Welcome to 2021. January is one of my favorite months because it is the start of the new year. January is also my birthday month as well as for both of my parents, my paternal grandmother, and two of my nephews. January is also the month I started here at Homestead. So while it might seem a bit cliche, January to me is really a time of renewal and fresh starts, which is something that we can all use from the disaster that 2020 laid out for us. Even though we are virtually in the same place as we were in March 2020, January 2021 at least offers the hope of something new, better, or different for each and every single one of us. The start of a new semester also brings that hope as we start off on the Spring Semester of the 20-21 school year.
For our first advisory this semester, our Associated Student Body (ASB) Leadership students have created a new year’s themed lesson around new beginnings and resolutions. The advisory starts with two short exercises in yoga and meditation to help students develop some tools in dealing with stress or finding quiet time during all the hustle and bustle. This will be followed by an activity where students will create possible resolutions and share them with their classmates. Hopefully, this provides an opportunity for students to plan out some goals as well as for you to talk with your students about their resolutions or even your own resolutions. Who knows, you may even be able to help each other stay on track to accomplish those goals? If you haven’t thought of any, maybe this will give you some ideas too (more on that below).
New Year’s resolutions are really about changing patterns or breaking habits. If you are eating too many sweets, then a resolution could be to stop eating them or cut down on them. To be realistic, we don’t tend to stick to resolutions that are extreme or unattainable so coming up with gradual goals can help us get to a bigger goal. For instance, your goal might be to run a marathon which feels unattainable right now but if you think about increasing increments each month you may be better able to accomplish your goal. Try running one mile this month and then when you get in better shape, double it to run two miles, then double again to run four, eight, 16, etc. Running a marathon is a major goal that really only a dedicated few accomplish so maybe you don’t want to really run a marathon, but you want to get in better shape by running. The same concept applies where you could walk for a mile in the first month, then start running one lap around the track and walking three, running two and walking two, running three and walking one until you can run all four. Then start to increase your goal to two miles or three miles using the same technique.
For many of you, just the thought of these types of resolutions may start to create a sense of anxiety or fear. Resolutions don’t need to be grand and physical, then can be small and less tangible yet equally as important and fulfilling. For instance, maybe you want to reach out to friends and family more since the pandemic has kept us home and apart. You could keep a list of people you want to reach out to and set a goal of how many you will try to reach each day, each week, or each month. You might vary the way you reach out (text, email, phone call, snail mail, etc.). Maybe you just want to read more or do a better job of keeping your car clean.
For our students, they sometimes want to make changes or improvements but maybe are taking too big a leap or don’t have the tools to make the continual progress needed to accomplish their goal. Having just completed the first semester, your student is very well situated to know areas that worked and didn’t work for them in regard to school. So while it might be easy to say, “I want all A’s” it might be better to get them to focus on an area that can help them improve their grades such as homework, attendance, office hours, or studying. For instance, it might be beneficial if your student says he or she “wants all A’s” to help them identify one area such as homework submission, then start to build incremental and realistic goals from there. I am not saying that a student shouldn’t strive for all A’s but just like that wishful thinking regarding running a marathon, you can’t do it all at once so giving them something more concrete can be helpful.
Another aspect of change is that it is stressful, just look at all the change and stress that the past year has brought to our students, to our staff, and to you! We are facing an unprecedented time with unknown factors, so deciding it is time to run a marathon or get all A’s may not be the best choice. It might be better to think of this new start as a way to better cope and manage these uncertain times. Perhaps a better goal is to have dinner together more often and talk about the day, play more board games, purge the overfilled closet, have a family movie night once a week, tell your kids you love them or are proud of them every day (and then definitely increase that one as soon as you get in better “shape”). Please remember, that a goal or resolution will only be followed if the individual wants to take part or sees the benefit so don’t just impose movie night even though it sounds fun, but seek out their input and be sure to include your student. People also respond well to rewards, so think of fun or silly ways to celebrate milestones but don’t reward yourself or your student with something that defeats the progress. If you ran a full mile, don’t celebrate with a tub of ice cream but create something like a medal or certificate, or even promise to make or buy their favorite meal for each member of your family when they have completed a month’s worth of family dinners.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be about giving up or depriving yourself of something (unless it is harmful for you) so think about ways to make the change more fun or less stressful. After all, we make these resolutions with the best intentions and the hope of a better situation in the future, so we don’t have to be miserable along the way. And we don’t need to feel bad if we don’t come up with a bigger and better resolution.
In the meantime, I am restarting the parent survey. This is a great tool for us to communicate because I get valuable information and feedback from you which I then turn around in a weekly video message so that you get information back as well. I am also hoping to include other staff members in the videos this semester, so you never know who will pop up into the weekly video.
Here is hoping that your new year is a safe, happy, and productive one.
We are quickly approaching the end of not only the first semester but also the end of the 2020 calendar year. It is important to look back on where we have been in order to truly appreciate where we are headed, so here are some thoughts, info, and reflections on the first half of our year.
When the semester ends, we will have said goodbye to two veteran members of our office team with the retirements of Eugenia San Cristobal and Leslie Ogawa-Boon. Eugenia has been our registrar for the past 22 years, and is usually the first person that many of our families meet as they start their Homestead journey and can also be the last if they are transferring out or moving away. As a Bilingual Spanish speaker, she was extremely helpful to many of our families who needed extra attention or assistance. Her positive presence and joyful attitude will definitely be missed, but we wish her all the best in joining her husband in retirement. We are fortunate to announce that Omar Salazar has been hired to fill Eugenia’s shoes. The two of them had several days of crossover training before Omar took the reins. He is a graduate of Fremont High School and also is a bilingual Spanish speaker. Welcome Omar!
Leslie Ogawa-Boon has been a member of our amazing Guidance Team and has been working with our students for the past 16.5 years, recently overseeing students with the last name of San through Z. Leslie has been a great resource for our students, families, staff, and other counselors during her time here and she also helped to organize the yearly educational program that focused on the experiences of Japanese-Americans who were interned at camps such as Manzanar during World War II. I am glad to write that we have hired Derek Chan as our new guidance counselor, and he has already begun working with our team to get up to speed. His first official day is January 4th. Welcome Derek! We will miss both Eugenia and Leslie, but are so thankful to have been able to work with them in supporting students over the many years that they were here at Homestead.
While remote learning has certainly been a challenge, there have been some bright spots in the process. One of those bright spots is the weekly advisories that happen every Wednesday from 9am to 10am. Students were placed into advisory groups based on their second period class, and those students who have an open period were placed into an advisory with one of their current teachers. Even teachers who do not teach during second period were assigned into a group so every student and nearly every adult on campus is involved in the lessons. The purpose of advisory has been to give students and teachers a chance to get to know each other “outside” of the classroom as well as to take on school wide or district wide lessons. We have done informal or fun advisories such as general check-ins or student rallies. We have also been able to pass along mental health supports or social emotional lessons such as where to find help on campus and how to ask for help, managing stress during uncertain times or during finals. We have also started to address the topic of Antiracism by discussing the pyramid of hate, tools for interrupting hate speech, as well as starting to celebrate the diverse cultures at Homestead such as our Latinx and Black communities. Next semester we have more plans to continue advisory, especially since we know that we will remain on remote learning for at least the first six weeks of the 2nd Semester, which means we will be keeping our schedule the same. On the calendar for next semester advisories are more activities and events from our ASB student leadership class, mental health supports, general check-ins, and continuing to understand what it means to be an antiracist school by addressing microaggressions and celebrating more communities including our South Asian and LGBTQ students. We have many communities to celebrate, so we do hope to get around to all of them as we continue this work throughout this year and in the years to come.
Speaking of staying on the same schedule, we have found that both students and staff appreciate the mostly asynchronous Wednesdays because it gives students a chance during the week to work on assignments and not be so connected to the screen. There have been some concerns and questions about the type or amount of work for those days so we are in the process of more clearly defining that as we work with our teaching and staff unions. Other concerns that our teams will continue to address and work on for the Spring is managing the student workload, addressing stress and anxiety of remote learning (and dealing with a pandemic), and how to safely get students back on campus.
And that is really the million dollar question, when can we get students back on campus? I have written a lot about this process and have talked about it in my weekly video messages to parents, but it is rather confusing and seems to change directions more easily than the wind. As a public school, we are required to follow the guidelines of our county public health department. Our restrictions have centered on the ability to keep students socially distant and to remain in smaller groups with no mingling or crossover while at school. For an elementary school, this is very simple because in grades K-5, students are in one classroom with one adult so keeping them separate from other students is as simple as staggering recess and lunch. This is not possible at the middle and high school level as our students change classes every period and are with a different group of students and a different teacher multiple times throughout the day. Our classes and students are bigger, so keeping students six feet apart in a classroom means we end up with fewer students in class, usually less than half. This makes moving to a hybrid very difficult as well as problematic because we will have one half to two thirds of a class at home, while the rest are in class thus reducing the amount of instructional time while increasing the asynchronous time, which most folks objected to in the Spring.
