Thornhill Elementary PFC Newsletter

Volume 28, Issue 1, August 11, 2020

In This Issue

  • Note from the Principal and Librarian
  • Note from the (two!) PFC Presidents
  • Student Assemblies and Back To School Nights
  • Online meal application - everyone should fill it out!
  • Online OUSD registration - 10% of you still need to do this!
  • Konstella is back and better than ever
  • Thornhill Facebook groups
  • Earn money for our school while you shop
  • Calendar of important dates
  • Meet our new newsletter editor!


From the Principal

Dear Thornhill Families,

It was great to see some of you Friday night at the PFC social. In the last few days, I have been to every classroom and I have got to say: We Got This! I am so proud of our teachers and their ability to engage our students online! We have an awesome faculty! Thank you parents for being so welcoming to our new teachers, returning teachers and staff.

I also want to thank all of the parents that are supporting teachers and stepping up to be room parents. Your role is very important with regards to communication in your classroom. And I want to ask for some patience and flexibility as our teachers navigate online learning.

Mr. Daubenspeck’s Backyard Update:

Bees: You may have heard that the two swarms of bees in my backyard have been removed. So there are no more bees here... Although this one was walking on my deck last week and I don’t know why he/she could not fly.

Baby Bird: Sadly a baby bird fell out of her nest about 25 feet above the ground. The nest is located underneath our rain gutters and it shows up every year. When I discovered the bird, I was not sure if our little friend would make it, so I put it in a box and gave it some water. It was a super hot day and her beak was wide open screaming for her mom and probably thirsty too. Her heartbeat felt so strong as she was scared.

So what did Mr. Daubenspeck do? I got our long ladder and positioned it up safely along the house thinking that I might get her back home in her nest. Then I practiced going up the ladder 3 times with one hand as if I were carrying the baby bird. Then on the fourth time, I cupped the little bird in my right hand and proceeded to go up the ladder. Then MOM spotted me! The little bird’s mom was screaming at me and flying at me to protect her baby. She swooped in at me as I struggled to get to the top of the ladder and push her baby back into the nest. I managed to get back down the ladder and not be hurt by the mama bird and to come down safely. Now guess what? A few weeks later I can see her flying around. Her feathers are all grown out and she is soaring. That’s one lucky bird!

Other backyard wildlife sightings

A skunk was meandering around at night... (we did not have a discussion….)

A raccoon was climbing the tree near my bedroom window at 2am.

A fox last year came right up to me on my deck. A very playful fellow. He chased my cat back in the house but just wanted to play with her.

And most recently an opossum was in my front and backyard and my neighbors yard. Did you know opossums are North America’s only marsupial?

Big picture

And passing this along from our librarian Marie Fox:

Hello Thornhill families!

Any remaining library books can be returned into bins that will be placed outside on the following days: Friday August 14 and 21 from 9:00am - 11:00 am. (Please note this is also the time window for technology and packet distribution).

I am very excited to connect with our students when library classes start during the third week of classes. Once our schedule is finalized, I will send it out to teachers and families. Unfortunately, I am unable to check out books from the library at this time, but am hopeful that we will be able to put something into place later on.

Please reach out to me with any questions at

Once again, Welcome to Thornhill!!



From the PFC Presidents (that’s right, plural!)

Aloha. My name is Rex Crum, and I am co-President of the Thornhill Parent Faculty Club (PFC) —our version of the PTA. On behalf of the PFC, I want to welcome you to your school. And make no mistake...Thornhill is your school, and we are all part of the Thornhill community even if we’re not on school grounds right now. Thornhill is a place that brings all kinds of people together, and will continue to do so during what is going to a very different school year.

Whether you’ve been part of Thornhill for some time or you’re a new family, I encourage you to get involved in the school. One of the easiest ways to do that is to come to the monthly Thornhill PFC meetings. The first regular meeting of the school year will be held via Zoom on Monday, September 14, from 5:30-6:30pm. Our Vice Presidents of Communications, Erin Proudfoot and Evie Nagy, will provide the Zoom information for attending this month’s meeting via Konstella. Meetings will usually be from 5:30-6:30pm on the second Monday of every month, unless that day conflicts with a school holiday.

You may have noticed I gave my title as “co-President.” After doing a solo turn as PFC President for the past two years, I am pleased to say we are back to what had been our traditional two-person presidency. Thornhill parent Alicia Streight is coming on as co-President this year, and I hope you all will welcome her on board. And now, I will turn things over to Alicia to introduce herself...

