November 12, 2018  

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
TopPrincipal's Message - Moving Beyond Demographics 
When discussing Sequoia with folks who don't spend a lot of time with us, I'm often asked about the school's "demographics" (as in, "What are Sequoia's demographics?").  I have a reflexive response that comes in a two-minute, five-minute, or ten-minute format, depending on the circumstances.  Practice makes progress.  No matter how many times I respond to this question, however, I find myself blanching when discussing ethnicity among other demographic markers.  

Surely many people are curious about this specific component of demography when asking the question, though they rarely say it outright.  I rarely hear, "What is the ethnic breakdown at Sequoia?" or, more coarsely, "What percentage of Sequoia's students are not white?".  Our community is sophisticated and understands that demography encompasses a broad range of identifiers within a population, ethnicity being only one.  

It's a big one, to be sure - undeniably on everyone's mind, even if only subconsciously.  This is America.  Even the California Department of Education, when assessing school success, uses ethnicity to identify significant subgroups within the larger population.  The state mandates schools to segment student data based on ethnicity in order to understand, address, and focus on student needs.

Still, I admit to struggling with unconscious biases, especially the ones hidden in my blind spot of privilege.  I worry how these biases might reveal themselves or undermine my vision about equity in public schools.  I believe strongly that opportunity through a free high-quality education is a basic human right.  I believe there is no greater responsibility in my role as a principal than to protect and champion that right.  However, I am also a white male who has lived his life almost entirely free from economic instability.  When I've been a language learner and an ethnic minority, it's been by choice (and I've always had a return ticket in hand).

I am aware of the assumptions made about ethnic groups when we discuss them in faceless generalities.  It troubles me to think what some of those assumptions might be, what nuances might be lost, or how talking about ethnicity the way we often do might maintain or reinforce such assumptions.

The state identifies significant subgroups, so I usually stick to those when prompted to address the question directly.  Our site plan, school-wide action plan, and WASC accreditation report are frank in their presentation of comparative data.  Latino, African-American, and Pacific Islander students under-perform when compared to White and Asian students in traditional measures such as graduation rates, grades, attendance, and results of state assessments.  English-learners, as a group, under-perform to an even greater degree.  

But within, and overlapping, are other subgroups that are not identified or considered when analyzing student data.  What is the graduation rate for Sequoia students who care for a younger sibling when compared with their peers?  What percentage of students who hold down an after-school job, meet or exceed standards in math?  The way we look at demography often obscures rather than illuminates larger questions about power.  And these are the questions that have the most to do with our core values as a school and a community.  

Today is Veterans Day, a day for us to recognize those who served to protect the ideals that make our country a place where all people get a fair shake.  As I alluded to in my Election Day message to students, what we do to bring ourselves closer to that vision, honors their sacrifice.  I feel a part of that mission every day at Sequoia and I wish I had a more succinct answer to the questions about power and ethnicity in our community.  However, there is no better place than Sequoia, surrounded by hard-working, mission-oriented students, staff, and families, to embark on this complex journey.  Together, let us unpack the assumptions, challenge the stereotypes, and change the odds.  Let us make "demographics" a far less reliable predictor of success.

