“Education for Hearts, Minds, and Souls” with Jim McManus

We are pleased to welcome a guest blog written by Jennifer Ellis, Vice President of the Gateway Board of Trustees.

Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) annual conference that is held for Board Trustees and Heads of School, representing Gateway in a crowd of over 600 attendees. Because we are accredited through CAIS and therefore members of the organization, we have access to the incredible resources and support, educational opportunities, and recruiting network it provides.

Jim McManus is the long-time executive director of CAIS, and he delivered a speech to start the conference in which he shared excerpts from letters between the original presidents of Stanford University and the University of California. In their correspondence, these civic-minded educators spoke about their joint missions of educating for moral character, so that our children learn to be good citizens of a democracy, and contribute to society in meaningful ways. Jim went on to then share the current mission of UC, which now focuses on the “transmission of knowledge” and is absent of anything that speaks to the building of character as part of meaningful education.

This is where independent schools come in, is the point Jim was making. Schools like ours have the liberty to hold onto other ideals; we exist to do more than simply transmit knowledge. Jim then shared the current mission statements of a handful of schools across the state, and prominently displayed among them was Gateway’s mission statement, which our faculty, administration, and Board worked hard to articulate several years ago, and which continues to guide all of the decisions we make as a school: To inspire children to lead lives of purpose and compassion through scholarship and citizenship.

The weekend filled me with a sense of pride and excitement about the work we are doing at Gateway, and a sense of solidarity with other independent schools in California. Indeed, it was exciting to have Gateway recognized as a model and a vanguard among these schools, and I am confident that our reputation will only grow, as the decisions that we make at Gateway continue to be guided by this meaningful mission.

Helping Families Communicate Respectfully and Effectively

Join us for a workshop to learn more effective ways to communicate with your children and manage your emotions when they are not communicating effectively with you! We’ll discuss why children test parents, and what you can do to manage the reactions this triggers. We’ll share some practical tips, tools, and insights to help your family’s communication.

This workshop will support a home-school connection with the RULER Program.

Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships, and health. At Gateway, we’ve integrated the RULER approach to teaching emotional intelligence (developed at the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence).

Friday, March 1  – 9:15-10:15am in the West Cliff Room

Kindergarten Visit Day

We invite you to join us for our Kindergarten Visit Day to learn about our remarkable Kindergarten program in a relaxed environment. 

The Kindergarten Open House is designed for parents to learn more about our program while allowing your child time in the Kindergarten classroom participating in hands-on projects and exploring our Kindergarten playground.

We look forward to meeting you and sharing all that our community has to offer your family.

Saturday, March 2, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM 

School Accreditation

Dear Gateway Families and Friends,

Did you know that Gateway is an accredited independent school? In fact, we are the ONLY K-8 school in Santa Cruz accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). We are also accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)!

So…what is accreditation, and what do we have to do?

“School accreditation is a peer-review process that fosters excellence in education and encourages school improvement through discovery, dialogue, compliance, and commitment. Accreditation enables a member school to develop clearly defined goals and objectives based on its mission and philosophy.” —CAIS

Accreditation is recognition of professional excellence, based on values of program quality, continuous growth, risk management, financial accountability, and other factors. Museums, banks, nonprofits, and many other types of organizations use accreditation for this purpose.

The process of accreditation begins with completing a self-study report. This will take about 11 months, and includes gathering lots of data, information, and documentation. Sometime in the winter of 2019-20, we will host a Visiting Committee for four days, which then produces a report it sends to the CAIS Board of Standards. CAIS will then confirm our accreditation status.

What are the benefits of this process?

There are so many benefits to going through the accreditation cycle, and they start with using the self-study to really think deeply about the school.

  • Teachers get to step away from classroom work and spend time reflecting on what our strengths and challenges are as a school.
  • Collaboration across faculty, staff, Board, students, families and alumni strengthens our community.
  • We get to create goals together and chart a path for continuous growth and change.

Being accredited also has many benefits.

  • Being an accredited CAIS school means that Gateway is committed to an environment of continuous, thoughtful improvement.
  • When universities, high schools, elementary schools, and even preschools get accredited, families can have greater trust in the institution.
  • We have access to professional development and teacher recruitment that other schools don’t have (or have to pay more to access).
  • We are part of a network of 250 independent schools in the state, and over 1700 schools nationally, that have a rich dialogue about independent school education.

When does this work happen?

Our self-study work began with training for faculty and staff in the fall. For the next 11 months, faculty and administrators will be working on our self-study. We used parts of last Friday’s in-service for accreditation, and we’ll be doing more during upcoming in-service days and during after school meetings.

The school was fully accredited for the first time in 1998, and completed re-accreditation in 2006 and 2013. This will be Gateway’s fourth time through the cycle.

Will families be involved?

In the coming months, there may be opportunities to be involved in this process as members of our larger community, such as focus groups, surveys, and other means.

