NUSD Spotlight
 Community Newsletter
  -- January 28,  2019  

Hope you enjoy this edition of "NUSD Spotlight," the district's community newsletter. Contact Director of Communications Jim Sanders, (916) 561-5267, if you have comments, concerns or story suggestions. Thank you for your support of Natomas schools.
Inderkum High's IB program wins three statewide awards -- including top teacher 
Inderkum High wins three prestigious IB statewide honors - including a top teacher award

Inderkum High has won three prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) "best in the state" honors - for top teacher in a Diploma Programme, for outstanding community service from a Middle Years Programme student, and for exemplary teacher potential deserving of California's only Middle Years Programme Teacher Training Award.

Principal Dan Motherspaw and IB leaders Jessica Downing and Theresa Quinby led a small group of well-wishers into the classroom of each winner last Wednesday to announce the exciting news. (See video to watch that happen.) The awards are from the California Association of IB World Schools (CAWS), representing the dozens of IB schools statewide.

Richard Weaver will receive a $1,000 cash award as exemplary DP educator. Tenth-grader Sidharth Gopisetty's public service will net him $250 and an additional $250 will go to Inderkum. New IB teacher Tristan Bernie will receive a grant of up to $2,500 for supplemental training this summer in Lake Tahoe.

Only 15 years old, Gopisetty's long list of community service accomplishments includes creating a UNICEF Club at Inderkum, spearheading a drive to help Butte County fire victims, raising more than $1,000 for Polycystic Kidney Disease Research, and assisting the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. He also has been a straight-A student and an active member of the local library's Teen Advisory Board.

In nominating Weaver for top teacher honors, Inderkum IB leaders wrote that "his students deeply respect him as an educator and truly like him as a person, a combination not found in many educators."

Tristan Bernie, the training award winner, was described in nomination documents as a dedicated instructor who works well with colleagues, has a strong rapport with students, and has "developed a classroom culture that promotes academic discourse and collaboration." Read more here.
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Student Spotlight
Why call her 'Starr'? She shines brightly ... 
They call her "Starr."

Not only is that an apt description of her popularity at Leroy Greene Academy, it's also part of her formal name, Amarastarr Kight -- and it's something she's determined to live up to as an adult.

A Starr is born, a Starr shines, a Starr leads the way -- her mother chose to have Starr in her name because she felt her only daughter would make it big someday, according to the LGA senior.

"It gives me motivation to do something better with my life," Starr said.

At LGA, Starr clearly is a standout by:
* Serving as student body president this year.
* Serving as LGA's rally commissioner and spirit commissioner in years past.
* Earning a grade point average of nearly 4.0.
* Earning all-league honors in girls soccer, a sport she has played all four years at LGA.
* Participating at various times in three other LGA girls sports -- basketball, volleyball and softball.
* Participating in LGA's Black Student Union, leading numerous campus events, and creating eye-catching artwork displayed in several locations in LGA's main office. ... A Starr, indeed -- and her future shines bright ... Read more about her here.
American Lakes to buy baseball-sized robots
after winning $5,000 for hands-on learning 
American Lakes School has won a $5,000 grant to buy supplemental Science and Robotics tools for students to touch, feel, hold, and use to analyze and experiment with in making classroom activities spring to life in exciting new ways.

"The idea is to give them hands-on learning, in addition to book learning," said Alex Wright, a 7th-grade Science teacher who applied for the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant.

About $2,500 is targeted for a case of 15 rechargeable, baseball-sized robots that can be programmed by kids of all ages, through computer coding, to travel in any direction, light up in various colors, and obey other coded commands. The robotics tool is perfect for a school where kids already are dabbling in computer coding.

The remaining $2,500 will be used for supplemental Science equipment, such as an incubator, terrarium and microscope slides, for projects that will encourage collaboration, analysis, critical thinking and problem solving, primarily by Wright's 7th-grade students. Congratulations Eagles!
Offered Tomorrow! 
One-hour workshop can help you for years
Paso Verde's Kitchen & Garden Classes
Education you can stick a rake & fork into 
At Paso Verde School, a square root isn't always mathematics.

And you can stick a fork into some of the classwork.

Unconventional, perhaps, but Paso Verde is using hands-on activities involving plants and foods to teach valuable life skills through two special classes, Garden and Kitchen, that kids of all grade levels attend for 30 minutes each month.

By watching what happens in soil and ovens, students not only learn about cooking and gardening, they also study elements of science ranging from nature's life cycles to environmental sustainability. They'll predict, plan, observe, calculate and measure, consistent with the school's International Baccalaureate (IB) focus.

Eventually, the goal is to use fruits and vegetables grown in Paso Verde's garden to create edible food items in Kitchen class.

Principal Tonja Jarrell said that through kitchen and garden experiences, Paso Verde scholars "learn to be global-minded thinkers who are risk takers, knowledgeable, principled, and open minded."

Parents Kate Burns and Misty Alafranji teach the Garden and Kitchen class, respectively. They receive a stipend through a grant from Raley's of Natomas.

Burns said she hopes to instill in Paso Verde's Pumas an appreciation of plants, animals and nature, as well as respect for gardening and the knowledge that's it's possible to nurture plants and grow your own food.

In Kitchen class, a different food item is prepared and sampled by students each month, but teacher Alafranji, a professional chef, said the goal is not to make the kids expert chefs. She uses food as a way to discuss healthy eating, good choices, and to explore where food comes from and how eating habits differ in various parts of the world. Read more here .
Student & parent opportunities and info 
Know someone who wants to attend Natomas Unified? 
New registrations filed by Thursday will have priority
Do you know a family member, friend, or acquaintance who wants to attend an NUSD school next year?

