October 24, 2014

Dear St. Finn Barr Parents,

As many of you know, our SLE, or Student Learning Expectations – to be critical thinkers, lifelong learners, and compassionate children of God – drive the planning, analysis, and measurement of student outcomes in our school. As I observed a guest presentation from Marcus Wojtkowiak, the Randall Museum Science Fair Director, to our 7th graders today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the evolution of our science program in particular.

Science at St. Finn Barr has undergone extensive developments over the past three years. In 2011, Christine Bertko -- a science education leader in the Bay Area with well-established relationships with the Lawrence Hall of Science, Project Astro, the Stanford University School of Education, the San Francisco Exploratorium, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium – joined our faculty as the middle school science teacher. That year, we focused energy and resources on rebuilding the program, beginning with the introduction of FOSS (Full Option Science System) kits in the middle school, and including an overhaul of the science lab (new floors, lab tables, microscopes, scales, and tech presentation materials). For the subsequent two years, we introduced FOSS to a new grade level cluster each year, finally becoming a K-8 FOSS school one year ago.

As our school has grown, we’ve expanded the scope of our science program in support of student achievement. We’ve hosted several pilot programs in collaboration with the Lawrence Hall of Science, and our students have served as the focus of the graduate research of doctoral candidates at the Stanford School of Education. We’ve brought back the Science Fair (through the Randall Museum) for the 6th and 7th grades, along with the 8th grade Science Museum in the spring. Because the middle school leaders present their projects to the entire school, these events have played a critical role in engaging students at all grade levels with the wonder of science.

Our enrichment program has expanded to include the very popular Engineering Club and Outdoors Club, and we’ve added new learning excursions to our program with Naturebridge -- our 6th graders just returned from three days in the Marin Headlands, and the 7th graders will be spending an entire week in Yosemite this February.  These opportunities to practice science “in the field” engage students in learning practice while also creating lifelong memories for them around the discipline of science.

Last year, we reorganized and expanded our middle school faculty, adapting Mrs. Bertko’s role into a Science Program Director for the entire school, while Ms. Katie McHugh stepped into the role of 6th and 7th grade lead science teacher. A few weeks ago, I had the special opportunity to visit our 1st grade science classroom during one of Mrs. Bertko’s guest teaching days. To watch the 1st graders conduct a science investigation on the topic of “matter” was a thrill! In one lesson, I witnessed so many skills in motion: critical thinking, following directions, developing academic language, analyzing data, play, cooperation. In the same week, I observed the 8th graders engaged in lab groups: thinking, persisting, questioning, and anticipating outcomes from their work. Meanwhile, the 6th graders built an edible (cake!) model of the earth’s layers as part of their study of Earth Science.

For all three examples, a few of our SLE’s stood out most prominently:

Compassionate children of God who demonstrate respect for family, the local and global community, and the earth through acts of stewardship.

Lifelong learners who develop organizational and healthy living skills.

Critical thinkers who analyze situations, solve problems effectively, and apply strategies to real life.

As we forge into the second quarter of the school year with report card evidence of student progress, I hope that all of you have likewise seen evidence in your child of our SLE’s coming alive, science or otherwise.

God Bless,

Mele Mortonson


October 24, 2014

Fun this Sunday!  This Sunday, October 26th we will celebrate a 10am Family Mass to recognize our 2nd and 8th graders preparing for the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. All families are invited to join the St. Finn Barr Men’s Club in the lower hall for a pancake breakfast….our first of the year!

The Sunnyside Halloween Carnival will follow from 1:30pm to 4pm, featuring food, games, a haunted house, and lots of prizes. All ages are welcome to join in this family friendly day of fun! Pumpkin decorating begins at 2:30pm, and the costume contest will begin at 3:30pm.

Students who attend Mass are invited to wear free dress the following school day (Monday, October 27th).

Tuesday Nacho Sale The SFB sports program will be selling nachos after school on Tuesday (12pm). Nachos are $3, drinks and dessert are $1. 

K-2 Stranger Danger: Thank you to San Francisco Police Department Officer Edie Lewis for visiting our K-2 students last Friday to talk about “Stranger Danger.” Officer Lewis is a longtime supporter of our school -- she created an engaging experience to help the children develop strategies for keeping themselves safe.

Parent-Teacher Conferences begin next Tuesday, October 28th. School will dismiss at 12:30pm each day. This is an important opportunity for parents to meet with the classroom teacher (for 6th-8th grade, students should be present as well) to discuss student progress and set goals for the school year. If you are unable to make your scheduled appointment time, please contact the school office as soon as possible. 

