March 15, 2022
The Way of the Osprey--a short film we shared with the school this morning to frame our work together today
Dear Osprey Families,

Today at the Nest, we have pressed pause on our regular academic classes to gather as a whole school community for a day of student-led culture-building activities. A group of students and staff has been hard at work planning for the past several weeks and our hope is that your student will come home with a strengthened understanding and appreciation of what we mean when we talk about AHS’ “Culture of Excellence.”

As it says in our Student and Family Handbook:

At Animas High School, we deeply value our close community and our Culture of Excellence, both of which depend upon all of us agreeing to collectively uphold a shared set of expectations for engagement, communication and actions.”

We believe that a strong school culture where all students feel valued, heard and included is foundational to learning and growth. Our expectations are high for Ospreys because we know that young adults rise to academic and personal excellence when the adults around them provide necessary support, accountability and inspiration. 

Like schools across the country, we see the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community. Ospreys have experienced significant disruptions to their high school education and teenage lives in the past two years, despite our best efforts to provide a meaningful educational experience. It’s striking to note that only our seniors have experienced a full year at AHS free from COVID-related cancellations. These disruptions have created a need for us to rebuild our shared understanding of what it means to be an Osprey and we are excited to take today to do that work.

At Animas, we recognize that positive school culture depends on shared values and expectations while striving to understand and problem-solve root causes when those expectations aren’t met. One reason we feel the need for a cultural reset is a rise in some student behaviors that run counter to our shared expectations. Factors we believe are contributing to these behaviors include:

  • a need to strengthen relationships among students and between students and staff that haven’t been solidified as they normally would have been
  • a higher number of students struggling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety
  • a struggle with academic motivation for some students who experienced a great deal of freedom and independence when schools were offering hybrid or online instruction

We are not alone in this experience, and schools across the country are reporting similar trends in student behavior and engagement.

As a small, autonomous, mission-driven charter school, we enjoy the ability to pivot when needed to address emerging issues. For example, our staff has recently committed to walking campus more throughout the day to direct students back to class, as well as enforcing a more consistent set of consequences for misuse of personal technology (phones, headphones) during class time.
Again, from our Handbook:

“Students may use personal electronics, including cell phones, before/after school, at lunch or during class with permission from an AHS staff member. At all other times personal electronics must be stored in backpacks/bags and turned off; teachers may ask to collect phones during class.”

Our Culture of Excellence means we’re a place where we have a strong sense of community, where we engage meaningfully and thoughtfully with our work and each other. Technology is a useful tool to support project-based learning–and it can also be a powerful distraction that gets in the way. Research has proven that phones have a negative impact on student learning and achievement. Many of us on staff have been digging into the work of Johann Hari, author of Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again and it has us thinking about how we might help students develop their full capacity to think deeply in a technology-filled world. For a taste of Hari's work, check out this podcast--and let us know if you'd be interested in a community read of his book this summer!

Moving forward, students who use their phones or headphones in class without permission from the teacher will be asked to email parents/guardians and leave the phone/headphones with the teacher until the end of the day. If it happens a second time in that class, students will email home and the teacher will return the phone/headphones once the student has completed a Reflective Lunch. This policy is meant to support students in contributing fully to our school culture while getting the most out of their education and we hope that we’ll have the support of Osprey families in rolling it out. 

We anticipate that our collective work today will help generate student-led initiatives that will help us strengthen our school culture and we know that our community is already filled with many daily examples of cultural excellence. A key Habit of Heart and Mind at AHS is Refinement, and today is designed in that spirit–working together to refine our shared understanding and to strive for excellence rather than be okay with “good enough.” We are grateful for the outstanding student leadership driving our collective efforts and appreciate that our staff is solution-oriented and committed to excellence. Thank you to you, too, for entrusting us with this important work and for reinforcing the value of cultural excellence at home.

We hope you will have rich conversations about the day and we look forward to seeing many of you on campus this evening for Student-Led Conferences.
Upcoming Events

Student-Led Conferences (9th through 11th grades): Tues. 3/15, 4-6pm

Spring Break: Mon. 3/21 through Fri. 3/25

Professional Development Day (no classes): Mon. 3/28

AHS Open House for Prospective Families: Thurs. 3/31, 8:45am

AHS Board Meeting: Thurs. 3/31, 5:30pm

School Excellence Committee Meeting Fri. 4/1, 12pm

PSAT9, PSAT10 and SAT (9th, 10th and 11th grade): Wed. 4/13, 8:30am-12:30pm

Professional Development Day (no classes): Fri. 4/15

Online Osprey Parent Coffee: Fri. 4/22

LINK Internships (11th grade): Mon. 4/25 through Fri. 5/13

Bears Ears Camping Trip (9th grade): Mon. 5/2 through Thurs. 5/5

Professional Development Day (no classes): Fri. 5/6

All School Exhibition: Thurs. 5/19

AHS Graduation: Fri. 5/27, 4pm
Animas High School prepares all students for college and postsecondary success by creating critical thinkers and engaged citizens through an innovative, student-centered, project-based curriculum. We accomplish this through:
Rigorous academics, where all students are prepared for college success
Culture of excellence, where students are held to high expectations
Strong student-faculty relationships, where students are well known.
Engaging learning, where students see the relevance in their education