That's So SA

That's So SA

Connected Community

Human beings learn best within the safety and support of authentic relationships, which is why we pay attention to the whole person.

This creates a warm, accepting school culture of connection that empowers our students to ask questions and try new things. Balancing social emotional development with academic rigor while also giving teens many opportunities to to stretch themselves supports their development of self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Giving students a full, well-rounded view of themselves through experimentation and exploration beyond the classroom—through social and class-building activities, and a robust co-curricular program—is the best way to develop confidence and competency.

Community Meeting

Each Wednesday after lunch, our entire school community joins together for the student-run Community Meeting. It’s the temporal center of our week, and it often feels like the emotional heart, as well. The air in the gym almost palpably hums with the power of 400 people in the thrall of a shared experience, feeling similar feelings, reflecting in different ways, creating a powerful bond.

Although each Community Meeting has its own flavor and spirit, there are certain things we can count on each time we gather. We always begin with either a Moment of Reflection or Gratitude—something offered up by anyone in the community who feels so moved. These are then followed by two to three Senior Speeches: a culminating speech (required to graduate) given by every senior. The suggested theme is broad and our students interpret it in any manner they wish. Speeches have taken the form of lists, an original song, a multi-media powerpoint presentation, and much more. 

After these, we are often treated to musical numbers, monologues and scenes, short stories and poems, presentations, and announcements. Every week is different and, except for the required senior speeches, participation is purely voluntary.

At nearly every meeting, we laugh, we cry, we listen, we give standing ovations, and we learn together. Most importantly, we share generously with one another: our thoughts and wisdom, our talent, our laughter and our smiles, our tears. We are all part of the whole.

At-A-Glance

That's So SA Blog

List of 4 news stories.

  • Attending the POCC

    This year was my first year attending NAIS’s POCC (People of Color Conference). I’ve worked in independent schools for about a decade, but the conference I’ve always focused on every fall was the NACAC Conference, (National Association of College and Admissions Counselors) which is expressly for college counselors. It always felt indulgent to, just a few weeks later, attend another conference, so I never prioritized POCC, putting my role as a college counselor for students above my own need for connection with other educators of color. This year, as SA’s first/ interim director of DEI, whatever blocks I had about attending in the past were at last outweighed by the fact that it is “part of my job.”Any excuses I had to avoid this conference, subconscious or not, were out the window. Better late than never. POCC will continue to be the four days I look forward to every fall for as long as I am able to attend. 

    In my career as an educator, I have always worked at predominantly white institutions. Most independent schools are. POCC stands as a unique gathering of educators of color in these institutions that by and large weren’t built for POC, but are trying to employ them and serve them. It was a virtual conference of course, a technological nightmare or masterpiece (you pick) of zoom meetings, event mobi interfaces, and meetings with up to 50+ break out rooms. The engagement and energy was palpable in the sessions I chose to attend, facilitated by other educators who could share some part of my experience in independent schools. A common theme was the “E(race)sure of the Asian or Multi-racial identity.” Yes! Finally a space where people say things like “I often feel my story/identity is irrelevant” or “I feel like I have to convince others that my experience is not just like a white person’s.” 

    In these sessions, even if the attendance was over 200 people, the zoom space was alive. People were nodding and shaking their heads, snapping, smiling, laughing, showing all the signs of support through the means they had-- a laptop. It was everything I love about zoom, instead of all the...other things about zoom that I’m sure we can all commiserate about. 

    Despite being in the confines of my youngest child’s room turned office, a profoundly moving moment surprised me when I attended the Asian Affinity Group on day one of the conference. I logged in a minute or two early and watched as the participant number grew and grew. It was an effort of speed and will, but I rapidly scrolled through the 14+ pages that populated with Asian faces, a few of whom I recognized. My chat started blowing up: “I see you Dot!” “What’s up, girl!!” “HEY DOTTTTTT!!” All the while the participant number climbed steadily towards 250. And then it hit me. I was shocked to notice tears rolling down my face. I had never been in a space, virtual or not, with this many Asian people in my life. I thought back to elementary school when I took a family trip to Korea. But this time was different, because all of these faces, they were actively choosing to be with me in this space for the purpose of affinity. I chatted my friend and told her I was crying and that I couldn’t believe myself. She chatted back: “me too.” 

    There is so much about being an Asian American woman in the context of my life that I don’t pay attention to, or that I take for granted, because it’s my life and I’m in it every day. When I drill down, my identity is quite specific: Asian American cisgender woman, a biological mother of two biracial children, and married to a white identifying cisgender man. What does it mean to raise my family and continue evolving as an individual, in Petaluma, California, a town that I have chosen, knowing that I will rarely bump into another Asian identifying person? Inside POCC these conversations and questions are the norm. The next day, I selected a micro-affinity space specifically for Asian educators who are raising biracial children. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was. Again. There were over 20 of us in that room. A conference of thousands became a small room of individuals with a very specific life experience that finally felt common. As an Asian American, it’s hard to know how much I can claim POC-ness in a world that continues to push us towards assimilation and ultimately erasure. These groups validate that I am not indeed, “practically white.” My experiences are real and shared. 

    POCC is educational. It’s inspirational. And it’s imperative that your colleagues, teachers, and childrens’ teachers who are in a striking minority on a daily basis, have four days where they can be seen and heard, be inspired to ask for more, and look around the room and actually see the reality that they are part of the global majority. 
     





