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- February 2018
Typically, I like to use this monthly message to highlight some of the good work that is being done by our staff and students; however, this month I think I need to focus on a negative trend we have been experiencing this year at Homestead and all the other four high schools in our district: Vaping.
E-cigarettes and vaping has been aggressively marketed as a healthy and safer alternative than smoking. When combined with the latest technological advancements to improve the actual e-cigarettes and the development of attractive flavors and packaging, our students were sucked right into the phenomenon. As a result, we have seen a marked increase in students vaping on campus. In 2016-2017, we had 7 violations where students were caught either vaping or in possession of vaping paraphernalia. The following year (17-18) that number jumped to 33, and this year (18-19) the number nearly doubled to 64. Because of the newness of the “hardware” and the minimization of smoke or smell, catching students has become increasingly difficult but we are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all.
First and foremost, vaping or possession of vaping materials is prohibited on all school campuses. Just having the e-cigarette or some of the pods or vape juice on your person or in your backpack, can be grounds for discipline. Many adults or parents may not be aware that some of the vaping juice contains THC or marijuana, so if a student is in possession or using those products, they can be given even harsher penalties. I haven’t even mentioned all the health related problems that are starting to crop up in our students because the science behind vaping has shown that there are significantly more issues and problems with vaping than with regular smoking.
As a result, we are looking to really start educating our students, our staff, and our students. This is a big job because we are up against the multi-billion dollar advertising budgets of Big Tobacco, but the best way to attack this issue is to educate yourself so that you know what to look for and how to talk to your student about this issue. Our PTSA recently hosted a parent education workshop on Vaping with Alum Rock Counseling Services, which was extremely information and helpful for all who attended, including myself. We will be providing more trainings for our entire staff at the beginning of next school year so that we can be prepared and can fight misinformation with the facts. We will also be looking to provide more opportunities to educate both parents and students, and we are currently working on plans on how to incorporate this into our health units or into different courses on campus.
We are also looking to provide the appropriate consequences as well as resources for students and families when we do catch kids. It is not enough to give a detention, Saturday School, or suspension to a student in possession or actually vaping but we also need to be able to provide counseling or information so that we can work together to help students understand the negative effects of this trend. Our district is also looking to get involved by providing resources for education and counseling as well as talking with our surrounding cities about how to limit or eliminate the sales of e-cigarettes and supplies in local stores. In the meantime, our administration is actively supervising spots on campus that have become easy places to vape. We are asking staff to also be aware of the trends, so that they can help us identify students and areas that need our help. Many students are also frustrated with the increase of this unhealthy habit, so they are beginning to help us as well.
The efforts to change student and parent perception is going to take a lot of coordination and partnership, which is why we will be sending out the following letter (in English, with Spanish and Chinese translations coming next week) to begin getting you the information you need to be a supportive and informed parent. I hope you keep an eye out for future educational opportunities and that we can work together to help keep our students safe.
Thanks, and have a wonderful May.
Before I get into the heart of this month’s message, I wanted to let you all know that we had a great turnout for this month’s Homestead Hacks. Thank you to everyone who showed up (I counted nearly 60 parents, which is our biggest crowd so far) as well as to thank Debbie Vanni, English Department Lead, who presented the alignment of skills within and across the grade levels that the English teachers have been doing this year. If you would like to see the presentation, please visit the Homestead Hacks page on our website (this will also take you to the presentations from the other past Hacks as well). Our next Hacks presentation, and last one for the year, is April 29th at 6pm in the Cafeteria (topic is still TBD).
I wanted to update you regarding our recent WASC visit that took place on March 3rd through March 6th. As a reminder, WASC stands for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and every public school (and many private ones as well) go through this process of accreditation to validate diplomas as well as to undergo a Self Study to review the entire school program to look for areas of strength, areas of growth, and to develop an action plan to help work on those areas of growth. We had a team of 6 educators from Northern California come to campus to visit classrooms, interview various stakeholder groups (staff, students, parents, district office, administration), and review evidence documents. The agreed with our findings in the areas of strength and growth as well as made suggestions regarding a couple of focus areas. The team suggests an accreditation term to the governing board of WASC, who then make the final decision before the end of the school year, so we do not yet know, and will not know, our accreditation term until closer to June.
The accreditation terms are either six years with a mid-term review in the third year, two years, one year, or no accreditation. In 2013, we earned a six year term so we are looking for the same this time around. When we hear from WASC, we will update you.
What I can share with you are some direct excerpts from the visiting committee’s report. The report that we completed, titled Self Study on Student Learning, was nearly 300 pages long as Homestead is a large school with much to offer. After the three days, the visiting committee prepared a 30 page summary report and presented those findings to the staff. A quick thank you to the PTSA for hosting a cookie and fruit reception for us afterwards!
According to the visiting committee, here are the top 7 strengths of our school:
- Homestead has two dedicated teacher collaboration opportunities each week
- Family communication is a strength. Outreach to non-English-speaking families is improving (i.e. Latino parent night)
- Technology is used as a learning and teaching tool
- Teachers have multiple opportunities for professional development
- Course-alike teams of teachers are collaborating on a regular basis
- A wide variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities are well attended and supported by students and families
- There is a student-centered culture on campus that provides a safe environment for learning
These areas of strength speak to the dedicated staff who work hard to help students learn, the amazing group of students who bring their curiosity and energy to school every day, and the supportive parents who help make Homestead even better. Of course, no school is perfect so identifying our areas of growth is as important as celebrating our achievements. In our report, we identified these four areas as places we would like to put our future efforts into:
- Close the achievement gap that exists between the overall student body and the underperforming student groups of English Learners, SPED, Hispanic/Latino and socio-economically disadvantaged
- Develop a collaborative plan including all stakeholders to effectively use the tutorial period to better meet the social-emotional and academic needs of all students
- Increase options and support for students on vocational or career paths
- Increase the analysis of data, including formative assessments, and build more meaningful interventions for students who need support to achieve the academic standards and schoolwide learner outcomes.
The visiting committee also suggested two areas, which are related to the areas above but go a little deeper into issues. It is also important to note that we agree with their findings on the following:
- Develop a plan to address the academic needs of English Learner students, specifically, long-term English Learners, to ensure that they have equitable access to instruction, curriculum and assessment
- Develop a plan to monitor the application of inclusive and differentiated instructional strategies in all courses
What is important to remember, is that the action plan that we develop is meant to cover a six year period, so while this looks like a lot of work (because it is a lot of work!), we will be spreading it out over the next several years. In that time, we will be asking for the input of all our stakeholders in order to make the most cohesive plan that we can. As a matter of fact, I have already been given some good ideas about improving tutorial from some of the parents who attended our last Homestead Hacks, but don’t worry there will be more opportunities to give your input and to participate.
I would especially like to thank Christina Graham for serving as the chair of our WASC process this past year as well as the following staff members who served as focus group leads: James Ratti, Heather Bonvechio, Ashley Pitta, Natalie Owsley, and Amity Bateman. Brian Dong served as the administrator in charge of the process and helped significantly with the final report and the details of the visit. Every single staff member contributed to this report, so thank you for taking the time to help us reflect. We had nearly 20 parents and about 10 students participate regularly in the focus group meetings, and we also had several more parents and students who were interviewed by the committee during the visit. Our district office was extremely helpful in helping us gather data and information as well as participating in interviews with the visiting committee. Finally, I would like to thank the visiting committee for volunteering their time. Together, all of us are and will continue to make Homestead an even better place to learn and work.
Greg Giglio, Principal
Homestead High School will be visited by a committee from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) from March 3rd until March 6th. This visit is the culmination of all the good work that we have been doing since our last Accreditation visits in March of 2013 and 2016. Because of the importance of the visit, we will have a special bell schedule so please be sure to that a look at it and plan accordingly.
The main focus of the WASC process is to improve student learning, something that all of us can get behind. Even an amazing school like ours has places where we can improve, so we have spent the past year looking at every aspect of our school so that we can determine what are our areas of strength and areas of growth so that we can develop an action plan that guides us over the next six years to continually focus on improvement.
