— Head of School appointed to NAIS Board of Trustees

Dear Sea Crest Families,

I am excited to have the opportunity to share the great news with you: Our Head of School, Dr. Tekakwitha Pernambuco-Wise, was recently appointed by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to their Board of Trustees. NAIS is the national voice of independent education, advocating on behalf of its members. The association offers research and trend analysis, leadership and governance guidance, and professional development opportunities for school and board leaders. Sea Crest School is one of the 1500+ members of NAIS, which is a major source of industry information and professional development not only for school staff and leaders but also our Board of Trustees.

The NAIS Board of Trustees, made up of 20 distinguished individuals, includes thought leaders, independent school pioneers and innovators in the field of education. This prestigious appointment is a testament to the visionary leadership Tekakwitha has brought to Sea Crest School. Tekakwitha truly lives by Sea Crest’s Guiding Principles and has shared with me that she is looking forward to giving back to NAIS, an organization that provides so much support to our school. We look forward to the insights and ideas Tekakwitha is sure to bring back from her work on the NAIS Board.

Please join me in congratulating Tekakwitha!

Amy Ramsey
Chair, Sea Crest Board of Trustees


— Oral tradition delivers life lessons

‘Bellbird and fox’ is but one of culture’s tales. By Sara Hayden. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on December 13th, 2017.

There was no electricity, but on Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise’s grandparents’ ranch in British Guiana, dark nights burned bright with candles and fireside chats. This was how her elders imparted life lessons. The Sea Crest head of school comes from the Wapishana tribe among whom stories and language are not written but spoken.

Some were pithy and poignant. “Hard work never killed anyone,” stands out in her memory, as does, “Today is a new day. Whatever mistakes I made yesterday are in the past,” which she shares with the students who end up in her office. Others are lengthy and illustrative, filled with twists, turns and colorful characters — often tricksters. All have a nugget of wisdom to glean.

“These are entertaining stories about how you can get through life, and they’re done in a very child-centered way,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

Here is a retelling of a classic tale from her family. She first heard it from her grandfather, and now her father relays it to his grandchildren.

“He is a gifted storyteller and makes many sound effects … and so we never tire of his stories,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

She recently shared it by memory, adding that there’s a lesson in it fit for a contemporary audience.

“I think about the internet and influences children have in their lives today,” Pernambuco-Wise said. “The message really of (this) story is not to be easily lured or easily fooled.”

You’ll have to help us out with our attempt to retell it here. We’ll do our best to share the spirit of the story in the newspaper, but we can’t quite capture the sound effects, voices and gestures that accompany an oral tradition, or even the intimate feeling of sharing a story in person. Feel free to add these details yourself.

“Why the Pigeon Lays Only One Egg and the Bellbird Lives in the Bush Instead of in the Savannah”

(As told to the Half Moon Bay Review by Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise. Story has been edited for clarity.)

One day, the fox was walking through the savannah when he spotted a pigeon. She was home high up in a tree, protecting the eggs she sat on.

Now, the fox is a very cunning animal. Hungry, he hatched a plan. He straightened his tail until it looked like a cutlass and then shouted to get the pigeon’s attention.

“Drop down one of your eggs because, if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” he warned.

The pigeon cowered at the sight of the cutlass and considered her options. If the fox cut down the tree, she would lose all of her eggs. She heeded the fox’s threat and dropped down just one of her eggs. Egg in mouth, the fox proudly skulked away.

This happened again and again and again.

“Drop down one of your eggs because if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” the fox would shout.

Soon, only the pigeon’s last egg remained.

The mother pigeon started to cry. A “wacucu” — bellbird — flew by and took notice of her.

“Why are you crying?” the bellbird asked.

The pigeon sniffled. “This fox came by. He has this instrument, this knife — a cutlass. And he said if I don’t give him my eggs he’ll cut down my tree with it.”

The bellbird, who was brilliant and smart, shook her head. She’d seen that fox scamper away, no weapon in sight. “You silly bird! He has no such instrument as a cutlass!” she exclaimed. “Next time he comes, tell him exactly what I tell you — but don’t tell him I told you this …”

The bellbird divulged her plan, and the pigeon agreed to follow through with it.

Sure enough, the fox returned.

“Drop down one of your eggs because if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” he warned.

The pigeon was unruffled and laughed. “I won’t give you my only egg,” she declared, following the bellbird’s plan. “You don’t have a cutlass … Only a fluffy tail.”

The fox’s tail fell. “Who told you this?” he snarled.

“Nobody told me this. I thought of this myself,” the pigeon replied, as the bellbird had instructed.

This couldn’t possibly be true — the pigeon was not clever enough to figure this out on her own. The fox could tell she was lying. With a gleam in his eye, he decided to try another tack. He had his suspicions. “It was the bellbird, wasn’t it?” he said.

“Yes,” said the pigeon, taken aback.

“Aha!” The fox ran fast in search of his new prey, leaving the pigeon alone with her last egg.

The bellbird loves to bathe, so the fox knew where he’d find her. At the river running through the savannah, he grabbed her in his mouth to eat her.

