November 14, 2016

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
Snapshots from Election Week 2016 at Sequoia High School

Monday 11/7
8:15 AM:  As a random-act-of-kindness from ASB, an individualized post-it note has been placed on every locker in the school.  Each note contains a positive, hand-written message such as "You are great!"  "I love your smile!"  "Today is your day!"   

Tuesday 11/8
10:45 AM : U.S. Representative Jackie Speier speaks to a packed Carrington Hall.  Teacher Ashley Gray introduces her, highlighting the many bills she co-sponsored with Republican colleagues.  "Let's hear it for bi-partisanship, right?" he exclaims to enthusiastic applause from the students.  Rep. Speier's story is about personal loss, professional setback, and political disappointment, focusing on the importance of perseverance.  As a strong female political leader (with literal battle scars), she speaks enthusiastically about a pioneering election forecast for Hillary Clinton.

4:00 PM: Social Studies teacher Claire Heritier-Kerby organizes a party in the MPR for students and staff to watch the results of the election broadcast on CNN.  Around 100 attendees enjoy pizza, conversation, and loud cable-news graphics announcing vote counts from the other side of the country.  The party breaks up around 7, final results undetermined.

10:45 PM:  I send an email to staff in anticipation of an unexpected outcome for the election.  It includes the following:

"Though I have great confidence in your judgment as professionals, I offer the following thoughts on how to engage over the next few days (or possibly weeks)...

We are educators.  We are strong leaders.  This tremendous responsibility remains sacred in both easy times and difficult times.  Hold true to your values and be mindful that our modeling of behavior and respectful disagreement is FAR more powerful than the reach of any television personality...

Although this election has inflamed passions and some students may be inspired to mimic what they have seen on the national stage, our standards for behavior and respect are unchanged.  Words and deeds which threaten or make others feel unsafe will not be tolerated...

Students who show signs of being overwhelmed with the uncertainty surrounding these election results have resources available to them.  The counselors and TRC will be available for referring students who need guidance in processing the meaning of these political outcomes...

All of our students are safe, welcome, and respected at Sequoia - no matter who is elected President."

Wednesday 11/9
8:30 AM: Teachers reassure students and facilitate opportunities for students to voice their thoughts and ask questions about the outcome of the election.  Approximately 20 students are referred to the counseling office or Teen Resource Center (TRC).  Our teachers and staff are, by all accounts, wise, compassionate, and professional in their handling of a difficult morning.

10:30 AM:  I make the following announcement to students (first in Spanish, then in English):

"Last night we had a historical election for President of the United States.  Many of you today are deeply troubled by the results of this election.  Some of you may feel emboldened.  Regardless of which category you fall into, we move forward as a school and a community together.  As such, I want to address a few questions and apprehensions that have arisen in the wake of yesterday's vote.  First, all of our students are safe, welcome, and respected at Sequoia regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background.  Actions or words which threaten this safety (even if it's something you've seen or heard during this political campaign) are unacceptable.  Second, the rights of all our students, regardless of immigration status, are protected under California Law.  Third, we are in the business of education here.  There is math, science, language, social studies, art, music, PE, to be learned.  We have resources available for students who need support coming to terms with yesterday's election, but remember: the ultimate form of rebellion is an educated mind.  The positive change many of us want to see in the world happens when more of us are college bound!  Thank you, Sequoia, and have a great day."

11:15 AM:  Approximately 25 students walk out of their classes in a coordinated event we learn about through social media.  They gather in front of the school.  I sit with them under an oak tree, doing my best to answer questions but mostly listening to their fears and anxieties:  E.g.: "How can I feel safe as a woman when the president is an admitted sexual assailant?"; "We have no voice, if we don't do something now, people are going to be deported."  A student from the back of the group raises his hand ("You guys don't know me, but...").  He introduces himself as a Republican.  He explains that he does not support the President-elect and disagrees with much of what he says.  He shares that he has lived in other parts of the country where conventional wisdom contrasts sharply with the Bay Area.  He tells the students that he feels lucky to attend a school where so many people disagree with his views because it helps him understand what they're going through and why they feel the way they feel.  The students give him a sincere applause when he finishes.

4:30 PM: At an event organized by Sequoia's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a teacher panel discusses their experiences working with LGBTQ students.  It attracts 40-50 student, staff, and parent attendees.  " In light of the struggles we will all face going forward after this election, I am so glad to know that our kids have friends and mentors in their teachers to help guide them as they make their mark in the world in high school and beyond," says one parent from the audience.

Thursday 11/10
8:30 AM:  Student self-referrals to counseling and the TRC for election-related anxiety have slowed.  The election is a topic of conversation in the halls and some classrooms.  Discourse remains inclusive and tone is respectful.

