Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolRead our Weekly Newsletter and follow us!Follow me on Twitter @KristenGraciaFollow Oak Knoll on Twitter@ OakKnollOttersInstagram @oakknollotters#goMPCSD #OKbestyearyet
Principal Messages 2017-2018
Principal Gracia is Excited for 2018!December 21, 2017Oak Knoll Family and Friends,
As we briefly press pause on our normal routines this winter break, I find myself already excited for all that 2018 has to offer Oak Knoll School. We look ahead to more opportunities to teach our students the difference between a growth and fixed mindset. More chances for our students to truly understand and demonstrate compassion, and to learn what it means to be a valued friend. The new year will include many little (but important) mistakes, followed by big learning to restore and repair the sometimes bumpy roads of childhood. It is inevitable and quite necessary that our children face disappointment, accomplishment and everything in between. As parents we must not shelter our kids from these events, as they are milestone moments. The Oak Knoll staff will continue to be prepared to provide support, best practices, and encouragement to students and parents along the way.
2018 has our teachers looking forward to more challenging and collaborative math lessons that really get their students thinking deeply and to more amazing books that provide the critical space to gain broader perspective. We have more student newspapers to publish, more publishing parties to attend and more research to discover; student writing will echo their strong values and voice. Science and technology will push them forward, while history and social studies will take them back, both journeys reaching beyond the walls of our classrooms. Whether it's music or language, physical education or art, our students will be encouraged to try new things, share their thinking and work with each other.
As always, we will set new goals, gather more feedback, and work to improve. Most of all, our school community will embrace diversity and our connections will continue to deepen, resulting in a schooling experience that every child deserves. Simply put and no matter how we slice it, 2018 will be our best year yet.
Wishing everyone a wonderful winter break with friends and family and looking forward to more fun in the New Year!
P.S. As many of you know, I am a firm believer in waiting until age 13 for smartphones to enter the pockets of children and thought Superintendent Burmeister's recent blog, "Appy Holidays?" was great food for thought on this hot topic!-------------------An Update from Mrs. GraciaNovember 21, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
As we head into the Thanksgiving break, I find myself once again reflecting on all the gifts I have in my life, including Oak Knoll. I am grateful for our teachers and staff, the partnership I feel with you, and of course, our incredible students. People are the reason I enjoy showing up to work each day. No matter what challenges we face, we have people around us who make the work exciting, meaningful, gratifying and interesting. Relationships matter. In fact, I see my most important work as fostering an environment where our students feel connected, accepted, and valued so they can learn more than they ever imagined possible. As we close the first trimester of our "best year yet," I am impressed by the progress our students are making, the perseverance they are demonstrating, the collaboration they are engaged in, the service they are providing and, most of all, the pure joy of childhood they are experiencing at Oak Knoll!
During one of my recent classroom walkthroughs I took photos to capture the impressive work of our students and staff. I've included some general information so you can learn more about our school-wide academic programs.Reading and Writing Workshop is our district adopted literacy program and Oak Knoll is a Project School that works directly with coaches from the Teachers College, New York. Our teachers engage in ongoing, high-quality, professional development and collaboration. Teachers provide whole class mini-lessons focused on specific grade level standards and cover many Units of Study throughout the year, spanning multiple genres in both reading and writing. Our students read books at their independent and instructional levels, write every day, and meet with their teacher regularly to receive personalized feedback and guidance. The caliber of student reading and writing at Oak Knoll is the highest we have seen, across all grades. We believe that students who LOVE to read and write, who are provided high-quality instruction, and lots of time to practice, will excel in all academic areas. The more we can inspire and motivate our students to get lost in a book or use writing as a way to share their voice, the more we are preparing them for their future.Mathematics at Oak Knoll is focused on process rather than outcome. Of course the goal is to answer the problems correctly but the process is of greater value in our classrooms because we know that real learning occurs when students engage in questions and discussions that deepen their mathematical understanding. Our K-5 district-adopted math program is Math Expressions which is comprehensive and aligned to the Common Core State Standards. We are noticing that our primary students have a much stronger foundation and "number sense" than in past years with different programs. This year many of our 4th and 5th grade teachers are piloting a program specifically designed to personalize learning and increase engagement in math. We are calling this program Math Workshop. Math Workshop was built by our teachers using the district adopted program and other supplemental math programs to create a strong avenue of learning, combined with multiple practice options. This approach gives each student a clear path to mastery, while at the same time providing opportunities to deepen and extend their learning. Teachers meet with their students to check in and review progress throughout each unit and our students are learning not only math but what practice methods help them to learn best.Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are in full effect at Oak Knoll. From upper grade students building water filtration systems to primary students creating satellites as part of a STEM project. Just the other day our teachers were engaged in professional development around NGSS and the power of giving our students an expert-like conceptual framework to organize their scientific ideas and questions. This year is a pilot year, which means our teachers are using curriculum from multiple science programs. We will be ready for the formal adoption process once California officially approves curriculum aligned with NGSS. In many schools, science is on the back burner, but at Oak Knoll we are working hard to bring it to the center, as we see great value in the hands-on nature and connection to the real-world.While this update only scratches the surface of our academic programs, I hope it gives you a peek into what is happening in our classrooms. Other important aspects we put a heavy emphasis on include teaching our students about the brain and mindsets, how to be mindful and compassionate, and the importance of celebrating diversity by embracing our differences. These elements span all academic areas and permeate our campus, making Oak Knoll the special place that it is.Your kids are amazing and I am beyond thankful to be their principal. We look forward to welcoming them back on Tuesday, November 28, after the break and staff development day.
Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!
Every student an exemplary scholar, a valued friend, and a courageous citizen.-------------------MPAEF Campaign Ends Friday - Please SupportNovember 1, 2017Dear Parents,
Wow! What a great Halloween parade yesterday. It was so nice to see and feel the community support and joy that permeates our school. This level of engagement is evidence that Oak Knoll is unique and special.I wanted to remind you of another important way to support and engage that benefits our students. As you probably already know, the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF)'s annual parent campaign ends this Friday. I am asking that if you haven't already, please donate at any level that is meaningful to your family. HERE is a video clip of Superintendent Erik Burmeister's interesting chalk talk about the difference between the MPCSD schooling experience and other public schools in our state.This reminds us why contributing to the MPAEF is imperative to ensure our Oak Knoll students have an excellent educational experience - beyond what is possible with public dollars alone. For example, your MPAEF donations provide the necessary funding for our full-time counselor, psychologist, assistant principal and specialist programs that enrich our student experience, like art, music and library!Thank you if you have already contributed to the MPAEF. If you have not yet donated or pledged, please do so by Friday. Thanks again, and always, for your support and engagement! https://mpaef.org/donate-now
Sincerely,Kristen GraciaOak Knoll School Principal-------------------Message on Recent EventsOctober 13, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
The news and recent events of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires have been quite overwhelming and, in many cases, devastating. While we prepare at our school for what we hope will never happen, our hearts go out to those affected by these disasters.First and foremost, we are prepared to respond in the event of an emergency. Our school emergency preparedness plan is anchored in the San Mateo County Big Fiveprotocols. The entire staff has received training on emergency protocols, including responsibilities related to their designated roles, and we have monthly drills with students. Additionally, we feel fortunate to work in close partnership with the local police and fire departments as part of this effort.We are also prepared to support our students when unfortunate events and natural disasters occur. Our teachers are trained to take their cues from the kids and help as they navigate the information they hear and questions they have. Children can feel a sense of insecurity and be fearful during these times; it is our job as parents and teachers to reassure them and anchor our conversations around preparedness.Yesterday morning, on our Oak Knoll daily broadcast of KNOL, I shared some advice with our students that comes from Mr. Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (a TV show many of us watched as children). His mother used to tell him to "look for all the helpers" as there are so many caring people in our world offering a helping hand. Keeping the focus on people being compassionate, reassuring them that we adults are here for them, and letting them know that "we've got this," is really important and just what our kids need to hear right now. Here is a resource, Talking to Children About Natural Disasters, that you might find helpful.We too want to help and are prepared to do it in a way that engages and empowers our students. One of the best ways to help is to donate money, allowing organizations on the ground to deploy the most necessary supplies and food. We have come up with a way for our students to contribute their time and effort, resulting in donations. We would like to introduce Chores for Change to benefit the Red Cross. During the week of 10/23-10/27, we will be encouraging our students to do chores at home and earn money to donate to the drive. Students should bring the money to school as they earn it and add it to the jar in their classroom. The final day to cash out on those chores and donate is October 30th.As always, I feel honored to be your child's principal and to work in partnership with you and our staff. I look forward to the Oak Knoll Book Fair (next week) and the Oak Knoll Lane Halloween Parade (more info coming home soon), two great opportunities to connect as a community.
