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Oak Knoll School

PRINCIPAL'S MESSAGE

  • Feel the Love at Oak Knoll Rally  
    Feel the Love at Oak Knoll
    February 14, 2017
     
    Dear Parents,

    This morning at Oak Knoll, students and staff (all dressed in red) gathered in the gym for a "Feel the Love" rally, to celebrate diversity, share some school spirit, and reflect on what it means to show compassion. KNOL anchors read the daily news, and students gave book reviews on stories of courage and compassion from around the world. My favorite part of the rally was watching a video of Maya Angelou's Poem, Human Family read by our very own students. 
     
    Reflecting Oak Knoll's priority to teach compassion throughout the year, the rally was a great way to put it in the forefront of everyone's mind. I spoke to the students about being valued friends, being able to empathize with others and then take action to help. As we practice showing compassion, each Oak Knoll student will receive a Compassion It bracelet, a visual reminder to be compassionate, and spread the concept of compassion as a verb - an action. Compassion It, is an organization whose mission it is to inspire compassionate actions and attitudes. The rally ended with a very spirited and proud rendition of our school song, We Are the Otters! 
     
    I feel so fortunate to be part of a school community that celebrates diversity, works together and shows compassion.
     
    Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. 
     
    Kristen Gracia
    Principal of Oak Knoll School
     
                                  
    Winter Break Message from Mrs. Gracia
    December 22, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Parents,

    As 2016 comes to a close, and we prepare to break from our normal routines, I reflect on this past year and envision the year ahead. I think of the many moments that our students and staff have stretched themselves to continue to grow as people, learners and community members. One step at a time, everyone is working to improve. Our students have approached new challenges with confidence, from trying a new coding program to auditioning for the school musical. Our teachers have taken their own time to engage in professional development, modeling for our students what it means to have a growth mindset, and continuing to develop their craft. It is this level of engagement and reflection throughout our community that keeps me motivated and excited for the year ahead. 
     
    I was recently asked which programs or practices at our school I would sustain "as is", and my response was that everything we do is always subject to improvement. Even when we believe that a current initiative, program or practice must continue, we always reflect first on what we have learned and gained, making sure the desired outcome is being accomplished, then we revise as necessary. Students, staff and parents are all valued stakeholders in our process to continuously improve. Shortly after winter break, we will be seeking input from students, staff and parents through our new district/school survey tool; so be on the lookout for a survey invitation! I value being in a place where setting goals and seeking improvement is not something that is merely done on January 1st, or at the start of each school year, but rather is an ongoing best practice. 

    I look forward to using winter break to connect with those closest to me, being mindful of all that I have to be grateful. I look forward to seeing everyone back on the Knoll when school resumes on January 10th. Enjoy quality-time with your children.

    Warmly,
     
    Kristen Gracia
    Principal, Oak Knoll School
                                       
     
    Update on Report Cards and Grading from Mrs. Gracia
    December 9, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
     
    The first trimester came to a close last Friday, December 2nd. Over the last few weeks, teachers have been measuring student mastery in many academic areas, and we continue to celebrate growth and achievement in our students! Teachers are completing report cards this week, and they will be sent home this coming Monday, December 12th. 

    As in the past our K-3rd grade students will receive feedback on a standards-based report card. Most of our 4th and 5th grade students will receive letter grades (A, B, C...). Other 4th and 5th grade students will be receiving a standards-based pilotreport card, with no letter grades. Our district as a whole is beginning to reimagine grading K-8th grade.  As you can imagine, this is a much bigger initiative than just changing the report card, and by no means is the pilot report card perfect. The real work is in understanding the research and digging into the practices we use to give students feedback on their academic progress. We want our our students to take more ownership of their learning, feeling in control of the outcomes and seeing the feedback as a roadmap to mastery.  Mounting research (and a great deal of anecdotal experience) informs us that letter grades are typically ambiguous, do not match our growth mindset philosophy, and can be stigmatizing and limiting. Last week, many of our Oak Knoll upper grade teachers attended the Sound Grading conference where they engaged in philosophical discussions that resulted in deep reflection and a shift in practice.  I am excited about the level of engagement and conversation our staff is having on this topic; more to come!

