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Principal's Message - English

March 2018

Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s):

The safety and welfare of our students and staff are our highest priority. To provide schools an opportunity to practice emergency response procedures, we are planning a district-wide disaster drill next Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in which all students and staff will participate.

The goal of the training drills are to improve our ability to protect students, save lives, and reduce injuries. Regular practice of our emergency response procedures allows us to evaluate our emergency operations plan and improve our response skills.

These practice drills also provide families with the opportunity to review their emergency procedures such as: do your children know who might pick them up, if evacuating from your home, where are they supposed to go, get out of your home, and where is the family reunification point?

In order to protect students, in case of an actual emergency students will only be released to the parents and/or other adults listed on the student’s Emergency Card.  It is always good practice to ensure that this card is regularly updated with accurate information. It is a good idea to have several trusted adults listed on the card, including one or two who live within walking distance of school. You should assume that in an actual emergency, telephone communication may not be possible, and so you should discuss with your family a meeting place and reunification plans in advance with anyone listed on the student’s Emergency card.

In the event of an actual emergency any approved emergency contact person should be prepared to show identification and be informed where to go to wait for student released to sign them out. This procedure is designed for your child’s protection and for your peace of mind.

Prior to the drill, please discuss your family’s home preparedness plan with your child.  The American Red Cross has outstanding materials. Red Cross materials are available in English or in Spanish from their web site: or by calling your local chapter at (650) 259-1750. Your telephone directory also has valuable information on emergency preparedness, and there are resources to be discovered on the internet in many languages.

If you have any questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to call our school office at (650) 312-7544.

Lana Fenech

Dear Highlands Families,                                                                                March 9, 2018

I wanted to share some information with you to keep you informed of three national events that may be happening in the community, regarding planned protests over the Florida school shooting, and also to assure you that we will not be discussing these events as part of the school day. For your reference, here is a list of the National Events:

March 14th – Enough: National School Walkout

March 24th - March for Our Lives 

April 20th -    National High School Walk-Out for Anti-Gun Violence

Our teachers have unanimously voted to conduct business as usual.  We do not believe that our little ones need to be part of the political discussion.  Our teachers have put our students first, as they always do.  This is why I am so proud to work with these fine educators.  We do not see any evidence of students having discussions about these issues at school, but also want to be proactive in the event that some of our students feel differently.  Our counselor and I will be in the LGI room, during the proposed time of the walk out, to speak with our students, who are unable to stay in class for the 17 minutes.  None of the teachers will link any activity to the larger national protest movement or the Florida school shooting. We will conduct business as usual.

            These national events were designed to give students, teachers, and others, the chance to express their concerns with the violence that has plagued many schools and to take action to bring about change. We support our students’ desire to make a difference in the world, but we also want to make sure they are safe.  As such, we will do what we can to give them an opportunity on campus to talk and explore ways in which they can make a difference.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School

December 2017

Principal’s Message

Currently, we are in need of a school site council member.  We will be sending home, in your Thursday packets, the details needed to volunteer for this vacant position.  This is a very important role at our school, and we will be holding elections in January, after we have a slate of volunteers.  More news coming.

Thank you all for driving safely around our school.  The “Please move forward” signs have helped the flow of traffic dramatically.  Parents have stopped parking in our red and yellow zones, which has also had a very positive impact on the flow of traffic.  Thank you all for doing your part to keep our children safe.

Our students will be welcoming their Winter Break at the end of this month.  Please read with your child each day to enrich and support the skills that they have achieved.  So many parents appreciated the last Principal’s Coffee Chat where we addressed the importance of Family Literacy.  We are trying to create a culture of literacy at our school and encourage that it is also supported at home.  Talk to your child about books that you have read as a child, ask them what books interest them.  Develop a conversation around the dinner table each night about stories from your past.  Read together every night for fun.  During the break, take the opportunity to go to the library or the local book stores.  There is learning everywhere you go, and we welcome our students back on January 9th.