Kristen GraciaOak Knoll School Principal
-------------------See you Tonight at the Fall Family PicnicOctober 6, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,As we wrap up September and the PTO fundraising campaign, I wanted to extend my sincere appreciation for your support of our school. I am delighted that we met our goal for parent donations to the PTO, with 78% of families participating. We are also tracking corporate matches which are still coming in and will most likely get us to a fully funded PTO budget.The partnership we have at Oak Knoll between parents and staff is so valuable, and key to our continued success in providing an exceptional experience for our students.I hope to see many of you later today when we get together for some fun as a community at the Fall Family Picnic!Kristen GraciaProud Principal of Oak Knoll School-------------------State of the Sea: Important Oak Knoll Otter Video UpdateSeptember 25, 2017Please view this video message from Principal Kristen Gracia and Assistant Principal Leah Kessler, recorded today in their office at Oak Knoll, on the importance of fully funding the PTO budget and MPAEF fundraising goal.
Donate here to the Oak Knoll PTO by this Friday, September 29
Pledge or donate here to the MPAEF by November 3-------------------Thank you for coming to Back to School NightSeptember 8, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
Thank you for joining us last night at Back to School Night! It is always exciting to see everyone and officially get the year started!
A few quick reminders:3. Download the SeeSaw app and use the QR code for EACH child (the teachers have provided) to get connected.
Have a great weekend and remember there is NO SCHOOL ON MONDAY! Our staff will be engaging in professional development.
Take care,Kristen GraciaRead our Weekly Newsletter and follow us!Follow me on Twitter @KristenGraciaFollow Oak Knoll on Twitter@ OakKnollOttersInstagram @oakknollotters#goMPCSD #OKbestyearyet-------------------Welcome Back to Oak KnollAugust 21, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,Welcome back to what we are once again calling our BEST year yet! As summer (and bed times) begin to wind down, I would like to invite you back on the knoll for another year of engaging curriculum, sweet friendships and exciting learning experiences for our students. If you are joining us for the first time, welcome to an awesome school with an amazing community. I am confident that you will quickly feel at home. For those of you returning, it may seem as though we just had our best year yet last school year, however our staff is committed to continuous improvement so it wouldn't be very "Oak Knoll" of us to leave it at that!We have four new-to-Oak Knoll teachers joining the Oak Knoll Staff, who all bring incredible skill, awesome experience, and infectious spirit! Please join me in welcoming these amazing individuals:
- Ms. Dehne joins our Kindergarten team, sharing a class with Mrs. Lopez. Ms. Dehne has been teaching in our district since 1995, with eight years experience in Kindergarten, as well as several years in the other primary grades. Ms.Dehne's enthusiasm for teaching and willingness to connect with parents is above and beyond. We are lucky to have Ms.Dehne.
- Ms. Ziff has been a dedicated Spanish Immersion teacher for fourteen years and will join Oak Knoll as our Spanish specialist teacher. Ms. Ziff's passion and skills to our ever growing World Language program is just what Oak Knoll needed. She will be teaching some grade levels Spanish this year, with plans to expand next year. Ms.Ziff is passionate about teaching Spanish and we are confident our students will love being in her class.
