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Staffing News: Goodbyes and Hellos

Friday, May 31, 2019

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. 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.



Garth Applegate
by Andrew Salverda

Few people in the world could make middle school students appreciate Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and their grandparents tap their toes to Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train. For 11 years, music emissary Garth Applegate has helped students as Friends find their groove and resuscitated many tunes adults in the community thought they’d never hear again. Garth always seemed to have time for students (and adults) who wanted to learn how to play something, or to play something better.

While Garth was not the first music teacher hired at Friends, he has been the program’s key architect over the years, and his vision for the program has shaped what it is today. Beginning with instrumental lessons with 4th Grade students and then various groups (orchestra, jazz, world band) throughout Middle School, Garth has worked with every single Friends student who has moved through Middle School in the last decade. Offering donuts as encouragement, Garth has steadily gathered middle-schoolers for morning jazz-making before school over the years, doing (again) what few others could—getting willing 12-year-olds out of bed early.

In addition to his engagement with students in the music studio, Garth has served as go-to accompanist for everything from Lower School plays to the Middle School Variety Show. Garth also championed a sing-along at the end of Meeting for Worship, often sitting in to play Simple Gifts or This Land Is Your Land. Serving as a basketball coach during his tenure, Garth’s teams were disciplined and played with the joy and creative spirit only a jazz musician could cultivate. This academic year, Garth has served as co-clerk of Friends professional community, facilitating meetings with an admirable blend of humor and seriousness of purpose. 

Along with all the roles Garth has leaned into during his tenure at Friends, the songs he’s adapted and written for departing colleagues has showcased his talent, kindness, and humor as well as anything else. Over the years, these songs have conveyed the love and appreciation of the entire faculty and have built a community tradition like no other. Among all the songs Garth has written, juiced-up, and transcribed, there are none finer than the Friends School song Simple Joys (below), which he wrote with colleague Jodi Pickering in 2011:

Simple Joys

A small school in the Castro 
Into the Mission grew
All along Committed
To the SPICES through and through

We honor one another
And serve all with respect
We may not all be Quakers
But as Friends we do connect

Simple joys and peacefulness
Humility and pride
We speak into the silence
Our voices not denied

When we find ourselves in the place just right
We've found we've done our best
'Tis a gift to be a part of
Good 'ol S-F-F-S

The lyrics of Spirit of the Radio, by Rush, Garth’s favorite band, who he’s seen in concert at least once a year for much of his adult life, remind us that “modern music/Can still be open-hearted”... “It's really just a question/Of your honesty, yeah your honesty.” Honesty and open-heartedness have never been in doubt during Garth’s time with us at Friends, and we wish him and Katie, his partner, all the best as they head to Seattle, where, once again, Garth will create a stellar music program for a small progressive school. Thank you, Garth. Rock on.


Clarissa Ko
by Guybe Slangen

This year, Clarissa took the reigns of our K–8 dance program. From dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to an integrated K–MS production of Beatrice’s Goat, to an all-school assembly that featured a dance troupe that performed with hard boiled eggs, Clarissa has brought new energy, ideas, and strengths to our program. When we gather on our last day of school she’ll also carry on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating 8th-Graders. A passionate dancer and educator, Clarissa has helped our program grow and flourish. She is also one of the few that works with nearly every student in our school! We’re immensely grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with a variety of spaces and schedules, and her deep commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us. 

Earlier this year she completed her Master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology. Next year Clarissa is looking to build upon this work through her own practice and company, as well as explore new opportunities with dance organizations, schools, and students. “I am so grateful to the SFFS community who have welcomed me,” shared Clarissa. “I feel proud of the challenges the students and I have overcome and inspired by all the new things we've tried together. After my year at SFFS, I am hopeful for the future and the young people who will change the world because of their education and experiences here. I am sad to leave, but, I am never too far away in a city like San Francisco! See you around.” This is a bittersweet goodbye. We too are sad to see her go, but excited about this new journey. We wish her the best in her next chapter. 


