May 9, 2016

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
Recently I participated in a study session with the SUHSD Board of Trustees on student stress as related to academic workload.  The meeting was attended by members of the community, teachers, parents, administrators, and, most importantly, students.  It was a broad discussion which covered topics such as college awareness, academic programming, grading/assessment, and homework.  Below are my impressions of the conversation:

College awareness:  There is a lot of misinformation about how students can identify the best college fit for them.  Multiple students intimated they had placed unnecessary pressure on themselves as 9th, 10th, and 11th graders.  By chasing someone else's (often mistaken) idea of how to earn a ticket to the elite college lottery, they wasted a lot of time with pursuits unrelated to their passion.  One student lamented sacrifices made in high school with the belief that he NEEDED to succeed in the most rigorous classes to get into the best college.  As a 12th grader, he learned the college which offered the best program for him was indifferent to many of the rigorous courses he had been unhappy taking.  Excited about studying business management next year at CSU Chico, he wished he could do 11th grade over again, spending more time on the things that made him happy.  His story elicited a lot of nodding from other 12th graders in the room.

Academic Programming: "How many AP/IB classes do I need to take in order to get into a good college, have a successful career, lead a happy life...?"  Students struggle with these questions.  The struggle is exacerbated by pressure from peers, families, the college admissions process, and society.  Our schools, of course, play a part, as well.  Each of the district's four comprehensive high schools have worked hard to develop a rigorous academic program and a robust college-going culture.  We heartily celebrate the success of our top students, including their admission to elite colleges and universities.  Aiming high is valued.  We also, however, put great care into designing 4-year plans best suited to the needs and abilities of each individual.  Experienced counselors provide honest one-on-one guidance.  At two district schools, students with 2+ AP courses signing "rigor" waivers (acknowledging how much homework per week each class demands).  All measures to manage expectations are, of course, imperfect and, sadly, kids are sometimes halfway around the track before they realize they're wearing the wrong shoes.  

Grading and assessment:  Several participants in the study session (including me) contributed thoughts on best practices to align grading with learning.  One parent raised the issue of whether or not zeros are an equitable way to code a late assignment in a decile (i.e., >90=A, 89-80=B, etc.) grading scale.  Students observed that grading and assessment practices can vary from teacher to teacher in the same course.  Tessa Yeager, IB History teacher at Sequoia, described the approach she and her colleagues have adopted this year to NOT grade homework assignments.  In their model, student grades are tied directly to how well students demonstrate, via assessment, mastery of a norm-referenced set of skills/standards over the course of the year.  Make-up opportunities are available for students to revisit these assessments.  In other words, grades are determined by how much the student has learned while deadlines, performance pressure, and subjective measures such as "participation" are de-emphasized.  It's an approach called Standards-based Grading and it has led, this year, to fewer conversations about "How many points is this quiz worth?" or "Can I get extra credit?" and more conversations about the content and skills her course is designed to teach.  Exciting stuff.  

Homework:  Each student and parent participant had their own take on the question of homework.  There was agreement that homework for the sake of homework disheartens kids.  Engaging work, on the other hand, can greatly enrich the classroom experience and help kids build confidence.  The example came up, again, of one teacher assigning significantly more homework than a colleague in the same subject area.  Students are very aware of this.  What one student needs in terms of homework to master a skill or concept varies wildly with what another student needs (true even, as revealed in the study session, among siblings).  As with academic programming, there is no easy solution available.  Knowing our kids is vital.  Assigning thoughtful work to enrich classroom learning is important.  Explicitly teaching grit and discipline also matters.

The group found much common ground on the importance of prioritizing balance and emotional wellness with our kids.  Each of the above issues was analyzed through that lens.  Parents and staff spoke passionately about kids being genuinely overwhelmed and the resultant unhealthy coping behaviors they've witnessed.  For our kids who are struggling, often in silence, the village needs to come together.  This meeting was a good step in reflecting on how we can best serve all kids to balance the love of learning we want to impart, the post-HS success we want to secure, and wellness we want to protect.  It is a complex dialogue I look forward to continuing.