- Mrs. Kaufman joins our Special Education team as our Inclusion Specialist and a Learning Center teacher who will work closely with Ms. Atkinson. This is Mrs. Kaufman's fifth year in our district. She has been a valued paraeducator and preschool teacher, and her background is as a Developmental Specialist. We are excited to have her join our team.
We have more exciting news! Oak Knoll is now a Common Sense Certified School: Digital Citizenship, an honor that recognizes our efforts in teaching digital literacy and citizenship to our students. Hats off to our teachers who continue to be committed to teaching our students how to think critically, behave safely and participate responsibly. We encourage you to explore Common Sense Media, as it is a great parent resource as well.As we excitedly jump into the school year we remain grounded in our mission: Every student an exemplary scholar, a valued friend and a courageous citizen. Our goals, energy and resources will be focused on what we value. Our intentionality around our mission ensures that our students engage in a dynamic education and understand what it means to approach learning with a growth mindset, friendship with acts of compassion, and diversity with an open-mind.There is something so invigorating about the start of a new school year. It's the excitement of our students, the refreshed spirit of our staff, and the ongoing support of our parent community that brings me so much energy as a principal. I look forward to seeing all the smiling faces, bright and early on August 24th- the first day of our best year yet!Sincerely,Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolRead our Weekly Newsletter and follow us!Twitter @oakknollottersInstagram @oakknollotters#goMPCSD #OKbestyearyet
- Ms. Snyder will be teaching 4-5 orchestra, band and our K-2 violin program. Ms.Snyder is new to teaching in a public school, however she has over a decade of experience with youth orchestras, teaching music in various private schools- including violin to young children, and instructing private music lessons. Ms. Snyder is also a gifted musician who plays professionally.
Principal Messages 2016-2017
End of Year MessageJune 15, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents and Friends,As we get ready to close our classroom doors for the summer, we hope the happy memories from this school year remind you of the awesome year we have had together! No matter where your kids are in their Oak Knoll journey, they have engaged in important work this school year.It was exciting to watch every class participate in the Motivated Me Challenge! Clearly, they have worked together as exemplary scholars, valued friends and courageous citizens. From engineering challenges to passion projects and music performances to publishing parties, it was quite a brain-growing year. Understanding and showing compassion is one of the most important things we learn and put into practice at Oak Knoll School. The Great Kindness Challenge was a huge highlight! Providing service to others is a norm at Oak Knoll and our students proved this to be true when, together with Costaño School, they collected hundreds of items for patient care packages for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Our students are making the world, the community and our school a better place!As we begin to plan for the next school year, I wanted to give you a heads-up that although our district enrollment is going up, our school enrollment is going down. This is as planned, due to the new campus opening across town. This is a good thing. As you can imagine, everything from management issues to traffic problems will be alleviated as we get smaller. I say all of this because I want you to know that no matter the decrease we will continue the unique programs we value, like Multi-age. Our efforts to balance our offerings with enrollment and demand will continue and we will prioritize continuity for our students. As we look ahead, we get excited about what 2017-18 will bring!We welcome our awesome assistant principal Mrs. Kessler back to Oak Knoll! Mr. Coldoff has done a fantastic job filling her shoes and has kept things moving forward. We wish our three retirees, Jan San Filippo, Susan Sanchez, and Heidi Veneman the very best! They have had an undeniable influence on our entire Oak Knoll community, and they will be missed. Without a doubt, our teaching staff and programs will continue to be innovative and excellent.Have a wonderful summer with your kids. It is a bittersweet end for me this year with my oldest "clapping out" of Oak Knoll tomorrow. It feels like kindergarten was just yesterday. Time goes by so fast, so make sure to press pause this summer and take it all in.Sincerely,Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll School"Make the most of your time here." -Amy Krouse RosenthalSchoolhouse Rocks 5KMay 4, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Families,
Mark your calendars, get excited, and lace up your sneakers to hit the streets for our school district's upcoming Schoolhouse Rocks 5K Run, to be held at Hillview Middle School on Sunday, May 21 at 9:00 a.m. Today is the last day for the discounted early registration.
