Editor's Note:  The next issue of the Sentinel will publish April 6, 2020 due to Spring Break week of March 30th.
March 23, 2020  
Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
How We Transitioned to a Virtual School  
The story of how Sequoia High School pivoted from a physical school to a virtual school in a week's time will make a great book someday.  Here's a (highly) abridged version:

Monday was set aside for professional learning in preparation for the move to distance learning. We kicked off the day with an all-staff Google Hangout.  It was an opportunity to revisit our professional core values and be as explicit about expectations and priorities as possible given the shifting reality of this crisis.  The theme of the meeting was staying connected: students, staff, and families. We have a special sense of community at Sequoia. Our mission throughout this is to come out the other side of the COVID-19 crisis with our sense of togetherness not just intact, but stronger.

After our virtual meeting, teachers and teams broke off to learn how to use new tools, plan with their colleagues on which elements of their syllabi lend themselves best to distance learning, and establish new norms for communication with students and colleagues.  Other essential preparations for Sequoia moving from a physical to a virtual school were undertaken valiantly by our classified staff and administrative team. This work was enhanced greatly by the expertise within the building we were able to leverage. Among the myriad resources our teachers were able to disseminate amongst their colleagues, English teacher Hannah Singh created a screencast to instruct students how to navigate a CANVAS module, math teacher Laura Larkin and science teacher Jack West provided foundational reading, Librarian Betsy Snow compiled a set of online resources, and the SUHSD teach of instructional coaches made themselves available by virtual appointment to work 1-1 with teachers.    

As the week went on, I was amazed at the alacrity with which our staff embraced the new model.  Teachers were up and running with ZOOM chats or Google Hangouts, posting readings, discussion questions, assignments, immediately.  When someone learned a valuable lesson, whether practical or theoretical, it was shared as widely as possible. When someone had a success, we encouraged them to brag (or at least tell us, so we could brag).  We heard from parents and students about what considerations should be made, how much work was realistic, and what kinds of schedules stood the best chance of capturing students (I've gathered that many of our students have moved their wake-up time back - waaaay back.)

After the county shelter-in-place orders were issued, we made new adjustments in directing which staff were essential to staff the school during our limited hours and which would be doing their work from home.  With a small but mighty crew, we were able to keep Sequoia open from 10-1 each day, providing meals to students/families eligible for food service under federal guidelines, provide drop-off/pick-up services for students to keep up with classwork, and receive, catalog, format, and distribute over 80 (and counting!) wifi hotspots to ensure every family has access to high speed internet during this period of distance learning.

We tied up the week with a ZOOM conference for teachers.  This one was meant to contrast with the one we held at the start of the week.  We called it a "Virtual Mailroom Chat" and we hoped it would fill the void of the casual conversations our professionals have as they check their mailboxes near the main office each morning.  We revisited our values, continued to clarify expectations, and shared successes. We also spent 5 minutes discussing the relative merits and flaws of Disney's High School Musical. It's still important to laugh.  Social studies teacher Tessa Yeager made us all cry with her heartfelt and inspirational words.  

We plan to keep learning, iterating, communicating, and most importantly, listening.  Our goal is to stay connected. We are grateful for the extent to which families and students have embraced this mission.  Unaliyi!

Special Message from PTSA President
Now is the time for Solidarity!

Life is full of unknowns and is likely to be that way for a while.  This can leave us feeling confused and unsettled.  Nothing is as it was a week or two ago. On the one hand our work lives have been upended.  For so many, our work helps define us, and when our workplaces have shut down and we have been sidelined, or even worse, our primary source of income has been jeopardized, this can cause extreme anxiety.  But on the other hand, shelter-in-place has allowed us, to spend more time with our kids than we have had since they were tots - eating, talking, watching movies, playing games, and hopefully this is a source of comfort.

But as they say, no man is an island and during this time we look to each other for comfort knowing we are all going through this together.

Folks are finding ways to weather this storm is by reaching out to those in need.  Small acts of kindness can make us feel empowered and they create a sense of positivity amidst this dark time.  I am sure you have seen countless stories of people helping seniors and our vulnerable population by offering to buy necessary supplies, or restaurants offering free food to people in need.
and it was amazing to see all the college students waiting to donate amidst the older "regulars" like me.