    You will also notice that our specialists include effort grades on your child's report card. Our specialists work with hundreds of students each week. As a reminder, getting an "S" for satisfactory effort in a specialist program means that the student is doing exactly as they should, following directions and showing engagement in the activities and learning. Our specialist programs are a necessary part of our school program. Check our website for more information regarding these amazing programs and if you ever want to come see them in action, their doors are open!

    How we as parents react to our child(ren)'s report card matters. Remember to focus on effort, progress and learning rather than grades. In the younger grades, there might be no reason to share or discuss the report card with the student. If you do, I would suggest focusing on the effort and understanding that developmentally students might not YET be ready for mastery of some concepts, and that's okay. Here are some questions you can ask your child that can help lead you down a great path of discussion and reflection:
    • What are you most proud of this trimester and why?
    • What subject(s) caused you to stretch your brain the most this trimester?
    • What was the most challenging subject for you this trimester and why?
    • Are you surprised by anything on this report card?
    • Do you have any concerns about your progress? If so, what are you going to do about it? How can we, as your parents help?
    • What are your goals for the second trimester? What is your plan to reach those goals?
    • Is there anything we can do to support you in reaching your goals?
    As always, it takes a village and we hope that you see us as a resource. If you have any questions about your child's report card, do not hesitate to talk to his/her classroom teacher.
     
    I continue to be beyond proud of all the hard work I see students and teachers engaged in each day. Oak Knoll is a special place to be. 

    Kristen Gracia
    Principal, Oak Knoll School
     
                                      
      
    A Thanksgiving Message from Principal Gracia
    November 22, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Families,

    As we step away from the bustle of day-to-day life, I encourage you to focus on what's most important - your children. I give thanks for my incredible family, our amazing staff, our generous parent community, and our wonderful students. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to pause and unplug. It is a time to reflect, express gratitude, and be present with loved ones.  I plan to use the long weekend to connect with my family, focus on my children, enjoy nature, and turn off my phone and email. I have pressed the Oak Knoll staff to disconnect from work and take advantage of this time as well. I am thankful that with your partnership, we are able to provide the most supportive, engaging and encouraging environment for all students to grow as exemplary scholars, valued friends and courageous citizens. Happy Thanksgiving! 
     
    With gratitude,
     
    Kristen Gracia
                                       
     
    Message from Principal Gracia
    November 3, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Families,
     
    The Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation's (MPAEF) Annual Parent Campaign closes tomorrow Friday, November 4th!

    I am asking for families who have not yet given or pledged to the MPAEF, to please consider doing so today. Thank you to all those Oak Knoll families who have already donated.

    The MPAEF is our district foundation that supports all four schools in our district in HUGE ways! In fact, MPAEF's goal is to grant the Menlo Park City School District $3.7 million (8% of the district budget) by the end of this school year, and the district is counting on this MPAEF contribution! These funds are key to our ongoing success and without them the district's budget deficit will grow even larger. Please join the 55% of district families who have already given to the MPAEF, and help support our teachers, specialists and students.
     
    There is no donation that is too small. Please Donate or Pledge Today!
    • You can donate online at www.mpaef.org. There are also ways to use employee matching, set up a monthly donation plan, or ways to transfer appreciated stock!
    • You can pledge a donation now and pay later. A pledge made now is a placeholder that can be fulfilled through March next year.
    • You can mail donations to the MPAEF office at PO Box 584, Menlo Park, CA 94026
    • You can drop off your donation to Oak Knoll School by the end of the campaign tomorrow 11/4.
    This is a critical time in our district and more than ever it is important that we come together and show we care deeply about the quality of education in our schools. Your participation makes a difference! Thank you all for your continued support.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Kristen Gracia
    Principal, Oak Knoll School
                                       
     
    Important Message from Principal Gracia
    October 24, 2016
     
    Please view this important video message from Mrs. Gracia on the District's budget shortfall.


    Please click on the image box above or click here. For more information please read the Announcement section of the MPCSD website.

