This is way different from a Mentions Block
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve students and families as principal of Laurel Hall School. I want to begin our relationship by sharing a recent personal, heartwarming story. I received a Facebook message from a woman named Megan. As soon as her name appeared, though I never knew her as an adult, I immediately recalled the moment we met, and the last time I ever saw her - twenty-five years ago, after her most proud moment in her short ten-year-old life - fifth grade culmination. I remember she was the last to leave campus that afternoon, holding her mother’s hand, beaming as she began to leave, before abruptly stopping to turn and give her favorite teacher a hug – a hug which would leave an indelible mark for the next quarter century. Likewise, when I first met Megan, she was arriving to her first day of school, also clutching her mother’s hand, grinning from ear to ear, though secretly terrified that her cerebral palsy and near complete blindness in one eye would inhibit her learning. Later, as my fifth-grade student, I came to know Megan as one of the most perseverant children I would ever meet. Over the years, I often wondered what became of her. The other day, I discovered the answer: “Hey Mr. G, I’m not sure if you remember me, but I was your student. I was thinking about you and wanted to tell you that you had a profound impact on my life. Your teaching really paid off. I have been living in Taiwan for twelve years. I am still handicapped and have a learning disability, but I speak seven different languages, teach English and am a self-supported missionary. Of course, all of this only by God’s Grace.” All of this only by God’s Grace, indeed. Thank you, Megan, for having such a profound influence on my life - shaping me to become the educator I am today. Thanks also, for reminding me of Goodness and Grace and for allowing me to share our story with my new, wonderful Emmanuel Lutheran Church community. Jay Guidetti Laurel Hall Principal
Greetings. The time has come for us to create a majestic experience for kids. For the past two months, we have been busy preparing for the arrival of the new school year. I am certain that the fruits of our labor will yield prosperity, so long as we exist in a culture of reflection and collaboration - the focus of our staff training and the message in which I will engage any adult who has influence on our children. To achieve our goals, we must be ever mindful of what interferes with teaching and learning. Mindfulness is a framework that we, like so many other successful schools, have adopted. It is the process by which we clear intra and interpersonal clutter to nurture a growth-mindset, and ensure every moment of every day is filled with positive academic, emotional and spiritual development. I once heard a teacher reflecting on his own practice. He said, “I cannot ever allow myself to be resentful of a child’s proficiency level.” He continued, “When I consciously take a moment to pause, breathe, and become aware that my own ‘stuff’ interferes with empathy, I am a better teacher.” I could not have said it any better. It is now time to clasp hands, renew our vows and accept the greatest challenge that also holds the greatest reward – teach and learn well, so that we may abundantly reap what we have sown. Jay Guidetti Laurel Hall Principal
It is always the little, seemingly obscure moments, that reinforce my decision to have pursued a life of teaching and learning. The other night, while sitting at the kitchen table for hours upon hours helping my seventeen-year old daughters prepare for the upcoming SAT, an email arrived. I must admit, spending the whole day at school, then tutoring my kids all night was a bit exhausting. That is, until I read the email. Dear Mr. Guidetti - I am Graysen, from 5th grade. We met at lunch once or twice. I am very concerned about my recent discovery of the new guideline saying that we cannot wear our Halloween costumes to school. Now, Halloween is my favorite time of year. I get to spend time with my friends, trick-or-treating, jabbering about our awesome and silly costumes, and so much more. So, even though this is on short notice, please consider changing that guideline. For the sake of me, my friends, and, heck, the whole school! I have seen that most kids enjoy it. If you are mostly concerned that kids don't like it, tell them they can choose if they wear a costume or not. And if not, is there a specific reason that you changed these rules? Dear Graysen - Thank you for your email! I am not sure where you heard that costumes are not allowed for Halloween. Masks cannot be worn during class time. But, costumes are allowed. Of course, the costumes need to be appropriate, and we must make sure that students don’t suddenly turn into scary monsters! By the way, Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Also, I love that you emailed me with this concern! A simple exchange between a fifth grader and me - I shared the dialogue with my soon-to-be college freshmen. SAT prep no longer seemed to be an arduous task. A ten-year old had just reminded us what was truly important in life! We all laughed, then continued the task at hand, reinvigorated by Graysen who also reminded me that teaching and learning is a joyous 24/7 commitment - and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.
