February 22, 2016

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
Harper Lee's passing last week was significant, I'm sure, for many of us.  For several generations of students in this country, To Kill A Mockingbird was a literary right of passage.  At some point in middle or high school, nearly everyone read the book in English class for its accessible examples of characterization, tone, setting, foreshadowing, and symbolism.  But beyond its instructive value for learning about literary devices, the book resonates as the first time many of us truly grappled with the dynamics of race, power, poverty, and justice.

I've since read many books providing a more insightful and sophisticated treatment of the above topics but, as they say, the first cut is the deepest.  Moreover, though my personal path of moral inquiry diverged inevitably from seventh grade away from those of my peers, canonical books like these provide a common reference point.  The name Atticus means something to a lot of people (note: I have only casual knowledge of the so-called "sequel" published last year).

Students at Sequoia don't read To Kill a Mockingbird for classThe canon has, of course, evolved with time.  Lamenting nostalgically about this fact misses the point.  Students do experience a rich array of novels in their English classes at Sequoia.  These experiences are shared, fusing the personal and the collective during a pivotal developmental stage.  Seeing a kid have the courage to articulate a literary epiphany in front of their classmates remains an English teacher's professional holy grail.  As an instructional leader, it excites me to imagine the transformative literary experiences today's students will remember 25 years from now.

Will they look back on Alexis Sherman's Diary of a Part-Time Indian as the book they finished and immediately started reading again from the first page?  Or will The Deportation of Wopper Barraza by Maceo Montoya be the book that validates their emerging sense of social justice?  I have observed many rich in-class discussions about Sonallah Ibrahim's Zaat and never fail to encounter students sequestered at lunch in a quiet spot on campus, their noses deep into Dave Eggers's Zeitoun.

With a de-emphasis on novels in English classes and a broadening 21st Century definition of "text," the Sequoia "canon" is selected with much care and forethought.  English Chair Jonathan Hoffman has shown great leadership over the past several years, seeking new voices and bringing his department together to ensure a truly meaningful literary experience for Sequoia kids.

So in memory of Atticus, Scout, Jem, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley, have a conversation with your student about what their favorite books have been at Sequoia.

Have a great week!
National Merit Finalists
Congratulations to two of our seniors, Carmen Vescia and Ariele Ladabaum, for becoming National Merit Scholarship Finalists!  They are in the top 1% of the 1.5 million students who entered the competition.

Course Planning for Next Year
Wondering what classes your student will take next year?  Current juniors have just finished meeting with their counselors to select courses for next year. Sophomores are in the midst of doing so, and freshmen will have their counselor meetings from mid-March to mid-April.  At the end of the meeting an email will be sent home to parents with the course selections listed.  Parents and students can then email their counselor and let them know if they have any questions or if they wish to make changes to the proposed selection of courses.

You can learn about course choices in the Sequoia Program Planning Handbook, with further information on IB courses here.  

Note that there is a new IB course being offered next year, IB Business Management, which is a one-year standard level IB course that can be taken in the 11th or 12th grade.  No pre-requisites are needed. The course is targeted for all students, whether taking just one IB course or up to a full diploma.

Visible Solutions
Nancy Ku reports on the impact of her fall Mini-Grant: 

The grant allowed me to obtain a class set of 36 individual whiteboards, blank on one side and a graphing grid on the other.   The set also included individual dry-erase markers and erasers.  I have used these whiteboards in all my math classes (Algebra 1 and Geometry).  

Last week in Algebra, for example, students practiced evaluating a quadratic equation to find (x,y) points and then plotted those points on the grid-side of the whiteboards.  As the teacher, I could easily assess students' understandings by looking at their written work on the whiteboards.  Then, I could modify subsequent questions to the students according to their specific needs.  Likewise, in Geometry, students recently used the whiteboards to review trigonometry.  Since I could easily see students' work on their whiteboards, I was able to choose subsequent problems to specifically address students' understandings and struggles. 

