This Week's Newsletter

Dear St. Finn Barr Parents,                                                   May 12, 2017


This time of year is always full of the excitement and anxiety that so often accompanies transition, for students (our graduates are rounding the corner towards high school!), families (relocations to San Francisco for new families & out of the city for others), and faculty members (moving onto the next exciting steps in their careers).


After five years with the St. Finn Barr community, first as an Americorps volunteer and then a member of our faculty, Ms. Katie McHugh’s time as a middle school teacher has come to an end. After this year, she will be moving onto the pursuit of a Master’s in Psychology with the ultimate goal of becoming a school psychologist. Ms. McHugh noted, “These years [at St. Finn Barr] have been instrumental in my development as an educator and I would not be where I am today without the support of the parents, staff, and parish. Not only has my methodology improved over the years; but, my overall practice has been inspired by the students of SFB – their laughter and curiosity has nourished my spirit and filled my days with joy.  I will miss St. Finn Barr, and even though I may not continue in the classroom, I will always remain part of the community.” We couldn’t be more proud of her and grateful for her years of dedication to learning at St. Finn Barr.


Three other faculty members are moving onto new phases of professional development while remaining on our faculty:


Ms. Patsy Bouvet will continue her role as our Literacy Coach/English Language Arts Coordinator & Alliance of Mission District Catholic School Professional Development leader while also resuming her role as the middle school language arts teacher. This summer, she will begin some exciting independent research on effective teaching methods that will highlight the exciting teaching and learning taking place at St. Finn Barr. I look forward to updating all of you on her research findings in the upcoming year!


Ms. Jordan Heller (6th Homeroom, middle school science) will begin a credential/MA in Educational Technology in the fall at the University of San Francisco. Ms. Heller made an excellent transition from Americorps Aide in both the intermediate grades and middle school into leading our science program under the mentorship of Science Director Christine Bertko. Her focus on Educational Technology will help to shape the next phase of our technology plan and will guide the integration of technology into all aspects of our 3rd-8th program.



Ms. Megan Kimble (8th Homeroom, Student Learning Coordinator, middle school social studies, Middle School Coordinator) has been accepted into the University of Kansas’ Masters of High Incidence Disabilities program. Ms. Kimble has played a pivotal role in our school in her short time here, as an instructor, as a member of our administrative team, and as our SLC who supports teachers and families in educational testing, reporting, and learning support. The new resources that she will bring from her graduate program will no doubt strengthen our ability to meet the needs of our wonderfully diverse student population. We are lucky to have her and I am thoroughly impressed by her commitment to professional growth.


While we celebrate the inevitable blessings that come with the transitions for our faculty, graduates, and families, we would be remiss to not acknowledge that for some members of our community, the transitions also present new challenges. Shifts in living arrangements, jobs, school, etc. can be difficult – all the more reason to remain in gratitude and connectedness to the strong community of St. Finn Barr and all that gives to its members, both during and after their time with us.


God Bless,


Mele Mortonson



Teacher Appreciation Week: Wow! I speak on behalf of the entire faculty and staff when I share an enthusiastic THANK YOU to the student and parent community for another incredible Teacher Appreciation Week. The festivities began with a beautiful breakfast Monday, and the treats were spread throughout the week, including personalized plants, inspirational desk signs, a delicious catered lunch, a heartfelt “Thank You Teachers” song, and so much more! The wine and cheese party on Thursday in our newly rehabbed Parish Center garden, with the beautiful weather and time to enjoy each other’s company, was a (rather glamorous) and perfect finale to a lovely week. The St. Finn Barr version of Teacher Appreciation Week, with such a richness of thoughtfulness and love, is for me another symbol of the “abundant” nature of this job, which is so fulfilling and something our entire faculty cherishes about our school.


Alumni News: In a few weeks, we will welcome Rachael Schmidt (’13) to campus along with a PBS film crew for the film (tentatively titled) Try Harder. Rachael, a senior at Lowell High School (and Editor & Chief of the Lowell newspaper), has been chosen amongst 630 classmates as a featured student for the film, which will follow ten Lowell seniors through the college admissions process. It has been awarded funding from several organizations such as ITVS (funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), Cal Humanities, San Francisco Foundation, Center for Asian American Media (funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) etc.


The director/producer of the film, Debbie Lum, chose Rachael for many reasons: “What stood out was a winning combination of fearlessness and openness, which seems rare to me in teens. It goes without saying that she's extremely responsible, intelligent, dedicated -- But she's also extremely expressive and has a unique set of challenges at Lowell that don't deter her ability to excel. She's comfortable with who she is, even if she is different from others at Lowell.”


We are so proud of Rachael and all of our SFB Alumni!


Science Program Updates from Mrs. Bertko this week: Mr. Poland's class cracked open the new NGSS (New Generation Science System) 1st grade kit and led the students in an investigation of What causes sound?  Students observed the motion of a desk fiddle and then built their own guitars using rubber bands, plastic cups and a book.  The scientists then theorized about the different sounds they were able to create and made beautiful music.

Minutes later Mrs. O'Reilly led an excited group of diminutive naturalists into Ms. Bruno's room where the 5th graders were preparing to teach their kinder students about Eisenia fetida, our common redworm.  This is the second of 3 lessons led by the fifth grade class.  The students reviewed the parts of the redworm and then examined their behavior by creating various obstacles for them to travel around.  Do you know how to calm down a hyperactive redworm?  I didn't.  Ask a 5th or Kinder scientist.  

And did you know a redworm can insert it self inside a red stir stick?  Check your margarita next time!  TGIF!


Walkathon Winners: Another successful event, with awesome incentives for our students to “go for the gold.” Here are some highlighted winners:

Grand Prize: $200 Amazon GC

Evangeline Espinoza, with $425 in pledges


Top Pledge Earners: 3-Way Tie for 2nd place - $100 check

Jay Danaher @ $217

Evan Danaher @ $217

Madeline Danaher @ 217


Most Laps Walked: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Kinder through 4th - Alec Schneider (2nd grade)  = 33 laps

5th through 8th - Xuan Ly (8th) = 33 laps



Parish AAA (Archdiocesan Annual Appeal): Of $27K goal, we have $19K remaining to meet parish goal. Please consider making a contribution to the parish that supports and sustains our school.


Recruiting Yearbook Committee Members: Gina Bruno is actively recruiting new parent volunteers for the yearbook committee. This group works together throughout the year (with most work completed on their own time) to produce our beautiful documentation of each school year. If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, please email Ms. Bruno at





5.13   Confirmation @ St. Mary’s Cathedral (12pm)


5.16   Spring Music Showcase (Choir, Guitar, Piano) Goode Hall @ 630pm


5.17   7th Grade Parent Meeting (7pm High School Admissions, 730pm Confirmation Orientation), 6th Grade Classroom


5.18   Kindergarten Welcome Day 9am-10am (K Classroom & Reception in Goode Hall)


5.24   Mandatory General Parent Meeting 6pm in Goode Hall