McAuliffe’s First Podcast McAuliffe Matters!

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New Normal

Good afternoon everyone,

I hope that the start of this week has been less chaotic and more peaceful. That you are safe and healthy and that you are starting to settle in to the “new normal”. This has clearly had an impact on all of us.

Tuesday was day 1 of the County Shelter in Place order. Ali and I woke up early, made breakfast for the kids, took the pup to the vet (previously scheduled appointment makes it okay right?), grabbed take out coffee from Peet’s and then went for a walk around the neighborhood. While we were walking, we noticed a few things…as chaotic and stressful as the unknown that Covid 19 has been there are some other experiences happening as well.

We noticed that we weren’t fighting traffic in an early morning commute (in fact there were hardly any cars out), nor were we trying to figure out who was going to pick the kids up after school…in fact all carpool logistics were now off the table: no more basketball practices or games, no more dance and art classes (at least in person) and no more Girl Scouts. While that clearly creates additional challenges for the kids, it was surprising to realize how much energy we spend trying to keep the day to routine up and running.

Not only were carpools out, but we also had time to just talk. We talked about the current situation, we talked about the kids, and made future plans to travel to Japan. Flights are SO cheap right now…for obvious reasons…and we still have the kids and our folks so travel right now isn’t going to happen but planning the trip was really cathartic! Flying into Narita or Haneda into Tokyo we’d stop and meet some of her friends for a few days. Get a 14 day green Japan Rail Pass and off we go!! We also took the time to plan a few dates once the shelter in place goes away. By the time we returned home it was still early, we’d walked several miles, and had a great time connecting. It was so worth it!! *I’m sure that you are experiencing things like this. What are some ways that you are connecting or can try to connect with your partner and family?

While we talked we passed several neighbors…within the appropriate social distancing range of course…and said hi to them. It was then that we realized just how problematic shelter in place is. It’s not just the logistics and the impact on our economy, but also the isolation that it creates socially for us. One of the reasons we come to McAuliffe is the community. It’s a strong, involved place where we work together to provide exemplary learning for kids while we all grow in our relationships with one another. And like the school itself, we are not dependent on a physical location to maintain our relationships.

While we are in the adjustment phase, our faculty is working to create meaningful experiences for your children that continue to foster social emotional and academic learning. We will need your help as we are all in this together.

In the coming days, we will be faced with many new experiences (parenting, distance learning, COVID 19 updates, etc). Accept them as they come. Try not to judge yourself, your partner, or your children for the way they respond as this is all new and we each process things differently. Be kind to yourself and others.

In Supporting One Another in Times of Crisis, Emily Boudreau, Elio Pajares shared some tips for all of us.  (*are my added notes)

  • Continue to incorporate activities like running (*walking, hiking) or meditation in your daily routine

  • Maintain your social connections to avoid the anxiety that often accompanies isolation

  • Focus on ways you may be able to help others in your community to redirect your attention.

  • Find trustworthy news sources and stay informed without overwhelming yourself with a flood of information.

Information will continue to come out as we receive it. Hang in there. It’s hard not seeing everyone everyday. We miss you. We will get through this and hopefully it will bring us even closer together.

Best regards,



“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Unprecedented in our time…

Dear McAuliffe Families,

Over the past few weeks, Covid 19 has placed us into a situation where we both locally and in the community at large have enacted some of the most drastic measures to stop the tide of this unprecedented (in our time) virus.
While school closures have happened in the past, we recognize the incredible burden that an act of this magnitude has on you and your family. We know that school will be closed until April 3 and that the district is working to move Spring Break so that we would return 13th. In addition, many of us have already been asked to work from home.
As parents, we are trying to figure out what the news and recent events mean for us, all while caring for our kids who have a lot of very reasonable questions such as, “Why aren’t we able to go to school?” “What are we supposed to do?” “Why can’t we have more playdates?”
Here is a resource that I saw the other day that is worth a quick read:
Social distancing is so contrary to who we are as a community and yet here we are. While we may not see each other in person for some time, let’s continue to seek ways to stay close, support one another, and weather through this.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. I’ve also noticed several posts where people are suggesting activities and ideas on things to do during this time. Keep the good ideas flowing!
We are all navigating uncharted waters… The district’s executive leadership are working to clarify our next steps as a district and the McA faculty are ready to do what we can. As more information comes out, we will continue to keep you in the loop and work together to support the children…and all of us…so that we can get through this together.
Until then, spend time with your family, get rest as you can, and stay healthy.
Best regards,

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Think Outside continues at McA

Hi Everyone,

What an amazing time of year! The weather has been absolutely gorgeous and it’s interesting that we called last week winter break especially with temperatures into the mid-70s. The warmer weather is a perfect segue into our Think Outside task force. Next week, we will review the contract proposals and we hope to identify the firm that will work with us in developing our campus-wide Think Outside plan. Our goal is to have our plan finalized by this May so we can prioritize the next steps and begin implementation in August 2020. Once we have identified our architect, we will be reaching out to you for your thoughts and input. While it may be overly optimistic, I would love to see much of our improvements in place before our 50th anniversary.

50 years of progressive education and learning experiences right here… Building agency in children, parent participation, collaboration, play, exploration, community development, with adults and children learning and growing together. In the coming months, there will be a lot of discussion and reflection on our school and academic program. Considering where we have been and where we are heading in the next 50 years is exciting! We invite you to join us in this conversation.

I hope everyone enjoys a wonderful weekend! 



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Ski week and situational awareness with our kids…

Hi Everyone,
Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia or the Friday before break, we hope that today is fun-filled and the beginning of a wonderful vacation for you and your family.

Ski week is upon us and whether we intend to hit the slopes, travel abroad, or snuggle up at home with a good book, we hope that you spend time with your children in positive and productive ways. This, of course, includes lots of unstructured time and play for them as well.

And while I usually leave you with the warm and fuzzy, I feel compelled to share a scary and unexpected event with you and how it ended. Last weekend Ali’s older daughter (12) told us that during a Cioppino Party last night, the neighbor’s son ran into another room and came back with a gun that he showed them. The older daughter was in the room with two 7-year-olds and the young boy. She told the boy to put it back…which he did. The next day she told us and it was scary 1. Because the girls had a sleepover there last night, and 2. Ali’s younger daughter was still next door.

We went next door and talked with the neighbors about a number of our fears and concerns. As it turns out, they don’t have a weapon in the house and what the boy showed the girls was a laser tag “gun”. What a huge relief! But in those moments when we didn’t know, all kinds of thoughts flashed through our minds.

What I landed on was this… First, it is perfectly okay, and a good idea, to ask your children’s friend’s parents if they have firearms in the house. If they do, follow it up with the next question, “Where do you keep them?” or “ Are they kept in a locked safe?”.

Hopefully, they answer “No, we do not have firearms in the home.” or “Yes. They are always locked in the safe.”  But however they respond, this gives you a bit more information for you to work from when setting up playdates and educating your own children on the importance of gun safety. “Treat every firearm as though it were loaded.” “Never point a gun at someone else.” “Guns are not toys and should not be played with.” etc.

I shared this with you because those moments when I thought the 7-year-old was in a house with another young child who had immediate access to a firearm scared the living wits out of me. It is so much better to be in a space of understanding and making intentional decisions before rather than after.

I also realized that it just isn’t a question that I would normally think to ask…and I feel a lot more comfortable asking after this experience. Of course, the choices that we make in our own homes are ours to make. Many Americans own guns and it is certainly their right to do so. When our friends’ choices have the potential to directly affect us or our children, then we have to make decisions that will best serve our and our family’s needs.

Gratefully this story has a happy ending.  And this is one of those misunderstandings where we breathe a sigh of relief.

Have a great week off. Have fun! Explore. Try new things! And come back to us ready to roll into the spring term.

See you all soon!



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Short and sweet

Happy Friday Everyone!

