NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- January  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.
There's Still Time to Provide Input for 'The Next 5' - and Your Opinions Matter for NUSD's Future  
Off and running.

Numerous meetings have been held and hundreds of opinion surveys have been gathered this month for NUSD's "The Next 5" strategic planning effort, which began Jan. 9 and will extend through Feb. 16.
A list of campus and community engagement sessions, as well as a district survey to provide feedback online, are available on The Next 5 webpage here. Input will be used to chart NUSD's course for the next five years.
Parents,  staff, students and stakeholders are asked what they think about key operations and functions of NUSD. They also are invited to identify changes they'd like to see.
Ideas and suggestions have poured in: Implement more art classes, more music programs, more tutoring, more after-school options, reduce student testing, teach more about basic life skills, offer dual-language immersion, provide more vocational opportunities, encourage internships, make it easier and less expensive for parents to serve as school volunteers, and many more.
Most participants interviewed randomly after one community engagement session said they appreciated the chance to express their opinions to district leaders. Comments included:
1) "I think this is very constructive. You have to know where you're wanting to go before you start heading that way. If you don't have a guide or a plan, you're not going anywhere, you're just walking."
2) "It was very refreshing to get everybody's input and it really felt like our voices were heard."
3) "I think this is good. I just hope that whatever the school district employees wrote down from us, I hope they really do something with it -- review it and prioritize what is really is important, what are the needs of our students."
For those who prefer to submit feedback online, brief informational videos and a district survey are available here Questions? Call Constituent and Customer Services at 561-5253.
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.
Good News for NUSD 

Millions Cut in Interest Costs, More Cash for Facilities
 from NUSD Measure J Bond Sale and Refinancing

 Natomas 
Unified's second sale of Measure J school facility bonds  has generated $38. 88 million for  school facility improvements -  $1.1 million more than anticipated. These funds will continue to  support the many current and future facility projects  needed  throughout the District as outlined in  the NUSD Facility Master  Plan.

 In addition to the Measure J Bond sale, two prior bonds from 2007 and 2008 were refinanced at a  lower interest rate to save taxpayers $5.74 million over the remaining repayment period - $1.3  million more than anticipated. 

 Government Financial Strategies inc., NUSD's financial adviser, indicated that the following factors  enabled the District to achieve higher bond revenue and lower bond costs this year than  anticipated:

 *  A previous California Board of Education waiver allowed NUSD to sell $38.88 million in bonds  this year, rather than $28.5 million, based on the district's bonding capacity. This provided more  upfront funds for school projects. 
 * The District's continued positive credit rating generated a high interest by bond buyers.
 * Coupling the second Measure J bond sale with two other Bond refinancing maximized    competitive bidding.
 * Competitive bidding produced potential savings of up to $1.75 million.

 "Taxpayers, families, students and schools all win," Superintendent Chris Evans said. "We  continue to work hard to save taxpayers money while providing a high-quality education that  prepares students for college and career."

 Measure J was a $129 million bond measure approved by NUSD voters in 2014 to fund numerous  facility projects, including building new schools, renovating or expanding existing facilities,  enhancing student safety, and creating 21st century learning spaces.
Student Scholarships, Contests & Opportunities 
    The following are a few scholarships, contests and opportunities available
    to NUSD students:
  • 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.
  • SCHWAB-ROSENHOUSE SCHOLARSHIP -- The Schwab-Rosenhouse Memorial Scholarship provides renewable awards ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 annually to help eligible high school graduates attend two- or four-year colleges, universities, or vocational/technical institutions located within 100 miles of the Sacramento County courthouse. Candidates must have lived in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer or Yolo counties for at least two years prior to submitting their application. Entries are due Feb. 9. Details are available here. 
  • YOUTH LEADERSHIP AWARD -- The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) Foundation is sponsoring Tesoro Youth Leadership Awards for outstanding young leaders who currently are high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.0. This new scholarship has been launched to encourage young scholars who are leading by example in their schools and communities. Tesoro Companies Inc. is funding 20 $2,500 scholarships for 12th-graders in 19 states, including California, where it does business. Financial need will be considered. Applications must be filed by Feb. 26 and are available here
  • 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.  
Natomas High Student Engineering Team Wins
$1,500 Top Prize in Bridge Building Competition 
Let's cut to the chase: They won -- $1,500! 
 
But we're getting ahead of ourselves ...

The challenge for Natomas High Nighthawk engineering students Eric Zizumbo, Carlos Rocha and Jesus Venegas was to build a balsa wood bridge that is arched and weighs little but carries a lot of weight to qualify for the 2017 California Bridge Building Competition.

Along the way, the Nighthawk team had to use computer software to design their bridge, submit scaled design drawings and data tables, and explain scientific principles behind their design, challenges encountered, solutions reached, and lessons learned. Recently, the three-student Natomas High team was selected as one of three finalists to make a verbal presentation and have their entry judged and tested Jan. 28 before a panel of industry professionals.

Drumroll, please...

They aced it! Zizumbo, Rocha and Venegas finished first, taking home $500 apiece in the competition by the  PREP Foundation, a non-profit group promoting science, technology, engineering and math.

