring that students, parents, faculty members, and administrators met our finalists. We are deeply grateful for their example of leadership as service.
We now look forward to celebrating with gratitude our colleague and friend Jennifer Arnest and to welcoming Amabelle Sze as the newest member of the SFFS leadership team!
Thank you again for your many forms of support.
Pankti Sevak and Mike Hanas
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student voices (20)
teaching & learning (36)
We are thrilled to announce that Lizzie Rogal will be joining the Friends community this summer as our third-ever head of the SFFS Middle School. Lizzie brings extensive experience in education and leadership, as well as a strong commitment to social justice, and we can't wait to officially welcome her to 250. You can read Mike and Pankti's full letter to the community about Lizzie's new role—and how everyone involved in the search knew she'd be a wonderful addition to our school—below.
Dear SFFS Family Member,
We are delighted to announce that Lizzie Rogal has been selected and has accepted the invitation to serve as the next head of the San Francisco Friends School Middle School. We look forward to welcoming Lizzie over the coming months and when she assumes her new role on July 1, 2022.
Lizzie brings over 16 years of experience as an educator and five years of senior leadership. Previously, Lizzie was the founder and director of Building Our Community Through Agriculture, a community hub and education center for food, farming, and education. She has served as an English Language Teacher in Japan; taught 2nd-, 4th-, and 5th-graders, as well as Middle School Humanities, at Blue Oak School in Napa; and served as the Middle School Faculty and Team Leader, Dean of Students, and most recently, as Middle School Head at Crystal Springs Upland School on the Peninsula. Lizzie earned her undergraduate degree with a major in Religious Studies and minor in Asian Studies at Colorado College, and her Master’s degree in Specialized Studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Lizzie began her cover letter expressing interest in SFFS this way: “I hope to be immersed in the work of a school where the joys and freedom of childhood are honored, where values of identity and purpose inform growth and change, and where the entire community is poised to face injustice and respond to future challenges with confidence and bold ambition. From all I’ve heard about SFFS, it seems that this is the place for me...“
If you sense from Lizzie’s opening a strong start, know that we did, too. And our time with her only augmented that very positive first impression. Time with Lizzie led interviewers to describe her as “warm,” “an engaged listener,” a “clear communicator,” and a “visionary leader with her eyes on justice.” One of our student-interviewers shared these observations: “She made an effort to make everyone feel comfortable, and seemed generally pretty comfortable with us. She responded to all of the questions fully, and talked a lot with us, asking our opinions and what we would change. She seemed to really value our opinions. For example when asked a question about assemblies and how they could be improved, her first response was to ask us and not just get background, but also our opinions and desires. She seemed really engaged in the conversation. Also, when a yellow jacket kept buzzing around she instantly sacrificed a piece of her own lunch so the yellow jacket would eat that and leave us alone. She also seemed like the kind of person who could really tell a story.” We can hardly wait to begin story-making and telling with Lizzie.
Special thanks to Academic Dean Tracie Mastronicola, who clerked our Search Committee, and to Search Committee members Annie Gwynne-Vaughan, Ester Azucena, Frances Elsberry, Greg Wyser-Pratt, and Kristen Daniel. These dedicated members of our faculty and administration designed and facilitated a highly inclusive process, ensuring that students, parents, faculty members, and administrators met our finalists. They rigorously screened the application materials of the eight semi-finalists, and then our two finalists, whom they brought to SFFS through criteria that reflected both immediate middle school and K–8 needs and opportunities, as well as our longer-term strategic priorities. I am deeply grateful for their discipline and their example of leadership as service.
We now look forward to celebrating with gratitude our colleague and friend Clarke Weatherspoon and to welcoming Lizzie Rogal to SFFS in the months ahead!
Thank you again for your many forms of support.
Pankti Sevak and Mike Hanas
This article is excerpted from a letter that SFFS Lower School Head Jennifer Arnest sent out to our Lower School families last week.
It is hardly possible to see the news these days and not read something about “learning losses” due to the pandemic. Your heads may be spinning trying to figure out how to understand, and then prioritize, your child’s needs, emotionally and academically. Let us be clear—or rather let me steal from our veteran 1st Grade teacher Erin Kendrew and TA Elissa Fetterman’s recent call to action—by reminding you all that now, more than ever, play and the experience of unabashed joy, is undoubtedly the MOST important thing we all should be prioritizing for our children of all ages.