I hope the week has gone well for you. Yesterday we concluded our last Information Session for the upcoming lottery. With over 50 people, it was very well attended. In all, we had 6 tours and 7 information sessions. I want to thank all the parents and teachers who were involved with the logistics, hosting and supporting the events. Your perspective, energy, and enthusiasm made these events fun, informative and engaging for all of the prospective parents!

Today we are wrapping up the second round of our Collaborative Support Teams. These are grade-level meetings designed to discuss students who need support, identify ways to meet those needs, and follow up with them as we move throughout the year as part of our Multi-Tiered System of Support. Our final round of CSTs will take place later this spring. While it’s a new practice for us, engaging in conversations that focus on meeting the needs of students is something we are very familiar with and is very much aligned with our approach to teaching and learning.

And as we look ahead to next week February 5th, we will participate in the Global Play Day. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the importance of unstructured play in the lives of children. The idea is that children will engage in a day of no screens and no structure to their play. It will be fun and we invite you to celebrate this with us by trying it out this weekend…well…unless you’re watching the Super Bowl! 😉

In that light, have a wonderful weekend.

Go Niners!

Rick and the faculty


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NIPEN comes to McAuliffe!

Hello and welcome back everyone!

I hope your vacation was fun-filled and rewarding. We kicked off the new decade with the return of your children and by hosting the first half of the Progressive Education Network’s National Institute.

The standout comments from the participants of the Institute focused around their discussion of current themes in Progressive Education and their immersion experience at McA on Thursday and Friday. Although they too are faculty members of progressive schools, there were tons of questions about parent participation and the roles parents play in the classroom. They frequently commented on student agency and the choices that students were able to make here, the opportunities that are afforded them, the positive relationships between the kids and the adults, and the general feeling of authentic learning happening across our campus.

While we frequently have visitors to our school, the fact that these educators espouse a very similar educational philosophy to our own, I consider this high praise of our school. I’m glad that we were able to support their work and look forward to hearing more about the second half of the institute, which will take place at the Francis Parker School in Chicago. Jeff and Sue are our teacher reps in the institute this year and they will be sharing more about their experience with you in next week’s newsletter.

Rena, Mimi, and I attended the district’s Facilities Master Plan Town Hall meeting last Tuesday. The focus is to develop a 10-year plan for the schools in our district. At our next PFG meeting, Rena will share the main elements of the plan and ask for your input to making our campus as functional and engaging for students as possible.

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes, cards, posters, and ukulele concert!!  It was just so heartwarming and another reason why I love our school! We have such a supportive and caring community. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to call this place home. Thank you again.

I hope your three-day weekend is filled with adventure, fun, and a few moments to reflect and breathe. There is NO SCHOOL ON MONDAY!

Have a wonderful weekend!



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So long 2019…it’s been fun! Hello 2020! Looking forward to our best year yet!

So long 2019…It’s been fun!

I’m not sure why each year, just around this time, I find myself surprised that the days have sped by, our kids have grown a few inches, and we’ve gotten a bit older and hopefully wiser as well. There’s a lot to be happy about — celebrations with family and friends, family vacations, time at home, and just a break from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life. At the same time, the holidays tend to be a magnet for big feelings. Your kids may get upset over things that normally wouldn’t phase them. You may find your own patience running thin at times too. These are normal responses to the stresses of the month.

If you feel this happening, consider getting outside for some physical exercise or simply taking a break. Try to anticipate triggers and plan around them and just like we do at school; presume positive intent and interact with friends and family with love and peace in your heart.

Another cause of stress during the holidays can be our own expectations. Are we hoping that everything goes exactly as planned? If so, let that go and have fun! It will be so much more relaxed. One of the things I love about our community is that we know one another. You are known and seen here. We know how wonderful you are. We know that you are caring, intelligent, wise, fun, and just a great person to be around. So if you were carrying a burden of expectations this holiday season, leave that bundle on the side of the road.