Have a great week,


Join Us Tomorrow for November's PTSA/ELAC Meeting  
ptsa logo
Join us at this month's PTSA General Meeting and ELAC meeting on Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the MPR.   
Nora DeCaro, Director of Food Services for the school district, will be our guest speaker at the PTSA meeting.  
Click here for the agenda. 
Update on SHSEF - Support Sequoia!
We are well on our way to our goal and have already raised $120k!  Thank you for your generous donations to SHSEF. 
Did you know SHSEF funds the following college related programs?
  • Freshman College Visits
  • The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) for all 10th and 11th graders
  • Release Time for teachers in order to write College recommendation letters.
  • AVID college visits fund AVID college visits that send 1st generation students across the state to see first-hand what their future holds. 100% of 2018 AVID grads were admitted to a 4-year college last year.
  • Bilingual college center assistants to help parents and students plan successfully for post-secondary success.
Learn more about our programs, how to volunteer, and make a donation online at  to help us reach our $525K goal for the 2018-19 campaign.
Sequoia Veterans Memorial - Have You Ever Wondered...
Sequoia Veterans Memorial
... about the beautiful tree and flower-filled area with benches near the Brewster gate?  In 2005, the Sequoia High School Alumni Association erected the Sequoia Veterans Memorial in honor of Sequoians who have died in service to our country.  It is a beautiful space for contemplation and remembrance.
There is an on-going funding campaign for the memorial where supporters can purchase paving bricks, redwood or weeping cherry trees with boulders featuring bronze dedication plaques, or engraved concrete benches.  Surplus funds from donations to the Sequoia Veterans Memorial have been reserved for maintenance of the monument and for future engravings.  Additional funds have been set aside for purchasing historical war-related books and educational materials for Sequoia High School.  More information can be found on the association's website
Also, did you know you can purchase an Alumni Association membership as a gift for your Sequoia grad?  To contribute to the SVM Fund or membership information, email or write to: Sequoia High School Alumni Association, P.O. Box 2534, Redwood City, CA 94064-2534. 
The Alumni Association works to preserve the history of our school as well as participate in its movement forward.   We thank them for their service to our Sequoia Community!
dreamDream Dinner This Friday - Don't Miss Out!
On November 16, 2018 , join us for  Sequoia's 9th Annual Dream Club Dinner !  The dinner will be held from  6:00 - 8:30 p.m in Gym 1.  
Now's your chance to attend one of Sequoia's most inspirational events and support a worthy cause.  The Dream Club works to raise awareness about the challenges that undocumented students face as they pursue their dreams of higher education.  This dinner is our biggest fundraiser and all proceeds go to our scholarship fund.  Tickets are $15 regular admission or $125 for a table of eight.   Click here for flyer .     
Grad Night Flash Sale This Week - Beat the Rush and Save Money!   
Our flash sale for Grad Night tickets will be  Thursday, November 15 through Friday, November 16 at 9:00  p.m.!   Tickets will be $65 during the flash sale and then will go up to $70 after that.  Mark your calendars and be sure to take advantage of this early bird price!
What is Grad Night?  It's a midnight San Francisco Bay cruise aboard the Hornblower departing the evening of Friday, June 7th and returning early Saturday morning. The cruise includes dinner, DJ, dancing, casino games, photo booth, and more.  It's a fun event that is well-attended every year and provides a last opportunity for the Class of 2019 to celebrate together.  The ticket price includes transportation to and from San Francisco and all activities onboard.
More information about PTSA Grad Activities can be found  here .

hornblower Fiesta de la Noche de Graduación - La venta de boletos 15-16 de noviembre

Queridos padres de estudiantes del grado 12,
La venta especial de los boletos para la Fiesta de la Noche de Graduación empieza  el jueves 15 de noviembre y acaba el viernes 16 de noviembre a las 9:00 p.m.  Los boletos costarán $65 durante esta venta especial y subirán a $70 el día después. ¡Por favor, marque la fecha 15 de noviembre en su agenda para poder aprovechar del precio más bajo del año por un tiempo corto!
Que es la Fiesta Noche de Graduación? Es una celebración en un crucero alrededor de la bahía de San Francisco en el Yate Hornblower, saliendo por la noche viernes junio 7 y volviendo el sábado en la mañana temprano.  El crucero incluye una cena especial, DJ, baile, juegos de casino, fotos y mucho más.  Es un evento divertido y popular-la última oportunidad para que su hijo/a celebre junto con sus compañeros del grado 12.
Para obtener más información sobre las actividades del PTSA para la graduación, por favor haga clic aquí­. 
Run, Tap, Dance or Fly to Carrington Hall This Weekend For A Hilarious Performance of The Drowsy Chaperone!  
Tickets On Sale Now - Don't Miss The Show! 
Step inside the apartment of a Broadway enthusiast whose vision of his favorite musical comes to life on stage before us.  This hilarious, toe-tapping musical will leave you humming along and wishing for another evening with these lively wedding guests.

