October 12, 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
The amount of preparation required to teach a great lesson is staggering.  It's craftsmanship: methodical, skilled, and disciplined. Contrary to hackneyed narratives in popular film and TV (uninspired students instantly waking up to a dramatic reading of Shakespeare), it's rarely exciting.  Moving a student to love learning and find meaning in academic content is a process, not an event.  It requires patience and skill, not gimmicks.

Recently, I've been spending time with our 9th Grade English teachers who collaborate during their lunch period.  Typically, three of them are arranged seated and facing an overhead screen in a classroom; one stands controlling the computer projecting onto the display.  These roles are fluid.  One day, Mr. Hoffman is at the controls, the next time it's Ms. Nguyen. The screen bounces back and forth between three documents: the pacing guide (long-term planning form), the lesson plan (covering 1-2 class periods), and original materials they're creating for students.  Each of them is an MSWord Jedi as they format graphic organizers and guided practice handouts -- a symphony of shortcut keys.

I struggle at times to keep up with the flow of their dialogue, so steeped is it in shorthand and acronyms explaining concepts and activities employed to engage students in the material.  Theirs is the kind of conversation that ends when time runs out and picks up 23 hours later without skipping a beat.  Best practice in lesson planning involves collaboration between teachers to design engaging activities tied to instructional goals.  The collaboration is important because when you assess mastery and compare the student results between classes, you want to compare apples to apples in order to determine (1) what needs to be re-taught and (2) how it might be re-taught.  Again, craftsmanship: methodical, skilled, and disciplined.

There is, of course, a component I'm leaving out: heart.  Planning a successful lesson involves knowing your students -- knowing their skills, background knowledge, and academic abilities.  It involves knowing where they should sit, with whom they should be grouped for one type of activity versus another, and where a lesson might go sideways (and what plan B is going to look like when sideways it goes).  Great teachers use what they know about their students and the relationships and trust they've established to ensure EVERY kid participates meaningfully in EVERY class.  It is in this heart, we believe, that teaching transcends craftsmanship into the realm of art.   

Our 9th Grade English team is just one of many great curricular teams at Sequoia High School engaged in this type of meaningful work.  There is no triumphant scene where the results from the big test save the neighborhood and redeem a flawed protagonist.  There are occasionally tears, but never accompanied by a dramatic score.  The credits don't roll.  Teachers pick up tomorrow where they left off today.  

They do inspire me.  They inspire your students.  I hope they inspire you.

Have a great week!
PSAT Schedule on Wednesday
10th and 11th graders will be taking the PSAT this Wednesday, October 14, starting at 8:30 AM.  Seniors should arrive on campus at 11:15 for an informational meeting in Carrington Hall. Freshmen should arrive during lunch or in time for classes at 1 PM. View the full PSAT day schedule here.
Notes from the District
Each month PTSA presidents from Sequoia, Carlmont, Woodside and Menlo-Atherton meet with Superintendent James Lianides for a district update and to share information about activities at each school. September's highlights included: 
Foster Youth Liaison Update 

> There are currently 130 high school foster youth enrolled in San Mateo County, with roughly 30 attending Sequoia Union High School District schools.  While there are programs in place to help these kids - many who experience stresses beyond the normal high school experience - more help is always appreciated. FYI...Sequoia's PTSA budget provides funds for foster youth as well as those in the Community and Court Schools to ensure all kids get a chance to have a high school experience that includes back to school supplies, enrichment programs, and graduation activities.

Construction - your tax dollars at work!
> Our 4 large schools have initiated projects that will help accommodate the anticipated increase of high school students in the coming years. At Sequoia, several current school improvement projects are nearing completion, and the proposed building that will hold 10 new classes is moving forward in the approval process.  M-A is underway constructing a 21-classroom building, and Carlmont is currently constructing 10 new classrooms. On the horizon, Woodside will be following suit with 10-classroom project.

> East Palo Alto Academy will be breaking ground for a new gymnasium which, when completed, will be available for use by students throughout the district.

> Looking ahead, Redwood High School, which will be transitioning to a full day academic program, will be undergoing a large renovation including a modern culinary arts room, a gymnasium, and classrooms that will allow students to pursue technical career electives.

