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, 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.


That's So SA Blog

List of 4 news stories.

  • Healthy (Mediated) Relationships

    I’ve previously written in this newsletter about my evolving understanding of what I have come to call “Digital Wellbeing” and the ways we as a school can help students develop healthier relationships with technology. Last year, I presented a new framework for understanding digital wellbeing to the students in the class of 2025, as part of our Health and Wellness curriculum. In this model, five key aspects of digital wellbeing are framed as essential questions every person can ask themselves when engaging with technology, with the response to each question connected to, and rooted in, a sense of one’s own personal values. I called this framework “The Circles of Digital Wellbeing.”

    Earlier this fall, I had the honor to be invited back to Health & Wellness, under the stewardship of Health Educator Maggie Scott and School Counselor Caroline Adams, to do something I rarely get a chance to do: reconnect with the same group of students to dive deeper into this rich subject. This time, my conversation with the sophomores zoomed in on one of the Circles of Digital Wellbeing they first encountered as freshmen: Relationships. Over the course of one day, I joined each of the five Health & Wellness groups for their full, 65-minute class to wrestle with the essential question of the relationship circle: How can I nurture healthy relationships, regardless of the medium I use to connect with the people in my life? 

    I started out by sharing one of my core principles in approaching this work: my belief that all relationships are mediated (even in-person ones) and that the medium you use to connect with others has a profound impact on how those relationships develop over time. I got to geek out a bit on some of the thinkers who have shaped my understanding of this idea, including mid-century cultural critics Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan (of “the medium is the message” fame) and cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, who witnessed the profound impact the advent of literacy had on the people of Papua New Guinea during his time conducting fieldwork there. After this introduction and brief discussion, we watched Behind the Post, an excellent short film produced by One Love, an organization that works to foster healthy relationships and prevent abuse. In addition to dramatizing 10 warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, the film highlights the ways that social media, instant messaging and other technologies affect the actions and choices of the main characters. It’s an intense film but one that is rich with meaning. I saw something new every time I watched it.

    I was extremely impressed with the insightful and nuanced comments that the sophomores shared in our discussions after watching the film. Each class took the conversation in distinct directions, moving beyond the obvious to really dig into the subtle and complex ways that relationships can be both healthy and unhealthy at the same time. I heard the students express ambivalence about the role technology plays in their own lives, the way it both enhances and limits their ability to express themselves authentically. These conversations left me feeling hopeful that our students are thinking critically about social media and messaging apps, neither fully embracing nor reflexively rejecting them as tools for connecting with others.

    I am filled with gratitude for Maggie and Caroline for allowing me to join their classes and for the students themselves, who put so much into the discussions. As the world continues to wrestle with the long-term impacts of a global pandemic – physical, emotional, social, political and economic – it’s heartening to know that our students are thinking deeply about reconnection after being apart and seeking to forge healthy relationships (in any medium).

  • Spirit Week and Homecoming

    We’ve got spirit at SA! This was the week to show it, and many of our students and staffulty embraced the daily themes: Cozy Day, Anything but a Backpack Day, Class Colors, Dress Like Your Parent Day, and Flashback Friday. Carlos the Coyote was up to his sneaky tricks, hiding around campus and hoping to be found for Coyote Cup points. 

    At Wednesday’s Community Meeting, representatives of each class faced off in a Coyote Cup Challenge: competing in a game of Just Dance. The Seniors emerged victorious, holding tightly to their lead in the Coyote Cup race. 

    Today was the Flag Football Game, and it was a rousing competition on Ziemer Field. Again, the Class of 2023 triumphed (with a little help from their enthusiastic cheering section). The seniors are this year’s Coyote Cup powerhouse! 

    The grand finale to the week is tonight’s Homecoming Dance on the Commons Patio. It promises to be a fun and festive evening under the stars! 
  • Retreats Build Community

    Sending students on grade-level retreats has been a Sonoma Academy tradition for many years, and after two years of complications and delays (thanks, covid!), we have finally returned to a more familiar retreat routine! For the last three days, all of our students have had the opportunity to come together with their classmates on and off campus to connect, enjoy social time, and get ready for an exciting and fun school year. 

    Retreats offer students a celebration of life beyond the classroom—an opportunity to get to know one another, to laugh, to work cooperatively, and to play. These are invaluable bonding experiences that help create a cohesive and connected class, which​ accelerates the students' ability to thrive in the classroom. While on retreat, students engage in a variety of "outside the classroom" activities together—whether doing a ropes course, hiking, paddling, or just playing and lounging around. 

    One of the silver linings of the disruptions of the last two years is that we had the chance to refine and re-envision long-standing programs like retreats. This year, we are sending our ninth graders to take on a ropes course, followed by bonding time on campus; tenth graders will enjoy a day of picnic fun together in August and then have an overnight experience in the second semester; juniors will kayak and camp at Tomales Bay; and seniors will have a half day picnic today and then a rafting trip to the American River right before graduation in May. 

    Retreats often set the tone for the year, and for the class. They create opportunities to make new friendships and deepen existing ones, to practice taking risks, and to show up in different ways. We see—and the students see in themselves and each other—different strengths and abilities ​that are not always easily ​apparent in the classroom, ​giving​ us all a more well-rounded view of one another. Retreats are also important bonding times for students with teachers, who participate fully in the retreat activities.
    Most importantly, retreats are fun, and we think there's no better way to get the school year off to a great start. This year’s retreats were no exception, and we are looking forward to watching the students dig in to a new semester with deeper friendships, stronger confidence, and a can-do spirit. 

  • Día de los Muertos at Sonoma Academy

    Día de los Muertos is a Meso-American holiday that honors the lives of those who are no longer with us. It is celebrated on November 1 and 2, mainly in México, although countries like Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Guatemala and Spain celebrate it as well. In Mexico, people clean and decorate the cemeteries with great care and detail, adorning them with flowers, candles, food, and more. On November 1, they go to the cemeteries of their beloved ones with relatives, friends and neighbors. There, they spend the night sitting in vigil, while they share memories, food and music with their family and friends. This celebration intends to bring the community together, both the living and the departed. The celebration acknowledges that our ancestors and loved ones that departed this world still live within us, and they don’t really die as long as they are remembered.

    People in Mexico also build ofrendas at home. Here is the significance of the main objects placed in an ofrenda (shrine):
    • Water - Source of life. The souls of the dead are supposed to relieve their thirst after a long journey back from their short visit to their homes on Earth.
    • Salt - To purify their souls and bodies.
    • Candles - They mean "light," hope, and faith.
    • Cigarettes - Smoking was a very serious ritual and the smoke meant a connection between Earth and Sky.
    • Food and Belongings- All of the dishes of food, fruits, and drinks, as well as personal objects belonging to them, are placed at the ofrenda.
    • Photos - Photos give relevance and intensity to the remembrance of our dead.
    • Marigold Flowers (Cempasuchil)- These flowers are specially chosen to render honor to Death. The soul of our dead will leave happy because flowers will add happiness to their ofrendas.
    This week at Sonoma Academy, we created a few ofrendas to remember our deceased loved ones. Our students and staffulty brought photos of their relatives, friends and pets that had died. In class we shared memories about the ones whose lives we were honoring in the ofrendas, and we ate pan de muerto. Finally, we watched the movie Coco during lunch. ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!
2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770

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, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. The school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and tuition assistance programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.