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Episcopal Identity and Spiritual Care at The Gooden School

December 05, 2023
By David Kitch


As we move into our second trimester of the 2023-2034 school year, it is a wonderful time to reflect and share an update on Gooden’s Episcopal identity with our community. Laying the foundation for our character development program, we start the year by focusing on the Gooden School motto and the Golden Rule.


Respect for Self, Respect for Others, Respect for the World and Do Unto Others as You Have them Do Unto You.


Each school year Chaplain David Kitch composes a blessing for our Gooden community. This year it reads:


Our choices change us.
Our creativity remakes us.
Our loves transform us.
How we live shapes and reshapes us,
Others, and the world.

Living and Life-giving God,
In all our choosing, may we be wise;
In all our creating, may we be courageous;
In all our loving, may we be bold;
In all our living, may we become whole,
and join in making others and our world whole.

And may compassion, joy, and grace attend us;
our words,
our thoughts,
our hands,
our hearts.

May we live a life worthy of our humanity. 

In chapel, we focus on the concept of all creation being an integrated whole and the shared responsibility to care for this creation. We take inspiration from the lives of Francis of Assisi and Clare of Assisi and the stories of their dedication to the concept of this integrated wholeness of creation. All this gives context and meaning to our Blessing of the Animals service.


One of the aspects of Episcopal identity in schools is their adaptation to local contexts and circumstances. This leads to a lovely variety of expressions. Within that variety, the National Association of Episcopal Schools identifies five characteristics that are part of the “DNA,” if you will, of what it means to be an Episcopal identity school. These are: academic excellence, concern for the faith-life of the community (inclusively expressed), chapel, moral development, and social justice. These are certainly a part of our “DNA” here at The Gooden School. You find these core characteristics expressed in our twice-weekly chapel gatherings, our classroom environments, our practice of restorative discipline, our commitment to service learning, our partnership with Friends in Deed, and our dedication as a school community to living out our school motto in word and action on a daily basis.  





Chaplain David, as well as our student chaplains Quentin and Reilly, and the entire Gooden community invite you to our annual Lessons and Carols celebration on December 20, 2023. This Gooden Christmas tradition is a presentation by students, with faculty support, for families and friends. The students have performed this for nearly 50 years, and most alumni remember this phrase, “And it came to pass that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”  Please join us at St. Rita’s Church on December 20, at 6:00 p.m. 


Parent Education Series

October 05, 2023
By Jo-Anne Woolner

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

Montgomery’s novel is one of my favorites - and not just because Lucy Maud was a Canadian and her mother’s name was Clara Woolner McNeil.* It tells the story of Anne Shirley, a pre-adolescent orphan who finds herself in the care of the Cuthbert siblings - both curmudgeonly and rather old - who were not expecting and are initially displeased to have Anne join their small family. The Cuthberts seem nearly as vulnerable as Anne, for as they deal with their own hardships, they try to set boundaries and realistic expectations for, and encourage empathy, kindness, respect, and responsibility within this spunky, accident-prone girl. Just when life seems to be going smoothly, another crisis must be averted or turned into a teaching, learning moment for all of them. The Cuthberts learn from Anne, but they also learn from their Avonlea acquaintances and Anne’s teachers, all of whom willingly share their wisdom and experience and offer help as Anne moves through adolescence and into adulthood.

At Gooden we understand that each year can feel challenging for families as they learn the protocols and expectations for a new grade - new backpacks, shoes, uniforms, lunches, musical instruments, PE and chapel days, after-school schedules, even sleep patterns - all loom large. This is especially true for our new families, for whom everything seems foreign and new! All of our families, like the Cuthberts in 1908, come to understand that children are always changing - emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. Families should know that they are not alone on this journey, for the school is an essential partner throughout every year, other families can help, and we can bring in special speakers for advice as well!

As we settle into October and fall, we are going to support our families by offering more parent-education opportunities throughout the year. We have begun with grade level coffee chats to discuss what to expect, what is typical developmentally to specific grades, and how we are going to support the children in every grade. These casual conversations are held in the library and are hosted by Head of School, Jo-Anne Woolner, and Assistant Head of School, Laurie Tortell, and often grade-level or subject-specific faculty. We value having this time to connect with parents on a personal level and to answer any questions that arise.

On Monday, October, 16th, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room, there will be an opportunity for parents and guardians to discuss with an Episcopal education expert and consultant the needs of our school community post-COVID. Dr. Doreen Oleson, an independent consultant who last visited our school to do a climate study in 2019, returns to discuss with our community the state of the school and what we should concentrate on over the next five to ten years. Dr. Oleson has served as Assistant Vice-President at Pepperdine University, as Head of School at Saint Mark’s Altadena for 25 years, as president of the governing board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, as trustee of the National Association of Independent Schools, was president of the California Association of Independent Schools, served on the National Commission on Accreditation, and was chair of the Commission on Schools for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.  We hope to see you there, please RSVP here.