Learning Excursions: To check out the exciting learning that took place on the 6th grade’s recent Marin Headlands expedition and the 5th Grade’s “Call of the Sea” journey check out the “Learning Excursions” section of our school website.

Naturebridge: (

Call of the Sea:  (

St. Finn Barr is on Smug Mug! We are happy to announce a new common space for St. Finn Barr parents to view the many photos of our students and events: To view photos, click “Browse” to access the photo folders. From the folders, enter the secure password (look out for an email from room parents with the pass code) to access various event galleries. You can use our Smug Mug page to view, download, or purchase photos. If you would like to share your own photos with the St. Finn Barr parent community, please email access to them to Marilyn Nepomuceno (

One Warm Coat: We are very excited to announce that One Warm Coat is returning to SFB!!  This is the our THIRD year hosting this coat drive benefitting St. Anthony's Foundation in San Francisco, and we hope that this year proves to be even more successful than the two previous years! Participating in this event is EASY. Simply bring in (or send in with your child) your clean, gently used coats and jackets to school anytime between now and Friday, Novemeber 21st. There will be collection boxes in the hallway, right outside the office doors.  Please remember that the coats that are donated do not need to be new, but should be in good condition, as they will be given to families in need.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Patty Merlos-Lopez at 650-201-0046

Walk, Eat, Have Fun! Our 5TH ANNUAL WALK-A-THON is set for 10:30AM to 2:00PM School of The Arts (SOTA) (Goode Hall if it rains) Help St. Finn Barr raise the funds for Physical Education and other student programs! Exciting Grand Prize to the Top Earner! Pep rally coming! This is our first mandatory fundraising event of the year – so long as the weather cooperates, this is always a terrific opportunity for our students and families to enjoy time together while getting exercise and raising valuable funds for our school.

The SPAGHETTI SOCIAL will take place after the Walkathon from 1:00PM to 6:00PM in St. Finn Barr Parish Hall. Enjoy good food and great company while helping the Sports Program raise the funds needed to pay for practice gym rental fees and uniforms.

Save the Date! Christmas Show: The St. Finn Barr Christmas Show has been confirmed for Thursday, December 18th at 7pm. All students are expected to participate in this showcase of singing and dancing talent – students should arrive no later than 6pm dressed in their “Sunday best.”

Rankin Trust Donation: We are so grateful for another very generous grant on behalf of the Rankin Foundation to support our outdoor education. The entire 7th grade class will travel to Yosemite this January for a full week of science learning “in the field.” 90% of this trip, which typically costs hundreds of dollars per student, will be covered by the Rankin Trust. I am so inspired by the generosity of our local Catholic school benefactors like the Rankins, and feel proud that their legacy is built on providing lifelong learning experiences for our students like ours.

7th Grade Cookie Dough Fundraiser: The efforts from our cookie dough fundraiser will help finance our 8th grade retreat.  Please support 7th Grade in their endeavor!

Fundraiser Sale Begins:  Monday, October 13th

Fundraiser Sale Ends:  Thursday, October 30th

Estimated Delivery Date:  Week of December 1st

IMPORTANT Calendar Update: Our WCEA accreditation visit has been confirmed. We will be hosting the WCEA Committee from Wednesday, February 25 through Friday, February 27th. On the following Monday, March 2nd, the school will be closed for a Pastor’s Holiday.

Sibling Kindergarten Applicants for the 2014-2015 school year: If your son or daughter will be enrolling in Kindergarten next year, please notify the school office (via phone or email) as soon as possible, so that we may reserve a seat for him or her in the St. Finn Barr Class of 2024. Siblings will be assessed in January with the other applicants, and will receive first placement priority.

Enrichment Volunteers Needed: Our SFB school Choir is seeking a volunteer parent to help with administrative tasks for choir practices (Tues & Friday, 4pm-530pm). If you are available to help (no choral experience needed!)

Also, we are recruiting parent volunteers to work with our Journalism Club. The journalism club meets every other Wednesday after school to build our wonderful school newspaper – The Shamrock Gazette.



10.26              10am Family Mass – Sacramental Prep (2nd/8th)

                        Men’s Club Pancake Breakfast 9am – 1:30pm

                        Sunnyside Neighborhood Association Halloween Festival


10.27              Minimum Day - 12:30pm Dismissal 

Mass Pass day


10.27-10.31   Minimum Days à Parent Teacher Conferences


10.31              Halloween Parade @ 12pm


12.7                St. Finn Barr Christmas Concert


3.2.15             WASC Holiday – No School