Below is what this 1st Grade team shared this week with their families, and I think it is wise if we all absorb it now:
Many of our first graders are carrying a lot of worry and anxiety right now. We are worried about our health, we are worried about getting sick. We are worried about our families and friends and that they might get sick. We are worried about changes in our lives such as moving houses. We are worried that we don't know what to write, we are worried about eating our snack and we are worried about finding a friend at recess… We decided to focus less on our curriculum plans for the day and focus more on how we could lift this heaviness that many were feeling. (We read lots of Narwhal and Jelly books because they make us laugh and feel good.) In choosing time we asked friends to volunteer to lead some of the choices. We had folks leading origami folding, snowflake making and creating magic tricks. We focused on the positive. Every teeny, tiny thing that went well today was shared and celebrated! It's difficult as adults when we are also potentially worried and anxious right now but with all that was going on today, (we) also found ourselves ending the day with a different mind set. Creating a positive environment and appreciating really does make you feel better!
So what can you do at home?
- Focus on the positive! How can you appreciate your child and others in your family? Not once but do this many times!
- Tell a joke, read a funny story.
- Listen to music, hold your own dance party.
- Ask your child to share about something they love to do. Perhaps they can help you make a snowflake or draw a horse.
- Put on a fun pair of glasses or socks.
- Make something yummy to eat.
- Go for a walk, visit the park or ride your bike. Get some fresh air.
- We are sure you have many more wonderful ideas, but you get the gist. Our hope is that this, too, shall pass, but in the meantime, it takes a village.
In case you need more to chew on, here is a poignant reminder from The Hechinger Report, a newsletter based out of Teacher’s College at Columbia that is focused on innovation and equity in education: "Play is More Important Than Ever" (and if you can stomach it, here is the actual title: "How Can We Prevent a Generation of Pandemic-Isolated Misfits?")... I really hope you all read it, and even explore the newsletter more broadly.
I close with the wise words, and a mandate to play, from one of my favorite writers and educators, Vivian Paley, “In play, children begin with their own set of premises and learn to follow through, step-by-step, scene by scene in the complex process of creating a logical and literary dramatic project of their own. In each episode, one can intuit a child’s individual approach to the principles underlying fairness, friendship, fear, storytelling, and personal history. In each ‘episode’ one can study the development of a community of learners in a hands-on, face-to-face, authentic manner... the ‘work’ of school is not to learn the numbers and letters as quickly as possible, but to learn to come together and build a community.”
And that requires empathy, humility and patience, with ourselves first, as well as one another, and certainly with the children. Now more than ever.
The SFFS Board of Trustees is thrilled to announce that Pankti Sevak will serve as our third-ever Head of San Francisco Friends School; Pankti will assume her duties as head starting July of 2022. The decision came after a lengthy search and interview process, conducted through a Quaker lens that included the participation and discussion of our various community constituencies; the recommendation of a Search Committee composed of faculty, staff, and trustees; careful trustee discernment; and ultimately the unity of the entire SFFS Board. Pankti currently serves as the Head of the Middle School at Friends Seminary in New York City, where she has worked and taught for well over a decade.
From the Board's letter about Pankti's appointment:
"Pankti was selected from a national pool of talented candidates after a thorough search process that engaged students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, former trustees, and the current Board. Her campus visit brought widespread excitement to every part of our community. After careful consideration of all feedback, and a period of quiet discernment, the Board of Trustees reached unity to ask Pankti to become our next Head of School. Pankti enthusiastically accepted our invitation to join San Francisco Friends.
Pankti brings outstanding credentials as a science and math teacher, a visionary Middle School leader, and a Quaker educator. She has worked in schools for almost three decades, and she currently serves as the Middle School Head at Friends Seminary, a K–12 Quaker school with a 200-year history in New York City. During her 12 years leading the Middle School at Friends Seminary, Pankti has shown unparalleled support for teachers and students in all aspects of Quaker education..."
To learn more about Pankti, please visit our Head of School Search webpage here.
Missing your Friends? Looking for some good summer reading? Then check out the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Among Friends, the biannual digital magazine for the SFFS community, published online just this week! This issue is chock-full of community news and updates, including a deep dive with Claire Coen '15 into her work with The Changemaker Project on issues of environmental justice, reflections from our community on our major takeaways from this year like no other, a celebration of our Class of 2021, and the ways our students began to rediscover and reconnect with our beloved neighborhood and city once they were back on campus, among numerous other stories and contributions.