As 2017 comes to a close, I reflect on the many events that have taken place this year.  None of these would be possible without all of the hard work and dedication of so many.   I am grateful for the work Kristie Mourton does in leading our School Site Council, the PTA leadership of Laura Wratten and all of her many helpers who make things happen every day, and in every way.  Julie De La Madrid, our DELAC representative, is also working hard with our Family Engagement Team and our ELAC parents.  Our incredible staff, along with our amazing support staff, is working so hard to raise student achievement at Highlands and teach your children life skills.  Our office staff is working hard to answer your questions and concerns, and our custodial staff, both day and night, work diligently to keep us all healthy and safe.  The Annex team enriches your child’s day, and our special ed staff takes care of student needs.  Thank you also to Highlands Rec Department with whom we have such a wonderful relationship.  Without our “village people” none of the work we do would be possible. 

The magic of the season, the spirit of giving, the wonder of it all, makes each day a delight.  Our students are remarkable and talented in so many ways.  My wish for you and your family is to enjoy the gifts of the season, Peace, Hope and Joy.

Wishing you all the best in 2018!

Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School

November, 2017

Dear Highlands Families,

I hope that this letter finds you all safe and well.  With last month’s natural disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California, it makes us grateful to be safe and sound.  To help our students learn to show compassion for those less fortunate, our Student Council is collecting “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” boxes after Halloween.  Students have committed to ask for donations as they walk their neighborhoods on Halloween. 

Our Teacher Leadership Team is starting “Highlands Bears Who Care.”  This will be direct donations to the Red Cross to help in all locations of need.  Please bring any donations to the Red Cross so that we may send it to them, as their needs are severe. Each classroom will have a collection bank and every bit of cash, coin, or check to the Red Cross will be accepted and much appreciated. 

Our parent community, together with our Student Council, will be accepting new, unwrapped toys for our “Wee Care” collection.  These toys are collected for the holidays for less fortunate children.  Imagine the joy you will bring to a child when they have something to receive on their holiday.  You will be putting smiles of joy to the faces of children who are in most need. 

I thank you for your support with all of our projects at our school.  Our students are learning to donate, not for a prize, but for the gratification of doing something caring for others.  This is a life lesson and helps us develop our life skills.  Highlands cares, and it shows.  Thank you for your kindness and support. 

Most Sincerely,
Lana Fenech

September 29, 2017

This week safety was at the forefront.  With the recent incident with a San Mateo High School student, it is vitally important that we work together to keep our children safe.  A few things could help.  If you drop off your child at the Bunker Hill gate, please make sure that the gate is open and your child enters the school grounds, as the gate is closed at 8:15 a.m.  Students who are late need to go to the office.  We do not want children walking alone on the streets, after school starts, from the Bunker Hill gate to the office, if that can be avoided.  Please drive them to the path by the office instead.   Thanks so much for your help with this matter.

We also practiced our district-wide earthquake preparedness drill, last Thursday.  All students and staff were accounted for in record time.  Where we need help is with parent volunteers.  Please sign out in the office when you finish volunteering. We were looking for 6 parents for over 15 minutes.  This is serious because in the event of a true emergency, we would have our Search and Rescue Team spending time looking for you in classrooms, restrooms, workrooms, and other common rooms. Thankfully, this was a drill, but if we do not follow the procedures, it could result in time lost from serving our students.  Please make sure to sign in when you come in, and out when you leave.  Please do not sign out when signing in.  This, too, does not help us.  Since we all want the best for our students, I appreciate everyone helping us out and working together.  Thank you.

If there is ever an emergency, please know that our student release gate would be the Bunker Hill gate.  Do not go to the office, as everyone would be asked to evacuate all buildings and assemble on the playground.  We have procedures and personnel ready to assist you with reuniting with your child.  Our first aid team is ready to help with any medical or psychological issues, search and rescue is ready to take care of structural issues, security and communications teams are prepared, and our student supervision team has your children in loving hands.  We are ready!  Thank you for your support.

Lana Fenech

September 2017

Dear Parents/Guardians,

San Mateo County Safe Routes to School (SRTS) supports initiatives to increase the number of students walking, biking and carpooling for health, environment and traffic mitigation purposes. To aid in program evaluation and planning, the SRTS program regularly gathers travel evaluation data. This year, Student Travel Tally data is being collected on two days in September and two days in April or May. Parent/guardian input about how your children get to and from school and related concerns about their journeys will be obtained through your completing an online survey.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Your feedback allows us to adjust SRTS education and encouragement program features to best meet the needs of each individual school. Your feedback will also be shared with decision makers who can address infrastructure issues regarding safe walking and biking. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete. Please complete a separate survey for each of your children if they attend different schools and/or do not travel to and from school by the same means as each other.
The online survey is available at:


If you do not have access to the internet, please come to the school office and we will aid you in completing the survey.

