September 21, 2015

Celebrating Sequoia High School's 120th Anniversary!
Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
For many of our students in a shrinking world (including yours truly), the passions ignited through the study of a new language are the ones that often lead to careers or lifelong interests. It would be impossible to capture that breadth of our fantastic World Language Department in this space, but I'll offer some impressions based on some of the classes I've visited this year.  

Last week in Ms. Salvatore's Spanish class, students were practicing telling time.  The usual pedagogical tricks were at play: do you use the singular or plural conjugation when it's 12:45?  Is 2 AM la mañana or la madrugada?  What struck me was how much fun the students were having, how safe they felt taking risks, and how supportive they were of one another's success.  Drop someone into ANY foreign environment, and those three attributes will get you far.  We're just a month into the school year, and Ms. Salvatore's class (with student-chosen names such as Chipotle and Pollo Frito) has the feel of a large family.

French teachers at Sequoia adhere to the immersion philosophy in their instruction.  Mme Chin, Mme Arfi-Tocatlian, and Mme Kuttan speak exclusively in the target language, regardless of whether it's an introductory class or honors level IB.  And far from merely pointing to pictures of common objects and repeating the French word, this immersion extends to analysis and discussion of current events.  Every few minutes students turn to their partners to respond to a prompt.  The conversations are thoughtful and often very serious (significant time last Spring in Mme Kuttan's class was spent trying to make sense of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy).  French classes almost have the feeling of a 19th Century salon -- a Socratic dialogue in a second language.

Because many of Sequoia's families speak Spanish as a primary language, to call it a foreign language would be inaccurate and insensitive.  As such, Sequoia offers Spanish courses designed specifically for native speakers.  Mr. Calles, one of our Spanish for Native Speakers teachers, enjoys discussing elements of indigenous mythology present in the Latin American literary tradition.  Students build skills in grammar and usage, but also a deeper understanding of culture.  I get goosebumps today thinking about a student I once observed in an IB English class referencing symbolism he'd first encountered in his Spanish for Native Speakers class.

306 11th and 12th graders are currently enrolled in IB courses in Spanish or French -- about 30% of the total.  The focus is on advanced skills in writing, speaking, reading, and listening.  The approach is pure IB.  In Dr. Verdeses's IB Spanish classes, students regularly respond to complex prompts using primary sources to defend claims.  The understanding of culture extends beyond food, music, and art, delving into demographic trends, political history, and comparative literature.  

And far beyond these regular school day contributions to Sequoia's academic program, World Language teachers enrich the lives of all students through advising clubs, arranging performances and presentations, and taking their own time and energy to organize and chaperone exchange visits.  Just this summer, Mme Chin and Sr. Stalder-Skarmoutsos accompanied over 50 students on separate trips to Europe.  These trips were organized and executed 100% by the teachers and left an indelible mark of the lives of the participants.

We are very proud of our World Languages Department and the ways it enriches Sequoia.  If your student has Sra. Alvarez, Mme Arfi-Tocatlian, Sr. Calles, Mme Chin, Sr. Garcia-Huitron, Sra. Guillen, Mme Kuttan, Sra. Nadeau, Sra. Salvatore, Sra. Sigala, Sr. Stalder-Skarmoutsos, or Dr. Verdeses, ask them about their World Language class -- bonus point if you ask in the target language.

Have a great week!

Sean Priest
Sequoia High School Principal
Yearbooks can be reserved online at Reserve it now before the price goes up. You can also get free personalization for a limited time only.


* Please take your senior portraits by Halloween. If you need to make an appointment or reschedule, call Prestige Portraits at 650-597-1433. You can find more information on the school website.

