COVID-19 & School Year Update

Dear Families,

It is hard to be apart during this challenging time. Our All Saints’ School family is a source of comfort and support for children and adults alike. We miss you! We want you to know that we are planning and working hard to ensure that when we are able to come back together, we will have a safe, loving, and nurturing learning environment. It may look different than what we are used to, but it will still feel like home.

Our leadership team has been researching best practices for preschools to reopen. We have studied the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Texas Education Agency (TEA), and Southwestern Association of Episcopal School (SAES), as well as examples of national and international schools that are implementing new procedures. There is a great deal of information that continues to evolve every day, and we are flexible and ready to adapt as quickly as possible to changes that need to be made. We are committed to keeping you informed of our decisions and plans as they develop.

Here are some of the changes to procedures and calendar that we have determined are most important at this time:

HEALTH & SAFETY PROTOCOLS
The School is finding and investing in the best ways to safeguard the health of students and Staff. Some changes will include:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting with CDC-approved methods and cleaners
  • Temperature and wellness checks upon arrival
  • Increased hand-washing routines
  • Cleaning the air with a filtering machine and more ventilation
  • Masks for adults
  • Pickup and drop-off outside the building
  • Increased spacing, small groups and limited mixing between classes
  • Separate writing tools and craft materials for each child
  • More time spent outside
  • Rotating toys, and removing toys that cannot be easily cleaned and sanitized

CALENDAR
We are so proud of how quickly our Teachers adapted to online learning. It was a steep learning curve to quickly determine what content would be most important and the platform that would work best. Our Teachers used Zoom, YouTube videos, FaceTime, and activity packets as appropriate to the age of our students. As Early Childhood educators, committed to hands-on learning through play, we knew that it was not ideal. After reflecting as a Faculty on how it went for our students, we decided that next school year we would prefer to make up as many days as possible, and use online learning tools as a way of staying connected with our students.

To reach this goal, our calendar will start earlier and build in make-up days at the end. We will still have our typical number of instructional days, but there will be an extra 37 flexible school days in May and June that can be used in the event that we have to stay at home at any point during the school year. We hope the new calendar attached to this email will reassure you that your child will not be missing out on important learning time, and you will not feel pressured to provide home schooling, should we have to be apart again.

Please see the full calendar for a draft of our expected year.

We are blessed to have a loving and supportive community. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility during these uncertain times. We will continue to update you as decisions and plans become more refined. We look forward to welcoming all of you back to our sweet little school.

Wishing you well,

Cindy La Porte and Gigi Khalsa
All Saints’ Episcopal Day School

Mother’s Day 2020

I had the extreme good fortune to grow up knowing my three great grandmothers, two grandmothers and mother. All six were strong women who put their families first and believed in the power of love and prayer. They also all modeled the importance of being compassionate to everyone at all times, with no exceptions. As time passed, I acquired three other mothers – my husband’s mother, my best friend’s mother and another best friend’s older sister. They too were all cut from the same “mother mold.”

My mom was the last of my six biological mothers to die and that was in 1997 and yet I can still remember her encouraging words, her gentle touch, and her beautiful smile. Mom and I shared the same birthday and every few years, our birthday was on Mother’s Day. When I was young, I was sometimes sad that the day of celebration was not focused on me alone. However, after our son Marcus was born, I better understood the intense emotion my mom must have felt every time we celebrated our special days together.

My prayer today is that you and I can be the kind of inspiration to our own children, grandchildren or great grandchildren all my mothers were and still are to me. Or, that you can be the child who can, with thankfulness of heart, openly receive the love offered to you by your mothers. Wishing you the best Mother’s Day ever!

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head

Earth Day 2020

The sunrises lately have been spectacular. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalms 19:1) Author Max Lucado suggests, “Nature is God’s first missionary. Where there is no Bible, there are sparkling stars. Where there are no preachers, there are spring times. Where there is no testament of Scripture, there is the testament of changing seasons and breath-stealing sunsets. If a person has nothing but nature, then nature is enough to reveal something about God.”

