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Sunday, November 12, 2017

National School District is Exceptional!


Recently, Board President Maria Dalla and I were interviewed on U-T "Community Spotlight" radio show with Drew Schlosberg to share our National School District #BeExceptional Campaign. To listen to the show, click here: http://wsradio.com/110317-national-school-district-color-run-dream-tour/

Yet, 27 minutes is not nearly enough time to share what incredible District we have. Below are just a few highlights inclusive and beyond what we were able to share on air.

BOND MEASURES N and HH
Thank you National City voters! Your generous approval of recent Bond measures will enable us to upgrade our aging buildings. Because of you, we have been able to install air conditioning at all of our sites, and improve infrastructure to ensure state of the art technology connectivity. Continued improvements in lighting, parking, and other facility projects are on the horizon.

CLASSROOM REDESIGN CHALLENGE
What should a student–centered classroom look like in 2018? How would you design a high impact learning space? Twenty-six classrooms will compete to answer these questions. There will be one winning classroom per school that will receive a full classroom makeover. Contest winners work with a designer to refine their ideas. Winning spaces will serve as pilot spaces to inform future purchases.

PBIS AWARDS
Last month, eight of our schools (CE, ET, IH, JO, KM, LA, LP, RN) received Bronze Recognition by the California PBIS Coalition (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). These eight schools are the only schools within San Diego County to receive this recognition.

HYDRATION STATIONS
We ensure safe drinking water. We installed hydrations stations this summer/fall at all ten sites and the Preschool Center. A second hydration station has been ordered for each school. After the second round of hydrations stations, we will add lead filters to all exterior fountains as well.

MUSIC PROGRAM
Band, Orchestra, and Mariachi are available to students in grades 1-6th. About 83 percent of our district’s students are Hispanic, so the tradition of mariachi is something that goes way back through the generations. Our current after-school program was launched in 1999, and is open to all grade levels. It starts with teaching the basics – students sing the scales, play them on a recorder and learn to recognize notes. Once they have that down, they learn to play an instrument. The district provides the instruments, as well as bus transportation to and from Las Palmas School three times a week for instruction. All Free!

OCEAN CONNECTORS
Our partnership with Ocean Connectors provides marine science education programs to our 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Over the course of three years, students learn about marine conservation through hands on case studies of sea turtles, whales, birds, and habitats. Ocean Connectors provides classroom presentations and coastal field trips focused on three different species of migratory marine life, ocean issues, and conservation themes. Students also participate in a dual language “knowledge exchange” with children living in Nayarit, Mexico to share information about migratory marine life.  Our students gain environmental knowledge and adopt stewardship behaviors that will enable them to contribute to the earth throughout their lifetime.

SWIM PROGRAM
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for elementary students. As a coastal city, it is imperative that our students learn to swim. Our third grade swimming program is the district’s effort to teach all of its third graders, including those in special education, how to swim. It’s a tradition that stretches back decades in National City. After being put on hiatus for several years during the worst of the state budget crisis, trustees in 2015 approved the funding necessary to bring it back. Every third grade student participates as well as students in our newcomer program.

READ ACROSS AMERICA
Last year as Superintendent, I read across America- virtually!! The book selected was Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña. Matt grew up in National City. After hearing his story, 6th graders were challenged to write a story of their own. The winning story was The Beginning of a Young Superhero by Jonathan Jimenez from Lincoln Acres. Jonathan’s book will be bought for each of our libraries and serve as this year’s Read Across America inspiration.

ONE SIGHT
We recently hosted the annual OneSight clinic here in National City. OneSight has a longstanding partnership between NSD and the NC Host Lion’s Club where they send an international team of volunteer eye doctors, opticians and vision specialists 
administer a series of eyesight tests that use an array of diagnostic equipment. Following the exams, students get to choose their own frames and are fitted for new glasses. This year, the OneSight vision clinic served over 1,500 students from five school districts in the region.

