2017

  • June

    The View From Here: Experiment, Assess, Reiterate

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    One of the things I miss most about being in the classroom every day is the ways in which the classroom is a perfect laboratory. You hypothesize about how your students learn best, you choose your content and your approaches, and you experiment. And you see almost immediately what works and what doesn’t. You see it on your student’s faces. You see it in the quality of the homework. And of course on tests and quizzes. And then you get to make changes, sometimes even within the same school day if you have another section of the same course. Teaching is a constant iterative process. And the feedback loop is short and quick.

    I find as Head of School that I’m planning and implementing programs, ideas, and approaches, and the feedback loop can be months or even years, depending on the nature of the project. One of the ways that we try to tighten up this feedback loop is asking for your input in our annual parent survey. I’m pleased that this year’s survey garnered the highest level of participation thus far.

    As soon as school lets out in June, I’ll be digging into the data, both quantitative and qualitiave, looking for themes and trends, both in areas you report we’re doing well and in areas where you may have let us know we need improvement.

    I will be following up with you about the insights gained and the actions we plan to take at Back to School Night on September 13 at 6 pm. Please do plan to attend.
    Read More
  • May

    The View From Here: Grandparent/Significant Elder Day

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    Every year we invite the grandparents and significant elders of our students to come spend a partial day on campus with us. They participate in activities or visit classes, have lunch with their grandchildren, and join us for community meeting.

    The relationship between grandparents (or grand-friends, as we heard many identify themselves) and grandkids is special Our families are diverse in so many ways--geographically, socio-economically, ethnically, and politically. But they have one thing clearly in common. They value education above all. Our students are at Sonoma Academy at least in part because their grandparents helped shape a commitment to learning and education.

    Grandparent/Significant Elder Day always feels especially sweet, an opportunity to witness the connections that span generations. Yesterday, we packed a full house, with our largest attendance of grandparents yet. Thanks to all the elders who came. It was an honor and a joy to share the day with you.

    Photo credits: Erin Wrightsman; Steven Gu '18 
    Read More
  • The View From Here: Big Night Out

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    I've got my date and I know what I'm going to wear. How about you?
     
    Did you see this wonderful little film made by parents Andrew Hathaway, Gayle Slade and a crew of others? Sonoma Academy parents are so creative, committed, and fun. That's what Big Night Out is all about. Fifteen years ago our first fundraising gala was in a parent's barn and I believe the extent of the auction was one large gift basket. The school has come a long way since then! One of the tensions we've tried to manage as we've grown is the appropriate balance between Big Night Out being a night to raise funds and BNO being a night to have a wonderful community party. We try to do it all in a way that serves the school and our students best.

    Below you will see a list of the many parents who have helped us this year, as well as links to buy tickets, to view the auction catalogs, a proxy bidding form if you can't make it, and more. If you've never been, please think about coming. It's fun, it's joyful, and anadults-only time to connect with the community. There are still a handful of tickets left, so we hope you'll snatch them up! We so look forward to kicking up our heels and celebrating our great school and community.
    Read More
  • March

    The View From Here: Grange & Studios Update

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School

    Some of you are no doubt wondering if the rain has delayed our project. Our contractors budgeted time for rain days; however, with this year's excessively rainy season (50+ inches and counting, compared to an average of 30 inches), we have fallen a little behind schedule. Fortunately, not all of the rain days have impacted the critical path to completion. We are behind by about six work days, though we hope to make those up sometime before the end of the summer. We've already made up three lost days by increasing crew sizes and adding a few hours of overtime. At this point, we are still on track to open the building in October.
     
    Currently, they are creating the deck and putting on the roof for the building. If we have a little more dry weather, they'll start pouring concrete for the first and second floors. Once the concrete is poured, they'll start framing interior walls and putting in window frames, and the building will really visibly take shape.
     
    We are beginning to feel the ways in which this new structure changes our experience of this space. Its angles point us to the horizon and frame the sunset. It reaches into the central plaza and we are already seeing how it will invite us in. And while the crews are busy building the structure, we are busy dreaming, planning, and preparing for the programming that will come alive inside the building.
    Read More
  • February

    The View From Here: Adulting?

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
     
    Last year, we launched a new Connections program for second semester seniors that was focused on the transition from high school to college, teenager to young adult. This year, the program has continued to be refined, including a new name! Called "Adulting 101," students are spending their Wednesday afternoons learning about and practicing many of the skills required of adults. 
     