The online parent survey and classroom hand tally results will be kept anonymous. Should you have any questions about data collection or the uses of the data, please contact Wini McMichael,, 650-312-7243

Lana Fenech
Principal, Highlands Elementary School
Wini McMichael
SMFCSD Wellness Coordinator

August 2017

Dear Highlands Family,

 Welcome to the start of the new school year.  I am so honored and excited to be your principal.  Over the past few months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know the Highlands community of students, staff and parents.  I am amazed at the community spirit at our school.  The dedication of our parents to provide our children with educational support, gardening experiences, literacy opportunities, science experiences, classroom support, and the list goes on.  I am thankful for the amazing work that the PTA does every day for the students and staff at Highlands Elementary School.  There isn’t an area in the school that has not benefited from the dedicated work of our PTA parents.  Our school is a better place because of all of you.  Please make sure to join the PTA and help continue the work that they do for all of us.

 I am also privileged to work with such a professional, caring, and dedicated staff.  I knew that I found a new home when I asked multiple students what the best thing was about Highlands Elementary School.  Their answers were unanimous…the teachers!  Our staff cares for your children as if they were their own.  They educate, guide, coach, and nurture each and every one.  The united feeling of our staff is commendable.  I admire the collaborative work that our grade level teams are doing to make your child’s educational experience student centered, standards based, challenging and fun.  To see the smiles on the faces of students and staff, when a new concept is learned, is rewarding and fulfilling. 

 And of course, the students, who are the reason we do what we do.  They work to reach academic goals in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, and physical education/PMT.  In addition, our students care.  They care about each other, their teachers, the staff, and our school.  Life skills are practiced each day which makes the climate warm and friendly.  Our children are learning to be well rounded individuals with the support from all of us.  

 With everyone working together, we can accomplish great things.  I look forward to watching our children grow.  I thank all of you for your positive support and dedication.  I am truly grateful to be your principal.  Highlands Elementary is my forever home and I couldn’t be more proud.

Our Focus on Safety

This year, my focus is safety.  There are ways that parents can help.  Here are a few.

·         Please cross your children at the crosswalks only.  They learn by your example.  Thank you for helping us out by being consistent, even when you are running late. 

·         Please follow the rules of the road.  Cars backing up into crosswalks is a very dangerous practice.  We have seen many examples of this, last year.  Parking in the yellow zones impedes the flow of traffic.  The yellow zone is for active loading and unloading only. If you need to get backpacks, give kisses, or put on jackets, please park across the street and take all the time you need.   If you have to put your car in park and help your child out of the car, the yellow zone is not for you.  If you plan to use the yellow loading zone, please pull forward as much as possible, have your child unload on the sidewalk side of the car, and pull out when they are safely out of the car.  Please be aware of traffic as you pull out.  Also, stopping in the red zones is unsafe and illegal.  Please drive carefully around our school.  Students are difficult to see.  Thank you for doing your best to help with following these safe practices around our school.

·         Please do not walk your child through the parking lot.  Please use the pathway in front of the office instead.  If you teach your child to walk in the parking lot, they may run out trying to meet you.  They are small and hard to see.  Please teach your child that parking lots are for cars, not people.

·         Please help by having your child check into the office when they are tardy.  We close the gates at the start of the school day to protect your children from outsiders.  Thank you for exiting the campus immediately when the bell rings.  This helps us get started with our school day without distractions. 

·         When coming on campus, please make sure to check in, and out, at the office.  Please do not hold the gates open for those who did not check in at the office and are not wearing a badge.  In the event of an emergency, we need to account for each person on campus.  Thank you for helping out with this.

 Thank you for your help and support in keeping our students safe.  It is very much appreciated.  Together we make a difference.  Please have your child ready for their first day by getting enough sleep and a healthy breakfast before they come to school.  Our fantastic teachers will take care of the rest.  2017-2018 will be a year full of new adventures in learning.  I look forward to working together.

Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School