Highland Happenings

November 2020

Principal's Message

School Spirit... more than Spell-Yells and PLAID

I was driving down the street last night and noticed a house with the 'For Sale' sign gone and the neighbors moved out. The house sat empty, but not in just the physical sense. My husband and I realized that when our neighbors left, so did the spirit or soul of the house. This made me reflect on where we have been as a school since last March, when schools closed their doors to students. Last year we lost more than "occupants"-- we lost what made our buildings breathe, our school spirit, our students. Yes, our essential employees, who are to be lauded for continuing to provide services to students and our community-- food, technology to connect, mental health services, and a live voice to answer the call and bridge the COVID divide-- remain. And in faith, confident of what we hope for, we anticipate the return of students to campus.

Then, a small break: at the beginning of November, following state and local guidelines, we began bringing students back to school for two initial purposes: first, to provide limited in-person instruction for students with IEPs, and second, to provide athletic conditioning-- outdoors and in small cohorts-- for students participating in fall sports. This past week, an additional six cohorts of students (less than 15 in each) returned to school. These students will be provided targeted academic support to make progress and to support their IEP goals. Like a sleeping giant, school is quietly and slowly awakening, and seeing our students' faces (even masked), makes us smile and gives us the energy and determination to continue, to move forward.

Despite the lack of activities taking place ON campus, many of our clubs--ASB, FFA, and drama-- are providing outside-the-box experiences to bring school spirit to student's via Zoom and other social media. In October we experienced our first Zoom school rally, complete with a competition and costume contest, and our annual Lip Sync event, with contestants who provided unique forms of entertainment and even a former teacher who participated from Scotland where he now resides.

The Red Cross Club, in lieu of their usual service activities, are writing letters to older adults living in the Columbus Estates nursing home. Thank you to Victoria Martinez, teacher and club advisor, for continuing to find ways to serve during this difficult time.

When you couple a strong school community that embraces Pride in the PLAID with excellence in academics, athletics, and the arts, you find that Highland is the second-most requested school in the district.


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Curriculum and Instruction

One NEW Thing and Two OLD Things

NEW this year: Pre-Advanced Placement, or PreAP

We are excited to announce that Highland High School is offering the PreAP program beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The College Board's PreAP program includes rigorous grade level courses in the areas of math, English, history, science, and the visual and performing arts. This year students have the opportunity to take one or more of the 10 PreAP courses offered at Highland. These courses are built on frameworks that are supported by focused instructional resources, an online suite of assessments, and regular professional development for instructors. One of the most important features of the program is that it provides vertical and horizontal alignment, meaning that not only will taking a PreAP course help a student be successful in an AP-level course in the same discipline, but that the student will also build proficiency in the same skills across multiple disciplines. Highland already boasts one of the highest rates of AP participation. With the PreAP program, we hope to increase student access and success in high school and beyond.

Continuing to Make a Difference: School-wide Focus on Literacy

At Highland High School, we read to understand by:

  • Identifying claim, evidence and reasoning*

  • Annotating texts

  • Summarizing

Learning teams continue to engage in examining best practices, such as the power of formative assessment and peer feedback. Teams collaborate each Monday to clarify learning intentions, success criteria and develop models of success, so students can ENVISION what success looks like, allowing them to set and achieve goals. In other words, students should know every day WHAT they are learning (the knowledge or skills), HOW they are learning it (the activity and how it will be assessed), and WHY they are learning (the relevancy).

Focus on Teaching and Learning

Besides argumentation* and feedback, we have also spent time delving into effective instruction in the distance learning world. This year the district purchased the Distance Learning Playbook, and summer curriculum committees created over 150 courses on Canvas, ensuring that each course of study was designed with the special learning needs of our students in mind.

Definition and Visual Example from a 9th Grade English Class

A success criteria is a list of features that a teacher wants students to include in their work during the course of a lesson. It is a really good way of making students aware of what is expected of them and can also encourage them to extend themselves during the course of the lesson.
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How do Teachers Gradually Release Responsibility for Learning?


School-wide Celebrations:

  • Quarter 1 Perfect Attendance- last year 308 students, this year 375
  • Discipline data: no referrals in two months!
  • 21 parents have been recognized for outstanding participation
  • 55 students have been recognized and received a shirt/sweatshirt/drawstring bag
  • 2 student received Bluetooth headphones from a Donors Choose project in French class
  • 159 students received PLAID certificates from a teacher or staff member
  • 32 teachers received PLAID certificates from another teacher or administrator

What is the PLAID team and who are members? The PLAID team consists of teachers, staff, parents, and administrators whose focus is building and supporting a positive school culture.

  • Jazmin Alberto
  • Alaine Amey
  • Maritza Ayala
  • Joanne Barrick
  • Mindy Carter
  • Annamarie Encheff
  • Addison Hay
  • Jerri Jameson
  • Chris Jaquez
  • Jennifer Jenkins
  • Steve Matney
  • Jorge Moreno
  • Maria Sepulveda
  • Haley Slagle
  • Justin Thompson
  • Zujeili Turney
  • Debra Vigstrom

We want to send a special shout-out to the following crews for exhibiting PRIDE and ATTITUDE in making Highland a safe, beautiful place and for filling our families' needs for food during this pandemic: CUSTODIAL and GROUNDS, CAFETERIA WORKERS, CAMPUS SUPERVISORS-- thank you for all you do!

Congratulations to School Site Council Parent, Jamie Rhoades!

This year was our best turnout for School Site Council nominees and voting. We had six nominees for a two-year seat, and parents were able to nominate and vote on our school website. Welcome, Mrs. Rhoades, to Virtual School Site Council for the 20-21 school year.
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Under Construction

Highland "Virtually" Welcomed Parents Back to School

This year teachers went out of their way to provide parents with a “Virtual Back to School Week” experience. We are finding that providing virtual meetings is an equitable means of reaching parents who may not have the time or resources to attend in-person meetings. Even teacher-parents enjoy the flexibility of attending online meetings. Teachers used "Flipgrid" to create short videos which were shared on the website for one week. Every department received at least 300 views. Thank you to Susan DeLaTeur and Kristin Savage for LEADERSHIP!

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CSUB Runner Letter Day

Studies show that around mid-terms, first time college freshmen might begin to feel homesick, doubt their ability to succeed or just need a supportive message to get them through the remainder of the semester. CSUB Runner Letter Day was designed to provide support to our freshmen in the form of an encouraging letter or note from faculty, staff, alumni, student leaders, family, friends and/or high school teachers and counselors. A number of Scots staff participated in this event by writing a letter or note to former students, showing support of their educational journey.

Cyber Coffee with the Principal

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Twice each month, in the evening and during the day, 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. Our hope is to build relationships and improve communication between school and home.

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

Glows and Grows, from Pizza with the Principal

Every month we meet for lunch with students who form an advisory council for the school leadership team. Usually students bring something to celebrate and something to improve: we call this feedback "Glows and Grows." This last month Mr. Vargas delivered pizzas to each student's home! Thank you to Mr. Vargas for going out of his way to provide students a door-dash pizza experience!

Following are October's "Glows and Grows":


  • Teachers are understanding in personal situations
  • Teachers are doing a good job-- "We're proud of them. We know this isn't what they want and we are grateful for their efforts!"


  • Include more than two people in breakout rooms (ZOOM)- do something besides work
  • More rest breaks
  • Make mental health days a thing!
  • Not as many teachers are showing the PLAID videos (like last year)
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