Have a great week!

Spring Mini-Grants Awarded
The PTSA Spring Mini-Grants awards have been completed, resulting in 18 grants totaling over $6100!  The awards will benefit many groups including Math, Science, Visual & Performing Arts, and Special Education.  Click here for a full listing of the funded grants.  

A special thanks to all the Mini-Grant committee members for their hard work in discerning all the requests that were received:  Sian Davies, Jayne Sungail, Bonnie Sachs, Gayle Hoch, Susie Gilbert, Marlena Griffin and chairperson Lauren Pachkowski. Thank you also to the Sequoia High School Education Foundation for providing the funding to make these mini-grants possible!
Culinary Arts Room Debuts 
Last Thursday the new Culinary Arts Room debuted with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Principal Sean Priest, Chief Facilities Officer Matthew Zito, Foods teacher Laura Kuras, other staff members, and architects and construction crews.  

The new room features state of the art equipment such as Wolf stoves, an industrial deep fryer, and a GoPro demo camera.  Ms. Kuras is thrilled about the beautiful facility: "Both Foods and Nutrition and the Culinary Arts class will thrive in this environment and be able to not only gain life skills that they can carry with them throughout life but they will be given the tools to pursue a pathway in the food industry, nutrition or hospitality fields. We are beyond excited and can't wait to start cooking!"

SHSEF Well on Way to $375,000 and 450 Donors!
Thanks to all our supporters, the Sequoia High School Foundation (SHSEF) 2015-2016 campaign has raised $265,300 to date!  We need your help to reach our goal of $375,000 and 450 donors.

As of May 1st, we have 235 donors: over 50% gave at $1,000 (suggested per student amount) or above!  Every donation, whatever the amount, can make a difference.

The SHSEF supports staff, projects and programs to ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach his or her highest potential.  We raise funds for reduced class sizes, college services, academic enrichment, staff professional development, and student and family support.
What can your donation fund?
Haven't donated yet?  The deadline to donate is May 31, 2016!  Click here and Make a Difference Today!

Choral Cafe
music notes The Sequoia Choir will have its 5th Annual Vocal Showcase on Tuesday, May 10 from 4:00-5:30 PM in Room M-4 (Music Building).  Hear students singing solos and ensembles, singing with other talented musicians in the school, and even accompanying themselves as they perform. Admission is free; come enjoy Sequoia's vocal talent!

Textbook Check-In Volunteers
Thank you to those who have signed up to help the librarians check in all of the textbooks at the end of the year.  About a quarter of the spots have been filled so far; sign up here for a morning or afternoon shift between May 23-June 2.  Being there for even part of the shift will be helpful, thanks!

Get a Glimpse of Grad Week
The end of the year will be here before you know it, and it will be time to say goodbye to our seniors!  All grades can help with the celebrations:

9th, 10th, 11th grade parents:  We need a few more non-senior parents to chaperone the grad night Hornblower Cruise in SF Bay. The time commitment is approximately 9:00 PM on Friday, June 3 through 4 AM the next morning.  Help make this event possible, as others will do for your students in the future!

Senior parents: Lots of great activities are planned for our students the last week of school!  Sign up here to be a part of the celebrations by donating a food item or gift card, or helping out at one of the events. 
  • Grad BBQ - Wednesday, June 1, 12;30-2:00
  • Grad Brunch - Thursday, June 2, 11:00-12:30
  • Grad night - Friday, June 3 (gift cards needed for game prizes)
Also, if your student hasn't bought a grad night ticket, please don't delay any longer as it will greatly help our planning.  Click here to purchase a ticket online.  Tickets will also be sold at school during lunchtime on May 12, 13, 20 and 27.  Look who's already coming!
Stress-Free Graduation Parking
Everyone knows how difficult it is to find a parking spot close to campus on graduation day. Fret no more! The Sequoia Sports Boosters and the Sequoia Administration are offering parking spots to the left of Nicotine Field located directly behind the football field and in front of the school's main entrance! The cost is $50 per spot, and the funds raised will benefit all Sequoia sports teams!
Click here to purchase your spot!

