NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- April 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.
H. Allen Hight now an IB World School!
NUSD has region's first
fully authorized IB
continuum for TK-12 
Marking a happy ending to years of planning, training and collaboration, H. Allen Hight Elementary School was authorized by the International Baccalaureate organization as a World School this month for its Primary Years Programme (PYP) serving all its students.
The development means that Natomas Unified now offers the first fully authorized program in the Sacramento area in which students can attend IB-associated classes from the time they enter the school system until they leave it as high school graduates.
"This is well deserved recognition for staff and community members who have spent years developing this program, and it spotlights Natomas Unified as a district offering challenging academic choices providing students with skills that will benefit them throughout their life," Supt. Chris Evans said. Read the full story here.
Second NUSD Winner 

ABC 10 Honors Joel Schwieger
as 'Teacher of the  Month'   
He teaches to help special-needs students, Joel Schwieger says, not to win awards.

But Schwieger concedes that he is honored that ABC 10 named him its regional "Teacher of the Month" for April.
Selection of the veteran Natomas High School instructor, leader of the District's Adult Transition Program, marks the second time in five months that ABC 10 has chosen a "Teacher of the Month" from NUSD. Courtnay Kaump of Two Rivers Elementary School won the award in December.

Schwieger's co-workers say they're not surprised by his selection. It comes with a $1,000 check fron Schools Financial Credit Union and places Schwieger in the running for ABC 10 "Teacher of the Year" honors.

"He's very caring, he'd take the shirt off his back to help someone, or give away his last dollar," said Wanda Murpy, an instruction assistant. "He looks out for everyone. If anything, he's overly giving." Read the full story here. Watch the ABC 10 video here.
Beavers with Heart 

A high school senior asked Bannon Creek Elementary to help him with his senior project by collecting 100 new or gently used books for a nonprofit literacy group. Reaction was overwhelming. Within two days, Bannon Creek Beavers met the 100-book goal. Soon, books covered the floor of the school's library. In less than two weeks, the drive ended -- 943 books collected! ... One student alone, Amaya, gave 118 books. One class alone, Mrs. Gohn's 3rd-graders, donated 214 books. ... Much respect, Beavers. Truly amazing heart.
Two Rivers and Heron schools
honored for excellence with 
state 'Gold Ribbon' Award'

Heron and Two Rivers elementary schools were honored for excellence this month by the California Department of Education, which selected them for a prestigious Gold Ribbon School Award based on innovation and effectiveness in implementing state content and performance standards.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson named Heron and Two Rivers among 772 elementary schools honored statewide. Sixteen Sacramento County campuses received the award. Nearly 6,000 California elementary schools were eligible to apply.

California's Gold Ribbon School Award recognizes successful, vibrant, innovative centers of learning and teaching that provide great examples of things educators are doing right -- embracing rigorous academic standards, emphasizing creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school environment. Read the full story here.
Inderkum rated among nation's top-performing
 high schools by U.S. News & World Report 

 Inderkum High was ranked among the  nation's top-performing high schools this  month in an analysis of nearly 29,000  campuses based on overall student  performance, graduation rates, college  readiness, and serving disadvantaged  students.

 Inderkum won a Bronze Medal for  outperforming more than three of every  four high schools nationwide in the analysis by U.S. News & World Report, an online news  service that published a national magazine of the same name for decades. Five hundred  campuses won Gold Medals, 2,173 won Silver, and 3,545 captured Bronze.

 Last year, Inderkum also won a Bronze Award in the national rankings. Supt. Chris Evans called  the recognition a tremendous honor that highlights Natomas' great students and recognizes  years of hard work by staff and administrators. This year's methodology by U.S. News & World  Report was similar to that of last year, except for graduation rates, which were a recent  addition  to the analysis. Read the full story here.
Big Day for NUSD College and Career Readiness 
At Natomas Unified high schools, April 19 was a big day for college and career readiness.

Juniors were taking the ACT college admissions test on their high school campus, free of charge, during normal work hours to eliminate any potential obstacle of cost, transportation or work conflict. This is the second year that NUSD has offered 11th-graders this opportunity.

Nearly 800 juniors were expected to take the ACT, which can help qualify them for college admission, exempt them from remedial classes at some facilities, and identify career paths they may not have considered through an inventory of their skills and interests.

NUSD took the Senior Survey that day, which will help guide District programs preparing current and future students for college or career. The questionnaire asks 12th-graders about themselves and their high school experience, including academic pathways, school activities, time spent on homework, and planning for their future.

College and Career Readiness 

Heron Aquaponics: Science you can swallow - literally!

 Fish waste does not have to be wasted, Heron students are proving.

Sure, it may be useless discard to fish, but Heron students  are using ammonia from the waste to grow vegetables through a continuous process called aquaponics, combining aquaculture with hydroponics to produce schoolwork you can bite into.

 Along the way, 6th-graders are learning about science,  nature, chemistry, plant essentials and fish  requirements.