This is only the fourth issue of Among Friends, and we are excited to continue to watch it grow. To that end, we want to hear from you! Please, if you have an idea for a story, know of a SFFS alumnus doing interesting and inspiring work out in the world, or have a personal update to share in our Class Notes section, get in touch by reaching out to Alissa at email@example.com.
Thanks, Friends, and Happy Summer!
As the 2020–2021 school year comes to a close, we are filled with appreciation for the administrators, faculty, and staff at SFFS who navigated the uncertainties and challenges of this past year with determination, aplomb, grace, generosity, and kindness. The virtual Year-End Celebration and in-person 8th Grade Graduation last week powerfully demonstrated that despite the adversity we experienced, the values and connections that make SFFS unique are enduring—and joyful!
As we transition to summer and anticipate with hope what the new school year will bring for our community, we want to take a moment to share with you the transitions taking place on the San Francisco Board of Trustees. Each year we say goodbye to a number of trustees who have completed their service, and welcome a new cohort of trustees to continue the mission of SFFS. SFFS trustees traditionally serve two three-year terms and are selected according to a wide variety of factors, including professional background, skills and expertise, and volunteer experience both at SFFS and beyond. Additionally, trustees bring diversity across multiple areas, including racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and grades represented for those trustees who are also parents at the school. Trustees demonstrate strong alignment with the school’s values and the Strategic Pathways, and often (but not always) have previously volunteered in support of the school.
This year, we want to extend our deepest gratitude to the following trustees as their terms come to a close:
Shabnam Koirala-Azad has served in many capacities during her tenure as a trustee including SFFS Board co-clerk, co-clerk of the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and co-clerk of the Committee on Trustees. She also served on the Strategic Pathways Committee and Futures Working Group, as well as the Development and Quaker Life committees, among a variety of other special committees and task forces including the 2015 Head of School Search Committee. Shabnam, parent of Alia (SFFS Class of 2020), and Ayan (SFFS Class of 2024), is graciously extending her service by a few months as she serves as co-clerk of our current Head of School Search Committee.
Sam Mogannam has generously given his time and expertise to the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee during his tenure as a trustee, in addition to participating on several special committees including the Access & Affordability Task Force, the Covid Testing Task Force, and Pauline’s Task Force. Sam is parent to Zoe (SFFS Class of 2017) and Olive (SFFS Class of 2021).
Mark Selcow most recently co-clerked the Development and Audit committees as well as the Strategic Pathways Accountability Group. Mark, parent to Lucy (SFFS Class of 2019), Andrew (SFFS Class of 2021), and Nora (SFFS Class of 2023), also served on the Finance and Investment committees as well as on the Futures Working Group and Friends Forward and Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future endowment campaigns.
Chris Valdez served on numerous board committees and task forces during his tenure as an SFFS trustee. Parent of Jesse (SFFS Class of 2012) and daughter Georgia (SFFS Class of 2014), Chris was a valuable member of the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee, the Committee on Trustees, and the Finance Committee. Additionally, he served on a number of special task forces including the High School Exploration Task Force and the COVID Testing Task Force.
Shabnam, Sam, Mark, and Chris have provided invaluable leadership and dedication to our community, and they have all helped to shape the future of Friends. We are deeply grateful for their many years of service. As they depart, six new trustees will be stepping in to continue the mission of SFFS. As we approach our 20th year, we’ve learned that it is reasonable to expect some level of attrition among our Trustees, particularly as our city and our school community navigate the pandemic. That consideration informs our decision to bring a larger slate forward this year, and we are honored to welcome the following individuals to the SFFS Board of Trustees:
Lucas Fortier Borden is a San Francisco native and a proud member of the SFFS’s first graduating class. After nine formative years at Friends, he attended the Bay School of San Francisco where he further strengthened his connection to mindfulness and community, becoming an integral part of the school’s admissions program. College on the East Coast brought a change of environment, as did a Junior Year stint in Australia. He graduated from Boston College in 2019, majoring in Economics and minoring in Hispanic Studies. That summer, Lucas returned home to SF where he worked as a bookseller at Green Apple Books, before taking his current position at Square, Inc. in the legal department. For fun, Lucas likes to swim in the bay (no wetsuit required) and create digital art.