November 16 & 17 at 7:00 p.m.  
November 17 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are available from the school treasurer, by phone 1(866)967-8167, or online at 
Cleaning Out Your Garage Before The Holidays? Donate a Bike and Help Make AVID Bike Drive a Success  
Although the parent center will be launching a Holiday gift drive in the coming weeks, AVID students are focusing on a bike drive specifically for kids of the Sequoia community and students who need bikes to get to and from school or work, etc.  The plan is to buy some new bikes (with monetary donations and money raised from bake sales, etc.), as well as recycle donated bikes by giving them a complete cleaning and tune-up before passing them along to their new owners. 
If you have some bikes in your garage gathering cobwebs, or if you'd like to make a monetary donation, please contact:  Scott Stalder-Skarmoutsos: and Stephanie Weden: 
Honey, Where Should We Buy Our Tree This Year? 
Help the Class of 2019 When Purchasing Your Christmas Tree This Year!
Sequoia 2019 Grad Activities receives 15% of the purchase price when  you buy a holiday tree at HONEY BEAR TREES.  Bring this flyer when you purchase your tree and wreath. (If you happen to forget it, there will be extra flyers on the lot.) 
There are three locations convenient to our Sequoia school community:
  • 955 Woodside Road, Redwood City
  • 1579 El Camino Real, San Carlos
  • 651 El Camino Real, Redwood City
The lots open on Saturday, November 17.  Hours are 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., 7 days a week!
In This Issue

Monday, November 12
No School
Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 13
7:00 p.m.
PTSA/ELAC Meeting,

Wednesday, November 14
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
8th Grade Info Night,
Carrington Hall

Friday, November 16
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Dream Club Dinner,
Gym 1

Friday, November 16
7:00 p.m. &
Saturday, November 17
2:00 p.m & 7:00 p.m.

The Drowsy Chaperone,
Carrington Hall

Monday, November 19
B-Day Schedule

November 21-23
No School
Thanksgiving Break

Thursday, November 29
Minimum A-Day

Friday, November 30
Minimum B-Day

Quick Links
8th Grade Info Night on November 14  
Know a family with an 8th grader interested in attending Sequoia High School?  Spread the word: Sequoia is hosting its annual 8th Grade Information Night on Wednesday,
November 14
from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Please see the flyer for details.
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Never Too Late to Buy a LOVE Bag!
Check out all the different styles and order at 
Remember to use Promo Code SEQUOIA18 at checkout. 

Join the PTSA  Anytime!  
Visit the
  to buy your 2018-19 PTSA membership today and contribute to Sequoia's Unaliyi spirit! 
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Sequoia Sentinel
If you have articles to submit to the Sentinel, please email the article/blurb by the end of the day on Thursday.  See Guidelines for news submissions. 
Find past issues of the Sentinel at  
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Parent Education

Parent Ed Logo Horizontal

Vanessa Kellam, Parent Engagement Coordinator, Health Connected
Tech Sex 2: Wired for Connection
Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Sequoia Union HS District Office, Birch Room
480 James Avenue, Redwood City  

What should you know about dating and sexuality in today's digital culture? 
In a safe and friendly atmosphere, join us for a fun and relaxed conversation about adolescent relationships and sexuality. 
Short student dramas, activities, and supported questions  promote interaction and engagement. Parents are encouraged to attend with their student to strengthen family communication and connections. Parents without students are welcome to gain insight into important conversations they can have at home.
Vanessa Kellam
 is the Parent Engagement Coordinator for nonprofit Health Connected, the leading sexuality and relationships education organization in the Bay Area. Its mission is to educate adolescents in schools so they can make informed decisions about their own sexual health.  
Parents, students, educators, and community members welcome !   Free admission and light refreshments.  Spanish interpretation will be available.
Sequoia Parent Education Series events are sponsored by SHSEF, Sequoia Healthcare District, and Sequoia Union High School District.

* * * 

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

Charlene Margot, M.A. | CSM Consulting
650.868.0590 | 

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