NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- February  2017  

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.
Beating Adversity to Succeed in School 
'Every Student
Succeeding' Winners
Honored by NUSD

They face life's challenges head on - and they're winning.

NUSD's "Every Student Succeeding" honorees were app'lauded by family members, friends, and district officials at a celebration Feb. 17. One winner from each school was selected for overcoming adversity or exceeding expectations to succeed academically and personally - for example:


1) A 5th-grader who was born with Cerebral Palsy and has struggled at times with peers, but works hard and has made huge progress in his second year in a General Education classroom. He loves to read aloud in class, give presentations and be part of a team - the Science Action Club, for example, or school sports.


2) A 12th-grader who has overcome numerous hardships - she was diagnosed with a learning disability, attended numerous elementary schools, and during her third year in high 

school she was placed in protective custody because of a situation that posed potential danger. Through determination and strength of character, she is excelling now in her senior year.  
NUSD nominates one "Every Student Succeeding" honoree each year for consideration by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) in naming regional and eventually statewide winners.

This year's NUSD candidate for higher honors, a 12 th -grader now, has experienced an unstable living situation since her father went to prison when she was 4. She once lived in a homeless shelter and has lived with aunties, uncles, granny, friends and cousins. She failed many classes her first two years of high school, earned few credits, and spent more time in the main office than in class. Fast forward a couple years, and she now has a 3.4 grade point average, she's on the wrestling team, a  cheerleader, president of the Black Student, and plans to attend college next year.  

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Length of a newsletter can cause stories at the bottom to be clipped from display. If that happens to this NUSD Spotlight, click "View Entire Message" prompt at the bottom of the page. Thank you very much.
The Next 5 

More than 2,400 Surveys Submitted 
to Help NUSD Craft Strategic Plan 
NUSD parents, staff and stakeholders stepped up in a big way for "The Next 5" strategic planning effort, with more than 2,400 surveys submitted during the six
-week period ending Feb. 16.

The total includes comprehensive surveys and shorter, quicker, multiple-choice "deeper dives" on key issues such as technology or bullying prevention.

Feedback was solicited through an online survey and at more than three dozen engagement opportunities, including regional meetings, student focus groups, phone banking, PTA meetings, campus coffee and conversation gatherings, campus English Language Advisory Committee sessions, and a District English Language Advisory Committee meeting.

By reading and analyzing this mountain of input, totaling hundreds of pages, NUSD can better identify how the community feels about NUSD schools, what needs revising, and key priorities for coming years. Supt. Chris Evans and other district leaders attended the regional input sessions to talk personally with participants about their suggestions, observations or concerns.

District leaders are in the process of synthesizing about 200,000 data points received.

The purpose of The Next 5 is to gather and use input from all groups and all corners of the district to craft a strategic plan that will benefit all schools and students over the next five years.

 The plan is expected to be completed this spring.
 Amina Shahid

Reaching Out to Help Other Kids with Homework
Call her the Queen of Homework.

Perhaps Amina Shahid has completed more schoolwork than any other NUSD student this year - her own and that of others.

The 17-year-old Inderkum High School senior volunteers weekly for the North Natomas Library's Homework Zone program, which offers a helping hand to any student stumped or puzzled by a classroom assignment.

"I love working with kids and I'm good at tutoring, so it's something I have fun doing," said Shahid, who has a grade point average above 4.0, was Inderkum's top scorer and team leader in the recent Sacramento County Academic Decathlon, and hopes to attend UC Berkeley or UCLA next year. "I just really like kids. They're so young and excited to learn - it's great."

The Homework Zone is available from 3:30-5:30 p.m. each Wednesday at the North Natomas Library, which is located beside Inderkum at 4660 Via Ingoglia.

Shahid, who specializes in Math, said she understands how important education is and how frustrated a young student can get feeling stumped or confused. Sometimes parents can't help much, particularly with Math, if they're not familiar with California's new standards.
"Kids are our future, so I want them to have the best education possible," she said.

'Love Your Community Club'
Helps Joey's Food Locker

"Love Your Community" is a new Inderkum High School Club launched by 12th-grader Olivia Datu, with help from Jameel Pugh, the school's college and career specialist. The club's mission is to do off-campus public service.

