— After school spotlight: Judo class

This year in JAWS, our Extended Day Program has provided a wide range of opportunities for students to learn and develop their social, emotional and physical development. We recognize that each student has different interests and we strive to support their individuality. Our focus is to model positive behaviors such as responsibility, accountability, and to respect all things and people. Sketching, i-Lab, Chess Club, Band Jam and Glee Club were a few of the classes we offered this year.

Our “Spot Light” class this year has been our Judo Class. Judo is a Japanese word meaning “gentle way,” and is a type of martial art that comes from the ancient Japanese martial art of jujitsu, meaning “yielding way” in which the object is to throw, hold to the ground, or otherwise force an opponent to submit, using the minimum of physical effort. Dr. Tekakwitha Pernambuco-Wise, who holds a third-degree black belt in Judo and was an international competitor and national champion for Guiana, has spent this year with a group of students teaching the ways of Judo. The class ran once a week throughout the school year for grades 4th through 8th.

After School Judo After School Judo After School Judo



— Permission to pause

Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise, Head of School

There is a fine balance between the traditions that we wish to keep in our independent schools and the push of innovation that encourages us to seek new heights. New technologies, methodologies of teaching and fierce competition from other educational establishments urge us to ever more rapid pacing to accomplish our goals – to do more with less and do it faster. Very few within our institutions are unaffected by these changes and as a result, we see increased signs of stress from our constituents, which must be addressed at all levels.

Entering Sea Crest School as its new Head four years ago, with the vision of moving our school from good to great, we set five major strategic initiatives, which included new curricula in mathematics, character education, health & wellness, innovation lab and technology. Additionally, we introduced an employee professional development and performance evaluation system and underwent our re-accreditation. The faculty, staff, administration and trustees rose to the challenge and the school thrived. There was an important thing to note, however. For all the goodwill, professionalism and sheer joy that was present within the school, the pace was unsustainable.

My personal realization came one summer morning when my husband said to me that whilst he would continue to support me fully, we could not go through another year of my being all consumed with my job. From the time I rose in the pre-dawn mornings to the time I went to bed, school had become the only topic of conversation and thought. He called me an iDrone, permanently welded to e-mail. The board expressed concern about my burnout and I became aware that if this was happening to me, it was most likely occurring with the administrators, faculty and staff. Ironic though it was, Sea Crest needed another initiative.

Beach WalkThe Sea Crest Faculty/Staff Health & Wellness Programme grew from conversations and discussions with faculty/staff regarding ways that we could mitigate the stress of the fast pace without losing the momentum and quality we had gained. We changed our 7-day pre-service schedule from being packed with workshops and meetings to incorporate time for mindfulness moments (e.g. yoga class, mindfulness through art, beach walking, playing a pick-up game) and extended periods of classroom preparation time that were free of administrator-scheduled meetings.

Mindfulness moments have been woven into the fabric of our school – whether in the invocations that open each of our faculty/staff and board meetings or the centering breathing of our pupils at the start of all-school assemblies. Teachers begin various portions of their day – first thing in the morning, following recess, after lunch, etc. – with these moments such as mindful breathing, yoga, reflection and meditation. These activities can be as short as two minutes long and rarely take more than 15. The teachers spearheaded their own initiative and instituted monthly faculty/staff lunch potlucks. We also agreed that during the school year, whilst we endeavor to respond to e-mails within 24 hours of receipt, we are not compelled to answer them after 5pm on a weekday or during the weekends. My holiday e-mail responses begin with a statement that Sea Crest is encouraging our faculty/staff to enjoy time with our loved ones. This gives the expectation that messages may not be responded to as quickly as when school is in session.

Fifth Grade Yoga Health & WellnessAt Sea Crest, we found that communicating the benefits of our health & wellness major strategic initiative to our parent constituency was essential. At our Mid-Year Address, we began with having the parents participate in a 5-minute chair yoga exercise that was led by a teacher. The health & wellness program was then presented as a curricular evolution similar to the innovations we were instituting in our mathematics, character education, technology and innovation lab. The school-wide emphasis on health & wellness is beneficial at all levels. Pupils are responding well; we observe this in their calmer behavior and many parents have mentioned that their children are taking these practices home.

On a personal note, getting an entire day of “me time” remains a struggle. A Head’s position is not one that easily affords significant lengths of relaxation time. I do, however, set aside a daily hour for meditation, prayer and exercise and a weekly afternoon of indulgence. What works well for me is a glass of bubbly, the occasional massage, a good book, walk in the woods, supper with my family, or pretty much any form of great chocolate. The importance is not on the activity; rather, it is that we give ourselves permission to take the time to pause. We must normalize daily, weekly, monthly routines of self-care and resist the pressure to be always bound to our over-filled schedules. We must realize that we cannot be on top of our game – knowledgeable, professional, empathetic and composed – if we are not ourselves centered. We must stop seeing de-stressing time as an indulgence and rather, see it as a necessity for the long-term health of each other and our institutions.