12:00 PM:  Sequoia's DREAM Club hosts an informational meeting with an immigration attorney for students and staff who have urgent concerns about the impact of the election on DACA and other legal matters for undocumented students and families.

4:15 PM:  The school has largely emptied out in anticipation of the 3-day weekend.

We are proud of the way our staff and students handled themselves this week.  The Unaliyi was strong, as is often the case, when we needed it most.  The ramifications of this election will manifest themselves on our campus in a number of ways.  We anticipate more adversity and confusion for our students spurred by the state of affairs in our country.  We can't box out the world from our campus, nor should we.  We will continue to be proactive in emphasizing safety, respect, and inclusion.  

I found comfort and inspiration here .  You can play a role by talking to your students about how they feel, how others might feel, and how leading with empathy is essential in recognizing our differences, painful as they may be.  Therein lies the path to common ground and positive change.   The IB Learner Profile remains a powerful toolkit for students to communicate in this way.

This election season reiterates the urgency of imparting these virtues to our kids.  When I heard the students applaud loudly for Rep. Speier's bipartisan work on Tuesday, it made me smile.  Through the lens of the subsequent 72 hours, it transformed into a call to action from the next generation of leaders.

Have a great week!

Jackie Speier Inspires Students 
Last Tuesday, on election day, Sequoia was honored to have Congresswoman Jackie Speier visit and speak at a special school assembly. Speier shared her life experiences, including her near-death episode in Jonestown at the People's Temple in Guyana, and other personal losses later in her life.  

Her message to students was to not give up in the face of failure, and to strive for their dreams.  Students were invited to ask questions and as usual, they were thoughtful and thought-provoking.  The audience which was made up of students from all grades was engaged and attentive. It was a privilege to have Congresswoman Speier visit Sequoia to share her inspiring story of determination and hope. 

Now More Than Ever - Join the PTSA!
Did you know that Sequoia's PTSA is part of a nationwide PTA organization that represents millions of parents, teachers, and students from all 50 states? Founded over 100 years ago, the PTA has been a constant voice for advocacy for our children and for strong public schools throughout the US.

Now's the time for every parent, student, and teacher to join Sequoia's PTSA.  Your $15 membership dues help fund important programs here at Sequoia, AND the greater our numbers, the stronger our influence will be in demanding and maintaining quality education from our state and national leaders.   Click here to join, or to check our membership list to see if you've joined this year.  

Click here to learn more about the history of the PTA.  We need your support to continue to build the kind of community where our teachers can thrive and our students can fulfill their dreams in school and beyond.  Join now!

Lisa Hane -  President, Sequoia PTSA
Mom of Colston (2017) and Mac (2019)

A Dream Classroom for STARS
Teacher Aline Kaprive reports about the PTSA Mini-Grant she received last spring to help in decorating and creating a beautiful classroom for STARS (special education class):

"I am extremely grateful for the grant provided from PTSA. The funds were used to create a beautiful classroom in which students would be able to enjoy, learn, and relax. 

We purchased a beautiful rug [pictured above] that is in our mental health therapist's office (which is attached to the STARS classroom), a rocking chair that is not only used by STARS students but other Sequoia kids who take afternoon study skills, a science Hover Plane and Magnetic Smart Mass used for when students are stressed or anxious, and a therapeutic sand pendulum.  The classroom looks amazing and is a bright and cheerful environment that our students love.

Students are enjoying the nice classroom and have shared that they feel safe. Also, a student who has major anxiety noticed that we had the Smart Mass and was relieved because he uses something similar at home."

The hover plane, magnetic smart mass, and sand pendulum that were purchased with PTSA Mini-Grant funds are displayed.

PTSA Mini-Grants are supported by funding from the SHSEF

Thanksgiving Generosity
null A tremendous shout-out goes to the Sequoia community for generously supplying food items for Sequoia families in need!  All of the food requests for our Thanksgiving baskets were filled within four days, and most people signed up to donate multiple items. Thank you!

Please watch for Adopt-A-Family announcements as we continue into the holiday season of sharing.

Loserville Sure to Be A Winner This Weekend!
It's 1971. Misfit computer geek, Michael Dork, and his friends are about to change the world. It's just that no one knows it yet. Michael has also discovered a girl, Holly, a prospect (almost) as exciting as his love of binary. If only he had the courage to talk to her! Perhaps things haven't changed that much after all!

Loserville, the smash-hit, new musical from London's West End, takes geek to a whole new rock-pop level.  You would never expect that the geeks would have inherited the world, but they did! Loserville gives us the seventies with a cast of characters that are totally recognizable and a score that is completely contemporary.