Through an $1,800 donation from Grand Canyon University, the club bought beanies and sweatshirts to make winter just a little warmer for patrons in need at Joey's Food Locker. This photo captures the joy of giving - and receiving - as 20 students completed the club's first project by passing out the clothing to more than three dozen people Feb 17, just in time for weekend storms.
NUSD Declared 'Safe Haven' for All Students
Sending a message that all students are safe and welcome, the Board of Trustees declared Natomas Unified a safe haven committed to acting within legal bounds to protect students and families threatened by hate crimes or deportation based on immigration status.

The resolution, passed unanimously, calls for NUSD to act within legal bounds to prevent and mitigate the collection of information about immigration status, the disclosure of such information, and to support students if immegration authorities seek to visit a school to interrogate or take a child into custody.

The safe haven designation is consistent with existing Board-approved commitments that all students have a right to attend public schools and receive equal access to educational programs, diversity is a strength, parent participation is encouraged, and that a key District goal is to create safe and welcoming learning environments.

Click here for more details or to read the resolution passed by the Board.
'I Have a Dream,' say American Lakes 5th-graders
Students at American Lakes Elementary School spent dozens of hours practicing this "I Have a Dream" choral poem honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. They performed it Feb. 10 on campus. 
These 5th-graders weren't alive during the Civil Rights Movement, but they celebrate its impact and recall Dr. King's dream of a nation where people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Spectators clearly were touched long before the poem's closing line, "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we're free at last!". .. Awesome!
Reminder: April 1

NUSD Plans Community Barbecue
for 25th Anniversary Celebration

Let's celebrate! Come and join the fun as NUSD honors its 25th Anniversary with a free community barbecue April 1 featuring student performances, games, music and bounce houses. Festivities are planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Inderkum High School, 2500 New Market Dr. The celebration salutes the 25 years that NUSD has been a unified district, offering classes from kindergarten through high school. Prior to 1992, Natomas was an elementary district. Its students attended local schools through 8th grade, then enrolled in other districts for high school. Questions about the April 1 celebration? Call Dolly McClellan at 567-5402.  Click here for more information.
Scholarships, Contests & Opportunities 
    The following are a few scholarships, contests and opportunities available
    to NUSD students:
  • CESAR CHAVEZ YOUTH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE -- The Cesar Chavez Youth Leadership Conference and Celebration will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at the University of California, Davis. The free event in UCD's Activities and Recreation Center Pavilion is designed to help middle and high school students explore their college options. Workshop topics include UC and CSU admission requirements, financial aid resources, and the community college enrollment process. Details are available here. 
  • ONE-HOUR WORKSHOPS -- NUSD's Parent University is offering one-hour workshops this spring on a variety of topics. Click here for details on workshops targeting college and career readiness. Click here for information about sessions dealing with parenting skills, such as time management or dealing with teens or preteens. Click here for details about workshops on mental health topics, including responding to anger and mentoring adolescents. 
  • HEALTH FAIR -- A free Health, Wellness and Resource Fair will be held from 2:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, at Jefferson Elementary School, 2001 Pebblewood Dr. Free food will be available, along with vision and hearing screenings, immunizations, health insurance enrollment information, community resources, student performances and more. The event is sponsored by NUSD. Details are available here.
  • NATOMAS RABBIT RUN --  Proceeds from the "Natomas Rabbit Run" on April 2  will be used to benefit Joey'Food Locker, a nonprofit community service at Natomas HIgh School that provides groceries to families in need. The "Natomas Rabbit Run" offers 5K and 10K fun run courses, both beginning at North Natomas Regional Park. The fun-for-all-ages event is spearheaded annually by The River Foundation, doing business as River Community Services, a nonprofit group devoted to feeding Natomas children and families. Registration is available online at $40 for the 5K, $50 for the 10K, and $30 for a a Kids Run. A 20% discount is available for registering four or more runners at the same time. The Rabbit Run also is looking for sponsors and volunteers. Details are available here.
  • ESSAY CONTEST -- A $500 scholarship will be presented to the Sacramento County high school junior or senior who submits the winning entry in this year's "Operation Recognition" essay contest on the following theme: "Why You Cannot Be a Passive Patriot."  Entries must be submitted by April 21. The contest is sponsored through the Sacramento County Office of Education, with funding by SAFE Credit Union. Details are available here.
Discovery High's Nita Hodges
is new Student Trustee 

NUSD has a new Student Trustee. Nita Hodges, a Discovery High senior sworn into office by Board President Lisa Kaplan on Feb. 22.

