About Luke Almon

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

March 25th PM Update

Live from the Den at 9 am

Join us for our Thursday live show at wolverineden.org at 9 am or archived at the same address, and on this website, after the show has concluded. We anticipate Mayor Berkowitz will be a guest on our show and we’d love to see as many teachers, students, and parents join us as possible. We will monitor and answer the most pressing questions and concerns shared at southvote.com.

Technology Needs:

Based on the guidance of State health officials, the district is currently developing a plan to provide technology to students that follows best practices to limit the spread of COVID-19. Currently, devices will be provided to those who need them to access distance learning on Monday, March 30th in time for our academic restart on Tuesday, March 31st.

Anticipating Instruction Next Week:

Beginning March 31st, students will formally begin instruction again. We would like everyone to know there will a large degree of flexibility as students access CANVAS for the first time, learn how best to interact on ZOOM, and visit with their teachers to plan how best to move forward and maximize their learning opportunities.

Building Access:

We realize students may have instruments and textbooks in our building. After we are able to meet the technology needs of our student to access their online courses, we will move to planning for getting students these items. Stay tuned for details on this plan next week. As always, access will largely depend on the advice of healthcare professionals and follow best practice is limiting the spread of COVID-19.

A Quick Word on Individual Leadership and its Impact:

This morning at our staff meeting we talked about how our staff’s collective actions are synonymous with our school’s culture. The same is true at all levels, including families, classrooms, workplaces, and even at the largest community level.

As a way to bring this idea in to focus, I shared the following quote from former Disney CEO Robert Iger’s book, The Ride of a Lifetime,

As a leader, your values–your sense of integrity and decency and honesty, the way you comport yourself in the world–are a stand in for the values of the company.

(Iger, p. 231).

We are living in a time when we all need to be leaders. Our collective actions as a South community will determine how well we navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead. As a school, we will do all we can to take care of ourselves and be tolerant so that we can take care of our students and give them the best chance to flourish under adverse circumstances. I invite all who are reading this to help us fulfill this goal.

March 24th PM Updates

Good afternoon South Students, Parents, and Community:

Little has changed since yesterday, but I do want to highlight some of the common questions and needs that have arisen in the past day. I’ll also share multiple informational sources at the end if you like to stay connected on social media.

Seniors & Graduation: While graduations will not take place at the Sullivan Arena, alternatives are being planned. There is every intention to recognize seniors and to honor a longstanding rite of passage. I’ll share details as soon as I have them.

Also, Seniors will be the emphasis as we enter a distance model on March 31st. The focus will be on graduation requirements. Seniors who are currently earning a D or F and considered in jeopardy of not graduating will be contacted soon to plan for completing requirements on time, and all seniors will be contacted eventually. Please be patient as our counseling team reaches out to have these conversations with students and parents.

A Word on CANVAS/ZOOM: The content that will be offered in the distance learning model is being loaded into CANVAS, and several teacher teams are working diligently to finalize the content that will be required in each course staring on the 31st. No work is required until the 31st, and no work will be assigned or graded until then. ZOOM sessions are continuing as teachers invite students to check in with them.

Students may be getting multiple invitations to attend ZOOM meetings. This week’s meetings are not required. Next week there will be a more structured schedule so students are not asked to be present for two ZOOM sessions at one time. The draft schedule makes time for tutoring in the morning and afternoon, and designates blocks on alternating days based on subject areas. This is a good practice week to make sure students can connect and the tools inside the platform can be tested.

Technology Needs: This is a quickly evolving issue and plan. For now, the handout day will be Monday, March 30th. We will receive our needs list soon, and begin to plan for distribution. Rest assured we have enough resources at the building level to meet the needs of our community. Stay tuned for specific process-oriented details.

Retrieving Personal Items: For now there is a blanket prohibition on entering school buildings to retrieve personal items. I am hopeful that when we have a specific plan for technology handout that we might be able to address the most urgent needs for belongings

Ways to Stay Connected & Informed:

  • Email/Text Message: I will be pushing out a link to this website via Blackboard for the foreseeable future. You can always visit anytime, and you can follow on Twitter (more on that below)
  • The Den is Live from wolverineden.org every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 am, will be archived, and I will post the videos on this site. This Thursday we expect Mayor Berkowitz as a guest, and today we hosted both Dr. Michael Johnson, Commissioner of Education, and Dr. Bishop (the video is below). You can submit your questions to southvote.com, and we will address these on air.
  • This website (dralmon.com): Since we have a quickly evolving situation, and email inboxes are already full, I would encourage everyone to check this website regularly or to subscribe to get the most up to date information. This layout lends itself to access on a computer or smartphone and will contain the most up-to-date information as I receive it. I can also entertain comments on each post and interact with you without further clogging email inboxes.
  • On Twitter: You can also check twitter.com/dr_almon or follow me @dr_almon for quick updates. All posts on this site also automatically post to Twitter as a link and will direct you to this site.

