About Luke Almon

South Anchorage High School Principal National Board Educator Ball State Ed.D

2020 Graduation Long Form Video & Website

I hope this post finds our graduates enjoying the sunshine and feeling a sense of accomplishment after enduring unexpected hardship. The entire South Anchorage faculty and staff are confident you will all make a difference in all of the communities of which you choose to become a part. You have been unexpectedly impacted, and are now prepared to make an impact, and shape the kind of world in which you want to live. Below is the long form graduation video as well as a link to the South Graduation Website.

Again, congratulations to the South Anchorage High School class of 2020!

Order of elements: Opening remarks, Valedictory Speech, Roll Call, Tassel Turn, Student Speaker, Staff Speaker, Choir Performance.

I also want to share the South graduation website. It includes the short and long form videos, as well as spotlights on some of the members of the graduating class of 2020. I also want to thank Ms. Frankenburger for her effort in shaping the website.


Lastly, I want to wish everyone a peaceful and restorative summer.

In the meantime, we’ll be planning to welcome back South students in the fall.

This Week at South Vol. 34

It’s Graduation Week:

I want to start by congratulating all of our South High School Class of 2020 Graduates! We’re not ending this year in a way any of us would have expected or wanted. I, like many of you, had envisioned participating in all of the spring events, and finally, in graduation. I won’t recreate what I think this means for your futures. However, I will include a brief quote and a small portion of my introductory remarks from the short form graduation video, which seem to capture the moment in which we are living.

Let your virtues expand to fill this sad situation;

Glory ascends the heights by a precipitous path.

The road to valor is built by adversity. 


Glory lies in taking your newfound strengths and using them to make a dent in the universe as you travel the path ahead. We’re all cheering you on. 

Congratulations to the South High School Class of 2020. I am proud to be your Principal, and wish each of you a healthy, happy, and productive future, and hope you will come back and visit us when it is possible.

Commemorative graduation box pick up. This week we will welcome Seniors and their families to graduation box pick up. Here are a few reminders about the pick up process:

  1. Please arrive at South in the front circle at your appointment time to pick up your graduation box, yard sign, and other items. We will have a table set up and items will be staged based on appointment times. All staff will be wearing PPE. All visitors are asked to wear a cloth mask when receiving their box.
  2. Once you have received your box, pull out of the front circle and into the lower lot where you will be directed toward E Hall. Our backdrop will be set up for pictures. Pictures should be taken with household members only to maintain social distance.
  3. After taking pictures, return to your vehicle and exit the lower lot in a counterclockwise fashion.
  4. Here is a a map, which summarizes the process above: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CXf4Q53eq1zRo8a-tQgLCowifYSuHqNd/view?usp=sharing

Graduation Media (Short Form, Senior Slide Show & Honor Graduates):

Short Form Graduation Video:

Class of 2020 Senior Slide Show:

Honor Graduates Recognition (Parts I-IV)

Part I: Introductory Comments, National Anthem, Seals of Biliteracy & Abdalla – Concepcion

Part II: Coomer to Kramer

Part III: Laganson to Riedman

Part IV: Robinson to Yarger & Closing Comments by Ms. Mounds-Craft

Finally, Thank You…

As a parting thought to this last newsletter, I want to say thank you to the South community, parents, teachers, students, and everyone else who has spent time making a positive impact on the lives and futures of our young people. This year started with a tidal wave of achievements, and is ending in uncertainty. Despite what fate has dealt us, I’m already looking forward to getting started next year.

For those of you continuing at South next year, keep an eye on this space for brief updates over the new few weeks, and This Week at South Volume 1.2 as we begin next school year.

Farewell, for now.

Have a great final week South!

This Week at South Vol. 33

Graduation Reminders:

We have 221 seniors who have booked an appointment to pick up their commemorative graduation box as of this writing. We have 261 primary enrolled seniors total who will be receiving a box. For the seniors who have not made an appointment, please do so as soon as possible with the link below. When making an appointment please include the student’s name so we can align their appointment with their box.


Box pick up will occur curbside in the front circle near the front entrance. The photo stations will be located in the lower lot near E Hall. Please see the following map for an overview of the process:


The Short Form Graduation Video containing a slide show of graduating seniors along with speeches will air beginning this Friday May 15th and continue through the weekend.

  1. First/Second showings: KTVA on May 15th at 6 pm with second run on May 18th at 5 am.
  2. Third showing: KYES on May 17th at 10:30 pm.
  3. iHeart Radio South High School Spotlight Day: May 27th,

Full schedule of all graduations here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_E1Qs_8SkApAJ1x0Lems6LVJj97rj0Ou/view

For a fuller explanation of the graduation process please see the previous newsletter post on this blog.

