On LNV Education Day, we started our day in an elementary school and matriculated through high school, getting a taste of the variety of educational offerings and challenges in the Napa Valley Unified School District and the Napa County Office of Education Systems. Our day was lead by Dr. Barbara Nemko, Superintendent for the Napa County Office of Education and Dr. Patrick Sweeney, Superintendent for the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) with PG&E as our sponsors.
Dr. Nemko introduced us to a long list of statistics that painted a picture of the differences in the 5 county school districts. Some of the topics included: special state-funded programs for early childhood, flexibility in regulations for charter schools, the variety of magnet schools (MAST, STEM, STEAM, Arts, Dual Immersion and International Baccalaureate) and our diverse, yet comprehensive high schools. Other supportive programs included: College & Career Ready-Career Tech Education, PACE (before/after/summer) programs, digital literacy to close the achievement gap.
Napa County has also taken an innovative approach to getting extra funding and service to include contribution from the community. Some of those programs are: Adopt-a-School, Napa County Reads, Science Fair, Parent programs, Tip4All (anti-bully notification program,) as well as some prevention, health and welfare programs like Mariposa and Girls on the Run.
Dr. Sweeney asked us to keep three questions in mind as we visited school sites and learned about their educational programs:
- How do we inspire lifelong learning?
- How do we instill 21st century skills?
- How do we transform lives?
Our first school was introduced to us by Principal Helen Rocca. Pueblo Vista Magnet School is focused on Dual Immersion language and environmental sciences. Utilizing innovative curriculum, diverse student population and community/family partnerships, the school is committed to following the 6 C’s (seen on bulletin boards everywhere) Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Character. The class visited a few classrooms and was able to ask questions of the students and teachers.
The next stop on our tour was Harvest Magnet Middle School, an International Baccalaureate World School/ Dual Immersion. Principal Monica Ready and a few of the administration staff presented the IB concept of learning skills in 8 content areas. After a quick Learning Walk (a program that is practiced by peer teachers to observe and identify effective teaching and learning) we debriefed with faculty and a few well-spoken students.
Before a quick break for a delicious school lunch, we toured a few classrooms at New Tech High School. Escorted by some vivacious students, we visited an economics class that was working on their senior project and a digital class that was building and programing robots. Principal Riley Johnson presented the New Tech school concept and one that is celebrating a 20-year anniversary. Our afternoon presenter, Elena Toscano, Assistant Superintendent, NVUSD, spoke on PBL Project Based Learning that included concepts like Student Voice & Choice, real-world project/applications, multiple pathways and destinations and fun challenges like their “Shark School/Tank” project where students compete with their innovative ideas for prize money. New Tech also encourages their teachers to take time for a Passion Project to encourage life-long learning.
Any good day in school wouldn’t be complete without a test of our knowledge, and so we were introduced to the world of CAASPP California State Standards Common Core. We each got a laptop to try our hand (brain) at a practice math test (I think most of us were a little rusty with our higher skills).
The last speakers of our day were Caroline Wilson, Director, of the Court and Community Schools and Lucy Edward, Director of Continuous Improvement. They presented their education programming which is collaborating with organizations like Nimbus Arts to expose students to the arts and related skills. Lastly, they presented their work in developing a concept and seeking funding to build a new facility aka “cool little school” at Camille Creek.
The world of education is one we all benefit from and yet it faces the challenges of meeting individual needs, funding deficits, buildings in need of repair, maintaining support needed for a thriving teacher base. It is filled with complexities, but from our day of education exploration, it is also apparent that it is filled with smart and innovative individuals who have accepted the challenge and are working every day for “continuous improvement.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Submitted by Veronika Martinez, Jay Lang and Sarah Marshall, members of Class 30.