In spite of the "lockdown" as my kids call it, there are many things we can do to feel proactive.   Offer assistance to folks who may be struggling and if you are in need, please, don't be afraid to ask!
Like you, I am receiving many videos and links of heartwarming acts in the face of this crisis and I'd like to share this one with you: A community in Bavaria, Germany sheltering-in-place sang together a traditional Italian folksong in solidarity with those in Italy who are struggling mightily against the epidemic in their country.

Feel free to share some of what you are seeing/reading at and I'll pass it along in future editions of the Sentinel.

Until then, please be safe, hold your loved ones close, and keep the UNALIYI spirit alive.

Lisa Hane
Sequoia PTSA President

Mark Your Calendars
Ask Sean Priest - Principal Sequoia High School 

Wednesday, March 25th - 7:00 - 8:00pm

See link below to join the meeting!

It's been more than a week since the "Shelter in place" ordinance was issued. Our kids' normal routines have been disrupted as they face the challenge of working completely online. Teachers are working hard to iron out the kinks in this new model and parents are adjusting to the new normal. We all understand that all of this leaves us with many questions.

Principal Sean Priest and the PTSA will be hosting a new series called, "Ask Sean". This will be a virtual meeting via Zoom conferencing (see details below) where the community can listen to Sean's reflections and bring your questions, ideas, and feedback.

We ask you to submit your questions in advance to

Link for Virtual Meeting - Virtual Chat with Sean Priest
Wednesday, March 25th - 7:00-8:00pm

To join the Zoom meeting, you will need to download the Zoom app on your device. See this Helpful Tutorial on loading Zoom App on your device. 

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 343 433 8188

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Dial by Phone - 
+1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose) 
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Meeting ID: 343 433 8188 

Prom and Prom Gallery Rescheduled
Sequoia Prom, originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, has been rescheduled for Friday, May 15 at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  Please stay tuned for more details and updates as they become available.

Sequoia Prom Gallery, originally scheduled for March 24 and 25 at Sequoia, has been postponed till late April, exact date TBD.  Please stay tuned for more details and updates as they become available. 

The Princess Project has been cancelled until further notice. 
May 2020 IB Exams Update 
The notification sent over the weekend is reprinted below.

The International Baccalaureate Organization has announced that the May examinations for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

As an organization, it is critical for the IB to ensure that the options it provides its global community of IB World Schools are based on compassion and fairness for the difficult circumstances that its students and educators are experiencing. As a result, based on considerable advice from stakeholders across the globe, including schools, students, universities and official bodies, the IB has determined what it believes to be the most responsible and ethical way forward.

The May 2020 examinations as scheduled between 30 April and 22 May for Diploma Programme will no longer be held. 

Depending on what they registered for, the student will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programmes.  

We know parents and students will have many questions. We do not have all the answers yet as IB rolls out their plan. The IB will share full details and FAQs with us and on their website by 27 March 2020. Please look for another email after March 27th with more details about what this all means for your IB Diplomas, certificates and colleges. I am also not sure how this will impact seniors versus juniors, but again, we will get out information as soon as we can.

I know this is a very harsh reality. Your teachers, administrators, counselors and the IB Office know you have worked incredibly hard to prepare for exams. Please know that your work will pay off as you will go into your next phase of life better prepared. You have all gained skills, IB Learner attributes, knowledge and grit that will last a lifetime. And in the end, your health and the health of your family is more important than anything.

For any other questions, please contact Lisa McCahon (IB Coordinator).
Juniors: Apply for PTSA Scholarships!
moneybag_graphic.jpg Applications for our annual PTSA Junior Scholarships are now being accepted until Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 10:00 p.m.   There are three categories of scholarships to recognize students: academic success, community service, or achievement in the face of socio-economic challenges.  We have 20 scholarships to offer, each worth $250.

This is a great way for juniors to get a head start on college applications, to be recognized for all they've done to make Sequoia a better place, and to earn some extra money to continue their education!   Click here for more information on applying for PTSA Junior Scholarships.

Get Your Yearbooks Now.  Prices Go Up After Spring Break.
Reserve your 2020 yearbook today at $90.  Purchase it online at

Sequoia HIghlights
March Raven Report Published
The March issue of The Raven Report is here. Shout out to the team of students who stayed late on Thursday night and worked through a solid hour of fire-alarm testing on Friday to get the publication out in anticipation of the school closing, while not knowing if anyone would ever see the magazine.

