NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- December 2016  

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.
Happy Holidays!
We at Natomas Unified wish our students, their families, and the community a safe and joyous holiday season. We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2017.

Schools and the NUSD Ed Center will be closed for Winter Recess from Dec. 23 through Jan. 6. Classes and District services will resume Monday, Jan. 9.
Fighting Holiday Hunger with Free Lunch

For the first year ever ...

 NUSD will serve free kids' lunches at two locations throughout much of the holiday season to help ensure that no student goes hungry while school is out. Healthy kids make better learners, so we're pleased to provide this public service. One lunch site will be at Natomas Park Elementary in North Natomas, the other at Jefferson Elementary in South Natomas. Click here for a flyer --   English  or   Spanish  -- with details.

The Next 5 Meetings Set, Webpage Launched
Beginning in early January, The Next 5 strategic planning process will start gathering community feedback through an extensive series of meetings with NUSD staff, students, parents and Natomas stakeholders.

Dates have been set and are available on the newly launched  also features a brief video by Supt. Chris Evans about the purpose and scope of the strategic planning effort. For local residents who cannot attend a campus or regional engagement meeting, the webpage will contain informative videos and an online survey beginning Jan. 9.

The Next 5 is designed to positively impact every family and school in NUSD by looking at whether to stay the course or adjust our efforts in five key areas that directly affect students and classrooms:

1) Vision, Goals and Core Beliefs
2) Operations
3) Curriculum and Pathways
4) Instruction, Assessment and Student Learning
5) Culture, Climate, Engagement and Communication

Su pt. Evans sent a letter to NUSD staff, students and community members last week explaining The Next 5 and urging participation, saying, "I look forward to working with all of you to make The Next 5 years in Natomas Unified even more successful toward ensuring that all NUSD students graduate as college and career ready, productive, responsible, and engaged global citizens." To read the entire letter,   click here.
New Trustee Micah Grant sworn in with incumbents Scott Dosick, Sue Heredia
  Lisa Kaplan named 
President of Board 

New member, new officers, three swearing-ins -- the Board of Trustees is set now for 2017.

Newcomer Micah Grant and re-elected incumbents Susan Heredia and Scott Dosick took their oath of office for four-year terms at the Dec. 14 Board of Trustees meeting.

Grant, a communications professional and former legislative aide, assumes the NUSD Board seat of Ryan Herche, who did not run for re-election this year.

The Board also elected new officers for 2017. Lisa Kaplan replaces Teri Burns as president. Sue Heredia is vice president and Micah Grant, clerk.
NUSD program turns food scraps to fuel
By Kristi Matal
Special to NUSD

Success is piling up -- every lunch hour, in fact, at five NUSD elementary schools.

More than 45 tons of cafeteria food and milk waste have been gathered since last January in a pilot recycling program that began at American Lakes Elementary School and later expanded to Natomas Park, Bannon Creek, Two Rivers and Witter Ranch schools.

Rather than end up in landfills, food scraps gathered through the program are converted by a local firm into clean-burning fuel for waste-disposal trucks. Students learn about recycling while benefiting their environment. A 2016 California law requires school districts to separate food scraps from trash.

Kids interviewed at Witter Ranch Elementary gave the program thumbs up.

"It's good," Brenden said of recycling food scraps.

"They make gas out of the food!" added Brielle.

The program is possible through a partnership with Breathe California, a non--profit clean air advocacy group that underwrites the expenses and provides the bins. NUSD also partners with Republic Services, a waste-disposal firm that picks up the food waste and takes it for processing into fuel.

"We hope the students will take responsibility for their school because it's the right thing to do," said Lori Lewis, NUSD Environmental Support Manager. "We tell the students that one person can make a difference, and they can help their peers and improve the environment." Read more here.
Natomas Unified wins CSBA Golden Bell Award 
 Honored for K-12 Continuum 
 of Social-Emotional Support

 Natomas Unified has been awarded a coveted  Golden Bell by the California School Boards  Association for its K-12 Continuum of Social-  Emotional Support. The award honors educational  excellence statewide.
 NUSD's intervention program is designed to  provide early detection, assistance, treatment  and academic options for any student in need.
 Success stories include that of a teen who  attempted suicide and cut herself more than 200  times before entering the social-emotional support  program. Last year, she graduated from high  school with excellent grades, new confidence, and a  bright future. 
Tiger Briana Jones & Nighthawk Libier Reynolds  

 Former Inderkum Tiger Briana Jones is a UCLA graduate who is completing her final year at  University of San Francisco for a law degree AND a Master's in Business Administration. She also  works as a law clerk for the San Jose Sharks and for the O'Donnell Wall Brooks law firm.