As a child I remember these as my favorite family times: lying on a quilt in our small yard and identifying shapes in the clouds as they floated overhead; fishing from a tiny pier that was across Corpus Christi Bay, next to a small cabin that we shared with other families; standing under the stars on Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island late at night watching the tarpon run; and hiking on the hundreds of acres that my dad and his hunting buddies leased every year. While many great things happened inside our home, nothing could compare to the times we spent together outside. These were quiet times perfect for reflection without interruption. It was quality time spent listening to my parents and grandparents share how they spent their childhoods and learning what they knew to be true about nature. The stories may not have been Sunday school lessons in the traditional sense, but they were certainly opportunities for developing an appreciation for all that God has created.

My prayer for us as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is that we will never be too busy to teach our children and grandchildren why God had reason to be pleased after making the heavens and the earth. I pray too we will make an even greater effort to reverse climate change, reduce waste and plastic pollution, prevent harm to wildlife, and improve air and water quality. Let’s commit to making every day Earth Day!

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head

The World at a Distance

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land

You may remember this song, made famous by Bette Midler in 1990. In our current “distanced” world-so characterized by social distancing and all-distance learning, it came to my mind recently. The more the song stuck in my head (one of those times where you can’t seem to get rid of a tune lingering there!), the more I realized it spoke in remarkable ways to the current, surprising condition of our world.

Since we have all been at home, some unintended consequences have been taking shape in our environment. The air is cleaner, thanks to the absence of automobiles and airplanes, mountains have made shocking appearances in places where they are rarely seen in normal times, and there have even been reports of dolphins in the canals in Venice. While we have retreated inside our homes, the environment is experiencing a reprieve, the world looks at least a bit more blue and green.

The human response to COVID-19 is nothing short of remarkable. Indeed, it is a tribute to human agency, what we are able to do when we summon our wills, move beyond self, and look out for the well-being of others. We see it in what our faculties have been doing for students these past weeks, the daily, uncommon courage of health care workers and those employed by essential services, and now we see it, in unintended ways, in the manner in which the world around us has undergone a brief moment of healing as our carbon footprints have been drastically reduced.

There is one way in which Bette Midler’s song has never rested well with me: the refrain that “God is watching us, from a distance.” The spirit of human agency which we have witnessed so splendidly these past weeks is a tribute, in my mind and heart, to the immediacy of God at work, not to a God that simply watches from a distance.

A reminder: we have struggled and worked very hard over the past years to instill in our students a spirit of agency, to give them a sense, in spite of their reluctance, that they have the capacity to influence the world into which they are entering. These past weeks alone have given us a most poignant example of just that: we can make a difference.

What’s more, just as we have managed to make a difference-albeit indirectly-in our environment through our inaction, consider how we might take that depth of human agency, going into the future, and make a more direct, intentional impact on the well-being of our planet.

The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., Executive Director
This message was sent to you from the National Association of Episcopal Schools.

March Newsletter – Spring at All Saints’

When I was young, we kids were upset when it got dark because it meant that our parents would soon be calling us to stop playing and to come inside. We celebrated when we were allowed to play hide and seek after the sun went down. Searching in the dark helped us learn to slow our pace and to draw on all our senses to guide us to success. Consequently, I’m sad when I learn that children are afraid of the dark. I have to wonder if some of that fear is the result of closed windows and nightlights. Although I would not advise that you go without air conditioning full time, I do believe that open windows at least allow children to become familiar with the night sounds.

I can remember my sister, brother and I being sung to sleep by the chirping of the crickets and cicadas. And, I recall being awakened by the leaves rustling or thunder in the distance. We would reach for the sheets and turn over with smiles on our faces, because both those sounds meant that a cool breeze would soon be blowing through the windows. We could also recognize the distinctive barks of the neighborhood dogs and knew when cats were on the prowl. Even unfamiliar noises were not to be feared; they provided us an opportunity to use our higher level thinking skills or, our imagination.

As adults, we travel a variety of paths in life. How we approach a path determines our success in reaching our destination. It’s easy to navigate when there are no unknowns and when we can see far enough ahead to adjust our route. Not every thing we encounter in life however is planned. So, we must also learn to draw on our inner strength and keep the faith that something previously unnoticed will guide us out of the darkness.

My prayer for us this month is that when something unexpected or unfortunate occurs, we will remember that the stars and moon are not visible in bright sunlight. And just as surely as the sun sets, it also rises.

