This Week At South Vol. 31

Good morning South,

I would like to use most of today’s post to address what we are going to be doing to recognize our seniors, whose last days at South have been taken by circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Despite the deep sense of loss, frustration, and even anger, we intend to highlight our seniors’ accomplishments in numerous ways across several platforms. These plans align with the State Commissioner of Education’s guidance as well as those put in place by the Governor and Municipal authorities, which limit gatherings to 20 or less, even at events that are held outside.

Graduation Plans:

  1. Graduation Videos: There will be two videos produced to recognize 2020 graduates. The first will be 10 minute video, which will include a message fro me, the Valedictorian and Class President’s speeches, as well as a Senior slide show. The short video will air on both KTUU and KTVA during the last week of school. A longer video will be produced, which includes the 10 minute video, plus roll call, turning of the tassel, presentation and acceptance of the class by the Superintendent and School Board, as well as speeches by a chosen student and staff member and a musical performance. A Senior Slide show will also be made available, although in a different video. All of these items will be housed on this site for easy access. The longer video will also be housed on ASD’s Youtube channel and released at the end of the school year.
  2. iHeart Radio: The district has partnered with iHeart Radio to focus on one high school per day. This will include accomplishments from this school year, as well as recognizing the top academic performers from each high school’s senior class. We are currently developing content to share with them.
  3. Adobe Spark Website: Each school will have a website, which will be released the same week as the longer video, which will be used to highlight seniors, and which will hold more media and information about each graduate. This site is being developed through a partnership between South and the district’s Communications Team.
  4. Yard Sign & Social Media Campaign: Each senior will be provided with a yard sign indicating they are a 2020 South graduate. This sign will also include a hashtag for a social media campaign. You can start posting content now using the district level hashtag: #ASDClassof2020. The district Communications team will monitor these posts and highlight them on the District’s webpage. I would also encourage you to start sharing content and using the school level hashtag: #SouthGrad2020. Feel free to tag me on Twitter: @dr_almon or on Instagram: @dr.almon. I hope to be able to share many of our graduates’ plans and accomplishments over the next month.
  5. Senior Graduation Boxes & Pictures: During the week of May 18th, each senior will be scheduled for a time to pick up their graduation box. It will contain cords, diploma covers, certificates, yearbooks (if you ordered one), and a gift from South High School. We encourage all of our seniors to wear their caps and gowns, and put their cords on to take pictures. We will have a photographer on hand as well as a nice backdrop. Your yard sign, and additional items will also be provided when you pick up your box. You should hear from someone at school to schedule this pick up time during the week of May 4th-8th. More information about how this process will work will be provided to you as the date grows nearer.

Other Items:

South Class of 2020 Mosaic: If you have walked down Lower C Hall at South High School, you may have seen a mosaic on the wall across from the Art rooms made up of thousands of pictures. We plan to create a similar mosaic using all of our 2020 grads’ senior pictures. It will placed permanently and prominently at South High School with a plaque recognizing the adversity this class has undergone and the strength we hope they’ll develop as a result. It will be unique amongst all classes who have ever graduated from South and a visual reminder of their originality and the time in which they graduated. I hope to be able to hold a dedication for this art work when it is complete.

Class of 2020 Gathering/Reunion: Assuming we get past the current restrictions for social gatherings, I would like to plan a gathering for the Class of 2020 in the spring of 2021, when most seniors who are attending school, or have post-graduation plans out-of-state, have the opportunity to return. This event will ideally be a commemoration and celebration of having made it through the current circumstances and provide all seniors an opportunity to check in with their classmates. Please keep an eye on this website, as well as the school website throughout the spring of 2021 for details.

Notes on Teaching/Learning in the Distance Model:

Core classes began on March 31st. This means that Core classes are half way over for fourth quarter. Now would be a good time for both parents and students to check in and see how far students have made it through each core content course. Electives began on April 13th; so, students have had two weeks to start that content, and may not necessarily be as far. Completing about one-third of those assignments would mean a student is keeping pace.

  1. Due dates are attached to CANVAS assignments to provide a suggested pace. However, students can still complete assignments for full credit after due dates have passed.
  2. Second Semester grades will be calculated based on the work students did face-to-face during third quarter and the online content on CANVAS throughout fourth quarter.
  3. Required content. Grades will be calculated based on the required content on CANVAS. Many teachers have also included enrichment content, but this will not be included in the grade calculation.
  4. Monitoring grades for fourth quarter is best done by checking CANVAS using a parent observer account. If you have not set one up, see the following link to do so: Grades entered into CANVAS will transfer for Q and be averaged with existing grades from third quarter to calculate the running average for second semester. Q will not always include all grades entered into CANVAS. The two systems sync with one another weekly.
  5. Finally, we are taking a mastery approach to learning and realize that a distance model does not fit everyone’s learning needs. This means students will be able to make multiple attempts at assignments as long as they are making honest attempts. Teachers also have wide latitude to adjust assignments and point values to make sure the grade is an accurate depiction of a student’s learning. With all of that said, plagiarism and cheating will still result in grade penalties.

A Parting Note:

I recently started reading Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition. It outlines Ernest Shackleton’s 634 day struggle to return to safety with his crew after their ship was crushed by ice. Although we’re not dealing with shifting ice floes and subzero temperatures, It seems an apt metaphor for our current circumstances and one from which we might learn how to persist. Shackleton and his men were isolated on a frozen continent. We, too, are facing the effects of isolation from one another.

The first chapter is entitled Vision and Quick Victories. In it, the author discusses how Shackleton kept his men from being overwhelmed by anxiety and doubt by focusing on the next actions that needed to be taken. He calls this a “matter-of-fact groove”:

The stabilizing role of structure became even more important after Endurance had been crushed and the expedition was cast out on the ice. These stabilizing structures, then, provided a foundation of organized activity that had vital, positive effects on the morale of the team.

Perkins, Holtman, and Murphy (2012)

Based on my conversations with several colleagues, families, and students, it appears morale remains highest among those who have found a new “matter-of-fact groove” that allows them to move forward step-by-step. Beginning my day with reading and a simple cup of coffee, and ending my day by walking my dogs has kept me on the same routine I followed when I going to school everyday. This has become ever more important as we move through uncertain times and develop plans to adapt to changing circumstances.

I hope everyone out there has also been able to continue some of their routines and create stability amidst uncertainty.

Hang in there, stay strong, and have a great week South!

4 thoughts on “This Week At South Vol. 31

  1. Thank you DR Almond for being there this year for our 2020 grads! We appreciate the insight you’ve offered and guidance for the students.
    SINCERELY Jennifer J Smith
    MOM of Jordan A Kaylor


  2. Thank you for always providing clear direction and information in your news letters. I think the mosaic art of the seniors is a beautiful idea and I can’t wait to see it

    Carrie Todd

    Mom of senior, Keaton Ross


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