 Former Natomas High Nighthawk Libier Reynolds immigrated to American as a child and fondly  recalls her 3rd grade NUSD teacher staying after school to teach her English. Now her career  revolves around writing and speaking the language -- she's owner and editor of a lifestyle blog,, and she's given fashion advice on Good Day Sacramento and on KCRA, Fox 40, and  Univision TV channels.

 Jones and Reynolds were two graduates spotlighted this month in "Prepared to Succeed @  NUSD," an ongoing series featuring former students who attended our high schools and went on  to college or career success.
Read more about Briana here
Read more about Libier here .
Round of Applause   
Teacher Lyndsay Byrd

' I really do have my dream job' 

Lyndsay Byrd loves teaching and loves the outdoors, so combine the two and - voila! - she has her dream job: Physical education teacher.

"I get to move all day, I don't have to sit at a desk all day - that's awesome," Byrd said. "I get to be outside when it's beautiful. When the weather's nice, I'm out in the fresh air. I love being so active, I love working out, I love exercise, and I love teaching people about it."

Byrd always has been jazzed about physical fitness. A basketball player at Chapman University, she majored in kinesiology and minored in nutrition.

For the past 15 years, Byrd has taught PE at Natomas Park Elementary, where she is the campus's current Teacher of the Year. She works with all grade levels at the schools, from Transitional Kindergarten through 5 th  grade.

"I've always had a love for how our bodies work and why exercise is important, and how we respond to exercise, and how we respond to what we eat," Byrd said. "I've just always had kind of a passion for it."

Byrd also is known for extracurricular activities at NPE: Organizing a running club, facilitating a 5 thgrade Bicycle Safety Program, coordinating the school's Fund Run and its end-of-the-year Field Days. She also has been involved in NPE's 5 th  Grade Barbecue and a staff-versus-students kickball game.

To Byrd, PE is not a break from academic learning - it's an extension of it. She incorporates reading, writing and arithmetic into her lessons: For example, students chart and monitor their goals through line graphs, and they use mathematics to figure out their heart rate.

Fun becomes learning - and vice versa: OK, class, we have 23 students and five teams. How many students will be on each team?

Help me count the balls as I throw them out. And this is how we're going to count - by threes. So three, six, nine, 12...

Byrd also uses PE to teach life lessons - treating others the way you want to be treated. Be respectful whether you're in class, out of class, walking through a hallway, or playing on the playground.

"Let's respect our environment," she said. "Let's respect the classes we walk by. Let's respect each other as to the words we choose to use, the tone of voice we're using. So I just really try to make students aware of their choices, make them aware of how they treat people."

Principal Scott Pitts said she truly makes a difference.

"Mrs. Byrd is not only an excellent educator, teaching her classes concepts across content areas, she plays an integral role in creating a positive campus culture for our Coyote family," Pitts said. "She is in it for the kids, and it is great to work with her."
Classified Manager: Nutrition Services and Warehousing


10 Things You May Not Know About Vince Caguin

An up-close and personal look
at NUSD 'Administrator of the Year'

Vince Caguin was honored as NUSD "Administrator of the Year" in last month's edition of this  staff newsletter. But what do you really know about this four-year District employee who has risen from Supervisor to Coordinator to Director of Nutrition Services and Warehousing?

Here are 10 things that may surprise you about Caguin:

1)     Even as a teen, he knew he wanted to make a career out of food and nutrition, but his mother initially scoffed. Her attitude was, "We moved here to America so you could cook?" She's proud of him now, he said, smiling.

2)     He didn't do well in school initially after immigrating to America from the Philippines in 1986. Something clicked for him when an 8th  grade Home Economics teacher said, "Hey, you should really pursue food because it's one of the things that holds your attention."

3)     His career has included cooking at major restaurants and teaching, designing curriculum, and serving as department chair for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. He holds a bachelor's degree in food science and a master's degree in business administration.

4)     He and his wife, Monica, are the parents of an energetic, photogenic and fun-loving 2-year-old, Simon.

5)     His wife does a lot of the cooking at home. "I think she's a much better cook and baker than I am - definitely a much better baker," he said.

6)     One of his favorite dishes to cook is "any type of fish," and he challenges himself to waste as little byproduct as possible.

7)     "Talking Heads" is one of his favorite rock bands. The popular 1970s and '80s band helped pioneer new wave music.

8)     He plays guitar and bass himself - in a rock band.

9)     He enjoys audiobooks -- one recent favorite was Simon Sinek's "Leaders Eat Last" about exemplary leadership.