Our Self Study Report was completed in January and is nearly 300 pages long. The report has a specific template that we follow: School Profile, Update from the last WASC visit and progress on previous plans, Focus Areas (Governance, Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and School Culture), and the Action Plan (plus an appendix of evidence). Our efforts were lead by English Teacher Christina Graham and Science Teacher George Bechara (before he left for his new administrative position at Fremont High School) who coordinated with the Focus Group Leads (James Ratti, Amity Bateman, Natalie Owsley, Heather Bonvechio, and Ashley Pitta). The Focus group leads worked with a dedicated group of teachers, classified staff, students, parents, and administrators to complete their sections. From these sections, we determined the Strengths and Concerns which lead to the creation of the Action Plan.
The Visiting Committee is made up of volunteers from schools throughout the state whose job is to verify the contents of our report and submit an accreditation term to the WASC board for approval. We will not know the term until a few weeks after the visit, but schools receive terms of 6 years, 3 years, 2 years, 1 year or no accreditation. The 6 year term comes with a mid-term review of either a written report, a one day visit with a report, or a two day visit with a report. For instance, in 2013 we were granted a 6 year term with a one day visit at the mid-term. The purpose of accreditation is to validate the diplomas your students receive upon graduation. This “seal of approval” shows colleges that our students have completed a rigorous and appropriate standards-aligned education. This means that the colleges “accept” our transcripts and grades so that students can gain admittance to their institutions. The visiting committee’s visit is about verifying the accuracy of our report and the ability to continue to work towards overall school improvement. In that verification process, they will be visiting classrooms, meeting with various stakeholder groups, looking over evidence and documents supporting our assertions and claims, and writing a report of their own. We will hear the content of their report before they leave on Wednesday but we will not get the final accreditation term from the WASC Board before the end of the school year.
The report is a long one but I have provided a link to a summary of our action plan, which lists our four goals, targets, and tasks that we will begin implementing and working on over the next six years. The tasks in the action plan are written in a way that allows us some flexibility while pursuing an improvement. For instance, one task under the second goal states we are looking to “expand vocational opportunities”. This could mean looking at new classes, expanding the college and career fair, providing opportunities that are extra-curricular like a club or event, or even ideas that we have not yet thought about. You may have specific ideas or thoughts, which I would welcome from you (email is always best).
I am very proud of the work that we do here at Homestead and have complete confidence in our staff, our students, our district, and our community. This process gives us a chance to celebrate the good work that we have done, ask ourselves the hard question about what can we do better? And then take action to make Homestead an even better place to learn and work.
Thank you to everyone who helped along the way including each member of our staff, our focus group leads, our district office, our WASC Chair as well as the students and parents who contributed their time and feedback.
Greg Giglio, Principal
If you have ever wanted to learn more about Homestead High School by hearing directly from the staff members who work with your students, then you should consider attending our next Homestead Hack on November 27 at 6 p.m. in the Cafeteria.
Just last month, we held our very first Homestead Hack and one of the first pieces of feedback that we have heard is the name is a bit confusing. This event is not a “hack-a-thon” or anything to do with programming, but an evening designed to help you “hack” Homestead. Using the latest definition of the word, a “hack” is a time saving idea or clever solution so our hope is that by coming to these monthly meetings, you will be able to learn more about the amazing things that happen every day at our school.
This idea came from feedback we got last year where parents said they would like to have some more parent education nights so that they could better understand the inner workings of high school and all that we offer at Homestead. So the first half of a Homestead Hack involves a presentation from staff with a chance for parents to ask questions. The second half of the night is dedicated to a parent networking activity where we break parents into groups of veterans and those who are new-to-high school and give them a series of topics to discuss. This networking activity was also a suggestion that we heard from our surveys in that parents saw a benefit from not only talking with others about what to expect or to know about the school but also a chance to meet other parents in a friendly environment.
Our first event featured a panel of our Department Leads from the Art, Business, English, Math, Music, Science and World Language departments. The discussion topic was an open conversation about the ways in which these departments support our Student Learner Outcomes: Collaboration, Communication, Continuous Learning and Critical Thinking. While each department has specific standards and curriculum, these Learner Outcomes are the soft skills that cut across all the departments and are helpful for students to be successful in future endeavors whether it is college, trade schools, the work force, military, or any other opportunity that comes their way. The conversation was wide ranging but those in attendance appreciated hearing how each department helps students work together more effectively; use oral, written, and visual work to communicate; solve problems; manage time and resources; demonstrate leadership; and develop technological skills. This conversation last an hour, which was a bit longer than scheduled, and was followed by questions from the audience regarding specific examples of how students collaborate within the classroom, how teachers collaborate across subjects or regarding the learning needs of students. The panel also discussed the question of how they combat the stress and workload of group work or collaboration. There were also questions about project based learning and tackling real world issues or problems within the subjects. While not every question was abe to be answered, we took those questions away with us to use as possible topics for future Hacks or to answer directly back to the person who asked it.
When the question and answer period was over, we switched to the networking activity. First, parents were given a colored sticker depending on the grade level of their student -- freshmen parents had an orange sticker; sophomore parents got purple; juniors got pink; seniors got green, and parents with graduates got a black sticker with a mortar board icon. We then asked parents to find a few “elbow partners” who had different colored stickers to talk with, preferably someone they didn’t know or by mixing veteran with newer parents. We then gave them time to discuss any of the following questions:
- Homecoming – How did your student participate? How can they get more out of it next year?
- Homework – Effective support strategies?
- Stress – What are you or your student most stressed about? How or where do/did you find relief?
- Hindsight – What do you know now that you wished you knew before? Advice to newer parents?
Parents were even allowed to ask each other questions not on the list. These conversations were really energetic and well received by the parents in attendance (they were having such a good time that I gave them extra time before finally having to kick them out to let the custodians finish cleaning and setting up the cafeteria for the next day!).
While there are still some kinks to work out with the format, we are looking forward to our next Homestead Hack on November 27, which will feature a presentation by the Social Studies department and have a session for questions and answers before moving into another parent networking activity. If you are interested in this presentation, we are accepting some early questions or suggestions as we want to make this event is useful for both you and the social studies department. You can send your questions or ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope we get a bigger turnout for this next event, so please come on by and bring a friend along as well. This event is really more for the parents than for students, so you could even use this as a good excuse for a date night!
Thanks, and see you at our next Hack!
One of the things I love the most about working in education is that there are many opportunities to reflect on all that have transpired across our campus as well as to look forward to the new beginnings that are just around the corner. With the end of the first semester bearing down quickly and the new year just around the corner, I have been doing a lot of thinking about where we’ve been and where we are going in 2019 and beyond.
I am particularly thankful for our community who has supported us whenever we have asked, once again coming through for our students with the passage of Measure CC. This school bond measure is the third consecutive bond that you have voted in and this money is being used to transform our 50+ year old school. The first bond measure helped bring about the new athletic fields and football stadium, the solar panels, the Field House, and the cafeteria building with science classrooms and quad. The second, and current, bond has helped us update our utilities as well as bring out the new Innovation Hub (I-Hub) that is scheduled to be completed and operational by the middle of February 2019. After that we will be working on the new Guidance Student Services (GSS) Building that will serve as the new front of school then we will start using the Measure CC funds to modernize the rest of the campus. By the time we complete those projects, Homestead will be thoroughly up to date and ready for the next 50 years!
We are also nearing completion on our WASC accreditation report with a visitation scheduled for the beginning of March. This accreditation process validates your students’ diplomas so that colleges and universities recognize and honor the work that they have completed during their four years here at Homestead. The process begins with a self-study report where we look over our entire program to celebrate our strengths as well as identify areas for growth from which we build an action plan to address those needs. I am grateful to the entire staff who were joined by parent and student volunteers and participated in the drafting of this report starting in March 2018. There are so many wonderful learning activities, student supports, and extracurricular events that happen on our campus, so looking at all the work that we do as a community is truly humbling and inspiring at the same time.