Ahoy! I'm Alicia Streight and this is my second year at Thornhill with my daughter Ellery who'll be in Kindergarten this year. I'm excited to be joining this magnanimous crew as we navigate the mighty Thornhill ship through these turbulent waters together and looking forward to coming out stronger, more compassionate and better able to serve every student and family at our school no matter what the tides may bring.

This is my current crew... myself, lil Sam and the head of the helm, Ellery. Missing in this photo is Dad, JJ, who is generally very busy below deck ensuring smooth sailing.

Big picture


Student Assemblies and Back To School Nights

There will be a First Week of School Student Assembly on Friday, August 14 to give Thornhill kids a chance to come together over Zoom and meet Principal Daubenspeck:

There will also be Back To School Nights for each grade (parents/guardians only) during the second week of school on Tuesday, August 18 (TK-2) and Thursday, August 20 (grades 3-5):

Tuesday August 18, Grades TK-2

Thursday August 20, Grades 3-5


Online Meal Application

Because of COVID-19, many families have been impacted financially. OUSD is asking ALL families to please fill out a meal application form here, whether you think your student qualifies or not.


Online School Registration

Thank you to the families that have registered with OUSD online. YOU ARE AWESOME! We have approximately 90% registered. If you have not registered yet, please go to your Aeries Parent Portal and do so. If you do not have an account, you will need to create an account and then register. To register, you will need your student's ID# and a verification code. That information can be obtained by emailing


Welcome New Thornhill Staff!

Anna Finnell, Kindergarden

Hi all! My name is Ms. Anna Finnell and I am beyond excited to launch my teaching career this year at Thornhill! I was a long-term Kindergarten substitute in the spring and loved singing and sharing via Zoom :). I recently obtained my Master’s in Teaching Reading from the University of San Francisco and attended undergrad at the University of Oregon, Go Ducks!

This summer, I facilitated a five-week online summer reading camp to encapsulate my graduate studies. With a focus on inclusive and diverse children's literature, we made reading engaging, inclusive, and child-focused. In my spare time, I love to try new recipes, listen to podcasts, spend time with animals, and read! I love watching my students grow as creative, empathetic, and empowered members of our community. I already feel so supported by the Kinder team and have been working to arrange and align our ideas for the start of the year! Can’t wait to embark on this adventure together!

Watch this video intro to Ms. Finnell!

Madelyn Drolen, 2nd Grade

Watch this video introduction to our new 2nd Grade teacher, welcome Maddy!

Thornhill Introduction - Maddy Drolen

TK-2 Art Teacher Mrs. Susie Gelbron Birndorf

The first thing you should know about me is that I have been excited about teaching art at Thornhill since I read the job listing during a sleepless night in Covid May. My thoughts shifted (for the most part!) from concern about the uncertainty of life to pondering age-appropriate projects for our TK-2nd graders. Before kids can read and write, they author and share stories through art.

My story began in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up attending public elementary and middle school. At 14, I went to boarding school in New Hampshire at Phillips Exeter Academy and immersed myself in activity. Photography became a passion and I spent hours in the darkroom learning technique--and studied its history as a political tool.

Summers were spent as a camp counselor in Big Bear, California, teaching tennis and art to 5-12 year olds. I majored in art history at Princeton and continued to learn about the aesthetic and political value of imagery--and that it is a portal to life in different times and places. This academic track was complemented by a degree in visual arts--and my participation in Princeton's Teacher Prep Program, which put me in a second grade classroom for the last two months of college to earn a teaching credential.

I continued making and studying art in the graduate program at the California College of Arts and Crafts--and added more courses on teaching elementary students. For the past twenty years, I have been at the helm of Carrot & Stick Press, a design and letterpress business. And my teaching has existed in the form of hosting stationery-making workshops and training new employees on antique presses.

In addition to making things, I love tennis, cooking and laughing! I have two sons: Milton is a 6th grader at Montera and Leonard is a 4th grader at Thornhill. I have loved the opportunity to be in their classrooms over the years and volunteer with the amazing teachers at our school. This new position consolidates my interests and I truly look forward to meeting the students and helping them experience the joy and power of creation.


Konstella is our Communication Platform!