SCHOOL–BASED GARDENS
School- based gardens have been implemented at five of ten schools with a goal to complete remaining five this year. School gardens are a great way to connect wellness and science and serve as outdoor labs for our students.

KITCHENISTAS
We are proud of our partnership with Olivewood Gardens. Olivewood’s signature Kitchenistas program has taken to the road sharing their learning with parents at all of our schools. Presentations are made by parents to parents and emphasize healthy recipe makeovers.

REACH- YMCA Partnership
A top priority for the National School District Governing Board is to nurture parent, family, and community collaboration and engagement. The REACH program is a shining example of a way the District strategically collaborates with a valued community partner to serve our students and families. National uses ASES funding to partner with the South Bay Family YMCA to create a dynamic, and stimulating before and after school environment - free of charge. REACH provides curriculum designed to help students meet or exceed state standards in a fun, camp-like atmosphere, giving our students a boost to succeed both academically and socially.

OTHER
- Walking School Bus- Safe Routes to School (Walktober)
- 1:1 Technology Initiative
- Super Salad Bar and organic produce
- Dual Language Program at Kimball
- STEAM focus at Lincoln Acres
- Breakfast in the classroom at Olivewood
- Philosophy lessons at El Toyon
- Holiday giveaways
- And SO much more!!

Of course, none of this would be possible without our dedicated NSD staff and the partnerships we share with our families. Thank you all for your part in creating an EXCEPTIONAL experience for our students!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Happy Summer


Has it really been a year? Although it went by way too quickly, it’s another year in the books for National School District, and my first year as Superintendent. What an incredible year it has been.

I think of how much our team accomplished, and all that is currently underway. Although there is too much to list, I feel compelled to mention a few highlights:

·      With the use of our LCAP funding NSD students benefited from daily use of personal laptops in third through sixth grades, as well as increased access in primary grades. We’re excited to see our students utilize these devices to become more deeply engaged in learning through collaboration, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.

·      Behind the scenes, we’ve made substantial upgrades to our technology infrastructure to support this new way of learning including new filters, cloud-based servers, and single sign-on capability. For department and site efficiency, we have also updated our phone system to send voice data through the Internet, switched over our email servers, and purchased a more robust call-out system to keep our community informed and updated.

·      We are proud to announce that all ten schools implemented PTAs. We look forward to continue to grow this partnership in support of our NSD students.

·      Twitter has become a growing tool for sharing the wonderful updates of our sites. Follow our hashtag at #NSDnow for exciting news regarding innovative teaching and learning happening daily.

·      Almost all of the construction projects from Bond Measure N have been completed, with a highlight being that all of our schools now have air conditioning. In addition, our community overwhelmingly passed Measure HH, which we will use to continue to upgrade our aging facilities.

·      Half of our schools have built learning gardens, to help us emphasize healthy eating, as well as explore outdoor science education. These are an advantageous complement to existing District wellness efforts of daily salad bars, super salad bars, and growing school-based farmer’s markets.

·      Hydration stations are currently being installed on each of our campuses to provide daily access to filtered drinking water. In coming months, these stations, along with other lead filtering systems, will replace and upgrade all existing systems.

·      We have finished our re-visioning process for the Family Resource Center, and are in the process of planning for an August workshop to re-engage our community partners in serving NSD and Sweetwater families. 

All of this compounded with the ongoing efforts such as K-2 bilingual education and Dual Language options; swim lessons for all third graders; band, orchestra, and Mariachi music programs; enrichment wheel classes; partnerships with Ocean Connectors, Olivewood Gardens, San Diego Youth Symphony, and Stein Farm make National School District a magical place to learn and work.

Heading into summer, I want to personally thank the Governing Board for promoting a culture of excellence, and the staff for striving to achieve that excellence for our students.

Have a wonderful summer break!      




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Celebrate!


The end of the school year is a time full of celebrations for the dedicated work of our students and staff. These recognitions exemplify the contributions of those that make our District the special place it is, and why I am compelled to share them again here in my blog.

