Head of school Stephen Repsher (right) briefs future head of school Lee Thomsen during Thomsen’s visit on Nov. 20.

New Head’s Priority: Growing student population would provide more social, academic opportunities

In a Nov. 2 Octagon poll, high schoolers were asked to rank the priorities for Lee Thomsen, new head of school. Starting with this issue, the Octagon will explore the top three choices in that poll. Increasing the school’s population was the third most popular choice.

Thirty of 129 high schoolers polled said that Thomsen should concentrate on growing the school.

Sophomore Molly Gherini, who attended Christian Brothers High School for about one month of her freshman year, said she would like the SCDS high school to grow to around 300.

“An increase in school population would make the social scene better,” Gherini said.

At CB there were more opportunities for extracurricular activities, such as sports teams, Gherini said.

Population of the high school dating back to the 2007-08 school year. Each figure represents 30 people. Statistics courtesy of Admissions.
(Graphic by Adam Dean)
Population of the high school dating back to the 2007-08 school year. Each figure represents 30 people. Statistics courtesy of Admissions.

Sophomore Amalie Fackenthal would also like the high school to increase, although by no more than 50 students.

And she would like these students to come from more diverse backgrounds.

However, junior Christian Van Vleck said that he would like the school to grow to 250.

“If we had a bigger school, there would be a bigger turnout to dances, more school spirit, and a larger variety of people to hang out with,” Van Vleck said.

“The small size right now makes it so that sometimes everyone knows your business, which can get annoying.”

The larger size could also lead to a greater variety of classes, he said.

A bigger high school has been a priority for headmaster Stephen Repsher, too.

Repsher said the school worked from 1995-2005 to find a second campus for the high school in order to increase enrollment. But the school abandoned that effort after realizing it would be exceedingly difficult to acquire, given the school’s resources at the time, he said.

Now Repsher is working on modifying the conditional use permit, which dictates the maximum number of students the school can have.

Repsher said he began to lay the groundwork for a modification to the city conditional use permit in the fall.

He met with the city mitigation monitoring committee, made a presentation to the Sierra Oaks Neighborhood Association in December, and met with councilman Eric Guerra, who represents Sacramento’s District 6.

Repsher collected the necessary information for the school’s application and submitted it to the city of Sacramento on Jan. 5.

“The application has been deemed complete, and the city is currently processing the application,” Repsher said.

He said he hopes that by May the application will be approved and wrapped up.

Thomsen said that ideally he would like the high school to grow to 250 since he’s heard it’s a goal from other staff members.

It’s also a better size for increasing students’ social opportunities, he said.

He said that the two key strategies the school has in mind for increasing student size are to increase the retention between eighth and ninth grade and recruitment efforts.

By expanding the offerings and opportunities of the curriculum (including a more diverse athletic program, internships and a wider range of classes), SCDS would make parents and students realize what they could lose if they were to choose another option, Thomsen said.

But junior Alexa Mathisen said she doesn’t want the school to get larger.

Mathisen, who attended Rio Americano High School from her freshman to half of her sophomore year, said she wouldn’t want SCDS to lose its small population, which originally attracted her to the school.

According to Mathisen, at Rio her classes had up to 60 students, and often the teachers didn’t even know her name.

“Here (at SCDS), the high teacher-to-student ratio makes it easier for me to learn and have a good relationship with all my teachers,” Mathisen said.

Lee Thomsen
Marigot Fackenthal
Lee Thomsen

Thomsen said that his first priority will be to meet all the different members of the community and build connections with students, faculty, alumni, friends of the school and others.

“It’s very important for me to know them and for them to know me,” he said.

Thomsen said that he plans to learn about the community by inviting every member of the faculty and the Board of Trustees, and parents and students who wish to come, to share their opinions of the school over the summer.

“The only successful changes come about when you have buy-in from constituents,” Thomsen said.

“We can get their buy-in by making people a part of the process through committee work and by making sure everyone who has an interest has an opportunity to give their insight and input.”

—By Katia Dahmani

Get to know Lee Thomsen in a Q&A

Read more about Thomsen’s experience and priorities

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