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Safety, football saga highlights of first term

By: Peter Efstathiu Principal, Placer High School
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I have to admit, I knew becoming principal of a high school would be a demanding job, but I never realized how exciting it would be. Sure, there are many evenings spent at sporting events, plays, and other student activities, and the amount of paperwork can be overwhelming, at times, but I would not change any of this in light of the new relationships I have made and the great people I work with “on the hill.” The best part of this job, however, is the students and the interactions that occur with them every day. So here we are, nearing the end of the first term and heading into the holidays. Much has happened. One of the biggest changes this year is the implementation of a new communication system called Connect Ed. Connect Ed is a Web-based program that allows the school to contact the parents of the entire student body (and/or teachers and administrators) over the telephone in a matter of minutes. It has been used to remind families of Back to School Night, Senior Pictures, and more recently, a lockdown drill that was held Nov. 19. By far the best feature of this system is that it can be used remotely as well. During Thanksgiving break, I was out of town and did not have access to the Internet. Yet, I was still able to send a telephone message to the entire student body letting them know that the Placer football team was back in the playoffs. Because the program has the ability to form groups within the calling system, a group can be created consisting of homes and businesses that surround the school, thereby enabling the school to contact them in regards to school activities that may affect them. Improving communication with the parents and the community has led to improved safety on the campus. For the first staff meeting of the year, Vice Principal Gary Pantaleoni put together a workshop centered on school safety. Representatives from Placer County Sheriff’s Office and the Auburn Police Department spoke with the staff on ways to create and maintain a safe campus for everyone. Chief of Police Valerie Harris was also a part of the presentation and spoke with the staff. School safety is a priority for everyone, and as long as people are willing to be alert and communicate, the school environment will be a safe one. Placer High School is unique in the fact that students are free to leave campus during lunch. However, even when students are off-campus during the school day, they are still under the auspices of the school, and are still obliged to follow school rules. Therefore, one safety goal this year is to have more contact with Downtown businesses and neighbors, to keep communication open, and to create a safe and beneficial environment for all. On nearly a daily basis, the two campus monitors supervise the streets surrounding the school and travel Downtown to “look in on” students during lunch. We have a full-time school resource officer from the Auburn Police Department; Officer Gary Hopping is on campus every day, and he also attends all home football and basketball games. Finally, concerning school safety, we have instituted a new policy where all teachers are required to sign up and share in the supervision of non-instructional duties, such as athletic events and drama/music productions. Our teachers actually enjoy these duties, because they know supporting students in their activities helps them in their classrooms. School spirit has been the best part of my life on campus. If you had the pleasure of attending any home football games, the rebirth of the Gold Mine (the student cheering section) has re-energized the school. The Student Government class, led by teacher/adviser Greg Robinson, put on a tremendous homecoming show, preceded by three days of student rallies that rocked the Earl Crabbe Gym. This spirit has grown stronger as the school year progressed. As many people know, the football team was told they had to forfeit three wins because of not filing paperwork on a foster student who transferred to Placer from Vallejo. In the end, a judge ruled that CIF bylaws violated state law — specifically, laws protecting foster children, and the football team went to the playoffs. Hillman fans turned out in huge numbers and were in full school spirit as our team won the first two rounds of the section playoffs. Although this win was a huge boost to our school spirit, it is important to remember why we were compelled to challenge the CIF ruling. One of our students summed up the issue best – “this isn’t about the playoffs or the wins, it’s about the kid (foster student).” When I came to Placer in August, I knew that the days would be long, but if we always kept our focus on doing what is best for students we would thrive. This will continue to be my focus as Placer begins a new term in January. I look forward to building new relationships and strengthening new ties to this great school and community. Thank you for your support of Placer High, its staff and students. It’s good to be a Hillman. Peter Efstathiu is the principal of Placer High School.