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Principal's Message

Principal's Message -- August 2018

Dear Homestead,

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year!  I hope everyone is rested, relaxed and refreshed so that we can begin the year with our best foot forward.  One of the nice parts of having a break between school years, is that it allows everyone -- students, staff, administrators, and parents -- to reflect and adjust in regard to how to make this school year better than the previous one.  Over the summer, the Homestead Administrative Team of John Rodriguez, Denae Nurnberg, Steve Puccinelli, Lia Pinelli, Tricia Goulet, and I did a lot of reflection and planning for the 2018-2019 school year (Brian Dong was on paternity leave with the birth of his twin sons Conner and Tyler).

Looking at our core values was one of the important pieces of work that we undertook.  Reflecting back over the past several years, we were able to pinpoint several important pillars that support the work we do in trying to make Homestead a great place to learn and work.  These five pillars are as follows:  Collaboration, Equity, Wellness, Learning and Relationships.  These are listed in no particular order, but we realized that all of the work that we have done and all the changes we have made over the years are related to these five core values.  Since they are so important to us and to providing your students with a quality educational experience, I wanted to take some space here to talk about what these pillars are and some of the work that we have done, are doing or would like to do at Homestead.

Collaboration:  Six years ago during our last big WASC Accreditation visit, our staff reported their desire to use the Professional Learning Community model of collaboration to help improve the instructional program and increase student learning.  Starting immediately afterwards, we worked hard to get as many teachers as possible to be trained in this method and now have over 90 teachers, staff members and administrators who have gone through the Solution Tree conference.  Because we already have the built-in collaboration time (what we call Late Starts that were previously just on Mondays, but now have been expanded to two days with the new schedule to be held on Wednesdays and Fridays), we have the ability to meet often and work together to improve student learning.    On these collaborative days, our teachers meet in course-alike teams to discuss the following questions:  What do we want students to learn and be able to do?  How do we assess what they have learned?  What do we do when they get it?  And what do we do when they do not get it?  These questions fuel a continuous cycle of improvement so that we are constantly looking at what we do, how we do it, and if the students are learning it.  This means that all the teachers who teach a specific subject meet regularly to align their calendars, pacing guides, instructional strategies, assessments, and interventions or extensions to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum for ALL students.  This does not mean that each teacher will teach exactly the same thing on the same day in the same way, but it does mean that we expect teachers to provide a structured and similar approach to the curriculum, and that they work together to look at the available data to determine their understanding.  If they did not learn, then the teachers  will need to provide interventions until they do.  And conversely, if the students do understand it, then the teachers will provide extensions to the learning to keep them moving forward as well. 

 We value collaboration not only for ourselves but with and between our students, so we look for authentic opportunities to use this tool to help us hear from you.  This is why you we have so many opportunities available for parents including our Back to School Nights, PTSA Speaker series, and now the newly created Homestead Hacks.  Our hope is that these nights will help you “hack” your way into a better understanding of our school and how to support your students.  We will begin hosting monthly meetings at night that features a specific department that has both an educational component as well as networking opportunity for parents.  We are also undergoing professional development and training to help improve how we structure group work for students to include the idea of effective communication and collaboration between students.


Equity:  We have made equity an important focus on our campus these past few years, but not everyone understands why we need equity or why equity over equality.  The definition of equity in schools means getting the right resources to to the right students in order to allow ALL students to succeed at high levels.  Equity is the means towards achieving equality, but equality does not ensure equity.  In years past, schools have operated under the principle of giving each student or group of students the same, equal resources but when students come to us with different abilities and issues, we need the flexibility of using finances and resources in a way that improves the quality of education for each individual student so that everyone can get to an equal footing.  This is a very lofty goal, but one that I think Homestead High School is in a position to fulfill.

We have spent the past year looking at our practices and systems, talking with students, and having hard conversations among our staff about not only what we do well, but what we need to work on as a school so that each student gets what they need to be successful.  Looking at our data, we know that 85% of our students do really well but that about 15% of our students are not and are even falling farther behind.  This data spurred us to create our own Equity Task Force as well as to team with the district to bring in an outside expert like Dr. Pedro Noguera to help us take a deep look at our schools and create an action plan for improvement.  As a result, we are clarifying our goals and values as an institution and then implementing strategies to strengthen these goals and values.  We are looking at and working on how we structure group work in our classrooms, teaching students how to have civil discourse when it comes to the variety of topics covered in our classrooms and to the people on our campus, reaching out to underserved students while maintaining the quality educational standards that have served the majority of our students so well.
 