One thing that we were working towards was the ability to start bringing back small groups or pods of students for support and services. As early as August, we were able to bring back athletic cohorts of no more than 12 students and two adults to condition and work out. We were also able to work with some of our activities or clubs to bring back small pods of band members or the robotics team to practice their music or prepare for virtual events. We were also permitted to bring back students in our Resource Department for testing and support services in 1:1 or 1:2 environments. We also began a support cohort of students who did not have the resources at home to effectively “do” school in the remote setting, so they would come to school to work remotely. All of these pods, with the exception of the 1:1 Resource pods, were put on pause with the tightening of restrictions that we experienced right after Thanksgiving. Our hope is that when we start the second semester, these restrictions and lockdown will help to flatten the spikes that our county, state, and country are experiencing so that we can safely bring students back to campus.
We had also just put the finishing touches on a more rigorous safety and cleaning protocol to offset the increase in students and staff coming to campus. These protocols started on November 30th and are in effect. Students coming to campus for support or assessment, must complete a questionnaire about their current health status before being allowed on campus. Students will be met at the gates by their cohort or pod teacher who will then make sure they have answered the questions and are properly masked. Students will be spaced 6 or more feet apart in the classroom and will not be allowed to congregate on or off campus. Students and staff are required to wear a mask at all times, and staff who run these pods have gone through safety training on the protocols and on cleaning techniques in the event they need to implement them. At the end of the day, our custodial staff will go through and thoroughly clean the areas where students and staff have been. We also have a protocol of how to isolate a student or staff member who becomes sick while on campus.
I think I can speak for all of our staff when I saw we really want to see your students back on campus and learning in the way we and they do best. In order for this to happen, we have to do our part both as educators and as community members, and we hope you can help us here. To date, the best solutions to staying healthy and avoiding the virus is to wear a mask, stay socially distant, and to frequently wash your hands. Many of us were looking forward to seeing friends and family this Thanksgiving, and did not expect to have the county implement a travel ban with recommendations for quarantining depending on how far you travelled and when you got back from that travel. The state is following with lockdowns and curfews, which may make our holiday break a little less exciting and closer to home than what we have come to know and expect. I would ask that you do your part to keep yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighbors safe.
I have also appreciated those parents and students who have been submitting questions, ideas, concerns, and appreciations to the weekly survey. I have had nearly 200 responses over the course of the past 16 weeks, and I truly appreciate hearing from you. I will be continuing this practice, although I will be revising the survey as interest has been waning in the past few weeks. So please be on the lookout for the next version of the survey to debut in January 2021.
There have been many positive and encouraging sayings and quotes going around these days to keep our spirits up. My favorite has been one that states instead of complaining about what you don’t have, show appreciation for what you do have. What I have, besides an amazing and loving family, is an incredible school filled with dedicated staff, creative students, and supportive families and community members. I wish all you good health as we end our semester, head into the holidays, and look for ways to celebrate the new year.
Stay safe and be well.
We have crossed over the halfway point for the semester and heading quickly to the holidays and finals. This semester has been both rewarding and challenging as we strive to stay positive during the pandemic. I am extremely proud of the work and effort that our students, families and staff have put in to make the best of a difficult situation. Even more challenging have been the conflicting signals that we are receiving with Santa Clara County opening up more due to the hard work and sacrifices that everyone is making to stay safe and keep others safe while numbers around the country and world move in the opposite direction.
Looking at the updates in the news, those numbers are daunting: 500,000 new cases in the past week in the US, record high numbers of daily new Covid cases, 41 states with increasing positive cases, hospitals reaching capacity, and other countries such as Germany, England, and France putting back into place severe restrictions. The question on everyone’s mind seems to be when are we going to be back on campus? Homestead and the Fremont Union High School District have agreed to stay on remote learning until the end of the semester, which is a decision that we made in July. Currently, even with the lessening of restrictions in our county, we are facing some impossible hurdles towards having large groups of students on campus for instruction. For students to be on campus, we have to maintain a social distance of 6 feet in the classroom and this would require us keeping some students home while others are in the classroom. This would require us to make cohorts and flop between one cohort at home and one on campus, which would slow down the pace of instruction. This is something that is possible but the other restrictions take precedence over that one. For instance, students would be required to stay in the same group throughout the day and be under the supervision of one teacher or adult. Elementary schools may be able to function in that manner but high schools cannot.
We are slowly and methodically bringing back some students for assessment, services or support. For instance, we will begin doing in person one on one assessments for students in special education as we are required by law to do these tests annually or to qualify a student for services. We are also looking to bring in small groups of less than five students who require services and support, and we are still working through some of the details in how to do this and adhere to the county guidelines listed above. We are also looking for creative ways to provide support or interventions for other struggling students. Our options may be limited but we are working on strategies and systems that would allow us to be more helpful.
One important piece of the puzzle is to improve and enhance our safety protocols. While it may seem strange to strengthen these when businesses and schools are beginning to open up, it is important that we be even more vigilant in keeping our students and our staff safe, which ultimately keeps you safe too. From the beginning of school, we have had a small group of staff on campus including teachers who choose to teach out of their classrooms, office staff, custodians, cafeteria staff, and administrators. It has been very easy to distance and be respectful of work space with such a small group. We have locked gates to restrict guests accessing the campus and installed a doorbell on the office to help those who do come to campus. We have also installed hand sanitizer dispensers outside each classroom and around campus. We will soon be posting new regulations and protocols that will include specifications on the types of masks permissible, safety questions that must be answered before coming on campus, providing an isolation room should someone come down with symptoms while on campus, room entry tracking to ensure proper cleaning and provide contact tracing should we have any positive cases.
These next several weeks will be very important and telling in determining how we move forward with the second semester. I know that just about everyone out there would prefer to be in school and getting back to see friends or taking part in all the amazing activities and opportunities that we have here at Homestead. In order to do that, everyone needs to stay strong and stick to the proven measures of wearing a mask, staying socially distant, washing your hands frequently, and staying home if you are not feeling well.
As you are doing that, remember that we are here for you and your family if you need anything. Our cafeteria staff are handing out meals every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm in the student lot. Our PTSA is collecting donations for the food pantry that also goes to help our families that are struggling with food insecurity. Our mental health team is standing by to help answer questions and provide support for students who may be struggling, and you can send in a Wellness Check In form on our student portal page to request someone from the team to check in with your student. Also on the website is our Student Safety Report, which is a form for students to report issues and concerns directly to the deans. Our website also has resources listed for families on a variety of issues and topics, so feel free to browse through the pages and find something that might be helpful. If you aren’t able to find what you are looking for or just would prefer to interact with a person, please email us. Our counselors, office staff, mental health team, and administrators are available to you.
Finally, please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 3rd!
Stay safe and be well.
We have just crossed over the six week mark for the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, which is an important milestone as it marks the end of the first grading period. Every six weeks, staff enter Progress Report grades as a snapshot of the headway your students have been making since the start of the school year. These grades are not permanent, but are meant to help you and your student build a plan for the rest of the semester. These Progress Report grades can go up or down in the following weeks, but this first grading period is important because there is still a lot of time left in the semester to fix or alter the path your student is on.
First, a little information about grades. We have seen students putting a tremendous amount of stress on themselves or on their peers by comparing or contrasting grades. It is hard not to as on the surface grades are a tangible marker of success or failure for each individual. A healthier way of looking at grades is using them as a reflective tool on how to approach each class. Grades measure more than just how “smart” a student is -- the grade is a combination of time spent on the subject, the resources used to help the student achieve that grade, and the mindset needed to continue to move forward. As you know, courses get harder as the semester goes on because classes tend to build upon the previous work to increase a student’s understanding, or depth, of the subject matter. So, if a student is achieving a satisfactory grade then it is fair to say that they are spending the right amount of time, using all their resources, and keeping a growth mindset for the class. If the student is not achieving a satisfactory grade, then looking at one or all three of those areas would be a good next step.
Remote Learning is hard on everyone, especially since students are at home with a lot of distractions and creature comforts close at hand. A good first question would be, is your student effectively using class time to get what they need to be successful? Next, are they putting in the appropriate amount of time outside of class to complete work, do the reading, study, organize notes, or prepare for the next class meeting? Watching television is a passive activity but learning is not. Unfortunately, remote learning looks and feels a lot like watching television so students may be sitting back and letting school happen to them rather than being an active participant. They may get drawn away more easily from the learning to check texts, get a snack, pet the dog, or even play video games. If you are able to observe your student during class time, take a look at how focused or distracted they are, then help them eliminate distractions and set up a more effective work space if possible. This does not mean having to set up a whole separate room, but maybe it does mean re-organizing the desktop, room, or their placement to ensure the student is able to focus on class time. These distractions are also there outside of class time as students may claim that they are spending hours on homework, but are they really spending hours on it because they stop to chat with friends or check out Tik Tok. Honestly, it all may look the same since students are using their devices to do both, so unless you are looking over their shoulder and at their screens, you may not know exactly what they are doing. Of course, spending too much time on classwork outside of class without breaks or socialization is also a sign that there might be a problem, so you may actually need to help your student develop a schedule that includes breaks and relaxation in order to avoid learning burn out.