    Thank you for your attention.
                                        
     
    Update from Principal Gracia
    October 13, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
     
    As the leaves begin to change color, I am reminded of how much I love the Back to School season! Congrats to everyone for stepping up, supporting our Oak Knoll PTO, and meeting our fundraising goal; go team! We are well into our routines now, and it is evident that a lot of hard work and learning is going on at Oak Knoll. Here are a few things we do to connect with our students, teachers and parents to ensure that we are all working towards the same goals:
    • The 2016-17 Oak Knoll Site Goals have been developed by our Site Council (a group of parents, teachers and administrators). Our school goals are comprehensive and point towards our mission: every student an exemplary scholar, valued friend and courageous citizen. You will also notice that our goals are student focused, with emphasis on continuous improvement. Big thanks to our Site Council for their continued participation.
    • The MPCSD official Parent-Teacher Conferences are scheduled for October 24-27 (which are early dismissal days with school ending at 11:20am for ALL students). On our past site survey, some parents reported that the official P/T conference dates are too early in the year and that they would appreciate having more than one check-in per year with their child's teacher. Given this feedback, we have a handful of teachers piloting other options: 1. Some teachers will NOT be having P/T conferences in October, but instead plan to wait until later in the year. 2. Some teachers will NOT be writing report card comments for the first trimester, but instead will be having a second "conference" in the form of a quick check-in meeting with parents about the report card.
    • Teacher-Principal meetings are a way for Mrs. Kessler (our Assistant Principal) and me to connect with each teacher, specialist, and interventionist around student progress and needs, professional development, and teacher action plans. This is one way for us to stay in the loop and make sure that every child's experience and academic journey is accounted. We also feel strongly that our biggest responsibility is to support our teachers in doing the most important job of educating and supporting our students. Mrs. Kessler and I are scheduled to meet with every teacher in November and again later in the year.
    • "Out of Office Days" are my way to literally get out of my office and to where the action is taking place...the classrooms! Just like the coach doesn't sit in her office during the game, I believe that in order to ensure a world-class education and a high-quality student experience at Oak Knoll, I need to be in the classrooms! It's important that our school vision reaches full implementation.  At Oak Knoll we have over 730 students, 33 classrooms (with over six subjects being taught in each), and over a dozen specialist and intervention programs. As you can see, we have a huge organization and a lot going on. My goal is to be in classrooms two days per week to observe teaching and learning, gather data, notice best practices, provide input, take feedback, collect information that informs decisions, find kinks in the system, and gain perspective from our students and teachers. This way I can take the necessary action to scale best practices and make systematic and programmatic school improvements. In order to accomplish my two-day goal, I must run a tight ship in regards to my calendar so I can get everything done. The Oak Knoll office is prepared to support this level of principal engagement. Mrs.Petersen and Mrs.Lopez are superstars and I am extremely grateful to have their commitment!
    Thanks for staying in the loop with what is going on in our district and at our school. Next week our gym will transform into our incredible Oak Knoll Book Fair. Check out the Book Fair schedule for more details which includes a Coffee Talk (10/18) and Family Night (10/20). At the School Board meeting on Tuesday October 18 at 6pm, our Superintendent will present the preliminary recommendation for budget reductions, adding up to over $5 million (find out more under MPCSD Announcements). If you value the high quality experience your child is having at Oak Knoll, you should plan to attend on 10/18 at 6pm, as well as one of the Community Input Sessions on October 24 at 9am or October 25 at 6pm, all held in the Hillview PAC. I would love to see and feel Oak Knoll's presence at these meetings. Thanks for your continued engagement and partnership; it is an ingredient to our success that matters deeply.
     
    Kristen Gracia
    Principal, Oak Knoll School
                                       
     
    The Time is Now! Every Contribution Matters.
    PTO: In Partnership and Support.
    September 27, 2016
     
    Dear Parents,

    I need your help. The teachers and I have planned, what we believe is OUR BEST YEAR YET! As you know we are wrapping up our PTO portion of the Joint Campaign. As of now, with just three days left, we only have 44% participation, which is not enough to fully fund the PTO budget we have set for this school year. This level of participation does not reflect the deep partnership that I feel on our campus everyday. With a donation in any amount, we can reach our participation goal! 100% of our classroom teachers have contributed to the PTO because they believe the programs, enrichment, and materials the PTO provide are fundamental to the "Oak Knoll" experience.