We use Konstella for ALL schoolwide items so that it’s super easy for you to keep track of school stuff all in one place. (Check out their training videos.) Other great resources are our website and the ability to subscribe to our google calendar. We know this year is different from any other and that your individual teachers are sharing things in various ways regarding your classroom activities. Konstella is the place to go for everything beyond the classroom (as well as many classroom related activities, depending on your teacher).

When possible, we would like to have 2 parent/guardians in Konstella for every child to ensure that information is being received. While on your computer logged in to, you can easily invite your partner by clicking the “Invite” button underneath your name in the upper left corner. (This invite feature is not available on the app.)

If you are new to Thornhill, please join the “Newbies to Thornhill 2020-2021” Konstella “committee” so we can help you navigate through your first year at Thornhill. On a computer,, go to “Committees” in the left navigation, find the committee, click the orange “see openings” button, and then the orange “sign up” button! In the app, start on “Directory” in the bottom navigation, click “Browse Committees,” and similarly find the committee.

Please note that Konstella has different functionality on a computer vs. the app! Both are good ways to access information. You'll get a richer experience on a computer, while the app is an easy way to see the feed of activities/events, see your private messages, and find someone in the directory.

Please reach out to if you have any questions whatsoever or need to join the community. We are here to help!


Facebook Groups: Stay Connected!

Konstella is Thornhill’s official communication channel, along with this newsletter and our school website, but we also have an informal community Facebook group that we invite everyone who uses Facebook to join for sharing resources and supporting one another. Each grade also has its own Facebook group: Find the specific links in the Files section of Konstella here. Please make sure to answer the membership questions when you request to join, and read the group rules!


Shop and Earn for Thornhill!

If you are shopping on Amazon for school supplies or lots of other things, please start your shopping through our school's unique link before adding any items to your cart (items already in your cart will not count). Don't be alarmed, Amazon will look the same, but the link is working!

When you complete your purchase within 24 hours after adding the link, the Thornhill PFC will receive a percentage of your total. It works on school supplies, AmazonFresh, movies & music ... "everything from A to Z" -- it really adds up for the school!

What's the difference between this unique link and AmazonSmile?

Great question! You can earn both ways, but using the unique link can garner up to 10% per purchase for Thornhill while AmazonSmile pays up to 0.5%. If you forget to use the link, that's OK, just make sure to set your browser to and set Thornhill Parent-Faculty Club as a charity in your Amazon Smile preferences. We appreciate all funds for the school!

Amazon App User? Set it to use Smile!

AmazonSmile customers on Android devices with version 5.0+ or iOS devices with version 12+, who have upgraded to the latest version of the Amazon Shopping app can find “AmazonSmile” listed in the Settings menu. From there, you can follow onboarding instructions to activate AmazonSmile on your device.



Be sure also to subscribe to the Thornhill Google Calendar here, and download the OUSD District calendar here.


And If You Made It This Far...

Congratulations! You’re in the know about everything going on at Thornhill. I’m your newsletter editor, Jill Evans. My son, Jesse, is in 1st grade and my 7th grade son attends EBIA. And, I am an alumni of Thornhill! Do you know Ms. Maggie from Adventure Time? She was my amazing kindergarten teacher!

The newsletter will land in your inbox every Tuesday, and we make every effort to include everything you need to know and not too much more; we all have plenty of other things to do, but please read it every week as it will more than likely answer most questions you have about what’s up at school. Information about how to submit to the newsletter is below, but you can reach out to me at any time at Happy new school year!


About the Thornhill Newsletter

The Thornhill Parent-Faculty Club (PFC) eNews team publishes this weekly newsletter each Tuesday in the school year to communicate school, PFC and OUSD news, events and information.

Email submissions to our Newsletter Chair, Jill Evans, at by 8 p.m. Thursday for approval—nothing sent after this will be included in the following week’s newsletter unless there are extremely compelling extenuating circumstances. It’s fine to include text in the body of the email with links and no formatting, and attach photos preferably as 150 x 150, 72 dpi JPG or GIFs only (not embedded in email or Word file). Submissions may be edited for spelling, grammar, brevity and clarity. Advertising and items not related to Thornhill are not accepted, as we need to keep the newsletter focused on need-to-know info for the community.

THANK YOU to everyone who submits articles and to PFC Board Members, Teachers, VPs of Communications Erin Proudfoot & Evie Nagy, PFC Presidents Rex Crum & Alicia Streight, and Principal Steve Daubenspeck. Member of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD).