From the desk of Dr. Tuin
One of my favorite activities as a principal is conducting school tours, including superintendent visits. This week was unique because the superintendent, Dr. Mark Johnson, brought several people along to join his periodic check-ins. Board members Lynn Davis and Allyson Muniz Damikolas have visited often and it was good to see them again. Rina Lucchese has been on campus frequently to video our students and teachers as the person responsible for public relations for TUSD. Andrew Rutz, a TUSD tech geru and leader joined the group and brought Derek Johnson, a former student and teacher. They were treated to watching our students and teachers do their thing. There was a casual but engaged feel to the visit. Our visitors enjoyed watching the teacher's instruction and student investment. There were times when our visitors were able to engage with students and find out a little about them and their high school experience. They were privy to students who perform at the highest level and others who struggle. It was an eclectic group of classes we visited, but the sentiment of the group was that this is a positive environment where people are working hard to grow and learn. I often reflect on so much outside of the classroom, and this week will be no different, but the visit was a fresh reminder of the importance of what goes on in the classroom day to day.
Later that day, I visited another classroom in the Little Theater. The drama classes combined with our choir class to do a preview of their musical performed all week from Wednesday through Saturday. They invited classes to visit for the period and observe part of the run-through to catch a glimpse of what drama class and choir have been working so fervently on the past couple of months. I was impressed with the engagement of both the actors and the audience as we all experienced this version of the musical “Mean Girls”. It was inspiring to see students shine and come to life. Musicals are extremely laborious to prepare and I am grateful for our teachers, Sarah Hughes, Dawn Snider, and Jay Williamson who worked tirelessly to set our students up for success. This will no doubt be a cherished lifelong memory for the cast. The performing arts were among the groups impacted most by COVID and it was such a joy to watch them fully back in action. It was extremely evident that students were having fun expressing themselves creatively and working together. While the actual performance was a treat to watch, I also appreciated the professional “Playbill” program created that did such a great job of introducing our actors and highlighting their high school creative experiences.
The day was not over, as I attended the Seal of Biliteracy Awards on the Plaza stage after school. Over 100 students were recognized for their demonstrated proficiency in two languages, one of which was English. Some students demonstrated knowledge of Spanish as well, while others chose French. In either case, it is an impressive accomplishment that will benefit them tremendously moving forward. (Not just the seal, but the ability to communicate in multiple languages.) Speaking multiple languages is of high value here at Tustin High School, and it was special to recognize those who took advantage of the formal pathway to demonstrate their language acquisition.
The very next day, our plaza was turned into a festive venue to celebrate our seniors and their decisions for next year. College Decision Day is an annual Tiller event that recognizes students who worked all year to identify plans for next year. For some, they will attend a four-year college, maybe even out of state. For many others, they will attend a community college for either preparation for a four-year path or to gain a trade as a career path. Students walked across the stage placing a sticker on the location they will be for next year as a way to declare their plans to continue to learn and grow.
Later that night, I attended the Spring Concert for our instrumental music program. Not only did the Wind Symphony, Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra perform as they typically would in this concert, but Mr. Fisk added some quartets and a trio as an opportunity for students to highlight their growth as musicians. I couldn’t help but reflect on not just the week, but all my years as a high school principal. What a gift it has been as part of my role as a school leader to take in music that provides such a fertile context for mentally drifting off to faraway places and recalling some special memories. Charlotte Palisoc did an excellent job of setting the stage for each piece, and then the players took over from there.
While life was occurring here at Tustin High School. Eight students were focused on preparing for and participating in interviews to represent Tustin High School on the TUSD School Board. After all the interviews, Chriscelle Mangahas and Leilah Patel were selected to represent Tustin High School next year on the TUSD School Board. They will report on all that is occurring here on campus and among our school community. Both will represent us well as they both have developed important presentation skills.
While this was a special week, yesterday was one of those memorable days that I will cherish for a long time. The day really started to build when I went out to visit with three senior softball players, Ely, Sophia, and Emma. Yesterday was their senior night, and I wasn’t able to stay for their little ceremony, so I pulled them over for a little chat to thank them and congratulate them for sticking with softball and demonstrating perseverance that will serve them well in life. Our little chat was special to me and I could sense it mattered for them as well. What I found out later was the girls turned their senior celebration into a victory, which I am sure was an extra special part of their memory for that day.
After my little visit with the softball seniors, I made the trek over to the baseball field to help honor our baseball seniors. Their ceremony occurred before the game so I was able to watch. The parents of these young men were an extremely involved group and put on a classy send-off for their boys, which included each player bringing a bag of treats to the opponent's seniors as well. The baseball program has battled this year, and not always come up with the most runs at the end of the game. However, what was evident this year was that they grew as people and our seniors are more prepared for what awaits them next year as a result.
Shortly after the baseball senior celebration, I jumped in my car and headed down the 5 Freeway, albeit not very quickly. About an hour and forty-five minutes later, I was at Village Christian School for a first-round CIF match-up for boys' volleyball. The opponent was the league champs of their league and so on paper were a higher seed. They were taller and bigger for sure and I could predict what would happen and how our boys would respond. I was invited to participate in the team huddle before entering their pavilion and asked to speak. One of the things I said was that this was going to be a lifetime memory so make it fun and a good one. The athletes went to their places on the court and I went to the stands behind them.
The intensity of the event was evident from the very beginning with both teams extremely focused. We jumped out to a lead early but it quickly disappeared after a run from the opponent. The set was close to the end, but we came up short 23-25. In the second set, we started to build another lead and I wondered how our team would respond this time. My question was answered when we powered through to a victory 25-19. The next set was a little closer, but our Tillers pushed through to another set win, 25-20. Despite winning two sets in a row, the outcome still felt in question well into the fourth set. However, as the set progressed, it became evident that this would be a special night when our boys would prevail against a solid opponent. Both the players on the court who played with such focus and intensity and the players on the bench who continued to come up with creative ways to celebrate their colleagues on the court all celebrated together after the final point, marking a decisive first-round victory. In the team huddle on the court after the game, I was invited again to offer my input. All I could think of was how these boys has just created a special memory, and that is exactly what I shared. I couldn’t help but think of all the games I have watched over the years, and among them all, this was a special one. It was also a great time to be a Tiller.
(FYI - Tonight and tomorrow night at 7:00 will be our musical. The musical will also be at 2:00 tomorrow. Then at 6:00 in our pavilion tomorrow night will be the 2nd round CIF Volleyball game.)
Dr. Jon Tuin
Tustin High School Principal