* Bring your baby pictures to Mrs. Gordon in the treasurer's office by Halloween to be scanned. You can also email your baby picture to Ms. Bray at


Class of 2018, 2019 Email Lists
Freshmen and sophomore class parents are encouraged to subscribe for your grade-specific email list!  You can do so via the Sequoia PTSA website; currently, only a small portion of 9th and 10th grade families are signed up. These lists enable you to stay informed about news specific to your student's grade, such as an upcoming freshman parent welcome night, and Evergreen Sales by the sophomore class that will be starting soon.  Keeping up-to-date on school activities is a great way to support your student!
null Is That Coffee I Smell?  
Last Friday morning, Sequoia's dedicated staff were treated to hot espresso drinks and a delicious breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and bagels and cream cheese, compliments of the PTSA.
Breakfast was available for delivery or walk-up and helped brighten the day of teachers and staff, many who were at school until late the night before because of Back to School Night. 
Volunteers from the PTSA hospitality team set up a beautiful breakfast spread, and leadership students were on hand to help with the deliveries.  Thank you to:
  • Hospitality Committee - Donna Fiore, Jenny Bender, Jennifer Marino and Merce Carroll
  • Parent helpersJennifer Marino, Beatrice Carrot, Diane Holman, Rachel Krueger, Dorith Dooley, Lisa Hane
  • Student coffee deliverersTravis Bender, Maddi Giles, Grace Weber, Lauren Berry, Delaney Watkins, and Nicole Finn
  • Food donorsRachel Krueger, Dorith Dooley, Caitlin Schneider, Susan Lier, Marianne Cheatham, Chris Woo, Stacy Huisman, Barbara Jakoby, Pam Ross, Lauren Pachkowski, Debbie Parolari, Janet Hart, Rebecca Joslin-Davis, Marlena Griffin, Meredith Armienti , Tobey Bergen, Grace Schulz, Paul Tanzillo, Diane Holman, Rachel Krueger, Marta Roig and Michelle Futornick
  • Coffee cart - friendly folks from Espresso Lane!
Shout outs to all who pitched in to make this a fun and well appreciated morning!  
Hard-boiled eggs with messages to the teachers!

Helpers Needed for Photo Retake Day
We are still in need of volunteers to help with photo retake day on Monday, Sept. 28.  Shifts are approximately 2 hours, and volunteers receive a free photo package for their student.  Sign up here - thank you for your help!
Candidates Forums 
Wed., Sept. 23, 7 PM - A forum organized by the League of Women Voters, featuring the candidates running for the Sequoia Union High School District Board, will be held in the Birch Conference Room of the District Office, 480 James Avenue, RWC.  Click here for a flyer.

Tue., Sept. 29, 6:30-8 PM - A PTA-sponsored forum for San Carlos School District Board candidates will be held at the San Carlos District Office, 1100 Industrial Ave.

Thu., Oct. 8, 6:30-8 PM - The San Mateo County Office of Elections in partnership with Innovate Public Schools will host a forum in Carrington Hall for candidates for the Redwood City Council, Redwood City School District, and the Sequoia Union High School District.  More information here.

Last Chance to Order Love Bags!
Love bags 2015-16
Proceeds from the Love Bags sale go towards the Safe and Sober Grad Activities Week for the Class of 2016. Order online at Enter our school ID, 6ZF15, on the page that asks for your shipping information. Online orders will be shipped directly to you. If you prefer to see a catalog and pay by check, please email Cecilia Canale.  Orders should be placed by Friday, September 25th.
In This Issue
Monday, Sept. 21
Collab Day

Thursday, Sept. 24
 7 PM - Sequoia Parent Education Series, Carrington Hall

Monday, Sept. 28
Collab Day
Picture Retake Day
Tuesday, Oct. 6
Freshman College Day
7-8 PM - PTSA meeting, MPR

Wednesday, Oct. 7
6:00 PM - 10th Grade College Info Night, Carrington Hall

Monday, Oct. 12
No School - Staff Development Day

Wednesday, Oct. 14
8:30-12:10 - PSAT, 10th & 11th Graders

Thursday, Oct. 15
7 PM - Fall Music Concert, Carrington Hall

Wednesday, Oct. 21
6:00 PM - 9th Grade College Info Night, Carrington Hall

Friday, Oct. 23
Homecoming Football Game

Wednesday, Oct. 28
6:30-8:30 PM - 8th Grade Information Night
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Parent Education
Sequoia Parent Education Series
"Raising Teens with Mindfulness, Resilience, and a Growth Mindset" - with Leah Weiss Ekstrom, PhD, and Fred Dillon, HopeLab
Thursday, September 24, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Sequoia High School, Carrington Hall
This session will explore the science and application of mindfulness, resilience, and a growth mindset. Learn practical, evidence-based tools that will help your teen not only bounce back, but actually learn from setbacks. Come hear from the experts! 