While we are equally proud of the work that our students and staff engage in throughout the year, I wanted to take a moment to send a “shout out” to some of the new programs and offerings that are making a difference. Our Guidance Counselors took ownership of an intervention opportunity by seeing a need for our freshmen students who were struggling in English, Bio or Algebra to provide a structured and supportive time during tutorial to help students catch up, finish up, or be re-taught key concepts. This time is known as Guidance Tutorial and our counselors communicate with the subject teachers, gather work, invite students, and provide both student and parent tutors to help the students succeed. We are seeing a lot off anecdotal evidence of success and look forward to comparing data next semester.
We have hosted two “Homestead Hacks” which are parent education events designed to help new and veteran parents better understand how our high school works and gain valuable insight to help their own students be more successful. We have combined this evenings with a Parent Networking Activity, where we connect new and veteran parents with each other so that they can talk, share ideas, and provide supports for each other as their child moves through our school. The first “Hack” was a panel discussion with our Department Leads, and the second one was a presentation by the Social Studies Department Chair regarding the writing program being taught in the three levels of history courses at Homestead. January 16th is the night for our third event, which will feature our Student Body Leadership program with Assistant Principal Brian Dong and Leadership Teacher Jessica Kirby, who will present the activities program and give parents insight on how to help their students get more involved across the campus. Hope to see you there.
I think we are all most excited about taking ownership of the Innovation Hub, our newest building on campus. The “I-Hub” will house the entire Business, Art, Computer Science, and Engineering departments plus be a new home to our Robotics team. The central portion of the building, the hub, will serve multiple purposes such as a collaborative space for students to work during their open periods, another location for presentations, and even operate as an art gallery or exhibition hall. Tucked into the corner of the building is our new location for our Facilities and Maintenance Crew as well. The building not only looks great but will be highly flexible and functionable for our students, and just like the cafeteria, will provide some much needed improvements to our grounds by offering more outside spaces for our students to use. When we come back from the break, the building will be nearly complete, and we take ownership on February 13th!
Finally, I would like to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of joy, rest, and celebration. The family here at Homestead looks forward to welcoming you back to campus in the new year. Take care!
During the month of October, all of our community members will be receiving training on Suicide Prevention from El Camino Hospital. Staff members have already completed an initial online Suicide Prevention training in August and will be given another training at our after-school staff meeting on October 8th. There is a parent training session in the Auditorium on Tuesday, October 9th from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. Students will then receive a presentation from El Camino during their English classes on Monday, October 22nd. This training is the result of California Assembly Bill 2639, which calls for high schools to provide training and resources for students, staff and parents in regard to Suicide Prevention. I do encourage parents to attend this training on the 9th as wellness is a key priority for our district and the more information you have the more likely you are able to help your own student who may be struggling with stress.
Of course, this is not the only resource that we provide to help support students so I wanted to take some space to let you know what is available for you or your student. We have expanded our resource listings on our website, which you can find by visiting the “Student Wellness & Resources” tab under the “Guidance and Student Support” portal at the top of the page. Here you will find a variety of listings for support services for Homeless and Displaced Youths, Immigrant Services, Family Services, Drug Rehabilitation, and Crisis Hotlines. On this page you will find nearly 60 outside groups and support systems to address a variety of needs, issues and concerns.
A first level of support on our campus is our guidance counselors. They do mostly focus on academic issues but can be a resource in referring students and families as well as handle emergencies. If you did not know them already, here is our alpha breakdown for each of the counselors:
A-F -- Marisa Amezquita
G-Li -- Nicole Deatherage
Lj-Oh -- Wilma Wu
Oi-T -- Lillie Phares
U-Z -- Leslie Ogawa-Boon
Brooke Martinez is the Guidance Department secretary and Denae Nurnberg is the Assistant Principal who oversees the department. Please feel free to contact either of them to answer basic question or to receive additional support. If you have not already, please visit the Guidance and Student Support Portal.
Another level of support are our Student Advocates, Steve Schmidt and Sarah Loyd. Mr. Schmidt is here full-time every day while Ms. Loyd splits here time between Homestead and Cupertino but can be found here on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Both of our Student Advocates are licensed Marriage and Family Therapists who can support students in the general education population. They perform a variety of services such as checking in with students, facilitating peer mediation, performing initial check-ins during a crisis, and attending Student Assistance Team (SAT) meetings to provide academic or social-emotional support to struggling students. We do have two additional Student Advocates who work in our Resource Department providing support services to students on IEP’s: Julie Bleicker and Dawn Predium. They do have a specific caseload with whom they are already working but can be brought in if and when needed.
We also have two School Psychologists, Melissa Navarro and Cyndi Arteglier, who provide services to students who may be struggling with learning disabilities, social-emotional wellness, and physical illnesses or disabilities. Our two School Psychologists work closely with our Student Assistance Team to provide all levels of academic and social-emotional support as well as work with students and families during the assessment and implementation of 504 and IEP plans.
All students have access to the counselors and student advocates; however, another level of support exists for students who might need an extra level of care or attention. This level is called the Guidance Admin Student Support Team or GASS Team. This team pairs one counselor with one administrator for a specific alpha breakdown of students, and these students are identified in a variety of ways, such as truancy, D and F list, behavior incidents, teacher referrals, parent requests. The GASS Teams provides another adult on the campus for which the student can connect and who looks out for their well being. The GASS team may implement check-ins, provide referrals to academic interventions, meet with parents, communicate with teachers and coaches, The GASS team meets and discusses student as well in the SAT meetings.
Since I have mentioned SAT three times now, I should define it more specifically for you. The SAT or Student Assistance Team is made up of all the counselors, all the administrators, the two School Psychologists, the two general education Student Advocates, and representatives from our Resource Department. The team meets weekly to check student performance, recommend services or supports, and to review previous students. Ultimately, this team will place students into the appropriate classes and support systems including moving forward to assess for eligibility for accommodations or modifications.
Another important health resources is our Health Clerk, Dan Yusim, who teams with our District Nurse, Jung Hong. Dan is also our Athletic Trainer in the afternoon, but in the mornings he is on site as our Health Clerk who can administer to students who have minor injuries or health issues arise during the day. He is also the person to whom you give prescription medication to if your students requires it during the school day. He also sends out the notices to staff alerting them about your student’s specific health needs and is a resource for issues that come up where health issues interfere with learning. Our District Nurse, Jung, usually joins the conversation at this point as she can help with strategies for assisting students with severe health needs or who might need outside resources.
In the space above, I have specifically listed 21 adults on our campus who are tasked with providing support and resources for student wellness. I do want to point out though that all of our approximately 160 staff members can and will be there to assist your student. This is the importance of making sure they participate in the Suicide Prevention training and to encourage the parents and students to do so as well so that we can include the over 2,400 students and over 5,000 parents and guardians in the grand number of people who can provide support to a student when they need it the most. Let me be clear, this training is not about jumping in and stopping someone from committing suicide, but it will help everyone recognize warning signs so that the student can be brought to those who can provide that level of support and care.
If you still have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or call at (408) 522-2501.
Thanks for all you do to help keep our students, staff, parents and neighbors safe.
I hope that you all have had a good opening of school. We are happy to see everyone back and are excited about the year ahead.
One of the big agenda items for Homestead this year is our accreditation visit from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in March. Every high school in the country goes through this process in order to validate the diplomas that your students receive upon graduation as well as to undergo a reflective exercise called the Self-Study. In this Self-Study report, we look at all aspects of our school to ask three simple questions: What do we do well? What are some areas of growth? And what do we want to do to address those areas? As you can imagine with a school of our size and caliber, this report is quite massive and requires the participation of our entire staff as well as district office staff, parents and students.