    This week, Captain Doug Dougherty, from SSU's campus police force, came to talk to the students about issues they will probably face in college--avoiding sexual assault, addressing underage drinking, and common pitfalls that young adults can fall into. Captain Dougherty addressed student questions and concerns with humor, understanding, and sound advice. Students had submitted questions to Connections leaders Cassidy Brown, STEM teacher, and Michele Martin, TITLE, and they started out with those, but pretty soon they were asking impromptu questions and showing genuine interest. 
     
    In this picture, Joey Johnson '17 is gamely doing a role play with Captain Dougherty in order to show our students what to expect and how to respond in the case of a traffic stop. [Side note: Joey also co-starred with Claire Lampson '17 in the play Gruesome Playground Injuries directed by Perry Parsons '17. They and their crew, the cast and crew for Don't Eat the Blue Snow, an original work by Connor Devlin '17, and other theater students are off to the Lenaea Festival this weekend. Both plays were great!].
     
    All parents (and we faculty and administrators too) worry just a bit as we send our kids off into the next stage of their lives. Have we taught them everything? Are they well-prepared? Not just for their academic lives in college, but their burgeoning adult lives? As a school, there is only so much we can do, of course. This Adulting 101 course represents our ongoing commitment to make sure we're doing our part to ensure that they are as well-prepared as they can be. The rest is up to them. And, watching these young people engage in their lives here at school, that makes me feel very hopeful.
    Read More
  • The View From Here: Communicating Across Cultures

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
     
    The first view I saw on Monday morning was from the podium in the gym at PS. A sea of bright, excited faces—students happy to be back in school, happy to have returned from their Intersession adventures and be all together again. We're working on a photo album of Intersession photos to post on Facebook where you'll get a sense of how engaging these programs were in so many different ways for our students. Teachers return from Intersession with their own stories, of course, including running into two Sonoma Academy alumni at a tiny bodega on the isolated coast of Baja, Mexico; seeing the huge grin on a 9th grade boy's face as he caught an enormous fish during the Fly Fishing Intersession; being moved to tears by the impact of the assistive technology our students developed for the disabled students at Cook Middle School, and on and on. We'll send you the link to see and read more as soon as we have it ready.
     
    Good spirits and high energy continued through mid-week as we welcomed students from Shanghai Foreign Language Middle School, which you see in the photo above. Mandarin teacher Pam Vincent and her students organized a Sonoma Academy style Chinese New Year celebration with tea, calligraphy, badminton, and Go, to name a few. These young students from Shanghai blew us away at Community Meeting standing in front of the audience and introducing themselves in impeccable English. The students were confident, outgoing, and clearly delighted to be here. We are so glad to have had a strong connection with various communities in China since the very beginning of the school.
     
    As we close the week, today, Friday, we will have seen two student-produced plays; one entirely authored and scored by Connor Devlin '17 titled Don't Eat the Blue Snow, the other directed by Perry Parsons '17. To close on a theatrical note, you still have time to see Jen Coté in Stage Kiss at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. It's great fun and Jen is spectacular.
    Read More
  • January

    The View From Here: Traditions

    Janet Durgin, Head of School
    Every community has its traditions. They are things that occur year after year, giving the passing of a time a rhythm particular to that particular group. Your family has probably been enacting some of its winter and holiday traditions already, with many more to come. There is something about traditions that create a sense of continuity and cohesiveness. And our community is no different. We love our SA traditions... things that we have done or established over the years to mark the passage of the school year, to honor the ebbs and flows of our day-to-day life. One that I started some years ago (maybe I am regretting it just a little bit now) was the appearance of "Holiday Harriet" at our annual Holiday Assembly. We don't do a pagent or Winter Festival, but we do like to acknowledge the season and provide some light and levity to our students who have usually just completed their final exams for the first semester. This year, we did our holiday assembly a week early so as not to keep students late the day before Christmas Eve and, this year, the start of Hanukkah, and, while it didn't quite have the same feeling as years past, it was still festive and fun. My favorite part is figuring out how to surprise them with Harriet's arrival. This year, I dressed art teacher Hillary Younglove up with my jacket, glasses, and dog and then appeared from around the corner in the golf cart, tricked out with Christmas lights and the best helper in the world, Chris Ziemer. Harriet believes that all children should have sweet things and a new pair of socks at this time of year and Chris and I pelted the students with balled-up  socks and candy. Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Night!!
    Read More
< 2017

Blog Archive

2017

  • June

    The View From Here: Experiment, Assess, Reiterate

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    One of the things I miss most about being in the classroom every day is the ways in which the classroom is a perfect laboratory. You hypothesize about how your students learn best, you choose your content and your approaches, and you experiment. And you see almost immediately what works and what doesn’t. You see it on your student’s faces. You see it in the quality of the homework. And of course on tests and quizzes. And then you get to make changes, sometimes even within the same school day if you have another section of the same course. Teaching is a constant iterative process. And the feedback loop is short and quick.