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head

A Message from the Head of School for 2020 and Beyond

When I came to All Saints’, the Librarian’s position was filled each year by an intern who was enrolled in UT’s Information and Library Sciences program. Before the school year ended, the current intern would recommend a classmate to be hired for the upcoming year. In 2006, I offered Gigi Khalsa the position primarily because of her educational background and previous teaching experience. The next year, I asked her to not only stay on as the Librarian, but to also be our Kindergarten Teacher.

After the Faculty attended an eight-hour Conscious Discipline workshop that introduced us to the importance of social-emotional learning, Gigi expressed an interest in learning more about this program, so she attended a week-long Conscious Discipline workshop. She then helped launch a transformational, whole-school solution for social-emotional learning, discipline and self-regulation. When our Music Teacher left, Gigi volunteered to take guitar lessons and to enroll in a Music Together training course and afterwards, elevated our music program to a higher level. Despite her desire to be a lifelong learner, periodically she would look at me and say, “I would not want your job.”

Before school ends each year, I meet with Faculty members to help them set goals for the upcoming school year. In May of this year, Gigi shared that she was prepared to stretch herself again; she planned to apply for the job as Head of School. Then she said, “I can tell by the expression on your face that you are surprised with this news.” Before I could even respond, she added with a laugh, “I am too!” I had never seen Gigi have a bigger smile or a more beautiful glow to her skin. While she might not have recognized it at that precise moment, I knew without question that God was calling her to lead this sweet little school.

I am thrilled that Gigi’s willingness to serve is perfectly timed with my retirement. It has been said that if we come to the edge of the unknown, we will either find solid ground to stand on, or we’ll be taught to fly. When I give thanks to God for my blessings this Thanksgiving, I will thank Him for empowering Gigi to take a leap of faith. My prayer is that you will join me in supporting her as she begins this new journey.

Mo Kowalik – Connie Wootton Award Winner

All Saints’ is proud to share the very exciting news that our own Ms. Mo was awarded the 2017 Connie Wootton Excellence in Teaching Award for Early Education at this year’s conference of the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools!

Her incredible work in her classroom, in her curriculum, and as the All Saints’ Chaplain has left an indelible mark at the School and with our Families.

Like all our teachers, Ms. Mo means so much to so many of the families in our school community, but it is very exciting to see her amazing work recognized by a broad group of her peers.

Members of the Faculty, Head of School Cindy La Porte, and members of the Board of Trustees were on hand to cheer on Mo’s wonderful accomplishment.

Cindy La Porte – Ruth Jenkins Award Winner

Along with the John D. Verdery Award, the Ruth Jenkins Award is the National Association of Episcopal Schools’ highest honor that recognizes and celebrates the outstanding service of individuals to Episcopal schools and NAES.

Cindy LaPorte was honored with this award at Biennial Conference 2016.

A distinguished early childhood educator, Cindy has served a Head of School at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School in Austin, Texas, since 2000. Prior to that she was a teacher and division head at St. James Episcopal School in Corpus Christi, Texas and a professor of education.

In presenting the award, Connie Wootton, former Executive Director of the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools and past NAES Governing Board member noted:

When I first met Cindy LaPorte at St. James Episcopal School in Corpus Christi, Texas, more than twenty years ago, I quickly identified her as an enthusiastic champion of the youngest ones in our schools. However, as I have worked with her as the long-term and exceptionally effective head of school at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School in Austin, as both a board member and a Standards Committee member, including countless accreditation visiting teams for the Southwestern Association Episcopal Schools, it has become apparent that Cindy truly is a champion of all people.

The fact that she collects hearts of all sizes, shapes, and colors, and that she makes a point of sending a pewter heart, along with a kind note written in her signature block printing, to those experiencing sad or challenging situations, is indicative of the larger than life heart she herself possesses. An invitation to her home in the Texas Hill Country is a coveted experience, both because she is a gourmet chef of the highest order, and because she naturally exudes hospitality that is beyond warm and inviting.

Her sincere respect for the dignity of every human being has enabled her to deal effectively with not two, but three separate entities during her tenure as head of All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. All Saints’ Episcopal Church, All Saints’ Episcopal Day School, and the Episcopal ministry on the campus of the University of Texas all share very limited space and parking. So, in addition to her other attributes, Cindy is an effective juggler of time and space.