Beth Pollak
by Andrew Salverda

Beth arrived at Friends in 2015 by way of New York City, where she previously taught middle school English and science for over a decade and received her Master’s from Teachers College at Columbia University. While at Friends, Beth served as a 5th Grade advisor and taught 5th and 6th Grade Humanities, where she was known for her willingness to experiment with innovative teaching methods in order to discover new and inspiring ways to connect her students to the curriculum. Evelyn Florin, one of Beth’s colleagues in the Middle School Humanities Department, says: “It’s a rare teacher who cares so deeply about their students as Beth does. She sees the best in them and helps cultivate their potential. Beth lives the belief that all children are learners, and she helps make that a reality.”

Beth has also worked to help our Middle School TAs find their footing while at SFFS, documenting effective strategies and practices for those new to the Friends faculty. She has also been a dedicated partner with the Admissions Office, partnering with Middle School applicants and their families throughout her tenure here. Over the course of the past year, Beth has developed an inspiring methodology to help Middle School students facilitate their own meaningful collaboration and book talks. Perhaps most importantly, she is beloved by both her students and colleagues at San Francisco Friends School, and she will be truly missed. We wish her lots of global travel, good books, and time for both writing and adventures as she strikes out to discover what’s next. 


Andrew Salverda
[excerpted from Mike Hanas and Andrew Salverda’s letter announcing Andrew’s departure this past fall]

From Mike:
… Gratitude is very much on my mind, but it is a bittersweet version I feel as I write to inform you that Andrew Salverda has decided it is time to begin a new chapter in his life and in that of the San Francisco Friends School Middle School.

Andrew will continue to serve in his role as head of our Middle School through this 2018–19 school year, and I consider it a singular gift to have had Andrew at my side as I have made my way into the SFFS community over the past two and a half years. We have been mistaken for one another and for one another’s brother, and I have felt honored by each of those “misreads.” In fact, I now think of Andrew as the brother I long wished I had, and I look forward to celebrating his unique role in founding the SFFS Middle School and his opportunity to claim time for his decision about how best to apply his gifts, so many and varied, next. 

Many of you have known Andrew for all or part of the 10+ years he has dedicated to Friends. If, as the prophet Khalil Gibran notes, “Work is love made visible,” then we are among the many students, alums, colleagues, parents, and friends who have benefitted from Andrew’s love and labor. He has played an extraordinary role in building the SFFS Middle School: its program; team; and culture of high, hopeful expectations. In doing so—and in partnership with his colleagues in the administration, faculty, and staff—he has contributed mightily to the cultivation of an unparalleled sense of identity and purpose that Friends enjoys, unique strengths on which we will build....

From Andrew:
… I have been honored to serve in this position and to be a member of this community over the last decade. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from two gracious, humble, and wise heads of school, and with an inspiring administrative team. I’ve had the opportunity to lead and be led by a thoughtful, hard-working, and passionate middle school faculty. And I’ve enjoyed working with and learning from (both as an educator and as a parent) my lower school colleagues. 

During my time at Friends, I’ve been inspired and humbled by more than 500 middle school students, many of whom I taught, advised, coached, and/or traveled with. And I’ve been fortunate to get to know so many generous and supportive parents, without whom Friends would not be the school it is today. I’ve grown as an educator, a parent, and a person...

I will miss walking into school every morning, being around bright and thoughtful students, and working with such wonderful people. With my own kids going into middle school next year, the timing feels right for me to step aside (and out of their way), to make room for someone new to serve in this role and to explore another path for myself….


We are also saying goodbye to beloved teaching assistants Vicky Bui (2nd Grade), Adam Macalister (Middle School), Jessie Mitchell (Middle School), Max Raynard (1st Grade), Jasmine Redmond (Middle School), and Ami Sciarillo (3rd Grade), as well as our Horizons / Americorps VISTA associate Blackberrie Eddins.



Frances Elsberry, Middle School Math
Frances is an experienced Bay Area educator who has worked extensively with Middle School-aged students, most recently teaching fifth- and sixth-grade math at Children’s Day School, where she also advocated for students in the admissions process; collaborated with colleagues on the creation of a 5th grade advisory program; and helped to organize student social justice events, including a climate strike. She previously taught 5th grade at San Francisco Day School, was a head instructional coach at the Breakthrough Collaborative, and received her Master’s of Education and California Certification from the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI). 