Wellness:  The emotional well-being of students has become a national priority and is something that Homestead has been focusing on for several years now.  We are fortunate to have a variety of resources located on our campus that deal directly with mental health such as our Student Advocates, School Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, and other trained staff members; yet, we have found that students and parents don’t know about these resources or how to access them.  This is why we have been working on ways to communicate to you so that you and your students can take advantage of this support.  The last couple of parent surveys have been very helpful in both getting your opinions but also understanding how to best get information to you.  

Two important aspects of this pillar of Wellness are the Suicide Prevention Training that will be made available to students, staff and parents this October as required by a newly passed law, as well as our new bell schedule.  This new schedule has been designed with student wellness at the forefront as it allows the option of a later start for students who wish to take it as those students won’t start school until 9am or later every day.  The new schedule also incorporates a slightly longer lunch and one longer passing period to help students and staff get a break during the often busy and hectic day.  Out of this work, we have also been looking at other sources of stress such as homework, classwork, and grading.  These types of changes will not happen overnight but we have already been and will continue to hold these discussions.
 

Learning:  The word “learning” was used several times in the paragraph above about Collaboration, and I would hope that all schools value learning as that is our main job -- to help students learn.  Our collaborative efforts include a lot of strategies to improve learning but we have been looking for a variety of ways to augment the learning in various other ways.  All of our teachers use tutorial as a time to meet one on one with students or by allowing for re-takes, and now several of our teams are providing more structured support during this time by offering to re-teach or even pre-teach important aspects of the curriculum.  They will invite those students who need this assistance and we have started to see some increases in learning through this tool.  We have also added support classes like Academic Foundations to help students who are struggling in school or with the structure of school.  This program is similar to the AVID program as it borrows some ideas of organization, time management and study skills but also allows students to get support from adults connected to the class.  We are also very proud of our Latino Mentors program, where we have paired students together to help coach and encourage better participation and performance from them.  Another important aspect of our Learning efforts comes from the work surrounding our Student Assistance Team (SAT) and Guidance Administrator Support System (GASS).  The GASS team pairs together an administrator with a Guidance Counselor to reach out to more students within the alpha breakdown in order to help guide students towards resources and to provide support.  The SAT team takes referrals from teachers, staff and parents for students who are struggling either academically or emotionally and works to provide supports and interventions for them.  On the other end of the learning spectrum, we provide a variety of opportunities outside of the classroom to encourage or extend learning.  From our amazing programs like Band, FBLA or Robotics (to name just a few of our over 70 clubs) where students are allowed opportunities to showcase their talents and to take leadership roles, to our advanced or rigorous courses such as Honors and Advanced Placement where our students are challenged to perform at the highest academic levels; we have a spot on campus where students will find a home and be given opportunities to excel.  


Relationships:   Over the past several years, we have seen data from our students that says they don’t feel connected to the adults or even the other students on campus, so we have looked to develop curriculum and lessons that centered on the five components of social-emotional learning of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.  We started a 9th grade Homeroom program where we paired 20 students with staff members and had them meet every Friday during tutorial.  While we made some successful strides, we found we could not sustain this model so opted for something different the following year.  Last year, we started 3rd Period Connections which was held once a month during tutorial with each student and their 3rd period teacher to cover many of the same topics from the previous year’s Homeroom program.  Again, we feel that there have been some important steps taken with these programs, we find ourselves going back to the drawing board and will be seeking strategies to implement these learnings more naturally within our courses so that the learning is more meaningful and relevant.  

We are also looking to build our relationships with parents as we have heard loud and clear that many of our parents would like to find authentic ways to participate in the school.  Traditionally, High School has not been a place where parents want to be or where students want their parents hanging around, but times do change and research shows that students do better when their parents are actively engaged in academics at home and at school.  This is why we have worked closely with our PTSA organization to help educate and advocate for parents with their speaker series.  Last year, the series hosted speakers on topics such as the college application process, how to stay safe at college, and cybersafety; and they are planning even more speakers for next year.  We will also be partnering with PTSA to host what we are calling Homestead “Hacks”, which will be monthly evening meetings that focus on a specific department with “hacks” or tips to help your student be successful as well as provide networking opportunities among parents.  We have also recruited a group of parents to participate in our WASC accreditation process by joining one of our five focus groups.  Their voices and opinions will be an important component of creating a strong action plan that will guide our school over the next six years until the next accreditation visit.

