Principal's News - April '16


Dear St. Francis Families and Friends,

Spring has sprung and with Easter behind us, we have quickly jumped into the celebration season. For many, it is a time for celebrating first communions, confirmations, Mother’s Day, and Graduations.  There is anxiety and excitement about moving on to the 9th grade or college as well as a mad dash to do well in class and on AP tests. For athletes, it is a time to PR in track like Emma Ryan or shoot your lowest score in golf like Jason Kane; to hit a homerun in softball or baseball, or sign your National Letter of Intent like Danny Cervantes did on April 12th. Mr. Dewig and his cast and crew are anxiously preparing for two remarkable performances of Working, a musical, that will take place in a few weeks – April 29-30. Both nights will be full beyond capacity and all of us will again be impressed by our students and Mr. Dewig. Thank you to the students and parents who are part of the VAPA Booster’s team. They always help with the setup, take down, selling of food and raffle tickets, and ensuring that all have a great experience.

This week, on April 6th, we hosted our 4th annual Spring Open House from 6:30-7:30 pm. The night featured students, SFPA members, and staff as current 5th-8th graders toured the school to see if this welcoming place will be the right fit. Our vision remains true as we continue to ensure that every student is qualified and prepared to attend 4-year universities and live good Christian values as an honest citizen of the world. We will retain our Catholic, Salesian values and be the college preparatory school of choice with an international student population. Our students will be global citizens that lead, serve, and inspire!

Currently, we are collecting the necessary information for our Awards Ceremony this May and we are preparing students for their graduation. Returning students will receive their new class schedule for 2016-2017. We are also following up on 125 resident and international applicants to grades 9-12 for next year in an effort to grow the school. Historically, the school has seen 70% of the resident applicants and about 45% of the international applicants be accepted and attend our great school. Consequently, we are following up with each potential new or transfer student with our trademark “Tiffany’s/ Nordstrom’s” customer service. All students, parents, faculty, and staff need to be thanked, as each of you has been instrumental in this effort. Again, thank you.

Last month I shared the good news about the Salesian School Climate Committee’s progress, the lack of bullying identified on campus, and the glowing reviews of our school in NICHE – a nationally recognized third party that collects quantitative and qualitative data about public and private schools. Even though no one has used our in office “Suggestion Box” this year, I have been reaching out to parents and students to do my own climate check. What I’ve learned is that words matter. They matter in all aspects of life, especially when we are talking about how to define a school. If you read any articles from the NCEA, ASCD, or any other number of contemporary educational thinkers/writers, the language we use to describe our “ideal” school and the real schools our children attend matter. Of course, the newest brick and mortar also matter but they are only a small part of the story. The academic and emotional climate, both inside and outside the physical space, gets us closer to an understanding of what forms the basis of any school.

Schools have always existed as an expression of what a given community values in its children, and how a society looks at the future. The problems that we see and hear about in the presidential debates reflect our social, political, and economic well being as a nation, and they are, in fact, not born in of our schools. But, we are forced to address them in our schools through a Catholic, Salesian values-based lens.

So, what truly defines a great Salesian school? For me, the relationship between a student and teacher/coach is at the heart of it. That relationship may be both subtle and vigorous. Vigor might seem like an unusual word but it implies energy and dynamism. We have rigor; we have lots of this as I shared with the students and staff – we have demonstrated more rigor and academic success than any of our other four Salesian high schools in California.

Yes, words like vigor matter. The best learning occurs when both teacher and student are vigorously exchanging ideas in pursuit of a deeper understanding – whether it is in calculus, sports, the arts, or their calling in life. It is a relationship that is based on love, and it is one that is filled with authentic, joyful, challenging, and impactful experiences. Therefore, our great school is a place of respect and wonder.

The search to create, discover, reveal, and share is an unending journey that occurs in the best schools: the student immersed in beautiful poetry, the student acquiring the skill of using a paintbrush, the rendering of a museum-quality display of artifacts. Scientific experiments, research papers, debates, and discussions centered on classic literature are the means through which students explore and discover ideas. Unpacking the essential elements of contemporary issues through a Catholic values-based morality helps mentor students to learn to take responsibility for their actions that will extend far beyond our school walls.

This is why I am addressing you at this time. During the course of some of my parent and student interviews, there have been frustrations with playing time, or on what level team a student was on; I listened to some vent their frustrations with the process used for B4P ticket purchases; I heard that we are too rigorous and students stay up until 1 or 2 am each night and yet at the same time I heard complaints that a teacher wasn’t rigorous and demanding enough so s/he should be let go; I listened to a complaint that we have too many AP/Honors classes and not enough help being provided by teachers and coaches to get the material mastered and done; today, I heard frustration with our dances, yet, as Mr. Monroy sat with me in this meeting, we were reflecting on the largest Winter Formal in recent history and potentially a really fun and crowded Prom; as I was listening to some lament the wearing of the sweaters, I shared that we are looking at alternative choices to add to dress uniform day; and the list goes on. When one parent I met with said, “I don’t know how you do it,” I just smiled and said this is what we, the entire St. Francis community, are supposed to do to be a great school. Words matter; listening matters. We, as a school, take all of your words to heart. Although we are a great Catholic, Salesian college-prep school, I want us to be better and more loving towards each other.