    Thank you to those of you who have already contributed. As more parents contribute, the more we will be able to provide engaging hands-on enrichment programs, amazing assemblies,  and awesome field trips that make real-world connections for our students. We want to be able to stack books on the shelves of every classroom so our kids, who are becoming wild readers, have a wide selection of books that interest them, at their ever-changing reading level. We want to keep our playground interesting with various developmental options for all students; like in the past when PTO funded our outdoor instruments and the popular Gaga pit! Our Motivated Me Challenge is also funded by the PTO, and as you know, is essential to teaching all of our students about mindset, compassion and citizenship. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is we need to meet our PTO fundraising goal to put our plans into action for this school year.  

    The PTO asks ONLY ONCE for your help financially. The time is now! We need to raise 100% of the funds in order to fully implement our amazing plans for this school year. Please donate and give what is meaningful to your family, before the PTO fundraising deadline this Friday, September 30. 

    I hope you will also support the MPAEF by the close of the Annual Parent Campaign on November 4. When you donate to the MPAEF, you help our district fund additional best-in-class teachers, credentialed specialists, design-thinking curriculum and technology, and dedicated counselors. Learn more about PTO and MPAEF funding at Giving to our Schools

    Help us and join us in having our best year yet

    In partnership, 

    Kristen Gracia
    Oak Knoll School Principal 
                                       
     
    Welcome Back to School! Exemplary Scholar, Valued Friend, Courageous Citizen
    August 24, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
     
    Saying I am excited about the 2016-17 school year is an understatement! The Oak Knoll staff, along with Mrs. Kessler and I, are gearing up and getting ready for our students to arrive back to school on September 1, for what we believe will be our best year yet! 
     
    We encourage you to get and stay connected so you can be in the know, on the Knoll! From our outstanding academic programs, best teaching practices, and high-quality professional development, you will gain a great understanding of why our teachers are beyond amazing. You also won't want to miss hearing about the incredible enrichment programs we offer. Thanks to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF), all of our students get weekly enrichment programs like music, art, library, and PE. Our fully credentialed specialists are superstars! Our school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) will be keeping you in the loop on the many ways to get involved and build community. 
     
    "Every student an exemplary scholar, a valued friend and a courageous citizen." Our mission defines our school values and how we define success for our students. Each year we build measurable goals that tell us how we are collectively progressing in each area. Beyond our academic goals, we write goals to measure how our students understand and apply a growth mindset, compassion to others and involvement in providing service to others. In the past we have had a school-wide theme that usually pointed to one of the three parts of this mission. We feel strongly that EVERY child needs to learn and develop within each area of our mission, EVERY year. Instead of a theme, this year we will launch the Motivated Me Challenge
     
    Motivated Me Challenge:
    This challenge is designed to motivate and inspire our students and guarantee that all Oak Knoll students progress as scholars, friends, and citizens. To be specific, we will focus on stretching our brains, showing compassion to others and working together to make our community better. Each class will engage in lessons, make project plans and earn badges once they are able to demonstrate their learning in each area.
     
    Oak Knoll Homework Agreement: 
    Homework continues to be a hot topic in education and at Oak Knoll. Evidenced by the overwhelming amount of parent comments on last years school survey and the hundreds of parent input forms that we received connecting homework to teacher placement, validated my desire to continue to resurface the topic with our staff. Being well aware of the research that supports little to no homework for elementary age kids, and recognizing that although there were great efforts to be a "no-homework" school, the reality at Oak Knoll has been quite different. Some teachers have been assigning a lot of daily homework in multiple subjects, others assigning none, and everything in between. Together as a staff, we have discussed this topic, keeping our students success, and wellness, in the forefront of our minds, and decided that we could start improving our homework situation by getting to an agreement. It is with great pride that we are ready to implement the 2016-17 Oak Knoll Homework Agreement! This is a shared vision that our teachers have ALL signed on to implement this school year! The agreement outlines our expectations for students and staff, from K-5th grade. 
     
    Oak Knoll Staff Changes:
    This year we have made some changes to our team. I am proud to introduce our five newest staff members: Blythe Bulkin (multi-age/3rd), Mindy Garagozzo (3rd), Samantha Johns (band), Katherine Perilloux (4th), and Allison Zeiser (multi-age/4th)! Each new member brings outstanding strength to our staff, school, and community. Check out the 2016-17 Oak Knoll Staff to see our team line-up!
     