Our last visit was in March of 2016, which was a mid-term check-in where members from the original visiting team from our last Self-Study in 2013 returned to look at progress and assist in our efforts to continually improve student learning. In the 2013 report, we identified three main goals to work on:
- Goal #1: Students will be guaranteed an opportunity to learn through the development of standards aligned curriculum, effective instructional practices, and analysis of assessments
- Goal #2: Students will become prepared for post-high school success
- Goal #3: Students will experience a safer, more engaging, and more supportive learning environment
Over the last six years, we have been making major strides in all three goals. For the first goal, we have focused on our collaborative efforts during our morning late starts. Our departments are organized into course-alike teams to discuss all aspects of the learning experience from curriculum, instruction, assessment, and intervention/extension. The focus for Goal #2 has been to improve our Career Technical Education pathways, college and career information and preparation, as well as helping them develop 21st Century skills that will assist our students in college and work. Finally, we have looked at social-emotional learning to help us achieve Goal #3 by increasing the personalization opportunities within the school, changed discipline strategies to include more restorative practices and alternatives to suspension so that we can focus on changing behavior rather than simply punishing students, and increasing awareness of and support for mental and physical wellness. All of these goals include a component of increasing parent and student engagement in the running of and decision making at Homestead, which is why you have seen an increase of parent participation on district and site committees, regular surveys and focus groups to gather data and opinion from students and parents, as well as recent efforts to find ways increase parent participation on campus. Overall, our efforts can be summarized in our Expected Schoolwide Learning Results for students which is that we are preparing students to be Communicators, Collaborators, Critical Thinkers, and Life-Long Learners.
For our current self-study cycle, schools are asked to focus on five areas:
- Organization: Vision and Purpose, Governance, Leadership and Staff, Resources
- Standards-based Student Learning: Curriculum
- Standards-based Student Learning: Instruction
- Standards-based Student Learning: Assessment and Accountability
- School Culture and Support for Student Personal and Academic Growth
Our entire Homestead staff plus about 35 volunteer parents and students are meeting over the course of the first semester during select late start mornings in one of these five groups to evaluate our school and programs based on the prompts of those five focus areas. After collecting our thoughts and ideas, we will compare where we are now with where we were six years ago in those areas so that we can list our strengths and critical areas for follow up. These critical areas will help us create an action plan that will help guide our improvement efforts until our next accreditation visit.
The outcome of the visitation in March is to have an outside group, made up of volunteers from the field of education, to verify our report and to assess whether we have the means to address the issues we have listed. Based on this assessment, the team will recommend a term of accreditation. These terms are six years with a mid-term report, six years with a one day mid-term visit, six years with a two day mid-term visit, three years with a full self-study, probation of either one year or two years, or in the worst case withholding accreditation. As stated above, our last visit in 2013 we were granted a six year term with a one day visit in 2016.
In the Spring of 2018, we started working on the initial chapters of this year’s report which include a school profile, data analysis, and narrative describing significant changes to our school, district and community in the interim. We had an initial focus group meeting at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, and then had our first full focus group meeting at the end of August 2018 just after the start of school. Our goal is continue the focus group work, identify strengths and areas of growth, build an action plan, and prepare for the visit in March.
I will report back to your throughout the first semester to let you know how we are progressing and will certainly announce the visit when it gets closer as well as the results of the entire process. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing you at our Back To School Night on September 12th.
Greg Giglio, Homestead Principal
Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year! I hope everyone is rested, relaxed and refreshed so that we can begin the year with our best foot forward. One of the nice parts of having a break between school years, is that it allows everyone -- students, staff, administrators, and parents -- to reflect and adjust in regard to how to make this school year better than the previous one. Over the summer, the Homestead Administrative Team of John Rodriguez, Denae Nurnberg, Steve Puccinelli, Lia Pinelli, Tricia Goulet, and I did a lot of reflection and planning for the 2018-2019 school year (Brian Dong was on paternity leave with the birth of his twin sons Conner and Tyler).
Looking at our core values was one of the important pieces of work that we undertook. Reflecting back over the past several years, we were able to pinpoint several important pillars that support the work we do in trying to make Homestead a great place to learn and work. These five pillars are as follows: Collaboration, Equity, Wellness, Learning and Relationships. These are listed in no particular order, but we realized that all of the work that we have done and all the changes we have made over the years are related to these five core values. Since they are so important to us and to providing your students with a quality educational experience, I wanted to take some space here to talk about what these pillars are and some of the work that we have done, are doing or would like to do at Homestead.
Collaboration: Six years ago during our last big WASC Accreditation visit, our staff reported their desire to use the Professional Learning Community model of collaboration to help improve the instructional program and increase student learning. Starting immediately afterwards, we worked hard to get as many teachers as possible to be trained in this method and now have over 90 teachers, staff members and administrators who have gone through the Solution Tree conference. Because we already have the built-in collaboration time (what we call Late Starts that were previously just on Mondays, but now have been expanded to two days with the new schedule to be held on Wednesdays and Fridays), we have the ability to meet often and work together to improve student learning. On these collaborative days, our teachers meet in course-alike teams to discuss the following questions: What do we want students to learn and be able to do? How do we assess what they have learned? What do we do when they get it? And what do we do when they do not get it? These questions fuel a continuous cycle of improvement so that we are constantly looking at what we do, how we do it, and if the students are learning it. This means that all the teachers who teach a specific subject meet regularly to align their calendars, pacing guides, instructional strategies, assessments, and interventions or extensions to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum for ALL students. This does not mean that each teacher will teach exactly the same thing on the same day in the same way, but it does mean that we expect teachers to provide a structured and similar approach to the curriculum, and that they work together to look at the available data to determine their understanding. If they did not learn, then the teachers will need to provide interventions until they do. And conversely, if the students do understand it, then the teachers will provide extensions to the learning to keep them moving forward as well.
We value collaboration not only for ourselves but with and between our students, so we look for authentic opportunities to use this tool to help us hear from you. This is why you we have so many opportunities available for parents including our Back to School Nights, PTSA Speaker series, and now the newly created Homestead Hacks. Our hope is that these nights will help you “hack” your way into a better understanding of our school and how to support your students. We will begin hosting monthly meetings at night that features a specific department that has both an educational component as well as networking opportunity for parents. We are also undergoing professional development and training to help improve how we structure group work for students to include the idea of effective communication and collaboration between students.
Equity: We have made equity an important focus on our campus these past few years, but not everyone understands why we need equity or why equity over equality. The definition of equity in schools means getting the right resources to to the right students in order to allow ALL students to succeed at high levels. Equity is the means towards achieving equality, but equality does not ensure equity. In years past, schools have operated under the principle of giving each student or group of students the same, equal resources but when students come to us with different abilities and issues, we need the flexibility of using finances and resources in a way that improves the quality of education for each individual student so that everyone can get to an equal footing. This is a very lofty goal, but one that I think Homestead High School is in a position to fulfill.
We have spent the past year looking at our practices and systems, talking with students, and having hard conversations among our staff about not only what we do well, but what we need to work on as a school so that each student gets what they need to be successful. Looking at our data, we know that 85% of our students do really well but that about 15% of our students are not and are even falling farther behind. This data spurred us to create our own Equity Task Force as well as to team with the district to bring in an outside expert like Dr. Pedro Noguera to help us take a deep look at our schools and create an action plan for improvement. As a result, we are clarifying our goals and values as an institution and then implementing strategies to strengthen these goals and values. We are looking at and working on how we structure group work in our classrooms, teaching students how to have civil discourse when it comes to the variety of topics covered in our classrooms and to the people on our campus, reaching out to underserved students while maintaining the quality educational standards that have served the majority of our students so well.
Wellness: The emotional well-being of students has become a national priority and is something that Homestead has been focusing on for several years now. We are fortunate to have a variety of resources located on our campus that deal directly with mental health such as our Student Advocates, School Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, and other trained staff members; yet, we have found that students and parents don’t know about these resources or how to access them. This is why we have been working on ways to communicate to you so that you and your students can take advantage of this support. The last couple of parent surveys have been very helpful in both getting your opinions but also understanding how to best get information to you.
Two important aspects of this pillar of Wellness are the Suicide Prevention Training that will be made available to students, staff and parents this October as required by a newly passed law, as well as our new bell schedule. This new schedule has been designed with student wellness at the forefront as it allows the option of a later start for students who wish to take it as those students won’t start school until 9am or later every day. The new schedule also incorporates a slightly longer lunch and one longer passing period to help students and staff get a break during the often busy and hectic day. Out of this work, we have also been looking at other sources of stress such as homework, classwork, and grading. These types of changes will not happen overnight but we have already been and will continue to hold these discussions.