10) He sees Nutrition Services' role as educating kids, not just feeding them. "In education, we're in the business of teaching kids about things they don't know they like yet," he said. "That's true for food as much as it is for math or science."
Thanks for the memories, Tigers:
Team leaves legacy of success 

Undefeated in league play and king of the Tri-County Conference, the Inderkum Tigers rode a string of playoff victories into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championship before falling to the Del Oro Golden Eagles this month, 35-13. Their overall record for the year was 11-3, including a 10-game win streak, and they shut down Whitney High, Jesuit High, and top-seeded Sacramento High in the section playoffs. Awesome! 
Turning a campus wall
into 'Vision' of success 
Students walking through American Lakes Elementary School's main office pass a wall decorated with symbols of academic success.
Prominently displayed is NUSD's Board-approved Vision: "All NUSD students graduate as college and career ready, productive, responsible, and engaged global citizens."
Pinned nearby are the District's Goals, its Steps to Success, and pennants representing colleges and universities: Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, UC Santa Cruz, University of Colorado ... 
To students, the message is that NUSD is committed to their success far beyond a high school degree. By dreaming of college or career now, by making it a priority, kids can attain it in years to come.
One-Stop Shopping for a Secondary School 

Turning the Spotlight
on Middle & High Schools

Parents and students packed the house for Secondary Schools Showcase Night, a chance for families to get acquainted with the unique academic programs and career pathways each NUSD middle and high school has to offer.

The event was a spotlight, not a competition, designed to help 5th and 8th-graders get all their questions answered as they decide which secondary school will best fit their individual needs next year.

After a brief introduction by leaders of each secondary school, families wandered from table to table with plenty of questions: What Advanced Placement (AP) courses do you offer? What electives? What sports? Can a student participate in more than one academic pathway? What are class sizes? What time does school begin and end?

"I liked the mini-presentations they gave," said Carmen Aguilar, mother of a 5th-grade boy. "It gave us a nice overview."

"This was a great idea," said Leah Hernandez, whose daughter is in her final year of elementary school. "I was so nervous, and I'd try to do my own research because I had so many questions. I got my answers here. And I've made a decision (about which school her daughter will attend next year): Natomas Gateways."

Click on the video to see images from the Dec. 8 event.

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rockin'
by Two Rivers Choir

Here are two good reasons to click on this brief video of the Two Rivers "Voices of the Otters Choir" singing "Jingle Bell Rock" at Barnes & Noble bookstore Dec. 9 -- first, it's a heaping helping of pure holiday joy and, second, you don't see snowstorms hitting a Natomas bookstore every day ... :o)

Hundreds of Toys Donated to Help
NUSD Families in Need at Holidays 

To the generous Natomas residents who donated more than 600 toys for NUSD's Holiday Toy Giveaway, Sylvia's family is one of many you helped - and she thanks you.

Sylvia, mother of three, sent money to help her kids' daddy come to Sacramento this holiday season, but he hasn't come - and now she's broke, with no money to buy gifts.

"It was going to be a really bad Christmas until my mother told me about this," she said of NUSD's Toy Giveaway, held Dec. 16. She walked away with a book for her 15-year-old and toys for her 3- and 4-year-olds.

"It makes a huge difference," she said simply, adding that she was fighting tears as she talked about the giveaway.

Table after table were lined with toys for the giveway at Joey's Food Locker on the Natomas High campus: B arbie dolls, footballs, tattoo jewelry, crayons, books, a Drop 'n' Go Dump Truck, stuffed animals, remote-controlled cars, Smithsonian Magic Rocks, memory matching game, Spiderman figure, Tin Can Robot - the list goes on and on, something for all kids up to age 12.

NUSD Trustee Teri Burns said the toy giveaway sent a message to kids that will resonate long after the holiday season: They're loved. School isn't just a place to learn reading and writing, it's a place they can count on for support.  "This is community building," she said. "When kids feel safe and loved in school, they do better in school." Read more here.
'C enter for Innovation'
built to promote collaboration
and student inspiration  

The walls are coated with special paint to act as a giant whiteboard -- in other words, you can write all over them, brainstorm ideas, then easily wipe your strategy session clean before the next class.

Welcome to LGA's new "Center for Innovation," which features numerous large-screen video monitors, chairs equipped with tiny wheels, and desks that fit together easily to create collaborative learning spaces.

An interactive projector can display digital content on a wall beside a teacher, who can manipulate those images -- move them up, down, or to the side -- with a flip of a finger or hand. A portion of the room is set aside as a large collaborative "think tank," walled off with glass designed to be written on and easily wiped clean.

Smaller meeting rooms for student groups feature the image of a successful entrepreneur of the past and an inspirational quote from that person, such as this one from Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder: "Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." Walt Disney's image is found beside this thought-provoking quote: "If you can dream it, you can do it."

LGA's Center for Innovation is an example of how existing buildings can be converted into flexible, 21st century learning spaces that encourage student collaboration and accommodate state-of-the-art classroom technology. The facility opened this fall as a renovation of the former LGA campus library.