Superintendent Noguchi's Message Archive
The continual stream of news and updates surrounding COVID make it difficult to see what may be waiting for us beyond the pandemic. Our rapidly changing environment forced us to put off large-scale plans and live day-to-day, thinking only about what is within arm’s reach. Although there are a lot of unknowns, we must look past what’s right in front of us and start focusing on what lies ahead.
Before we march on, it’s important for us to look back to see what we left behind when the pandemic started nearly one year ago. One of those items was the re-design of departments and divisions. Transportation, Early Childhood Education and Alternative Education need additional focus to ensure we are supporting our students and families efficiently and effectively.
A second item we will focus on bringing back to the forefront is the junior high program enhancement plan. In an effort to increase engagement on our junior high campuses, we were previously creating plans to expand athletic programs and other student-focused activities. I’m happy to report that we will work to get some of these enhancements up and running for the 2021-2022 school year.
Now, looking ahead, as much as we’d like to pretend the past year didn’t happen, we must address the learning loss – academic and social/emotional – our students have suffered. Cabinet members are working together to create a Learning Mitigation Plan for the spring and summer. I’ll share more details as they become available.
I am also excited to see the recommendations from the Counselor Task Force. Led by Student Support Services Senior Director Danielle Hinkle, this Task Force has been charged with identifying the key elements of a comprehensive counseling program. Members are working through what our students need, how we get there and what barriers we must overcome.
We also look forward to expanding the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to more elementary schools. The District received additional federal COVID-related funding that will help make this happen. MTSS has proven to be an effective way to address individualized student needs. This will be a huge win for students, teachers and sites, so I am looking forward to seeing these additional supports rolled out soon.
Together, let’s set our sights on the horizon and start planning for what lies ahead. We will exit this pandemic stronger and wiser.
For the most up-to-date information, please visit the MCS Updates page.
Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year – a year that will look much different from what we have considered our “norm,” but I’m also confident it will be a year to remember. It’s time for us to embark on new adventures together, despite the uncertainty that surrounds us every day. The start of a new school year is still an exciting time, not only for students, but for families, and our staff as well. One thing that remains constant is that we are all in this together, and we WILL get through this year as a strong team, here to support one another.
I’d like to sincerely thank our families for entrusting us with the education of your children. We are grateful for this honor and privilege every school year, but especially during a global pandemic. Speaking on behalf of MCS staff and the Board of Trustees, I can testify that we all believe in our community’s youth, and we take great pride in helping them discover their potential. It's what motivates us every day, and, although it may look different this year, it still energizes us and fills us with optimism and hope.
Being a parent myself, I understand the challenges our students and parents are facing, given this is far from a traditional launch of a school year. However, I want to reiterate that all of us at MCS remain fully committed to “Every Student Matters, and Every Moment Counts.” No matter the circumstances, we will consistently deliver on that promise and do our best to help our students make progress as they advance in their learning journeys.
As we begin this new school year in an online setting, we do so with a renewed focus and commitment to supporting student academic achievement through quality and rigorous distance learning education that addresses the needs of ALL our students, regardless of grade level.
I’m grateful that we have amazing teachers, support staff and site administrators who have adapted so quickly to distance learning. They have participated in thousands of hours of professional development and learning through virtual platforms so they can be prepared to guide our students through distance learning. Today, teaching and learning will look, sound, and feel very different, but one thing remains the same: our Board of Education and all members of our team are committed to unlocking the potential of every student we serve.
Rest assured, it is our goal to reopen schools when it is safe to do so based on guidance from our County Public Health Officer. The health and safety of our students and staff remains one of our highest priorities. MCS already has rigorous protocols in place to sanitize our sites and has taken action to implement safety measures to protect staff and students. However, for us to reopen schools, we need the entire community’s help to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please do your part and wear a mask, wash your hands and stay six feet apart. Together, we can make a difference!
I realize we are all experiencing our own unique challenges as we navigate the many changes this pandemic is causing, but please know that you are not alone and there are people here to support you. If you are feeling stressed or need social-emotional support, it’s OK to use your voice, seek help and tell someone that you need to talk. MCS has several social-emotional support resources on our website at www.mcs4kids.com, as well as through our hotline at 209-492-6000, option 3.