“Wait, Mr. Fox,” the bellbird quickly said. “When my feathers are wet, I’m poisonous. Wait until I’m dry.”

The fox obliged and the bellbird hopped over to the river’s bank under the trees and frantically flapped her wings.

“What are you doing?” the fox asked.

“I’m flapping to help my feathers dry,” the pigeon explained. “Then you can eat me.”

But, of course, as soon as the bellbird’s wings were dry, she flew away.

Now the fox was really mad. How had the cunning fox been fooled?

It was only a matter of time before the bellbird came down from her tree to bathe at the river again. This time, the fox knew that her feathers weren’t poisonous, and had no hesitation in catching her once more.

“This time I’m really going to eat you,” the fox mumbled through his full jaws.

“Wait, Mr. Fox,” the bellbird cut in. “Parade through the village first. There will be many children who will be excited to see you’ve caught a bellbird.”

The fox was a prideful creature and so he agreed.

The children screamed in excitement as the bellbird had promised.

“Look at the fox, look at the fox! He has a bellbird in his mouth!” they cried.

“Oh, yeah!” the fox shouted proudly. The fox, so full of himself, realized too late that his jaws were suddenly empty. His mouth had opened wide to gloat, freeing the bellbird.

This time, she flew far from the savannah and headed directly to the bush. She knew the fox would never follow because he feared the predators, bigger than he, who lurked there.

The brilliant bellbird had outsmarted the cunning fox, once and for all.

And that is why the pigeon lays only one egg, and the bellbird lives in the bush instead of in the savannah.


— In the News: Sea Crest School dives into new year

Sea Crest School staff, students and their families dived into the first day of school with a lively assembly on Wednesday. By Sara Hayden. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on August 30th, 2017.

“It’s really a day of excitement for everybody,” Head of School Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise said, recalling her own love of the occasion as a child. “My heart was just bursting with joy this morning. It reminded me of how excited I was to start school.”

Welcome Back to School CommunityIn some ways, the back-to-school festivities started before the first bell. Residents of the Half Moon Bay senior community dropped by at 6:30 a.m. to decorate with colorful handmade paper flowers and signs for the students.

New Student Council President Olivia Cevasco greeted members of the community dressed as a seal, the school’s mascot, ensured posters welcomed the community in the school’s halls and left every student a handwritten welcome note in their cubbies and lockers. The eighth-grader penned them herself, inspired by similar gestures by last year’s student council members.

“It really touched me when every person had a couple encouraging words for the day,” said Cevasco.

She said she felt compelled to continue fostering that sense of community.

Olivia Cevasco Student Council President“Sea Crest is more than just a school. We’re here to learn, but we’re also here to be friends and support each other,” Cevasco said.

Since Pernambuco-Wise came on board at Sea Crest in 2013, the staff has challenged itself to think about how to take the “school from good to great, from infancy to maturity.” Much of that focus has been on innovation.

“It’s about the mindset. It’s about how we approach solving problems … really engaging the pupils’ ownership in their learning,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

Driving that forward into the 2017-2018 school year is a central theme.

“(This is) ‘Our Year to Thrive. We’re taking on less so we can go deeper,” said Pernambuco-Wise, adding that school leaders will focus on the most effective ways to assess students, cultivate a sense of inclusion and how to take care of oneself.

As faculty, staff and students hit the books, they’ll also hit the yoga mats, a quiet moment to meditate or reflect, or another activity that takes them out of their headspace in the coming weeks.

“We’re now saying, ‘What do we need to do to thrive as human beings, and how can we translate that to the children?’” Pernambuco-Wise said.


— Mid-Year Address: The bright future of our school

Thanks to the parents and friends who attended our Mid-Year Address this year!  We celebrated the present with dynamic teacher presentations and launched the strategic plan that will guide our community of innovation.

Tekakwitha Head of School Mid-Year AddressBy Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise, Head of School & Amy Ramsey, Chair of Board

Our mission grounds us in what we most value about a Sea Crest education. Comprised of four major sections: Cultivate Community, Program Innovation, Strengthen the Institution and Infrastructure Development, our Strategic Plan is our guide for the next five years and helps us to focus on how to best fulfill this mission.

Designed as a visionary document, our Strategic Plan was formulated during our 20th anniversary year, with input from our constituents – pupils, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, parents and alumni/ae, as part of our re-accreditation process. This truly collaborative document was finalized by our Strategic Planning Committee, comprising faculty, staff, administrators and trustees, and ratified by the Board.

Sea Crest has seen significant growth, especially in our Middle School. From our humble beginnings of 24 pupils, we now stand at almost 300, the highest enrollment in our history. This is in large part due to the high caliber of our faculty and staff, deeply committed trustee volunteers, supportive parents, combined with a vigorous curriculum and engaged pupils. It is indeed an exhilarating time to be part of the Sea Crest community!

Developing authentic relationships is important to us. As we reach towards the goals of our Strategic Plan, we recognize that we can accomplish them only if we continue to work together, never becoming complacent or resting on our laurels and always keeping our sights on achieving greatness in all that we undertake.

Celebrating the present and looking forward to the future…


— 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.


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