• May 21, 2018

    Message from Superintendent Skelly

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

    Perhaps our learned students and parents recognize these words from President Franklin Roosevelt at his first inaugural address in 1933. It was the height of the depression and he assumed the presidency at a time when the United States economy was spiraling down. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was telling the American people that their fear was making things worse. It was only when the country came together with great courage that we turned things around and moved forward.

    It is easy to become fearful. On Friday, May 18th, we learned of another senseless, seemingly random school shooting, this time in Texas. The taking of one teen's life is so painful partly because we imagine our own pain if tragedy struck our family and community. Our thoughts are with the families of Santa Fe High School.

    Stories that scare us are featured in our news feeds and lead on the evening news. On the other hand, I almost never receive inquiries from the news media about all the amazing things that happen at our schools, but the television trucks roll when there's a hint of scandal or a mistake (mistakes happen in schools!). Thankfully, in my years here, news vans have never had to visit for a tragedy at any of our schools.

    And fear, like pain, is so debilitating. When our students are apprehensive or anxious their choices are poorer, their energy is sapped, and they can't possibly reach their potential. That's why we try to make our schools as safe as possible across multiple dimensions.

    I believe that, just like in 1933, we need to teach courage and model hope. We are at our best when we recognize but don't magnify risk. Our communities and our district schools are safer than they have ever been! With courage, optimism and support, our students have brighter futures than any generation before them!

    But this is hard. It seemed like every time my children went out, I admonished them to be careful. I worried about the big, bad world, and my fear had to be contagious. In hindsight, I wish I had celebrated their courageous conversations with a friend or teacher, the risk they took in class, and their optimism about the outcome of their hard work preparing for a test.

    Here's to hope, courage, and optimism as we end this school year and look forward to the adventures of summer!

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    San Mateo Union High School District





    1. Earned Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation. All six of our comprehensive high schools renewed their accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) with maximum six year terms. This process is the official “stamp of approval” that our schools are excellent institutions that are providing our community’s teens with a high quality educational experience across multiple dimensions.

    2. Celebrated New Stadium Lights. The District completed the construction of brand new stadium lights and sound systems at five of our comprehensive high school communities – Aragon, Capuchino, Hillsdale, Mills and San Mateo – last summer and celebrated this accomplishment with events at each school at the opening of the football season this school year.

    3. Launched New District and School Websites. The District, including all of our comprehensive high schools, Peninsula High and the Adult School, launched brand new websites in December (first in more than 10 years!), providing our staff, families and students a more easily viewed online experience, easy to navigate menu structure, and improved functionality.

    4. Expanded the Digital 1:1 Bridge Program. The District expanded its 1:1 Digital Bridge Program with the addition of 24 Chromebook carts for teacher teams across the District. Each cart has been allocated to teams of teachers who met last summer to collaborate in the design of curriculum and instruction that builds on the best of what these digital tools and resources bring to the classroom.

    5. Found a New Central Location for Peninsula High. The District has found a new central and permanent location for Peninsula High School. For more than 10 years, the San Mateo Union High School has been looking for a location for Peninsula that would enable students to more easily access their education. The District is currently negotiating with the property owner under the eminent domain process and staff is helping to design the new space. The new Peninsula High is expected to open its doors for the 2020 to 2021 school year.

    6. Moving Into a New District Office in Summer 2018 to Better Serve Our Students and Families. If you have ever visited our District Office, you have experienced probably the most humble of all district offices -- a series of “short term/temporary” module buildings that still stand after sixty years (not so short term)! Once the District team had a clear vision for Peninsula High, the District began designing and building a welcoming, accessible, safe District Office for our many families and hardworking staff. The new San Mateo Union High School District Center opens this fall!

    7. Going Green! Reduced Our Electric Bill by 20 Percent for a Savings of $200,000. As the San Mateo Union High School Distric team developed its annual goals last summer, we felt a responsibility to operate more efficiently while also doing our part in leaving this earth a better place. As we looked for cost savings, our utility costs were scrutinized and a goal was set to reduce our energy use by a quarter. This year, we reduced our electricity consumption by about twenty percent with a cost savings of in excess of $200,000.

    8. Saving a few trees! A near future sustainability goal will be to reduce paper consumption. Although we have not fully realized our potential to save trees, we are already on our way to reducing paper use by moving from highly used paper forms to new, efficient and “tree-saving” electronic forms. We have also redesigned age-old forms so that fewer copies are made, saving us money and preserving trees.

