Hello SEHS Families and Friends,
I hope this message finds you well. In what seems to be par for the course, SEHS has been a busy place these last few weeks so I wanted to take a few moments to share some information about what I think are important developments at SEHS. I also feel compelled to reflect on recent local and national events to provide you with some insight as to how we are interpreting those events here at South. Thanks for taking the time to read.
In my initial message to families earlier this year I devoted specific attention to our School Improvement Plan. Beyond laying out the elements of the plan, I made a commitment to inform you of our progress. As a way of following through on that commitment, I wanted to provide some updates on developments and discussions amongst the faculty.
South Eugene High School will be a More Cohesive Institution. During the week in which teachers returned to school, prior to students’ returning, the faculty spent several days exploring ways in which we could create a more cohesive experience for students while at the same time allowing for the autonomy so characteristic of high quality educational institutions. As you can imagine, there is a delicate balance between cohesion and prescription and we are committed to striking that balance. With a focus on our instructional practices, we will continue our faculty conversation during the time set aside for Professional Development the morning of October 12th. The goal of that meeting is to converge on a set of practices that each teacher at SEHS is committed to weaving into their instructional routines. While I will report the outcome of our conversations, over time I believe the consistency will be evident to every student and family associated with SEHS.
South Eugene High School Will Have More Inclusive Academic, Co and Extra-Curricular Programs. One of our goals is to prepare a broader range of students for success in our most rigorous classes. We are also looking at ways to select curricular materials that reflect the broad range of students and families we serve. This work will be done within departments as well as by members of the school’s Literacy Team. We have also decided to have this year’s theme for our Theater performances be an exploration of contemporary American culture. By doing so, we will stage theater performances that focus on matters of race, social class, the various forms that discrimination has taken as well as its impact on the people of this country. This will also give us the opportunity to cast a broader range of students than has been the case in the past. There is, of course, more to come in this area but we need to gather more information from students and families so that our decisions are informed rather than based on assumptions. While gathering that information takes some time, I want to assure you it is something we are actively working on.
South Eugene High School Will Have a Robust 9th Grade Transition and Student Retention Program. While the first two elements of our plan are critical to realizing this third element, there are other things we can do to improve our services to students and families which will result in higher graduation rates for our students and a better experience for everyone involved. We have recently hired Christy Gonenne as the SEHS 9th Grade Transition Coordinator. She brings an extensive background in high school education, community organization and project management. She will be a critical link between the school and our 9th grade families. While she will soon be sending out regular communication to families of first-year students, I encourage you to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or concerns about your student’s 9th grade experience. We have also further developed the scope of work for our Student Transition and Retention Team. There are weekly meetings in which the team alternates between analyzing data to evaluate program efficacy and focusing on individual students and what they might need in the way of support in order for them to reach their goals.
Were I to detail all of our efforts here in this message, I am afraid the result would be an unreasonably long email. I just wanted to provide an update as a way of honoring my commitment to you.
On a different note, it seems appropriate to speak briefly about recent conversations related to some of our students having exercised their right to free speech at our athletic contests. For the benefit of those who are not aware of the specifics, some of our student athletes from the men’s and women’s soccer teams, as well as the volleyball team, took a knee during the National Anthem prior to their contest. While many spectators quietly respected their decision, some voiced their displeasure with our athletes and attributed their actions to a lack of respect for the flag suggesting they were unpatriotic. Unfortunately, a few comments were quite personal and highly inappropriate. While I don’t care to speak further on the nature of the comments themselves, I wanted you to know why SEHS takes our current position on the matter of student protest. Specifically, students do not leave their right to non-disruptive peaceful free speech, even that of a political nature, at the steps of the school’s doors. The adults in the school do. The possibility that the school’s adults may support or oppose a student’s, or group of students’, political position is inconsequential. Students have the right to free speech provided it is peaceful, non-disruptive or likely not to disrupt the normal operation of the school. As educators, it is our professional and ethical responsibility to ensure our students rights are not suppressed. There have been many within our community, including some alumni of the school, who expressed their disappointment with the school for allowing such a display. That said there have been many who have expressed pride in the school for allowing students the opportunity to speak freely about matters that are important to them. I hope everyone on both sides of the taking-a-knee-debate recognizes that these teenagers are just beginning to take a stand on matters of social and political importance and that they need our support in order to have the courage and fortitude to do so even in the face of great opposition. To anyone who suggests our students took a knee because they don’t care about their Country, I would offer an alternative interpretation. I have spent a great deal of time around teenagers. I know what they do when they don’t care about something. They do nothing. Our students didn’t do nothing. They took a stand because they actually do care about their Country. They cared enough to show courage and fortitude in the face of great opposition. It really doesn’t matter whether I agree with them or not. I am heartened that they care.
Finally, it saddens me to again address the school in the wake of yet another senseless tragedy like that of Las Vegas. This is my third year serving as the principal of South Eugene High School and it is only October of the third year. This will be the fifth instance in my very short time here that I have needed to address a random mass shooting in our Country with faculty or students and families. The frequency with which I have needed to address the subject is nothing less than mindboggling and gives me a sense of dispair that I find hard to shake. My heart goes out to anyone in our community who has been directly impacted by the horrific events that transpired Sunday evening in Las Vegas. I have rarely come across a more caring group of people than the one I found at South on whom I can rely in times like these. I hope everyone feels the same sense of compassion and genuine concern from others that I do every day. While we might from time to time find ourselves on opposite sides of some issue, it is events such as these that serve to galvanize our belief in the power and protective necessity of community. I take solace in knowing the work we do here at South makes it less likely I will write a message to you in response to similar events in the future.I hope all of you know how proud we all are to serve you as the Faculty, Staff and Administration of South Eugene High School. Take care of yourself and those whom you love.Warm Regards,
Andy Dey, Ed. D.
South Eugene High School