Please contact Ms. Snow if you'd like a hard copy.

Raven Report team who endured the fire-alarm testing to meet the Friday deadline.

Resources for Parents

As all of us are getting used to the new routines and distance learning, here are a few curated resources to tap into:
  • The Media Center at Sequoia has the Distance Learning Center site up. This site is updated periodically, so please bookmark the Distance Learning Page and visit it occasionally.
  • Audible has launched Audible Stories, a free service that offers educational and entertaining audiobook content for kids, teens, and families.
  • Without a doubt, many of us are feeling anxious as we navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19. We're feeling it too, and we wanted to share some of the tools we're using to take care of our minds and stay grounded.
  • Because of coronavirus, teenagers are missing out on major rites of passage. Offering compassion paves their way toward feeling better. Read: Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters (NYT Subscription required to read)
  • These 12 famous museums offer Virtual Tours you can take on your couch.
Update on PTSA Mini Grants

Through the support of the Sequoia High School Education Foundation (SHSEF), the PTSA is able to offer financial grants to enhance the excellent education offered at Sequoia High School. 

These grants are valued up to $750 and are designed to encourage creative approaches to learning. Students, teachers, and staff may apply. Currently, there is $7,000 remaining to be awarded!

Applications will be accepted online until Friday, April 10, 2020.

Click here for a direct link to the program.

Please contact our Mini-Grant Committee Chairs DeeDee Clarke and Karen Latina with any questions.

Check out two of the projects that were funded in Fall 2019 through this program:

Sequoia Robotics Tournament Fees

Seniors' Robotics team trip to NorCal Regionals.

As the treasurer for Sequoia's two First Tech Challenge Robotics teams, I asked for funding for tournament fees. This would allow both teams to participate in two tournaments each and the senior team to participate in the regional tournament.
Both teams successfully participated in all tournaments thanks to the mini-grants. We all had a lot of fun at the exciting all-day events. We may not have made the best robots or the most competitive ones, but I can bet that the Sequoia teams had the most fun.

~ Blaise Baker

Supplementary Books for World Studies

I used the mini-grant to purchase copies of Trevor Noah's Born a Crime to use in my World Studies 9th grade courses to enrich the Oppression/Apartheid unit. We just started it in mid-February and are still reading it. The students have actually truly enjoyed the book. Every once in a while, I give them time to read in class, or if they finish early, they can take it out to read. It truly is heartwarming to see students smiling and laughing as they read actual books! Furthermore, I hear them talking to their classmates about enjoying it and admit that "it's actually not bad"...which translates from teenage English to regular English into, "I like it".

Every day in class, we had assessments and discussions about the reading and related it to the content learned in class. Students were bringing in the history learned in class through the curriculum and adding on Noah's experiences in order to show the lasting effects of Apartheid, even after it officially ended. Students were also able to see how they could relate with their own experiences.

We were going to culminate this unit with a Socratic Seminar, but unfortunately, due to the cancellation of in-person school, we will not be able to. We are doing some assignments from a distance, but I am saddened because students were actually looking forward to discussing the book. However, I am able to see how the enrichment of our curriculum with this book made World Studies more engaging. This encourages me to continue connecting and enriching other units with books and authors from around the world.

~ Pablo Aguilera, World Studies Teacher

In This Issue
Monday - Friday
Mar. 23 - Mar. 27 
Covid-19 School Closure 
Distance Learning in Effect

Wednesday,  Mar. 25
7:00 - 8:00 pm
Virtual Meeting - "Ask Sean Priest" - Principal, Sequoia High School
Monday - Friday
Mar. 30 - Apr. 3
Spring Break
No School
Tuesday, Apr. 7
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. 
Virtual PTSA/ELAC Meeting, MPR (details to follow)
Quick Links
Support Sequoia All Year

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 Parent Education

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As schools and local businesses close, we hope you are using this time to reconnect with children, family, and close friends -- at a safe distance, of course!

While Parent Ed Series events are cancelled through April, we encourage you to take advantage of our Video Library, featured in this week's newsletter.

For videos of popular events, visit our YouTube and Vimeo channels, and connect with us on Instagram and Facebook for the latest parenting news.

Questions?  Contact Charlene Margot , M.A., Founder and Director, The Parent Education Series . 

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