Welcome Back to the 2017 - 2018 School Year!
Fri, Aug 11 5:54pm
Redwood Heights Elementary

Welcome to the 2017 - 2018 School Year!

Dear RHS Families and Community Members,

I hope this letter finds all of you doing wonderfully well and soaking up all the fun and relaxation that summer has to offer. RHS students, teachers, staff and families work hard throughout the school year to achieve their personal best. Summer is an important time to reconnect and refuel to be ready for a new and exciting school year. After a rejuvenating summer vacation, the RHS administrative staff have officially returned to the office and are putting final plans in place for the opening of the 2017 - 2018 school year.

We are two weeks out from being together and becoming Sammy Squirrels again. 😊  We are all excited to have the students back in our classrooms and hallways, filled with energy and enthusiasm for learning.

As we prepare for the beginning of school, we want to remind you of some important information and events:


School Registration

Registration for the 2017-2018 school year will take place on Wednesday, August 16th from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm and from 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm in the RHS auditorium.

Saturday, August 19th is the Welcome Back Community Kick Off from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm! There will be food and activities for children as well as parents, including a jumpy house, photo booth, DJ, food and a sports uniform swap. If you are unable to register on the 16th, you will be able to register on August 19th. The PTA and other parent groups will be present and happy to share information about opportunities for volunteering. We are excited for all RHS community members to get to meet each other!

Eclipse Viewing

RHS staff and OUSD are all very excited about the historic opportunity to view the eclipse on Monday, August 21st. Our Lead Science teacher, Ms. Kendricks, is working with the other RHS teachers to create a memorable and educational experience for all of our students. We plan to have a full day of learning and observation of the eclipse.

Some parents have volunteered to purchase special glasses. As RHS Principal, I want to ensure that every child’s eyes are protected. If you would like to donate to the Eclipse Glasses Fund, we welcome your donations of either money or glasses. Please contact the main office or speak with PTA representatives at the Welcome Back Community Kick Off on August 19th.


When is the eclipse?

The first day of school! On Monday, August 21, the eclipse will begin at 9:01 A.M. and ends at 11:37 A.M.  The peak of the eclipse will occur at 10:15 A.M.

Why is this eclipse so special?

This will be the first time a total solar eclipse has been visible across the United States in over 40 years. In Oakland, a partial solar eclipse will be visible.


What will we see in Oakland?

As the moon begins to cover the Sun, temperatures will slowly drop and the sky will grow darker. In areas of the United States where the total eclipse is visible, the sky will become so dark that stars will appear in the middle of the day!  


In Oakland, 76% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon. As the moon covers the sun, we will be able to see the outer atmosphere (the sun’s corona) visible as a faint flickering glow around the dark disk of the Moon.


Viewing the eclipse SAFELY: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE, even with sunglasses. Looking directly at the Sun can cause permanent damage to the retina. We plan to have glasses for every teacher and student.


Students can also experience the phenomena of the eclipse safely by using pinhole projection. It’s a fun, easy way to project the image of the sun onto the ground during the eclipse using common materials already found at school sites. Click here for instructions on making these.


Back To School Night

Please mark your calendars for Back to School Night on Thursday, 8/31, 6:30 pm -8:00 pm. More information to come!


Welcome New RHS Educators!

As you know, some of our beloved educators retired or moved on to new opportunities. The RHS Personnel Committee vetted and interviewed new teacher candidates. We are happy to announce the hiring of three dynamic educators to join our incredible teaching staff this year. Please welcome 4th grade teacher Stephanie Lo, Kindergarten teacher Kath Konecky and Artist-in-Residence Mara Gerson.


Stephanie Lowenthal, 4th Grade

Greetings Redwood Heights community! I'm thrilled to be joining the RHS family this year as a fourth-grade teacher. I come to RHS with six years of education experience. I have taught first, third and sixth grade in urban schools in Denver, Colorado, and here in Oakland.  In 2014, I earned a Master's degree in Education, with an endorsement in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse education. I was born and raised in Oakland and am thrilled to be a part of the teaching community in our city! Outside of school, I love baking, running, practicing yoga and working with clay.

