San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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The King's Page

The Senior Guide Killjoy

Assistant Principal Dr. Alvarez sent 19% of the senior class into panic at 12:20 pm on Thursday, April 14 with a concerning StudentSquare message. 

These 90 seniors were told that solely because their parents and themselves had not completed and submitted the online Senior Guide by the extended deadline, April 13, they would not be able to buy a prom ticket and that “future participation in senior activities is also on hold.” The seniors were told the deadline would not be extended to permit late signatures — which was albeit retracted in an email sent at 12:22 pm on Friday, April 15, saying those students would have one last chance to sign the agreement on Monday, April 18 in the library during royal time. 

Commenting on 19% of the Class of 2022 not filling out the form on time, Dr. Alvarez said, “Actually, I think 19% is really successful. Particularly, at a high school, there’s always going to be a percentage of students who miss the messaging, who forget, who had tech issues. There’s always going to be those percentages.”

Still, this ordeal and school administration’s handling of it placed unwarranted blame on the 90 students and caused unnecessary stress for these students and their families. 

The StudentSquare Messages About The Senior Guide

Image courtesy of Nit Rajappa
SM Seniors buying prom tickets

The seniors present on campus on March 9 first heard about the Senior Guide during the assembly in the auditorium that day as school administrators simultaneously explained it verbally and sent it out via StudentSquare. 

Nowhere in the body of that first StudentSquare message can the deadline for signing be found without clicking embedded links, and the subject of the email – what students and parents would see before opening it – has no mention of a requirement to sign any form.

“I think the best thing we can do in any of these types of scenarios is be consistent. So, we met on March 9th. There’s been 12 messages between March 9th and April 13th, including an extended deadline,” Dr. Alvarez said, regarding administration’s handling of communicating the Senior Guide requirement.

However, only seven follow-up messages sent via StudentSquare regarding the requirement to agree to and sign the Senior Guide form were found in the inbox of the author of this article. None of them stated that both students and parents each had to sign the form. 

The Valid Reasons Behind Why Some of The 90 Missed The Deadline

Based on the verbiage of the emails, it is understandable if many students thought it was an either/or situation. However, both parties agreeing to that document was the requirement put in place by the school administration— which was finally made clear to us on April 14. Before April 14, the only other time students were told in writing that two submissions (one from themselves and one from their parent/guardian) of the agreement was required was through the document “Senior Events,” found by clicking the second link in the March 9 StudentSquare message.

“Seniors should have the right to go to prom and it shouldn’t be determined over whether they signed a form that wasn’t clearly explained,” one of the 90 seniors said. They asked to remain anonymous. Believing they had done everything right, this senior sat down with one of their parents to submit the agreement to the Senior Guide — but only from their parent’s account because neither they nor their parent were aware that two submissions of the agreement were required. 

“My mom signed it, but I didn’t sign it because I didn’t know it needed to be, like, signed by both people,” Lucas Mazurkiewicz said as well, calling it a “stressful situation.” Micah Martin and another one of the 90 students, who requested anonymity, also fell into this issue because they did not sign the agreement even though their mothers did. 

Likewise, Sydney Walker shared, “To me, it felt like they [administration] were kind of punishing us because for me, my mom signed it right after the meeting in March. I didn’t know I had to sign it because they’re sending us like 10,000 emails. […] I think most of the seniors could agree that we’re always bombarded with emails, and we don’t know what to do [because of that].” 

“My parents didn’t know,” Acsa Avila shared, representing another experience of the 90-student collective. While she submitted the agreement to the Senior Guide from her account, her parents did not. She did not know what she should do or what would happen next prior to the April 15 email; the 90 students and their families were left confused, upset, and stressed for 24 hours. 

Another prominent reason for students missing the April 13 deadline was issues with technology.

Zephan Bornfreund said, “I tried to get to StudentSquare to sign the form, but my StudentSquare was broken so I had to contact Tech Support to get it fixed. And they managed to fix it, but they fixed it the day after the form closed.” Even though he did not fill out the form, his parents did.

“I couldn’t even find the form, like, I don’t use StudentSquare. They should’ve put it in NEO or had us do it in-person on paper,” Walker added.

“We [administration] can always do better,” Dr. Alvarez admitted. “Some of the great conversations I’ve had with students since last Wednesday when the extended deadline closed is them telling me, like, ‘This is how I’ve managed to get to this point without ever checking my email,’ and some cases, I had two students yesterday say, ‘Yeah, I’ve never checked my email.’ We’ll keep getting better. Unfortunately, right now, ParentSquare and StudentSquare is [sic] the most efficient. That may not always be the case, and whatever that is, we will continue to use ways that are more efficient.”