IB Ceremony May 24
In This Issue
Monday, May 9
Collab Day

Tuesday, May 10
10 AM - SUHSD Parent Education: "Mastering Difficult Conversations with Your Teen," District Office

Saturday, May 14 - Prom

Monday, May 16
Collab Day

6 PM - Math Awards, MPR

Tuesday, May 17
6 PM - EL graduation, MPR

7 PM - Music Concert and VPA awards, Carrington Hall

Thursday, May 19
Lunch - Mandatory meeting for 10th graders interested in IB diploma, Carrington Hall

4 PM - AVID graduation & dinner, Carrington Hall & MPR

Tuesday, May 24
5:30-7:30 PM - IB Ceremony, Carrington Hall

Wednesday, May 25
5 PM - BUILD graduation, Carrington Hall

Thursday, May 26
7 PM - Spring Sports Awards, Carrington Hall

Monday, May 30
No school - Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 31
6 PM - Health Careers Academy graduation

Thursday, June 2
Last day of school

7 PM - Senior awards night, Carrington Hall

Friday, June 3
10 AM - Sequoia Graduation

Quick Links
About Us 

Submit news to the Sentinel: [email protected]. For instructions, click here.


Find past issues of the Sentinel: 
En Espa�ol
�Quieres traducir este bolet�n ahora? Siga estas instrucciones para obtener una traducci�n:
1. Haga clic en "Click here" en la parte superior del correo electr�nico: "Having trouble viewing this email? Click here."
2. Mantenga presionada la tecla Control (PC) y la tecla A para seleccionar toda la p�gina, a continuaci�n, mantenga presionada la tecla Control y haga clic en la tecla C para copiar la p�gina entera.
3. Abra una p�gina nueva del navegador web y vaya a
4. Coloca el cursor en la caja y mantenga presionada la tecla Control y haga clic en la tecla V para pegar el bolet�n completo en el cuadro de traducci�n.
5. Aseg�rese de seleccionar "To: Spanish" en la parte superior de la p�gina. Haga clic en el bot�n Traducir. La traducci�n al espa�ol debe aparecer en el lado derecho.
Parent Education
SUHSD Parent Education Mini-Series
Join us for a SUHSD Parent Education Mini-Series on "at-risk" teens. These workshops will focus on substance use/addiction, suicide prevention, and parent-teen communication. Free admission. 

Part 3) "Mastering Difficult Conversations with Your Teen" with Eran Magen, PhD, Stanford University
Tuesday, May 10, 10:00 AM - 12:00 noon
Sequoia Union High School District Office, Birch Room

Trying to offer support when your adolescent seems upset or stressed can feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. In this interactive workshop, you will learn how to offer emotional support comfortably and effectively when your teen is experiencing strong emotions such as stress, frustration, anxiety, or anger.

For more information, contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Director, The Parent Education Series, [email protected] or 650-868-0590
Parent Education Series events are free and open to SUHSD parents, faculty/staff, addiction/mental health professionals, and community members. The Parent Education Mini-Series is sponsored by the Sequoia Healthcare District and the Sequoia Union High School District.

Community News
Alpine Strikers Tryouts
Alpine Strikers FC is holding tryouts for boys and girls born between 1998-2001, for the 2016 Fall soccer season.  ASFC is a local competitive soccer club that has teams competing in all levels of NorCal Premier Soccer League, and some teams playing in the National Premier League.  Go to to register, or contact 11v11 Technical Director Keith Lambert for questions: [email protected].

Nicaragua Summer Exchange
There is still some space for this 2016 summer trip! 

This is a small summer program for high school students focusing on Spanish language enhancement and volunteer work in Granada, Nicaragua. Students live with a local host family. Many high school students from CA have attended the program since 1998. Evergreen Valley, CA high school Spanish teacher Steven Rosin will be attending in 2016 as a chaperone. For more information, please see
Invest in fluency and gain a lifetime of opportunities. 

"My daughter Claudia Borton from Sequoia High School very much enjoyed her experience in Nicaragua last summer.  We highly recommend this program." - Tara Borton