Again, welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! We are hopeful to welcome students back in-person in the future once we can safely reopen our schools. In the meantime, we are looking forward to the opportunity to deliver a stellar education via online distance learning as we fulfill our promise to educate our students and uplift families in the Modesto community. We appreciate your support and continued faith in Modesto City Schools, the Destination District!
I am excited to join you in beginning our work for the second half of the year to ensure that learning and student successes continue across all grade levels.
As you know, at Modesto City Schools, we place great value on helping our students succeed both academically and in life, as they make positive progress in their learning journey. Each year, as we ring in the New Year, we see this as an ideal opportunity to check-in with students and families to ensure that our scholars are on-track, prepared and ready for the second half of the year.
On December 9, I gave a presentation to the board discussing my Superintendent evaluation goals, which directly correspond to the District Strategic Goals. It’s also important that I emphasize all of the work that’s being done “beyond the goals.” I encourage you to take some time to review the board meeting presentation and the video so you can stay informed and updated on the team priorities.
A few of the “Beyond the Goals” highlights that I was most excited to share included our plans for the 2020-2021 school year to launch JROTC at Beyer High School; add two additional transitional kinder classes; and implement three STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) “feeder patterns” (learn more about these items in the meeting video). I was also excited to share the plan to expand junior high athletics and begin junior high activities. One item still in the “exploration” and feasibility research phase is providing early morning drop-off and care at our elementary school sites – I am hopeful we can add this item to the list of things starting next year as we move forward in our effort to become a Destination District.
As we enter the second half of the year, you will continue to notice a focus on attendance awareness and reducing chronic absenteeism. At the time of my mid-year goals presentation, our attendance rate improved .45% and our chronic absenteeism rate improved 2.56%. Our students who receive special education services have made even greater gains – with a Districtwide improvement of .86% in attendance and 4.14% in chronic absenteeism. Looking forward, I’d like to see these numbers sustain and improve even further due to the direct correlation of positive attendance levels to the success of our students’ learning and education outcomes.
One thing is certain – As staff, students, and parents, we can only accomplish all that’s on our plates by working as a team and maintaining open communication that transcends across all organization departments. I promise to continue my active listening journey in order to receive your feedback as we identify ways to better improve our operations and synergy.
I appreciate everyone’s commitment to making sure that ALL students at Modesto City Schools are provided with tools, resources, opportunities and choices to support their individual paths to be successful – something that you, as the local community, students and parents, have come to expect from a trusted organization like MCS. I look forward to the coming months and celebrating our successes and milestones, as well as identifying our areas for improvement. Rest assured, all that you are doing on a daily basis is meaningful, important work that I hope you are proud of. I’m confident that our cohesive efforts will move Modesto City Schools even closer to becoming a Destination District.
My first year in MCS was a whirlwind – I was humbled and touched by the support and warm welcome I received a year ago, and I’m extremely proud of the partnerships that I’ve nurtured with the Board of Education, staff, families, and the community. Through these partnerships and collaborative efforts, we were able to accomplish great things and reach new heights…and we already have forward momentum propelling us into this new school year.
I spent a good portion of the first few months of the last school year on my “Looking, Listening, and Learning” journey. During this time, I remained focused on gathering and assessing data by meeting with as many stakeholders as possible to gain an understanding of how MCS works in our endeavor to support students and areas where we could grow and be more innovative. The feedback I received from those meetings was compiled and used by a diverse set of stakeholders to create the following Strategic Goals for the District:
- Goal One: Increase academic achievement and ensure equitable access to enable all students to attain college and career readiness.
- Goal Two: Ensure all employees have access to high quality professional development.
- Goal Three: Provide a safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environment for every member of the school community while ensuring effective district-wide communication for students, staff, families, and community partners.
- Goal Four: Ensure the District is fiscally and operationally sound.
- Goal Five: Recruit, hire, train, and retain high quality staff.
These goals align with our “Vision, Mission & Values” statements and provide a clear focus for all staff that will guide our work to improve student outcomes. Because at MCS, we stand united – as educators, as staff, as mentors, and as resources to the students and families we serve – in our focus on making students’ learning experience the top priority for our district.
