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Superintendent's Beginning of Spring Semester Message


Posted Date: 02/07/2021

Superintendent's Beginning of Spring Semester Message

As the proud Superintendent here at the North Valley Military Institute College Preparatory Academy, it is with mixed emotions that I welcome you all to the spring semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. As of today - February 4, we have struggled with the pandemic for 325 days – nearly a full year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for all of us. Instead of returning to physical classrooms, we continue to offer only virtual instruction, as we have done since the beginning of this crisis on March 16, 2020. I know full well that students, staff, and parents are all disappointed in the fact we are not yet able to return to in-person instruction on campus, but it is what most health experts tell us is in the best interests of students, staff, and families. As you all know, the situation in Los Angeles County deteriorated badly during the holidays, and while there is some slight improvement in the medical metrics, we are sadly far away from being at a point where secondary schools are likely to be permitted to resume normal operations. You have all probably heard that some elementary schools may be able to continue or startup operations again soon. Yesterday, the CDC and Governor both made announcements saying students should be able to return despite teachers and school staff not having been administered the vaccine. While that may well occur, I must be honest and tell you that I doubt grades 6-12 schools like NVMI will return to on-campus in-person instruction any time soon, and likely not for the remainder of this academic year. Certainly, I doubt “regular” full-class instruction will occur on campus this year. It is possible small cohorts of students will be permitted on campus, but that is also likely some time in the not-so-soon-future. I have no way of knowing when we will be able to return to face-to-face classes, but I can assure you of several things about that return:

1)      I will strictly follow the directives and advice of the Los Angeles County Department of Health regarding when it is safe to bring cadets back on campus.

2)      I will coordinate our plan for safe return with the Los Angeles County Department of Health to ensure it complies with best practices for the safety and well-being of everyone at NVMI.

3)      We will consult with all families, cadets, and staff as we are given an indication that a return to campus is probable.

4)      When a return to campus is permitted, it is important you all know that such a return will likely mean several differences in our operations. We may have to limit the number of students in each classroom. Teachers may have to rotate to classes rather than students moving about period after period. We will all wear masks, and whenever possible socially distance. There will be strict protocols for restroom use, cafeteria spaces, athletics, and every other aspect of our daily lives on campus. Ongoing COVID screening and testing and contact tracing is likely to be conducted on campus for all students and staff and visitors to/contractors on campus.

5)       Right now, it is my intention that the COVID vaccine will need to be available to all NVMI school staff. The current vaccine shortage makes that unlikely to happen anytime soon. While there remain many legal questions about requiring the vaccine of employees, I can assure you that until we are confident the school staff would be safe on campus, we cannot contemplate a return. While the latest news reports have said some medical experts believe a return is possible without staff being vaccinated, I am not yet convinced that is fully accurate, especially because we serve older students at NVMI. The science seems to show that younger children spread the virus less frequently and powerfully, but the science also seems to show that the virus behaviors with secondary students ages 12-18 are very different than elementary aged children.

6)        LAUSD has not yet communicated to me a solid plan to ensure the cleaning and disinfecting of all student and staff spaces on the schedule recommended by health professionals, and until that happens, we would not return. Because we are in a Proposition 39 co-location agreement with LAUSD, we could not return until the district allowed the VOCES students and staff on campus.

7)       While the vaccine has been determined safe for those 16 and older, the vaccine for younger children is only in testing and not yet approved for administration. Whether or not we require the vaccine of students remains a question whose answer includes legal, logistical, and ethical considerations.

I want to take the opportunity during this message to address some things about each of NVMI’s four pillars.

I begin with the most important –

ACADEMICS:

We will adhere to our traditional “A” bell schedule Mondays through Thursdays, and on all Fridays have a “C” schedule with 12:00 dismissal. One continuing exception is that period 1 will begin at 8:15 Mondays through Thursdays and 8:10 on Fridays.

Teachers are hard at work planning virtual lessons using their google classroom and google suite of tools, coupled with the Zoom conferencing platform. You should receive invitations to any  Spring Semester Google classes before Monday, February 8 (the first day of the Spring Semester). You received your academic schedules via email last night, and it is imperative that you check over your schedule and if you have any questions or concerns, immediately email your company academic counselor:

ALPHA – Mr. Vargas bvargas@novamil.org

BRAVO – CPT Theodore rtheodore@novamil.org

CHARLIE – Ms. Sanchez jsanchez@novamil.org

HQ/M – Ms. DeAvila vdeavila@novamil.org

As you begin your spring classes, here are suggestions to help you get off to a solid start:

·         Be sure you eat a nutritious breakfast each morning. It helps your brain and the rest of your body be ready for class.

·         Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. The more you sleep, the more you grow, the healthier you are, the more your brain can recharge, and the more ready you will be to learn.

·         Use your academic planner – the electronic one. Using a planner is known as an EXECUTIVE FUNCTION – something CEOs and other big-time leaders use as a powerful tool to stay organized, be productive, manage time, set goals, and meet deadlines. I implore every staff member to insist that students make use of their electronic planners in every class and activity they undertake. I implore every student to use the electronic planner IN EVERY CLASS and for every activity every day. And I implore parents to go over the planner with their kids every night.

·         Everyone begins the first day with straight As. Keep those grades by completing all your assigned classwork and homework and studying for quiz, tests, and exams.

·         If you are struggling with homework, come to before school homework help each morning from 7-8AM while we are in virtual instruction. Tutors are available to help you. Just log into the before school HW help google classroom, whose code you can find in our school newspaper that is taking the place of the Hawk Weekly. That newspaper is called the Hawks Cast News. As you hopefully know, a group of Hawks is called a Cast. Normally, a television station airs something called a Newscast. So NVMI has made a play on those words and calls our school newspaper the Hawks Cast News. This is available on the internet at www.hawkscastnews.org and will be updated regularly. All NVMI community members will get a Monday email reminding them to read the Hawk Cast News for the latest information in all four of NVMI’s pillars. A Spanish version is available at www.hawkscastnewsenespanol.org.

·         If you need help understanding any of your academic work, or need help completing an assignment or studying for a quiz, come to after school or Saturday help. The google classroom code for after school and Saturday help is also found at www.hawkscastnews.org.

·         If you failed any classes during your high school career and have not yet made them up, be sure you work with your academic counselor to remediate those classes as soon as possible.

·         Check your PowerSchool daily for your current grades and attendance. If you notice a missing assignment, communicate with your teacher to fix that problem. Parents are also encouraged to check their kids’ PowerSchool grades and attendance daily and communicate with teachers directly if you have any questions or concerns.

·         Your first progress report will be emailed on March 5, so do all the above to help you keep your current straight A grades.

·         If you have any technical difficulties with an NVMI Chromebook or hotspot, please email onlinehelp@novamil.org and one of our tech team members will get back to you as soon as possible. I recommend you put your phone number in the email so they can call you back and help resolve the problem over the phone.

LEADERSHIP: I encourage everyone in grades 7-12 to earn promotions up to the authorized rank for your grade level. Join the promotion google classroom to learn how you can earn promotions during this virtual time: wiriot6

We continue to do several things to promote company spirit and competition, including weekly honor unit points for the companies with:

o   The highest attendance rate from the previous week

o   The most merits earned in the previous week

o   The highest average score on the weekly LOC current events quiz (Be sure you have joined the Current Events google classroom at code: l7yjh4o)

o   The highest participation in academic support classes, including before school HW help, after school tutoring, and Saturday MASH

o   Winners of intramural competitions in both MS and HS

o   Fewest number of demerits earned

o   And more

·         Master Sergeant Carganilla and Airman Valladares continue to look for any interested new or returning students who would like to learn to play an instrument. The NVMI band will still have virtual rehearsals and individual lessons via Zoom so that as soon as we are safely able to do so, our incredible band can begin rehearsing and performing together in the community. If you are interested, please email Msgt Carganilla at gcarganilla@novamil.org.

·         All students who have not yet completed entrance camp are considered CANDIDATES and will participate in daily entrance camp after school with Air Force ROTC Cadet (and former NVMI Battalion Commander) Julian Robledo. Those candidates will work to learn what is expected of an NVMI cadet, strive to pass their five PTAs, Hawk Walk and Written Test, and earn status as pledges.

·         We will have a virtual formation at the end of school each Friday to make school wide announcements and to allow students to “ring their virtual company bells” in recognition of achievements in one or more of the four NVMI pillars. All students and staff will be sent a link to the formation by their TAC Team.

-                      We continue to plan for Summer Camp at Camp Pendleton June 17-26. This event will, of course, depend on the pandemic status, but I am trying to remain optimistic that the event will still proceed. Be saving your merits to pay for camp.

 

CITIZENSHIP:

As always, I remind everyone to strive to adhere to the three guiding principles I constantly espouse: DO THE RIGHT THING, TREAT OTHER PEOPLE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED and MAKE NVMI A BETTER PLACE. While virtual learning means we do not have the benefit of in-person interaction, that means we need to continue to emphasize the wonderful things our students do by awarding merits. All staff are encouraged to remain positive and use merits to recognize cadets and pledges and candidates who follow those three principles. Of course, we hope few students do anything to earn demerits, but if they do, while we are in virtual learning, students will work off one-point demerits by performing fifteen minutes of extra chores for their parents around the house, and parents will be asked to verify their child completed the necessary service time to erase earned one-point demerits. As always, if a student earns a demerit they believe was unjust, they can file a demerit appeal form, which this year will be available through a google form.

