Since the announcement of the location of Sequoyah’s new high school campus, more details about the campus and the school’s direction have come to light.
The Sequoyah High School will be located on the campus of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church at 301 N. Orange Grove Boulevard. The school will rent only part of the space, in some cases sharing rooms, storage, display space, and communal areas with the church. The campus site is directly adjacent to The Gamble House, one of the most iconic examples of Craftsman architecture, designed by the Pasadena firm, Greene and Greene, and built in 1908. The church’s administrative offices are themselves in a Greene and Greene house.
Sequoyah’s current Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Support, Marc Alongi will become Director of High School beginning this July 1st. Alongi comments that his partnership with Sequoyah’s director Josh Brody will “work very similarly to the way it works now.” Emily Singer, current lead teacher of third- and fourth-grade class The Treehouse, will be taking Alongi’s position as Director of Curriculum.
According to Brody, the physical campus is sufficient for the high school as is, without any modifications. Alongi added, “The site is ready to go. It’s currently a school, and there are a number of really beautiful classrooms, some of which have a view of the Rose Bowl.”
Specifically, there will be six classrooms that Sequoyah students will use, according to the Neighborhood Church’s Director of Administration Alyssa Bellew. The campus also features a meditation garden and shared spaces that can be used as an auditorium or for performing arts. Within a block of the campus is a path that leads down to playing fields, tennis courts, and the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. There is ample parking, some 80 spaces, according to Bellew. There is not a space on campus that can be used for a cafeteria, so Sequoyah is looking at alternatives, such as catering. In response to student interest, Alongi added, “We’re going to do everything we can to get lockers.”
Sequoyah has already developed program advisory teams for curriculum development for the new school. Alongi explained, “there is a math team, a science team, there’s a humanities team, there’s an arts team, there’s a social entrepreneurship team, and a couple people working on sports. I think what’s most exciting is when these teams are meeting and developing, it generates so much excitement and so many ideas about the possibilities of what we can do that will be really special that students wouldn’t necessarily be able to get elsewhere.”
Over the last two weeks, Sequoyah has held two information nights to inform parents and students about the planning. At these meetings, key people who are participating in the curricular design and decision-making process spoke about what their plans were and the purpose for them. The administration showed a brief video presentation at the beginning of the meeting that explained the Sequoyah High School’s core values and purpose. The school provided packets that included the Sequoyah mission and vision, the Sequoyah High School math program, a curriculum map, and a “one-sheet” detailing core values.
A few of the common themes in the curriculum of the high school are anti-bias learning and social entrepreneurship. Anti-bias curriculum is a curriculum designed to teach students about the dangers of prejudice or a single perspective, especially in issues of cultural, gender, or racial diversity. As for social entrepreneurship, Alongi commented, “There are a lot of different definitions for what social entrepreneurship is, but I think that at the core, it’s really just an attitude and the idea that all of us can be changemakers.”
After attending one of the information nights, Sarah Hughes, Junior High seventh grader commented, “I feel like coming to this helped me. It made me more excited about it, and just seeing more pictures of the campus looked really pretty. I like that, but I feel like my classmates should’ve come.” Her mother Anne Hughes, a Sequoyah alum, found the presentation similarly “impressive,” and added that the presentation had addressed some of the concerns she had about the plan. “The more information that we get,” she said, “the more we learn, the fewer sort of problems I might have.”
In particular, Anne Hughes noted that her concerns about college admissions were alleviated by the presentation. “Students going to a really unique high school, they’re going to stand out from the crowd because there are so many kids that are really smart and really talented and rack up all of these accolades, but doing something that’s really deep work is going to make them stand out,” she said. “So it’s like crossing that off the list in terms of concerns.”
Sequoyah students still seem to have a diversity of opinion regarding the Se- quoyah High School. Seventh-grader Noah Igler speculated that some students might be ready for a change when it comes time for high school. “Since they’ve been here for 8, 9, 10 years straight, they might be tired of some parts of Sequoyah,” he said. Akira Bua from the Over There argued that “the elementary school has a really good learning technique, so the high school is going to be just as good.” Champe Scoble, also in the Over There, worried that the loss of Marc Alongi to the high school might be a drawback for the K-8 program, but younger students seemed less concerned with the details. Pond kindergartner Madeline Fairey said, “I want to go to Sequoyah’s high school because I just like being at Sequoyah. It’s a fun place.”