I continue to be deeply committed to ensuring that all students have access to a high quality education. At MCS, we believe that every student matters and every moment counts. I’m confident that, by continuing to work together, we will create the right conditions for all students to grow their knowledge and learn valuable skills that are necessary for them to be successful members in our community. And by doing so, we will fulfill our vision that every student graduates with the skills, knowledge, and character traits essential to thrive and contribute to society.
Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year…our journey together as students, staff, and parents toward bright learning futures, enlightening development pathways and powerful knowledge and growth continues!
We’ve accomplished a lot of great work over the last two weeks! Last week, it was all about negotiations (more on that below), and this week has been all about the proposed District Strategic Goals and reorganization plan. I am proud of all the work put into the creation of the goals and reorganization.Represented within these plans is feedback from parents, students, staff, and community.It has truly been a collaborative effort. After presenting the information four times in three days, I think I could present it in my sleep!
The first presentation of the proposed goals and reorganization plan was Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Then on Tuesday, we presented once in the District Office Staff Development Center, and again at Reno Avenue. Tuesday afternoon, the information went out in an email to all staff. The email included a link to the video of the Board presentation, and the PowerPoint.
Wednesday, we presented the information to District managers. At all gatherings, we provided the opportunity to ask questions, share thoughts, and express concerns. There was also a link in Tuesday’s email to provide an opportunity to ask questions, share thoughts, and express concerns.
Many of the questions asked in person were regarding the physical location of people. We expressed our desire to keep departments/divisions/programs together, and that will require some employees to change their work location. The majority of the movement is between the Pearson Education Center and Reno Avenue.
One of our credit recovery programs, G230, and our CTE staff located at Reno Avenue will be moving over to Pearson, and our coaches and curriculum folks located at Pearson will be moving over to Reno. The Pearson Education Center will house programs for students, while the Reno Avenue facility will house professional development programs for staff.
So far, the feedback I’ve received regarding the proposed goals and reorganization plan has been mostly positive. I am confident the board will support the proposed District Strategic Goals and the reorganization plan at the March 18 Special Board Meeting.
The District and MTA bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement Thursday, March 7. I appreciate the effort put forth by both groups. If approved by the Board of Education and MTA, we will be offering full-day transitional kindergarten and full-day kindergarten beginning next school year. I feel the agreement reached sets in motion a strong foundation from which to build upon. Students will have more time with the teaching and learning process, and teachers will have more time to collaborate together which can be a powerful force toward improving outcomes for students.
I attended a number of great events over the last two weeks, but the standout is the Every Student Succeeding breakfast which honored students who have overcome serious challenges. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this event – talk about tugging on the heartstrings! It was a good reminder of why we do what we do.
Our students are facing serious challenges, many we cannot comprehend. We must make our schools a safe haven for all students. Education is their ticket to a brighter future. Working together, we can create the right conditions to ensure all our students have a bright future.
It is exciting to see all the work we’ve been pouring ourselves into since the start of the school year taking shape into the form of Strategic Goals! It has been a long process, involving internal and external focus groups, the Strategic Goal Setting Committee, District Managers, Extended Cabinet, and Executive Cabinet. We have remained focused on writing goals that will create the right conditions for student success.
We continue to refine the goals, and the strategies we will implement to meet the goals, as we strive to ensure they are clear, purpose driven, and impactful. The Strategic Goals will provide a clear focus to help us reach our overarching goal of improving student outcomes. I look forward to presenting the final product at the March 11 Board of Education meeting.
In January, I shared that Executive Cabinet is reading Coherence – The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems?by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn.?So far, we’ve discussed two of the four components of the coherence framework – focusing direction and cultivating collaborative cultures. The Strategic Goals will go a long way in focusing direction.
In the book, a collaborative culture is described as a “dynamic force that uses relationships and shared expertise to turn complexities and fragmentations into a focused, coherent force for change… cultivating the expertise of everyone to be focused on a collective purpose.” I love the phrases “coherent force for change” and “collective purpose.” Working together, we have the potential to be a force for change for our students. Stay tuned for more from this book.
I’m excited about the progress we are making towards real change for our students! Working together, we will create the right conditions for ALL of our students to be successful!