    I find as Head of School that I’m planning and implementing programs, ideas, and approaches, and the feedback loop can be months or even years, depending on the nature of the project. One of the ways that we try to tighten up this feedback loop is asking for your input in our annual parent survey. I’m pleased that this year’s survey garnered the highest level of participation thus far.

    As soon as school lets out in June, I’ll be digging into the data, both quantitative and qualitiave, looking for themes and trends, both in areas you report we’re doing well and in areas where you may have let us know we need improvement.

    I will be following up with you about the insights gained and the actions we plan to take at Back to School Night on September 13 at 6 pm. Please do plan to attend.
    Read More
  • May

    The View From Here: Grandparent/Significant Elder Day

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    Every year we invite the grandparents and significant elders of our students to come spend a partial day on campus with us. They participate in activities or visit classes, have lunch with their grandchildren, and join us for community meeting.

    The relationship between grandparents (or grand-friends, as we heard many identify themselves) and grandkids is special Our families are diverse in so many ways--geographically, socio-economically, ethnically, and politically. But they have one thing clearly in common. They value education above all. Our students are at Sonoma Academy at least in part because their grandparents helped shape a commitment to learning and education.

    Grandparent/Significant Elder Day always feels especially sweet, an opportunity to witness the connections that span generations. Yesterday, we packed a full house, with our largest attendance of grandparents yet. Thanks to all the elders who came. It was an honor and a joy to share the day with you.

    Photo credits: Erin Wrightsman; Steven Gu '18 
    Read More
  • The View From Here: Big Night Out

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
    I've got my date and I know what I'm going to wear. How about you?
     
    Did you see this wonderful little film made by parents Andrew Hathaway, Gayle Slade and a crew of others? Sonoma Academy parents are so creative, committed, and fun. That's what Big Night Out is all about. Fifteen years ago our first fundraising gala was in a parent's barn and I believe the extent of the auction was one large gift basket. The school has come a long way since then! One of the tensions we've tried to manage as we've grown is the appropriate balance between Big Night Out being a night to raise funds and BNO being a night to have a wonderful community party. We try to do it all in a way that serves the school and our students best.

    Below you will see a list of the many parents who have helped us this year, as well as links to buy tickets, to view the auction catalogs, a proxy bidding form if you can't make it, and more. If you've never been, please think about coming. It's fun, it's joyful, and anadults-only time to connect with the community. There are still a handful of tickets left, so we hope you'll snatch them up! We so look forward to kicking up our heels and celebrating our great school and community.
    Read More
  • March

    The View From Here: Grange & Studios Update

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School

    Some of you are no doubt wondering if the rain has delayed our project. Our contractors budgeted time for rain days; however, with this year's excessively rainy season (50+ inches and counting, compared to an average of 30 inches), we have fallen a little behind schedule. Fortunately, not all of the rain days have impacted the critical path to completion. We are behind by about six work days, though we hope to make those up sometime before the end of the summer. We've already made up three lost days by increasing crew sizes and adding a few hours of overtime. At this point, we are still on track to open the building in October.
     
    Currently, they are creating the deck and putting on the roof for the building. If we have a little more dry weather, they'll start pouring concrete for the first and second floors. Once the concrete is poured, they'll start framing interior walls and putting in window frames, and the building will really visibly take shape.
     
    We are beginning to feel the ways in which this new structure changes our experience of this space. Its angles point us to the horizon and frame the sunset. It reaches into the central plaza and we are already seeing how it will invite us in. And while the crews are busy building the structure, we are busy dreaming, planning, and preparing for the programming that will come alive inside the building.
    Read More
  • February

    The View From Here: Adulting?

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
     
    Last year, we launched a new Connections program for second semester seniors that was focused on the transition from high school to college, teenager to young adult. This year, the program has continued to be refined, including a new name! Called "Adulting 101," students are spending their Wednesday afternoons learning about and practicing many of the skills required of adults. 
     