Another important aspect of finding success in school is making sure students are utilizing all their resources. Of course, the teacher is an extremely important resource, yet students tend to avoid talking and working with their teachers. That is why we have included office hours on three different days, with some extra options on Wednesdays where they may also connect with teachers. While many students may not want to “bother” their teacher or show that they don’t understand something, the teacher is the most direct and effective resource a student has because they are the most closely connected to the material, the learning, and the class. It is not always easy to find time for all of your teachers, especially if there are other students waiting at the virtual office door to ask questions; however, if you don’t ask you will never get the chance. Another really good resource is our online student tutoring program Athena. This program was actually designed and built by a former student, Reet Mishra (she graduated in 2018 and is currently at UC Berkeley), and is our “anytime, anywhere” online tutoring resource. Only HHS students can log into Athena, and once they are in they can post questions and get connected to a student tutor to help with their questions. Best part of Athena, it is totally free. Schoology can also be a really helpful resource as it is a depository of material and links that teachers have put there for students to access and use at home. Another good resource are your academic counselors as they can help students get organized, develop advocacy skills, or take steps to better manage their time and studies.
The last resource is mindset, which can be directly tied to both time and resources, but is really a matter of a student looking at learning as a process for improvement rather than learning is all about the grade one receives or if they are “smart” enough to figure out the material. Yes, it is true that good grades are important especially if you are looking to apply to colleges, seek out scholarships, and even get lower rates on car insurance; however, we sell ourselves short if we only focus on the grade and not the process. When faced with a challenge, does your student give up or blame others or do they keep working or trying until they get it? Knowing that school can be hard and that answers sometimes aren’t easy to find, can go a long way in helping a student persevere and build their resiliency.
When the progress report grades become available, use that as a time to sit down with your student and ask them how they are doing and what they might need to continue or improve their pace? Congratulate them for the positive aspects of the grades, but don’t punish them for the negative. School and life are extremely difficult right now, so asking your students about time, resources, or mindset allows you to partner with your student and make a plan. We are happy to help with that plan, so don’t hesitate to ask me or any of our staff members where to turn next.
Happy October everyone.
I think it is safe to say that this has been one of the most emotionally draining openings to the school year that any of us have experienced. Whether you are a staff member, a student, or a parent it is clear that we are struggling with making adjustments and absorbing change at every turn. None of us are in a comfortable position because all of what we are experiencing is new or hard or confusing, or all of the above.
I have stated that this year feels like we are opening a brand new school, with brand new students, a brand new staff, with brand new rules -- because in a sense it has been. None of us have had to deal with the complexity of opening a school like we have with this year. All of us have had to adapt and adjust, which is never a comfortable position to be in. I want to acknowledge that this was not a perfect start and apologize for the difficult situation that we face, but I appreciate how students, staff, and parents have joined together to make this situation turn out as positively as possible. Making this even more difficult is that all of us would prefer to be on campus with face to face learning, but the simple truth is that this is not our decision right now and it is not safe to do school in the traditional manner.
So while we wait to be removed from the “Monitoring List” of counties that continue to see rising positive Covid cases, a larger than average number of Covid related deaths, and a large number of ICU beds filled with Covid patients, we will continue to do our part to keep each other safe and to keep learning moving forward.
I do want to acknowledge that one of the big stressors right now is our new Learning Management System, Schoology. With the rollout of any big new program or platform we are definitely seeing a number of issues rise to the surface as well as positive enhancements to our educational program. Our teachers have been learning and experimenting with this new platform since the end of last school year, but it is true that we are really just a few steps ahead of students and parents in our understanding and expertise in the system. We are working with the staff at Schoology to iron out some of the issues that we are seeing and have heard of, so we hope to continue to smooth out the bumpy parts. There does seem to be an issue that we can’t control at the moment of assignments showing up as missing or ungraded when they haven’t been assigned or are even due yet. We are also trying to smooth out the naming conventions to assignments to decrease some of the confusion or misunderstanding that has occurred. While it would have been nicer for everyone if these issues had been worked out before this time, we do have to remember that we are only in the third week of using this system across the entire district so some of these issues didn’t even come to light until it was rolled out in a large scale. We appreciate your patience and questions as we work on these problems.
Technology in itself is both a blessing and curse in this situation as it would be impossible to do what we are attempting without all the advances in this area, but it also brings with it the crashes, glitches, and bugs that are ever present. We have handed out nearly 200 Chromebooks and over 20 hotspots to keep our students connected and productive. We have a few more hotspots to hand out but we are waiting for those to arrive, which should be here any day now. If your student is having technical issues, please be sure to have them tell their teacher but they can also fill out a “help ticket” located on our website until the Student Portal. If the problem persists and makes it impossible for your student to attend class, please be sure to call our attendance line as we do require parents to confirm the issue. We will mark the students so that it does not negatively affect their attendance but does show they were not able to attend. If there is a tech issue on the teacher’s end that prevents class from being held, we will also properly code attendance to show that it was not the student’s fault. Teachers are giving out information about how to reconnect or where to go if tech issues happen so students should really take note of what their teachers are recommending.
One of our biggest events of the year is fast approaching, Back to School Night is scheduled for Thursday, September 10th. BTSN is always a great event where parents get to walk the halls and meet teachers to get a slice of what life looks like for their student. Once again though, we find ourselves facing a situation where we have to do something different in order to hold this event. There was a lot of conversation back and forth, with several ideas being considered but in the end our district decided it would be most convenient for everyone to have teachers record videos of their presentations and post them on their Schoology pages. This way, parents could access those videos at a time that is convenient for them, teachers wouldn’t be on Zoom all day and all night, and their important information would still be able to be communicated to parents. In order to access the videos, you will need to log into Schoology as a parent, click on your student’s name and this will allow you to access the various courses and videos available. I would encourage you to watch all the videos from each of your student’s teachers so that you get a better understanding of how their classes work and what expectations they have. There will also be information from the teacher about the best way to contact them if you have questions.
If you have been reading the weekly email blast and watching my weekly video messages, you will have seen that I have a parent survey that allows you to send Roses (highlights or appreciations), Buds (ideas or thoughts to pursue), and Thorns (questions or concerns) that I respond to on those weekly videos. I will keep this form open while we are in remote learning so that we can continue to communicate with each other. Please click the link above to submit your responses and then look for the answers on the videos each week.
Until then, I hope you and your family remain safe and stay positive.
Greg Giglio, HHS Principal
Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! I hope you and your family managed to find some rest and peace during the past several months. The Homestead staff has been working tirelessly to address the changing dynamics of education as we move into a new phase of distance learning. The first day of school is rapidly approaching, and some important decisions have been made recently regarding the bell schedule, Round Up, and opening of school. All this information can be found on our website in the pop up message that you see when you first log onto our website. Please take a moment to review so that you know what is coming in the next few days and weeks.
We have learned a lot from the emergency remote learning that took place in the Spring, so our staff has been hard at work to improve the rigor and offerings as we continue into this next phase of distance learning. We have gathered feedback and opinions from all of our stakeholders in order to improve how school is run by providing more synchronous learning, daily live interactions between teachers and students, expanded instructional minutes, increased opportunities for support, and time for extracurricular activities to take place in a virtual environment.
The school board approved the bell schedule posted below for the 20-21 school year. You will see that it is very similar to the schedule that Homestead adopted for the past several years. There are still four days of block courses that are 90 minutes long. Instead of the traditional skinny Monday where all classes met for a short period of time, we have developed a new schedule for Wednesdays that includes opportunities for advisory activities to deliver more whole school learning. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with teachers to get support, work asynchronously on homework and assignments, and possibly even participate in virtual activities for clubs, rallies, or class meetings. This schedule was designed to be adapted to both remote or in-person instruction with minimal disruption should we have to switch at any time during the year.
Homestead and all the schools in the Fremont Union High School District will be 100% in remote learning until we are cleared off the monitoring list by the county of Santa Clara. As per the governor’s directives, any school within a county that is on the monitoring list must be in remote learning until they have maintained 14 straight days of continued decline in cases once removed from the list. Our district will be reviewing our status every five to six weeks any way to assess where we are and where we might be headed.
An important aspect of this new schedule is the consideration that we will be returning to letter grades for all students. Moving to a system of Credit/No Credit was the fair and equitable solution to dealing with the ups and downs of moving so quickly into a remote learning environment due to the Coronavirus. Now that we have had several months experience in distance learning, provided trainings for our staff, and given them time to plan and prepare lessons for distance learning; we are confident that we can more accurately deliver instruction, allow for guided practice, deliver feedback on student progress, and assess student learning with more validity in order to return to the standard of letter grades. We will also be addressing any gaps or learning loss among our students in the last few months of the 19-20 school year.