The Follow-Up Reaching-Out (Or Lack Thereof…?) And Its Failure

In the email sent on April 14 about the “Missed deadline!,” Dr. Alvarez said that in addition to her and Mr. Solis’s StudentSquare messages, the requirement to sign the Senior Guide was mentioned in the daily announcements. However, if you pulled up the SMHS Bulletin (from which daily announcements are read off of) the weekend of April 16, you would not have found anything about the Senior Guide under “Previous Announcements” where it should have been if it had been announced daily. The social media reminder mentioned in Dr. Alvarez’s email was individual students taking it upon themselves to post on their Instagram stories to remind their classmates and friends instead of posts made by any of the Instagram accounts associated with SMHS leadership — the latter were not made. 

Dr. Alvarez said, “These are all the places that we put the information, these are the teachers we sent the information to; how can we make this better? What happened so that you, person who’s talking to me right now, didn’t get the message? How was it that you haven’t checked your student email in [the] four years you’ve been at San Marcos or less, depending on who it is, right? How is it that you haven’t signed onto StudentSquare ever in four years and have missed all these other things? 

“We should be able to expect students to meet us at a minimum of something whether that is checking your emails, or if email is not your thing, phone a friend. However you need to do that at a bare minimum, we should be able to expect that 12 messages, stuff on Royal Report, stuff on social media, it’s got to hit somewhere for everybody. Students have to decide to do the project to get the grade. Students have to decide to follow the messages, go onto NEO, go onto Google Classroom, to do the stuff. This is no different. I think we’re all being reminded now what it means to be asked to meet us at that bare minimum.”

Alternatively, Martin, one of the 90 students, said, “I do remember them talking about the Senior Guide in the auditorium when we all had that senior meeting, but that was back in March. I did see a couple of emails about it, but every time I opened the email, there was [sic] no links leading me to it. I tend not to use StudentSquare too much because it’s too hard for me to navigate, and by the actual deadline of it, I didn’t see until [the Senior Guide was mentioned on] all my friends’ stories, and it was, like, 12:53. I had tried to go to the form to see if it was open a couple minutes late so I could fill it out. And I emailed Dr. Alvarez the day after seeing if there was any possibility of fixing it. I would have done it right then and there if there was just some way.

“I get that they had already extended the deadline of it, but it’s just like, they were a little extra harsh with it. It was 90 kids. I get that they can’t wait for the stragglers and the people who are kind of falling behind, but I just feel like the reach-out message of it…. I didn’t remember about the Senior Guide until my friends started talking about it. I never heard it over the intercoms, not during second period. Until the last day with the Instagram posts – I didn’t see it until then. I didn’t see it in Royal Report or anything like that. It just didn’t reach out to me.”

Not only did the initial punishment of threatening to withhold prom and other senior activities not fit the crime of missing, forgetting about, or only submitting one version of the form or encountering problems using StudentSquare, but it was also downright unfair to word the April 14 message as indirectly blaming students for not meeting the deadlines when the deadlines and requirements to satisfy were not adequately communicated. 

The Royal Time Meeting For Signing The Senior Guide With A Bonus Lecture From Dr. Alvarez

A meeting during royal time on Monday, April 18 was held to attempt to remedy the situation.

On what happened at this meeting, a member of the 19% of students, who asked to remain anonymous, disclosed that Dr. Alvarez said, “‘I’m being really nice letting you guys sign this, but I really shouldn’t.’ Then, she said that if there was [sic] less than 90 people, that she would sit us down individually and give us a speech about responsibility. She did say that if we miss any other deadline, that she’s not going to help us [the 90 students] at all.” 

“She was saying ‘I’m not going to lecture you,’ but then she proceeded to lecture us,” Walker explained. “She was like ‘I get that some of you have, like, difficulties with technology or stuff like that, but that’s not an excuse, and in the real world, where you, like, miss deadlines, you could lose your car, like lose your house.’ Like she was trying to guilt trip us kind of, and I was like, it’s not that serious. It’s prom.”