— Supporting Heads: Sustaining a Flourishing Leadership Partnership

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) published an article — “Supporting Heads: Sustaining a Flourishing Leadership Partnership”— written by Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise and Dr. Olaf Jorgenson of Almaden Country School in San Jose, California.

When identifying their main responsibilities, most independent school trustees recite familiar priorities, such as preserving the school’s mission, providing financial oversight, and strategic planning. “Supporting the head” typically falls somewhere toward the end of the list.

Given that the heads of school we know either treasure the support they get from their boards or would like more support — or support of a different kind—it strikes us that boards would be wise to rethink where support for the head falls on their list of priorities and to consider what “support” means to heads.

In his 2002 Independent School article, “How to Keep Your Head: Great Schools and Long-Term Headship,” veteran school leader Al Adams urges boards to make the retention of heads a top priority (Albert M. Adams, “How to Keep Your Head: Great Schools and Long-term Headship,” Independent School, Fall, 2002.) Indeed, Adams makes a compelling case for board members to understand the phases of headship and to support the needs of leaders over time so that their schools thrive under the stable, competent leadership of long-term heads.

But what exactly does “supporting the head of school” mean? Does it have the same implications for heads as it does for trustees? What types of support do heads most appreciate? Should trustees’ support change as heads advance through the phases of their career? Do the needs of male and female heads differ?

These questions, in addition to our own conversations about our respective challenges and needs as school heads, led us to reach out to colleagues and trustees across the membership of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), inviting feedback and collective wisdom about “head support.”

We sought to gather a sizable set of perceptions from both school leaders and board members, identify any consistent themes that we could share, and inform boards seeking to nourish and sustain their heads by better understanding what school leaders most need — thus fostering a deeper partnership between trustees and heads.

What follows is a summary of our research, surveying 207 school heads and 59 trustees, with core advice for boards on how they can improve their support for their heads.

What Do Heads Need and Value Most?

Heads and trustees shared nearly identical five top responses to this question, though in different order, with trustees identifying an additional priority.

For heads, the list reads:

  1. Moral Support
  2. Respect for Expertise
  3. Advice and Guidance
  4. Less Operational Involvement
  5. Open Communication

For trustees, the list reads:

  1. Advice and Guidance
  2. Strategic Support
  3. Respect for Expertise
  4. Moral Support
  5. Open Communication
  6. (tie) Public Appreciation

What is most striking about the two lists is that heads put “moral support” at the top while trustees see “advice and guidance” as their lead priority — dropping moral support to the fourth position.

Head of school respondents place less value on trustee advice and express greater need for moral support, empathy, and respect for their expertise — or as one respondent put it, “understanding the pressures of the job and respect for the difficult decisions I have to make.”

Another head summarized what many respondents stated: It would be beneficial for trustees to “understand that their ideas may or may not benefit the school, and that trying to get the school to do things differently before they understand current process or needs is often a point of agitation… Admin[istrators] feel like they are being told to change by board members who don’t fully understand the whole picture.”

Tekakwitha NAIS Article ChartSurvey data also suggest, encouragingly, that both head and trustee respondents understand the need to separate day-to-day operational matters from board-level strategic issues. Numerous heads shared their appreciation when trustees commit to “digging into the work and bringing value through their own engagement,” pursuing board-level professional development about nonprofit school governance, ruminating “about big ideas together,” and dealing with “the rogue trustee who [strays into operational matters], understanding that such behavior is intolerable, destructive, and needs clear action.” Heads report feeling affirmed when trustees acknowledge that school leaders “know more than they do and have handled things well, given all constraints.”

Intriguingly, heads commented repeatedly that they appreciate being recognized, yet did not rank public recognition for their efforts as a top priority. However, trustees felt public recognition of heads was important. We’re including it in this report because it tied for number five for trustees. (Number six for heads was improvement in compensation and benefits.) Perhaps the heads downplayed recognition because, as one head observed, in a strong board-head relationship, the head and board should share recognition for the school’s accomplishments.

In the narrative comments, “trustee leadership in development efforts” appeared as one of the most common priorities from head respondents. Heads overwhelmingly urged trustees to undertake more leadership in fundraising, understanding, as one head put it “that all board members need to be engaged in development even if they don’t serve on the development committee.” This could include a range of trustee involvement, from personal giving to identification of potential donors to direct solicitations.