As co-coordinators for this process, we are excited to do this important work with our extraordinary colleagues! If you have any questions about this process, please email us.


Kaia Husaby and Hannah Wikse

Accreditation Self-Study Co-Coordinators

Parenting As A Community Pt. 2

In October I put a list of parenting links on my blog, in response to the wonderful parent education event we held with Sheri Glucoft-Wong (which you can still watch on our  Youtube page). To continue that community conversation, next Tuesday at 6:00 we will be hosting a screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a recent documentary about the life and career of Fred Rogers. In the meantime, here are some provocative articles about parenting and child raising that have come through my inbox in the last three months.

How do we recognize our children’s authentic selves? Jessica Lahey’s perspective on Why parents need to be patient with their school-age kids is a great reminder that trying to mold children to our goals can cloud our vision of who they really are. “We offer the “shoulds” because we want the best possible lives for our children, but when we focus all of our effort on who they should be, we inadvertently invalidate who they are.”

How do we raise children to be grounded, not spoiled? Joe Pinsker believes that The Way American Parents Think About Chores Is Bizarre, because “the chores-for-allowance agreement…can give kids the sense that they’re entitled to rewards for fulfilling basic responsibilities.” Instead, he proposes we recognize that children are eager to help, and find fulfillment by serving a useful role in the family.

How do we strength our connection as a family? In  Raising the Mindful Family,  Elise Goldstein and Stefanie Goldstein explore how individual, couple and family practices of mindfulness can lead to connection that transcends the busy schedules, long commutes and digital lives that create distance in many families.

What’s my role in my middle schooler’s social conflict? Psychologist Lisa Damour offers three keys to parents. First, don’t confuse conflict (which is common) with bullying (which is rare); second, teach skills for healthy conflict; and third, let them pick their battles. Read about the the thinking behind these three key parenting skills in How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict.

How do we help children understand consent? In I’ve Talked With Teenage Boys About Sexual Assault for 20 Years. This Is What They Still Don’t Know, Laurie Halse Anderson offers a wake-up call to parents of all children, regardless of gender. “We need to ask our boys questions so that we understand what they think they know about sex and intimacy. Sharing books, movies and TV shows are a great way to open these conversations. Discussing the choices made by fictional characters paves the way for more personal conversations. We need to tell our own stories to make sure our boys understand that these things happen to people they know and love.”

A few more quick, interesting links:

I welcome your thoughts on these articles, or any other resources you’ve found helpful in your own journey as a parent. Our whole community benefits from this dialogue. And I hope to see many of you on Tuesday at the screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor!


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

The Gateway Gazette

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Gateway School Newspaper! We are very excited to be publishing our second issue of the Gateway Gazette and are excited to continue making more. There will be two new sections in the newspaper in this edition. One is Video News where we will talk about upcoming events for the school. The second addition is bringing back the Teacher Feature, which is where students interview teachers and create articles based on the teachers answers. This way, readers will get an inside scoop on cool facts about the teachers at this school. For our production team, we have 8th graders taking on different jobs, which include the WordPress designers, editors, photographers, advertisers, podcasts, and live media. We have the 7th graders talking about current events and answering questions about the new campus. The 6th graders are writing reviews of things such as books, movies, restaurants, video games, TV shows, and places to travel. We hope you enjoy the Gateway Gazette!

Thank you for reading,

Phoebe Liermann and Jesse Wolkstein

Social Justice


Dear Gateway families,

I was very pleased that many of you were able to join our students and faculty at last week’s First Friday. We were all struck by the facts about food insecurity and hunger issues that affect the local and global community presented by our 6th graders, and inspired by their desire to make a difference through the canned food drive. Similarly, while the faculty dramatization of Can I Play Too? presented by David, Kurt and Sari brought out lots of laughs, the reflective conversation afterwards highlighted the complexity of creating an inclusive environment, and the challenge of navigating our inner feelings as we come to recognize, accept, and celebrate the uniqueness of each person and our own identities. And of course it was joyous to close the assembly with an all-school sing-along featuring an integrated performance by the 2nd Grade, 4th Grade, and Middle School Advanced Band (you can see the performance on our Facebook page!).
 At Gateway we have nine core values, and the courage to promote a just society is one that inspires our faculty to reach beyond the core curriculum of academic knowledge and skills. As Sydney Chaffee eloquently said in her 2017 TedXBeaconStreet talkTeachers don’t just teach subjects, we teach people. When our students walk into their classrooms, they bring their identities with them. Everything they experience in our rooms is bound up in historical context, and so if we insist that education happens in a vacuum, we do our students a disservice. Fostering these conversations is challenging, because it means surfacing hidden assumptions that we don’t even know we hold.
Our Social Justice & Equity Committee, comprised of faculty and administrators, continues to lead our school-wide efforts to deepen our practice of effective social justice education. With a commitment to actively question our biases, promote educational experiences and conversations that deepen our understanding of social justice, and honor our authentic selves and hold the space in safety, we have begun to examine how subjects and content are taught across grades. In prior years we have focused on the areas of gender identity and neurological profiles; this year, our work has focused on adopting the Anti-Bias framework from Teaching Tolerance into the Middle School Humanities curriculum, and piloting relevant and developmentally aligned content across grades as appropriate.
As we head into the holiday season, with so much to be thankful for, we hope that this critical work will enable us to translate our empathy for others — that is, feeling with them — into compassion, and directly towards taking action to relieve their suffering and improve their lives. Thank you for all you do to model this for our children.
Prior 2018-19 Head of School blog posts on Gateway’s core values:

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Exploring the overlap between engineering and science




Gateway 8th graders have been exploring the overlap between engineering and science as they worked on building circuits.

