A Message from SPHS Principal Janet Anderson to Seniors

Following the physical closure of schools throughout the country, a sympathetic Janet Anderson, the principal at South Pasadena High School, corresponded with seniors at the school she oversees

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena High School Principal, Janet Anderson, at a Board of Education meeting

Dear SPHS Seniors:

Two and a half weeks ago, I felt the need to connect with you regarding our unusual circumstances and the significant impact (or, at that time, potential impact) on the last quarter of your high school experience. Honestly, two things held me back — one was that I truly feel your pain and loss and know that nothing I can say will address that as fully as I would want and, second, the fact that our advisories from the national news, the Center for Disease Control, the State government and the Los Angeles County Office of Education have been ever-changing and, at SPUSD, we didn’t want to get ahead of the advisories to which we’re held accountable and then have to deliver contradicting messages to you.

Having said that, it was clear from the start that there would be major changes to what you imagined for the end of your high school careers.  We just didn’t know how far-reaching those changes might be.  Even in our last week of traditional school, (Activities Director) Mr. Shotwell and I were trying to brainstorm what we might do about the SPEX assembly that was scheduled for our last day together.  I was excited that my Principal’s Award plaques were delivered on time and that we could celebrate all of the wonderful and varied accomplishments of our students.  Well, we saw how that went.  Still, we’re trying to figure out how to make that South Pasadena Excellence event happen, even if it is a virtual event.

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All along, Mr. Shotwell, Mr. Jontz (Senior Class Advisor), the Commission, your Senior Class officers, and I have been trying to figure out contingency plans based upon different scenarios about what might happen as this dreaded and hateful Coronavirus set the stage for what might be in our future. Well, as of yesterday, we do know now, for certain, that we will not resume traditional on-campus schooling as we knew it as recently as March 13.  For you, our seniors, that means that you will not spend your last days physically together at school bonding and building excitement toward our spring athletic season, Prom, Senior Awards Ceremony, COPA distribution, Baccalaureate and, of course, graduation, along with the many other events that are key to the rite of passage that is culminated by graduation and grad night. This makes my heart ache for you.

You do need to know that we have not given up. All along, we have been looking at possibilities for ways to help you maintain some semblance of senior year pride and celebration.  To that end, we will need your input about the most important aspects of senior year culminating activities.  Because we don’t know how long the social distancing and stay at home orders will be in place, we want to look at ways to replicate or reinstate some of our traditional ceremonies, and we also need to look at possible new and innovative ways of helping you celebrate and get the attention and recognition you deserve for your accomplishments.  I’m sure that many of you have come up with options based upon what our virus situation might be as we get nearer to June.  Your student leaders and we are pulling together a survey to get your input.

I don’t have answers to all of your questions yet. They are our questions, too, as we work our way through the complexities of this unprecedented situation. I will tell you that we have preliminary answers to some and that all of our decisions are based upon what is most supportive for students. Please stay connected with your teachers and your schoolwork that begins on Monday, April 6. Whether we give grades or pass/fail or a combination, we will soon be able to share a plan with you. I believe that your continued communication with your classmates and teachers, as well as your attention to your learning, are important parts of weathering this storm and maintaining a positive mental outlook.

Are you experiencing a rotten end to the school year? Yes, in many ways, you are and more than any other class. I encourage you to talk about your feelings on that topic. You are dealing with losses of experiences that are momentous. Grieve, mourn, cry, bolster one another up at tough times, but then… put it in perspective when you are able. I want to share a personal philosophy of mine that I hope will help — I rail against the “victim mentality.” Let me explain. You are victims of circumstance, for sure.  The circumstances are not good. Yes, you are victims of something beyond your control.  What IS in your control, I have learned over the years, is what happens when you eventually step out of the victim role (after your well-deserved period of mourning or anger) and determine that it is what you do next that will really define you. Your experience during this difficult time will be part of your history, but it doesn’t have to be the baggage you carry into your next endeavors.  I respect you so much and know that you each have the resilience to feel your authentic feelings but not become defined by the current situation.

We will get through this together, and we will find ways to honor your efforts, contributions and strength as the SPHS Class of 2020! Please take good care of yourselves and your friends and families. Your health and safety are key!

You will receive more communications on these topics, so please continue to check your student email.

With much love,

Ms. Anderson