NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- September 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.
Parent input sought for new elementary school   
NUSD has scheduled a Community Engagement Meeting to discuss plans for a new elementary school in northwest Natomas and to introduce Principal Tonja Jarrell, answer questions, and gather input from local residents.

The public meeting will be held from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, in the Westlake Clubhhouse, 4701 Westlake Parkway.

The new school will open at an interim site -- current home of Westlake Charter School -- but no decision has been made on what grades to offer initially. The District is looking at the possibility of a school encompassing Transitional Kindergarten through 8th grades, eventually. No student currently attending Two Rivers, Witter Ranch, or H. Allen Hight elementary schools will be required to switch to the new school. 

In coming years, the District's plan is to build a modern, brand-new campus on district-owned property in northwest Natomas. Public input will be gathered before that project is designed or approved. Read more here.
Red-carpet greeting 
at H. Allen Hight   
Everybody is a star.

That was the message Sept. 28 at H. Allen Hight Elementary as all students -- more than 700 -- were cheered loudly as they walked one-by-one down a red carpet lined with staff holding signs praising their character and worth.

"You Can Achieve Anything," read one sign. Others included, "You Are a Confident Learner," "You Make Us Smile," "We Care About You," and "You Are a Great Listener."

Different races, ages, and talents, but all the students are members of the same Cheetah "family."

" The red carpet is one way the Hight team are showing that our Cheetahs are important to us, and that we care for them," Principal Stephanie Carlstrom.

What do students gain by walking the red carpet? "They feel proud," said Sonia Buchanan, grandmother of a 9-year-old student. "All the signs give them encouragement, and give them incentive to come to school." Read more here.
Happy Silver Anniversary, Natomas Unified 
Celebrating 25 Years
as a Unified District 
This logo will be a common sight in 2016-17 as Natomas Unified celebrates the community's March 1991 vote to expand from an elementary district into a K-12 school system. The move became official on July 1, 1992.

The Silver Anniversary logo is featured on the District's website and on commemorative banners hanging at campuses and along streets throughout Natomas. 

Supt. Chris Evans and Board President Teri Burns have presented staff with Silver Anniversary pins and with lanyards to wear them on, courtesy of donations received to support NUSD's year-long celebration of its birth as a K-12 district.

Throughout the year, NUSD will spotlight its 25-year transformation from a tiny district of about 2,300 students to one serving nearly 15,000 students with a smorgasbord of academic pathways or career-oriented options, ranging from International Baccalaureate to Culinary Arts, AP Capstone, Robotics, Engineering, Health, Broadcast and Media Arts, Visual Arts/Technology, and Business/Marketing. 

Nighthawk Students Helping Students 

Spotted at Natomas High School's Back to School Night:  Students wearing T-shirts committing themselves to helping classmates succeed.

Younger students learn from older ones through this simple, helping-hand program that promotes a campus culture of caring and collaboration. Nice way to start off the new year...Nighthawk Nation, indeed.   
There's a lot to learn from an egg ... 
Class wins grant to hatch animals

Coming soon to Heron School: Baby chickens, baby quail, baby pheasant, maybe tiny frogs and butterflies, too.

Seventh-grade science teacher Karen McDaniels has won a grant of about $1,500 from the California Educational Research Association (CERA) for a Life Science project to study various animal eggs, hatch them, then release the babies into an appropriate environment. She also plans to operate a worm farm at Heron this year.

"I really feel strongly that getting an experience is how you learn from science," McDaniels said. "Not by talking about other people doing it, but by doing it yourself. Anything I can do that's hands-on is really the style of teaching I strive toward."

There's education in looking inside fertile eggs, watching them incubate, tracking what percentage of eggs hatch, observing newborns, learning about habitat, and discussing what factors affect a tiny animal's birth and survival.

There's also education in learning how animal species impact ecology, how they contribute to biodiversity, interrelationships between species, and how humans can help or hurt Mother Nature - thus enhancing or reducing animals' chance of survival.