On May 10, 2017, the NSD Governing Board celebrated Kiwanis student scholars from each of our schools, students with seven years of perfect attendance, and authors of the first annual Read Across America writing contest. One student from Lincoln Acres Elementary School, Jonathan Jimenez, was recognized for all three recognitions. His book will be the Read Across America book donated to our school libraries next year. Jonathan is a model example of the type of student we work to cultivate each day in NSD.



On May 24, 2017, the Governing Board continued its celebrations by recognizing employees for 20 and 25 years of service as well as our teacher of the year, Evy Baca, and classified of the year Evelyn Sanchez.  Our Board also wished our retirees well in their new adventures. Although I only had a short time to get to know them, most moving for me were the sentiments that each person shared about their experience in NSD. While we will miss them greatly, we thank each of them for the legacy they leave behind.


















Finally, I want to congratulate a few exceptional recognitions received outside of NSD:

·      On February 23, 2017 Rachael Hallett was recognized by the Community Advisory Committee

·      On April 28, 2017, PJ Whitney was named Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators

·      In May 2017, The California Association for Bilingual Education, San Diego Padres, and National City Freemasons celebrated sixth grade students across the District

·      On May 6, 2017, The Greater San Diego Reading Association recognized Rosie (Rosario) Espinoza

·      On May 11, 2017, Martha Garcia-Gallega, and Patricia Carillo were celebrated at the SDCOE Biliteracy Awards




These recognitions are well deserved, and remind us of the achievements our outstanding students and staff make on a daily basis. Therefore, I wish to extend another congratulations to our award recipients, and a big thank you to all who contribute to the success of NSD!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tracking Innovative Learning

There is a time during the school year when the pace picks up and you inevitably find yourself asking, "where did the time go?" As we enter the last month and a half of 2016-17, I find myself not wanting the school year to end.

So much is happening in National School District. From dissecting squid and harvesting vegetables to shadow predictions and replications of cold fronts, learning is taking on a whole new look. The buzz in our classrooms is contagious, and teachers are releasing the reigns of learning- putting students in charge.

If you're not a teacher, you may be asking yourself what does it look and sound like when kids are excited about learning? Visit our classrooms, and you will see our teachers engaging and empowering students through hands-on, innovative activities. If you can't visit, take a virtual tour through Twitter. Here is a peek at a few learning spotlights captured by our schools during the month of April:

If you are not already following our Twitter hashtag, I invite you to follow our journey at #NSDnow. I'm sure you'll enjoy tracking our innovative learning as much as me! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Advocating for Students of National School District


Dear National School District Families, 

I am writing to you to acknowledge a growing feeling of unrest in response to recent immigration actions being taken in our community. 

On January 25, 2017, our School Board passed the attached resolution advocating for and protecting each of the students of National School District. In this document, the Board reaffirms that safe, inclusive and equitable learning environments are essential to the success of each student. In addition, the Board directs the Superintendent and staff to diligently safeguard the educational rights and protections afforded to ALL students, regardless of immigration status. 

Please be assured that our schools do not request or maintain any records that specify the citizenship status of any students or members of their families. Proof of legal residency is not required to enroll children in school. Birth certificates are used solely to determine age appropriateness for attending school, however are never shared with other governmental agencies without a warrant or court order. Confidentiality of our students is paramount. We collect information for meal applications but only to determine qualification in the free/reduced meal program. 

Our Mission in National School District is that ‘Each student in the National School District receives an exemplary, world-class education in a safe and nurturing environment. By collaborating with educators, staff, parents and our diverse community, all students attain the skills essential to succeed and thrive in a competitive, global society.’ We value the diversity in our community, and encourage all parents and guardians to continue to engage in the activities at your school sites to support the academic achievements of your children. In addition, we want to emphasize that parents are welcome on our school campuses, regardless of immigration status. 