To prepare for a few of the conceptual pieces involved, students built basic circuits with small motors, AA batteries, bulky telegraph-like contact keys, insulated wires with alligator jaws, and plenty of little incandescent light bulbs. Despite the humble nature of the equipment, students were exposed to many important ideas about circuits, especially when they ran into problems.

Students and teachers together set small goals for everyone. Then, the students take steps towards those goals, having to adjust their thinking and fiddle with things to make it over the hurdles. Once students start to make sense of some of the science behind the components, they are able to tackle more complex goals.

The sophistication of the project increased when the class collaborated with Krissie from our Discovery Center. She brought her knowledge of Arduino to the room, giving kids a chance to apply their previous circuitry sessions in a new context.

Over the course of the week, the students tried their hands at a number of projects using the SparkFun Redboard. These challenges combined students’ knowledge of the hardware with exposure to software that they were able to manipulate to make changes to their circuits.

After a few days of orientation with the new gear, students were tasked with building an autonomous car.

Civil Discourse is not Dead

“Who really killed Bob?”
“Should the children have stayed there and taken consequences?”

“Johnny was doomed from the start.”

On Monday morning, you could have heard these phrases spoken in our 7th grade Humanities classroom. The culmination of a literature study of S.E. Hinton’s beloved book The Outsiders, the students assumed costumes and characters to debate topics such as whether killing someone is ever justified, and the intersection of personal and social responsibility in conflict situations. Using the Anti-Bias Framework from Teaching Tolerance, this project succeeded in challenging our children’s preconceived ideas (and developed their public speaking skills): by the end, they were looking past what the “Greasers” wore and where they lived to think more deeply about the perspectives and experiences of those characters.

Teaching students to truly listen closely to each other is just one of many ways that our Middle School pursues the part of Gateway’s mission statement focused on developing citizenship in our students. But it is not easy. At a young age — and even more so in early adolescence — children begin to listen defensively, to seize on perceived weaknesses, and to respond selectively.  We believe it is very important to teach the skill of listening without judgement, and with an open mind that is willing to change its views based on new information.

Educating the next generation of citizens for participation in our society means teaching children to sort through a wash of competing information to arrive at well-reasoned conclusions and decisions about how they will participate and the issues for which they will advocate. At Gateway we explicitly promote the ideas of environmental sustainability, economic security, and social justice, which requires teaching students to be self-reflective about our own privileges, and develop an ability to see multiple sides of an issue. Unfortunately, many of the visible models in the public arena available don’t reflect these behaviors in positive ways. As Bay Area school leader Dr. Barbara Gereboff puts it, “How unfortunate that politicians currently refer to this so cavalierly as ‘flipflopping’ rather than the careful reconsideration of ideas that it often is.”

In our middle school, students apply critical thinking and problem solving skills in highly engaging and thought-provoking curriculum that often interdisciplinary. Through both academic curriculum and the Advisory program, our faculty create strong classroom communities where students see inclusion in action as a lived experience, and further conversations that move children and adults alike towards thoughtful anti-bias attitudes. Citizenship is an ongoing process that relies on self-reflection in pursuit of better self-knowledge, and it’s one of the many ways our Middle School supports our students on their journey to citizenship.

I do hope to see you at tomorrow night’s Middle School Information Night, where you can experience the magic of our Middle School classrooms for yourselves.


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Did you know 1 in 4 children face the reality of hunger in Santa Cruz County?

Did you know 1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 adults face the reality of hunger in Santa Cruz County? Second Harvest Food Bank provides meals for 55,000 people each month. This includes children, seniors, veterans, homeless, working poor, and those who need help making it through a tough time. (Source: www.thefoodbank.org)
You can support those who are hungry here in Santa Cruz County in two ways:
DONATE FOOD by giving non-perishable boxed, canned, or bagged (no glass, and please check the expiration date.) We have bins in the lobby and bags/boxes in the classrooms.
DONATE FUNDS by clicking on this link: https://give.thefoodbank.org/teams/10246-gateway-school (No amount is to little!) $1 provides FOUR meals.
All food will be picked up December 21st! Thanks for your support!
~ the Gateway Sixth Grade Class


Sixth grade put together this video on food insecurity facts. Please support their donation drive.