In order to help facilitate a smooth start to the year, we are making some changes to how we normally operate. We have moved Round Up a week closer to the first day of school and expanded it to include book and material pick up for students. We are also expanding it from two days to four so that each grade level has its own day to spread the number of students on campus at one time and to help coordinate materials. More specific information regarding Round-Up including instructional videos can be found in the pop-up message that populates our homepage when you first land on our website. But for your convenience, here is the schedule for those four days:
Schedule for Homestead’s Round Up by LAST NAME
|9am -10am||A - Flament||A - Collins||A - Dupin||A - Drost|
|10am - 11am||Forbes - Koka||Contreras - Khirman||Eldredge - Kidron||Ekshtein - Khetrapal|
|11am - 12pm||Koren - Ochoa||Khosla - Okamoto||Kim - Nuno||Kim - Naik|
|1pm - 2pm||Oda - Simpson||Olazaba - Srivastava||O - Shitamoto||Najmi - Song|
|2pm - 3pm||Singh - Z||Stadler - Z||Shukla - Z||Soriano - Z|
Wednesday, students will be meeting all of their teachers in 30 minute periods to check their Zoom links and get information necessary for the class. Thursday will begin academic instruction for periods 1, 2, 3, and 7 with instruction starting on Friday for periods 4, 5, and 6. This info can also be found on the pop up message, but here it is as well:We are also organizing the first few days of school a bit differently so that we can provide some orientation and guidance to students regarding expectations and information for students while in remote learning. Monday the 17th is still the first day of school, but both Monday and Tuesday will look different than what we have done in the past. Students will be assigned to an advisory period with their 2nd period teacher to be welcomed back to campus and provided an overview of the week and year. Those students who do not have a 2nd period will be assigned to a teacher (email to follow) so that all students receive the same information and training. At the conclusion of the advisory period, students will be assigned four virtual modules (two each day) to work on asynchronously on the topics of remote learning expectations, our new learning management system called Schoology, Antiracism, and Sexual Harassment. To complete each module, students must complete and submit work to their advisory teacher.
Homestead High School ~ First Week of School Schedule
|9:00 - 10:00 am
Meet with Advisory Teacher
|9:00 - 10:00 am
Meet with Advisory Teacher
|All classes meet||Begin Regular Monday / Thursday Schedule||Begin Regular Tuesday / Friday Schedule|
|10:00 - 12:00 pm
Students work independently on training for Schoology & Remote Learning Expectations
(Approximately 2 hours)
|10:00 - 12:00 pm
Students work independently on training for Anti-racism &
(Approximately 2 hours)
|8:00 - 8:30 am
|8:00 - 9:30 am
|7:50 - 8:50 am
|8:40 - 9:10 am
|9:45 - 11:15 am
|9:00 - 10:30 am
|9:20 - 9:50 am
|11:15 - 12:15 pm
|10:45 - 12:15 pm
|9:50 - 10:10 am
|12:15 - 1:45 pm
|12:15 - 1:15 pm
|10:10 - 10:40 am
|2:00 - 3:30 pm
|1:15 - 2:00 pm
Teacher Office Hours
|10:50 - 11:20 am
|2:00 - 3:30 pm
|11:30 - 12:00 pm
|12:10 - 12:40 pm
|12:40 - 1:40 pm
Just like at the start of every school year, we have new staff joining our Homestead family so I am happy to announce the following newest members to our Mustang team:
Assistant Principals: Terri Hannigan, Geoff Wright
AP Secretary: Liz Angel
Athletic Director: Cody Owens (Social Studies too)
College & Career Counselor: Vicky Salazar
Counselor: Raquel DeJesus, serving students with the last names of G-Li
Dean: Anthony Nguyen for students with last names A-L
Food Services: Claudia Villagomez
Library: Verna Grant, Library Media Teacher
Math: Sean Sullivan
Music: Ben Scharf
School Based Therapist (General Ed): Sarah Loyd
Science: Rich Carmona, Colin Malcolm
Resource: Lisa Fernandez (Speech Language Pathologist), Shabnam “Shabbie” Afshar (School Based Therapist), Jerome Holloway (Para Educator)
World Language: Steven Caringellan (Spanish), Carlos Martinez (Spanish)
NOTE: there is a list of staff who “graduated” from Homestead at the end of last year in the June Principal’s Message
I am also happy to report that we have moved into our new Guidance Student Services (GSS) Building, located at the Mary Avenue staff parking lot, and is home to our administration, guidance counselors, college and career center, registrar, attendance clerk, athletic director, and school based therapists. We would love to have a grand opening and show you around, but due to health protocols for Covid-19, we ask that you make an appointment with a staff member prior to coming to campus and check into the main office. The door will be locked in order for us to control the number of people in our office at one time but there will be a sign on the door with a number to call when you arrive. You must be wearing a mask at all times on campus and there will be places to wash or sanitize your hands. If you are feeling ill at all, please do NOT come to campus. We can accommodate your needs through phone or zoom call as needed. Our campus and facilities remain closed to the public at this time.
As you can see, we have been very busy and we are eagerly awaiting the beginning of school. Until then, please stay safe and be well.
- July 2020
- June 2020
- April 2020: Special Message Regarding Credit/No Credit Grading
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- November / December 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
I hope your summer continues to be restful and enjoyable. Even though our campus has been closed since March, many of us continued to be on campus and to keep the school moving forward. We are finally shutting down for a well deserved rest and our offices will be closed from July 1st until July 27th. This has been a year unlike any other year, so we are glad to be putting this one behind us. Questions remain regarding the start of the 20-21 school year, but we will be sending out information as soon as we are given definite guidance from the county as to the guidelines and restrictions regarding how we open our schools.
When we return, our entire office staff will be moving into our brand new Guidance Student Services (GSS) building. We are looking forward to being in our new space and transitioning into the next phase of construction. As per the most recent bond measure, the funds will be used to begin modernization of existing classrooms. The A Building is the first building to undergo this work as we strip the buildings down to the cinderblock walls and add back in new and efficient lighting, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and technology to these buildings that are approaching 60 years in age. The B, C, L, and S buildings will also be modernized after A is completed. We do estimate that it will take four to five years to finish all five buildings.
Even though the school is technically closed for summer, many of our staff members continue to plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. We have learned a lot from the past few months of remote learning so that we can be ready to provide a robust and rigorous educational experience no matter what manner of opening we face. Whether it is 100% remote, 100% face to face, or some combination of both, our staff will be ready to continue providing our students with a high quality education.
While we have been apart during the school closure since March, we have all seen the headlines regarding police violence towards Black people in our nation and haven’t been able to process these events together as a learning community. We are committed to unpacking and analyzing these historical events as part of our ongoing commitment to a rigorous and relevant education, while also looking inward at our own practices, policies, and curriculum that perpetuate racism. We have made progress and implemented policies and programs at Homestead to combat these inequities but we need to do more. Here are a few examples of the work that we have done:
- Established an Equity Task Force
- Created student focus groups to give voice to student concerns
- Held workshops and professional development on diversity, social emotional learning, personal connections, and effective instructional strategies
- Worked with Dr. Pedro Noguera, a leading national expert on diversity and education in schools, to identify areas of need and improvement
- Created the Latino Mentor Program and the Los Padres parent group
- Infused restorative practices to reduce suspensions and expulsions
- Opened the Wellness Center
- Expanded opportunities for parents to voice opinions and be involved on campus
We need to establish Homestead as an Antiracist school that provides a safe place to learn for all students regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, religion, ability, or economic status. Truthfully, this is a major goal and undertaking but we have to first acknowledge our critical areas of need and begin fixing them. To be clear though, becoming antiracist does not mean to value one race over another as that would be like trying to fix one problem with another. Antiracism is centered in the belief that racism is not just a white problem or a black problem but a human problem that requires all of us to look at our biases as well as to evaluate and revise policies and structures that have given advantage to one group while disadvantaging another.
As a school, we are committed to providing information and creating dialogue. We are hoping to accomplish the following through this work:
- Identify and change policies and practices that may disadvantage one group over another
- Reduce the Opportunity Gap, or what many call the Achievement Gap
- Create avenues for increased student and parent involvement and voice
- Provide educational opportunities for students to support our becoming an antiracist school
Our job is to help students develop the ability to think not to teach them what to think. So when societal issues arise such as the recent events of anti-Black violence, we are committed to not only support our Black students and families but to help create a forum for all students to learn and apply that knowledge to make our school or cities safer for all. Looking at the recent decisions by the Supreme Court to uphold DACA or defend the LGBTQ community against discrimination in the workplace, we are heartened by the significance this has for our own students and their families but we also see the fineline that we must walk to remain apolitical while providing an educational lens where students can safely learn about and grapple with the subect. We must also become allies for our students who are Dreamers or who identify as LGBTQ or who are part of a group that may be unfairly treated and disadvantaged. In this way, Homestead becomes a safe place where all students can grow and learn.