We realize that the pandemic has had a profound impact on our families, and we will provide several socioemotional supports for students and families. Specifically:

·         Most importantly, each class period we will provide activities for teachers and students to take care of their social and emotional health through structured experiences that help everyone take care of their socioemotional needs.

·         All students always have access to our amazing counseling staff.

·         The Cadet Activities Board will be planning a series of CHALLENGES, TASKS, and ACTIVITIES (CTAs) for all students. Information about these CTAs will be published in the Hawks Cast News.

A huge part of treating others the way you want to be treated connects with the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic deaths of so many black and brown people at the hands of the police. There are countless wonderful, caring, competent servants in our police forces. But there are also bad actors there. The deaths of George Floyd and tens of thousands of others over the decades have finally resulted in what I hope is systemic change to how we all treat each other. On December 14, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr said, “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” These two things – peace and justice - are inextricably linked. When we treat people the way we want to be treated, they feel loved and valued and appreciated and so do we when they reciprocate. When we treat people poorly for whatever reason, they are inclined to treat us poorly, and the vicious cycle perpetuates itself. The protests that have taken place since we last were in school have hopefully set into motion a sea of change rooted in both peace and justice. Protesting injustice as we have seen these past months shines a light on evil. There is evil in this world, and hatred, injustice, prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance are among the most heinous forms of evil.

Over the summer, NVMI formed a working group of students, parents, and staff to consider how we can make NVMI a better place by promoting respect, tolerance, understanding, and unity, how we can work together to fight against hatred, injustice, prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance --- all things that sadly exist here in our school, our city, our state, our nation, and our world. But I believe we can and will make NVMI a better place by enacting concrete steps to blot out these evils and help every member of the NVMI community feel loved and respected and valued. Parents and students - if you have not yet joined our working group to tackle these critical issues, please reach out to Mr. Shelton, chair of the working group at lshelton@novamil.org.

ATHLETICS:

One of the saddest things about this pandemic for me has been the inability of NVMI to offer interscholastic athletics. Right now, we remain in a state of postponement of our seasons. We are hopeful that it will be permissible and safe to do commence athletic practice and contests sometime in March. In the meantime, we encourage all our athletes and anyone who would like to play on one of our sports teams to STAY FIT. We all should be doing daily exercise, including at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic activities like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, skateboarding, etc. We should also be working on strength and endurance building as well as flexibility for arms, chests, shoulders, backs, abdominals, and legs. When the permission comes for us to commence interscholastic athletics, we will all want to be prepared to immediately step onto the field or track or court or course.

A huge part of that is eating right. Free meals will continue to be provided through our agreement with LAUSD. Here is a link to find the center nearest you: https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/16904. Please be sure you are all eating healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. It is not a lie that many people have gained 15, 20, 25, 30 or more pounds during the pandemic because they are eating a lot more and exercising less. We all know that the way to stay at or reach a healthy weight is to eat right and exercise regularly.

Our PE classes will be providing opportunities for students to stay active. I highly recommend everyone participate, especially since this is a big part of your PE grade.

Every academic class will also provide opportunities for at least five minutes of physical activity breaks to help make long days of learning on Zoom more palatable and impactful.

SOME FINAL WORDS:

I am truly sorry we are unable to have in person instruction, and I assure you that as soon as it is safe to do so, we will resume. But in the meantime, please be sure you stay healthy by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, wearing a face covering whenever interacting with people outside your home, social distancing, and treating everyone as though they might have COVID-19. That does not mean to distance yourself socially or emotionally. If you ever are feeling sad or lonely, need someone to talk to, have a problem you would like to discuss, just want to have an uplifting conversation with someone who cares, or have questions – know that the NVMI staff is here for you – EACH OF YOU. We are a call or email or text message away. As always, my phone is available to anyone who needs me at 323-217-4481. I can connect you with one of our incredible counselors or other staff members or services within our community.

Our school office will be open weekdays from 7:30 AM – 12:30 PM if you would like to stop by for help or information – wearing your mask of course.

I anxiously await our return to in person instruction, and I continue to wish that everyone in the NVMI family is safe and healthy.

Dr. Mark P. Ryan, Ph.D., Superintendent

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