McDaniels hopes her 7th-grade students will leave Heron feeling empowered about improving animals' plight. "That's what I'm hoping, that's kind of the point," she said. "They can say, 'Yes, I can do this, yes I can make a difference -- I have in the past, so I know what I can do to help.'" Read the  full story here.

Congratulations, Andy Saturnino! 

Discovery High School's Andy Saturnino was sworn in recently as NUSD's student member of the Board of Trustees. He's a dedicated student, earning a 3.9 grade point average in the final quarter of last year. He's on pace to graduate early this year. Andy also stands out in one of our career pathways, Culinary Arts, with his sights set on a food service career. Each year, NUSD welcomes a Student Trustee to provide input and cast a preferential vote that does not make or break a Board decision but counts as a symbol of student opinion. Thanks for your service, Andy Saturnino. Welcome aboard!
Happy Day at Inderkum ... 

First IB class receives diplomas, certificates 
Marking a milestone for a world-class academic program, Inderkum High's first group of International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme students received their IB diplomas or certificates at a campus awards ceremony this month. 

IB results were not announced until long after Inderkum's graduation ceremony last May, so the school invited back dozens of former Tigers to receive their IB honors.

"I always wanted to go to a good college and make my parents proud," Shyam Patel said of his IB diploma. Mission accomplished: Patel is attending UC Irvine.  Read the  full story here. 
Three Nighthawk seniors 
win AP Scholar Awards 

Three Natomas High School seniors won coveted AP Scholar Awards recently for exceptional achievement on multiple college-level Advanced Placement exams.

Dylon Chima Sanchez, 16, took top honors in Nighthawk Nation, winning the "AP Scholar with Distinction" award for students who take at least five AP exams and score an average of 3.5 or higher out of a maximum 5.

Classmates Beili Huang, 17, and Juan Luna III, 17, captured the "AP Scholar with Honor" award, requiring students to take at least four AP exams and average a 3.25 score.

All three Nighthawks have their sights set on engineering careers, though Dylan is considering computer science options as well. Dylan and Juan hope to attend UC Berkeley next year, while Beili is looking closely at UC Davis.

Only about one of every five students worldwide who take AP exams win Scholar Awards. Research consistently shows that AP students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams typically experience greater academic success in college and have higher graduation rates than students who do not participate in AP.

Many four-year colleges in the United States provide credit and/or advanced placement for qualifying scores on AP exams.  Read more here.
Cream of the Classroom Crop  

Trustees Honor Teachers of the Year  
Plaques Presented to District and Site Winners 

NUSD Trustees presented District Teacher of the Year Heather Gohn and each campus winner of top-teacher honors with plaques this month applauding their skill, commitment, effectiveness, and contribution to preparing students for college and career.

In addition to Gohn, a 3rd-grade teacher at Bannon Creek Elementary -- who is the subject of a feature story in this edition of "In the Loop" -- teachers recognized at the Board's Sept. 14 meeting, award ceremony and reception were:  
  • Cynthia Westbrook. American Lakes Elementary
  • Michael Mitchell, Discovery High School
  • Barbara Martinez, H. Allen Hight Elementary
  • Tony Thomas, Heron School
  • Kristi Dills, Inderkum High School
  • Siurave Almanza, Jefferson Elementary
  • Daniel Meyer, Leroy Greene Academy
  • Jerry Woods, Natomas Middle School
  • Lyndsay Byrd, Natomas Park Elementary
  • Lyn Bigelow, Natomas High School
  • Meghan Kauffman, Two Rivers Elementary
  • Ana Reilly, Witter Ranch Elementary

Programs, notes and opportunities

Reaching Out to Parents and Guardians 

New English Language Classroom 
The language itself hasn't changed, but standards, instruction, and textbooks for English Language Arts are different now than in the past. Students are doing much more than just reading and writing. NUSD already has held two community meetings to explain these changes to parents of middle and high school students, and to provide strategies for supporting instruction at home. Other sessions, for parents of elementary school students, are scheduled for 5:30-6:30 p.m. tonight (Sept. 29) at Bannon Creek Elementary School, 2775 Millcreek Drive; and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Natomas Park Elementary School, 4700 Crest Dr.
Sign up now 'Strengthening Families' 

Beginning Oct. 4, NUSD will hold a series of weekly "Strengthening Families" classes for parents and their children. By attending together, families learn together. The goal is to improve communication and relationships within families. Topics for parents include setting constructive limits and providing better discipline. Children will study issues ranging from resisting peer pressure to understanding their feelings, complying with family rules, and consequences of drug use. Classes will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. every Tuesday at Bannon Creek Elementary School, 2775 Millcreek Dr. Dinner and child care for ages 2 and older will be provided. Register by calling 916-567-5516. More information is available in this English flyer and this Spanish flyer.