Finally, we recognize that we all may know someone affected by the recent instability, and want parents to know that our local Family Resource Center (FRC) can provide more information regarding legal rights and resources available. Parents can contact the FRC at https://iservenccfrc.org/ or by calling Director Sergio Rosas at 619-336-8659. In addition, there are many online resources available through the American Civil Liberties Union at https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights.

Please know that in National School District, we are all family. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your principal or my office. 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------
Estimadas Familias del Distrito Escolar National: 

Les escribo para reconocer un creciente sentimiento de inquietud en respuesta a las recientes acciones de inmigración siendo tomadas en nuestra comunidad. 

El 25 de enero de 2017, nuestra Mesa Directiva aprobó la resolución adjunta abogando por y protegiendo a cada uno de nuestros estudiantes del Distrito Escolar National. En este documento, la Mesa Directiva reafirma que la seguridad, inclusiva y equitativa a ambientes de aprendizaje son esencial para el logro de cada estudiante. Adicionalmente, la Mesa Directiva dirige al Superintendente y al personal de diligentemente salvaguardar los derechos educativos y las protecciones otorgadas a TODOS los estudiantes, independientemente de su estado migratorio. 

Por favor tengan la seguridad de que nuestras escuelas no hacen petición o mantienen ningún registro que especifican el estado de ciudadanía de cualquier estudiante o miembro de su familia. La prueba de residencia legal no es requerida para inscribir un niño/a en la escuela. Los certificados de nacimiento se utilizan solamente para determinar la edad apropiada para asistir a la escuela, sin embargo nunca se comparten con otras agencias gubernamentales sin una orden judicial. La confidencialidad de nuestros estudiantes es primordial. Recolectamos información para aplicaciones de almuerzo solamente para determinar calificación en el programa de almuerzo gratis o precio reducido. 

Nuestra Misión en el Distrito Escolar National es que ‘cada estudiante en el Distrito Escolar National recibe una educación ejemplar, de clase mundial en un ambiente seguro y favorable. Colaborando con maestros, personal, padres y nuestra comunidad diversa, todos los estudiantes alcanzan las habilidades esenciales para ser sobresalientes y tener éxito en una sociedad competitiva y global.’ Nosotros valoramos la diversidad en nuestra comunidad y animamos a todos los padres y tutores en continuar comprometiéndose en las actividades en nuestras escuelas para apoyar nuestros niños/as. Adicionalmente, nosotros queremos enfatizar que los padres son bienvenidos a nuestras escuelas, independientemente de su estado migratorio. 

Por último, reconocemos que todos posiblemente conocemos a alguien afectado por la reciente inestabilidad, y deseamos que los padres sepan que nuestro Centro Regional Familiar (FRC) puede proporcionar más información sobre los derechos legales y recursos disponibles. Los padres pueden contactar al FRC en https://iservenccfrc.org/ o llamando al director, Sergio Rosas al 619-336-8659. Además, hay muchos recursos en línea disponible por medio de American Civil Liberties Union en https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights.

Por favor sepa que en el Distrito Escolar National, todos nosotros somos una familia. Si tiene cualquier pregunta, por favor de no titubear en comunicarse con su director de escuela o mi oficina. 



Sinceramente,
Leighangela Brady Superintendente

National School District Resolution
#16-17.21
RESOLUTION ADVOCATING FOR AND PROTECTING EACH OF THE STUDENTS OF NATIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT 

ON THE MOTION OF Member Clapper, seconded by Member Sarmiento, the following resolution is adopted: 

WHEREAS, the National School District enrolls over 5,800 elementary school students, that come from a variety of cultural, linguistic and economic backgrounds that reflect California’s cultural richness and diversity; and 

WHEREAS, the Governing Board of the National School District is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment by building a culture of equity and a positive climate that promotes excellence throughout the district; and 

WHEREAS, the National School District has been steadfast in its pledge to promote inclusion and provide a safe and secure environment for each student and each employee; and 