    This week, Captain Doug Dougherty, from SSU's campus police force, came to talk to the students about issues they will probably face in college--avoiding sexual assault, addressing underage drinking, and common pitfalls that young adults can fall into. Captain Dougherty addressed student questions and concerns with humor, understanding, and sound advice. Students had submitted questions to Connections leaders Cassidy Brown, STEM teacher, and Michele Martin, TITLE, and they started out with those, but pretty soon they were asking impromptu questions and showing genuine interest. 
     
    In this picture, Joey Johnson '17 is gamely doing a role play with Captain Dougherty in order to show our students what to expect and how to respond in the case of a traffic stop. [Side note: Joey also co-starred with Claire Lampson '17 in the play Gruesome Playground Injuries directed by Perry Parsons '17. They and their crew, the cast and crew for Don't Eat the Blue Snow, an original work by Connor Devlin '17, and other theater students are off to the Lenaea Festival this weekend. Both plays were great!].
     
    All parents (and we faculty and administrators too) worry just a bit as we send our kids off into the next stage of their lives. Have we taught them everything? Are they well-prepared? Not just for their academic lives in college, but their burgeoning adult lives? As a school, there is only so much we can do, of course. This Adulting 101 course represents our ongoing commitment to make sure we're doing our part to ensure that they are as well-prepared as they can be. The rest is up to them. And, watching these young people engage in their lives here at school, that makes me feel very hopeful.
    Read More
  • The View From Here: Communicating Across Cultures

    by Janet Durgin, Head of School
     
    The first view I saw on Monday morning was from the podium in the gym at PS. A sea of bright, excited faces—students happy to be back in school, happy to have returned from their Intersession adventures and be all together again. We're working on a photo album of Intersession photos to post on Facebook where you'll get a sense of how engaging these programs were in so many different ways for our students. Teachers return from Intersession with their own stories, of course, including running into two Sonoma Academy alumni at a tiny bodega on the isolated coast of Baja, Mexico; seeing the huge grin on a 9th grade boy's face as he caught an enormous fish during the Fly Fishing Intersession; being moved to tears by the impact of the assistive technology our students developed for the disabled students at Cook Middle School, and on and on. We'll send you the link to see and read more as soon as we have it ready.
     
    Good spirits and high energy continued through mid-week as we welcomed students from Shanghai Foreign Language Middle School, which you see in the photo above. Mandarin teacher Pam Vincent and her students organized a Sonoma Academy style Chinese New Year celebration with tea, calligraphy, badminton, and Go, to name a few. These young students from Shanghai blew us away at Community Meeting standing in front of the audience and introducing themselves in impeccable English. The students were confident, outgoing, and clearly delighted to be here. We are so glad to have had a strong connection with various communities in China since the very beginning of the school.
     
    As we close the week, today, Friday, we will have seen two student-produced plays; one entirely authored and scored by Connor Devlin '17 titled Don't Eat the Blue Snow, the other directed by Perry Parsons '17. To close on a theatrical note, you still have time to see Jen Coté in Stage Kiss at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. It's great fun and Jen is spectacular.
    Read More
  • January

    The View From Here: Traditions

    Janet Durgin, Head of School
    Every community has its traditions. They are things that occur year after year, giving the passing of a time a rhythm particular to that particular group. Your family has probably been enacting some of its winter and holiday traditions already, with many more to come. There is something about traditions that create a sense of continuity and cohesiveness. And our community is no different. We love our SA traditions... things that we have done or established over the years to mark the passage of the school year, to honor the ebbs and flows of our day-to-day life. One that I started some years ago (maybe I am regretting it just a little bit now) was the appearance of "Holiday Harriet" at our annual Holiday Assembly. We don't do a pagent or Winter Festival, but we do like to acknowledge the season and provide some light and levity to our students who have usually just completed their final exams for the first semester. This year, we did our holiday assembly a week early so as not to keep students late the day before Christmas Eve and, this year, the start of Hanukkah, and, while it didn't quite have the same feeling as years past, it was still festive and fun. My favorite part is figuring out how to surprise them with Harriet's arrival. This year, I dressed art teacher Hillary Younglove up with my jacket, glasses, and dog and then appeared from around the corner in the golf cart, tricked out with Christmas lights and the best helper in the world, Chris Ziemer. Harriet believes that all children should have sweet things and a new pair of socks at this time of year and Chris and I pelted the students with balled-up  socks and candy. Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Night!!
    Read More
< 2017

Sonoma Academy is...

The only independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On its beautiful 34-acre campus nestled at the base of picturesque Taylor Mountain in South Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a challenging environment that prepares them for college and life beyond.