Joey's Food Locker Donations Sought 

Less than a year after it opened, Joey's Food Locker has grown to serve nearly 170 needy residents per month, with a goal of providing enough groceries to last them three days.

The food locker is located at Natomas High and managed by students in NUSD's Adult Transition Program, which teaches independent living and job skills to young adults with physical or mental disabilities.

The helping-hand program survives on staff and community donations of canned and non-perishable goods. Keeping shelves stocked has been a struggle, at times, so please consider donating non-perishable foods whenever you can. Bins are available at every NUSD school and at the Ed Center, 1901 Arena Blvd. Questions? Contact Amreek Singh, 561-5287.
 Student Spotlight: Herrick Legaspi 

College and career lessons from a tennis racket  
 By Kristi Matal

Herrick Legaspi has learned valuable lessons for school and career by knocking tennis balls over nets - and he's very good at it.
 "I have learned both determination and teamwork from playing tennis," said Herrick, an NUSD 7 th -grader who recently captured first place for 12-year-olds in the Northeast Division of the U.S. Tennis Association Junior National Championship (TAJNC), held in Little Rock, Ark.
At Natomas Middle School, Herrick's favorite subjects are P.E. and mathematics. His sights are set on attending college, where he wants to study computer science. Through tennis, he already knows sacrifice and dedication - and he's accomplished a great deal in a short time. Herrick's tennis exploits are a reminder that not all learning occurs in classrooms.

Herrick is also a regular kid - when he's not playing tennis, he likes playing computer games like Pokemon Go and Class Royale. His advice for fellow students interested in excelling in sports is simple: "Just do it!" Read the full story here.

(Kristi Matal,
Get exercise, have fun, help kids 
Register Now for Saturday's
5K  'Run for Their Future'

You can help raise money for local students and your own school by participating in the Natomas Schools Foundation 5K "Run for Their Future" on Saturday (Oct. 1) at Inderkum High School.

Schools will receive $10 for every adult registration, and $5 for every student and child registration. Remaining proceeds will be used by the Natomas Schools Foundation for student scholarships, technology grants, and for other academic, art, and education-related programs benefiting kids attending charter and non-charter schools within NUSD boundaries.

The 5K fun run -- or walk -- replaces the Natomas Duck Pluck Festival as the nonprofit, all-volunteer foundation's major fundraiser for the year. The fast, flat course starts at Inderkum High School, loops around the North Natomas Regional Park and duck pond, then finishes on the Inderkum High School track. The event will provide T-shirts, entertainment, vendor booths, chip timing, and more.

Click  here for more information. Online registration is available  here.
Round of Applause   
NUSD Teacher of the Year 

   Heather Gohn's Struggles in School
      Motivated  Her to Become a Teacher  

Heather Gohn has come a long way - from struggling elementary student herself to Natomas Unified's Teacher of the Year.

"I always struggled in school," said Gohn, a 3 rd -grade teacher at Bannon Creek Elementary School. "I had a horrible learning disability and it didn't even get diagnosed until the 6 th  grade, so I struggled in school for most of my life."

Gohn suffered from dyslexia and eyesight problems, so she could understand concepts but not necessarily read them. Finally, in college, something "clicked." A teacher showed her how to use commas properly and she became less self-conscious about her writing. That spark grew into a fire. Feeling better, she performed better, wrote more, learned more.

"School became, not easy for me, but easier," she said.

Her personal challenges motivated her to become a teacher, she said.

Growing up, Gohn learned empathy for struggling students and the power of one person to change their lives. At Bannon Creek, she tries to teach different ways of arriving at the same answer.