Whiteboards are extremely helpful in allowing students more practice on a topic.  They also offer an effective way for me as the teacher to formatively assess students' understandings.  I also ask students when working in groups to use whiteboards to help them process a problem or a new idea - for example, by drawing a diagram to depict a word problem, or by writing a conjecture or conclusion out in sentences.

Thank you to the SHSEF for helping to make the Mini-Grants Program possible!  

Help Enhance the Arts
Please join us for the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Boosters Club meeting on Thursday, February 25 at 7 PM in the Faculty/Staff Lounge (Room 233).

We will be discussing our participation in the International Festival, and getting updates on our new website and our potential scholarship program. Everyone is welcome!

Cheer Showcase: March 4
The 11th annual Sequoia Cheer Showcase will take place on Friday, March 4th from 6-9 PM in the New Gym.  The Showcase is an exhibition performance featuring cheer and dance squads from throughout the Bay Area.  

Tickets are $10/adults; $7/students (w/ID) and seniors; and can be purchased at Sequoia High School.  This is Sequoia Cheer Team's largest fundraiser, so we hope you will come out and support the team!

Sequoia's International Ties
International Festival
Check out this article "Sarajevo love story: how a chance photo revealed the joy and pain of Bosnia's war" in The Guardian that features Lejna Čelebičić.  Lejna was an exchange student at Sequoia HS in 2013-14 through the AFS program, and spoke at a Sequoia PTSA meeting.

Sequoia is fortunate to have international ties through avenues such as exchange organizations and the IB Programme.  Our own student population also has an international diversity that we can celebrate; be sure to check out the International Festival on April 16!  You can also get an international experience by hosting a French exchange student from April 15-24; contact Mme Chin at

Get to Know Sequoia HS
Do you want a behind-the-scene tour of Sequoia?  Access to people who really understand how things work?  Then consider joining the PTSA Executive Board.  

We have one opening, Recording Secretary. We ask that you attend the eight general meetings and approximately six Executive Board meetings next year and take notes.  Obviously, if you can't attend a meeting one of us would fill in for you. Serving on Exec is an excellent way to find out the inner workings of the school and to get to know the key administrators.  

I have always valued having the knowledge of the parents of older students who also serve on Exec and who can guide me with my questions about driver ed, PSAT, IB and college apps.  I enjoy frank discussions with administrators and teachers when they attend the meetings.  It is a great way for you to support the school and really know what is going on behind the scenes!  Please contact the Parliamentarian if you are interested in more information, Alice at

Booster Club Crab Dinner
The Bay Area crab season may be up and down, but our Booster Club Crab Dinner is a sure thing with top quality crab from an international crab distributor.  Get tickets and make auction donations here for this event which will be on March 12 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redwood City.  

You will also be treated to homemade marinara sauce and desserts from professional chefs who are Sequoia parents. The Booster Club supports all our athletic teams and cheer programs, so come have fun and help our students at the same time!

Purple Patriot Nominations
The Sequoia High School Alumni Association is soliciting nominations for its annual Purple Patriot Award. Recipients will receive a framed certificate as well as have their name inscribed on a perpetual trophy on permanent display at the high school.
The Purple Patriot Award is an annual award instituted to honor both individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding service or provided a significant benefit directly to Sequoia High School. Nominees may be from Sequoia High School or the community at large.
Please indicate the nominee's individual name or organization name, stating why the nominee should receive this award. Indicate specifically what role the nominee played in directly providing the service or benefit to Sequoia High School and explain in detail what the service or benefit was.
Nominations must be submitted in writing to the Sequoia High School Alumni Association, P. O. Box 2534, Redwood City, CA 94064, or placed in the Sequoia High School Alumni Association mailbox near the Principal's office no later than March 16.

null Shout-out to all the students trying out this week for the Talent Show (Friday, March 11 at 7 PM). Singers, dancers, musicians and others of all talents - break a leg!

