Student “Voice”

Dear Patriot Families,

I hope you get an opportunity to enjoy your friends and families over the Thanksgiving break.  We will come back after the holiday on December 2nd with two full weeks of instruction followed by one week of exams before the start of our winter break. While we are getting ready for the holidays, I want to take a moment to discuss some of the recent events involving school safety.

Last week I reported that we were aware of two separate incidents that raised some concerns from students and families.  While the concerns were investigated and addressed, I wanted to take a few moments to address the importance that communication and student voice play in our school.

I happened to be in a district-wide leadership meeting when I first learned of the concerns.  A colleague in the division, who was sitting next to me, commented that it must be a heavy burden to get such information and that it had to be troubling to receive information from concerned students.

I believe my response was surprising to her.  While, yes, it’s a heavy weight on my shoulders to learn of concerns from my students, it’s also refreshing to know that so many students are willing to share information they may find concerning or that could impact the safety of others.

I realize that we may not be able to share a ton of information to parents about certain situations, and that can be frustrating.  I promise you, however, that we would never have a day of school if we felt the situation to be unsafe for our students and staff.

Student “Voice” is so important.  Receiving timely information from students allows the school to investigate the concern to determine the facts and talk to those who may be involved.   It allows us to involve more human resources if necessary to support our students.

As the principal, school safety is my number one priority each and every day.  Our teachers, teaching assistants, clerical staff, safety and security officers and administrators follow protocols each and every day that help make the building more secure. Did you know that we have 5 safety and security officers who consistently walk the building checking to ensure the school is secure?  In addition to the safety and security team, we have a School Resource Officer, like all of the other high schools, who is a police officer employed by Albemarle County that works at the school each day.

While I will always stress the physical safety needs of the building, just as important in my opinion is the ability to have open dialogue with our students about issues they may be facing or students they may be concerned with.

Schools are in the relationship business.  With over 1,900 students at Albemarle High, it’s bound that some students may be struggling or may be in conflict with others.  While many of these issues may be short-lived and easily solved, some may grow and need adult intervention.  That’s where the power of student “VOICE” comes in.

High school students are loyal to each other, sometimes to a fault.  They don’t want to see their friends or peers get in trouble or “tell on them” if they have somehow crossed the line or are in a bad spot.  Sometimes, however, it is necessary to let an adult know when something is concerning that a student is aware of.

“See Something, Say Something, Do Something” is a popular mantra for the bystander awareness movement in schools.  It gives “permission” for students to feel empowered to let others know when issues arise that are concerning to them.   The creation of anonymous alert systems, like the Anonymous Alert system deployed in Albemarle County Schools this fall, provides another vehicle for students to share those concerns.

My administrative team and I receive each one of the anonymous alerts that is submitted for AHS.  Each one is vetted to determine possible next steps to address.  I have received, on average, one of these alerts each day since the start of the school year.  Many of the alerts are regarding minor school issues and some of the concerns are determined to be unfounded.  The good news is that some of the alerts we receive allow us to intervene with students who may be in a tough spot and simply need some additional support or counseling.

The ability of students to have “voice” and share their concerns, both big and small, is one of the most important characteristics of a safe school community.  I encourage our families to talk to their children about sharing issues with adults at AHS or at home.  If they feel compelled to not want to get involved personally, I ask that they use the Anonymous Alert system link found here or click on the Anonymous Alert Button found on our school page.

The high school years can be difficult to manage for teenagers.  Ensuring that there are numerous students and adults looking after each other and letting others know when there are concerns is a vital part of building a strong community.

We will be kicking off more “bystander awareness” training for our students at the start of the new year to give them better tools and strategies to utilize.  I encourage you to talk with your kids as well about never taking for granted things they see, hear, or experience that should possibly be shared with adults.

We kicked off this year at AHS with the mantra of #TWB, “Together We Are Better”.  I firmly believe we can continue to get stronger as a community to benefit all those involved in our schools.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.  Hope to see you soon.

Darah Bonham, Principal


1st Semester Exams

As you are probably aware, first semester exams will be held the last four days of school in December before we head to winter break.  Per county policy, midterm exams are worth 20% of the student’s semester grade and are important assessments this time of the year.  Below you will see the individual exam schedule for each day.  To print off the full schedule or read more about the procedures for midterm exams, click on the “Winter Exam Schedule” link located under the “Announcements” section of the school web page.

Calendar Items

Take a look at just some of the upcoming events at AHS

Nov 27-29 Thanksgiving Holiday
Dec. 5                                 7PM Winter Orchestra Concert
Dec. 8                                 3:30PM Winter Band Concert
Dec. 11                               7PM Guitar Performance
Dec. 12                               6:30PM Piano Recital
Dec. 13                               8-11PM Jazz Band Dance
Dec. 17,18,19,20 Winter exams
Dec. 16- A Day
Tuesday, Dec 17              1B/3B exams
Wednesday , Dec 18      1A/3A exams
Thursday , Dec 19           2B/4B exams
Friday, Dec 20                  2A/4A exams

Golden Apple Award

Students, families, and staff can nominate teachers at AHS as part of the yearly Golden Apple Award recognizing outstanding teachers in our school system.   Click on the following link to learn more about nominating an AHS staff member.

Additional Resources To Check Out

Mr. Jeff Smith, Talent Development and Gifted Services Teacher —Link

AHS Athletics Link   and Notify Me service to get updates on games and practices. (Link here.)



“Together We Are Better”