Kim Knestrick, Natomas High engineering teacher, said lessons learned by the three 11th-graders in this bridge building competition and in Nighthawk engineering classes range from problem solving to how trusses are made and how structures are affected by compression forces and tension forces. All will serve Zizumbo, Rocha and Venegas well in college, she said.

"This is civil engineering," Knestrick said. "This is how they get started. They'll do the exact same thing at college. ... This was a huge learning experience." Read more here.


All 1st-Graders to be Tested for GATE 
We're excited to announce that all 1st-graders will be tested this year for Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, a program for students with exceptional abilities.

Universal testing ensures that no 1st-grader child will be overlooked for eligibility and those that qualify will begin GATE at an early age. The new practice is consistent with NUSD's Core Belief that, "Disparity and disproportionality can and must be eliminated."

Parents and guardians who preferred that their 1st-grader not be tested for GATE could file an opt-out form at their child's school through Jan. 20. Testing will be done in February and March, by computer, take 30 minutes to complete, and will measure spatial skills.

In recent years, 1st-graders have been referred to GATE testing by a parent, guardian, teacher, or school staff member. That no longer is necessary. Second- through 5th-graders, however, will not automatically be tested for GATE. Referrals by parents, guardians and staff were accepted through Jan. 20. 

PREPARED TO SUCCEED @ NUSD
Former Tiger Sarina Pattar
runs a health clinic now  

Sarina Pattar has come a long way since graduating from Inderkum High -- she now has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from UCLA and manages a health-care clinic for One Medical Group, based in San Francisco. "NUSD was good for me because I was challenged to take initiative and get involved with the many opportunities in front of me," she said. Advice to current students? Build confidence and self esteem, set goals, then devise a plan to reach them. "Everyone is capable of success, you just have to try!" 

Pattar was spotlighted this month 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 NUSD graduate for recognition, contact NUSD Communications Director Jim Sanders at 561-5267.
H. Allen Hight Elementary a 'Second Step' ahead in teaching coping skills to youth   

Emotional and behavioral skills
taught to kids at all grade levels 
  
Here was the scenario, posed by a video shown to 4th-graders at H. Allen Hight Elementary School:

Mandy was mad, very mad, because classmate James had stolen her answer and used it to win the  "Funky Monkey" prize in a class quiz contest.

Now the questions by teacher Lia Killeen:
  • Was it natural for Mandy to be angry?
  • Are strong emotions a normal thing?
  • How can Mandy control her anger?
  • Can you think of something that made you angry?
Welcome to "Second Step," a program teaching all students at H. Allen Hight Elementary skills they can use to control strong emotions, handle disappointment, act responsibly, discourage bullying, and show compassion both inside and outside school.

After sampling Second Step last year, H. Allen Hight is using it in all grades this year, from Pre-Kindergarten to 5th  grade -- and results are promising. Student referrals to the main office for misbehavior have dropped about 25% this year, Principal Stephanie Carlstrom said.
  
Teachers give a Second Step lesson once a week for 30 minutes, but the skills learned are reinforced daily, Carlstrom said. 
  
The Second Step program is part of a network of social-emotional supports for which the California School Boards Association presented NUSD recently with a Golden Bell Award, honoring exemplary practices in public education.

Five-year-olds in Second Step focus on basic issues such as listening, following directions, helping, identifying feelings and calming down. By 5th  grade, students are learning to manage anxiety, accept differences, consider other perspectives, be assertive without being aggressive, and respond to situations with empathy and respect.

"Parents and adults sometimes just think, 'Oh, kids should know this,'' Principal Carlstrom said of the social-emotional skills. "But if we don't deliberately teach these skills, they're not going to acquire them, right?"

The goal is to develop the whole child in elementary school, not just teach academic skills, Killeen said. "It doesn't matter so much if students can read and write if they're not capable of interacting with others and sharing those skills, or using those skills to accomplish larger tasks."

Fun Ways of Connecting Kids to Schools 
Bannon Creek Elementary
Beaver Cheerleading Squad  

  Sometimes it's sports that connect students to         their school. Or music. Or clubs. Or activities.         Bannon Creek Elementary has a cheerleading         team that performs at school sports and other         events. Judging from smiles, volume and               enthusiasm, there's a whole lot of connecting         going on.   For a jolt of energy and fun, click on       this video.
Jefferson Elementary
Folklorico Dance Group
   
Mix passion with music and colorful garb. What do you get? Jefferson Elementary School's Folklorico Dance Group, shown performing Jan. 24 at a meeting of Natomas Unified's District English Learner Advisory Committee.

What's Cooking in Nutrition Services: Innovation, Healthy Lunches -- and Socks?
Campus Event Donates Socks
When Kids Try Healthy Food   

Ashlye gave it thumbs up - "It tastes really good, like peach."

"A little bit nasty but a little bit good," Azari said.

Devonte said he didn't like it much, but "I just tried it to try new things."