At lunchtime on May 12, our students will participate in some fun run related games with friends and teachers. Students will receive special run cards where they will complete the statement, "I rock because...", and those responses will be displayed at the run. Look out for Schoolhouse Rocks 5K wrist bands to come home with them.
Consider becoming a Family Sponsor of the run in support of quality education. You will receive five race entries and your family or team's name on the run shirt. If you cannot donate, volunteer! For more details and to register, visit www.schoolhouserocks5k.com
The Schoolhouse Rocks 5K is a unique opportunity to come together as a district and support our schools. My family and I will be at the run and look forward to seeing you there!
Principal, Oak Knoll SchoolClass Placement Process and Input FormApril 26, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,It is time to begin our placement process for the 2017-18 school year. Our placement process is thorough. Our classroom teachers, specialists, intervention team and administrators will work together and use a full range of dynamic expertise and intimate knowledge of students, programs and services with the goal of creating balanced classes. Once again, we are offering a Parent Input Form as a means of communication. This form is the way for you to provide input and information regarding your child's needs, if you wish to do so. I read every input form.
I will kindly turn down all placement meetings for three reasons:
Almost every year we have changes on staff and this year is no different. The reason we never post teaching assignments until the fall is because nothing is finalized and a lot can happen between now and August. This does not worry us at all. We are used to and are happy with this process and timeline. We plan to field the best team of teachers and are excited about the future. There is no reason for parents to gather information about teachers, lose sleep over placement, or lobby for preferential teacher choice. Instead, have confidence in our process and focus your input on student information, rather than teacher preference.
- Equity and integrity: we have 1400+ parents who all love and care deeply about their child(ren), and a placement process that supports all students.
- Input form: it is not necessary because I will read the input forms and contact you if I need additional information (I really do this).
- Time: it is important that I spend my time in the classrooms and meeting with teachers regarding student achievement, social well-being and progress.
ATTENTION PARENTS OF CURRENT 2nd graders (incoming 3rd):
Here is the Parent Input Form to complete by May 10th. Class lists will be posted outside the office on Monday, August 21st, after 3:00pm.
At Oak Knoll, we have two upper grade programs. All parents may request either Multi-age or Traditional program for their soon-to-be 3rd grader. If you have a preference, you MUST put in a request on the Parent Input Form.If you do not complete an input form we will place your child in a program. Both programs are subject to lottery based on program demand. Our office will let you know whether your child will be placed in Multi-age or Traditional before the last day of school. For those of you who have no experience with our multi-age or traditional programs and would like more information, we will be hosting tours next week! Call the office to sign up now: 650-854-4433.
Thanks for your partnership,
Principal, Oak Knoll SchoolJoin me in thanking the teachers!April 24, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents and Friends,Today starts the annual Teacher Appreciation Week at our school and it got me thinking about how much I absolutely appreciate incredible teachers, not only here at Oak Knoll, but everywhere. Growing up, I think I can count on one hand how many fantastic teachers I had from K-12th grade. Having an incredible teacher should never be taken for granted. If you have never been a teacher, you might not realize that teaching is FAR more difficult than it appears and way more involved than one could imagine. Bottom line, Oak Knoll teachers make it look easy! Teaching is not a job, but instead a dedication of one's life to the betterment of others, extending far beyond the walls of the classroom and the hours in their contract. As principal, I have a front row seat to observing our teachers plan, prepare, and teach. I watch amazing teachers pour their hearts and souls into their craft, work with the precision of a surgeon, planning thoughtful lessons, making instructional decisions to meet the needs of their learners. I see evidence of teachers building strong relationships with their students because they know that the path with the most impact is going through the heart to the mind. Our teachers truly have to be everything to everyone, all the time. They teach everything from math, reading, and writing to history, social studies, science, mindset, compassion, and the list goes on. I believe teaching is a constant form of compassion delivered all day long by some of the most amazing people in the world; our Oak Knoll teachers.This week and always, thank a teacher for their dedication, hard work and love. Our teachers are awesome!With gratitude,Mrs. GraciaThe MPAEF Online Auction is Open...Don't Miss Out!March 30, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents,
It was nice seeing many of you at the MPAEF Auction this past Saturday night. We definitely kicked it off right, with capes, superpowers and amazing support for our schools! The online auction is OPEN, including our 2017 Fund a Need. Check out the details and links below and thanks for your continued support of the MPAEF.