I will end this post with two quotes that inform how we look at the challenges we face and the kind of progress we might expect in the coming weeks and days. I shared the same with staff in our meeting this morning:

You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way

E.L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime

I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird

Both of these authors point to the need for us all to realize we’re facing a common and perplexing challenge, and in order to make our way through it, we will need to be willing to persist, practice gratitude, and keep our eyes on the immediate path ahead.

As Always: Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay South!

Live from The Den 3/24

Dr. Johnson, Alaska Commissioner of Education & Dr. Bishop, ASD Superintendent join us to give updates, we answer your questions, and share other announcements.

How to Access CANVAS courtesy of Bria!

Share your questions for the next show at southvote.com, and bookmark and access the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at wolverineden.org. I will also archive the shows on this site, and respond to comments on this post, if you have further questions. Keep an eye on the live chat next to the video to see others answer questions as we move through the show.

This Week at South Vol. 26

Good Afternoon South Students, Teachers, Staff, Parents, and Community Members:

This week teachers and school staff are completing the training and course development that will be necessary to move to an online learning model on March 31st . The two predominant platforms teachers will be using are CANVAS and ZOOM. More information will be coming to parent and student emails, and we will have information on how to access those platforms on our live show from The Den tomorrow at 9 am.

Join us live or visit the archive to view the show after it has aired at wolverineden.org. Feel free to submit questions for the show at southvote.com.

Also, as we move forward, and rely on more digital means to communicate, I have built a website, which will be used to post all updates to the community, and which also has all archived copies of This Week at South. Feel free to visit dralmon.com, and subscribe if you would like to get automatic updates.

Part I: The News

March 31st Will be First Day of Online Instruction:

Based on the Governor’s directive to close schools through Monday, March 30th, we will formally begin distance learning and assessment on Tuesday, March 31st. 

Grades will still be assigned in the current courses in which students are enrolled based on the current grade in Q, and the work that will begin on March 31st and continue through May. It will be important to access CANVAS next Tuesday, see what assignments are required for fourth quarter, and begin to consider how to pace assignment completion. Expect guidance from teachers when that process begins.

Need to Update Contact Information?:

If students and/or parents have an updated email or phone contact, please use the following form to submit the new information. As we receive updated contacts, they are being entered into Q so that all communication coming from the school will arrive at the correct addresses. Be advised: Yahoo accounts typically get stuck in the filter.

Technology Needs for Distance Learning:

Someone from South High School will reach out to those students/parents who indicated a technology need in the Needs Assessment Survey that was completed last week. A pick up time will be scheduled. I anticipate this process will start on Friday at the earliest. Stay tuned for more details.

Part II: Big Ideas & Their Application

On Building a Routine.

This morning was the first morning in 16 years that I did not leave my house for school. It was a distinct break in what has been a normal routine for me and it was odd. It seems eerie not to be in school during normal school hours; it feels like I’m missing something. This is the point at which I realized it is going to be important to develop a new routine during the day since I will be working primarily from home, and only visiting school when absolutely necessary.

So, I encourage you all, especially students, to challenge yourselves to develop a routine that you can repeat during the week that will allow you to stay productive. This will be even more important since you have far less structure put in place for you. No classrooms, no bells, no reminders of assignment due dates. With newfound autonomy comes more responsibility.

Here’s a quick observation on the power of routine from Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key, a book which relies on both ancient philosophy and modern exemplars to demonstrate the paradox that self-discipline is the key to freedom:

The truth is that a good routine is not only a source of great comfort and stability, it’s the platform from which stimulating and fulfilling work is possible…

The greats know that order is a prerequisite of excellence and that in an unpredictable world, good habits are a safe haven of certainty.

Holiday, (2019), p 200-201

Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay South!