Semester Grade Reporting & Summer Learning Options

Students who have logged into each of their courses throughout fourth quarter and have completed assignments in each of their classes will be given either their semester two or third quarter grade, whichever is higher.

Students who have not logged into their courses and have not made progress will receive their semester grade.

Students who fail their second semester courses will automatically be recommended by their teachers for the summer extension, which will run from June 1st through the 26th. Parents will be contacted to confirm the student’s interest in making up their credit during the summer extension window.

Students who would like to replace a grade or make a first attempt at a course may do so free of charge on iSchool this summer, which will take place throughout June and part of July.

Football Boosters Offer

South High School’s football boosters have put up an online store to help raise money for the upcoming season. A South face mask is included if you’d like to show your South spirit while helping to protect yourself and others. Please use the link below to order:


Remaining Belongings and Underclassmen Yearbooks

If you did not get an opportunity to pick up your belongings last week, we will store them until next fall. All students’ belongings were bagged, labeled, and put back into their lockers. They will remain there and be waiting in the fall when students return.

Seniors who did not pick up their pre-ordered yearbooks will receive them when they pick up their graduation box. For underclassmen, we will hold onto those yearbooks until next fall, and distribute them then.

Parting Thought:

One of Ernest Shackleton’s leadership strengths was his ability to remain optimistic despite facing almost insurmountable obstacles. His balance of optimistic thinking while staying grounded in reality was one of the reasons he was able to return from the Antarctic with all of his men. Dennis Perkins, author of Leading at the Edge, analyzed how Shackleton was able to balance optimism with stark reality, and in doing so he claims:

The first step in cultivating optimism is to pay close attention to what you say to yourself. If you are aware of this inner dialogue, especially during times of adversity or setback, you will be conscious of the messages you are sending yourself about failure of success. The right messages are energizing.

Perkins, p. 48

One way Shackleton did this was by reciting parts of one of his favorite poems, Prospice, by Robert Browning. It reminded Shackleton that even when reality is grim, it is important to maintain hope. The poem reads, in part,

I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!

let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,

For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end.
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light,…

Although we are not on a 19th Century Antarctic expedition with our only ship trapped in pack ice, Browning’s ideas seem more applicable than ever. His lines about facing adversity until we see it dwindle, and persisting through hardship until it fades to peace and light are both good reminders that despite the current losses we feel, there is still hope to be found. One way to do that is to remember to capture the small moments of lightness each day and remember them when times get tough.

Have a great week South!

This Week at South Vol. 32

This Week is Belongings Pick Up:

Please see the two posts below for details on times, locations, and items, which will be available. Please bring items you need to return to the school. We will be collecting those curbside as we return your personal belongings. We will start Monday with E Hall, and conclude on Thursday with H Hall. Times are between 8 am and 2 pm. Yearbooks will be available to all students who ordered one at the main gym entrance.

  1. Full belongings pick up plan: https://dralmon.com/2020/04/27/student-belonging-pick-up-5-4-5-7/
  2. ROTC/Music, Theater, Art/Yearbook Details: https://dralmon.com/2020/05/01/friday-updates/

Graduation Box and Photo Details (Week of May 18th):

Throughout the week of May 18th, we will be inviting seniors to come to South to pick up their graduation boxes, yard signs, and an additional gifts. We encourage students to wear their caps and gowns. Below is a brief description of the process starting with scheduling an appointment:

Graduation Box Pick up and Booking:

*Please note: boxes will only be distributed to students who are Primary enrolled at South High School. Due to the number of boxes needed for graduations across the district, there are not enough supplies to hand out more than one box per graduate. Therefore, students and families are asked to pick up their graduation box from the school at which they are primary enrolled and from which they will receive their diploma. However, if you have a single-course enrollment or are part-time enrolled at South, you can still make an appointment at the link below and take pictures using our backdrops.

The Process:

  1. Use the following link to book a time to pick up your box: https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/SouthAnchorageHighSchool1@asdk12ak.onmicrosoft.com/bookings/
  2. Arrive and pull into the front circle to pick up your box and other items. Please wear a mask when you are interacting with the staffers who will be handing out boxes.
  3. After picking up your box, exit the front circle and enter the the student parking lot. Stay right toward E Hall. This is where the photo stations will be located. We will have staff along the curbside to welcome and direct you toward the photo station.
  4. When your car is first in line and when the photo station is free, exit your vehicle to take pictures at the photo backdrops. At this point it is fine to remove cloth masks.
  5. When finished taking photos, re-enter your car, pull forward and exit the student lot in a counter clockwise, one way fashion.
  6. A map reflecting all of the above directions is located here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CXf4Q53eq1zRo8a-tQgLCowifYSuHqNd/view?usp=sharing

Other Graduation Related Items:

Needed Information: If you have not done so already, please provide us with your Senior Slide Information for the long form graduation video by Wednesday May 6th, and your Senior Fun Day Shirt Size by Friday May 8th, .