Enrollment is now open for any NUSD school for the 2019-20 school year -- and new registrants who file by Thursday (Jan. 31) will have priority.

Parents and guardians can enroll their students online at Requests to transfer from one NUSD school to another next year also are being accepted. Charter schools within NUSD boundaries oversee their own enrollment.

For details on how to enroll, click here. Preschool registration is handled separately. Information about our early learning program is available here
Get Ready 11th-Graders -- the SAT is two months away
Each year more and more Natomas graduates go to college, and we're doing our part by offering the SAT, free of charge during the school day to 11th-graders at Inderkum, Natomas and Discovery high schools, as well as Leroy Greene Academy. Scoring high on the SAT can make a big difference in getting accepted to a favorite college and qualifying for scholarships. So 11th-graders should start preparing now to take the test March 27th. Free SAT practice tools are available online, from the Khan Academy and College Board, by clicking here.
Early Bird Registration extended for Natomas 5K event
Early Bird Registration for the Natomas 5K has been extended to Feb. 28, so you can save money by signing up now at

This nonprofit community event, which raises money for college scholarships and student Chromebook grants, will be held April 27th at Inderkum High.

The Natomas Schools Foundation organizes this annual 5K to bring the community together for fun, exercise, and to raise funds for the benefit of students in all NUSD schools, charter and non-charter. Hundreds of runners and walkers participated last year. The foundation also is looking for sponsors. For more information, click here
Dos Coyotes gives $2,560 to help NUSD kids 
Thank you, Dos Coyotes and the Natomas community!

Natomas Schools Foundation President Sonia Mercado, several board members and an NUSD student, Roxxy, accept a $2,560 check from a fundraising event hosted last month by the newly opened restaurant at 2701 Del Paso Road. Patrons flocked there to eat that night -- and Dos Coyotes donated all proceeds from the dinner rush.

Natomas Schools Foundation is a nonprofit group organized solely to raise money benefiting NUSD students. It has awarded $16,000 in scholarships and 33 Chromebooks to deserving kids in the past two years. Its next community event is the Natomas 5k on April 27. For more information, click here .
Exploration and learning
NUSD kicks off Play Groups for young learners
A chance to play and learn, at the same time.

To toddlers and pre-kindergarten kids, perhaps, NUSD's new Play Groups might seem like the best of all worlds.

Twice a week, the kids - ages 0-5 - will make friends, do hands-on activities, play with educational toys, and learn from both a classroom leader and at least one parent or adult family member accompanying them.

Launched last week at American Lakes, Witter Ranch and Natomas Park schools, the 90-minute classes already have reached capacity at all three schools.

The goal is to help young kids prepare for entering kindergarten in years to come. Play Groups incorporate music, movement, literacy and learning.

One recent day at Natomas Park Elementary, for example, the first 30 minutes of class included an activity involving a shark song - it ended happily with little fish escaping - and learning opportunities ranging from writing to coloring to playing with building blocks, dolls, plastic toys, stuffed animals, a simulated oven, plastic dinosaurs, and numerous other playthings.

Child Development Assistant Ty Humphrey asked a series of questions and provided various instructions, encouraging the kids to speak out, listen, participate, and follow directions: Does anyone know what day it is? What date? What month? What the weather is? ... If it's sunny, raise your hand ... What do you wear when it's cold outside?

NUSD's Play Groups will continue through the week of March 18-22. Classes at all three schools meet twice a week, but days and times vary. Though no openings currently exist, interested families can add their names to a waiting list by emailing or calling (916) 567-5519. More information is available by checking out this flyer in English or Spanish.
'Cash for College' helps seniors apply for aid
NUSD seniors had the opportunity to receive help in filling out college aid applications last Wednesday at a "Cash for College" workshop at Inderkum High. Sacramento-area education officials were available to answer questions and provide assistance to students, parents and guardians during the two-hour session.

The workshop covered both state and federal college aid. It was one of a series of similar events held throughout the region, beginning last October. Natomas High hosted a "Cash for College" workshop Oct. 18.

NUSD's Vision is that all students graduate as "college and career ready, productive, responsible, and engaged global citizens." Resources are available to help, including these two: An NUSD Parent University video covering key points in applying for college aid is available here. A College and Career Readiness webpage is available here. It is designed to help students of all ages plan ahead for college by focusing on what they can do, what their parents can do, and what NUSD is doing to keep them on track.
Dozens attend Instructional Assistant Job Fair 
It's impressive to see how many people want to help NUSD students learn.
More than 50 applicants showed up last week for our Instructional Assistant Job Fair, which offered on-the-spot interviews for highly qualified candidates. Students throughout NUSD surely will benefit in months and years to come from hiring tied to the four-hour event.
NUSD is looking to fill 10 current Instructional Assistant full-time or part-time openings. Other candidates will be chosen as substitutes. By working directly with individuals and groups in classrooms, IAs can have a direct and positive impact on student learning at all grade levels. ... To all who attended the Job Fair, thank you very much.

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Let's work together. We urge parents and staff to stay up-to-date on district developments. We provide multiple opportunities to learn about NUSD successes, plans and events throughout the school year. 

Two key sources are Facebook -- we're listed as "Natomas Unified School District" -- and Twitter, under @NatomasUSD.  District and school websites also are a good source of information ranging from lunch menus to parent opportunities. Thanks for taking a look. We're honored to be your partner. 
NUSD Spotlight 
Brought to you by NUSD communications team of Jim Sanders, Lauren Schnitzler and Jeff McPhee. If you have questions, comments or story tips, please call (916) 561-5267.