Finally, we will be piloting a Parent Resource Desk in our main office to be staffed by a parent volunteer for a few hours a week.  This parent has had two children go through Homestead so she has an extensive knowledge of how we work and will have a variety of resources and information to hand out to parents.  She will be located in the front office near the main desk on the library side.  If you are looking for other ways to get involved such as being a tutor, then she will also have information for you on how to sign up.

This month’s message has been considerably longer than previous ones, but I hope you were able to read all the way to here so that you have a better understanding of what we are trying to do at Homestead.  I look forward to sharing with you throughout the year how our efforts in Collaboration, Equity, Wellness, Learning and Relationships are progressing.  As always, please email me directly if you have any questions or comments at greg_giglio@fuhsd.org.
 

Best regards,

Greg Giglio, Principal

Principal's Message -- July 2018

Dear Homestead,

Happy summer! I hope that all of you are enjoying a bit of a break and recharging your batteries. Our school is officially closed after Friday, June 29th, and be open again the week ...more

Principal's Message -- June 2018

Dear Homestead,

Congratulations on another successful year, and on behalf of all the entire staff we wish you and your family a safe, restful and relaxing summer!

As we prepare to say goodbye to our ...more

May 2018 -- Principal’s Message

Dear Homestead,

Earlier in the year I sent an email to parents and students about our goal for developing Equity on our campus so that ALL students can find and achieve success, with the key word ...more

April 2018 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

We are down to the last two months of school, which means it is that time of the year when we start to get reflective on what has transpired at Homestead since August 2017 as well as ...more

March 2018 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

While school safety is currently a popular topic in the media and in conversations, Homestead and the Fremont Union High School District have always taken the subject seriously. We ...more

February 2018 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

As many of you are aware, our district has recently adopted and voted in two new schedules for our five high schools. There have been many questions raised, so I wanted to take a ...more

January 2018 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

Happy 2018! I hope that everyone had a restful, relaxing or exciting yet safe break. I truly enjoyed my time with friends and family, and I am very excited to be back with my ...more

November/ December 2017 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

I am very thankful for the amazingly supportive Homestead parent community and am always on the lookout for how we can better include our parents in our school improvement plans. We ...more

September 2017 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

Even though the school year has just begun, I wanted to use this space to talk about failure. The mere mention of the word usually makes people panic and begin to get anxious but ...more

June 2017 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead --

Happy Summer, and thank you for helping us make the 2016-2017 school year a successful one! On behalf of the entire Homestead staff, we would like to wish you all a wonderful and ...more

May 2017 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

In the month of May we celebrate Staff Appreciation Week. The term “Staff” is used to include both the Classified personnel such as office assistants, instructional assistants, ...more

April 2017 Principal's Message


Dear Homestead,

No matter what is happening in education or on school campuses, you will always hear the word “change.” Sometimes the change that happens is natural, such as when a senior class ...more

February 2017 Principal's Message

Dear Homestead --

Welcome to February, which means we are getting closer to course selection time. We put a lot of time and attention into the process in order to provide opportunities for all ...more

January 2017 Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

Happy 2017! I hope all of you had a restful break spent with friends and family, and that you are now ready to kick off second semester.

One thing that you might notice if you are on ...more

December 2016 Principal's Message

Happy Holidays from Homestead and congratulations on the approaching end of the first semester! As the 2016 year starts to wind down, we know that this can be an especially trying time for students ...more

Principal's Message November 2016

Dear Homestead Families and Visitors,

Welcome to November! October has flown past us and we are now looking at the second half of the first semester, which means we will soon be heading into winter ...more

Principal's Message October 2016

Dear Homestead Parents and Guardians,

As most of you are aware, during the Labor Day weekend students at both our school and Fremont High School received some disturbing and threatening messages on ...more

September 2016 Message

Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year! We are very excited to be kicking off our school year on August 15th and are looking forward to seeing all our new and returning students.

One of the most ...more

Summer 2016 Message

What are you doing for your summer vacation? If you are a Homestead teacher, then you are most likely going to be taking part in some form of professional development to help make the educational ...more

May 2016 Message

Dear Homestead Parents and Guardians,

I wanted to thank all of the parents who recently participated in the first FUHSD parent survey in February. Over 2,100 parents in the district responded; 466 of ...more