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  • Random Acts of Kindness

    On Wednesday morning, just as administrative staff were finishing up their Zoom meeting, our staffulty members began to hear knocks on the door. On porches and doorsteps all over the North Bay, members of the Board of Trustees and the Advancement department hand-delivered gift bags of sanity-restoring essentials: coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, and baked goodies, as well as beautiful bouquets of flowers and a hand illustrated card. These treats came after an exceptionally challenging week, accompanied (appropriately enough!) by the return of clear, blue skies. 

    This thoughtful gesture from the board brought home--literally--our school’s commitment to kindness. When we are together on campus, that kindness shows up in a million little ways. We see it in the standing ovations our students give performers and speakers at Community Meeting and the snacks students bring to share in Advisory. We see it in the way students stop to pet their teachers’ dogs in between classes, in encouraging messages left on white boards in classrooms, in handmade gifts that students make in their art or studio classes. We show up for one another’s performances and panels; we share one another’s good news with enthusiasm and excitement. 

    Even though we are apart, our students, staffulty, and trustees are finding ways to spread cheer and buoy spirits. These small acts are manifestations of our supportive, connected community. Random acts of kindness don’t seem so random at all in the context of SA. If you haven’t done a little something to brighten a friend’s day lately, now is a great time to do it, whether you are a student, a parent, or a staff member. 

    Many thanks to the Board and the Advancement team for bringing smiles to our Wednesday! 
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  • Restorative Justice and Honor at SA

    The Honor Code, developed collaboratively by a team of students and staffulty in 2013-14, is at the heart of our school culture. Based on principles of respect, honesty, and personal responsibility, the Honor Code is more than a list of rules; it is a collection of vivid examples like “honor is saying your internet was broken only when your internet was actually broken” or “honor is a take-home physics test.” Implicit in our Honor Code is the expectation that we follow these rules as a way to take care of one another and maintain a connected community. 

    Of course, in any community, rules are going to get broken and mistakes are going to be made. With that in mind, our Honor Deans ( Dean of Student Life Darren Duarte, Humanities teacher Drew Gloger, and STEM teacher Cassidy Brown) have developed a new way to handle consequences when students break the Honor Code, based on Restorative Justice.

    Restorative justice practices put community and relationships at the center of disciplinary action. The core goal of a restorative justice process is to address the harm caused to relationships, and to move to mend those relationships in a way that is meaningful to the wronged parties and to the offender as well. After a successful restorative justice process, the community will be strengthened and all parties will be able to move forward in partnership together. 

    This year, disciplinary proceedings will combine restorative justice practices with a more traditional disciplinary approach, based on each individual situation. If it is appropriate, students will be asked to take part in a restorative justice conference with the wronged party/parties to problem solve and discuss how the rule-breaking event affected everyone involved. Advisors, teachers, students, and/or staff members might all be invited to a restorative conference depending on the nature of the infraction. When harm is done to the broader community, it may be appropriate to invite student Honor Representatives to the conference to represent their peers. All restorative conferences are confidential.

    In a restorative conference, those who have caused harm and affected parties are asked questions such as:
    From your perspective, what happened?
    What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
    Who do you think has been impacted by what you did? In what ways?
    How do you feel about your actions when you look back at the event now?
    What do you believe needs to happen now to make things right?

    Responses to these questions will guide the participants to a series of final agreements, which will be documented and approved by the Honor Deans and Dean of Student Life. In addition to this set of agreements, the Honor Deans and Dean of Student Life will decide if more formal disciplinary action is appropriate, depending on the infraction. 

    The theory behind restorative justice is that rule-breaking creates distance within communities, and that the best way to close those distances is to address the effects rule-breaking has on everyone involved. As a school that deeply values connected community and close, trusting relationships, it makes sense for us to adopt this approach. Mistakes are a part of growing up, and learning meaningful lessons from those mistakes is how we truly grow. As we bring restorative justice practices into our disciplinary procedures, our hope is that students will grow as community members and responsible individuals who understand how their actions affect others. 
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  • Exploring From Home

    We often say that "exploration makes explorers, and our Exploratory program is the curricular manifestation of that idea. In a typical school year, Exploratory is an ungraded elective course that meets twice a week. These classes create a space for students to discover new interests, take on leadership roles, and try novel things in a low-stakes environment. Exploratory has been the home of our Physical Education program, as well. 

    As we have had to pivot to a 100% virtual environment, we have found a way to keep the essence of the Exploratory  program while capitalizing on opportunities that only the pandemic could provide. This year, we are offering over 20 courses taught by members of the broader SA community: Intersession teachers, staff, SA alumni, and more. We hope that these courses will inspire students to continue developing the skills and habits learned in the designated Exploratory time period (Wednesdays from 10:00 - 11:00) outside of the Zoom world.
     
    9th and 10th grade students will still be required to participate in our PE program (unless they apply for an Independent Study PE waiver), while older students are encouraged to join them. Our PE courses will not only provide a workout, but the instructors will be sharing healthy habits with students and checking in with them about other ways to be active outside of the designated timeframe. We are offering a range of PE courses from high impact to low, High Intensity Interval Training to walking, and all fitness levels are invited! We will also be offering skills-based courses in each of our three typical fall season sports led by coaches: soccer, volleyball, and Cross Country. Students who want to be involved in those teams should take those courses.
     
    Students who choose not to participate in our PE program can choose from a variety of courses where they can develop skills and healthy habits, from knitting to meditation, short screenwriting to “Car Talk.” These courses are about showing up, trying something new, taking a risk, discovering a passion, or learning a new skill. Check out the descriptions and overview video! 
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2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770 
inbox@sonomaacademy.org
 

Sonoma Academy Is...

...the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.

Sonoma Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.