All members of our community, from custodians to teachers and principals to kindergartners, to parents and alumni, are learners in this community. A climate of fear and hostility, or a tone of acrimony and mistrust, will yield neither a school that serves the needs of our children, nor the globally competitive country that all long for as the older generation passes it on to the younger generation.

So, please take advantage of the communication opportunities that are here. This relationship is something you will not get at any other school– Watsonville, PCS, Aptos, Monte Vista Christian, Bellarmine, Soquel, etc. Like I shared with a parent last night, you’re not going to talk to a principal at one of the above-listed schools on the phone at 11 pm Monday with your athletic complaint or share a bowl of chips at Cilantro’s with one of those principals because you have some questions about academic integrity or rigor. I can promise all of you that won’t happen. But you get that here. This is what I have come to understand my role to be: the leader who ensures our Catholic identity, provides access to all qualified students who want to come to our great school, demand and support excellence in all areas of school life, and then empower young people to make an impact in our local and on our global communities. So, meet with Mr. Cmaylo if you have questions about academics; speak directly to Mr. Hazel about athletics; exchange an email or set up a meeting with Mr. Monroy about activities or discipline; phone Mrs. Reyes if you have a question or concern about your billing/tuition; and, if you have a question about our Catholic, Salesian identity, please reach out Mrs. McLeod. We all value your words and rely on your words to build up our students and support our mission. The only two frustrations I have are with gossip and when a student or family leaves based on their perceived wrong and no one has shared that wrong with us. Don’t live either one of these examples. If you are unsure of who to contact, call Nereida Madrigal in the office  and she will put you in touch with the right person. Use the anonymous “Suggestion Box” in the front office and complete the surveys when we send them out. Your words matter!


  • The Business Office is currently tallying service hours and Bingo work attendance along with preparing to close out all outstanding tuition and fee balances. Ms. Lilia Reyes will be sending out information at the start of May to conclude this year.  Please use to sign up or just show up and work with our amazing volunteer staff. There is NO Spring BBQ or Spring Festival this year.

  • National Letter of Intent signing ceremony for 12th grade Danny Cervantes is April 12th immediately after school in the foyer of the gym. We will have a home baseball game versus Aptos and the Dine Out at Carmona’s. Please plan on attending.

  • April 30th is the deadline to register at the current cost, secure the class schedule your student would like, and to sign/accept your tuition assistance award – even if you are appealing. If you don’t pay the registration fee and get the signed paperwork turned in by April 30th, we will award your tuition assistance to other families who have signed theirs and registered their student(s).  Some students and parents have asked about their class schedules for 2016-2017. Mr. Cmaylo is building them and once your child, or children, has/have chosen their schedules and you have registered, your individual child’s schedule will be made available to you electronically. If you are registered by June 6th, you can also secure a hard copy that night at the orientation.

  • The Awards Ceremony for the entire school is May 20th; the senior Knights of Columbus Dinner is also May 20th; the senior Baccalaureate Mass is across the street on May 27th; and Graduation is May 28th in the gym.

  • On June 6th we will have the gym (BAC) set up with tables and bleachers for students to share/sell their books and/or their uniforms. This will start at 5 pm. Our current book vendor, ESCO, will not be sending anyone out because our book buys through them are limited. We will have Merry Mart here for uniform purchase and orders on this day, as well. For 2016-2017, we are reviewing options for the dress uniform, changing the PE uniforms, and updating school sweatshirts and jackets. Mr. Monroy is collaborating with me and surveying students on their opinions.

  • The primary focus of our June 6th get together is to welcome incoming 9th grade and all transfer students. It will be the first new Orientation for the 2016-2017 school year. It will start at 6 pm with an ice cream social for incoming students and our own ambassadors as well as an orientation for new parents in our gym. This allows us to distribute and orient students with their iPads as well as introduce all of the unique opportunities, services, and programs available for all students. This year’s St. Francis Parent Association (SFPA) parents are working with Marie Marheineke and I to address new parent questions/concerns. This way, we start out communicating clearly and often to our new families/students. We will also host a football meeting that night.

Our goal is to continue to demonstrate great outcomes for all young people who choose St. Francis High School as their home during their high school years. We are grateful for your leadership and support in this endeavor. God bless and GO SHARKS!

Yours in Christ,

Patrick Lee

President and Principal

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