Nita hopes to join the Navy or enroll in college after graduation. Confident and ambitious, Nita has good grades and big dreams. She wants to own businesses someday -- perhaps a restaurant, clothing store, makeup line -- or to create a nonprofit boys and girls club to mentor youth.

Asked to describe herself, Nita did it in six words: Honest, trustworthy, role model, peaceful, persevere.

Discovery Principal Keven MacDonald said Nita is a Culinary Arts student -- she recently won a school cooking contest -- who is committed to her studies and is helping to transform Discovery's climate and culture.

"Always dressed in her Discovery sweatshirt, Nita arrives at school every day with a
smile on her face, a fresh idea of how to improve the school and a focus on excelling
in her classes on her way to graduation and a bright future," MacDonald said.

A student trustee plays an plays an essential role by casting a preferential vote on the NUSD Board - a vote that may not make or break a Board decision but counts as a valuable symbol of student opinion.
Teacher Siurave Almanza

'I think it all starts with building relationships'
To Siurave Almanza, teaching doesn't start with a good book - it starts with a good heart.
The Jefferson Elementary School 1st grade teacher is convinced that if you make your students feel special, reach out, show them you care, really get to know them, then learning will blossom and special things will happen academically.
"I think it all starts with building relationships," said Almanza, Jefferson's Teacher of the Year for 2017. "That will affect your management. And if you have a class that respects you and knows you care about them, they're going to work harder for you."
Her class mottos are, "Mistakes are Proof That You Are Trying" and "We Can Do Hard Things."
Principal Danisha Keeler, in nominating Almanza for Teacher of the Year, described her as an extremely hard worker, passionate about learning, engaging, collaborative, and always willing to help. In the classroom, Almanza is a knowledgeable teacher with clear objectives and creative, innovative, standards-aligned lesson plans that include hands-on projects, integrated topics and interactive learning, Keeler wrote.
"Siurave lives and breathes excitement, life, and the desire to learn into each of her students," Keeler added.
Almanza describes herself as a little shy at first, but then fun to be around, silly, a country music lover, a Sacramento Kings fan, someone very loyal to family and friends. She has fun doing simple things, like spending time with her husband in a bookstore, or drinking coffee, or visiting family.
Teaching 1st grade is particularly rewarding to her, she said. "I love the younger kids. I think it's the innocence - and also the growth. You see so much growth from the beginning of the year, when they're still struggling with holding a pencil the right way, to the end of the year when they're writing a paragraph."
How would she like to be remembered by her 6- and 7-year-old students, long after they move on to higher grades? Almanza smiled. "If they can remember me as a person who made learning fun, that would be pretty cool."
Classified Employee of the Year

10 Things You May Not Know About James Valles
James Valles of Nutrition Services was honored recently as Natomas Unified's "Classified Employee of the Year."

But what do you really know about this talented cook who has worked for NUSD since 2014 and produces thousands of meals per day for school cafeterias?

Here are 10 things you may not know about Valles:

1)    He grew up in East Los Angeles, the eldest of 10 siblings.
2)    Because of his Southern California roots, he's a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball and Los Angeles Lakers in basketball.
3)    He played baseball himself in high school - a pitcher - and he continues to enjoy playing softball as an adult.
4)    As a kid, he learned to play bass and piano - and he dreamed of a career as a rock-band musician.
5)    He does most of the cooking at home for his wife and three children - a daughter, 8, and two sons, ages 7 and 4 months.
6)    He has excelled at cooking since childhood but initially balked at it as a career, considering it "kind of girlie." That changed when he became unemployed in 2009, enrolled in a Le Cordon Bleu cooking program, and graduated among the top in his class.
7)    His first jobs in the food industry, about 2004, were as a dishwasher and busboy.
8)    His favorite movie of all time is "Gladiator," starring Russell Crowe.
9)    His mother is his hero, of sorts, someone he admires because of her sacrifice and success in raising a big family with little money.
10)  Though he can cook all kinds of cuisine - American, Continental, Mexican, Asian and Italian - Valles personally has simple tastes. His favorite meal to eat is a hamburger and fries.
Students pledge non-violence
All they are saying is...
give peace a chance  

At a time when it's not unusual to hear national news reports of protests that turn ugly, Natomas HIgh students did just the opposite Feb. 23, standing up and demonstrating against violence and in support of respecting others, reaching out to victims, practicing safety, and striving to be positive role models.