Learning: The word “learning” was used several times in the paragraph above about Collaboration, and I would hope that all schools value learning as that is our main job -- to help students learn. Our collaborative efforts include a lot of strategies to improve learning but we have been looking for a variety of ways to augment the learning in various other ways. All of our teachers use tutorial as a time to meet one on one with students or by allowing for re-takes, and now several of our teams are providing more structured support during this time by offering to re-teach or even pre-teach important aspects of the curriculum. They will invite those students who need this assistance and we have started to see some increases in learning through this tool. We have also added support classes like Academic Foundations to help students who are struggling in school or with the structure of school. This program is similar to the AVID program as it borrows some ideas of organization, time management and study skills but also allows students to get support from adults connected to the class. We are also very proud of our Latino Mentors program, where we have paired students together to help coach and encourage better participation and performance from them. Another important aspect of our Learning efforts comes from the work surrounding our Student Assistance Team (SAT) and Guidance Administrator Support System (GASS). The GASS team pairs together an administrator with a Guidance Counselor to reach out to more students within the alpha breakdown in order to help guide students towards resources and to provide support. The SAT team takes referrals from teachers, staff and parents for students who are struggling either academically or emotionally and works to provide supports and interventions for them. On the other end of the learning spectrum, we provide a variety of opportunities outside of the classroom to encourage or extend learning. From our amazing programs like Band, FBLA or Robotics (to name just a few of our over 70 clubs) where students are allowed opportunities to showcase their talents and to take leadership roles, to our advanced or rigorous courses such as Honors and Advanced Placement where our students are challenged to perform at the highest academic levels; we have a spot on campus where students will find a home and be given opportunities to excel.
Relationships: Over the past several years, we have seen data from our students that says they don’t feel connected to the adults or even the other students on campus, so we have looked to develop curriculum and lessons that centered on the five components of social-emotional learning of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. We started a 9th grade Homeroom program where we paired 20 students with staff members and had them meet every Friday during tutorial. While we made some successful strides, we found we could not sustain this model so opted for something different the following year. Last year, we started 3rd Period Connections which was held once a month during tutorial with each student and their 3rd period teacher to cover many of the same topics from the previous year’s Homeroom program. Again, we feel that there have been some important steps taken with these programs, we find ourselves going back to the drawing board and will be seeking strategies to implement these learnings more naturally within our courses so that the learning is more meaningful and relevant.
We are also looking to build our relationships with parents as we have heard loud and clear that many of our parents would like to find authentic ways to participate in the school. Traditionally, High School has not been a place where parents want to be or where students want their parents hanging around, but times do change and research shows that students do better when their parents are actively engaged in academics at home and at school. This is why we have worked closely with our PTSA organization to help educate and advocate for parents with their speaker series. Last year, the series hosted speakers on topics such as the college application process, how to stay safe at college, and cybersafety; and they are planning even more speakers for next year. We will also be partnering with PTSA to host what we are calling Homestead “Hacks”, which will be monthly evening meetings that focus on a specific department with “hacks” or tips to help your student be successful as well as provide networking opportunities among parents. We have also recruited a group of parents to participate in our WASC accreditation process by joining one of our five focus groups. Their voices and opinions will be an important component of creating a strong action plan that will guide our school over the next six years until the next accreditation visit.
Finally, we will be piloting a Parent Resource Desk in our main office to be staffed by a parent volunteer for a few hours a week. This parent has had two children go through Homestead so she has an extensive knowledge of how we work and will have a variety of resources and information to hand out to parents. She will be located in the front office near the main desk on the library side. If you are looking for other ways to get involved such as being a tutor, then she will also have information for you on how to sign up.
This month’s message has been considerably longer than previous ones, but I hope you were able to read all the way to here so that you have a better understanding of what we are trying to do at Homestead. I look forward to sharing with you throughout the year how our efforts in Collaboration, Equity, Wellness, Learning and Relationships are progressing. As always, please email me directly if you have any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Giglio, Principal
Happy summer! I hope that all of you are enjoying a bit of a break and recharging your batteries. Our school is officially closed after Friday, June 29, and be open again the week of August 6 (although a few of us will be trickling back in the week before). You are always welcome to email me if you have any questions or concerns but response time will be a little slower than normal.
If you are a family that is new to the area and are looking for information about how to enroll in school, you should contact our Enrollment and Residency Department located at our District Offices at 589 W. Fremont Ave, Sunnyvale (next to Fremont High School), phone number is (408) 522-2266.
And while we are away, our campus remains extremely busy as we prepare to welcome your students back on August 20.
Our new facilities manager, Toby Mockler, and the facilities crew are giving the campus a deep cleaning. The team goes through every classroom, office, and public space on campus to clean from top to bottom including stripping and waxing floors, cleaning carpets, washing windows, and will even give the outside of campus the once over so that everything is in tip top shape. They will also be ridding the campus of old or broken items so that they can take in deliveries of new furniture and equipment. Toby is also assisting the construction crew as they continue work on the I-Hub and the surrounding landscape improvements. I am happy to say that the construction is moving forward quickly and is still on time for a January 2019 finish with the hope of occupying and using the building around Winter Break. Please be aware that there will also be construction improvements happening to the S Building in July and the repair work on the solar panels in the staff lot should be completed soon. School may be out but we do have small kids on campus for Golden Eagle Sports Camps, so please keep an eye out for these visitors.
Even though many of our staff are not on campus at the moment, many are taking advantage of our summer work programs to continue the work in their collaborative course-alike teams to improve or enhance student learning as well as attending professional development opportunities offsite such as conferences or workshops. This summer we have teachers attending AP conferences, subject specific workshops, AVID trainings, Guidance Counselor workshops, Professional Learning Community conferences, and other retreat like experiences so that we can continue to improve our educational offerings for our students.
You should also be aware of several upcoming dates and make sure that they end up on your calendars:
August 8 -- Homestead Orientation Program (HOP) for freshmen and students new to Homestead from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
August 8 -- Parent Orientation Program (POP) for freshmen parents 6 to 7:30 p.m.
August 13 -- Round Up (8:30 to 10:30 a.m. for seniors, 1 to 3 p.m. for juniors)
August 14 -- Round Up continued (8:30 to 10:30 a.m. for sophomores, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for freshmen)
August 20 -- First Day of School! (link for schedule)
September 12 -- Back to School Night
Until then, I wish all of you a restful, relaxing and wonderful summer break!
Greg Giglio, Principal
Congratulations on another successful year, and on behalf of all the entire staff we wish you and your family a safe, restful and relaxing summer!
As we prepare to say goodbye to our seniors, I would also like to take a moment to thank the entire staff for their hard work and dedication to serving our students. The end of the year is reason to celebrate but can also be difficult especially when we have staff members who are moving on and away from Homestead, so I wanted to take some space to thank them for their service.
Leaving Homestead, but Staying in the District:
Stefanie Fan -- will be teaching Japanese at Cupertino
Adam Herald -- moving over to Fremont’s Special Education Department and taking over as Head Football Coach
Anthony Byers -- picking up sections in Educational Options
Luke Santos - heading back to Cupertino’s Special Education Department
Leaving both Homestead and the District:
Keiley Alvaro -- Instructional Aide
Rani August -- English Teacher
Lidia Ingah -- Spanish Teacher
Mickey Lai -- Special Education Teacher
Andrew Peregoy -- School Psychologist
Eloina Villegas -- Spanish Teacher
Eric Weingartner -- Music Teacher
We wish everyone the best and are grateful for having worked with them!
This year we also have several retirements:
Roger Brown -- Roger has been a respected member of our Social Studies Department these past two decades where he has been highly involved in our World and American History classes.
Carolyn Daily -- Carolyn just celebrated her 20th year in our district and has been instrumental in our Art classes where she was recently teaching 2D Art and AP Art. Carolyn also spent several years as the department lead for the Visual and Performing Arts Department.
John Dang -- John retired after nearly 30 years at both Homestead and Fremont as a Network Specialist. John helped usher our campus and district into the technology age, moving from typewriters to computers.
Mary Lopez -- Mary retired in February from our cafeteria crew after 10 years at Homestead
Dolf Placencia -- Dolf is our Facilities Manager these past 7 years where he oversaw all the maintenance and construction projects including the installation of the new turf fields, the football stadium, the field house, the cafeteria and the Innovation Hub as well as the complete overhaul of our utilities systems. Dolf was also an assistant football coach.
Liz Williams -- Liz spent over 20 years in our English Department where she made her name as our AP English Literature teacher. She also spent several years in the early 2000’s as our Equestriette’s coach and was a perennial winner in our canned food drive.
We are honored to have worked with such a great group of people, and their absences will surely be felt on our campus. We will continue to honor the hard work and dedication that these staff members have put in by carrying on what they have so selflessly built.
To our Class of 2018, we send them out into the world with all the love, luck, and joy that we can. We have enjoyed your leadership, scholarship, athleticism, talent, creativity, determination, and positivity. We know that you will be excellent representatives of Homestead as you move on to the next chapter in your ongoing stories.
Have a wonderful summer everyone, and see you in August when the fun starts all over again.
Greg Giglio, HHS Principal
Earlier in the year I sent an email to parents and students about our goal for developing Equity on our campus so that ALL students can find and achieve success, with the key word being all. To help us with this task, our district brought in Dr. Pedro Noguera because his work focuses on how schools are affected by social and economic conditions in local, regional and global contexts. He is an expert on school reform, diversity, and the achievement gap. He is known around the country as the leading expert in these areas.
In August, the entire staff of the Fremont Union High School District listened to Dr. Noguera give a keynote speech to start off our school year which was followed up by site visits to each school two times during the year. Dr. Noguera came to our campus in November with one of his colleagues, and second visit happened in March. During these visits, Dr. Noguera and his team visited classrooms, met with groups of students to hear about their experiences at our school, talked with staff members, and debriefed each visit with HHS administrators. By April he had completed two visits at each school, so Dr. Noguera met with our Superintendent, her cabinet, all five site principals, and other district office personnel to discuss his finding and provide next steps for the district in regard to developing and clarifying our goals and actions steps towards developing equity. Finally in May 2018, Dr. Noguera will be once again visiting Homestead to meet with administrators and teacher leaders to discuss his findings specific to our school so that we can refine our goals and plans moving into the 2018-2019 school year.
The staff at Homestead has really been interested in exploring the topic of equity as has the rest of the schools in our district. With our collaborative efforts over the past several years, we have been looking intently at data and several facts keep staring us in the face. First, we are a high performing school with many students who excel and thrive both here on our campus as well as after they leave us. There has, unfortunately, also been a small percentage of students who are not achieving at those high levels and are often struggling, landing in what has been labeled “The Achievement Gap”. Year after year, the same students were ending up on the D and F list, the truancy reports, listed as not eligible for a four year college or other not so great lists. While we certainly celebrate the success of our students, we also need to look at our role in their failures as well. We wanted to look at our practices, policies and systems to see how we can improve Homestead so that ALL students can walk out of here having equal access to all classes and be able to take advantage of all that Homestead has to offer.
The topic of equity can be controversial because some mistakenly assume that equality is what brings equity. Schools have long practiced under the policy of giving an equal share to everyone so that everyone has the same experience. The simple truth is that many students come to Homestead with fewer advantages or even disadvantaged when compared to the majority of students. There are students who need more resources and supports in order to have access to the learning opportunities. Another assumption about the equity movement is that in order to give those extra resources to the under-served students, we must take away resources from the students at the top. This is where Dr. Noguera’s work has been particularly helpful in working with us to identify those practices, policies and systems that are successful as well as highlighting areas that need improvement. We know that we are doing a lot of great work and achieving high levels of success, and we do not want to alter what is already working. Rather, we look to fix what has not been working for students in the gap, so coming up with a thoughtful approach to addressing equity is extremely important.
As I mentioned in one of my Principal’s Messages from the beginning of the school year, we made some conscious decisions to re-allocate resources so that we could keep a more continued focus on equity. First and foremost, we adjusted the duties of our administrators to create a position titled Equity Assistant Principal. One of the first duties of the Equity AP was to create an Equity Task Force to help us define our issues as we worked side by side with Dr. Noguera. The Equity AP also started holding regular focus group meetings with students in our target subgroups with the goal of finding out what their experiences at Homestead have been, both positive and negative. This information has helped us to start conversations about classroom management, curriculum, grading practices, group work and social-emotional learning. In 2018-2019, we will be looking to do the same with parents and bringing them into the conversation.
This work is going to carry through to next year, and hopefully the next few years, to help us address issues that we think are at the heart of this concern. In particular, we are starting to plan the professional development that our staff undergoes in August prior to the start of school. Our district will also be working with us to help develop and/or clarify some of the tasks and goals related to the equity work so that all the sites will operate under the same understanding and work towards the same purpose. The district is already organizing the management retreat that happens in early August to continue this work. Much of the professional development that Homestead will be offering our teachers next year is to investigate best practices in those areas above so that all of our students can benefit when it comes to improved learning opportunities. We have also heard the concern from parents about more closely aligning curriculum and grading practices, work that we have already been doing in late start collaboration meetings but also work that we will continue to do with our additional day of collaboration afforded by the new schedule.
Another important tool is our continued work towards accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or WASC. We have begun preliminary work on our self study, which is a requirement for all schools as the reach the end of their previous accreditation status in order to renew that status. Our last major visit was in March of 2013 where we earned a 6 year status with a one day visit after the third year, which happened in March of 2016. This self study is a major part of the process and includes another full visit in March of 2019. This study is an opportunity for parents and students as well as all staff members to celebrate our strengths as as school but to also critically look for areas of improvement and then implement an action plan to address those issues.
Homestead is an amazing place to learn and work, but we continue to strive to support ALL students, families, and staff to improve our school. I look forward to the potential work that these opportunities afford us.
I welcome any comments or questions you may have. Please contact me at email@example.com
We are down to the last two months of school, which means it is that time of the year when we start to get reflective on what has transpired at Homestead since August 2017 as well as look forward to what is to come in the 2018--2019 school year. April and May are also months for us to start to celebrate those people and accomplishments that have made us even more proud of our students and staff then we already were.
On April 3rd, we held our yearly site school board meeting where we got to celebrate several student groups, staff members and individual students. This year, we honored the Homestead Marching Band program including our Winter Guard and Winter Percussion groups for their continued excellence and dedication. Getting invited to the Tournament of Roses Parade is a huge honor but really was only one of many accomplishments that these talented students and instructors have racked up this year. John Burn, Eric Weingartner and Vicki Feltman were on hand to represent all our students and instructors, several of who were busy practicing for championships coming up in the next week! We also honored the 2017 Girls’ Softball team including our recently retired coach, Steve Allemendi. Because softball season usually falls right when we are holding our site meetings, we have neglected to honor them for their outstanding achievements and high level of success over the past 12 years under Steve’s leadership. We were also able to honor Scott Strotman who has taken over for Steve after assisting him for many of those 12 years.
We also announced and recognized three of our outstanding students: Jose Amador, Isabella Rosado, and Karina Guzman. Isabella and Jose earned distinction for their amazing academic pursuits, commitment to service, dedication to Homestead, and overall contribution to our school and community. They were named as our “Poster Students” and will have their pictures on posters and featured both at our site and in our district office for the 2018-2019 school year. Karina was named our Foundation Student as a student who committed herself to academic pursuits while overcoming challenges or difficult situations. We are extremely proud of all three students and are happy to have had the opportunity to recognize their talents.