The 8-year-olds from H. Allen Hight Elementary School were reacting to a "Try It" booth at which they sampled butternut squash as part of a festive "Rock Your Socks Off" lunch party by NUSD's Nutrition Services on Thursday, Jan. 26.

For each H. Allen Hight or Natomas Middle School student who tried the squash that day, Nutrition Services vowed to donate a pair of socks to a needy child at Joey's Food Locker, located at Natomas High. The goal was to get kids to taste something new to them, a healthy vegetable, in hopes it might change their eating habits forever. A total of 532 students stepped up to try.

"Rock Your Socks Off" also featured a free farmers market of cabbage, oranges and  
squash, a photo booth, a lunch of California-grown food, and a demonstration of how to make "Awesome Apple Crisp." Kids were encouraged to dress in 1980s garb.

NUSD's event was a local spin on a statewide event, California Thursdays, that spotlighted a statewide collaboration in which 71 school districts encompassing more than 2,900 schools are committed to serving California-grown food in their school lunches on Thursdays, when feasible.

"When students eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and it contributes toward a need, it creates a win situation for all," said Vince Caguin, NUSD's Nutrition Services Director. Read more here.
Winter Recess Free Lunches
a first for Natomas Unified 

While Cathey Kelly was serving free kids' lunches over Winter Recess, a grandmother caring for four kids walked up and gave her a big hug.

"I'm so glad you guys are here," the grandmother said.

The free lunch program meant that every hungry child in Natomas had a place to turn for food while schools were closed for the holidays. It also provided incentive for parents and kids to get outside and spend time together each day, Caguin said.

NUSD served nearly 100 free lunches per day at two elementary school campuses - Natomas Park and Jefferson.

Anyone 18 or younger was served a daily entrée from 11:30 a.m. to noon that varied from sun butter and jelly sandwiches to taco salad, pizza, turkey sandwiches or garden salad. Vegetables, fruit and milk also were provided.

"This is good!" one boy exclaimed to a companion as they climbed into a waiting car at Jefferson Elementary to munch their sun butter and jelly sandwiches.

Jessica, who has six kids, said the feeding program was a welcome addition to her holiday season. "It's a good idea, to help out a little," she said. "And my kids have been telling me all morning to come."

Nutrition Services Coordinator Vince Caguin smiled at a recent Twitter tweet in which California Department of Education nutrition officials praised NUSD's feeding efforts. "You're doing amazing work," it read. "Thank you for everything you do to keep your students fed well."

Hundreds Playing Elementary School Sports  
More teams, plenty of fun
in fall and winter seasons  

Even better the second time around.

NUSD's elementary school sports program, now in its second year, has attracted about the same number of participants for its fall and winter seasons. But schools are launching more teams to accommodate them, allowing more playing time per athlete.  

NUSD's fall sports slate featured 16 volleyball and 14 flag football teams, compared to eight apiece last year. Winter sports, competing now, offers 22 boys basketball teams and 18 girls basketball teams, compared to 22 and 16, respectively, last year.

Both years, about 330 students in 4th and 5th grades participated in fall sports, and about 400 joined winter teams. Participation has been strong among both boys and girls. Games are played after school and busing is provided.

The upcoming spring season will feature boys and girls soccer.

Expanding sports to elementary grades last year was consistent with NUSD's Board-approved goal to "create safe and welcoming learning environments where students attend and are connected to their schools."  Through sports, students also can gain confidence in themselves and learn teamwork, collaboration, goal-setting, discipline and sportsmanship.
Cultures Collide, literally, on  Wrestling Mat 
Japanese & American wrestlers enjoy 3-day cultural exchange 

They fought hard on the mat but left the Natomas High School gymnasium as friends Jan. 9, two teams of top-notch prep wrestlers from Japan and the Sacramento area -- including Nighthawks Chris Valencia and Joey Agbigay. As part of a three-day cultural exchange, the Japanese grapplers were hosted by their local counterparts. Both groups learned from and about each other, so when the final bout was over, they came together in a sign of unity for a photo as one "team." ... Winners all.

(Note: Photos by NHS students Rashanique Adams and Calvin Mouangsourathsomdy)

Discovery High's Perfect Attendance Campaign 
Prize-winning Bulldogs
 
Every day absent from school is a lot of instruction lost.

So Discovery High School has conducted a yearlong campaign in which students with perfect attendance for an entire month receive a token of recognition and congratulations.
 
 Prizes have varied from month to month, ranging from Bulldog sweatshirts to a lunch at In-n-Out Burgers or a sweet treat from Jamba Juice. The campaign is coordinated by Discovery High Vice Principal Robert Mohammadi.
The goal of the contest is to spotlight the winners' perfect attendance, and to inspire and motivate other Discovery High students to join them in coming to class, on time, every day.
   
The contest is part of a more extensive focus on attendance at Discovery High that has paid dividends thus far. Pictured above are some of this year's winners.
 
As of Dec. 21, roughly halfway through the school year, Bulldog attendance had improved 2 percentage points and chronic truancy had dropped by nearly 10 percentage points.
NUSD Spotlight
             Brought to you by:
             Jim Sanders
   Director of  Communications
             (916) 561-5267