We are also working with the GFA to invite outside professionals to our campus for an opportunity to speak to families about topics that impact our children. Our student-support, parent-education speaker series will begin with a presentation at 6:00 p.m. on November 9, 2023 in the multi-purpose room by Gooden alumna Dr. Natasha Hamlin about “The Well-balanced Student.” As we secure dates and our speakers we will communicate them with you and they will be announced in the app. Be sure to check for updates to the app on Fridays every week!

We look forward to our partnership with you as we work together to raise and support our children. Our teachers are the most optimistic people in the world because they know that “There is some good in every person if you can find it. It is a teacher's duty to find and develop it.” (L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea)

*Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island in 1874, and she herself was orphaned and raised by her grandparents. Around the same time, two of her cousins were also orphaned and there was a mix up about which extended family would get the boy and which would get the girl. The family that got the girl was not happy, and this and her own experiences inspired Lucy Maud to write Anne of Green Gables, and other novels. My husband’s grandfather, Benjamin Woolner, was born in 1876 on PEI and he was also a cousin of Lucy Maud’s. 

How to Stay Connected

July 26, 2023
By Bailey Tripp

As we prepare for a new school year, we are overjoyed to have a new communication tool for parents. Part of our philosophy  is to be reflective and forward thinking. After many conversations with faculty and families around communication, connection, and the home and school  partnership, we felt it was time to embrace an in the moment, simple-to-use, check-in style of communication.

We are onboarding a new app that parents and guardians can download to any mobile device using their FACTS login credentials. Everything you need to know will be at the touch of your fingertips. You may easily click on announcements, calendars, schedules, grades, sports, GFA, check on homework and grades, and even make a gift to the school. We encourage all parents and guardians to download the app because it is designed specifically to help  them   stay  up to date with everything happening at school. Since the app is run by FACTS, the information accessed is secure because it is protected by your login credentials. .

As we move forward with this new form of communication, we ask all our families for patience, and understanding as we work together on this partnership. Every Friday at 5:00 p.m., the announcement section of the app will . be updated, and this will also coincide and be linked with the teachers weekly communication! Every Friday, parents and guardians can and should click on the announcement button to see  important updates about the upcoming week. We also encourage everyone to become accustomed to checking the calendar frequently and reading the  details for each up-coming event.

Along with our new app, we are also refreshing the look of our  website.. We hope this helps new families navigate our site more easily. This initiative is to support admissions and enrollment and to share the great things we do at Gooden with the larger community

Our last tech update  is the relaunch of our Instagram account. Our Instagram account serves two purposes. One is to connect with current families and to show them what amazing things are happening on campus! The second is to highlight what Gooden has to offer   future students. This is an intentional approach so that we can better showcase the wide range of learning experiences,  campus happenings and community outreach that Gooden offers. We hope that all families will follow the Gooden School Instagram page and engage regularly with us!.

On Passport Day, Tim Ruiz, Director of Technology, will have a booth, where you can speak to him and get more information about the new app. He will support families in downloading the app and setting up your account. He will also be available at Back-to-School.

For the 2023-2024 year, our community theme focuses on curiosity, kindness, growth and being rooted and grounded in the Gooden community. We look forward to welcoming you back home on the Gooden campus soon!   


Back to School Tips and Tools from Director of Student Support Services

August 15, 2022
By Dr. Wendy E. Abajian

Like most schools, The Gooden School will soon be back in the swing of things for the Fall! 

Schools will be welcoming back long-time families, as well as many new ones.  Excitement/Anticipation is high with the onset of the new year! 

We realize that the excitement of returning may be mixed with a bit of apprehension, and in some cases even anxiety. Parents may query exactly how to prepare students for successful first time entry, or re-entry back onto campus, and seek reasonable insights and tips to best support new and returning students.  At Gooden, we embrace  an overall common sense approach to questions and provide reasonable solutions to better serve our students, while providing  basic organizational tools to families that will help instill a fresh perspective, and a reduced sense of confusion with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

As always, parents are the first line in preparing and instilling positive attitudes within their families. They are optimally positioned to encourage positive conversations with their children and adolescents, as well as fostering study time rules and practices within the home.  

The school provides and implements the structure and foundation for the learning experiences and formal education of all students enrolled within their setting.  
Keeping that in mind, we are embarking on an adventure that best encourages both an excellent education, and instills respectful behaviors that must  be exhibited in the school setting, and will carry-over into the community at large.


