Highland Happenings

February 2021

Principal's Message

Highland's Heroes

It's amazing the difference two weeks can make. For the past few years, fall semester ended right before Christmas break. This year, because we pushed the beginning of the school year to better prepare for distance learning and distribute necessary technology, the semester ended January 15th, leaving teachers three days to finalize grades as well as prepare for the new semester. Teachers did an amazing job working with students to ensure the best possible outcome, while attempting to find balance during their work day (and three-day weekend!)

As I am typing this, outside we are experiencing our second winter storm of the season. In tribute, I'd like to hail staff for their heroic-- PLAID-TASTIC-- efforts to engage students first semester.


  • Jorge Moreno (OCI) spent the first semester tracking down students, making home visits, and ensuring students were "connected" to school. Most phone calls to the office are routed to his extension.
  • Erminia Pereida (OFFICE) went above and beyond to ensure our front office was staffed and safe and that our community was served to the best of our ability.


  • Kristin Savage (MATH) led the math department and other faculty in the use of technology to engage students. She was a positive presence, encouraging us to try new things and get outside our comfort zones.
  • Kacey McNew (Interpreter) ensured that our students were connected, supported and engaged in their classrooms. She is a powerful advocate for our DHH students!


  • Chris Jaquez (TRUANCY) is at work every day, coordinating our student attendance efforts. Sometimes this seems like a thankless job, as students disappeared, disengaged and sometimes "ghosted" classes. In Latin, his attitude is best expressed NOLI DESPERARE, or Never Give Up. At Highland, we call this PLAID UP!
  • Robert Valdez (MATH) is fairly new to teaching but is no stranger to Highland. Robert, a HHS grad, is a hero because he uses crazy videos and any technology he can to make math engaging for students. He prioritizes building relationships in the class and humbly shares resources with other staff members. He even participated in the lip sync contest with his department.


  • Antonio Vargas (Parent Center) has kept the well-oiled machine of the Parent Center going fall semester-- despite the move to distance learning. Not only does he host Coffee with the Principal, he also has continued a book club and nutrition classes for parents-- virtually.
  • Josh Kunnath (ENGLISH) has investigated Equitable Grading practices at the district and in his department. The English 11 team has grappled with what juniors absolutely need to know and be able to do. His team teaches, models, gives examples, and allows for multiple practice attempts so students master essential knowledge. His equity goal is that grades are true indicators of learning.


  • Billy LeClair (AVID) worked diligently with all four levels of AVID students this fall. When he wasn't writing grants and seeking reading books from donors, he inculcated leadership skills in our students by offering peer tutoring services for final exams.
  • Cindy Shumway (CAFETERIA) and her staff have worked NON-STOP since school closed March 2020. Our cafeteria team provided food, an essential service, during the spring closure and all summer without a break. This past fall the team served about 180 meals a day, and on those days before weekends averaged 450 meals!
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Thank you to our School Counseling Team!

Joe Sweet, Joanne Barrick, Miguel Ramirez, Kim Hobbs, Saul Ramirez, Jennifer Jenkins, and Jackie Johnson: you individually and collectively have been a wellspring of support this semester. Thank you for innovating this past year to meet student needs. This week we celebrate YOU!

Curriculum and Instruction

One NEW Thing and Two OLD Things

One NEW THING: Student Ownership of Learning

What does it mean for students to "own" their learning?

Ownership of learning means that a learner is motivated, engaged and self-directed. It means they can monitor their own progress and are able to reflect on their learning based on mastery of content. Research shows that students who are encouraged to take ownership for their own learning are better able to identify and work toward learning goals; are more likely to believe that it is within their control to succeed in school; and demonstrate life skills such as initiative, self-direction and productivity. We have attached a downloadable copy of a STAR Assessment Tracker for English and Math (see below). Students can use the graph to track their learning over the school year.

Two OLD Things: Learning Intentions and the One Sentence Lesson Plan

What is a Learning Intention?

A learning intention is “what you want students to know and be able to do by the end of one or more lessons.” We call this the WHAT, the HOW, and the WHY of the lesson.

Crafting a quality learning intention takes planning. Often, teachers will use an activity as their learning intention—but a learning intention goes beyond an activity. It focuses on the goal of the learning—the thing we want our students to know and do. The learning intention helps students stay focused and involved.

It’s important to create the learning intention first, and then determine the success criteria that students can use to assess their understanding—and then create the activity and some open-ended questions that help students learn.

The One Sentence Lesson Plan in the link below is one graphic organizer we use to ensure the intent of each lesson is clear for students-- the WHAT, the HOW, and the WHY.

Sample One Sentence Lesson Plan -- Geometry

Students will be able to define similarity by dilating figures on and off the coordinate plane so that they can decide if two given figures are similar.

WHAT? Define similarity (knowledge); HOW? By dilating figures (activity); WHY? So that students can decide... (relevancy; engaging in mathematical argumentation).


How do we measure student progress in reading and math? We use the STAR assessment suite three times a year. Each incoming freshman is placed using the exam results, and progress for all students grades 9-12 is monitored in the fall, winter and spring. We monitor student growth using the STAR Suggested Growth Percentile (SGP).

What is Star SGP? A Student Growth Percentile, or SGP, compares a student's growth to his or her academic peers nationwide. Academic peers are students in the same grade with a similar scaled score on a STAR assessment at the beginning of the time period being examined. This growth is the most accurate indicator of progress. Suggested Growth Percentiles generally range between 35 - 60.

Progress Around School

Highland "Virtually" Welcomed Parents to GATE Parent Night

On January 11th, Highland hosted our first "virtual" GATE Parent Night. We had almost 70 parents participate in the event. Parents and students were introduced to the "Pre-AP" program at Highland which prepares students for the rigors of AP and honors courses. We look forward to welcoming the Class of 2025 to Highland next year. We have included a copy of the presentation below.

For more information, please email Mindy Carter or Jasper King (@kernhigh.org).

Cyber Coffee with the Principal

Twice each month we gather for an hour or so to learn from each other. We call this school-family partnership Coffee with the Principal. This year we continue to meet via Zoom. Parents have expressed an appreciation for the convenience of meeting virtually: no worries about securing child care, putting extra miles on those tires, and travel time to get to school and home.

Like a learning partnership, each time we meet the Principal shares something new with parents, and parents give feedback to the Principal. We call this feedback "Glows and Grows," following one feedback framework that some teachers have adopted. Following is last month's Glow and Grow:

GLOW: Parents have expressed appreciation for teachers who care about students, the use of technology, and student progress.

GROW: Parents are confused by the two methods of reporting grades: Synergy and Canvas.

If you are interested in joining us, please email antonio_vargas@kernhigh.org. Mr. Vargas is Parent Liaison and host for our meetings. He is bilingual as well, if you require Spanish translation.