"That's the great thing about Common Core," she said. "It's really about how everyone can solve it in a different way as long as you're getting the answer and talking it through -- 'I think of it this way and you think of it that way, but that's OK, as long as we get to the same point.'"

Her goal is to provide every student in her class with challenging curriculum, she said, regardless whether they are gifted learners or struggling to reach grade level.

Gohn is the loud, active, inspirational, entertaining, demanding, high-energy, hands-on type of teacher who does Physical Education exercises along with her students and pushes to make learning fun.

"I love, love, love my job," Gohn said. "That's what I always tell my husband and my kids: I love the people -- students, first and foremost."  Read more here. 

Child Nutrition Employee of the Year 

 Food as a way to a child's heart?
April Glaves proves it every day   

  Remember the old saying, "Food for thought"?

  April Glaves takes it literally.

 As Heron School's cafeteria manager, she sees herself as part of a  cohesive, collaborative educational team: She helps feed kids every  day to keep them strong, alert, energetic, and ready to learn. Food for health. Food for growth. Food for thought.

 "Absolutely," Glaves said when asked if cafeterias contribute to  learning. "If (kids) don't eat, they can't learn - it's a long day."  Heron's staff, from custodians to principal, rely on each other to  educate students, she added. "We're all a team. It takes all of us."

 Glaves began working at Heron as a cafeteria volunteer years ago when her own son - now a  college junior -- attended the school. She joined Heron's staff in 2008 and currently serves as the  lead Food Services Assistant.

 Glaves is Natomas Unified's Classified Employee of the Year for Nutrition Services, and here's an  excerpt from her introduction by Assistant Supt. Doug Orr to District Trustees at a meeting  honoring her and other district winners:

 "Ms. Glaves is described as always having a smile on her face. Each student who walks into the  cafeteria knows they will be greeted by 'Miss April' and given that little extra love and attention  when they need it."

 Boiled down to two simple words: School mom.

 Hundreds of Heron students file into the cafeteria for breakfast or lunch each day and, to Glaves,  they're her kids. If they're very young and need a shoe tied, if they're sad and need a hug, if all  they need is a smile and a warm greeting, Glaves prides herself on being there for her  "chickadees" or "honey bears."

 Recently, a special-needs student who doesn't speak much walked up and made it very clear  what he thinks of Glaves. "He grabbed my arm and pulled me in and gave me the biggest hug  ever," she said. "It just made my day."

 That simple encounter says nothing about food service, perhaps, but it says a whole lot about  Glaves and her contribution at Heron.  Read more here.

'Sweating it out' for your school  

Time and again, the N atom as community comes through for our schools ... Latest example? T wo Rivers Elementary ... The campus held its annual Jog-a-Thon recently, with kids soliciting pledges for running 15 minutes apiece. At each grade level, students who raised the most money won a lunch with Principal Colleen Perry. When the dust settled, $27,584 had been generated for the school. Awesome!
 One-stop shopping for a college to attend   
 Students gathered enrollment  
 info at annual NUSD College Fair 

 More than 50 colleges and universities participated    in NUSD's annual College Fair this month, giving  students plenty of chances to ask questions, gather  information, and perhaps move closer to making  decisions about their future.

 The College Fair attracted dozens and dozens of  students and parents, who moved from one table to another in the Nighthawk gym. Participating  colleges and universities ranged from UC Davis to Northern Arizona University, University of San Diego, University of San Francisco, St. Mary's College, and various California State University and  community college campuses.

Tiger Josh Falo Selected 
for All-America Football game

 One of the nation's elite high school football  players, Inderkum's Josh Falo was honored at a  campus ceremony Sept. 26 for his selection to  the Under Armour All-America High School  Football Game, an annual showcase for college  and pro scouts. The All-America battle will be  televised by ESPN live on New Year's Day from the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Florida. Josh said he's eager to showcase his skills on a national stage and hopes to play pro football someday. But first he wants to get a college education -- and he's working hard to prepare for that: He has a 3.0 grade point average at Inderkum. Read more here.