We started an Equity Task Force several years ago to begin investigating the inequities at Homestead High School and to start to develop goals and strategies that combat these issues. One task for our task force is to continue to give voice to students to help us understand what they are seeing, hearing or feeling so that we can begin addressing problems. We have emailed a survey to all students (classes of 2020 through 2023) to gather information and opinions that will help us plan and prepare Homestead to become more fully committed to be an Antiracist school. We are encouraging every student to take the survey so that all voices can be heard. Parents, we would also appreciate your help in reminding and encouraging your students to fill out the survey when they get it.
As part of this commitment we will be providing resources for discussion as well as opportunities for our parent community to be involved as well. I will acknowledge that this will not be an easy journey but it is a necessary one that will make Homestead a safer and more nurturing place where all students can determine their success.
As always, please feel free to send me your questions, concerns, comments, or resources as we move forward. Until then, please continue to be safe and take care of yourself and others.
I can’t remember a school year when I was more excited to see it come to an end than this one! While this is truly a year to remember, I am glad that we are on the final pages of this chapter but I am always sad to see our seniors go away. We certainly did not get enough time with you this year, but we can tell from the amazing accomplishments you have achieved during your time here at Homestead that the world should be looking forward to your emergence in the years to come. Whether in the classroom, on the field, in competitions, or in performances our seniors have been dominating! We are proud of you, and we look forward to hearing all about how you will change the world just like other Homestead graduates having been doing since 1964.
As this year comes to an end, we naturally start looking forward to summer and eventually to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. While we do not have specific direction and guidance yet from the County regarding the opening and running of schools for next year, we do see that we will continue to face challenges as we navigate this pandemic in the months to come. I can tell you that our district has been planning for and developing a variety of strategies to address the various options we may be facing. Our work is focused on three possibilities of how school will start next year. We are still looking at a start date of August 17th, but how we start the year is still up for debate. We could be starting as normal with face to face learning; however, this seems the least likely at this point. A second possibility is that we are in 100% remote learning but not in the same way that we are right now (more on that in a few sentences). A third scenario is that we are in some sort of combination of face-to-face and remote learning depending on restrictions and social distancing guidelines. This scenario would require a system of staggered attendance that would switch between on-campus attendance and at-home learning. Finally, there is always the possibility that we would be forced to switch into full remote learning should any student or staff member test positive for the virus so that students and staff can quarantine and the campus be deeply cleaned. No matter what scenario we find ourselves in or switching between, the following will happen no matter what:
- We will return to and stick with letter grades
- We will implement a more robust bell schedule
- We will redesign curriculum to be viable in any of the situations mentioned above
- We will develop and implement alternative assessment resources that work in a remote setting
- We will develop interventions and methods to work with students who are struggling or may need more support
- We will review and implement safety protocols regarding attendance, personal protection equipment, and campus cleaning
- Will provide training and professional development opportunities to our staff to support this work
Our staff is already planning and working on all of these items, and we will continue to do so over the summer to prepare for next school year. We will be taking into consideration the data from the district survey that was recently sent to all students, parents, and staff members regarding your experience in our emergency switch to remote learning. We will be able to take what we have learned and apply it to our ongoing work in order to augment and improve the educational experience and opportunities for your students.
As for athletics and activities, we are still following the guidance and direction of Santa Clara County so we are currently unable to practice, perform, gather, or participate in either athletics or activities until further notice is given.
Another part of ending the school year means having to say goodbye to not only our graduating class of seniors but also to staff members who are moving on as well. In alphabetical order are our “graduating” staff members:
MaryJo Gunderson -- English teacher
Mary Lund -- College and Career Counselor
Steve Schmidt -- Student Advocate
Tom Smare -- Workability teacher and instructional aide
Nina Swendig -- AP Secretary
Susan Wilson, English teacher
Eli Yamauchi – Speech pathologist
Moving on to new adventures:
Randy Berner -- Library Media teacher
Raquel DeJesus -- Guidance Counselor for students G-Li
Erik Eastland -- Math teacher
Eileen Kim -- Social Studies and Spanish teacher
Laurie Lucatero -- Spanish teacher
Savannah Nieves -- Cafeteria
Rachel Perry -- Math teacher and New Teacher Mentor
Lillie Phares -- Guidance Counselor, San-Z
Steve Puccinelli -- Dean
Ricky Ramirez -- Instructional aide
Paul Rendon -- Music teacher
John Rodriguez -- Assistant Principal
Fleurette Sevin – Choir, Long term sub
Sukhraj Sohal -- Science teacher
Guillermo Soria-Lira --Student teacher for Spanish
Thank you to each and every single one of you for your service and dedication to our students. We send you off with our best wishes and the hope that our paths continue to cross.
As staff, students, and parents venture off into the summer or on to new adventures, I hope that all of you continue to be safe and stay healthy. We have all suffered in some way or have missed out on what we once considered to be normal, but I also hope that you have used this time or the days in front of you to strive to be your best, to take care of others, and to take care of yourself.
Until we see each other again, take care and be well.
Principal's Message regarding Credit/No Credit Grading
FUHSD made an official announcement over the weekend (04-11-2020) that we, along with many other schools in Santa Clara County, are switching from the traditional letter grade system to credit/no credit. This decision was a difficult one and involved many individuals and experts from across our district and the county to address our current situation. This change was deemed necessary based on the following considerations regarding remote learning:
- Remote learning requires our educational focus to be narrowed to the most essential skills
- A remote environment makes it harder to assess some skills and the student’s ability to master them
- The remote environment is more challenging for families for a variety of reasons, including limited access to resources and support, varied access to technology, and increased stress related to health, family and economic challenges
I think it is fair to acknowledge the stress and strain that our teachers, students, and families have had to undergo in order to switch to a 100% remote learning environment, particularly in such short order. As with any new situation there has been a lot of trial and error and experimentation to find what works best for each member of our school community. And while technology is great and we would not have been able to do something on this scale even just five years ago, sitting in front of a computer screen for the majority of instruction is not the ideal environment for anyone to learn, practice, and master difficult and abstract concepts. When you add a crisis of this magnitude on top of those challenges, we are forced to review, reconsider and rework existing systems to support our students and teachers. Unfortunately, earning a grade in face-to-face learning is not the same as earning a grade in remote learning.
I am going to ask that you remain positive and strive to understand that everyone is moving forward with the best intentions. We have seen from our Wellness Surveys that homework is the number one stressor for our students and something that is directly under the control of our teachers. Now that we are engaged in remote learning, we have moved to a system that relies almost entirely on homework. The educational system is full of stories of inequity and those inequities are playing an even bigger part in our current reality. We are all living with stress right now, but the emotional strain that one family feels may not be quite the same as another. One family may be dealing with questions about college, while another worries about their student’s future in sports or activities. Others may be worrying about how to make up credit, while yet another is coping with isolation from friends and family, We live in an amazing area full of rich technology and privilege, but we also have families that are struggling with lost wages, loss of employment, health concerns, and growing fears that they may not be able to continue living in an area that is one of the most expensive in the world, let alone be able to keep pace with remote learning.
The traditional letter grade system, while familiar and comforting in some ways, really does not mean what it once did while we are in remote learning. The methods in which we traditionally score and assess students is also not the same. The conversations with colleges have been an important factor in this decision, and many college systems in California and across the country are making statements in support of students and the credit/no credit system. Now is exactly the time when we should be coming together (although six feet apart) to get everyone through. It is also imperative that all colleges get on board with this concept so as not to put you and your family in this position. That is why the entire county of Santa Clara is standing behind the credit/no credit system, and we will be standing behind your student as we work together over the next several years to ensure that no one is left behind due to the effects of the school closures.
Teachers will be revising their Green Sheets or Course Syllabi to reflect the changes in grading and will outline the ways in which your student can be successful. In order to earn credit, students will not be allowed to simply “coast” the rest of the semester, but will be required to keep consistent attendance and progress towards the basic essential learning goals as outlined by the teachers. Likewise, students who are failing will be given the opportunity to raise their status into “credit” through a combination of continued and constant work in remote learning and/or making up work from before the closure. If you want or need more details, please read your teacher’s updated green sheet or email them directly to ask about what your student needs to do (although please wait until their green sheets have been updated as this may answer your questions). In the end, our goal is to allow students to earn 5 semester credits to be counted towards graduation, but there is work involved and your student’s constant and consistent participation is required.
This week is our Spring Break so your students will not need to check in to classes and should have little to no work assigned. It is possible that your student may have work if they have not finished something, choose to work on it during this week, or are working on an ongoing project that was assigned before the break and is due after the break.