Leah Weiss Ekstrom lectures on compassionate leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and teaches at Stanford's Compassion Cultivation Program (CCARE), founded by HH the Dalai Lama. In addition, Leah leads Compassion Education and Scholarship at HopeLab, an Omidyar Group research and development nonprofit focused on resilience. Fred Dillon plays a key role in shaping HopeLab's new initiative to promote human resilience and inner values through social tech innovation. 
Parents, students, faculty/staff and community members are welcome!  Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be provided.  Free admission; register here.
Sequoia Parent Education Series events are sponsored by the SHSEF, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District.
For more information, contact Charlene Margot, Founding Director, The Parent Education Series, at or 650.868.0590
For Spanish, contact Mayela Ramirez, Parent Center Coordinator, 650-369-1411 x 63105.
Woodside Parent Education Series
"Helping Young Athletes Reach their Potential" - with Steve Smith, PhD, Palo Alto University

Thursday, October 1, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Woodside High School, Multi-Use Room (MUR)

How can parents support their children toward healthy participation in sports to encourage a lifelong healthy lifestyle and to reach their potential? The balance between sports, academics, and downtime can be challenging-come learn how best to prepare your young athlete for the future. 

In this workshop, Steve Smith, PhD, psychologist and professor of clinical psychology in the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium of Palo Alto University, will review current research and provide guidelines for parents and coaches to consider for healthy sport participation. 

Prior to joining the faculty at Palo Alto University, Dr. Smith served as the consulting psychologist for the Division I Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Santa Barbara. He maintains a private practice, Sport Psychology and Research Center (, where he works with school, club, and professional teams and athletes of all ages from across the nation.   

Parents, students, faculty/staff and community members welcome! Free admission. Spanish interpretation will be available.  Register here.
Woodside Parent Education Series events are sponsored by the Woodside PTSA, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District.
Questions? Contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Founding Director, The Parent Education Series, at or 650.868.0590. For Spanish, contact Maricela Lopez, Bilingual Parent Liaison, 650.367.7263 Ext. 45323.

M-A Parent Education Series
"Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs" - with Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD

Thursday, October 8, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
M-A Performing Arts Center (PAC) Cafe
Menlo-Atherton High School
Just say no or say nothing at all? This is the question that many parents face with regard to drug use in their teens-whether alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. Most drug education programs are aimed solely at preventing drug use. After instructions to abstain, the lesson ends. No information is provided about how to avoid problems or prevent abuse for those teens who do experiment. How can you help your kids stay safe? 
Join us for an interactive workshop with Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD, founder of the Safety First drug education project at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of "Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs." Dr. Rosenbaum earned her doctorate in medical sociology at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). She is the author of numerous scholarly articles about drug use, drug treatment, and drug policy. Her opinion pieces have appeared in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. In addition, Dr. Rosenbaum is a proud graduate of Menlo-Atherton High School. 
This event is open to parents, students, faculty/staff, and community members.  Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available.   Register here.

M-A Parent Education Series events are free, sponsored by the M-A PTA, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District. 
Questions? Contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Founding Director, The Parent Education Series, at or 650.868.0590. For Spanish, contact Lilly Quiñonez, Parent Center Coordinator, at 650-322-5311 Ext. 5255

Community News
Write Your Best College Application Personal Statement
2 Saturday sessions: October 3 and October 10, 1-4 PM
College of San Mateo Community Education Program

College of San Mateo offers its annual workshop for Bay Area high school students who want to write dynamic personal statements for their college applications. Admissions are competitive. As you know, a strong essay can give a student the important edge. But many students feel ill-prepared for doing their best job on the essay.
"Write Your Best College Application Personal Statement" is a low-cost, information-packed workshop that covers choosing a strong topic, organizing for impact, making the writing style sparkle, and more. Students draft portions of their application essays and get valuable feedback.