    9. Refinanced a Portion of our General Obligation Bonds Saving the Community’s Tax Dollars. Tuesday, November 14, the San Mateo Union High School refinanced a portion of its general obligation bonds issued in 2011 under the Measure O authorization approved by voters on November 2, 2010. The District took advantage of favorable current financial market conditions by replacing older higher-interest-rate bonds with new bonds having much lower interest rates. The lower interest rates results in smaller annual bond payments for the District and reduced property tax rates for local residents and businesses. Because the revenue used to pay bond debt service comes only from property taxes, the sole beneficiaries of the refinancing are the District’s taxpayers. 

    10. Amicable and Productive Contract Negotiations. The past couple of years, the negotiating teams – District and California Teachers Association – have come to agreements on issues of common interest. Parties are currently negotiating for the 2018 to 2019 school year, and I have confidence that an agreement that reflects how we value our teachers while also ensuring we are fiscally responsible will be reached once again. This is a great time to remind our community that we are so fortunate to live in a state where teachers are not going on strike because school funding is completely inadequate. Thank you for supporting our schools via your property taxes!




    Every year, our students and staff win awards, organize memorable events and contribute to our broader community in so many ways. Here are a few highlights…



    English as a Second Language Students Graduate from New San Mateo City Government Academy

    From breaking down barriers between police and immigrants, to educating new community members about an array of local recreational opportunities, the very first English as a Second Language City Government Academy has proven to be a success. The diverse class of 25 students hailing from 10 countries will join for a graduation ceremony to commemorate the four-month pilot program designed to empower immigrants with a deeper understanding of how to participate in local government.

    The City of San Mateo, in partnership with the San Mateo Adult School of the San Mateo Union High School District, launched the program designed specifically for English as a Second Language students. Read more about this down below.

    Read more


    Adult School Rally at State Capitol in Honor of Adult Education Week

    On April 9th, 50 students and two teachers from the San Mateo Adult School took a bus to the state capitol of Sacramento to join a rally for Adult Education.  The rally was held by CCAE - the California Council for Adult Education, whose website link is down below.

    The California Council for Adult Education 

    Students and staff from all over California attended the rally.  They rallied to bring attention to the need for strong funding for Adult Education.  They rallied to remind legislators that Adult Education matters.  Rie Shinohara was one of the students who attended the rally.  Here, with her permission, is her story about that day.


    Aragon’s Flex Time Program Recognized by San Mateo County School Boards Association

    Aragon High School was recognized at an awards ceremony honoring 2018 San Mateo County School Boards Association Kent Award recipients. The Kent awards were established in 1981 to recognize outstanding and innovative programs throughout the county. Aragon is being recognized for its Flex Time Program.

    Aragon's Flex Time is a two-tiered program designed to give students embedded access to academic support. Flex Time is a 35-minute period during which students go to a teacher of their choice for make-up work, quiz/test re-takes, or project/assignment help. The second tier of the program, Intensive Flex Time, is designed for students who are failing two or more classes. Students in Intensive Flex are required to go to the library where they receive additional support from counselors, administrators, and peer tutors, or a pass to a teacher in whose class they need targeted one-on-one support.

    The San Mateo Union High School District's Mental Health and Wellness Program was also recognized with a Kent Award. Learn more about the Kent awards by clicking on this sentence.

    Little Rock Nine Icon Minniejean Brown-Trickey Visits Aragon

    Aragon High School welcomed civil rights activist Minnijean Brown-Trickey to a packed house for a conversation with students and staff this past semester. Trickey Brown was one of the "Little Rock Nine" who fought against segregation at Little Rock Central High in 1957. The San Francisco Chronicle covered the event. Read the article, "San Mateo Teens Get a Lesson From Civil Rights Icon Minnijean Brown of the Little Rock Nine." with the link below. 

    "San Mateo Teens Get a Lesson from Civil Rights Icon Minnijean Brown of Little Rock Nine."



