This Week's Newsletter



Dear St. Finn Barr Parents,                                                                 February 28, 2017


Today, we celebrated Mardi Gras at St. Finn Barr with an afternoon parade in the school yard, beignets for the students, and our own 1st grade King and Queen of Mardi Gras. Each year I look forward to this festival, both for the fun and celebration, and also as a great learning opportunity for the children in anticipation of the prayerful fasting and abstinence of Lent.


The spirit of Mardi Gras (or Carnival, “Farewell to Meat,”) is particularly special because it reminds us all of the many blessings that we have to celebrate on the threshold of the season of Lent. At St. Finn Barr, we have so much to celebrate!! Besides the obvious – the beautiful, vibrant, and loving learners in our school, we have parents and friends of St. Finn Barr who are consistently stepping forward to offer support: Whether it’s a parent dropping off a gift of new children’s books to celebrate Black History Month (thank you, Tricia Gregory), another stepping in to pick up and deliver a 500 pound Promethean Board (thank you, Jerry Mulderigg), or the collaborative efforts of our parent leadership and volunteers to execute a successful event such as Saturday night’s “Off to the Races,” I never cease to be amazed by how many people put forth the extra effort to make our school thrive.


Recently, our school has been blessed for the second time by our dear friend Dr. Richard Mani. Last year, Dr. Mani converted all of our classroom crucifixes and the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the stairwell into beautiful pieces of mosaic art. This year, he has generously made a donation of $50,000 to fund our school’s endowment, nearly doubling the amount currently invested.


In today’s Catholic school climate, a healthy endowment fund is an indicator of the long term health of the institution, a representation of a school that is not operating to “make ends meet” but to innovate and create. Furthermore, an endowment gift of this scale indicates the donor’s belief in the long-term viability of the school, and his investment in the children who will take their St. Finn Barr education out into the world to serve God and others.


In celebration of today, a Mardi Gras prayer of thanks:


Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.

Today we feast.

We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.

We thank you especially for one another. As we give you thanks,

We are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.

As we share these wonderful gifts together,

We commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.

Tasting the fullness of what we have today…

God Bless,

Mele Mortonson



Thank you to the Catholic Kolping Society of America for their donation of $600 to our school! Interested in learning about their history in San Francisco? Check out the website:


New Superintendent of Schools Named: Archbishop Cordileone announced last week that, effective July 1, 2017, Ms. Pamela Lyons will be the new Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. For the past two and a half school years, Ms. Lyons has been an effective and resourceful Associate Superintendent in the Archdiocese. Pamela prevailed in an outstanding field of candidates from across the United States. Interim Superintendent Nina Russo said, “We have great confidence that she will continue to generate significant improvements in support of how the Department of Catholic Schools serves an increasing the number of parents within the Archdiocese, who admire Catholic education and want their children to experience it.” Prayers and Blessings to Ms. Lyons and the entire Department of Catholic Schools!


Science Fair Winners: Congratulations to all of our 6th and 7th graders for their outstanding efforts in our annual school science fair. The projects have developed each year through the initiative of our students and the leadership of our science director Christine Bertko, our middle school science teacher Jordan Heller, and the writing support of our language arts teacher Katie McHugh.


For photos of the winners next to their projects, refer to the news section of our school website:

7th Grade

1st Place - Emma Whitehurst: Which insulation material is best at blocking the transfer of heat?


 2nd Place - Fiona Morgan: What area in San Francisco has the best viewing of the night sky?


3rd Place - Minh Ly: Do different parts of the human body adjust to extreme temperatures more quickly?

Honorable Mention

Alina Caudle: What type of cup retains the heat of your hot chocolate the longest?


Maria Novo: How do different liquids affect plant growth?


Mia Perdue: Are certain types of swim caps more hydrodynamic? 


Anayssa Perez: Does watching an intense video effect your blood pressure?


Maya Torres: Which liquid evaporates the quickest?

6th Grade

1st Place - Samantha Ramos: Does the fat content in milk affect how long it stays cold or hot?


2nd Place - Alexandra Diaz & Shayla Francisco: What environment is best for growing crystals?


3rd Place (tied) - Lucas López & Nicholas Yates: How does the strength of magnets affect magnetic slime?


Alexandra Nepomuceno What kind of sugar is best for making rock candy?


Honorable Mention


Mia Gregory: What kind of bubble wrap provides the most protection to a raw egg?


Lola Guajardo & Grace Robinson: Does water affect the production of dry ice bubbles?


The following students moved onto the San Francisco Science Fair at the SF Zoo:


Emma Whitehurst (1st) –2nd place at SF Science Fair & moving onto Bay Area Fair!

Fiona Morgan (2nd)

Minh Ly (3rd)

Maria Novo (HM)

Samantha Ramos (1st) 2nd place at SF Science Fair

Alexandra Diaz & Shayla Francisco (2nd) 


Spring Art Programs: Music In Schools Today and Shakespearience: We are thrilled to be underway with our spring arts curriculum. Kindergarten has been meeting weekly with a teaching artist from Music in Schools Today, while our 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders have been visited twice weekly by the talented staff of Shakespearience ( ). We look forward to showcasing their talents soon during our first Shakespeare culminating performance on March 9th at 1:30pm in Goode Hall…please join us! The second session for 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th grade will begin in late March.


Campus Ministry Program: I am so happy to announce a new leadership team on campus. The Campus Ministry Team will be lead by Katie McHugh and includes students from 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. This volunteer group will begin their work as spiritual leaders by guiding our campus through forty days of Lenten Prayer at morning assembly. They are also developing a special Stations of the Cross event for Friday, March 24th…more details to come!


Science Updates from recent weeks:

In Kindergarten, Mrs. O'Reilly led the students on an outdoor bird walk to answer the focus questions What birds live in our school yard? After practicing in the classroom, students went on a silent walk pointing to birds as they saw them.  In spite of the noisy construction going on they saw quite a few including crows, gulls, a possible hawk sighting and many little chirpers!! When they returned to the classroom Mrs. O'Reilly led them into a discussion of the parts of birds.  Students then drew a bird of their own design and labeled some parts from the classroom drawing.  

Third graders investigated the question, "What happens when you heat solid materials? as part of their Chemistry unit.  A discussion of opinions vs. evidence led them to writing predictions of what would happen to 4 solid materials (wax, butter, chocolate, and a stone) when exposed to heat.  Students then conducted the experiment (with the objects floating on heated water) measured the temperature, recorded observations, discussed different outcomes. What is your prediction?

Ms. Jordan and Ms. Blanch guided the 2nd graders in a physics unit where they continued their investigation of motion.  After building ramps, groups studied the motion of paper cups on the ramp as they worked on predicting where a rolling cup will end up.  Try this yourself ... you'll be amazed.  Ask any 2nd grader to show you how.