Andrea Green, 3rd Grade Lead
Andrea has taught in lower schools, both public and independent, for over 20 years. Most recently, she was a lead 1st-Grade teacher at San Francisco Day School, where she collaborated on curriculum design, mentored new lead and co-teachers, and imagined innovative ways of incorporating technology into her teaching practice. Andrea also taught at Live Oak and received her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and teaching credential from the University of San Francisco. She is trained in Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) and Universal Design Thinking, and has attended numerous conferences on teaching math and integrating technology in elementary classrooms. 


Liam McCarthy, Americorps VISTA 2019–20
by Abby Rovner
Liam McCarthy was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He graduated from Boston College last May with a BA in English and Secondary Education. While in college, Liam worked on a number of research projects studying youth basketball coaching and emergent bilingual curriculum. Through these projects, Liam developed a passion for positive youth development and social justice through education. He previously worked as a Teaching Fellow for Citizen Schools, an after-school program for middle-schoolers located in Redwood City. With Citizen Schools, Liam helped volunteers teach their passions like coding and yoga. Outside of work, Liam loves music and reading. He is looking forward to working with Horizons to bring quality educational opportunities to children in San Francisco!


Maureen Ray, 4th Grade Lead 
Maureen arrives at Friends with over two decades of experience working with children as a camp counselor, volunteer mentor, teaching assistant, and lead teacher in public schools throughout California, as well as Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley. She has taught grades 3–6 over the course of her career, and for 18 years served as the director of Contra Costa Civic Theatre Summer Drama Camp. Maureen has also served as a member of numerous committees and professional organizations, including the Common Sense Media Professional Learning Network and Black Pine Circle’s Staff Diversity Committee. 


Jesse Scott, Middle School Music
A Bay Area native, Jesse pursued an education in music at the Boston and New England Conservatories, where he received both Bachelor’s and graduate degrees in Bass Performance and Music Education. For the past 20 years, he has served as the music director at Brandeis Marin in the North Bay, where he founded and built the music program there from the ground up. At Brandeis Marin, Jesse conducted seven different choral and instrumental ensembles and also taught a general music course. 


Clarke Weatherspoon, Middle School Head
[excerpted from Mike Hanas’s letter announcing Clarke’s hiring]

… I am delighted to announce that, after an extensive national search and consideration of nearly 40 applications, Clarke Weatherspoon has been selected and has accepted the invitation to serve as the next head of the San Francisco Friends School Middle School...

Clarke brings nearly two decades of experience working with 5th–12th grade students. His professional wellspring includes teaching courses in Comparative Religion and Middle Eastern, US, and World History. He has taught at schools including Phillips Exeter Academy, Marin Academy, Sacred Heart Preparatory School, and the Urban School of San Francisco since 2006. At the Urban School, Clarke has maintained classroom responsibilities and more recently served for five years as a 9th & 10th grade class dean before assuming the role of dean of equity and inclusion in 2016. He is a graduate of Phillips Exeter, earned his undergraduate degree with honors in History and Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and then his master’s degree in Computing in Education at Columbia University. A devoted coach, Clarke has also served as a program director for the Stanford Water Polo Club. He also identifies as special interests photography, film-making, yoga, meditation, and cycling.

What the content above (and more from Clarke’s résumé) does not convey is the combination of warmth, wisdom, and commitment he brings to his work in schools. In his own words: “My goal is to continue working in a progressive school that values life and the struggles that make our personal and communal journeys valuable. I strive to co-create school communities that are willing to walk with students and families as they push themselves to be more powerful, engaged, capable, and caring.” We are thrilled to lean into those struggles, and to walk through and celebrate life with Clarke at SFFS…


We are also thrilled to welcome new Lower School TAs Cale Nickerson and Sydney Shannon, as well as Middle School TAs Marcell DeBarros, Marc Kim and Patrick Smith; we will share bios and photos of all of the new Friends joining our professional community this summer.