The Bare Necessities

January, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

It's a new year! A time for new beginnings, and a fresh start for many of our students as we round into second semester. Time to take stock of the first half of our year and set our sights on what areas to celebrate, and what areas to improve on.

The first half of the school year has been full, as it always is. The ninth grade work we planned for last year has been set in motion and is making a difference for kids. We have more students enrolled in AP classes than ever before, and the participation on last years SAT and ACT tests were off the charts compared to previous years. Progress has been made with attendance as well!

We are fighting to address the continuing achievement gap for our students, knowing that if we are not reaching all students we must continue to work until we are. This work has been meaningful, hard, and is on-going. We continue to work as a staff to ensure that we are clearly communicating the learning outcomes so all students can track their progress.

Every year, I have a mantra that keeps me grounded. When I began as Principal, it was about making hard choices. In every challenging situation (and there were many) I reminded myself to focus on my three-word-wise, "Courage, Grace, Wisdom." As these have become ingrained in my daily practice, my mantra has shifted to something I borrowed from Jimmy Casas, "Every Kid, Every Day, Whatever it takes." This has guided my work this year, and I know it is at the heart of what all of you do every day. I would love to know if you have a mantra or short phrase that has kept you grounded this year!

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I remain forever grateful to be at this amazing school, in this incredibly supportive community, surrounded by such phenomenal professionals and students. In gratitude,


Martin Luther King Jr. Day

We will be celebrating the great Dr. Martin Luther King Junior with a day off from school on January 21st. I hope you will join me at the citywide celebration. The event will begin at the Ashland Historic Armory at 12:00. It will conclude with a march to the plaza to listen to his "I Have a Dream" speech. At AHS, we will have an assembly on Wednesday the 23rd. Details to follow.


Something is working! Both Site Council and the attendance committee has been working hard to improve student attendance. We have clarified our policies and increased communication with parents. We have provided information regarding the importance of regular attendance. Christie Lawson, our newest student advocate, has been conducting empathy interviews and developing attendance contracts.

I am happy to report that our overall attendance has gone up. At each checkpoint we have done, our daily attendance is higher than it was at that time last year. Most recently, we looked at attendance right before and right after the break. In the week prior to the winter break, we had 408 total absences in comparison to 460 the year previous. And the three days following the break? We had 211 compared to 302 to the year previous! Way to go attendance team! If you want to be a part of the solution, please join the attendance committee. We could use more teachers! If you are interested please e-mail Glenna Stiles.

Teacher Led Professional Development

Teacher Leadership Courses

Several of you reached out with course ideas. Please review the options below. Participants and leaders are compensated for their time using teacher leadership money. If you would like to participate, please e-mail the teacher leading the PD directly and c.c. me on the message. Happy Learning! The deadline is January 22nd to build the class lists! Don't wait. Sign up-you won't be sorry!

Radical Candor Book Study: Travis Moddison

Read this fantastic book that focuses on developing skills to give feedback and guidance that demonstrates you care personally for someone, and still challenges them directly. Book will be purchased for all participants.

This group will meet on Thursdays from 4-5.

Make Learning Magical BookSnap: McKael Kenfield

This book is about transforming your teaching and creating unforgettable experiences in your classroom. Books will be provided.

This group will read on a schedule of chapters and then you get to choose when/where to respond (through a variety of online options)

Pop Culture: Reed Sorenson and Alan Parowski

Did you know that The Simpsons is written by Harvard trained Math geeks and contains over 100 episodes with references to obscure mathematical quandaries and tidbits like Fermat's last theorem and Mersenne's prime number? Did you know there was a best selling book called "The Simpsons and Their Math Secrets", and that one episode contains an equation which, if solved, has a million dollar Math prize attached? Did you know you could teach History with zombies and College level philosophy like deontologism, absurdism, and retributivism through "The Rick and Morty Show and The Watchmen"? Well, come on down to the hottest ticket in town and check out "Teaching Anything Through Pop Culture," the ultimate breakout session, brought to you by your friends in Catalyst, Alan and Reed. (Did you know that Breakout was a video game created in 1976 by Nolan Bushnell the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, and it was built by Steve Wozniak aided by Steve Jobs, and that it was the basis and inspiration for certain aspects of the Apple II personal computer? Well now you do!)

This will be a one-time two hour session. Once they know who is interested they will schedule a time that works for all.

Special Programs at Ashland High School

I had a recent request for a list of the various special programs at Ashland High School, along with points of contact. I have updated this information, and you can access it by clicking on the form below. I recommend either printing this or saving it for future reference. In future Bare Necessities I will highlight the various programs and provide more in-depth information. For this edition, I would like to highlight our Thoreau Program.

