• January 2018
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    Happy New Year Pirate families!

    The return to school after Christmas break normally signals the beginning of the second semester; however, due to the very unusual circumstances of school cancellation due to the poor air quality caused by the Thomas fire, the return from Christmas break this January signals the beginning of first semester finals week. After the extended respite of the holidays, teachers will be meeting with all seven periods on Tuesday, January 2, before administering finals Wednesday through Friday. Finals for periods 1, 3 & 7 will be given on Wednesday, finals for periods 2 & 4 will be given Thursday, and finals for periods 5 & 6 will be given Friday. Look elsewhere in this newsletter or at www.syvpirates.org for the bell schedules for this week as dismissal times will vary from our everyday routine. Getting back into a routine after a long time off is difficult for anyone, but returning to school after a break can be especially difficult for teenagers. You can help your child to prepare to finish the semester strong by ensuring that he or she returns to regular eating and sleeping habits. As we move ahead to the second semester, you can also help by monitoring school work to be sure your teen doesn’t fall behind academically in the critical first weeks of the new semester.

    On the subject of academics, let me remind you that this spring we will once again be administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment to all juniors. The Smarter Balanced is the new mandatory state test used as the primary instrument to assess student and school performance and progress. Four things you should know about the Smarter Balanced are that (1) it is computer-adaptive, meaning that it is administered on a computer and adapts to student responses to more accurately measure student mastery;  (2) it not multiple choice, including written responses and a variety of other process-oriented question types made possible by the fact that it is administered by computer; (3) it only assesses English language arts and mathematics skills; and (4) it is only administered once during high school, during the junior year.  These tests are important to the reputation of our school in the larger academic community—including colleges and university admissions office evaluating our graduates’ applications. It will be critically important that this year’s juniors rise to the challenge and ensure that SYVUHS remains ranked among the highest-performing schools in the area. Also being administered for the first time this year will be the new California Science Test (CAST) which was piloted last year to assess the new Next Generation Science Test. This year’s administration to juniors will establish the baseline for future growth targets. You will be hearing more from me on both of these tests in the coming months.

    Another event also important to our school’s academic reputation is on the nearer horizon. Sunday through Wednesday, January 21-24, a committee from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) will be visiting our campus. For the past 18 months, certificated and classified staff, along with input from parents and students, have been preparing a 162-page self-study evaluating our school’s strengths and areas for growth and detailing an action plan for future growth. The WASC Visiting Committee will read our report and visit our campus to verify and reinforce our findings.

    I would like to mention the generosity I observed from our students last month. For as busy as they are, it never ceases to amaze me that our students take the time to give back so graciously to the community that has given them so much. In December, the Associated Student Body conducted various food and toy drives, assisted by the Pirate Garage automotive club, to make the holiday season happier for under-privileged Valley families. I am inspired by the selflessness of our students and their initiative to reach out to our community.

    In closing, please note that Monday, January 8 is a FLEX Day; students will be dismissed at 12:40. There will also be no school on Monday, January 15 in recognition of Martin Luther King, Junior Day.

    I wish you all a pleasant and prosperous 2018.

    Mark Swanitz


    Class of '85
    View Mark Swanitz's profile on LinkedIn

    Go Pirates!