Community is more than a unit of study at McAuliffe.

Hi Everyone,

This has been an eventful week filled with opportunities for us to come together and learn and grow as a community. We started with a celebration of Diwali Luncheon help for our faculty by members of our community. It was heart warming! The conversation and time were filled with joy and caring. The food was delicious!

At our All PFG Community Meeting, last Tuesday, we continued the focus on Community. Conversations in each of our break out groups were lively and open. The big questions were “How does “community” support learning?” and “What’s My Part in the McA Community?” Each of us has a role, a voice, and the responsibility of making our community a better place. The conversation was excellent. And the singing toward the end of the night was impressive. If you haven’t completed your flag for the community, please be sure to do so and turn it in next week! We will be putting them up around

We continued our community focus yesterday with a school-wide disaster drill entitled the “Great Shakeout”. ( This is a large scale earthquake drill. While it usually occurs in the morning, we mixed it up this year and held the event in the afternoon. We did this because we realize that a major event can occur at any time and want to be prepared for it.

During today’s Learning Day the staff spent the morning focused on emergency preparedness and completed a training on the Incident Command System. This afternoon we will examine our math program and discuss changes to the MARS assessment.  

In the week ahead, we will see several classes heading on expeditions around the bay area and beyond.

Halloween Parade October 31

I’ve had a few inquiries about Halloween Costumes. First off, Thank you! For being proactive!!  

Our Halloween Parade will be held on October 31. The general expectation that we use for costumes is that they will not scare other students or adults. Here are our guidelines:

  • All Costumes should be age and event appropriate
  • No face paint that is overly scary, bloody, or gory
  • Costumes should not be overly scary, bloody, gory or violent, (this includes costumes for adults… and adults are encouraged to dress up!
  • Masks should not completely obscure the face. Non-bloody/gory masks can be worn on top of the head to complete the outfit with teacher’s permission. Otherwise teachers recommend face paint, noting the above regarding face paint
  • If your costume includes an additional accessory, such as a light saber, you must check with the classroom teacher.
  • All adults should be readily recognizable

Please be sure to have your child speak with their teacher BEFORE Halloween if they have questions about their costume. It would be unfortunate if a student failed to do this and was unable to wear their costume because it didn’t meet our guidelines.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Conferences already?!?

I really enjoyed dropping in on a few conferences yesterday. In addition to the positive tone and great conversations, I couldn’t help but notice the keen look on our parents faces. In a student-led conference, (which start at the 4th grade at McA), the parents seemed to radiate pride and joy as they listened to their son describe a math problem and the approach he took to achieve it.  In a first grade conference, it was fun to watch the parents reading their child’s work. Conferences are an amazing time and a wonderful opportunity to further the discussion of your child’s learning.

You are here each week and see aspects of what the kids are learning. You attend monthly parent meetings to hear about the month ahead, reflections of the past month, and learn about and discuss some of the developmental aspects of your child. You are an integral part of creating exemplary learning experiences for your child(ren) and all of our students. You see the fruits of your labor in the interaction with the students in class and around campus, and yet, when it comes time for teacher-parent conferences we often can run into a road block.

What do we ask? What do I need to know? How can I help?

Edutopia offers a range of resources for educators and parents and it’s a worthwhile site to visit. Each year they put out a list of questions for parents. I’m sharing a portion of it with you here. If you are at a loss for what to ask I would  recommend that you pick no more than 1 or 2 and be open to the conversation.  Last but not least, enjoy this time as an opportunity to get to know another side of your child and to share insight you have with their teacher.

5 Questions Your Child’s Teacher Would (Probably) Love to Answer

  1. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?
  2. How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
  3. What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?
  4. How exactly is learning personalized in your classroom?
  5. What am I not asking but should be?

Abridged from Edutopia’s 19 Questions which you can find here

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Ask me anything

  • Do you ever go off roading in your Jeep?

Yes! I love the being out doors and traveling to places that aren’t necessarily easily accessible because of the journey and the destination… There is something wonderful and rewarding for me about going to a place that few have travelled or experienced.

I’ve taken my Jeep to Hollister a few times. On the way to Tahoe there are several spots near Nevada City that are just a bit off the main drag and so scenic.

And I once took it on the emergency flood evacuation route near Mendocino when a downed tree blocked Hwy 1…which I did not know existed…and that was an incredible experience!

I still have a lot to learn about off-roading! I was surprised to learn that most of the roads we travel, including many dirt roads, are best ventured with 2 wheel drive and not 4. It’s good to be able to let the air out of your tires when off road…and even to have the ability to fill them back up once you are back on the blacktop. Who knew that off roading was a dirty business? Sooo much dust every time we go…. It’s AWESOME!

Who will you root for at the 49er v. Packer game tonight?

Well that was last week and I can tell you that I rooted for both teams (though I’d hoped that the 9ers would have more to cheer for!).

Growing up here, I love my Bay Area sports teams so you may wonder why I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Packers. As an adult, I have long appreciated the work ethic that Brett Favre and his teammates conveyed with a no whining, “get out there and play for the love of the game” kind of attitude. Not everyone gets to work in a career that they absolutely love and so I consider myself fortunate to be love my work and I recognize it and respect it in others!

