Welcome to the 2019-20 school year!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear Gateway School Families,

Welcome to the 2019-20 school year! We’ve been preparing for our campus move for years, and now we get to experience the newness of life on the Natural Bridges campus in the coming year. What an extraordinary opportunity we have to focus on a future that challenges fear, confronts prejudice, and inspires and prepares our children to become engaged citizens and change agents. 

“What language will the young people in your community hear from you? Will you interrupt both the overt and subtle racism that happens around you, or are you gonna let it slide? Our young people are listening.” — Matt Thompson, educator

Living Our Values
In 2015, our Board adopted a revitalized Mission and Vision that has guided our efforts to strengthen the school’s academic and social-emotional program over the last five years. Included in that statement is a list of nine core school values, one of which is “The courage to promote a just society.” In the past few years, Gateway has taken important steps to develop our program in this area, from the implementation of the RULER approach to teaching emotional intelligence in 2015-16, to the work we did with Gender Spectrum to better understand gender identity in 2016-17. I am thrilled that through the efforts of our faculty’s Social Justice & Equity Committee, this coming year will grow our thinking and understanding about the issues of race and oppression in society.

Last year, our Middle School Humanities program piloted the Anti-Bias Framework from Teaching Tolerance; this fall, we will be hosting trainers from Teaching Tolerance for professional development with all faculty and staff. We know that elementary and middle school-age children are not too young to be talking about race. In fact, research has shown that silence about race (whether well-meaning or from discomfort) reinforces racism, as children are left to draw their own conclusions about their observations. As adults, teachers and guardians can help children have healthy and positive attitudes about race, as well as the skills to discuss the topic and promote a more just future. 

“Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks, civil rights activist

This summer, our all-staff read is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I invite you to read along with us, and to engage with our community as we learn about and discuss concepts such as implicit bias, marginalization, equity, and critical consciousness. For practical suggestions, you may wish to read Bree Ervin’s advice on raising racially conscious children, or Laura Markham’s advice on talking to children about racism.

Examining how concepts of race are expressed in our program is the major focus of our curriculum work this year, but of course there is work to do in other domains as well. In the coming year, our faculty will consolidate and deepen their implementation of recent curriculum and instructional updates, including Writing Workshop and the Bridges math curriculum in the elementary grades, and the Developmental Designs-based advisory program in Middle School. We will continue to implement the same high-quality academic and intellectual curriculum that is the hallmark of our interdisciplinary program even as our teachers continue to innovate with an eye towards what children need for their future — a time that will be as different from the present as the current moment is from our own childhoods.

“Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz, author

Our new campus at 255 Swift St
This year will be organizationally unusual in that most years are not the first on a new campus! With over 10,000 square feet of additional space, a gym, four more bathrooms, full ADA compliance, and a long list of upgrades implemented by both Gateway and Santa Cruz City Schools (roofing and lighting and flooring, oh my!), the Swift Street campus will be an incredible platform for supporting our program for many years to come. No doubt there will also be some growing pains as we figure out how to make arrival, dismissal, and daily school routines run smoothly. We appreciate your patience as we ensure the safety of students and adults while developing efficient procedures.

Accreditation
Last year we began the self-study required by our joint accreditation with the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Accreditation is a reflective process designed to help the school know itself better, celebrate its strengths, and identify critical areas for future improvement. We have been gathering data from students, families, faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and alumni families, and preparing a report that answers 187 specific questions across sixteen distinct chapters. The Accreditation Visiting Committee will be on site in January 2020, and I invite you to speak with Hannah Wikse or Kaia Huseby, our Self-Study Coordinators, if you are interested in learning more. Gateway is very proud to be the only elementary and K-8 program accredited by CAIS in Santa Cruz!

“Great schools are constantly becoming.” — Ole Jorgenson, educator

Staffing Updates
Please say hello and welcome a few new faces to our staff this year when you have the opportunity. Jen Graham (Parent of Sophie, ‘23) has joined our staff as Director of Advancement, after a long career in advancement and fundraising at UC Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy. Gabrielle Carroll is our new First Grade Assistant Teacher. She previously taught at Spring Hill School and holds a Multiple Subjects teaching credential with CLAD certification. Kristin Morrelli has come on board as our Second Grade Assistant Teacher, and Learning Specialist. She holds a Special Education teaching credential and most recently taught at Happy Valley Elementary. And as previously announced this spring, Lynn Flickinger is our new Music Teacher. Lynn, who has a B.A. in Music from Greensboro College and is coming to us from Brandon Hall International School in Atlanta, GA, has been a professional jazz singer, musical theater performer, director, and music teacher for more than 20 years.

I am deeply grateful for your partnership in pursuit of changing the world for the better by giving our students and children a unique and transformative educational experience. I look forward to seeing you during our Open Campus on Tuesday, August 27th, and at the Welcome Back Coffee on the first day of school, and in the months to come.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers, television personality

With warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School