Kath Konecky, Kindergarten

Kath Konecky was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York where she experienced the multiple avenues through which children learn to explore the world.  Her love for reading and inquiry developed in the classroom, at her family's dinner table, and while navigating friendships with neighborhood peers. As an undergraduate at Vassar College, Kath studied Political Science with a focus on the criminal justice system and spent a semester in Madrid, Spain learning the political history of the country. Kath taught preschool in Brooklyn for four years while earning a Masters of Ed in Early Childhood Education at Bank Street College.  She moved to the Bay Area in August, 2016 and spent a year teaching in South Berkeley.  Kath is thrilled to join the Redwood Heights community as a Kindergarten teacher!

Mara Gerson, Artist-in-Residence

Mara is an Oakland-based visual artist and arts educator with experience teaching at Kala Art Studio, Redwood Day School, Urban Montessori Charter School, The Crucible, Oakland Museum of California, and the de Young Museum. Mara believes that artists are essential to making positive change in the world, and works to help her students understand clearly that their creative work is very valuable to the Oakland community. Drawing from her own artistic process and that of other contemporary artists, she teaches students from the youngest ages to take ownership of their choices through thoughtful planning and reflection, share and collaborate with others, and get in the habit of taking risks. Mara is excited to bring in multidisciplinary guest artists working in Oakland today and host field trips to expose kids to different career opportunities and creative communities. In addition to collaborating with teachers on interdisciplinary projects, she looking forward to providing all staff and families with resources to bring visual arts into their classrooms and homes.


Minimum Days

I know that minimum days can be challenging for parents and caregivers and may disrupt the momentum of the week or shorten your work day. These challenges increase when there are two in a row or a week of them, and this year, there are more minimum days than last year. I want to take this opportunity to explain what’s happening and how I’d like to work with you to make them easier to handle.


Why we have minimum days

We have minimum days to educate your children as effectively as possible while working within the rules of the district mandate and the teachers’ union contract.


What we do on minimum days

  • Wednesday minimum days happen at all schools across the district and are for professional development and planning.
  • Tuesday minimum days happen at Redwood Heights every six weeks so teachers can review data and assess where we are in relation to our goals and adjust curriculum accordingly.
  • The first week of school we have minimum days so teachers can plan the year based on the needs of the students in their class.  
  • The last week of school we have minimum days so teachers can tie up loose ends.
  • The week before Winter Break and Spring Break we have minimum days for teachers to meet with parents and caregivers about student progress and report cards.


Why we added a week of minimum days in October

We want to check in with parents and caregivers early in the school year about how your student is doing academically as well as social-emotionally. We determined that waiting until December to have an initial meeting with you is too long. A number of years ago, we had October meetings and they worked well, so we decided to try them again.

How we want to work with you

Although the schedule for minimum days has been approved by the State and the District and is set for this year, there are creative ways we can work together to make them less disruptive.  I will be sending out a survey to see what strategies have the most interest. Possibilities include:

  • Expanding the Rockets program to the Redwood Heights campus when there are weeks of minimum days.
  • Having Parent Volunteers and Academic Mentors supervise activities so children can stay at school until 3 when there are weeks of minimum days.

If you have additional ideas, please let me know so I can take them into consideration.

Going forward

Although the decision about when to have minimum days is made by the Principal in consultation with the teachers and with State and District approval, I’d like to get more parent input in the scheduling of minimum days for the 2018-2019 school year.  For example, after this school year, the Tuesday minimum days don’t have to happen on Tuesdays. Perhaps another day would work better for people. As part of the survey I will be sending out, I will assess support for this idea and any others that I hear about from you. Everybody at Redwood Heights has excellent intentions and we all want what’s best for students. I welcome the opportunity to connect with you around minimum days and any other issues you’d like to discuss.

Should you have any questions that have not been answered in this letter, the school office is currently open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Please don’t hesitate to contact the main office at 510-531-6644 should you have any questions.


A special thank you to all the PTA volunteers for doing so much work this summer in preparation for our grand opening! We are all looking forward to our students returning soon!

 Have a great last few days of summer,


 Cynthia Ellison, Principal

Redwood Heights Elementary School