NUSD Community Newsletter -- December Edition 

Hope you enjoy this edition of "NUSD Spotlight," the district's monthly community newsletter. Contact Director of Communications Jim Sanders, 561-5267, if you have comments, concerns or story suggestions. Thank you for your support of Natomas schools.
Season's Greetings -- Spreading Good Cheer 
'Tis the Season for Reaching Out 

NUSD staff, students and families have reached out in numerous ways to make this holiday season a little brighter. In one charity effort, NUSD students who are overcoming mental or physical challenges delivered cookies and gifts to residents of an area care home who face even more severe personal hardships. In other examples of holiday cheer, NUSD's Ed Center spearheaded a gift-giving campaign for dozens of District foster youth, and the NUSD Parent CORES' Strengthening Families program surprised its 21 graduating families this week with a brightly wrapped gift. PTAs or clubs at various schools also pitched in this month, collecting clothing, toys or food for families in need. All of us at Natomas Unified wish you a merry and safe holiday season! 

1 in a Million?  
OK, what are the odds on this - 1 in a million, 5 million, 10 million?

Helping out a young student who had lost his lunch, health assistant Sheila Gallegos of Two Rivers Elementary tried to call the boy's parents but got the wrong number.

Lucky she did.

Absolutely by chance, Gallegos dialed the call-in number to a radio station, KLFA 98 Hits ... Congratulations! ... She was the lucky 15th caller, winner of a 3-day, 2-night Cruise to the Bahamas for two.

At first, she was incredulous, and blurted out the first two words that came to mind:

"Get out!" she said.

She can smile at that reaction now ...

And start packing her bags. 
Click Here for 45 Seconds of Ooh and Ahhh ...
Disneyland came to Leroy Greene Academy this month. And flying dolphins. And a feather-wearing skeleton. Imaginations ran wild in the school's Art Expo, producing colorful, eye-catching works of art. But don't take it from me -- see for yourself.
College and Career Readiness
'Conceptual Physics' -- Real-World look at Science
Ninth-graders at Leroy Greene Academy tested one of Isaac Newton's laws of physics recently by strapping metal weights onto toy cars and rolling them down makeshift ramps to see if heavier means faster. They documented their findings in bar graphs.

Welcome to "Conceptual Physics," a 9th grade science class that examines how physics affects students' lives and the world around them, without focusing on algebra, calculus and other mathematical equations.

Conceptual Physics meets a University of

California and California State University science admission requirement by focusing on physics experimentation, analytical thinking and problem solving, not on mathematics. The course was piloted at LGA three years ago, then expanded to Inderkum and Natomas High schools this year.

Alex Ellsworth, who teaches the course at LGA, said it gives students the chance to investigate physics in real-world scenarios -- such as how cellphones work or how GPS units track a car. One recent experiment looked at how wave properties affect movement in a common childhood toy, "Slinky."

In years past, students build a miniature roller coaster to study potential and kinetic energy. Read the full story here.

Hats off to NUSD Staff 
Courtnay Kaump is ABC 10's 'Teacher of the Month' 
Two Rivers' 5th-Grade Teacher
'Makes learning fun,' student says

Courtnay Kaump has been selected "Teacher of the Month" by ABC 10, which describes her as "someone who encourages her students to think beyond the textbooks."
A 5th-grade teacher at Two Rivers Elementary, Mrs. Kaump shows up early every day to tutor students. She also runs the school's recycyling program, oversees its student council, and is a leader in Chess Club, Geography Bee, Spelling Bee, monthly assemblies, and other activities.
"I love kids," she said. "I light up when I come to work every day -- so many new things, always something new and exciting."
For winning ABC 10 "Teacher of the Month" honors for December, Mrs. Kaump was awarded $1,000 and will compete with other monthly winners for "Teacher of the Year," an honor that carries an additional $5,000.
Read the full story here. Watch ABC 10's news clip about Mrs. Kaump here.
Classified Staff Spotlight

James Valles -- Impacting NUSD kids, one bite at a time

James Valles gives you plenty to sink your teeth into.

He's a cook for Natomas Unified, producing thousands of cafeteria meals per day from the District's central kitchen and filling plates at special events ranging from a luncheon for new teachers to a celebration of last summer's youth meals program.

Since healthy, well-fed students tend to make better learners, Valles impacts classroom achievement one bite at a time.

One of Valles' most memorable gigs, perhaps, was to help teach cooking to kids in an after-school program at Natomas Park Elementary last year.

Valles played a key role in cooking 55 turkeys last month for a district-wide Thanksgiving feast for elementary youth.

American continental, Mexican, Asian, Italian cuisine -- he can cook them all.

"I just love to see people smile, and enjoy themselves," he said. "Obviously, food brings people together. Read the full story here.
Ahhh, hope this makes you smile ...

Sharing Honors with a Special Buddy 


Seven-year-old Savanah won awards recently for making Bannon Creek Elementary School's honor roll and for displaying outstanding citizenship.


 More than 150 standout students were recognized by Principal Amreek Singh at a giant campus assembly.  


Loved ones were invited to attend, so naturally, Savanah brought one of hers. And by the way, it demonstrated outstanding citizenship, too ... 

Student Standout

Chris Evans: High grades, big dreams 
(And, no, he's not the Supt's son)

Chris Evans laughs when asked whether anyone has every commented on his having the same name as Natomas Unified's superintendent. Sure, he's heard it before. But the answer is no, and this Heron 7th-grader wants to be a computer expert when he grows up, not a school administrator.