WHEREAS, the National School District is determined to provide students, parents, employees, and community members a safe, positive environment where they are assured of full access and opportunities, protection from harassment or intimidation, and freedom from any fear of retaliation for asserting their rights in accordance with law; and 

WHEREAS, our country is grappling with a recently developing climate of uncertainty about discriminatory practices; and 

WHEREAS, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), the American School Counselor Association, the Gay-Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Human Rights Campaign, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the National School Boards Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists, have urged school districts across the nation to actively proclaim and reaffirm that safe, inclusive and equitable learning environments are essential to the success of each student.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Governing Board of the National School District is boldly declaring its on-going commitment to ensuring all schools and district offices are safe and positive environments wherein each student and each employee is protected from all forms of discrimination, harassment or intimidation of any kind, be it based on age, gender, gender identity or expression, genetic information, sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, immigration status, or the perception of one or more of these characteristics; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board directs the superintendent, with the cabinet, administrators, teachers, counselors, and staff, to take all necessary steps to maintain the safety, inclusion and equity with the school community; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board directs the superintendent to provide the necessary outlets for expression, learning, communication and information to the district community, including encouraging students, families, staff, and community partners to explore student and individual rights, the history of civics and coalition building, as well as the struggle to make progress in light of adversity, empowering and recognizing the importance of student leadership and activism; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board directs the superintendent and general counsel to ensure that District policies, regulations and practices will safeguard the educational rights and protections afforded to students, including, but not limited to, those found under the 2011 Memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security classifying schools as sensitive locations where immigration enforcement actions are prohibited, the State of California’s compliance with the California Trust Act of 2014, and to immigrant students and their families under the 1982 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Plyler v. Doe; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board will continue its advocacy and urge the superintendent to continue working collaboratively with federal, state, regional and local government officials, as well as community agencies and community members, and support forthcoming legislative efforts that affirm the clearly stated values of safety, inclusion and equity including, 1) continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, 2) clearly articulate the rights of all students to attend school without the fear of detention and deportation and 3) to urge the Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency as well as the U.S. Border Patrol to affirm that schools are now and will forever be sensitive locations where they will not seek to detain and deport immigrant families who pose no threat to community safety.

PASSED AND ADOPTED by the National District Governing Board, County of San Diego, State of California, this 25th day of January, 2017, by the following vote: 

AYES:
Clapper, Dalla, Sarmiento, Avalos, Betancourt-Castañeda

Sunday, February 12, 2017

READING TOUR ACROSS AMERICA

At the end of this month, schools across #NSDnow will join their colleagues across the United States in an event called Read Across America. Check out my recent press release outlining how I plan to join the festivities:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN 10 CITIES TO TAKE READING TOUR ACROSS AMERICA

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. – Elementary school students from National City and nine other cities throughout the U.S. will take a five-day journey in reading across America beginning Feb. 27 without having to leave their classroom seats.

Dr. Leighangela Brady, superintendent of San Diego County’s National School District, will read a children’s book to two classes of sixth-grade students a day in her 10-school district as well as concurrently to students at other schools throughout the country, using Face Time or Google Hangout video telephony technologies.

The book, “Last Stop on Market Street,” is by Matthew de la Peña, an award-winning children’s book author who attended elementary school in Brady’s district.

The first participating school will be in New York; after which the tour will move south and westward to other schools, ending March 3 in San Diego. At that time, Brady will challenge her district’s sixth-grade students to write their own picture books. Each school will then select its winning entry to be submitted to the district’s Governing Board for final selection.  The winning entry will have an opportunity to be published. 

The virtual reading tour is inspired by the nationwide one-day “Read Across America” reading motivation and awareness program scheduled for March 2, the birth date of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

“This program connects both reading and writing skills for our sixth graders which will contribute greatly to their future success as they progress through their education and into adulthood,” Brady said. “At the same time, our students will be interacting with and learning from their counterparts at the other participating schools all across the country.”