SPRING 2013 PRINCIPAL’S LETTER
Things continue to grow and develop at San Andreas! We began the year with much anticipation and excitement as we welcomed several new teachers to the school.
As part of the process for building a program that meets the needs of our students we are constantly looking for opportunities that will prepare our students for life after high school. Our Pathways" program for seniors is in its second year and once again we are seeing exceptional results as students take College of Marin classes and complete excellent internships in areas of interest to the students. Susanne Siciliano, our para-professional on site, was instrumental in bringing a "Roots Of Success" workshop to the campus. The three week workshop was the first step in learning about the fundamentals of "green" job opportunities. Students completing the course have their level one introductory course completed and will be in a position to take other courses in specific areas of conservation in the growing "green jobs" industry!
This year we changed how we finished out the year and moved to a "finals" type schedule that the other schools have traditionally have used. Needless to say our "finals" week schedule was a little different in so much that rather than a single high stakes test in a subject, the teachers set up culminating projects based on the work previously covered that allowed students to demonstrate their proficiency. There was some great initial first steps and we will continue to explore options for the end of this semester.
As a District and as a school we are really trying to shift the focus from "teaching" – I taught the class - to one of "student learning!" Did the student acquire the knowledge and skills for the class. We are also examining what to do when students don’t get all the parts of a class. We are focused as a staff on what we need to do to connect with students to enable them to access the knowledge they need to be successful in the next phase of their lives.
The landscape has shifted dramatically in terms of preparing for jobs and the future. The idea of collecting buckets of facts is no longer a determining factor in making progress in the new economy. We have access to more information today than at any time. Jobs won’t necessarily go to the person who can remember the most facts. In the shifting job market those people able to be flexible, work as part of a team, work independently on parts of a project without someone standing over them and persist in finding solutions to difficult problems, will be the ones who will be highly soughtt after.
In the year ahead we will continue to build our programs and maintain those programs that lead to successful graduation for all students. However as hard as we work towards building great programs we do need the support of both parents and students. One issue that seems to have developed over the course of the fall semester is students missing school and some pretty regular tardy incidences. We understand that the bus services that support SA are difficult but it is really disruptive when teachers have activities that require the full 50 minute period and student arrive late. With regards to students being absent, as a school and as a district we are really trying to refocus how to ensure students keep up with the work. In order to help students in the spring semester we have scheduled an additional class on Wednesday afternoons to help students catch up on missed assignments and provide further academic support. We placed this additional class on every student’s schedule so that they would not schedule any commitments outside of school at that time. Some students have already taken advantage of the opportunity to use the period for making up work. As we move forward we will be requiring some seniors who are in danger of not getting everything done by June to use the period to make further progress.
One other major change to help with student learning is a keener focus on the use of cellphones and other digital devices in the classroom. Like all schools we are struggling to find the right balance for acceptable use of digital media in the classroom. There are some great opportunities for using the new media for learning, however, there is also a huge issue of lack of focus because of interruptions from cell phones, with texting and tweeting and making calls! We are into week 4 of being really clear about our cell phone/digital devices policy and we have seen some quite a shift in focus in the classroom! As a reminder parents and family members can help us by calling the office at 945-3770 if you need to get a message to your student.
We are such a small school that we can always get messages to students and in difficult situations bring students to the office to use the dedicated student line we have set up for such emergencies!
We continue to review all of the alternative education programs of the District to see how they fit with the goals of the Tam District. Our success in recent years leads me to believe that SA has a unique role to play in meeting the learning needs and the social needs of Tam District students. Please keep in touch. News of our next meeting of the San Andreas Parent Advisory will be coming shortly. I look forward to meeting you there!