About 50 Nighthawks turned out for the student-led event featuring speeches by several people whose lives have been touched by violence. The gathering ended with students pledging non-violence and releasing balloons on which they had written the name of a victim they knew.

Looking on, Principal Yuri Penermon called the event an awesome idea. "I'm very proud of our students," he said.
'Classified Employees of the Year' Honored
Five Winners Chosen
as Committed, Collaborative
Caring and Exemplary

James Valles of Nutrition Services is NUSD's overall winner of "Classified Employee of the Year" for excellence in cooking meals, planning menus, training co-workers mentoring Culinary Arts students, and helping to organize special nutrition events.

Divisional winners are Luis Chavez, Maintenance, Operations and Facilities; Teri Ortega, Office and Technical; Brittany Ross, Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance; and Rene Trujillo, Support Services and

All five winners, nominated by peers, were honored with plaques at the Board of Trustees' Feb. 8 public meeting.

Assistant Supt. Angela Herrera introduced this year's honorees to the Board, characterizing the classified empoloyees as committed, collaborative, caring and exemplary in keeping with NUSD's Core Belief.

Talitha Blizzeard, president of Natomas' Classified School Employees Association (CSEA) participated in the ceremony.

Click here to read how Herrera introduced each winner.
Nighthawk  Leili Khalessi:
Senior Account Manager
for Local Marketing Firm
Former Natomas High Nighthawk Leili Khalessi is a college graduate now, working as senior account manager for 3fold Communications, a full-service Sacramento marketing firm. 
Her favorite memory of Natomas High is playing in the band. Her teachers were "incredibly supportive," she says.
Advice to current students? "Keep going! Ask for help when you need it. Your teachers want you to succeed. Your education is here for YOUR life. Take advantage of all the experiences you can. You can do it!" Read more here:
Khalessi was spotlighted recently in "Prepared to Succeed at NUSD," an ongoing series featuring former students who attended our high schools and went on to college or career succeess. Click here to read about others featured in the series. To nominate a former graduate for this recognition, contact Jim Sanders, 561-5267.                        
Josh Falo to USC

5 Inderkum Tigers Earn Sports Scholarships

High's Josh Falo, one of the nation's top high school prospects, is head to the University of Southern California (USC) after joining four other Tiger athletes in signing letters of intent on National Signing Day, Feb. 1.

Tigers quarterback Trajon Cotton announced that he will play for Oregon State University. Other standouts signing letters of intent and applauded by Inderkum classmates at lunchtime ceremonies were:  
  • Victor Jones and football teammate Ryan Gatoloai-Faupula, who will play together at the University of Wyoming
  • Karmyn Rivera, who will play softball at California State University, Stanislaus.
The signing of four Tiger football players to college scholarships marks a fitting climax to a terrific season in which the team finished 11-3, won the league championship, won 10 straight games, and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II finals before losing to Del Oro High. Read more here.
NUSD Wrestling Feats Not to Forget ...
Inderkum High Wins 
Sac-Joaquin Championship

Inderkum High is a Sac-Joaquin Section champion after all, despite falling just shy of that honor in football. The Tigers' wrestling team captured the section's Division 4 Dual Meet Championship this month, capping a season in which it was the Tri-County Conference champion and had a 20-1 overall dual meet record. Four Inderkum wrestlers cracked state rankings by "The California Wrestler," an online news service, as honorable mention or higher this year: Kimani Johnson, Nemo Chapman, Aerreon Castanares and Andrew Naraja. Congrats also to Inderkum's Alex Ceballos, regional girls champion with a record of 28-3.
Nighthawk girl Wrestlers  
win First-Ever League Title 

The Natomas High girls wrestling team made history this  winter,  slamming and pinning its way into the Golden Empire League record book. For the first time ever, the league awarded a girls team wrestling championship this year -- and the Nighthawks won! In the past, girls wrestled against boys, but now the spotlight is squarely on them. Congratulations to individual champions Julianna Castro, Xitlaly, DeAnda, Laken Gerken, Vicky Carillo, Stephanie Gandara and Alondra Alaniz.

NUSD Spotlight
             Brought to you by:
             Jim Sanders
   Director of  Communications
             (916) 561-5267