    Burlingame High School Architecture Students Win Awards

    Congratulations to Burlingame High School Architectural Design II students Gemma Greening, Robert Rochel, Gino D’ambra, Dominic Bueno, Julia Geurse and Kaia Fink for winning awards in the Architecture at Zero Competition! The program for the competition, which was organized by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Francisco State University and the American Institute of Architects, California Council, was to design a net-zero energy bayside community education and visitor’s center. Check out images from the students’ projects down below

    2017 Winners

    Burlingame High School Takes Home Several Awards at Breathe California's 2018 Clear the Air Film Fest

    Burlingame High School swept the event winning both first and second place in the Public Service Announcement Category. They also took home first in the High School category, first in the General Public Category and they were named the Audience Favorite. The films were screened at Breathe California's 7th Annual Clear the Air Film Fest. The films can all be viewed at their website to the right. The &th Annual Clear the Air Film Fest.


    Capuchino's First-Ever "Day of Action"

    Following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, students voiced their concerns not only about school safety but also about building a better sense of community at Capuchino. Collectively, students have realized that our school safety in exigent circumstances begins with a safe school community. The Day of Action was created with a team effort of students and staff who wished to be involved in doing so. Read more…

    The gathering of our entire school in the early morning of April 20th, 2018 with student speeches, began with information about the Columbine High School shooting. We then informed the school about statistics involving our students’ feelings of safety within the school. Then, we reiterated the importance of knowledge and understanding of mental health and community building amongst peers and teachers alike.

    Student voice leader Ariana De La Torre closed out the speech with the honoring of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed at Columbine.  The day followed with two sessions in which students were able to choose which ones they want to attend. Each session was created and led by a collaboration of students and teachers. The sessions ranged from mental health to the power of voice each student has in the school and in this society. The day ended with a regathering of the school, a reiteration of sessions and opinions, and then we gathered outside for a fun and final community building art project.

    Overall, the Day of Action was a success for the first ever event of its kind for Capuchino High School. This year’s activity leaders hope that next year, students may find more strength and drive to build upon the Day of Action so that one day every student and staff can make the most out of everyday school life for learning and teaching in a safe environment.

    Capuchino Receives “Superior Ratings” at California Music Educators Festival

    The Capuchino Symphonic Band and Chamber Strings earned Unanimous Superior ratings for the performance and sight reading abilities at the recent CMEA (California Music Educators) Festival hosted at Capuchino High School on April 20 & 21st. The panel of four judges found that both of the Capuchino advanced ensembles performed well and earned the highest rating possible, a UNANIMOUS SUPERIOR. This means that a superior rating was awarded by each of the four judges. This suggests that both ensembles are rated in the top of all music ensembles around the state. Great job to all Capuchino performers!



    Hillsdale High Principal Receives a Stanford Graduate School of Education 2017 Alumni Excellence in Education Award!

    Stanford's Graduate School of Education (GSE) awarded a 2017 Alumni Excellence in Education Award to Hillsdale High School Principal Jeff Gilbert for his uncommon leadership, commitment and innovation in the field of education. He is only one of four Graduate School of Education graduates to receive this annual award. In a Stanford press release, Dean of the Graduate School of Education Daniel Schwartz shares “The Graduate School of Education alumni are transforming education in countless ways—locally, nationally and internationally. We’re proud to call these honorees our own and celebrate the far-reaching impact of their work.”  Principal Gilbert is being honored for building and sustaining Hillsdale High School’s Small Learning Community (SLC) program. Under his leadership, Hillsdale has become a national model with its success redefining the comprehensive high school, enhancing teacher capacity and improving college-going rates. Congratulations Principal Gilbert and Hillsdale High!


    Annual Battle of Dawn!

    Hillsdale High School was recently featured in the Washington Post. Education Columnist and Hillsdale alum Jay Matthews covered the school’s annual Battle of Dawn in March. Mathews referred to the high school project as one of the most “daring and involving high school projects” he has ever encountered.

    Read his article in the March 25 issue of the Washington Post that details what the project is all about below.

    March 25 Issue




    Mills Brings Home the Medals at Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Region 5 Events

    This past spring, members of Mills Family, Career and Community Leaders of America attended the Region 5 Spring Meeting and Competition Recognition Events at Wilcox High School.  There were five teams of competitors from Mills representing the following events:  Sports Nutrition, Junior and Senior; Food Innovations; Event Planning; and Chapter in Review Portfolio.  The purpose of the competition was to provide an opportunity for members to show off their skills and talents, as well as, develop public speaking skills and improve leadership skills.  Mills earned two gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal at the Region 5 Spring Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Meeting and Competition. In addition, Mills Family, Career and Community Leadersof

    k students Jocelyn Quach and Marina Wong were elected to serve on the Region 5 Officer Team representing the Bay Area for this coming year.  Jocelyn is Vice President elect and Marina is Treasurer elect. 

