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Principal Fletcher Response to Upcoming Protest


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We are reprinting Mr. Fletcher’s letters to PCS, along with a Q and A done by one of our reporters.
Dear PCS,
Our family gathered the other night, as I am sure many of you did, to watch President Obama’s farewell speech to the nation.  Beyond the reminder of how inspirational Barack Obama is as a speaker, his speech was also a clear reminder to me about why what we do at PCS is so important.  The main theme of the President’s speech was the critical role all citizens play in the strength of our democracy.  Through our mission of preparing students to thrive at the world’s finest colleges and universities, what we ultimately strive to do is to prepare students to be citizens who are engaged in the democratic process.  I firmly believe that this is an area in which PCS particularly shines.
There is no question that PCS stands out in terms of our rigorous curriculum.  No other open enrollment, public school expects all students to master Advanced Placement classes in History, English, and Biology.  PCS also stands out in other ways – offering a wide variety of World Language and Visual and Performing Arts classes, small class sizes, robust student support, and individual college counseling.  These are all things that are rare among public schools.  But what really stands out for me personally is that this school is committed to teaching students the skills that are needed in the future leaders of our democracy.  One of the reasons why students feel so engaged and challenged at PCS is because they are expected, on a daily basis, to practice genuine learning.  In addition understanding the factual underpinnings of their subjects, students are also collaborating and communicating as they seek to gain a much deeper understanding of the world.
As adults, we know the world is a messy and complicated place.  We hope all of our leaders have the best interest of humanity in mind, and still there will be no clear agreement on the best way to proceed.  What I hope for my children, and all of our children, is that they can take in a presidential speech, an internet news article, a conversation with someone of a different opinion, a scientific study – and form an opinion based on their factual understanding and analytical skills that they have learned at PCS.  I hope our children are willing and able to approach every situation with an open mind and the ability to intelligently and compassionately debate the issue.  Ultimately, I hope that they see their time at PCS, college, and career not as a stepping stone to a successful life, but as a place to learn how to be a meaningful contributor in an increasingly toxic world.  In his speech, President Obama signaled a clear call to action from all of us.  I am heartened to know that PCS is preparing students to answer this call.
Regards,
Simon Fletcher

Parents,
You may be aware that there are protests planned in Santa Cruz to coincide with the Inauguration of our new President next Friday, January 20th.  I am aware that some students, and perhaps some of you, are planning to participate in these events.  As I wrote in my letter this week, the strength of PCS is in teaching kids to think critically and to be engaged in their local and global communities.  The fact that PCS students are keen to make a difference in this politically volatile time should come as no surprise – in fact, it is something that I am very proud of.
While I am completely in support of people’s right to free speech, I am writing to clarify Pacific Collegiate School’s non-affiliation with these events. The school cannot be directly responsible for supervising students in an event that is so politically one-sided.  We also have no interest in standing in their way as they implement the skills that we have helped them develop.  I feel compelled to write this letter, not to express my personal opinion about the issues, but to make sure that you understand that PCS in no way takes responsibility for students who choose to take part in the protests.  A few points that are important to consider:
  • As always, school attendance is an essential component of student learning.  Students who miss school that day, as with any day, should make plans for catching up on missed material.
  • Some of our school staff may choose to take this day off in observance of these protests, which they have every right to do.  I have made it clear to them, as I am doing here, that if they participate in the protests it is as an individual citizen and not in a student supervisory role.  This is important to know, because if your child is telling you that their teacher will be escorting them to the protest, this is definitely not the case.
  • If your child attends a partial day of school, the school receives funding credit equivalent to a full day attendance.
  • If your child will not be at school for all or part of the day, please follow normal attendance procedures in communicating the absence with Janelle Christensen.  Absences that aren’t excused by parents, as always, will be treated as truancy.
Finally, at the risk of giving unwanted parenting advice, if your child does plan on attending the protests, I would strongly consider accompanying them to this event or coordinating with another parent who is planning on attending to ensure that your student is supervised.  I have no reason to believe these protests will be anything other than peaceful, but if a location were to become unsafe, I believe it would be wise to have an adult in attendance who can guide your child away from any disturbance.
Regards,
Simon Fletcher

FLETCHER Q&A ON THE WALKOUT

 

Many PCS students will participate in a planned walkout this Friday, 1-20, to protest President Elect Donald Trump’s policies on the day of his inauguration. In concert and solidarity with students at schools and college campuses across the country, participating PCS students will walk out of their classes at 10:30 a.m. and march to downtown Santa Cruz to participate in a day of protest activities organized by Santa Cruz activist community. Students from UC Santa Cruz, as well as local high schools like Santa Cruz High and Harbor High, will be converging downtown at noon. ROAR reporter Jack Peters interviewed Principal Simon Fletcher about this event.

 

ROAR: Do you think that the PCS walkout is a good way to protest against Trump’s policies? If not, what would be a better way? If you think it is a good idea, do you still think there is a better idea?

Fletcher:  I would rather not make a judgment about whether the walkout is or isn’t a good idea. People need to feel free to express their political views, as they want to–that is an important part of our democracy. As a public school, we can’t endorse one political view over another, so these are individual citizens expressing their political views.

 

ROAR: To do the walkout, is there a necessary permission slip as there was to go to the talent show last year?  If so, where should the students get it?  How about 8th and 7th graders who don’t have off campus privileges?

Fletcher: PCS has no affiliation with the walkout. The only way students are allowed to participate in the walkout is if their parents excuse them from school.

 

ROAR: Are you going to participate in the walkout?

Fletcher: I will not be participating in the walkout.  As principal of the school, my responsibility is the safety and supervision of students on campus or on school-sponsored field trips.

 

ROAR: Do you think this could be an educational experience? If so, how so?

Fletcher: I imagine for students attending it will be an incredible learning experience. I would just recommend that students do this with their parents, as demonstrations sometimes can get out of hand.

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Principal Fletcher Response to Upcoming Protest