Since 2000, I’ve been able to work in both the private and public sectors as they relate to childhood, pre-adolescent, adolescent, college, and adult educational learning programs. Much of my time was devoted to providing Educational Therapy within my own private practice in Sherman Oaks. In 2012, I decided to venture to our ‘sister office’ in Arcadia, which then opened another door to Integrated Learning Solutions in San Marino. It would be that new work opportunity, and introduction that would lead me to eventually begin work at The Gooden School. What initially began as only a nine hour a week part-time job, has grown to a full-time position, and I’m proud to say that this fall I’ll be starting my seventh year.

At the beginning of every year, whether in my private practice, or in the schools, I’d pose the question to individual students: “What would you like to do better this year?” A sort of ‘New Year’s Resolution’ type of question. Inevitably, the responses I’d gather would reflect their heartfelt intentions to do better at: reading (read more and better); become a better writer; finish their assignments/projects on time; work more on my own.

Ah yes…growing and maturing to greater independence.

Independence has always been one of my greatest areas of focus: to support the learning style(s) of my students/clients, to best attain and - hopefully at some point fully achieve - that independence.  It takes time, it takes commitment, it takes patience and it takes a lot of diligent effort and work, on ‘ALL’ of our parts.

In my ongoing commitment to fostering stronger supports for students, I ask that we all foster the ideology of working toward the greater potential and self-determination of reasonable and attainable educational goals, but also set aside time to look at all the wonderful individual creativity and dreams students possess that will blossom and be nurtured within their individual school experience, and with God’s grace take them to a higher academic journeys within their lives.   

Some Organizational Tips for Strengthening Executive Skills
● Organizing your child’s backpack by utilizing a visual daily checklist that your child goes through to identify each item that is needed to be included (i.e. pencil cases, markers, notebooks, journals, etc.) as requested by classroom teachers.

● Create a ‘To Do’ List - place it where your child will read with you and know exactly what’s on their schedule following school  (erasable white board, iPad, etc.).

● Designate a specific workspace for your child, a space where they know they can work and maintain their own materials for continued use. Older children and adolescents should ideally have a desk in their room if possible, to keep track of incoming and outgoing assignments.  A place where they can enter assignments on a calendar, or onto their electronic device(s) i.e. laptops, iPads, phones, Chromebooks, etc.

● Encourage responsibility of pre-teens and adolescents for daily checking their assignments online as supplied by their school. 
Support independent thinking and follow through with adolescent students to advocate on their behalf with their teachers, and specialized administrators to communicate their needs, (in-person or via e-mails).

● Establish a mobile-type roving ‘study vehicle’ within your own Car/SUV, etc.  Placing duplicate materials in your vehicle’s trunk, or even better placing items in over-the-seat carriers/pockets, organizers, along with make-shift lapboards (covered cookie sheets), to facilitate a study time on the road!

A Few ‘Back to School’ Reading Resources for Parents:

‘Mentally Preparing for Back to School’ 
By Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph. D. , 2022.

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential, By Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD, 2009.

Smart but Scattered Teens:  The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential, By Richard Guare, PhD, Peg Dawson, and Colin Guare, 2012.

What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life, By Dr. Sharon Saline, 2018.


In 2015, “Dr. Wendy” joined the Gooden School, as well as continuing her private practice. 

She has implemented learning support as an educational therapist and educational specialist-consultant, to both the private and public school sector, creating and providing individualized support for students. She worked from her established practice within Pediatric, Adolescent, Psychology and Associates, (PAPA), also serving as an independent contractor to the Los Angeles Unified School District and the San Fernando Valley Regional Center, and an Educational Inclusion Specialist to charter schools, contracted via Speech, Language and Educational Associates (SLEA).

She received her doctorate in education, and a Master’s of Science in education from the University of Southern California. She holds a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (K-12) and a Special Education Teaching Credential.

Dr. Wendy is a current board member of the Pindler Family Foundation (a philanthropic non-profit) and a former two-time gubernatorial appointee to the former advisory board at Lanterman Developmental Center, and to the advisory board of Protection and Advocacy, Inc.

Recent Posts

12/5/23 - By David Kitch
10/5/23 - By Jo-Anne Woolner
7/26/23 - By Bailey Tripp
8/15/22 - By Dr. Wendy E. Abajian
7/14/22 - By Jo-Anne Woolner, Head of School
6/16/22 - By Sam Christopher
5/19/22 - By Alka Kumar
4/21/22 - By John Williamson and Middle School Students
3/17/22 - By Juaneeq Kim
2/17/22 - By Aisling Valle