Food Service will continue during break in the Student Lot on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays only. Students will receive meals for two days to accommodate for the new schedule of every other day service.
Meanwhile, we are discussing plans around senior celebrations and typical end of year activities such as textbook return, yearbook pick-up and other activities. While we know that school is closed physically until the end of the school year, we still do not have information about what if any restrictions will be in place as we try to collect books or gather to celebrate seniors. We will send you information as soon as we are able.
In the meantime, enjoy your stay-cation this Spring Break and as always, please let us know if you have any issues or questions that we can help you with.
Take care and be well.
March 2020 Principal’s Message
I hope you and your family are doing well in the face of our new realities of sheltering in place. As of April 1st, the closure order for Homestead High School and all schools in Santa Clara County has been extended through the end of the school year in June. Spring Break will still start the week of April 13th. There will be no work assigned and all staff will be on holiday, so I hope you can take a virtual break as well.
All activities, events and sports have been cancelled for the year. We are currently discussing and planning alternative activities or celebrations for our seniors including Senior Awards Night and Graduation, and we will send out details as soon as we finalize them.
We do have some staff on site everyday but our campus is closed. Our office is “open” from 9am to 3pm but we ask that you do not just drop in. Please make an appointment with a staff member so that we can control and limit the number of people on campus. All staff are working during this closure, so there is an expectation that they will return your emails within a reasonable time of 24 to 48 hours.
Monday, March 23rd was the official kick-off for our remote learning program, so I hope that students, parents, and staff are settling in and moving forward. Just in case you need it, here is the schedule:
You should have already received information from your teachers about how they are running class at this time as we have multiple ways for students to access the learning from Google Classroom, School Loop, Schoology, Zoom, and various other formats. In the information sent home, your student’s teachers will have outlined how they are available for instruction, questions, and help. Teachers should be available to students enrolled in the specific periods listed during the specific times (for instance, if your student has that teacher's first period, then only first period students will have direct access from 1pm to 2:30pm on Mondays). Any student should be able to have access to any of their teachers during the virtual office hours every day from 11am to 12pm as well as on Friday from 11am to 12pm then again from 1pm to 2:30pm.
Please make sure that your students are completing work and checking in with their teachers. We are taking attendance as required by the state, so in order to mark a student “present” we need some sort of proof that they have been participating or active in the learning such as turning in required work by the due date, checking in by whatever means the teachers has chosen during class time, or by making direct electronic contact with a teacher. The lack of any such contact as these may result in your student being marked absent, a phone call coming home from a staff member and/or our auto-dialer. If your child is too sick to participate, then please call our attendance line at (408) 522-2513 and we will mark the student as sick that day and the teacher will see it.
For more specific information and details, please check out our School Closure Resources for students and parents.
You can stay connected to our campus by visiting the Homestead Mustangs YouTube channel for video announcements and bulletins.
Here are a few tips for parents in helping your student be successful during this time of remote learning:
- Establish a home schedule for learning
- Provide a quiet, consistent place for your student to study
- Begin and end each day with a check-in with your student
- Encourage your student to contact teachers with questions, especially during virtual office hours
- Be mindful of what is worrying or stressing your student
- Build in quiet time during the day for students to unwind
- Set boundaries like time limits, bedtime, etc
- Encourage physical activity
- Please contact school staff if questions, concerns, or problems arise --we may not be on site but we are working for you and your student!
Remember, we do offer food service for any student from 10:30 to 12:00 on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays only and it is now located in the Student Lot. Simply drive up, and tell us how many students need food. You will receive enough lunches and brunches for that day and the next. So if you have two students needing food, you will receive a total of 8 bags. As a safety precaution, we are not allowed to hand the food through your car window, so instead we place the meal on a table at the end and someone from your car has to get out and grab it. To keep the system efficient, please bring a box or large bag to help you quickly transfer the food bags from the table to your car.
Continue to stay strong and support each other, and do not hesitate to reach out for help from us as we are here for you! Take care and be well.
February 2020 Principal’s Message
I am really excited to announce the opening of the Mindfulness Center, located on the second floor of the A Building in room A211. The Mindfulness Center is a room reserved specifically for students when they are feeling anxious, stressed, or need some sort of quiet space to get themselves centered or calmer before heading back to class. The idea of this center came from a couple of students lead by Kat Bright who had seen similar ideas on social media and hearing about the Aloha Room at Cupertino High School. They presented their ideas to me as well as to members of our Mental Health Team and together with staff and a couple of student clubs have created a fantastic space on our campus that is truly something special.
We are giving the Mindfulness Center a test run in the current location to see if students would find such a resource useful. Based on the recent wellness surveys administered by our district as well as the anecdotal information we see on a daily basis, we know that our students face two types of stress. The first kind are those momentary emotional issues that all of us have at one time or another such as being anxious about taking a big test, or nervous about having to do a presentation in front of the whole class, or the stress of dealing with an argument with a friend or family member. These examples of stress can feel debilitating for a few moments, but given some time to apply coping strategies and calm ourselves down we can get on with our day. The second type of stress is the kind that moves beyond something situational or momentary to make our life seem unbearable or cause us to shut down or change drastically.
The Mindfulness Center is a not a cure for the second type of stressors but is hopefully a tool that can help students work through issues before they become significant as well as to make connections with members of our mental health team. When a student visits the Mindfulness Center, they will be supervised by a member of our staff so they will never be alone. They will have a chance to ask directly for help or leave information for our team to review. For instance, if a student shows up to the center every Monday, that might tell us something about the source of his or her stress. Perhaps they are having trouble readjusting to school after the weekend or maybe the pace of our seven shorter classes is too hard to manage. This allows us to follow up with that student and provide resources to support and guide our students to wellness.
A student is also not meant to use The Mindfulness Center to avoid class or to simply “hang out”, but we do hope that the way the room is structured and designed it will give students a chance to work through their issues, center themselves, and get to class within a minimal amount of time lost. While in the room, the student will be supervised by a Homestead staff member and may engage in some of the following activities:
1. Yoga Corner
3. Sensory Station
4. Creative corner (with mandalas to color and such)
To start, the center is open during lunchtime to see if students would indeed use the room as it is intended. Teachers may also sign up to bring their students to the Center to engage in some mindfulness practices, and we are also looking to hold some activities such as group exercises in yoga, meditation, or mindfulness during open times. I would encourage you to talk to your student about using the room when they have the need as we will be looking to help teach students about the management of stress in the hopes of creating some lifelong strategies to help them manage life.
I would like to thank all of those students from the Mental Wellness and Yoga clubs who stepped up to try something new that might make a difference in their fellow students’ lives. I would also like to thank the members of our staff who have also given their time and energy to make this center a reality: Sarah Loyd, Student Advocate; Dawn Predium, Student Advocate; Steve Schmidt, Student Advocate; Kelly Ronsheimer, teacher; Madeleine Stanwood, teacher; Muriel Von Stein, teacher; Junko Birdsong, teacher; Nina Swending, office staff, and Denae Nurnberg, Assistant Principal. A special thanks to Kat Bright and her family for their time and efforts.
On a safety related note, we have been working closely with both the Sunnyvale and Cupertino Safe Routes to School (SR2S) as part of our ongoing campaign to keep our students, parents, staff members, and neighbors safe and healthy. I am including a link to the February Sunnyvale SR2S newsletter as this month is Heart Health Month, and it includes useful information regarding biking and walking to school.
January 2020 Principal’s Message
Happy New Year and welcome back to school! I hope everyone had a joyful break that was filled with love and laughter, and I wish you all the best this semester.
While it is definitely hard to get back into the swing of school after two weeks of vacation, the start of the second semester means that everyone gets a fresh start to make the next few months the best that it can be. True learning comes from reflecting on past actions and behaviors, and then making plans to not repeat the same mistakes and to ensure significant improvements. My wish for all our students is to have the courage to look at the things that perhaps didn’t work so well or may have held them back, then break those habits in order to avoid the same problems this semester. Celebrating what has worked or what a student does well is also important in order for students to put their best foot forward with the goal of making this semester better than the last one.
School can be a stressful place, especially when issues from the outside affect how students feel and behave while they are here to learn. Looking forward, we see that the election season is ramping up and if the last election cycle was any indication of what is to come then this time around we may see more division and discord, especially when considering the debates over impeachment are still lingering and that our country is facing tensions overseas. Being a public school, we definitely understand and certainly celebrate the diversity of our students, staff, and community. That is why we created our “Campus Commitment” during the 2016 election and posted it in every classroom and space on our campus. I have also re-sent it to our staff as a reminder of what we provide on a daily basis to keep students feeling safe, supported, and valued. Here is what our “Campus Commitment” states:
At Homestead, we strive to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all students and staff regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ability, social or economic status, or nation of origin. We respect our differences and seek to eliminate bias and prejudice, both inside and outside the classroom.
Conversations and discussions at Homestead will provide . . .