Online Auction Closes Sunday April 3rd at 9pm Hundreds of Items to WinThe bidding is open and closes at 9pm on April 3rd. You can bid to win:
See auction catalog & full details: mpaef.org/spring-auction2017 Fund a Need: Our Music & Art Teachers & LibrariansOur specialist teachers are superheroes who expand our children's skills, character and worldview. Make a gift to Fund A Need here.
- Fantastic outings for your child with their teacher
- Memorable parties with fellow parents
- Getaways to beautiful places
- Local offerings from acupuncture to golf to concerts
- VIP experiences at sports events
Unharness your superpower for our children so they may explore a richer curriculum guided by professionals who teach fundamentals in life, learning and expression.
Learn more: www.mpaef.org/fund-a-need
Thanks again for your partnership,
Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolMaking Oak Knoll Even Better! Survey Results & ActionsMarch 17, 2017Dear Oak Knoll Parents and Friends,As you know, we collected a lot of survey feedback from parents, students and staff. We spent the month we called “Feedback February” sifting through the data and reflecting on our practice, programs and systems. As always, we appreciate the partnership and collaboration of all stakeholders and have used this data to reflect on what is working and on ways we can continually improve. We have shared the data with the Oak Knoll Site Council and I have had survey reflection meetings with each individual teacher. I am pleased with our outcomes. Our ratings across the survey were high on many scales and questions such as School Climate (89% favorable), Mindset (90% favorable), School Administration (93% favorable), Customer Service (81% favorable), Perception of Teacher (89% favorable), and the list goes on. With that said, we use the survey as a springboard for action because we believe in the use of feedback to continuously improve.Here are some of the actions we are taking (in no particular order) based on the feedback we have received:
As you can see we value your input and the input of our students. We appreciated all the positive reinforcement for the great work that is happening at Oak Knoll. The satisfaction of students, parents and staff is impressive evidence that we are all connected and invested in our school! We also value the constructive feedback that helps us continuously improve. The teachers and I would like to thank you for being our partners in this work. Our doors are open if you ever have a question, concern or idea. How fitting for today to say that I feel lucky to be part of this community!
- RECESS OPTIONS FOR STUDENTS AND TAG!: Students reported that they would like more options and equipment during recess. PTO is funding additional recess equipment like soccer goals, footballs, basketball hoops and portable slacklines! Also, the Nature Zone, which is widely enjoyed, is open and we are in the process of expanding it. Tag is allowed and encouraged on the blacktop and/or grass area. For safety reasons, tag is not allowed on the play structure.
- STUDENT FOCUS GROUPS: We want to learn more about our students needs and desires. This is their school! To encourage more student voice we will be having a variety of focus groups (small focused group conversations about various topics). Groups for boys, groups for girls, groups for boys and girls together, groups that focus on recess, groups that focus on classroom effectiveness, groups that focus on grade level needs, groups that focus on whatever the students want to focus on! These groups will be led by our staff members and again will help us design programs and meet the needs of our students.
- YARD DUTY: Students reported inconsistencies in how our yard duty and staff helps students solve recess dilemmas. Since the survey, Mr. Coldoff has met with the lunchtime yard supervisors and has began to develop more consistent systems. Nicole Scott, our school counselor, will be training the yard duty in conflict resolution and create a protocol that all teachers and staff will use when on yard duty. Fairness is a big deal to our students, so we are going to communicate our plans to the student body and keep them in the loop on these changes.