But that isn’t why I chose the Packers…as a kid, I rooted for every team with green jerseys…A’s…Packers…

And the old Atari hockey game had a team in green. I thought it was Edmonton, but it may have been the Minnesota North Stars.

  • When did I first become a Harry Potter fan?

I read a friends pre-released version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s  Stone in early 97 and have been hooked ever since…Yes. I read the Cursed Child and yes it was mind blowing in terms of possibilities.

  • How do I magically show up at just the right time?

I’m not sure how to answer this one…Maybe its that there isn’t so much a “right time” at McAuliffe.  Good things tend to happen all over our school community, all the time. So if good things are happening all the time, then any time is the “right time”. I do what I can to catch some of the wonder and joy in learning both from kids and adults and love being able to share in it and share those experiences with others. The good news is that there really is a lot of incredible learning taking place on our campus and we are ALL responsible for and, an important part of, making that happen.
Look for the next edition in a few weeks.

Have a wonderful three day weekend!

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A brand new year!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back to a new year at McAuliffe. It’s been wonderful seeing so many familiar faces and meeting our new families. Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent time in each classroom and visited several class meetings and I have to say that the classes look fantastic! There’s a tremendous amount of positive energy and we are already engaging in learning and our school-wide Community focused unit of study! This year promises to be filled with great experiences for all of us.

Last night, I went out on a limb and invited parents in several class meetings to ask me any question that came to mind. Here are a few that came up:

  • Do you ever go off roading in your Jeep?
  • Who will you root for at the 49er v. Packer game tonight?
  • When did I first become a Harry Potter fan?
  • How do I magically show up at just the right time?

I’ll be sharing those answers on my blog next week…and will periodically open up questions in a “Ask Any Question” to our parent and student community.

We still have some things to be done to wrap up this round of modernization and a few repairs of things that were installed last year and those are really par for the course. More updates on this to come…

At the start of each year, I visit each class to talk about our expectations for ensuring that all students have a safe and engaging learning experience.  We discuss the importance of being kind to oneself and to others, having fun, speaking kindly, being helpful and responsible, and helping one another learn. I’ve met with just over half of our classes so far and the conversations have been excellent!

Last but not least:

  • Enjoy the year ahead. Time always seems to speed up in August and again in May/June. Breathe.
  • Make time in your day to spend with your children. They grow up so fast and this is our time to celebrate them.
  • Ask questions. We are learning together at McAuliffe and asking questions accomplishes two things. One, we’re able to gain clarity on topics that are unclear to us, and we are modeling for our children that asking questions is not only okay, but completely appropriate in the world we live in.
  • Make McAuliffe a better place for everyone. All of your children will benefit from this.



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Welcome to McAuliffe School for the 2016-17 year!

“A minute goes by so fearfully quick.  You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch!
– Lewis Carrol”

Hi Everyone!

I hope your summer was full of goodness and joy! Tomorrow is our first day of school. Welcome back to all our returning families. We’ve missed you! Welcome to families newly joining us! We look forward to getting to know you better! To all of you, we can’t wait to hear your stories of summer vacation and adventure!

I am intrigued by the road we will travel as parents this year. And I am equally excited for what lays ahead for our children. Who knows what the year will bring? What wonder and joy and learning? The start of a new year is always exhilarating!!

This morning as I woke my daughter, I was amazed at how much she has grown. It seems like just yesterday that I was taking her to the Los Gatos Parent Nursery School for the first time. Her eyes were wide with wonder at this new place and joy at meeting new people and new friends. Back then she wasn’t yet able to ride a bike, but she could dance and sing and laugh and explore like nobody’s business.

Her kindergarten experience brings similar memories to mind…eyes wide, excited, laughing. I remember the day she came home in tears because her teacher had a substitute and didn’t know what that meant and how happy she was to learn that the teacher would be back the next day.  That year she learned to ride a bicycle, to tie-dye, to play soccer and Rally Ball, and she remembers “eating banana peels as part of learning about the five senses” (her words not mine!). Yum?

Flash forward ten years…days away from starting her sophomore year of high school. She is a typical teen in so many ways, not the least of which is staying up and sleeping in, yet she spent the last week waking up at the crack of dawn for field hockey try-outs. She’s taller, more poised, and still as curious and insistent on exploring and trying new things as ever. These days she talks less about riding her bicycle than driving my Jeep…which while a bit unnerving for me that she’s growing up, promises to be a fun experience for both of us. West Valley parking lot here we come…! So many good things are in store for all of us this year and I am grateful to be both a parent and your child’s principal.

In the spirit of progressive education and exploratory learning, our faculty has decided to try something new this year. We will begin, as an entire school, by studying “Community”. It may look and feel wildly different from grade level to grade level and yet; there will be common threads among our learning experiences and yes, you will have a role in this, because you too are part of our community.