- Opportunities for analyzing topics, developing tolerance and understanding for conflicting points of view
- Alternative points of view, which will be discussed and evaluated using established facts as primary evidence
. . . so that our students can develop their skills in communication, critical thinking, collaboration and life-long learning.
During political campaigns or socially significant events, emotions can run high and bubble just under the surface. Our students will greatly benefit in our helping them to understand the logic and reasoning that is necessary making informed personal decisions while also being respectful of those around us. Too frequently these days important conversations and debates break down into who shouts the loudest or speaks last, so our staff strives to help our students understand and appreciate the art of debate and discussion.
Our school board also supports the discussion of difficult or even controversial topics that are related to the academic program or subject (Admin Regulation 6144). Opinions and beliefs are personal choices but it is important to reinforce that our school brings together students and staff from all walks of life, so there is bound to be varying and opposite viewpoints on these subjects. In the end, educators should be teaching students how to think, not what to think. In that manner, freedom of speech does not stop at the classroom doors; however, we do promote formal and academic communication of those opinions in a manner that keeps the door open for conversation. It is also just as important to redirect or stop conversations when the communication standards fall below what we expect from every student, staff member and parent while on our campus. In other words, we expect that students can discuss and debate just about any topic while in the classroom as long as they are using formal and academic language and strategies to engage rather to employ tactics that are hurtful, offensive, or disrespectful.
This expectation exists in all other spaces on our campus including activities, athletics, co-curriculars, meetings, and unstructured campus time such as lunch, brunch, or passing periods. That means as soon as your student walks out the door to come to school and until they come back home afterwards, Homestead High School is committed to providing them a safe and nurturing environment so that our students can continue to grow and mature into the collaborative, communicative, critical thinking, and continuous learners who we all want and need to keep our community healthy and vibrant.
If you ever have concerns that we are not living up to what we state in our campus commitment, please contact an administrator so that we can address the situation immediately. As always, I welcome your comments and questions by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can make Homestead a safe place to learn and work. Happy 2020!
November/December 2019 Principal’s message
We have just crossed over into the final leg of the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year. Each semester is 18 weeks long, and we break up the grading periods into thirds with the first progress report grades due after 6 weeks, and a second progress report due after 12 weeks. These first two grading periods are basically snapshots of your student’s progress in a given class. These grades are not permanent and are subject to change as soon as the next set of assignments, quizzes, tests or projects are graded and entered into the official gradebook. The benefit of a progress report grade is that if you have a lower grade, you have time to improve your marks before the final day of the semester. On the other hand, if you have a high grade and don’t keep up your work effort, the grade can decrease as well. When any student receives a Progress Report grade of either a D or F, a communication is sent home to the parents to keep you in the loop. For students in the 9th, 10th and 11th grade, an email is automatically generated and sent home. For seniors earning either one of those grades, a letter is automatically generated and mailed home. If your students earns all grades of C or above, a notice will not be sent home but you can always check grades in either School Loop or Infinite Campus). Everyone will receive a copy of all final semester grades no matter what grade is earned.
One question that we get is why only send progress reports for D’s and F’s, and not for C’s? Quite simply, a C is a passing grade and is accepted by colleges as the student having minimally mastered the subject matter. Colleges do not recognize the grade of D as passing and this designation removes them from being eligible for acceptance to a four year university. The student will still earn 5 credits on their high school transcript and it will count towards graduation, but colleges do hold students to a higher standard. A grade of D does not affect eligibility to a junior or community college. The grade of F means that a student will not receive high school credit towards graduation as well as be ruled ineligible for a four year institution. If the F is earned in a class that is required for graduation, this will prevent them from earning a diploma and being eligible for any post secondary education. Because of these factors, it is important to give notice to families if there is any indication that the student’s grades could affect graduation or eligibility for education after high school in order to give them time to address any issues.
If you receive one of these emails or letters, there are several courses of action that you can and should take. First, this is an opportunity to talk with your student to get their understanding of their current grade and whether they have a plan to remediate the situation. While we as parents may not be happy with a low grade, this will allow us to talk with our students about being resilient, working hard, and/or learning from earlier mistakes. If your student has a plan or strategy on how to improve, you can help them by continuing to check in or provide support as they work their way through it. If your student seems stuck or frustrated, you can encourage them to go talk directly to their teacher. Your student sees their teachers a minimum of three times a week, so they have direct access to ask for help. Talking to teachers during tutorial is also a great time to ask questions, schedule more time to meet, or do make up work. At this point, an email to the teacher asking if your student has contacted them would be an appropriate step for you as this will help you connect to the teacher and verify that your student is taking mature action to correct their situation.
On the other hand, if you find that your student is being evasive, still can’t come up with a plan, or is not able to get through to the teacher you could always directly contact the teacher or a counselor so that you can work together to support your student. A final step in the chain would be to contact an administrator to help facilitate a conversation. Often, parents or students may feel the need to escalate directly to an administrator but this is not always the best strategy because the people with the most knowledge and ability to change the situation are always the teacher and the student.
Sitting back and allowing your student to take leadership and ownership of the issue may feel frustrating or limiting for a parent, but it is an important skill that we all want our students to develop so that they can advocate, problem solve, and communicate with their college professors, bosses, customers, and partners throughout the course of their adult life. Just like when we were training them to ride a bike, you have to, at some point, release your grip to see if they can balance and ride. They may fall, but we always are right there to encourage them to get up and try again. As the sayings go, it is not that you fell but that you got back up again.
Now that the second grading period has passed and as we enter this final leg of the semester, time becomes a real factor in turning this situation around. It is standard practice for teachers to begin assigning major projects, presentations, or assessments to help formulate a final grade for the semester. This grade does become permanent and goes onto the transcript, which is your student’s official high school record. Even if a student fails a class but then makes it up in summer school or some other way, the original grade remains on the transcript with a notation that they have made up the grade. In order to successfully end your semester, it is important to start looking at what is coming up and what still needs to be done in regard to all assignments and activities. It is not too late or too early for your student to check in with the teacher, or for you to check in with your student.
Finally, if your student is having feelings or emotions that may be inhibiting their ability to move forward successfully, please contact any of the adults on our campus to ask for help or guidance. Students can talk to their teacher, counselor or a student advocate like Mr. Schmidt. Parents can email, call or meet with any adult who may have a connection to your student. That particular adult may not have all the answers or strategies to help your student at their fingertips but they can refer your student to someone on our campus who can.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at email@example.com so that I can either answer your questions or find someone who can. Here is looking forward to a successful end of the first semester and the 2019 calendar year.
October 2019 Principal’s Message
I have been having a lot of conversations and questions recently about school safety after the incident that occurred on September 19th. On that day, we were informed that a San Jose State student had been arrested after making non-specific threats about our campus. When the police questioned him at the university, he was in possession of a loaded gun and was immediately arrested. Because the SJSU student is a minor, there were no other details released about the specific individual but we do know that he was taken to juvenile hall. The questions and concerns raised are quite understandable considering the circumstances, but I am eternally grateful to our Homestead student who had the courage to step forward and turn the texts over to a staff member who turned those concerning texts over to administration so that we could work with the Sunnyvale Police Department in the ensuing investigation and arrest. The actions of our Homestead student, our staff member, and our school resource officer were truly heroic.
The fact that our student stepped forward and shared communication clearly demonstrates that a proactive approach is always better than a reactive approach. Much of the training and drills that we run are in reaction to some danger or intruder on our campus, so some have asked if it wouldn’t be better to prevent that danger from ever being on our campus? It is important to practice the drills, so that everyone knows what to do and for us to work out any problems or kinks. This, however, is where many might start to argue that having metal detectors or armed guards would be the answer, but the unfortunate truth is that these events have still happened where there is a heavy presence of guards or fences or detectors. Parkland High School in Florida had an armed school resource officer on site when the shooting occurred; Fort Hood is a military base that was attacked by one of its own; and Sandy Hook Elementary had a security system with gates and cameras.
A more proactive approach, and a more practical one than turning our educational environment into a walled fortress, would be to make sure that we are making connections with students and providing resources and outlets for a variety of issues that our students face these days. That is why I am extremely proud and grateful of the mental health support services that exist in our school and throughout our district. The only knock against it, is that many students and parents are not aware of the great people and work that we do to help support students so I would like to use this space to go into some more detail about that.