    Mills Senior Mitra Pourmehraban Attends the UC Davis Young Scholars Program

    Mitra Pourmehraban, a senior at Mills High School, was among a select group of students who attended the UC Davis Young Scholars Program. The advanced science program, now over 50 years old and offered by the School of Education, introduces high achieving high school sophomores and juniors to the world of original research in the biological and natural sciences. Under the mentorship of Aldrin Gomes, Mitra conducted two research projects in the department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. To qualify for the program, students must have a strong academic record, have taken biology and two years of college preparatory mathematics, and recommendations from teachers.



    Peninsula High School:  Strengthening Student Voices through Community Building

    Based on student and staff feedback, Peninsula High School principal Ron Campana implemented a unique new addition to the school’s “Friday Fun Event” lineup in February.

    “Strengthening Voices. Community Circles: Let the Healing Process Begin,” came to fruition after student feedback – they wanted their voices to be heard, especially in this current social climate.

    Students were given four topic circles to choose from:

    1. Persevering with loss and change
    2. Marginalization/empowering victims of bullying
    3. Advocating for safe and supportive school environments
    4. Faced with addiction

    One of the most engaged circles was the one involving addiction. The event shined a bright light on the challenges that PHS students face whether their parents or someone they love are faced with the disease of addiction.

    At the end of the Community Circles, students were provided with resources related to counseling services, crisis and suicide prevention hotlines and more.


    Peninsula High School Launches Mystery Monday with Professionals and Local Celebrities

    On Monday, May 14th Peninsula High School hosted a Mystery Monday assembly where students were engaged in listening to a panel of professionals and local celebrities who shared their personal journeys toward success. The speakers included Anton Cura and Chris Diaz of Attention to Detail and San Francisco Barber Shops, Chris Mariano the Band and Choir Director of Riordan High School, Bob Palacio who is the Superintendent of San Francisco Park and Recreation, DJ Rick Lee of KMEL, and Chuy Gomez former Radio Host of KMEL and currently Radio Personality of Q102.1, and Host of California Music Channel. The speakers challenged the students to take advantage of all opportunities no matter how big or small and to learn from each experience to find their passions and a better understanding of self.



    San Mateo High School Produces "You Can Play" Video

    San Mateo High School recently joined the #YouCanPlay movement with a video it created featuring San Mateo High School students working for equality in all sports, including Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, queer ---v athletes, coaches, and fans. Mills High School's video is prominently featured on the You Can Play website, watch it down below.

    You Can Play Website Mills

    . You Can Play's mission is to ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports - including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trnsgender, and questioning athletes, coaches and fans. Learn more about You Can Play with this link. 

    Sam Mateo High Students Conduct Annual World Record-Setting Food Drive

    San Mateo High School (SMHS) students conducted their annual holiday food drive in November 2017. The students’ goal was to collect more than 100,000 pounds of food and continue their tradition of being one of the largest food drives in the country.  All donations benefited the Samaritan House in San Mateo and Second Harvest Food Bank. This year’s campaign theme was “Can Wars: San Mateo High School 2017 Food Drive.” The food drive resulted in 105,000 pounds of food and lots of donations for the cause!



    San Mateo Union High School District Robotics Teams Earn Awards This School Year
    Burlingame High School Robotics Team Ranks Third in First Regional Competition of Season and Mills High Robotics Team Wins Judges Award!

    The Burlingame High School Robotics Team (FRC #5026) team is gaining ground on some traditionally tough robotics competitors. This past semester, the Burlingame High School team competed in its first regional of the season. This up and coming team has never been in the upper half of the rankings, but that all changed when they placed 3rd out of 43 teams!

    The Burlingame High School team also won the Creativity Award for their unique and effective intake design. Finally, teammate Max Kober won Dean's List Finalist. This was the first ever Burlingame High School student to win this honor. 

    And Burlingame High School was not the only team to take a giant step forward in the competition. Mills High School also competed. With the help of Burlingame High School student mentor, Rory Douglas, the Mills Vikings won the Judges Award! 