As we support our children’s learning, let’s spend the year asking questions and embracing the opportunities for us, as adults, to learn and grow as well. Give yourself permission to try new things and make mistakes. Allow yourself to step back from your children as they explore the world around them. At times they need a guiding hand and they also need the freedom to experience things on their own. If you are unsure, ask your child’s teacher, IA (instructional assistant), CC (class coordinator), or another veteran parent. We’re here to help one another.

For all of our students – Did you have fun this summer? We’re so glad your back!! Did you notice that our blacktop has been redone?  The climbing wall is up and our entire school is ready for action and for you!!  Errr… one small exception: the lower grade girl’s bathroom which needs a few finishing touches and won’t be ready until next week. We’re also putting in a new track sometime in October or November!! Most importantly, your teacher is energized and can’t wait to see you!

PARENTS – We strongly encourage you to come a bit early tomorrow to avoid the stress of rushing, traffic and to find a parking space.

Here’s to a wonderful new year for all of us! See you tomorrow!



Rick Yee
McAuliffe School
Saratoga, CA

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Learning beyond the walls of the classroom…

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back! I hope that your spring break was rewarding and relaxing. For the students in Mary’s and Fran’s classes it was a time to pack and prep for their upcoming Gold Country Trip.

On Wednesday I drove up to Sacramento and spent time with them. It was an amazing and full day in our state capitol! I caught up with them just as they were preparing to enter Sutter’s Fort. This was the first time our 4/5 classes have returned to the capitol in close to a decade.

It was an interesting blast from the past to find a 19th century building standing in the middle of downtown, 21st century Sacramento. Sutter’s Fort was built as a Mexican settlement by John Sutter. But did you know that he was originally from Germany, travelled around the world ending up in California, and became a Mexican citizen in 1840 to receive the land grant and build the fort?

After our engaging tour, the two classes travelled to the state capitol where we had lunch, and they were given a personal tour of the building by Fran’s brother who used to work there and the students met with Assemblymember Evan Low. Last but not least, they headed on to the Railroad Museum. Talk about a packed schedule!!

These overnight and daytime field trips are a vital part of our instructional program and research supports the tremendous value of these experiences for students.

According to a study from the University of Arkansas field trips, “contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women… [who] have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.” Another study from RAFT, found that “Teachers who conduct hands-on learning activities on a weekly basis out-perform their peers by more than 70% of a grade level in math and 40% of a grade level in science.”

It’s exciting that we continue to look for ways to deepen and explore our student experiences from year to year. This also presents a real challenge because there are so many powerful and engaging places right here in California for students to visit that connect to science, math, history, language arts, fine arts, and the lives of our students. We can’t see them all so our teachers take a thoughtful approach to seeing what best connects with their class at that time.

Welcome back!


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Spring Break newsletter for 2016!

Hi Everyone,

I’d like to start with a conversation that I had with one of our alumni parents and ongoing volunteer. Many of you know Howard as part of the dynamic Steve and Howard show. They have subbed in every grade and in  many of our classrooms over the years.

Howard stopped by today to share how impressed and special he felt our art education program is.  He felt that Andrew’s recent play is an example of excellence at our school. He cited an experience during the dress rehearsal. A student had a misstep during a dance number. She was upset and unable to continue that number. A short time after the actors left the stage, they returned for another routine and that actor was amazing!

It occurred to him, “What will she be like as an adult?” She demonstrated such resilience and strength of character and did it with flourish! Another student told Howard that they had helped her get over the prior incident. The fact that we provide students with the opportunity to raise one another up and support each other is an invaluable skill set that isn’t easily measured by test scores and yet is critical in the rapidly changing world in which we live. The idea that we honor students and adults where they are, presuming positive intent and looking for the best in one another is something that is hard to find in today’s society.

We all make mistakes. (As parents, it seems that we make more than most and many of us are amazed at the ability of our parents to deal with the challenges of child rearing.) We all fall down. And yet at McAuliffe we encourage everyone to lend a hand. We extend the presumption of positive intent to everyone. This is a subtle and powerful thing.

Here we provide children and adults with an opportunity to pursue their passion in a wide range of activities and projects and this experience is incredibly valuable.  Can we do better? Absolutely. We all can. Students and adults experience problem solving, conflict resolution, thinking outside the box, speaking one’s mind, critical thinking, interacting with one another in positive and supportive ways so that we all continue to grow and learn combined with engaging academics. We expect the students and adults in our community to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to help each other along the way.

Our students learn to question the world around them in a way that enables them to make sense of it for them. We expect this from them. We are not looking for compliant, rule followers, but curious individuals who look at the world in different ways who are empowered to ask “Why?”.  We expect individually and collectively our students will make this planet a better place now and in the future. It’s why we chose this school… this community… and we all, each and every one of us, chose to be here.  

As we move into the break, I encourage each of you to take time to reflect on your experience here at McAuliffe. Consider the good, the bad, and why you made the decision to join our community in the first place. What is one thing you might try or do to make our community a better place? Make it a family conversation. Each of us is an integral part of McAuliffe School. No one is more important than the other. Each of us makes this school an amazing place for children and for one another.

Have a wonderful time with family and friends. We’ll see you back on April 18th.



(Here’s the link to the article

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