Short Form Video & Radio: Please see the media and radio schedule for South’s Graduation Video and iHeart Radio’s South Recognition Day: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_E1Qs_8SkApAJ1x0Lems6LVJj97rj0Ou/view. The first viewing of our Graduation Video will be on May 15th at 6:00 pm on KTVA. This will include a brief message from me, the Valedictory Speech, as well as a speech by the Senior Class President. It will also include a slide show that displays all of our graduates.

Long Form Video: The long form video will be published on ASD’s Youtube Account after the school year has concluded. This video will include the short form video described above as well as a Student and Staff Speaker who were chosen by the Senior class, a musical performance, and a traditional roll call which each student’s information on a single slide. When I have a definitive date when this will be made available, I will promptly send it.

Friday Updates:

Student Belongings Pick-Up Updates for Next Week

Good afternoon. There have been a few additions to the belongings pick up scheduled for next Monday through Thursday, May 4th through 7th. We will still follow the hallway schedule and locations in my previous post, which you can review here: https://dralmon.com/2020/04/27/student-belonging-pick-up-5-4-5-7/

In addition to the details in that post, we will also have the following items available, at the following locations.

*Please come to pick up/return the items below on the same day on which you are scheduled to pick up your locker contents: (E Hall Monday, F Hall Tuesday, G Hall Wednesday, H Hall Thursday).

  1. JROTC will be collecting uniforms outside Lower B hall, curbside in the Staff Lot
  2. Theater/Music/Art will be distributing items outside Lower C hall, curbside in the Staff Lot
  3. Yearbooks all students who ordered a book earlier in the year can pick up their book outside of the main gym entrance, curbside in the bus lane.

Graduation Commemorative Box Pick Up Details & Media Schedule:

Monday, May 18th through Thursday, May 21st, we will be handing out the graduation commemorative boxes at South High School.

Monday’s newsletter will include specific directions, including how to sign up for a time slot to pick up your boxes, and how the process will work once you arrive. Stay tuned.

For now, here is the radio and TV schedule outlining when each ASD Class of 2020 will be recognized on iHeart Radio Stations as well as local TV Outlets. South’s short form video will air on KTVA on May 15th at 6 pm and repeat on May 18th at 5 am. It will also air on KYES on May 17th at 10:30 PM. Our Senior Spotlights on iHeart Radio Stations will air on May 27th. The stations included are at the bottom of the linked document.

Semester Grades & Summer Options for Learning:

This afternoon, Dr. Bishop shared information about how teachers will assign grades for the semester in high school courses, and what options students have for the summer extension and summer school based on their semester grades. The portion of her email that addressed this issue is quoted directly below:

Today, I have asked high school teachers to ensure that no student who continues to engage with his or her online work through the end of the year on May 21 will earn less than the grade he or she earned at the end of the third quarter. Students can still improve their overall semester grade, but they do not have to worry about their grade dropping below whatever mark they earned prior to spring break, provided they continue to be engaged in their online coursework through the end of the school year. I believe this is a fair way to recognize students’ on-going efforts, maintain academic standards in our high school courses, and acknowledge the challenging circumstances many students face with independent learning at home.  

Dr. Bishop’s Email from 5/1/20

There are four primary parts to this grading policy and summer school. They are as follows:

  1. If a student has logged into their classes weekly during fourth quarter and completed assignments, they will either be assigned their 3rd Quarter grade or their semester grade, whichever is higher.
  2. If a student had a passing grade at the end of 3rd Quarter and did not log into their online course or did not make progress after May 1st, they will be assigned their semester grade.
  3. Only students who receive Fs in their courses for the semester will be eligible for the summer extension. Teachers will be filling out forms to identify these students.
  4. Students who pass their semester courses, but wish to retake a course to improve their grade may do so this summer on iSchool at no cost.

Please see Dr. Bishop’s full email for more details.

Stay safe, have a good weekend, and keep an eye on this space for graduation box pick up plans on Monday.

Student Belonging Pick Up 5/4-5/7

Next Monday-Thursday, May 4th-7th, students are invited to pick up their belongings, including items located in hallway lockers, gym lockers, as well as musical instruments.  Please see the pick up process and locations by date below.  You will also have the opportunity to return textbooks, uniforms and library books. 