- CELEBRATING DIVERSITY: Currently at Oak Knoll we plan assemblies, projects, read alouds, and lessons around embracing our differences and celebrating diversity. Just last month we had a school rally to share the love at Oak Knoll, highlighting that our differences is what makes Oak Knoll so special. I was happy to see that many parent comments on the survey were encouraging us to do more to educate our students on the diversity of our world. We look forward to creating more culturally rich curriculum to share with all of our students.
- SPECIALIST COMMUNICATION: Over the years our specialist teachers who see all 724 students every week (library, art, and PE) have tried various ways to communicate with parents. From newsletter updates to specialist websites, parents would like to know more and our specialists would like to give parents more of a glimpse into their programs. We are going to pilot SeeSaw, a web-based portfolio program which parents can receive picture, video, and short text updates about their child’s program this spring in some of our specialist classes!
- HOMEWORK AGREEMENT CLARIFICATION: We are pleased to report that our Homework Agreement is appreciated and supported by the majority of our families. 86% of families feel the teacher is giving their child meaningful homework, and 85% feel the homework is appropriate. Both outcomes are above the district average! With that said, survey comments led me to believe that we need to make sure parents understand that we are NOT a no homework school, but instead believe that students needs to practice specific skills, study materials, and read at home. The goal of our Homework Agreement is to guarantee that students have time to explore their interests and passions outside of school, while at the same time taking ownership for what they need to practice at home. I recognize that this “ownership” of learning is not a given and needs to be addressed by the classroom teachers. This is the area of the agreement we are working to improve. We want teachers and students to decide what is appropriate for a student to take home and practice. This personalized approach is challenging but has long-term potential for our students as they prepare for the future.
- RESEARCHING PERSONALIZED LEARNING: Differentiating instruction is hard but necessary at all grade levels. Our teachers work to meet the needs of all of their students. I believe we have an opportunity to build in more personalized learning at the upper grades. Students who are able to be more independent can utilize an online platform to engage in meaningful learning for a specific subject area, like math. I believe we can do this AND keep our focus on student-teacher relationship, which we know makes a huge difference. We will be researching personalized learning platforms to possibly pilot in 2017-18, if you know of any that are aligned to our Common Core Standards, please do share!
- PANORAMA SURVEY: This year, as a district, we tried a new survey platform. Panorama is a company that only designs and manages surveys for schools. There were many benefits of using their platform, including the ease of use. With that said, we were not able to customize it as much as we have in the past. We have gathered a lot of feedback regarding this platform and the user experience which we plan to share with the district. If you have any feedback, feel free to email me.
Sincerely,Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolFeel the Love at Oak KnollFebruary 14, 2017Dear 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 GraciaPrincipal of Oak Knoll SchoolWinter Break Message from Mrs. GraciaDecember 22, 2016Dear 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 GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolUpdate on Report Cards and Grading from Mrs. GraciaDecember 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:
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.
- 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?
Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolA Thanksgiving Message from Principal GraciaNovember 22, 2016Dear 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 GraciaMessage from Principal GraciaNovember 3, 2016Dear 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.
Principal, Oak Knoll SchoolImportant Message from Principal GraciaOctober 24, 2016Update from Principal GraciaOctober 13, 2016Dear 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.
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 GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll SchoolThe Time is Now! Every Contribution Matters.PTO: In Partnership and Support.September 27, 2016Dear Parents,
- "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!
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!
Oak Knoll School PrincipalWelcome Back to School! Exemplary Scholar, Valued Friend, Courageous CitizenAugust 24, 2016Dear 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 GraciaOak Knoll School PrincipalWrapping up a Great Year! End of Year ReviewJune 13, 2016Dear 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!
We launched a successful World Language pilot program.
- 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.
All Oak Knoll students completed our Digital Citizenship 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!
School communication and parent education was plentiful.
- 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.
Our students and academic programs continue to thrive!
- 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!
Oak Knoll was recognized for a number of programs this year!
- 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.
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!
- 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!
Have a wonderful summer with your amazing kids.Sincerely,Kristen GraciaPrincipal, Oak Knoll School