This meeting is also the time when we announce both our Classified Staff Member of the Year (CSOTY), Rick Cardenas, and Teacher of the Year (TOTY), Andrea Westgate. Both of these staff members were chosen by their peers for outstanding dedication and commitment to our students and our school. Rick Cardenas is a paraeducator for our Special Education Department who has an amazing ability to work with students to help them overcome their personal, emotional and academic challenges. He is a warm and engaging educator who builds up the skills and self-esteem of the students around him. Rick has also previously been our Frosh/Soph Football coach where he demonstrated leadership, sportsmanship and a winning attitude. Andrea Westgate is in our Math Department and teaches Algebra I and AP Calculus AB. She is a dedicated leader in the math department and for her course-alike teams, helping to shape the curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment practices for herself and her colleagues. She has also worked on several districtwide committees to help improve and expand the mathematical opportunities at all of our schools. With a huge heart and a sharp mind, Mrs. Westgate makes strong connections with her students, build collaborative relationships with her peers, and works tirelessly with families to help every student succeed. The staff could not have chosen two better recipients of these awards than Mr. Cardenas and Mrs. Westgate!
The French Collaborative Team of Muriel Von Stein, Kelly Ronsheimer, and Madeleine Wills also were recognized for outstanding achievement and efforts in creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students in the French courses. Even though this team is small in number, it more than makes up for it in enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism. Finally, we honored three of our retirees this year: Mary Lopez from our Cafeteria, John Dang in our IT Department, and Dolf Placencia our Facilities Manager. All three staff members have served Homestead with distinction, and while we will miss them we certainly wish them the best as they “graduate”.
There are many students and adults on our campus who deserve to be recognized or honored, and those mentioned above are just a few. The next two months will certainly bring us more news as we continue to hear about the amazing plans and opportunities that our students and staff will be undertaking. We look forward to hearing about them and helping them to celebrate. Until then, I would wish you all a safe and happy Spring Break.
Greg Giglio, Principal
While school safety is currently a popular topic in the media and in conversations, Homestead and the Fremont Union High School District have always taken the subject seriously. We follow the rules and guidelines regarding updating emergency plans and holding yearly drills, but we have also taken extra steps in an effort to try to keep everyone safe. I thought it would be helpful to dedicate the space in this month’s message to talk about what we are doing.
We are proud to partner with both the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety in running emergency drills such as an active shooter drill or fire and earthquake drills. Every year, the Sheriff’s Department comes to an early staff meeting to train and update the staff on the latest strategies for such emergencies. These drills are run under the supervision of law enforcement and school administrators with the purpose of detecting problems or issues so that we can correct and improve our procedures. For instance, an officer and an administrator team up during an active shooter drill to visit every classroom, test the outer door security and assess internal barricades. At the conclusion of the drill, everyone meets back to discuss what went well and what went wrong. We also ask for feedback from our staff as well as go back out immediately to staff or areas that need improvement. Our fire drills are also run under the supervision of the fire department who give us their feedback and advice. All of our drills are announced ahead of time but we don’t give specifics as we are hoping that they are as spontaneous as possible. This is helpful both for staff to plan their instruction as well as for students to prepare for the drills are coming as they can be quite stressful.
Last year, we had the unfortunate situation of being told by the Sheriff’s Department that we had to go into a lockdown during the middle of lunch. The call for a lockdown turned out to be premature and not needed but this was still a completely chaotic event, and one for which we had never practiced. We had discussed what to do but after going through the actual event, we realized that we had to make many improvements. For instance, we found that the emergency bell was not loud enough to be heard over the din of students eating lunch so we changed the bell to something much more jarring and attention grabbing. We have also changed a few practices that sounded good on paper but in reality caused some issues. I am not going to go into detail here because we do not discuss our procedures in a public forum as directed by law enforcement as a means for keeping that information secure.
We have been hearing from students lately that they would like to be able to contribute to the feedback loop so from here on out, we will be giving our students a link to a survey after such drills to hear how they experienced the drill.
An important part of maintaining a safe and secure campus is for administration to be visible, present and out supervising. You have seen us out during the morning drop-off times to help regulate traffic and to keep an eye on who is coming to campus. Administrators are also out supervising during tutorial, brunch and lunch rotating through the various areas on our campus. Louise, our campus supervisor, is always out during the day covering campus.
While we are out and about, we are constantly looking for people who should not be on campus. We may not know every single student by name, but because we are frequently supervising we tend to recognize who is a Homestead student and who is not. Students from other campuses are not allowed on Homestead during the school day unless they are part of an official visit or function, so those students who do visit are returned to their home campuses. Any adult who is not an employee of the Fremont Union High School District is not allowed on campus unless they have an official purpose or are part of an official function. This is the reason we ask staff to send us the names of visitors so that we have passes ready for them when the arrive. The passes help us identify quickly who should and should not be on campus, so if an adult is on campus without a pass we will identify ourselves as administrators or staff members before asking them if we can help them? If they have no reason or business with us, we will escort them off campus or call law enforcement if needed. We will also ask parents, relatives or family friends to provide identification when picking up a student so that we know your student is leaving with the appropriate person.
A testament to our school and staff are the large number of former students who come back to visit with us and tell us how they are doing. We love to see them but we must, for the security of all our current students and staff, not allow them on campus during the school day. Sometimes, a former student may be invited back to talk with a class or give a presentation, and even our former students must check in to the office and wear a visitors pass while they are here on campus. All of this may feel a bit restrictive or untrusting, but we cannot take chances with anyone’s safety so we do ask for your cooperation and patience as we attend to our procedures.
Even our substitute teachers must wear FUHSD badges and display parking permits while on campus. Every sub goes through emergency training so that they are familiar with our procedures, and teachers are asked to provide emergency plans for their specific rooms for the substitute teachers.
Our district is blessed with a variety of resources including having dedicated staff who are mental health professionals. Our mental health team provides trainings for our staff, works with students who experiences issues, and react in moments of crisis. Besides the emergency trainings listed above, our entire staff has recently been trained in suicide prevention strategies. We will take seriously any concern or issue brought forward to us by students, staff, parents or community members regarding the mental health of a student. In such a situation, we follow our internal procedures and strategies to check in with struggling students to help them stabilize or get them the help or assistance they need. We have also been developing systems over the past few years that help students who are struggling with academics, attendance or behavior so that we can positively and proactively intervene and provide support.
One of the main goals at Homestead is to provide a safe, nurturing and engaging environment for our students, and our School Climate Department plays a major role in this area. Our two Deans of Students work with a variety of resources, both internal and external, to provide safety and security to our students. Their main responsibility is to enforce discipline, which is a word that has taken on more of a negative connotation over the years. The root of the word actually comes from the Latin word “to teach” and was not solely meant to describe punishment. We have been trying to embrace this concept of teaching students how to make better choices so our discipline has been evolving to include educational components, classes, therapy and restorative conversations. We have greatly reduced the number of suspensions and expulsions over the year by developing relationships with our students, holding countless meetings and conversations with them as well as providing them resources to help educate them. This does not mean that we do not take issues seriously or that we are letting students off with a warning, but rather addressing the root causes of some of our issues and working to resolve them before the erupt into something bigger and more damaging.
Finally, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our services or deliver assistance to those who need it. If you ever have a concern or question that you would like to discuss with us then please feel free to email an administrator, counselor, student advocate, teacher, coach or staff member. Together we can help make Homestead safer, so we appreciate you being part of the team.
Greg Giglio, Principal
As many of you are aware, our district has recently adopted and voted in two new schedules for our five high schools. There have been many questions raised, so I wanted to take a moment to go through how we got here, what is new and different about the schedules, and what steps we will be taking moving forward. For those of you who have not seen the new schedule, here it is:
The idea for a schedule change comes up every few years, but it really gathered momentum when a petition was started to review our current bell system and to align it with the current data regarding sleep research. The research shows that teenagers have different sleep patterns than younger students and adults, and they require more hours of sleep in order to stay healthy. The research stated that starting schools at a later time would be beneficial to reducing health issues like stress and depression. The district responded by creating a Wellness Task Force almost two years ago made up of parents, staff members, administrators, and community members. The focus of this group started with the idea of a later start but quickly bloomed into a multi-faceted look at the various types and causes of stress in our district and how we might all come together to help alleviate some of the harmful stress that our students are faced with everyday. Both a parent and student survey were administered during the 2016-2017 school year. Members of the task force went out to the five high schools to talk with staff, parents and students about both the survey as well as potential ideas for the schedule. Along the way, the benefits of aligning the school schedules also became a focal point because up until this year, each of our high schools had separate and distinct schedules, which did create some issues in regard to sharing students, staff or resources. I am not sure that we could put a number on how many people gave input, but the committee covered a lot of ground with all stakeholders before turning over to the teacher’s union their suggestions for a new schedule.