More district updates to come as the year unfolds!
A shout-out to Susie Gilbert for organizing the Freshman Parent Welcome at the football game last Friday!  With plenty of purple spirit gear and decorations, the freshman parents had a fun time getting to know each other and cheering on Sequoia's team.

Love Bags: Order Online through OctoberLove bags 2015-16
If you haven't ordered your Love Bags, don't worry - they are still on sale online throughout the month of October.  The holidays are just around the corner, and  these make great gifts for your graduate, your school-age kids, your friends and family.

Go to and enter our school ID, 6ZF15, on the page that asks for your shipping information.  And don't forget to invite family and friends to check out the bags and enter our school ID when they place their order.

Remember, proceeds from the sale of Love Bags funds the Safe and Sober Grad Activities for the Senior class of 2016 which include a brunch, BBQ and grad night aboard the Hornblower.

Happy Shopping!!

Sequoyah Statue Dedication - Oct. 23
The Sequoia High School Alumni Association is hosting a special dedication ceremony for a bronze statue of Cherokee scholar and statesman, Sequoyah, sculpted by Daniel HorseChief of Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Sequoia is the Latin form of Sequoyah, for whom the tree is named.
The event is being held at 4:00 PM on Friday, October 23, in the Sequoia High School main building foyer.
The program will include an official unveiling of the statue and descriptive plaques. Attendees will learn about Sequoyah, the writing system he created for the Cherokee people known as a syllabary, the statue itself, the sculptor and the connection to Sequoia High School and its students. Principal Sean Priest will speak, and the Sequoia choir will perform. Light refreshments will be served. 
The Sequoia High School community and the community at large are invited to attend.  Those planning to attend are requested to email or call (650) 592-5822.
Have Any Used Smartphones?   smartphone_search.jpg
Have you "upgraded" your smartphone and still have the old one lying around? Mr. Hoffman, English Department Chair, is looking for working smartphones with chargers for Sequoia's English classes.  He wants to use them as tools for research, online quizzes, etc. While some classes use Chromebooks, these smartphones are great for simpler tasks and would be greatly appreciated!
Contact Mr. Hoffman at for more information and where to drop them off. 
Photo Scavenger Hunt
Here is this week's photo, do you know where it is?  

Last week's answer:  The "S" is on the away side of the football field. On the turf border on both sides it states "We are ... Sequoia."

In This Issue
Monday, Oct. 12
No School - Staff Development Day 

Wednesday, Oct. 14
8:30-12:10 - PSAT, 10th & 11th graders; late arrival, 9th & 12th graders

Thursday, Oct. 15
7 PM - Fall Music Concert: Bands and Orchestra, Carrington Hall

Monday, Oct. 19
Collab Day

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

Friday, Oct. 23
Homecoming Football Game

Saturday, Oct. 24
Homecoming Dance

Wednesday, Oct. 28
6:30-8:30 PM - 8th Grade Information Night

Oct. 31
Deadline for taking Senior portraits and for submitting Senior baby photos to Ms. Bray

Friday, Nov. 6
Evergreens ordering deadline

Wednesday, Nov. 11
No school - Veteran's Day
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Parent Education
M-A Parent Education Series
Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home - with author D'Anne Burwell, M.A.

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 10:00 - 11:30 AM
M-A Performing Arts Center (PAC) Cafe
Menlo-Atherton High School
555 Middlefield Road, Atherton CA 94027
Register here.
D'Anne Burwell, local author of the newly released memoir, Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home, shares her heartbreak, hope and lessons learned when things fall apart. Her powerful personal story -- a family grappling with a teenaged son's drug addiction -- transcends addiction and speaks to us all. Join us to listen to D'Anne's story of experience, strength and hope. 

Ms. Burwell holds a Master's degree in education and advocates for families of addicts through radio commentaries, parent mentoring, speaking engagements, and her resource-and-information website, She organized the first screening in Northern California of The Anonymous People, and her radio commentaries have appeared on the Perspectives series on KQED/NPR. The mother of two young adults, D'Anne Burwell lives with her husband in Silicon Valley.
Books will be available for purchase at the event or on Amazon (in paperback and Kindle versions). 
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. This event is open to parents, faculty/staff, and community members.
Questions? Contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Founding Director, The Parent Education Series, at or 650.868.0590.