 "It's pretty fun to do," said Jade, 12.

 The experiment always has a happy ending, with an edible crop -- most recently, kale, which  students used to make salad.

's how the project works: A group of tilapia fish swim in a water-filled tank, producing wastewater that is pumped into an attached plant-growing bed, where expanded clay pellets convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrates essential for crops. The process continues hour after hour, day after day, helping both  fish and plants grow over time. 

 Students learn responsibility by testing PH levels in the fish tank. They also learn about ammonia  levels, water conservation, testing methods and plant harvesting. They use charts to document  plant heights and weights. Read the full story here.
Did You Know? 

For a good time, click here  

Music, dance, art, food, costumes -- Leroy Greene Academy's Multicultural Festival had it all this month in a fun-filled celebration of campus and community diversity.

The festivities offered attractions for all ages.

Click on this brief video to see for yourself.
Record Number of NUSD Students
earn California Seal of Biliteracy 

Eighty-four NUSD high school seniors earned the California Seal of Biliteracy this year, a 65 percent increase from the number of honorees last year.

NUSD's recipients are proficient in English and at least one of four world languages: Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese or Tagalog.

Six NUSD students qualified for the award in two world languages.

The Seal of Biliteracy was earned this year by 50 students from Inderkum High, 31 from Natomas High, and three from Discovery HIgh.

Last year, 51 seniors received biliteracy honors compared to 36 in 2013-14, the first year NUSD students could qualify for the award. Read the full story here.
 Programs, notes and opportunities

Reaching Out to You

  One-Stop Shop for Parent Resources 

After-school programs? Bus schedules? Lunch  menus? Community resources ? District news?  Bullying prevention? Parent workshops?

 You've come to the right place.

 NUSD now offers a one-stop  shopping list of parent  resources, accessible by clicking on  the purple  rectangle titled "Family" in the center of  the District  website, The page  also is  available here.

 Dozens of links are provided in categories that  include  Schools, Academics, Parent University,  Resources, Infinite Campus, Student Services,  Activities, Get Involved, Stay Informed, New to  NUSD, and others.

 Please give this online resource a try. We think you'll like it.
  Infinite Campus Parent Portal

 We are excited to launch the updated Infinite Campus Parent Portal where parents can view  attendance, grades, and other information about all of their children in one easy location. This  is different because, until now, parents logged into to each of their children's accounts  separately.
 Through the new Portal, parents will be able to make changes to their phone numbers, email  address, and other contact information online rather than through the front office. Parents also  will be able to easily access information to work with teachers and other school staff to support  their  children's success in school.
 Parents will receive an email from Infinite Campus with instructions for signing into the Parent  Portal. If parents need help with the Portal, they may visit our district website, going to the the  Family  webpage by using the big purple button in the middle of the page, then looking for  the Infinite Campus link. There they will find videos and other useful help tools.  Parents also  can call or visit their child's school to get help from front office staff who have received training  in Parent Portal use.

  Joey's Food Locker needs your help 

Joey's Food Locker cupboards were emptied this month when 201 people sought help from the community food closet, operated by Joel Schwieger's Adult  Transition Program students at Natomas High School.

Schwieger is in dire need of donations of canned and non-perishable foods --  particularly pasta,  canned meats or canned vegetables.

 The food locker, which serves the public one day a month,  must restock its shelves before the  next grocery distribution, May 20. Each person served by the facility receives food for three  days.

 Donations can be dropped off at any school or at the Ed Center, 1901 Arena Blvd., or Staff  Development Center, 1931 Arena Blvd. If  you have questions, please call Lynn Carr, 567-5414,  or Joel Schwieger, 530-312-9799.
Helping the environment
via cafeteria food scraps   
April 22 was international "Earth Day," set aside to encourage conservation and recycling, so now is a good time to applaud American Lakes Elementary students participating in a project to keep their cafeteria food scraps out of landfills.

Since January, the kids have diverted about 20,000 pounds of food waste, roughly 10 tons, which will be converted into clean-burning fuel. The photo above students celebrating their accomplishment at a recent juice party hosted by their partner, Republic Services, a local waste-disposal firm. Thanks for honoring the spirit of Earth Day, American Lakes Elementary ... Keep up the good work. 
  Preschool coming to Natomas Park, H. Allen Hight

Natomas Unified has been awarded state funds to double the number of preschool classes
it offers by expanding to Natomas Park and H. Allen Hight elementary schools, which cumulatively  will serve nearly 100 young children.

The California Department of Education selected NUSD to receive state preschool funds of up to  $412,462 next year to expand early education opportunities for our North Natomas youth, with  priority to 4-year-olds who will be entering kindergarten the following year. Additional funds will  be available this year for planning.

NUSD currently offers preschool classes at American Lakes and Jefferson elementary schools.     
The new state contract will enable expansion into North Natomas and will vastly enhance opportunities for young children to get an academic head start.
 College & career pathways get boost from state grant   

NUSD's focus on college and career readiness just got a boost.