The Fremont Education Association (FEA) does have the right according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement to vote on any new schedules that have been proposed. This is why every effort was made to get surveys done, talk to groups and work with our various professional associations and community members so that FEA had a truly district-wide concept to vote on. When looking over the five different schedules, we did find a lot of common ground -- namely that Cupertino, Lynbrook and Monta Vista had similar but not the same schedule featuring two block days while Fremont and Homestead had similar but not the same schedule that featured four days of block. This became the starting point for looking at how to align the schedules and begin working on the various components to provide healthy options. Fast forward to January 2018, and the schools were asked to vote on whether to use the schedule with 2 days of block or 4 days of block. Homestead and Fremont stayed with the four day model, and Cupertino voted to move from the two day model to the four day model. Monta Vista and Lynbrook voted to stay with the two day model. I will try to summarize the new and different aspects to the four day block since this is the schedule that we will use for the 2018-2019 school year.
Collaboration or Late Starts:
Right now, every school has one day of collaboration, or what students and families refer to as a Late Start. Homestead’s late start is Monday mornings while the other four schools had late start on Wednesdays. This meant that Homestead teachers could not participate in district-wide collaboration with the other schools, so it became important to find a way to make this happen. Now, while a late start means sleeping in for students, it does not mean the same thing for our staff. We still come to school at the regular time and meet in course alike teams to do the important work of improving our instructional programs and aligning practices (a goal that is very important to both staff and parents). Most of our teachers serve on two course alike teams (for instance, a math teacher who teaches Algebra and Calculus would be a member of each of those course alike teams). Having just one collaboration morning a week meant that teams might not be able to meet for weeks when you add in three days weekends or other meetings that may happen during those mornings. Across the district, teachers asked for a second day of collaboration with one of those days falling on a day when all five schools could meet. Starting next year, Homestead will have collaboration, or late starts, on Wednesdays and Fridays, with the common day being Wednesday for all five schools. Overall having two days of collaboration means that course alike teams can meet more often and continue that important work.
No First Period Option Creates a True Late Start Everyday!
With the new schedule having two collaborations and then first period starting the other three days of the week, a student who chooses the “No First Period” option would be able to start after 8:45 a.m. every day of the week. Currently, because Homestead starts days with both a first period and second period depending on the day, the “no first period” option only meant a late start for three of the five days. While many families were interested in starting later, there were also families who liked the current start times and did not want a late start. These new schedules give families the option to start late or start early based on their needs. We cannot guarantee that every student who asks for a “no first” will get that request but we will work hard to help facilitate as many as possible. All five schools will start at 8:00 a.m. next year, which is a delay of 25 minutes for all but Homestead as we were the only school to start at 7:50 a.m.
One Less Tutorial, but Tutorial is Longer:
This was certainly a hard one for Homestead to process but in the spirit of compromise, everyone lost a little something and everyone gained a little something (or kept something) from their old schedules. Homestead was the only one of the five high schools that had four tutorials while others had just one, two or three days of tutorial. When aligning the schedules, it became apparent that we could align all schools with three days while increasing the time. This allows students more time to work with teachers, or the potential to spend time in one class before grabbing a pass to move to another class, which was much harder with the shorter tutorial periods. The tutorials are placed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in order to be spaced out evenly and cover the entire week.
No Loss of Instructional Minutes:
While the new schedules have certainly brought up questions about instructional time, much care was given to keeping instructional minutes the same. You will see changes in the lengths of block periods, skinny periods, tutorials and even a passing period but the total calculation of minutes allows us to reach the state required minimum of 64,800 minutes for the year. Calculating these minutes is a long and arduous process when you take in the various schedules for rallies, testing, finals, special events and regular days but instructional minutes can also be calculated for time outside of class such as passing periods and tutorials. We can’t have a four hour passing period and count it as instructional minutes, so we do follow the guidelines for being able to use those minutes appropriately.
No More Skinny 7th Period that meets every day:
Homestead was the only school that had a period like this, so it was a casualty of the compromise. There has always been a lot of confusion about 7th Skinny vs. 7th Block, so hopefully the clarification will outweigh the loss of it.
The last class of the day on each of the five days will end at 3:25 p.m. If a student does not have a 6th or 7th period, then they will be done at lunchtime on the block days (this would differ for someone who has no 6th but does have a 7th on the Monday). We have received many questions and concerns about how a later dismissal will affect the release of athletes or extra-curricular participants for practices and events or games. The later dismissal time does mean that practices will need to start a little later, which will conflict with the ability to get enough hours in to practice for those sports who rely on sunlight and not artificial light, so we will need to plan for that and watch how this might positively or negatively affect teams. At this point we do not have enough information, but we will be purposeful on how we assign and arrange practices and events. A major conflict for this is working with the other teams in our leagues to start games later. Many teams in our league are from different districts who have their own challenges and issues with schedules, but we are actively working together to see where we can reach common ground. The other side of this issue is how much class time would an athlete or extra-curricular participant such as band, cheer, dance, robotics, or others miss when leaving for games or events. This also means we as a staff need to be aware of and work with students to help support them should they be required to miss class for a school related event. These are conversations that we have started and will continue to have as we assess how the schedule is working next year. Our guidance department will be identifying students who participated in previous year athletics to see if we can reduce conflicts due to scheduled games on days where a 6th or a 7th would cause a burden. This will not be able to happen in every case, but we will be mindful of how to schedule this accordingly and assess as the year progresses. Practices should not be starting before 3:25 p.m. so no one should miss class for a practice.
Brunch and Lunch are Later:
There was a lot of debate about where to put brunch and lunch so that it made sense and worked within the scope of the schedule. Both brunch and lunch are about an hour later in the day than they currently stand, which is something that may or may not be an issue but we won’t really know until we live through it a bit. I would suggest packing a quick snack if you have a 1st period class so that a student doesn’t get too hungry waiting until 11:00 a.m. for brunch. This is the reason a ten minute passing period was added between the first and second periods on the block days so that students and staff could use the restrooms, get a drink of water or have a snack without feeling rushed
Block days are no longer scheduled by “Odd” or “Even” periods:
Currently, Homestead block days were arranged to have odd periods (1,3,5 and 7th block) or even periods (2,4,6). The new schedule is arranged instead to have periods 1,2,3, and 7 on one day or 4,5,and 6 on the other. Because we have 7 periods, we could not evenly split the periods over the two days, so the block days with just three periods are on the same days as the two late starts, allowing for a 3:25 p.m. dismissal every day. I am not sure that much of a difference will be made regarding what periods are on what days, so this will also need to be something that we live through to know the true effects.
What about traffic?
Traffic is a major concern no matter what day or what time school starts or ends, but there have been a lot of questions about moving our start time closer to the start time of nearby elementary and middle schools. Some are concerned that this will mean more cars on the road at the same time, while others feel that more kids will take the late start option thereby spreading out the traffic, which could either be a problem or a benefit. No matter what, we will be working with our district as well as the Sheriff and Sunnyvale PD to monitor traffic and work to keep our kids safe. We are also talking with the Valley Transit Authority about our schedule changes as they have been a very helpful and cooperative partner in transporting our kids to school. We do not have any specific information on route or time changes yet, but we will make that available as we get it. And finally, we are committed to continuing the great work that the Safe Route To Schools programs has brought to our campus, encouraging drivers to be safe as well as students to use alternative methods to get to school.
Finally, I encourage you to send me your questions or concerns as the new schedule unfolds over the course of the 2018-2019 school year. Like with any new idea or change, I do expect some hiccups along the way but I am committed to working on those aspects with you to continue in our efforts to make Homestead a great place to learn and work.
Greg Giglio, Principal