I would like to begin by acknowledging that significant events in recent weeks have surfaced a number of issues which need to be addressed as we as a student body and staff heal. Fundamental to these issues is communication: communication between students when situations are brewing which are beyond their ability to resolve peaceably; communication between students and administrators when adult intervention could prevent incidents from occurring; communication between adults on campus when dealing with critical events; communication with parents to keep them informed of occurrences on campus; and communication amongst members of the community about our school. We are investigating a number of new approaches for 2017-18 which I believe will address many of these issues. You will, of course, be hearing more about these things as we roll them out, but I wanted to take a few minutes to give you a brief overview now:
- Restorative Justice: I am proposing a restorative approach to some aspects of school discipline. Restorative justice is a researched-based method of discipline used in many schools and other jurisdictions which emphasizes accountability, making amends, and — if they are interested — facilitated meetings between victims, offenders, and other persons. Students who violate certain school rules and who recognize the damage caused by their actions will have the opportunity to reduce their disciplinary consequences by making genuine reparations to those they have harmed.
- Peer Mediation: Because students with disputes they can't resolve themselves are often reluctant to bring their issues to adults for help for fear of getting themselves or others in trouble, I am proposing implementing a peer mediation program next year. In peer mediation, peer mediators are trained and empowered to resolve disputes between teens before they result in events which require adult intervention and discipline.
- Community Resiliency Model: Our school psychologist will be trained as a trainer in the Community Resiliency Model, which educates people about the physiological responses to traumatic situations and how to control those responses to maintain and spread calm in disruptive circumstances. I will be asking her to assess whether this would be appropriate for our faculty, and, in fact, whether all Valley educators would benefit from such training. If she recommends it, it may well become a focus of our next Valley Schools Conference professional development day in October.
- Aeries Loop: Aeries, our student information system, has a new add-on module called Loop, which will allow us to communicate more directly and immediately with our parent and student communities. Loop will allow the school to send emergency and non-emergency text messages to the constituents of our school community to better facilitate communication. End users will have the ability to opt-in or -out of various kinds of communication.
- Character Education: We will continue our homegrown character education program, holding short class discussions schoolwide one Friday a month on topics ranging from kindness and empathy to perspective and understanding.
It is my hope that these changes, along with increased awareness of the issues will help us end the school year in a better place and start next year with the infrastructure to minimize the impact of such issues.
With the end of the year fast approaching, we are, of course, looking forward to honoring the Class of 2017. We have many graduation-related activities planned. A few highlights follow, but seniors and their parents should rely on the senior letter for more details and information. Prom will kick off the graduation season on May 6 at Hotel Corque. Senior Awards Night will be held on the evening of May 17. Senior Awards is open to all; however, students slated to win awards will have been specifically invited. The Magic Mountain Grad Night trip will be on May 18. Tickets are selling fast. Students should see Mrs. Westfall in the principal’s office to purchase a ticket while they’re still available. Seniors going on the trip will enjoy an all-night graduation party at Magic Mountain and will return to school and their senior breakfast on the morning of May 19. The next event, Baccalaureate, an optional religious ceremony celebrating our graduates and hosted by parents, will be held at 3:00 PM on May 21 at Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church. Final exams begin on Tuesday, May 23. On the afternoon of Thursday, May 25, there is a mandatory graduation practice at 2:00 PM in the stadium. The commencement ceremony itself will take place on Friday, May 26 at 4:00 PM. Seniors need to be in the gym dressed and ready for the ceremony by 3:00 PM. Please also note that the gates to the stadium do not open for spectators until 2:00 PM and that seats may not be reserved by leaving personal effects to hold a spot. While there is plenty of seating for all, those wishing to secure particular seats are advised to arrive no earlier than 2:00 PM. Finally, the PTSA sponsors an all-night Sober Grad party that evening in the Old Gym. Look elsewhere in this issue for information on how to purchase tickets to Sober Grad. Seniors and their parents are reminded that disciplinary infractions in the remaining days and weeks of the school year may result in the loss of certain graduation privileges up to and including the graduation ceremony.
As this school year draws to a close, we begin to turn our attention to planning for next year. Following are a few dates for your calendar. Summer school begins on Monday, June 5 for students needing to make up credits. Classes meet Monday through Friday through June 30. If your son or daughter has failed a semester or more of English, math, or social science this year, please be sure to contact his or her counselor to register for summer school. We have not so far been able to secure a science teacher for summer school, so please contact your child’s counselor about options for making up credits in science. Be watching for our summer mailer with information on summer registration and orientation days to take place in late July or early August. The first day of school for 2017-18 is August 10.
Finally, as we prepare to bid farewell to the Class of 2017, I would like to thank this year’s seniors. The members of the senior class have developed into an exceptionally strong group of young adults whom we are proud to send out into the world. To our graduates, I wish you fair winds as you set sail from Santa Ynez High. Your four years here have been nothing short of remarkable; I will always have fond memories of you. You leave SYHS a better place than it was when you arrived, and that is the mark of a significant achievement. We are so very proud of you and look forward to hearing about all of your future accomplishments as you venture out and begin making our world a better place. You may no longer attend school here, but you will be Pirates always. Be sure to keep in touch!
Let’s finish strong; summer is right around the corner. Go Pirates!
Class of '85