    Speaking of team, you are also an important part of our Oak Knoll team. Oak Knoll is a community school that needs your involvement and participation. Join us in our best year yet and support the MPAEF, PTO, and our many school initiatives by getting involved. If you are not already receiving, or reading our school newsletter, make it your Motivated Me Challenge, and do it! 
     
    I can't wait to welcome your children back on the Knoll! 
     
    Kristen Gracia
    Oak Knoll School Principal
     
                                                             
     
    Wrapping up a Great Year! End of Year Review
    June 13, 2016
     
    Dear Oak Knoll Parents and Friends,
     
    As we close another great year at Oak Knoll we are amazed by all that we, as a school, have accomplished! I spent some time reflecting and reminiscing about the year. Many, many amazing things were accomplished this year, so I wanted to share some of my favorites, most which were unique to this year. Hats off to our teachers, staff, students, and you, for making all of these things possible!
     
    Our CONNECTED theme was awesome!
    • Every student had classroom lessons that built community in and beyond their classroom. We even connected with another school in Spain!
    • The Oak Knoll Book Fair went international this year! We took advantage and held our EL family event that same night and had over 90 students and parents from our EL program attended family night at the book fair.
    • Our school counselor provided lessons to every student on various topics that support social-emotional growth and connecting with others: confidence building, friendship, apologizing, "I" messages, calming strategies, growth mindset, optimism, and gratitude.
     
    We launched a successful World Language pilot program.
    • All of our 5th graders engaged in Spanish language instruction, 3x a week with Senora Cheek. 
    • Everyone K-4th learned some Spanish too! Thanks to monthly classroom lessons and mini-lessons on KNOL, not to mention a super engaging Spanish lunch club, everyone was included in this new program! 
     
    All Oak Knoll students completed our Digital Citizenship Program! 
    • The Common Sense Media lessons covered a variety of topics, depending on the grade level: Relationships & Communication, Privacy & Security, Internet Safety, Cyberbullying, Digital Footprint & Reputation, Self Image & Identity, Information Literacy, and Creative Credit & Copyright.
    • Having a Tech Coach this year was key for our school. We were able to move many initiatives and project forward given the level of coaching our teachers received. 
     
    School communication and parent education was plentiful.
    • This year we hosted five Coffee Talks covering various topics: reading strategies, our school theme and social-emotional program, technology and digital citizenship, and preparing for Hillview.
    • We encouraged parents to engage online in a mindset course for parents! We were thrilled to get over 150 parents to participate. You can find the course at mindsetkit.org
    • Our newsletter and updates, although sometimes long, were more informative than ever before and we launched a new website!
     
    Our students and academic programs continue to thrive!
    • Overall, above 90% of our K-5th graders end the year at or above grade-level in reading. Specifically looking at 3rd-5th grade reading, we moved 100 students from proficient to advanced as measured by the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI).
    • This school year, 17 students who are English Learners (EL) reached high levels in listening, speaking, reading and writing in English, and therefore were reclassified as English proficient and honored for their hard work. 
    • Our teachers and students completed their first year of our newly adopted math program, Math Expressions. This program is more rigorous than our previous curriculum and the kids continue to perform at high levels.
    • Mrs. Kessler and I met with all teachers and interventionists throughout the year to design plans to specifically support individual students. 
     
    Oak Knoll was recognized for a number of programs this year! 
    • Oak Knoll received the Kent Award, for our U-Turn, behavior intervention and support program!
    • We are in a book! Author and former Stanford Dean of Freshman, Julie Lythcott-Haims included us in her amazing book, How to Raise an Adult (which is a great summer read for parents).
    • Our staff presented at the Learning and the Brain conference back in February, sharing our Mindset work with other schools!
     
    We have already begun planning for 2016-17! We are excited to launch Oak Knoll's new and improved Homework Agreement which you will learn more about this fall. Our goals and plans will continue to point to our mission: Every student an exemplary scholar, a valued friend and a courageous citizen! 

    Have a wonderful summer with your amazing kids.
     
    Sincerely,
      
    Kristen Gracia
    Principal, Oak Knoll School
     
     
    To read other reviews and updates from Kristen Gracia, please see the newsletter and mailer archives by clicking here.
     

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