I am very excited for the start of a new school year, and for a number of reasons I am even more energized as I begin my second year here in Novato Unified as your Superintendent.
A great school district is composed first and foremost of great people, and Novato truly does have an exceptional staff of super-competent teachers, classified staff and administrators. I have worked in six different districts, and I can tell you that they do not all have the kind of quality people that we have here. From our Board of Trustees to our union partners to our principals to our teachers and to our office managers, bus drivers, maintenance workers, food service workers and instructional aides, we are truly blessed with talented staff who really care about our students.
Secondly, we have a new focus on our Graduate Profile
, which was developed last year with input from all of our stakeholders, and includes the 6 C’s of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, conscientious learner, cultural competence and character. We believe our students need to develop these skills to go along with the content knowledge that is so important, and we are working towards this goal so that all Novato graduates are well prepared for an ever-changing future. This year our focus is on collaboration, and we have developed rubrics to help teachers assess how our students are progressing with this important skill. We are also focusing on Project Based Learning (PBL) as a way to engage all students in units that are driven by a meaningful question or problem and in which students must work together to solve the problem or answer the question. We are partnering with the Buck Institute for Education, located right here in Novato, to provide us with training and staff development for our administrators and teachers. Here is a short video of PBL at NUSD
Continuing from last year, our four district priorities are equity, student success, staff success and community engagement and involvement. The Board of Trustees in conjunction with our administrators have developed three specific goals under each of these priorities, and they hold me accountable for these results (see 2016-17 District Goals.) Each school then uses the district goals to develop their own related site goals for the year, and our staff development days and early-release Wednesdays are designed to provide staff with training and collaboration time to address these priorities. We also are partnering with the National Equity Project in Oakland to provide training to all of our site principals.
Finally, last year we made great progress to develop our Facilities Master Plan last year and now have a guide for the next ten years. We held over 35 meetings at our school sites to get input and ideas for needed improvements, and then asked each site to prioritize their needs. The result was the development of Tier 1 needs (basic upgrades); Tier 2 needs (district priorities for all schools including technology, surveillance cameras and furniture) and Tier 3 needs (7 sites that need major upgrades to provide needed classrooms and support for 21st Century learning.) The Board of Trustees also voted in June to place a $222 million school facilities bond on the November ballot to pay for these identified needs at each school. Lastly, we have been busy installing solar panels at 10 of our 13 schools over the summer. We entered into a Power Purchase Agreement with SolarCity, which owns and maintains the equipment, so we lock in low energy costs without having to spend money on the system. The solar panels will save the district between $8-12 million dollars over the next 20 years in addition to helping the environment.For all these reasons I am really looking forward to a fantastic year here in NUSD!!