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Principal's Perspective - May 2018

Laurel Hall School

2018 Year in Review

The 2017-2018 Laurel Hall school year has been a year of growth and transition. In fact, this year’s school yearbook has been entitled, New Beginnings. It certainly has been a year of change, and a year of success. As we prepare for an accreditation visit in the spring of 2019, it is apropos that this year has been one of self-study, both for the organization and for me as the new educational leader of such a fine institution.


My tenure began in earnest prior to the official July start date and continued throughout the summer with a series of one-on-one meetings with the entire LHS teaching staff, a number of parents, and many devoted community members. This mission of discovery became the catalyst for many growth opportunities that began to take shape in mid-July. The initial and immediate positive changes included facility upgrades and revisions to policy, practice, and procedures. The earnest conversations held with so many stakeholders also guided my focus on professional development, which centered on raising academic rigor, accountability, communication, and a collective effort to enhance the social and emotional well-being of the students. Two new academic teachers also began their LHS tenure at the beginning of this school year, both settling in to the third grade. Former Laurel Hall student and instructional aide, Denise Parra joined newcomer Brittany Walker, who had spent a year as a teacher in an inner-city public school. Both educators adapted extremely well to their new assignment and grew to be a collaborate force in this pivotal anchor grade. In addition to the new third grade teachers, we welcomed a new band director - Chip Smith, an extremely talented and passionate musician. Chip has brought us a clear vision of developing a cohesive, and scaffolded music program.


In curriculum, we began a STEMscope Next Generation Science Standard partnership, which has now led us to the development of an even more expansive inquiry-based science curriculum that will be evident at the start of the next school year. This endeavor will be facilitated by current Project Lab Coordinator, Suzanne Kochamba. Our focus on STEM has also paved the way for outstanding teacher Janan Wakelin to complete a revamp of the middle school science curriculum. Likewise, in mathematics, this penultimate year of the K-8 common-core math curriculum rebuild has resulted in greater attention to assessment results. The most important discovery through the examination of teaching and learning is a need for greater differentiated instruction in math. The last piece of the math overhaul will begin in August with the addition of a web-based program to supplement the new McGraw Hill My Math/California Math series. The roll-out for the math remediation and acceleration program called, Red Bird begins this summer. With all the hard work we have done this year, our math and science offerings now become second to none.


On the admissions and enrollment front, at the time that I was offered the position of Principal, the number of students committed to enroll for the 2017-2018 school year was 271. By December, our enrollment peaked at 294. At the exact same point in time this year, we have 266 committed to next year, and another 15 actively involved in the pre-enrollment process. I am very proud to say that our rate of retention in 2017-2018 is over 90%. The few families who will not be returning are either moving out of the area, attending a feeder school to a targeted high school as a legacy family, or have decided that personal financial situations are precluding them from attending a private school. Our new Admissions and Communications Coordinator, Meaghan Malone has met with more than 120 prospective families this year and has been providing them individual attention. Her efforts have been very-well received. Additionally, she has been instrumental in getting Laurel Hall presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Niche. She is responsible for the new-look Buzz and is currently in process of redesigning the LHS website.


LHS continues to provide a myriad of co-curricular activities across the grade levels. The annual 7th and 8th grade musical, Guys and Dolls delighted audiences this past March with four performances. We are currently in negotiations with Discovery on Stage, a highly successful organization that began the entire performing arts transition at Providence High School. With this new partnership, we can expect expansion of our performing arts offerings, and an even greater musical extravaganza in 2018-2019. The Laurel Hall Drum Corps, in its fourth year, performed at the Staples Center along with our award-winning cheer squad and boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.This year, English teacher, Heidi Moore resurrected the LHS Associated Student Body. This group of student leaders, along with the newly formed Principal’s Advisory Council were instrumental in building spirit, raising funds and building awareness for very worthy causes. These articulate, intelligent and driven students were instrumental in putting together a vigil for the victims of school violence, developed a “kinder and gentler” confetti egg-toss for Homecoming, helped reshape the annual student Disneyland trip and teamed up with pop star, Kelly Clarkson to produce a Red Nose Day rally that promoted awareness of child poverty, and raised funds for its eradication.


No organization can thrive without supportive, visionary leadership. Pastor Marty Hancer, ELC Church Council President, Sue Clauss, School Committee President, Bonnie Erickson, along with the entire Church Council and School Committee have been such a tremendously collaborative and supportive component of the team. They exemplify teamwork - individuals working together interdependently and pulling in one direction for a common cause. Laurel Hall students would not thrive, nor would the organization sustain the necessary cycles of improvement without the dedication of our wonderful Governance Team.


Likewise, the Parent Teacher Organization has been fantastic this year. Over the summer, then Vice-President Annette Mongelli was asked to step forward to assume the duties and responsibilities of President in the wake of an unfilled slate left by PTO turnover at the end of last school year. Annette’s leadership resulted in the success of many events and fund-raising opportunities. In fact, the PTO raised far more money this year with a significantly less number of enrolled families, than in the previous year. New partnerships were formed that led to increased participation. An example of this was the revamped of annual Jog-a-Thon that resulted in a net profit exceeding $39,000. The Homecoming event, Spring Gala, Father-Daughter Dance, and Kickball Tournament were just a few of the many community-building activities this year.  


Finally, I would be remiss in not expressing gratitude for the tireless efforts of Assistant Principal, Barbara Hitchcock. Her expansive institutional knowledge, professionalism, experience and dedication to Laurel Hall has made my transition to the Laurel Hall family a seamless one. Likewise, I also want to thank the Senior Staff - Pastor Marty Hancer, Maryanne Restivo, Liju Varghese, Lisa Polis, Judy Barry, and Dino D'Este for their support and partnership during the 2017-2018 school year.


Laurel Hall is an extraordinary ministry of Emmanuel Lutheran Church. I have waited a very long time to receive such a calling. I am deeply honored to have experienced my own homecoming, to lead teaching and learning in such a marvelous place, in such an exciting time of growth – and in the words of the inspirational Pastor Marty, God is good.


Thank you to the staff, parents and most of all, to those for whom we all exist - the wonderful Laurel Hall Students, for such an amazing year.



Jay Guidetti



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