Chrysty Esperanza is Foundational Counsel Lead at Square, Inc., where she leads the Litigation, Corporate, Privacy, Intellectual Property, and Trust & Safety teams. At Square, she provides strategic counsel and partnership on a broad spectrum of legal and compliance issues. Prior to Square, Chrysty was Sr. Counsel at Electronic Arts Inc. She previously served as a Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, and also as an associate at Farella, Braun and Martel LLP. She received her BA in Mass Communications from UCLA, and her JD from UC Hastings College of Law. Chrysty is a Bay Area native, and has been living in San Francisco for over 20 years. She lives in Noe Valley with her husband, Scott, and their three boys, Tayo (class of 2024), Makana (class of 2027), and Koa.
Jennifer Hsieh has spent the last 12 years leading finance teams at various tech start-ups, serving most recently as Head of Finance at CareZone, a digital health company. At CareZone, she led the company through multiple financings and played an integral role in all strategic and operational decisions, culminating in the sale of the company’s technology assets to Walmart. Just prior to making the leap into the start-up world, Jen was with Goldman Sachs in their Technology, Media, Telecom and Leveraged Finance investment banking groups. She started her career at Deutsche Banc Alex Brown in technology investment banking later transitioning to equity research where she covered the internet sector. While Jen was born in New York, she grew up mostly overseas spending 8 years living in Australia and the UK. She received her BA from Wellesley College and her MBA from the Wharton School. She currently lives in Noe Valley with her husband, P.J. Haley, and her two sons, Quinn (SFFS Class of 2028) and Connor.
Elizabeth Longstreth is an administrative leader for The Permanente Medical Group at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. She began her public health career helping form the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF, and has worked across the country for organizations ranging from small, rural community health centers to large, urban teaching hospitals. A Bay Area native, Elizabeth earned her BA from Pomona College and her MPH from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. She is also a board member of the San Francisco Public Health Foundation. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Adam and children Birdie (SFFS class of 2025) and Ty (SFFS class of 2028).
Nelly Sapinski is the Executive Director of the Jamestown Community Center, a Mission District based nonprofit serving low income children, youth and their families through programs that include tutoring, before and after school academic enrichment, summer programs, social/emotional support, sports, youth workforce, parent leadership development and organizing, and Afro-Latino arts education and performance. Before becoming Executive Director, Nelly served as both the Deputy Director of Programs and Interim Executive Director. Prior to joining Jamestown, Nelly served as the After School Program Director at Reading Partners, the national literacy non-profit, and managed curriculum, instruction and evaluation for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Nelly holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University and a Masters of Education from Harvard University. Nelly’s daughter Katherine Sapinski (SFFS class of 2017) recently graduated from high school.
We are deeply appreciative of the leadership, expertise and commitment of trustees on our Board, and look forward to partnering with our new trustees!
A full listing of the SFFS Board of Trustees can be found here.
Recently, 6th Grade math students engaged in a project inspired the Dear Data project. Two award-winning information designers, Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, created this year-long analog data drawing project. Each week for a year, the artists collected and measured a particular type of data from their own lives. They then used this data to make a drawing on a postcard sheet of paper, putting the data art on one side, and a key to reading the data on the other. Then, they mailed each other the data art. Examples of data they collected include: how many times they said or wrote the word “data” in a week, a variety of data about their book collections, data about the kinds of photos they take on their phone, and data about the sounds that surround them.
After learning about Dear Data, analyzing many examples of visual data, and practicing their art skills, the 6th-Graders at SFFS started their own journey. First, they decided what data they wanted to collect and set about collecting it. Next, they looked at the data and thought about what they found out. They were then challenged to tell that story visually, using what they learned from their experiments, keeping in mind that their final picture had to be understandable (when using the key).
For their project, our SFFS students focused on two objectives: 1) To Learn to See – as artists and mathematicians, and to learn about using data as a material and 2) To Observe, Acknowledge, Count, and Draw – essentially, to immerse themselves in the world of data. Additionally, students created their postcards while keeping in mind that data artists design data so it is more accessible and does not overload the brain; seeing patterns and creating beauty, data visualization, has become an art form; and that human beings respond intuitively and emotionally to patterns.
To learn more about the project that inspired our 6th Grade Friends, please visit the Dear Data website at www.dear-data.com/theproject. You can also see more of our students' work on our Facebook and Instagram pages.