Last but not least we are heading into 2020. Can you believe that we’re already twenty years into the new century? Y2K seemed like such a scary reality back then and now it is just a distant memory that we can all laugh at.

2020 promises to be our best year yet! The 2020-21 school year will be our 49th year in CUSD. We will continue to focus on growing and improving our instructional practice with children, refine our understanding of teaching in learning in this dynamic and exciting era, to try new ideas and explore the wonderful world around us. In that light, we will also continue our focus on Think Outside. The campus is already changing for the better!

From all of us at McAuliffe School, Have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year! We look forward to seeing you back with us in January.



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Thanksgiving 2019

Hi Everyone,

It’s Friday. Sharing feasts, singing,IMG_1545 and happy faces abound. The leaves have turned from green to gold and orange and red and are falling from the trees.
With the holidays upon us it’s time to reflect on all the goodness in our lives. Rather than focus on the purchase and receiving gifts, I urge you to consider all the gifts that exist in your life right now: family, friends, career, drinkable water, clean air (except with the occasional fire) an abundance of fresh food, electricity…heat, a roof over our heads, a vehicle to transport our brood, a caring community and so much more.
Enjoy this week. Whether you are traveling or staying close to home, make time for those closest to you. Put away the tech. Let some of the stress of life go.
We look forward to seeing you and hearing your stories when you return from the break!

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To new adventures…

We’re moving quickly…It’s November and we’re three months into a new adventure. Whether your adventure includes the groundbreaking 2nd grade overnight trip, 3rd grades repeat command performance poetry night, 4/5s beach and Sacramento trips, or MS trips to PALI or Hidden Villa, the introduction of our new reading program, or trying out a new assessment tool, there are many different experiences happening on campus.
Overnights are no stranger to us and neither are all- and partial-day field trips. Each trip is designed to tie multiple academic and social-emotional needs into one, or a series of, outdoor learning experiences. One purpose of our trips is to reinforce the belief that learning takes place everywhere and that we are not confined by the walls of a classroom. Only our own imaginations limit us as to how we can apply the knowledge and skills we gain each day here at McAuliffe.
As we continue to roll out the Units of Study Reading program, we are learning a lot about the way our students are learning to read and access language. This is a really exciting time. As we become more adept at using the workshop teaching model, we continue to refine our ability to meet all student’s needs. The faculty hopes to bring Meghan, a Reading Workshop expert and trainer, to McAuliffe for two days of intensive training. At this point, grades K-5 are implementing the new reading program. Meghan’s time with us will focus on three elements:

  1. Aligning the curriculum to our philosophical approach to teaching and learning
  2. Integrating parent volunteers into our program in a meaningful and purposeful way
  3. Reviewing/introducing intervention strategies for students in need in grades K-5.

 I’ll be bringing this proposal to our Finance committee meeting this Tuesday. 



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Learning Day, Celebrations, and the long weekend.

Hi Everyone,
I hope that you are enjoying your three day weekend. This morning the faculty and I are reviewing the district’s Strategic Plan and how it connects with the work we are doing here. Later in the day we will focus on Readers Workshop and setting up a site specific training that better meets the needs of our students and is aligned with our philosophy.
We started the day with a reflection of our Halloween Carnival and parade. We love our community and yesterday’s events exemplified the joys of learning, creativity, celebrating one another and play. We hope you had a fantastic time!
Speaking of fantastic times, the entire staff wants to thank you for the wonderful Diwali luncheon that you hosted for us on Monday. The food was delicious and we were so grateful for the chance to connect and celebrate that you gave us. We often get caught up in the day to day energy of our classes and forget to pause and notice the good things that are right in front of us. This luncheon provided an opportunity for us to do just that. Like the happy sounds of yesterday’s event, the library (where staff ate) was filled with the happy sound of conversations and connections.
How appropriate for us to practice gratitude and celebrate as we move into November. Enjoy your weekend. Spend time with your family in ways that connect for you. And celebrate the good things in your world.

See you next week!
Rick and the faculty


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