Thoreau School is an Ashland High School alternative education program which is aimed at building each student's "conscious endeavor" through exploration, inquiry, discovery, and reflection. Adhering to Thoreau's philosophies of naturalism and social justice for all, we aim to prepare our students for success with the 21st century school model. The program offers a challenging curriculum which builds critical thinking skills and fosters academic excellence while developing the individual within a classroom community. The students articulate their strengths, discover their passions, and have opportunities to develop, contribute and demonstrate their knowledge using creativity and innovation. The integrated curriculum is supplemented by outdoor exploration and service learning opportunities which build character, confidence, and personal responsibility as well as offer experiential and hands-on learning opportunities. The teachers are dedicated to nurturing the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social needs of the students. Students in Thoreau School earn three credits per semester. Credits are earned in English, Social Studies, and Science. The curriculum is aligned with state and federal standards, as well as the current AHS 9th and 10th grade essential skills. Teachers Reed Sorensen and Jenifer Wahpepah combined have over 20 years of experience in Ashland High School's alternative programs. Students are in the Thoreau program on either a white or red day. On the opposite day, they take standard Ashland High School classes to round out a full schedule.

Grizz Academy Circles-Through Their Eyes

Prior to the break, I had the joy of leading classroom circles in our Grizz Academy classes. The purpose was twofold. First, I wanted the opportunity to get to know the students and their various gifts as our newest Grizzly’s. Secondly, I wanted some insight into what impact the structures we put in place for 9th grade are having and how we can continue to improve. As per usual, our students did not disappoint. Here is some of what I learned.

Students really appreciate the amount of choice they have at the high school as compared to their academic life previously. They spoke of choice in their classes, choice in their friends, and choice in their unstructured time. Being able to select their electives is critical, and when it does not go as planned, the impact can be “devastating.” There is not one class where open campus did not come up as one of the best parts about high school. Top suggestion from ninth graders? Make lunch longer.

Students spoke again and again about the quality of relationships that they have at AHS. They feel respected and cared for by their teachers in a way that feels different to them. They described teachers as being willing to listen and have important conversations with them. They appreciate communicating in a “more adult way” and the increased levels of both freedom and responsibility the high school provides. Others described the level of support and care they receive from their teachers as being critical to their success, and very appreciated. They can tell that teachers truly care about them as people, and their success.

In describing what surprised them, something that came up frequently was how nice the older students are. I am not sure if they watched too many movies about high school life, but they indicated not only are they not being shoved into lockers, the older students are actually “really cool” and “super nice.” They appreciate the diversity of thought, and the general feeling of acceptance of all types of people at AHS. Several students talked about being able to be whoever you want to be, and that is likely to be both accepted and embraced. They love meeting more people, making new friends, and expanding their circle.

For many, the highlight of high school so far is getting involved in things like Speech and Debate, Theatre or a sport. They love the music classes and the variety of club offerings. Several expressed awe at the level of choice in all of these areas in a school this size. For several, the availability of alternative education was described as critical in their success so far.

So, what is not working for them? There is a significant and sense of overwhelm when it comes to homework. They are especially frustrated in the timing, in that teachers are not able to plan large assignments and tests so they do not all fall at the same time. They described crazy late nights and a high level of stress and anxiety as they try to keep up on their schoolwork. They asked for more time in the school day to get work done, and begged for some kind of break every 45 minutes to stretch. Many requested a later start time, longer passing periods and longer lunches. Of course, it got a bit split when asked if they would still want those things at the expense of being done with school later.

Additionally, they are frustrated by the state of our student restrooms. As a result of their input, I am working with maintenance to address their concerns. They also feel that some teacher’s “restrictive” bathroom policies are a bit demeaning, especially with such limited time to do this between classes.

I am heartened to know that our ninth graders are experiencing a school that is accepting, supportive, caring and engaging. The quality of relationships makes a difference for each of them. The extra-curricular opportunities, the new freedoms and responsibility that come with age, and the choices in the high school schedule are all appreciated and noticed by our students. They provided some ideas on how we can maximize our team structure to find ways to try and distribute the homework load for students so it does not all come due at once. This group of ninth grades shows us that the future of Ashland High School is bright.

Upcoming Events

January 15-18: Finals (See Special Schedule)

January 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, No School

January 22: In-Service Day, No School (this day will be teacher directed)

January 22: Deadline to sign up for teacher led PD (see above)

January 23: Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly

January 25: 26: Ashland Jazz Festival

February 1: Winter Formal Dance

This Bare Necessities Lucky Duck? Number 72. Claim prize in the office!

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