The California Department of Education has awarded NUSD a three-year incentive grant to support the District's existing college and career classes, and to help launch a new Broadcast Media pathway at Inderkum High. 
NUSD partnered with the Sacramento County Office of Education to obtain the state funds -- $524,000 the first year -- to help students district-wide.

The push to focus on students' long-term future is consistent with NUSD's Board-approved Vision that, "All NUSD students graduate as college and career ready, productive, responsible, and engaged global citizens.

College letters of intent 

Five Tigers Ready to Roar 

Hard work in classrooms and on sports teams paid off big-time for five I nderkum High Tigers who signed college letters  of intent this month -- including Will Roberts, who will play football and study physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the nation's top-ranked universities.

"It's my dream school, so I'm super-stoked to go there," said Roberts, a straight-A student, International Baccalaureate scholar, and a star lineman and team leader for the the Tigers' football squad.

Full or partial scholarships were earned by Anthony Canady, basketball, who will attend Presentation College; Max Upchurch, basketball, Multnomah University; Shymir Mitschan-Baldwin, basketball, California Maritime Academy; and Amelia Hicks, golf, California State University, Sacramento.

College letters of intent are offered only to athletes who shine both academically and in high school sports. Read the  full story here.  
Round of applause 
Students honored for achieving English proficiency
In a joyous ceremony at Natomas High School, NUSD honored 208 students who have been reclassified from English Learners to English Language Proficient, meaning they have demonstrated an ability to speak, read and write the language at a level equal to or above their English-only peers.

Students' families and District administrators attended the reclassification celebration to honor their years of commitment to learning a new language.

 Reclassification marks a pivotal point in a student's academic career. Students from all ages, grade levels and schools were applauded at the April 19 ceremony, a festive annual event for NUSD.

NUSD's Silver Anniversary is fast approaching, July 2017, marking 25 years since we expanded from operating elementary and middle schools to a unified district with high schools, too. To help set the stage for our Silver Anniversary, we have launched a series of stories spotlighting the district and key changes it has made to serve students. Posted below are the first three stories in that series. 
Dust off the kazoos, Natomas Unified

Get the confetti ready, Natomas Unified, and dust off the kazoos.

Our 25th Anniversary is fast approaching.

Twenty five years ago, in March 1991, voters overwhelmingly cast ballots supporting unification of the Natomas Union School District. About a year later, in July 1992, the Natomas Unified School District officially was born.

My, how times have changed since then.

When NUSD became a unified district, it consisted of only about 2,500 students in a handful of elementary and middle schools -- no high school campus, no wireless network, no widespread use of classroom computers, no International Baccalaureate, no AP Capstone diploma program, no Common Core standards, no robotics or engineering pathways.

"It's an exciting time to attend school in Natomas, a growing district that now offers unique academic options to suit individual interests and needs -- from IB to Culinary Arts, Auto Technology, Health, Engineering, Arts, Business and others," Supt. Chris Evans said. "A lot has changed and it will be fun to reflect on that."  Read the  full story here.

First IB Diploma students set to graduate
Nearly 25 years after Natomas Unified's creation, the District continues to celebrate first-time accomplishments and will do so soon with its first graduation of International Baccalaureate students from Inderkum High School's IB Diploma Programme.

When they leave Inderkum in May, 17 students will be IB Diploma Candidates, having completed all the requirements of the two-year Diploma Programme. Eighty-eight others will be IB Certificated Candidates for successfully completing some of the courses. Actual IB diplomas and certificates will be conferred after exam results are released in July.

The developments mark a milestone for a world-class program recognized by universities worldwide. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Washington, UC Irvine, and University of the Pacific are among colleges that have accepted one or more of Inderkum's IB students.

"It's just amazing," Jessica Downing, IB coordinator, said of the first graduation of Inderkum IB Diploma Programme students. "It's a product of lots of work and lots of growth." Read the full story here. 
Dozens of students sign up
for AP Capstone program 

Dozens of students have signed up at Natomas High School for a nationally renowned diploma program the campus will offer next year, AP Capstone, which is a prime example of how NUSD continues to push for steady improvement nearly 25 years after the District's creation.

The launch of AP Capstone at Natomas High will give both comprehensive high schools a rigorous diploma program featuring some of the most challenging coursework offered at the high school level, emphasizing critical-thinking skills vital for college and 21st century jobs. Inderkum offers the International Baccalaureate program.

"There is a lot of interest in getting that Capstone diploma," said Sherri Sandoval, an NHS counselor who is helping to start the Capstone program. "The kids seem really excited about it."

Forty-three NHS students are lined up to take AP Seminar, one of two linchpin classes required to receive an AP Capstone diploma. After passing that, students typically take the second essential course, AP Research. The diploma program also requires that graduates pass four other Advanced Placement (AP) courses of their choosing during their high school years. Read the  full story here.