Performances are Friday, Nov. 18 at 7 PM, Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 PM, and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 3 PM in Carrington Hall.  Tickets are available at

Dreams Come True
Please join Sequoia's Dream Club for our 7th annual Making Dreams Come True dinner on Friday, November 18 from 6:00-8:30 PM in the MPR.  Support immigrant youth as they pursue their educational dreams!  All proceeds from the dinner go to our scholarship fund, see this flyer for details.

German Students Experience Sequoia and Bay Area
"Vielen Dank!" from the teachers and students of Sequoia's German sister school. Our ten guests from the Kopernikus School Freigericht (near Frankfurt) had a wonderful two-week educational tour of the Bay Area, ending Nov. 6. The host families enjoyed hosting, and provided the German students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a first-hand experience of the culture and language.

After one week in San Francisco, the eight 15- and 16-year-old students, along with their two teachers Sabine Pohlisch and Thorsten Weitzel, spent time in classes, celebrated Halloween with American families, visited Sequoia's football game and had a wonderful farewell party in Half Moon Bay.  The German teenagers were also part of a work experience program where they got behind-the-scenes tours (e.g. at Facebook, Stanford University and the RWC Cinema) and participated in job shadowing at hotels, the airport, Redwood City elementary schools, etc., and they got to go on police ride-alongs.

Sequoia students who would like to stay with German families, attend classes at Kopernikus School, and visit renowned cultural and historical sites in Germany may contact Thorsten Weitzel ( for more information.

In This Issue
Monday, Nov. 14
Collab Day

Tuesday, Nov. 15
Deadline to submit fees for IB Exams

Friday, Nov. 18
6 PM - Dream Club Dinner, MPR

Nov. 18-20
7 PM Fri & Sat; 3 PM Sun - Sequoia musical "Loserville," Carrington Hall;  tickets here

Monday, Nov. 21
Block B Day

Wed-Fri, Nov. 23-25
Thanksgiving holiday

Wednesday, Nov. 30
7 PM - Fall Sports Awards, Carrington Hall

Tuesday, Dec. 6
7 PM - PTSA Meeting, MPR

Wednesday, Dec. 7
7 PM - Choir and Orchestra Winter Concert, Carrington Hall

Thursday, Dec. 8
7 PM - Bands Winter Concert, Carrington Hall
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Community News

El Camino Real Corridor Plan: Public Meeting Nov. 16
The City of Redwood City is in the process of developing a Corridor Plan for El Camino Real which could incorporate community benefits, design guidelines, and streetscape improvements for all of its users (pedestrians, bicyclists, automobiles, public transit).

A community meeting will be held at 7 PM on Wednesday, November 16th at the City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.  See this flyer for more information, and come to the meeting to help shape potential strategies for the corridor plan.

Para más información en español, favor de comunicarse con (650)780-7234 o .    Si desea traducción española en la reunión, por favor háganoslo saber al menos 24 horas d e antelación .

Parent Education

M-A Parent Education Series, Peninsula Arts & Letters and Kepler's Books 
Dr. Dan Siegel, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human
Monday, November 14, 2016, 7:30 PM
Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Internationally acclaimed author and UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel will share the exciting neuroscience behind the heightened social, emotional and creative energy that drives adolescent behavior. Dispelling myths of raging hormones and immaturity, he explains how crucial changes in the brain prepare us to thrive as interdependent adults.
This special evening is presented in partnership with the M-A Parent Education Series. 
Parents, students, and community members welcome!  Advance ticket purchase required. 
For more information, contact Charlene Margot, MA, M-A Parent Education Series events are sponsored by the M-A PTA, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District.

M-A Parent Education Series 
GENERATION FOUND - Documentary (Youth Addiction & Recovery)
Thursday, November 17, 2016
M-A Performing Arts Center (PAC)
555 Middlefield Road, Atherton CA 94027
6:30-7:00 PM Pre-Reception, Refreshments, and Resource Tables
7:00-7:15 PM Introduction by Fay Zenoff, Center for Open Recovery
7:15-8:40 PM Film Presentation 
Purchase tickets online:
You can also click on this link to watch the movie trailer.
Join us for an important community event on youth addiction and recovery! From the creators of THE ANONYMOUS PEOPLE comes  GENERATION FOUND, a powerful new film about one community coming together to ignite a youth addiction recovery revolution in their hometown.
Parents, students, faculty/staff, and community members welcome!   Spanish interpretation will be available. Ticket purchase required; scholarships available for students. 
This event is sponsored by The Parent Education Series, D'Anne Burwell, author of Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District. 
For more information, contact Charlene Margot, MA, For Spanish, contact Lilly Quiñonez, Parent Center Coordinator, at 650-322-5311, Ext. 50255.