Homestead High School has a mental health team that includes 3.5 Student Advocates and 2 School Psychologists. First off, our Student Advocates are all licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs). Steve Schmidt is our main point of contact for parents, staff, students who may need some sort of social, emotional, or behavioral support. Depending on the circumstances, any of our other three Student Advocates can get involved and provide support. They are Julie Bleicker, Cathy Gomez, and Dawn Predium. Alongside those four individuals, are our two School Psychologists: Emily Bersaglia and Ellen Lain. Their main responsibilities are in assessing students for qualification of 504 and IEPs, but they also provide services for students who need support, especially in times of crisis. Even our Guidance Counselors, whose main focus may be on academic support, can provide immediate and crisis-level support as well as make referrals. They are Marisa Amezquita (serving students with the last names of A-F), Raquel DeJesus (G-Li), Wilma Wu (Lj-Sam), Lillie Phares (San-Z) and Leslie Ogawa Boon (San-Z). Our administrators are also a great resource because they can initially discuss then refer students and parents to the appropriate person or level of support. Our Homestead Administrators are Brian Dong (Assistant Principal), Denae Nurnberg (Assistant Principal), John Rodriguez (Assistant Principal), Maria Trejo (Dean of Students for the last names starting with A-Li) and Steve Puccinelli (Dean for students Lj-Z). Of course, I am also available as is my executive assistant, Tricia Goulet.
That means we have 18 people who you or your students can turn to with questions and concerns, and we will immediately provide you with the appropriate resource or support person. In reality, every staff member on our campus is a possible asset as we are all trained and designated as Mandate Responders, which is a legal term meaning that we are compelled to support or serve students in need. This means there are over 180 individuals on our campus who are here to help you and your student with whatever situation comes your way. And if we are incapable of directly providing that support, we can turn to our district office personnel or to our many outside support providers for help. If you go to our website and click on the following link (then go to the bottom of the page) you will find a listing of some of those resources: https://hhs.fuhsd.org/parent-portal
I know that we will be looking at all of our safety procedures and plans as we do every year, but our people are our greatest source of protection and support. If you, or someone you know, needs help or is acting and behaving in concerning ways, please don’t hesitate to come to any of us to help. Together, we can continue to make Homestead a great place to learn and work.
Principal’s Message September 2019
The 2019-2020 School Year is off to a great start for a variety of reasons, so I thought I would take a minute to catch everyone up on how things have been going.
Our newly completed Innovation Hub, or I-Hub for short, has been open and hosting students since the first day of school. Originally scheduled to be completed in February, we hit a few snags that delayed the move-in dates to over the summer. We are still waiting for a few pieces of furniture but for the most part the building is up and running. There are a total of 10 classrooms that house our Art, Business, Computer Science, and Engineering classes and are home to our Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Robotics clubs. The central lobby of the building, what we actually call the Hub, is a multi-use space that has so far this year been host to staff development workshops, student gatherings, classroom extensions, and even two choir performances (the acoustics are great!). The hub space also is an area for students to gather during tutorial or during open periods to work quietly on homework or assignments. The building also has two conference rooms that can be enlarged into a single larger room as needed. Tucked into the Southeast corner of the building is our Facilities and Maintenance Department. Our grand opening was held on September 12th with speeches from our Superintendent, Polly Bove; Board President, Roy Rocklin; designing architect, Aaron Jobson, and two students speakers, Raj Raghulan and Arnuv Tandon. I just wanted to take a minute to thank the community for supporting the bond measure that helped make this building a reality as well as to thank all those from the district office to our classroom teachers who helped shape and design our vision. We hope that students over the next 50 years find inspiration, imagination and innovation inside!
This brings us to our next project, The Guidance Student Services (GSS) Building, that is currently underway where the D Building used to be next to the Staff Lot. The GSS Building will be the new home for our administration, ASB financial, attendance, career center, guidance, health, and school climate offices. These services are currently located on the first floor of the A Building, but the new GSS building will provide both a new front of school as well as increased security improvements with an open, flowing office space. The current configuration of the offices in A are quite confusing and spread apart, so the new design will allow better workflow and easier access for all visitors. With the new location of the office, this will give us one main entrance where we can better monitor who comes and goes while also allowing us to redesign the various gates to keep out any unwanted visitors but still allow multiple exit points for students and staff. This construction project has impacted access to the school because of the need for construction trucks and heavy equipment/machinery to access the worksite through the staff lot. We do apologize for the inconvenience this has caused but are quite pleased that parents and visitors are finding alternate places for drop off and pick up. As soon as the GSS building is finished, both office dwellers and classrooms will move out of A so that we can begin modernizing the building and adding in much needed classroom space where the offices used to be. Once again, this project is only possible due to the generosity of our community and support of our various bond measures. The GSS Building has a tentative completion date of October 2020, but we will keep you posted if that changes in either direction.
Also adding to our fantastic start are the new staff members who are enriching our educational environment. Allow me a minute to introduce them to you:
Randy Berner -- our new Library Media Teacher
Emily Bersaglia -- school psychologist
Tyler Cripe -- although not technically new, he is now with us full time in the Art Department
Raquel DeJesus -- Guidance Counselor for students with the last names of G-Li
Erik Eastland -- Algebra I and Algebra I Sheltered teacher
Shawn Haratani -- Resource science teacher
Julia Hynson -- student teacher with John Burn in the music department
Ellen Laine -- school psychologist
Laurie Lucatero -- Spanish teacher who splits time between CHS and HHS
Jesse Merk -- Resource math
Kelly Shaver -- Student teacher with Christina Graham in English
Guillermo Soria -- Student teacher with Paco Arevalo in World Language for Spanish
Erina Yokosuka -- Student teacher with Lisa Nakamatsu in World Language for Japanese
Matthew Yale -- Spanish teacher
Hong Zhang -- Student teacher with Betthany Matthews in Math
We also have several new classified staff members or staff members in new positions:
Rogerio Azevedo -- new Pool and Grounds Custodian
Jose Diaz -- new instructional aide
Rita Figueroa -- now in attendance, formerly in School Climate
Cathy Gomez -- Resource Student Advocate
Candi Marugg -- now in ASB financial office, was attendance clerk
Abriana Munoz -- new instructional aide
Nancy Navarro -- new senior clerical support in School Climate
We also have a new Dean of Students for those with the last name starting with A through Li, and her name is Maria Trejo.
Here is looking forward to more success as we venture through this school year.
I hope your summer has been restful and reinvigorating, especially since the beginning of school is upon us. I wanted to alert you to changes in our drop off and pick up procedures as well as to parking now that we have started our latest construction project. The D Building, which used to house two art classrooms, has been torn down and a new structure will be going up in its place. This new building will be called the Guidance Student Services (GSS) Building will be the future home for Administration, Guidance, College and Career Center, and School Climate (all of which are currently housed in the A Building). This construction will impact the space and flow of the staff lot, so for safety reasons we must close the Staff Lot to all traffic except Staff and Construction.
Student drop off and pick up will only be allowed in the Horseshoe and student lot. We do not allow drop off or pick up on the Access Road (the service road between our new Innovation Hub and the Student Lot) as this road is used primarily by our bicyclists and for deliveries or emergency vehicles. This is for drop off or pick only, no parking. Students will need to walk to campus from that location but we are hoping it will relieve some of the congestion before and after school. You should really pre-plan your drop off and pick up spots, so that you do not get unnecessarily delayed in your commute.
School Administrators will be out and about in the morning to help facilitate traffic, and both Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department will be patrolling along Homestead and the neighboring streets to assist and assess the impact of these changes.
There will still be visitor spots in the staff lot for those parents and community members who have official business or needs, so please be sure to find the spots identified as Visitor before parking. Due to the limitation of space, we will be assigning all existing parking spots to staff and students (except those marked for disabled or visitor parking). Please do not park in any spot marked as “student” or “staff” as you will be taking someone’s spot and will create an issue for others.
The construction will impact all of us, so we ask for your patience and understanding as we work together to keep everyone safe and moving forward.
Thanks, and see you soon!
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- November 2018
- December 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
Congratulations on another successful year. We are always sad to see our seniors go, but we know that they are about to leave their mark on the world and we wish them all the best. Preparations are also well under way to welcome our incoming students for the class of 2023!
This is also the time where I would like to thank all our staff members for their hard work and dedication to our Homestead students. We regretfully also need to say goodbye to some of our staff members who are ready to go off on brand new adventures away from Homestead:
Tina Arvanitakis -- Special education teacher will be moving to Southern California
Amity Bateman -- our Library Media Teacher will be starting a new position in the Los Gatos school district that is only a bike ride away from her home
Ruth Brevnov -- Will be transitioning over to Lynbrook High School to continue teaching Spanish
Nyssa Geanakos -- Special Education instructional aide is moving out of state
Emily Hannigan -- math teacher will be living and working in Southern California
Viky Morales -- Will be splitting time between Monta Vista and Lynbrook teaching Spanish
Melissa Navarro -- Our school psychologist is moving up 680 to Brentwood
Lia Pinelli -- Our Dean for students A through Li is transitioning to be a New Teacher Mentor in our district
We have four retirees this year:
Pat Boehm -- Special education science teacher
Nancy Daffern -- ASB Financial Tech
Catherine Jacobs -- Social Studies teacher, retired just before the start of the school year
Steve Wishart -- PE teacher, retired in December 2018
A giant thank you and best wishes for those leaving Homestead, and the warmest of wishes for a restful and relaxing summer for everyone else. See you in August!
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