Dr. Alvarez said, “What I did tell the group of students on Monday is: Imagine if I just didn’t know about a deadline for Moxi. All of a sudden our prom is in the gym because Dr. Alvarez didn’t know and didn’t read her emails and didn’t follow the communication that was given to her. Imagine if I didn’t send all the paperwork into the school board to be able to pay for our DJ. Suddenly, we don’t have a DJ for prom. Suddenly, we don’t have chairs for graduation, like, there are some real things that we are doing on our end to make all of these events happen.”

The Aftermath Of The Meeting: Relief, But Also Frustration

Some of the 90 students believe administration made up for the stress they inflicted upon them by giving them one last chance to sign the form.

“I think that because they did the meeting, it’s kind of fine now, but if they hadn’t done the meeting, it would’ve been pretty bad obviously,” Bornfreund shared.

Similarly, one of the anonymous sources shared, “I mean, I was stressed at first because I thought I couldn’t go to prom, that I wouldn’t be able to participate in Grad Night even though I paid for my ticket, but it all worked out so that’s good. We had to get it [prom tickets] in person: it would’ve been nicer if we could get it online, but I understand why.”

Others disagree.

“I feel kind of upset and a lot of seniors do because it was like, a lot of us, just our parents signed it, and it was like, if one person signed it, that’s enough consent for us to go to prom. Especially if it’s your parent, why can’t we buy a ticket or, like, do any of these activities? And that email that she sent out last week being like ‘We’ll have a meeting to discuss if we’ll let the other seniors, like, sign it again,’ I felt like that was so rude and the whole email [was] not worded kindly. People have other stuff going on. It was just unorganized, and we were being blamed for it. [At the royal time meeting,] I felt like they were still kind of blaming us and like guilt tripping us and I’m like ‘Just let us sign [the form] and get this over with so we can buy a prom ticket,’” Walker shared. In the end, Walker was able to buy a prom ticket, “which is good.”

Thank you, SMHS administration, for fixing what would have been a grievous error and allowing the 19% another chance at participating in future senior activities. However, they should never have felt at risk of losing senior year events after the effort and work it took throughout high school to get to the last term of their senior year. One missed deadline should not have wielded that much power.

In an ideal world, the 90 students would have been allowed to buy prom tickets the week of April 11 instead of being barred from doing so, especially given the limited capacity at MOXI.

“Our sell-out is 500,” said Dr. Alvarez on the cap on prom tickets. Regarding how many of the 500 had been sold by the time the 90 students were allowed to purchase prom tickets, she added, “I think we were right around 415, maybe 430 at the time. So, since Monday, we’ve sold another 50 or 60 tickets, give or take. These are gross generalities.” Prom tickets sold out on April 19, according to an email Dr. Alvarez sent out that evening. 

Lessons To Learn: For Both Students AND The SMHS Administration

Considering a bigger picture, the Senior Guide requirement represents the issue of school administration overlooking the inequities present in school-to-home communication – not all students and families have home-life situations that afford them the ability to stay up to date on school messaging. By seeming unforgiving and punitive in the April 14 email, the SMHS administration demonstrated a lack of the thoughtfulness and consideration required of them as employees of the education system. 

Dr. Alvarez said, “We know it can be frustrating for students. We know that some students got really scared that they might miss out on stuff, but at the end of the day, our intention is never to make people miss out on stuff, but that we, and Dr. Glazer especially, hold a high expectation for our students and if that means making sure you are reading emails, something as simple as reading messages, so that you fulfill your part of our partnership in education, then that’s sometimes going to create some of these ‘Oh my god, I’m going to miss…!’ 

“I received so many emails from people being like ‘I’ve been looking forward to prom since I was a freshman; when my older brother went to prom and I was in sixth grade, I just remember him having a magical night, and I just can’t wait.’ We’re never there to not make that happen, but our consistency in this space and our high level of expectation can sometimes come off as rough, as hard. The intention always is to hold that high expectation and guide students towards being good, awesome, responsible people that we know they are and then being able to have students meet us at that bare minimum so that we can host all these events and have a good time and go away, and it’s summer and seniors go off and get to live their life, and they’ll remember that time that Dr. Alvarez was a mean, old person who almost made them not do graduation, and I’m okay with that. If they remember some lesson from that, then I am good with it.”

We students understand that it is a privilege to have prom, Grad Night, and other senior events and are grateful for the work administration has been doing to secure these events for us — but to the SMHS administrators, you must also understand that it is not just a job title, but a responsibility to the student body that you carry, and that this responsibility includes being understanding and willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. 

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San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA
The Senior Guide Killjoy