Here are five reasons not to bet against Chris, no matter what he sets his sights on:

1) He has nearly a 4.0 grade point average
2) Two years before entering high school, he already is taking a 9th grade geometry class at Inderkum High School
3) He plans to graduate from high school with a diploma from Inderkum's International Baccalaureate program
4) He tentatively is targeting a career in computer science and software engineering
5) In pursuit of his career goal, he wants to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Colorado Technical University.
Academics are important to him, Chris said, but even more important is to be kind, helpful, giving, and to reach out to others. The 12-year-old is pushing to create an after-school Bible study group at Heron. He also has a goal of becoming familiar with every Heron student before graduating from the school next year. Read the  full story here.
What Can You Learn from a 'Hero?'  
Students read, write & research
in studying 'Community Heroes'

There's a lot to learn from a community hero, especially if you're a 2nd-grader in Natomas Unified.

You can start by researching your hero on the Internet, perhaps do a live interview, then write about your local standout. You can write a friendly letter to your hero. You can write a short skit about your hero, then perform it in front of the class.

Perhaps your hero will agree to speak at your school, so you can practice listening and following-up with relevant questions. Along the way, you'll learn about career options, public service, and the Natomas region where you live.
These are the kinds of wide-ranging academic exercises used recently at Witter Ranch Elementary, where students recently hosted a variety of community heroes, including a police officer, firefighter, North Natomas librarian and Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby.
Their "Community Heroes" segment in English-Language Arts is part of a statewide push to make learning more interactive, encouraging student engagement and critical thinking, not just reading a book and getting quizzed. Read the full story here.

Who Will Bang the Gavel? 

Teri Burns, right, was elected unanimously last week as NUSD's new president of the Board of Trustees. Lisa Kaplan will serve as vice president, Ryan Herche as clerk. Burns will assume the gavel from outgoing President Scott Dosick., We thank them all for their service to Natomas students, families and schools.

'Mr. Mike' -- School Volunteer Extraordinaire 

'Soccer nut' is Bannon Creek's 'grandpa'

At Bannon Creek Elementary, they call him "Mr. Mike," an extraordinary volunteer who donates about four hours a day, three times a week, to his grandson's 5th grade class.

Principal Amreek Singh calls Mike Harvey a "caring man who spends hours of his time so that he can make a positive impact on kids."

Teacher Sue Addington said Harvey is a "great asset not only to my class but to the whole school. He is Grandpa to all of the students at the school. Mike takes the time to get to know the students and enjoys interacting with them."

Harvey shrugs off such compliments, characterizing himself as a big kid, nutty about soccer -- not a teacher, not someone who knows everything, but simply a 63-year-old retiree who appreciates kids and  has time on his hands.

"I'm just there for them," he said. "I try to help." Read the full story here.
Constituent & Customer Services
Wins CSBA 'Golden Bell' Award 

The California School Boards Association has awarded Natomas Unified's Constituent and Customer Services (CCS) program a prestigious "Golden Bell" as one of the state's most outstanding examples of school district innovation.

CCS sprang from a request by Trustees more than three years ago. It is designed to advocate for the public, ensure that every voice counts, and generate data for improving District efficiency.

"We're very proud of this Golden Bell award because it recognizes our commitment to all our customers -- parents, students, staff and community stakeholders," Superintendent Chris Evans said. "CCS is a one-stop shop for anybody with a suggestion, comment or a concern that isn't handled at the site level. Everybody deserves to be heard."

Scott Dosick, president of the Board of Trustees at the time, joined CCS coordinator Heidi Lattuada in accepting the award from CSBA.
Read more here.

Science from a Blender and Juicer  

If the way to kids' hearts is through their stomachs, Heron School teacher Scott MacMillan scored big with a recent science lesson. Teaching about nutrients and nutrition, "Mr. Mac" used a blender and juicer to create three different kinds of fruit and vegetable drinks, using combinations of kale, spinach, beets, parsley, apples, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon and various other produce. The message was that eating healthy can taste good, too. ... "They loved it," MacMillan said of the drinks ... Which proves, perhaps, that science isn't hard to swallow. 

If they can do it, you can too  
To honor past achievement and inspire current Nighthawks, Natomas High School has posted photos of dozens of graduates who were admitted this year into four-year colleges or universities, including UCLA, USC, UC Davis, and CSU Sacramento. The display, "University Bound," is located in the school library.

Boosting Schools by 'Strengthening Families'   
Giving Families new Skills  
to Help Students Succeed

There were tears at the "graduation" ceremony for Natomas Unified's Strengthening Families program this week -- but they were tears of joy, as one by one, parents stepped forward to thank instructors for bringing them closer to their kids.

Jeremy, who attended with his wife and 12-year-old daughter, said he learned that "part of being a good parent is realizing you don' t have the skills to be a good parent."

Lisa said she grew up around a lot of yelling and screaming -- and Strengthening Families "helps us, so we don't repeat the same patterns. I feel real grateful."

Twenty-one families graduated in this month's ceremony, held at Natomas Middle School. Parents and their kids attended for 2.5 hours per week, since October. The program is offered jointly by NUSD Parent CORES and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The goal is to equip parents with new skills to overcome family frustrations and challenges. Read more here.