Photo Scavenger Hunt
Sequoia advocates many honorable principles - where are these characteristics displayed?


Last week's answer:
This is the chained oak, described on the plaque below the tree.

In This Issue
Monday, Feb. 22
Collab Day

Tuesday, Feb. 23
6:45 PM - Teen Stress presentation and dialogue, MPR

Thursday, Feb. 25
7 PM - VPA Boosters Club, Room 233

Monday, Feb. 29
Collab Day

Tuesday, March 1
6:30 PM - Reflections Art Reception and Awards, MPR
 7 PM - PTSA Meeting, MPR (agenda here)

Friday, March 4
6 PM - Cheer Showcase, New Gym

Thursday, March 10
7 PM - Winter Sports Awards

Friday, March 11
8 PM - Deadline to apply for Mini-Grants

Saturday, March 12
6 PM - Booster Club Crab Dinner, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (tickets here)

Thursday, March 17
7 PM - Open House
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Parent Education
Woodside Parent Education Series
"The Psychology of Technology: Parenting the Always-On Generation" - with My Digital TAT2
Thursday, February 25, 2016, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Woodside High School, Multi-Use Room (MUR)
199 Churchill Avenue, Woodside 
How are teens using tech today? Texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr...what's next? Join us for a highly interactive workshop on digital trends, psychological responses to social media, and the impact of social media on the adolescent brain. 
My Digital TAT2 has worked with over 14,000 students throughout the Bay Area. They recently formed focus groups of middle and high school students who support MDT2 and keep their work on the cutting edge, sharing student perspective and voice. 
Parents, students, faculty/staff, and community members welcome! 
Spanish interpretation will be available. Free admission. 
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., Director, The Parent Education Series, at or (650) 868-0590. For Spanish, contact Maricela Lopez, Bilingual Parent Liaison, at (650) 367-7263 Ext. 45323.

Community News
College Apps: Executive Function Organizational Planning
March Madness has a new definition as evidenced by the overwhelming process of completing college apps when one has cognitive and logistical organizational challenges. This is one of the best real life executive function exercises for project planning; a planning life skill that can be applied in many ways. If you are looking for support for your Junior, please email info@talkingplayhouse.comPlease put in the subject line COLLEGE APPS-EF MARCH MADNESS.

Your junior will learn the prep tools that will generalize into college tasks such as: Metacognition, How to Start Difficult Tasks, Organizational Steps for any process, How to Build and Schedule a Plan, Brainstorming with MindMaps (using Design Thinking processes), Structure Support to help with forgetfulness, Working Memory & Mnemonics tricks, Chunking & Categorizing, Cause/Effect with Prediction & Decision Making, Sensory Exercises to aid in Self Regulation with Attention & Impulsive Distractions, Perspective Taking. If time allows, depending upon skills and needs, Writing & Executive Function Basics may be incorporated into curriculum.

Classes: Weekly from March to August (with a 3-week break in June)
Times/Days: Arranged according to mutual schedule availability.
Offer: Individual or small group.
Please note this is executive function therapy for students who need support for cognitive and logistical organization. 10 course program is 995.00 conducted by a licensed social cognitive/executive function therapist.

Jennifer Abbott Bulka, CCC-SLP, CA License #14006 | Phone: 650-678-9769 | 

Expanding Your Horizons Conference
Skyline College, Saturday, March 12
For 6th-12th Grade Young Women 

Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is a conference for 6th through 12th grade young women to learn about career opportunities in math and science. Science and math careers are fun, exciting, and rewarding and so is EYH! Conference participants conduct lab experiments, wire high-tech phone systems, examine microscopic creatures, and design their own computer software. Each girl attends three hands-on workshops during the all-day conference.

During the day, the girls participate in a Problems and Puzzles Contest. Contest winners receive A Day With a Scientist.  Participants can earn college credit for attending the conference.
Get more information here:  Registration is due March 5; conference fee is $20.