TIDE (Technology, Innovation, Design, and Engineering) Academy, a small public school in the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD), opened just four years ago as an alternative specialized option for those who live within the district lines. They will be sending off its first class of seniors this year. While TIDE had a bit of a rocky start, it has certainly evolved since its founding.
Senior AJ Clemendor, who transferred from TIDE to M-A after his freshman year, cited issues with teaching. He said, “Most staff were good but struggled with teaching kids from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, and struggled to control the class quite often.” Julian De Sa, a current senior at TIDE who has been there since its opening, added, “I think everyone went into our first year kind of worried. There were a lot of ups and downs, definitely, in the earlier years, when we were still trying to figure stuff out. We didn’t even have access to the whole building at times because there was still construction going on. There was a lot of trial and error to get through.”
Many of TIDE’s facilities were not complete when the first year began; TIDE didn’t have a gym, which forced students to complete their physical education inside a regular classroom. However, the “trial and error” included more serious issues with administration that culminated in a letter from anonymous TIDE community members in April 2020 addressed to the members of the 2019 board of trustees. It detailed former principal Dr. Allison Silvestri’s poor leadership and unwelcoming staff environment, and ultimately advocated for Silvestri’s removal in 2021. Simone Kennel, M-A’s principal from 2015 to 2021, took over as principal at TIDE beginning in the 2021-22 school year to fill Silvestri’s spot after her resignation. Kennel said, “There had been leadership changes at TIDE prior to coming here, so figuring out what was in place, what was working, and what needed to be established were my top priorities. There were a lot of systems and procedures that had to be created for the first time because TIDE opened only with ninth grade.” In the past two years, the transfer rate quickly decreased from nine students to just two.
Even so, because TIDE does not offer AP or IB classes, some are reluctant to accept the unique curriculum. Sophomore Brea Brenner explained, “The whole point of TIDE is that it’s not meant to be for AP or IB classes. It’s meant to be dual enrollment. We get credit for college, and with a lot of our classes, instead of having a teacher who teaches AP, we have a college professor along with our teacher.” Prior to her resignation, Silvestri said, “I would prefer to have our students taking college-level classes rather than taking a course to satisfy an exam by the College Board.”
Others love this untraditional aspect of TIDE, because it allows students to earn hundreds of credits at Foothill College by the time they graduate. Government and Economics teacher Adriana Stone said, “I think dual enrollment gives students an advantage because when they graduate many of them are only a few units away from earning an associate’s degree.”
TIDE also offers personalized pathways, including a programming, digital marketing, and a graphic design pathway, that allow students to take specialized courses that cater to their interests. English teacher Daphne McCann said, “The curriculum at TIDE is dynamic. It is always being revised out of necessity for the development of our overall school programs. For example, our CTE pathways were recently changed based on student needs and their input on interest. We put in Graphic Design because students said they were really interested in that! I think that it is so cool that the student voice is valued and can shape our course offerings.”
De Sa, who took the programming pathway, said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life going into high school. I took programming courses and met a lot of tech-y people. TIDE has a mentor program that they instituted last year where you talk about career goals and have meetings that help you write resumes. I would be very lost right now if I didn’t have those resources, and I am super thankful for them.”
Students and teachers alike appreciate TIDE’s small size, with only 242 students enrolled this year. “I’m pretty close with everyone in my grade. It’s smaller, so you can get more personal, and I think each student gets the amount of support they need. That’s something I really cared about because I didn’t want to be drowned out in a large school,” said De Sa.
McCann added, “I taught at a large school before, and I have seen firsthand that a lot of students are really concerned about being cool. Of course, wanting to be cool is always a thing at a high school, but the feeling is so much less intense here because we all know each other already. That’s what I love about TIDE—most students are really just able to focus on being their true selves instead of worrying about first impressions and what others will think of them.”
Stone, who left M-A to teach at TIDE in 2022, said, “Because TIDE is a smaller school, the staff can have constant meetings and can interact a lot and get to know each other. So, in terms of connecting with everybody, I feel like there is a little bit more connection at TIDE than at M-A within your own department.” Clemendor noted, “I will give TIDE one point. Everyone was nice for the most part, and everyone looked out for everyone. There were no cliques in the same way there are at M-A, and nobody was isolated.” In addition, the school’s size has made communication with administration easier for many students. “I could probably have a daily conversation with my principal if I wanted to,” said De Sa.
While TIDE has improved significantly since its opening, it still has room to grow. “I think TIDE is a perfect example of a work in progress. I’m mostly positive about it, but that’s only because of what we’ve gone through so far. Now it’s at this really good place because it’s still new and they’re still innovating. We’ve gotten past that initial hump. For future students, it’s going to be challenging at times because you’re kind of building it for yourself, but the end result is amazing,” said De Sa.