Pick Up Process:

  1. Enter the student parking lot and remain in your vehicles.  Security will be in the student parking lot to help guide traffic.  A staff member will come to your car (we will all be wearing face masks and gloves).
  2. Let the staff member know your student’s name, your student’s locker number, and where your items were located (hallway locker, gym locker, or musical instrument).
  3. If you shared a hallway locker with someone, the student who is assigned the locker will be the one we release the items to. You will need to coordinate with that person.
  4. The staff member will go retrieve your hallway locker items and bring them to you. 
  5. If you have library books, text books or uniforms, a staff member will have a cart and tubs labeled for you to place them into. The staff member will then take those into the building. 
  6. We will not be going to look for any items out of classrooms. If you need anything out of classrooms, that will have to happen next school year, once teachers return.

Pick Up Schedule & Times by Hallway Location:

Monday, 5/4 (E Hall) – Any Students who have a Student Locker in C, D, or E Hallway will pick up items outside E hall exterior doorway in the student lot from 8am – 2pm.

Tuesday, 5/5 (F Hall) – Any Students who have a Student Locker in F Hallway will pick up items outside F hall exterior doorway in the student lot from 8am – 2pm.

Wednesday, 5/6 (G Hall) – Any Students who have a Student Locker in G Hallway will pick up items outside G hall exterior doorway in the student lot from 8am – 2pm.

Thursday, 5/7 (H Hall) – Any Students who have a Student Locker in H Hallway will pick up items outside H hall exterior door way in the student lot from 8am – 2pm.

Fine Arts pick up and return will be located outside lower C hall entrance in the Staff Parking lot.  Anytime between 8am – 2pm, May 4th – May 7th.

P.E. item pick will be located through the back gym doors to the main gym in the Staff Parking lot.  Anytime between 8am – 2pm, May 4th – May 7th.  Please know the name of your student’s P.E. teacher and the class period they have P.E.

We look forward to seeing you next week.

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: https://www.asdk12.org/domain/4476. 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!

This Week at South Vol. 30

Parent CANVAS Observer Account Set Up:

We encourage all parents to set up a CANVAS observer account so they can help monitor their student’s progress. For instructions on how to do so, please visit the follow link: https://www.asdk12.org/domain/4476

Personal Belongings:

This week small teams of staff are working to clean out lockers, and gather students’ belongings to prepare for pick up. We will use this week and next week to collect and organize items as well as to plan the logistics for pick up. You can expect a detailed plan with much more information next week after we have had the opportunity to organize and prepare.

Additionally, when pick up occurs, we would also like to collect any textbooks or items that belong to the school. You can bring these items with you during your assigned window of time, and drop them off. Again, more details will be forthcoming next week once we have a more detailed plan in place.


Seniors and their parents can expect communication from the district-level about graduation in the next few days. What is certain is that all seniors will have until May 20th, the final day of school for all students, to complete their coursework and credits. The Superintendent’s brief message about graduation can be read at the following ASD Page: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/7988

Yearbooks are Sold Out!:

If you purchased a yearbook this year, please stay tuned for details in early May for how to receive your book.

Part II: The Ends and The Means

There are goals and ideal outcomes on which we all probably agree. We want to continue to learn, and to make sure we maintain overall health despite social distance. Furthermore, we hope to view this pandemic as a test and an opportunity, and one from which we will all emerge stronger, and with newfound knowledge and abilities. These are our ends.

However, the means by which we achieve those ends are different, and in some cases, changing on a daily basis as new challenges arise.

I ran across the following passage about Einstein’s work on the Theory of Relativity and it reminded me a lot of the circumstances we are currently facing. The idea that we need to be doggedly persistent and willing to change course to attain an agreed upon outcome seems to connect Einstein’s scientific pursuit and our own pursuit of learning and wellness:

He’d always chosen to pursue fundamental problems to which there were no clear answers. He was accustomed to changing course along the way in pursuit of those answers. But he didn’t change his essential goal. This mix of dogged persistence with respect to ends and openness to compromise with respect to the means is a large part of what helped Einstein arrive at the general theory of relativity. (p. 121)

from McChrystal (2018) Leaders: Myth and Reality

This short passage also prompts me to reflect on all the adaptation and learning both educators and families have had to undergo in the last month. I am grateful to be a part of a school-based team who on one hand has embraced the essential goal of learning, while on the other hand exploring new ways in which to teach and communicate.

Likewise, I appreciate our community’s patience as we discover novel means to attain our common ends. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty, I take solace in knowing that if we continue to work together, we’ll still go far. Which leads me to a final thought,

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.


I hope everyone is well.

Have a great week South!