Furthermore, heads commented that they welcome advice from board members in their areas of expertise such as finance, law, marketing, local politics, and communication.

The article also examines how the needs of male and female heads differ, what types of support are most valued at the different stages of the headship, and concludes with recommendations for board members to help them better meet the needs of school leaders. Click here to read the entire article on the NAIS website.

— Navigating the Labyrinth: Examining the Career Pathways for Female Heads of School

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) originally published this article in Summer 2014 — “Navigating the Labyrinth Examining the Career Pathways for Female Heads of School”— written by Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise, Head of School.

It was July 2013. While hot and humid outdoors, it was cool inside the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta. I looked around the room at the NAIS Institute for New Heads and wondered if anything had changed since I completed my leadership study 18 months earlier. It appeared not. Of the 59 brand new heads attending the 2013 institute, only 34 percent were female. My hunch was confirmed when I received the statistics from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The world of independent schools remains a female-dominated field — except at the topmost level.

At the time of my research, 72 percent of heads had been senior administrators in schools prior to attaining headship.(1) This suggests that most heads rise from these ranks. Most teachers are women — 66 percent in coeducational schools and 81 percent in all-girls schools (2) — and the majority of administrators on the traditional path to headship are female. Yet women comprise only 31 percent of independent school headships, with 50 percent of those women leading K – 8 schools. These numbers have remained static since 2002. Even though women fill most senior administrator positions, the percentage of applicants for headship also remains predominantly male (66 percent) and European American (86 percent).(3)

Curious about this phenomenon, I embarked on a journey to answer the following research question: “What factors are related to women attaining headships in NAIS schools and what sustained them in the job?” Performing a qualitative, grounded theory study, which sought to develop rather than test an existing theory, I interviewed 19 female heads of school and 12 search consultants.

Besides curiosity, the impetus for undertaking this study was my assumption that, by understanding how some women attained and were sustained in the position, other women may be encouraged to seek headship as a natural progression of their careers. Additionally, I assumed that the results would prove informative for boards of trustees and search firms, two predominant gatekeepers for headship ascension, thus providing a significant resource from a potentially rich applicant pool for filling the predicted shortage.

Navigating a Labyrinth

In a grounded theory study, a theory can be generated when a core category emerges from the data. In my study, an apt metaphor emerged. One female head of school I interviewed described her experience of attaining headship not as some variation of the traditional trajectory that most males took (teacher to department chair, department chair to dean, dean to assistant head, assistant head to head of school), but rather as negotiating a labyrinth. The core category that then emerged from the data in my study was what I call Navigating a Labyrinth — and I used this metaphor to frame the characteristics that helped women attain and be sustained in the position.

The denotation of the labyrinth in the study was that of a maze with headship being the treasure. This meant that if 10 men entered the labyrinth, seven emerged with the treasure; however, when 10 women entered, only three attained the treasure. When the women were asked about their experience of the labyrinth, they stated that numerous paths took them either to the core, away from the core, or to different treasures, or that, at some point, the way was blocked. When questioned about how they were able to negotiate the labyrinth and attain the treasure, each produced “master keys” that she had acquired or made that helped unlock huge, iron-girded doors to paths that led to the labyrinth’s core. The women did not all pass through the same doors. The keys, however, used singly or in combination, helped them to get through any door they faced.

For all the women candidates, four doors, some more powerful than others, blocked the path to headship: Unspoken Biases, Risky Candidate, Lifestyle vs. Job, and Loneliness. The six keys that opened the doors were: Foundation; Skills; Support; Opportunity; Voice; and Changing Times, Changing Position.

The article further explores the four doors and the six keys to open the doors. Click here to read the entire article on the NAIS website.


(1) National Association of Independent Schools, The State of Independent School Leadership, 2009. Washington, D.C., February 2010. Retrieved from www.nais.org.
(2) National Association of Independent Schools (2004-2005), NAIS StatsOnline Data Analysis. Staff Statistics in NAIS Member Schools Executive Summary, 2004-2005 School Year. Retrieved from www.nais.org.
(3) National Association of Independent Schools (February, 2010).

Poplar Beach Cleanup


Following the example of our 5th graders who steward Poplar Beach, our faculty and staff spent the first afternoon of pre-service cleaning up our beautiful coast-side community.

Sea Crest School Poplar Beach Half Moon Bay

Sea Crest School Poplar Beach Half Moon Bay

With such beautiful surroundings, we feel it is our responsibility, and our pleasure, to care for our cherished neighborhood and beaches.

Half Moon Bay Beach Staff Faculty Sea Crest School

Half Moon Bay Beach Cleanup

We are so proud to belong to the wonderful community of Half Moon Bay!


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