On one random visit to All Saints’, I was puzzled about numerous grocery bags filled with almost everything one would need to bake a birthday cake. The bags were destined to be distributed to children in the Austin area who had not likely ever had a birthday cake or cupcakes.The receiving children could not have been more excited than the students in Cindy’s school who were involved in the project. What a wonderful way to model having a heart for others, even for three, four and five year olds.

When administrators, board members, or rectors associated with early childhood programs request samples of recommended operational policies and procedures, Cindy has long been regarded as a primary “go-to” person for both NAES and SAES, partly because she can be counted to be on top of best practice in all areas of school life, but also because she will follow through as a generous mentor for those making the request.

Finally, a favorite part of our Episcopal liturgy is when we thank God for the company of faithful people, and in my opinion, faithfulness is Cindy’s most outstanding attribute.  When things are going well, she is quick to thank God for His bountiful blessings, and in the face of adversity and challenge, her belief is unwavering that God’s redeeming Light will indeed flood the darkness that would otherwise be overwhelming.

Source: NAES Press Release, November 30, 2016

History: All Saints’ Episcopal Day School

St. Margaret’s Guild was organized in the Fall of 1939 at All Saints’ Episcopal Chapel to interest young mothers of the parish in the spiritual welfare of their children.

First focused on Sunday School, in the fall of 1945 these ladies met at the home of the rector. After much discussion, they adopted as their major objective the establishment of a nursery day school.

They contacted faculty members of the University of Texas, people in the community known for their work with preschool children, and national association resources. Over six months of thorough investigation, the founders prepared to establish a nursery school unit of twenty students.

Elinor Doty 1940s B&W

In January 1946, the parish elected a Board of Trustees at its annual meeting, charging the Board with the administration and policy making of the School.

St. Margaret’s Guild took responsibility of the financial obligations for the founding and operation of the School. Separately incorporated as a non-profit educational institution, in the beginning the School’s tuition payments were spent exclusively on Faculty salaries and operating expenses. Permanent improvements and equipment were supplied by the Guild.

The School opened with a short session, March through May of 1946, and that Fall the first full semester of school began, with two nursery units of ten students each.

Early Days

According to William James Battle, author of The Story of All Saints’ Chapel Austin, Texas 1900 – 1950, “The school prospered from the start, due to the enthusiasm and sound sense of the Guild leaders.” In 1947, the Vestry of the Chapel approved the School’s expansion to Kindergarten and First Grade.

It was not long before parents were interested in their children continuing with an Episcopal school education, and so St. David’s Episcopal Church and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church joined All Saints’ Episcopal Church in the formation of a new lower school in 1952, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

Also in 1952, the Guild that had been instrumental in establishing the School was dissolved, and the School became a ministry of All Saints’ Church. The Fall of 1955 saw the fulfillment of a dream: Space designed especially for preschool children in the beautiful new Gregg House.

Founders

Gammons Early B&W

Five women and two men are listed on the School’s Charter. Eleanor Gammon was a founder and life-long parishioner of All Saints’. Mrs. Gammon’s son Billy was one of the original group of students at the Day School.

Her great-granddaughter, Evelyn, and her great-grandson, William, were both students as well. Evelyn’s grandmother (Eleanor) and her father (Matt) also attended All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. Another founder was J.A. Eidson McKay, whose great-granddaughters Jali and Gabbie were also students.

The School was the first stand-alone preschool to be accredited by the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES), and the first to be awarded their Ken Bastian Award for outstanding community service.

Mission

The School is mission-driven and culturally sensitive. The essentials of the Christian faith are accurately and authentically taught at Chapel services and other programs, and lived out at the School: Respectful, inclusive and mindful of encouraging diversity.

ASEDS Archive Photo1974B&W

Perhaps the reason the Church and School have continued their outstanding relationship over nearly 75 years is because the School has remained true to its founders’ mission when it opened in 1946.

The School community carefully studies any changes before implementing them, and make sure they’re to the benefit of all students. As a result, Parishioners and School Parents have offered the School a kind of support that is rarely seen.