    Combined SMHS and BHS Chamber Singers Place Gold in WorldStrides Heritage Performance

    Congratulations to the Burlingame High School Chamber and the San Mateo High School Chamber Singers, Conductor Shawn Reifschneider, and Accompanist Paul Zawilski, for garnering a First Place Gold at the WorldStrides Heritage Performance at Disneyland this weekend!! Congratulations also to Burlingame High School Junior (& attending Middle College) Suzanna Longworth for her individual Maestro Award for her solo, and to Burlingame High School and the San Mateo High School Concert Choir for their Silver Award!


    San Mateo Union High District Students Take Top Three Awards in Annual Congressional Arts Competition

    On Thursday evening, May 10, 2018, at the Peninsula Art Museum located at 1777 California Drive in Burlingame, California, the annual Congressional Arts Competition Reception was held beginning at 6:00 PM.  

    High School students from Lowell, School of the Arts, Jefferson, Aragon, San Mateo, and Mills submitted a total of thirty nine artworks from Congressional District #14.


    The top three awards were all presented to San Mateo Union High School District students.

    Mills High School First Place: James Oh (Junior)

    His painting will be hung in Cannon Hall at the White House for one year and he and his family will be flown to Washington, D.C. for the installation.  He also received a check for $500.00.


    Aragon High School Second Place:  Kinako Miyake (Senior)

    Kinako received a $250.00 check.


    Mills High School: Third Place: Vanessa Li (Junior)

    Vanessa's watercolor painting will be on display for one year at Congresswoman Jackie Speier's office in San Mateo and she received a check for $100.00.


    All student participants in this year's competition receive a check for $50.00.


    KQED Reports on New Collaboration with U.S.G.S. and San Mateo Union High School District’s Special Education Team

    On April 9, KQED published a story, which also aired on National Public Radio, about an exciting new work-based learning collaboration between school districts and the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park. The program, called STEP-UP, is replicating a successful cooperative partnership at the Virginia University College and Graduate studies office with students. STEP stands for Secondary Transition to Employment Program which is created for students aged 18 to 22 who receive special education.

    The students get real-world experience while helping University College and Graduate studies scientists on projects ranging from digitizing land changes to inputting historic survey documents and decoding bird migration. The collaboration is a win-win – school districts get to train students to enter the workforce, while the U.S.G.S. is able to complete scientific projects that involve large amounts of data. San Mateo Union High School District's Vocational Specialists have been creating the framework this year so that students in the Adult Transition Program will have the opportunity to participate in work-based-learning at the Menlo Park U.S.G.S. for the 2018 to 2019 school year. 

    View the article or listen to the newscast of KQED's story.

    San Mateo Union High School District Mental Health Program Receives Kent Award

    San Mateo County School Boards Association Recognizes San Mateo Union High School District Mental Health and Wellness Program

    San Mateo Union High School District's Mental Health and Wellness Program (along with Aragon’s Flex Time Program) will be recognized at an awards ceremony honoring 2018 Kent Award recipients. The Kent awards were established in 1981 by the San Mateo County School Boards Association to recognize outstanding and innovative programs throughout the county.

    The Mental Health and Wellness program is being recognized for its prevention and short-term intervention services it provides for students facing social and emotional challenges that impact academic performance, attendance and behavior at school.  Students may access wellness staff in a safe and supportive environment to discuss a variety of complex mental health issues. Students learn positive lifelong habits that contribute to their well-being and success. The program offers short-term individual, group and drop-in support in a confidential, non-judgmental space staffed with wellness counselors dedicated to improving the health, well-being and educational outcomes of all students.

    Learn more about the Kent awards




    A wise person told me that if you want to learn about someone, ask about their childhood.  I have found this to be almost always true.

    I often speak about high school as the most formative time in a young person’s life.  For a quarter of our present students, they are graduating into adulthood, with all the responsibilities that come with this new time in their lives.

    Last week I had the chance to attend a school’s faculty meeting.  The A.V.I.D. seniors were their guests and presenters.  One by one they shared their name, the college they were to attend, and the staff member who had had the greatest impact on their trajectory through high school.  These expressions of accomplishment and gratitude were so inspiring!  I know the teachers will hold that moment in their hearts forever.

    I hope that as you think about what your student will do with their “one wild and precious life,” you will consider encouraging them to pursue a life as an educator. I truly believe there is no higher calling or more fulfilling profession.




Stock Drawing of chalkboard with light bulbs - text reads: Year in Review