The other day, a scroll was slid under my door. In the safety and comfort of my secure office, I carefully began to read: “General Washington, it appears that recent attempts to kidnap and poison you have failed. Thanks to your direction and the bravery and dedication of the Patriot spy ring, the Hessians’ plot has been exposed and contained. The British have been defeated at the Battle of Yorktown and Patriot victory is at hand. The mission has been successfully completed. It has been a pleasure serving under your command. In the words of John Dickinson – ‘then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, dividing we fall.’ Until Next Time, The Culper Spy Ring (Agent Z)”
I am truly inspired by those with whom I am surrounded each day. This evening, as an audience member, I sat transfixed upon the church sanctuary, spellbound by the melodic holiday voices of the Laurel Hall elementary students. Truthfully, I shed a tear of joy or two as I enjoyed a heartwarming Christmas performance. When I arrived home, I found my way to the den and retrieved a copy of some memoirs I had written over the years. Tonight’s performance and these marvelous children inspired me to share one of those stories with you. It is a Christmas reflection that I penned after a seemingly random set of events, while shopping during the holiday season. Pulling into a store parking lot last week, I came upon a disheveled soul with outstretched hands and shattered hope. As usual, I did what I most often do. I ignored this particular beggar, lest he be operating some sort of holiday scam. So, I callously drove by him, parked, and entered the store to finish off a growing and irritating gift list and to purchase additional supplies needed for my never-ending home kitchen remodel. Irritated by the noise of the season, the inconvenience of the crowds, the rising costs of retail and now the awkwardness of being confronted for a hand-out, I disdainfully barreled through the store oblivious to my environs. All I wanted to do was to get home, turn on Sunday morning football and watch my favorite team. I worked hard for a living after all, and this was my day to relax. My patience had waned, and my disdain continued to grow as my journey was further impeded at the check-out stand by this one little old lady engaged in what seemed like endless dialogue with the cashier. The transaction was taking forever, and I began strumming my fingers on the counter as if to shout, "Don't you see that I am in a hurry?" As I exuded petulance, she turned to glance at me and flashed a gentle smile. Whatever it was that her expression brought, it caused me to pause and pay closer attention. Perhaps there was something more to her seemingly jovial exterior. I noticed that she spoke with a distinct Eastern European accent while she rambled incessantly, indulging the cashier in banter, simultaneously fumbling through her purse. The more she spoke, the more attentive I became, and the more her face began to paint a different and harsh picture. Deep wrinkles, sunken cheeks and hollow eyes emerged. Watching her wrestle with this tattered and torn purse, I was struck by the absence of a thumb on her right hand. It appeared to have been lost some time ago. Then, something even more startling was revealed. The number 31809 was tattooed across her forearm. Suddenly, I was disgusted by my own incessant narcissistic behavior. Here I stood, amidst the beauty and splendor of the season of rejoice, and I hadn't once thought to be grateful for the gifts which I had received. As this transition unfolded in front of me, I finally realized my fortune - a wonderful family, home, career and life. I was now able to truly see this striking woman, and my recollection of high school world history class told me that this beautiful soul, Number 31809, had led a very different life than mine. I watched her beam and thank the cashier for assisting her with the transaction. And as suddenly as this stranger had entered my life, her thick accent, missing thumb and branded forearm vanished from my sight forever. I faintly heard the clerk ask, “May I help you?” I shook my head and said, “No thanks, I’ve already been helped." I left my items on the counter, walked outside to the homeless man still patiently waiting at the intersection, and I emptied my wallet into his outstretched hands. He thanked me for giving. I said, "No…thanks for your giving to me. Merry Christmas and may The Good Lord bless you." Plato once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This season I wish for all, that reflection is not lost, and that Faith, Hope and Love will prevail. Thank you, Laurel Hall students, for a wonderful holiday performance, and for giving me another opportunity to pause, breathe, and stay aware. Happy Holidays to all!
The other day, I watched one of our teachers do something simple, yet, so very extraordinary. She comforted a child who was hurt. Watching a child's tears turn from fear to gratitude because of the actions of a caring adult brought me back to my own youth, when my destiny was shaped by one who simply acted kindly and attentive. At a time of great turmoil in my life, he accepted me not only for the person I was, but for whom I could, and ultimately would become. He was a man not larger than life, nor remarkable in any sense other than possessing a propensity for empathy and understanding. His name was Mr. Gillis. We called him, "Mr. G." He was my science teacher, freshman year of high school. When I studied to become a teacher, Mr. Gillis was my inspiration. I could only wonder and hope that I might someday be the Mr. G in the lives and hearts of my students, the way I was touched by him. As fate would have it, from the beginning of my career my students had a difficult time pronouncing my name... So, they called me, "Mr. G!" One day during my teaching career, three thousand miles and twenty years removed from my freshman science class, while on an outing with my students to Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, I was visited by the spirit of my Mr. G. At one point, surrounded by four of my students, we climbed down the slippery precipice and ventured through the cave-like formations of an earth scarred by millions of years of seismic disturbance. Hands clasped for our protection, I sensed at that moment I was to them what he had been to me. I also began to feel certain that twenty years henceforth, they would pass the spirit of Mr. G. on to someone for whom they cared. We took a moment to rest our weary legs. We lay down on the rocks and took in the sun. The kids laughed and giggled innocently, marveled at the geographic formations, talked about the latest music, fashion, teen romances and vacation plans. As they dreamt about life as a child, I closed my eyes and remembered the man through whom I had found my childhood salvation. I drifted to days gone by and to the comfort of his classroom which had sheltered me from hostile environs. When all other adults neglected the awkward stages of my youth, his was a sympathetic shoulder on which to lean. The image of his round and gentle face, his handle bar mustache, flannel shirt and rolled-up sleeves made him come alive in my mind. He stood at the front of the
Many years ago, as an elementary school teacher after finishing some afternoon basketball with a group of fifth and sixth graders, I sat down on the bench to catch my breath. Looking upward, basking in the warmth of the California sun, I recharged under the rich blue sky and white billowing clouds. It was the perfect setting to another glorious day of teaching. Then, it got even better after being nudged by the tiny hand of my favorite third-grade student, Natasha. There she sat, giant brown eyes, rosy cheeks, special smile and all. “Mr. G,” she said. “Last night I had a dream that there was a big hole in the sky because all the grown-ups were smoking so much they polluted the sky. I tried to get them to stop, but they wouldn’t. I knew the hole had to be fixed, so I got all my blue jeans from my closet and sewed them together. Then I got my dad’s really tall ladder and put it in the back yard. I got my blue jeans and my sewing kit, and I climbed up to the hole in the sky and I patched the hole with my blue jeans. Isn’t that a funny dream, Mr. G?” “Funny? No, Natasha, not funny. It is brilliant.” She had dreamt a simple solution to a complicated problem. That’s what kids do. With clarity, they make the ills of society disappear. I will never forget that day, as I will never forget Natasha. Born in El Salvador, coming to America speaking no English, she grew up to be a wife, a mother of four, and a Captain in the United States Air Force.
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. Sincerely, Jay Guidetti Principal