Creating the right conditions for student success stands at the core of what we want to achieve here in MCS. The foundation of this work is building strong relationships. We all know that working in an environment where we feel valued and where we work together toward a common goal is the environment where we thrive.
Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to build strong relationships with many different stakeholders – both within our schools and in the community. Together, we are building the foundation of our work, moving forward starting with the District vision, mission, and values, and the District goals. Thank you to all who have participated.
The Board finalized the District’s vision, mission, and values statements at the February 5 Special Board Meeting and will vote on them at Tuesday’s regular Board Meeting. See the document here.
We are still on track to present the District goals at the March 11 Board meeting. Thank you to the managers who provided feedback and recommendation on the district goals at the staff meeting on Wednesday.
On February 5, we held our final Safety Task Force meeting. The group completed the task of making recommendations to the Board for future work. We will present the recommendations to the Board before the end of the school year.
On Tuesday of this week, we held a Special Board Meeting to complete procedural requirements surrounding Measures D & E. Trustees approved resolutions to certify the election proceedings and to establish a Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC), and heard a report on bond projects and next steps.
The application for the CBOC, and all pertinent information is on our website. Employees are not allowed to serve on the committee, however, friends and family can. The CBOC must have at least seven members, and five of the seven must meet the following criteria:
- One member must be an active member of the business community
- One member must be active in a senior citizens' organization
- One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers' organization
- One member shall be the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the District's schools
- One member shall be the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the District's schools and active in a parent-teacher organization
Please help us find qualified candidates for this important group. Candidates must reside within our Elementary District boundary.
A lot has happened over the past few weeks in the area of building a coherent system. We are working toward establishing a clear focus and cultivating a culture of collaboration, while focusing on ensuring we are creating the right conditions for our students and staff.
It’s February! Just four months remain this school year, and there is so much to do!
I have been listening and learning since my first day here, and the next steps are coming into focus. The Board will finalize the District’s vision, mission, and core beliefs February 5. I will share them in the next eNews.
We are on track to present the District goals at the March Board of Education meeting. Last week, Extended Cabinet worked on actions and success criteria recommendations. Yesterday, the Strategic Goal Setting Committee reviewed the recommendations, and made their own. Extended Cabinet will review those recommendations this afternoon.
Central to ensuring success of our new goals will be ensuring that teachers, principals and staff have the support they need to achieve our collective goals. As such, I will be presenting recommendations to the Board in March on how we can organize District Office services that to ensure effective and efficient supports to our schools.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about, and reviewing our budget. We have been deficit spending for the last three years, and need to find savings to end that slippery slope. The Governor’s proposed budget looks promising, however, many challenges lay ahead. Collectively we need to work on improving our attendance, and ensuring that parents feel welcome at our schools.
We have had declining enrollment over the last two years. This year, MCS enrollment is over 300 students less than the 2016-2017 school year. Next year, we are projected to go down another 200 students. It is essential that we create the right conditions for our parents and our students to ensure that they want to enroll into our school districts. Collectively, we must create Welcoming Schools through strong customer service and healthy positive relationships.
I hope you attended the Community Forum featuring Dr. Okonofua. His research on implicit bias is eye opening, and the success he’s experienced in reducing implicit bias in school districts gives me a lot of hope that we can replicate that success in MCS. If you missed the forum, you can see Dr. Okonofua present at the February 19 Board of Education meeting.
Earlier this week, District Office personnel, Enochs staff, MPD, and the Modesto Fire Department met to discuss “Joint Operation Protocols” at Enochs. MPD assured us that they did not plan the unfortunate event that occurred at the Enochs Winter Formal as a practice run. The meeting was a huge success. We look forward to next week’s Safety Task Force meeting that includes internal and external stakeholders.
I am very pleased with the relationship we’ve formed with MPD. They are outstanding community partners and work very hard alongside our school safety personnel to keep our campuses safe.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a restful and rejuvenating break. For the first time in a long time I completely unplugged for a few days, and enjoyed time with my family.
In my last update before the break, I wrote about the two essential elements needed in our MCS culture – to work together as a team, and a coherent system. I’ve been working on creating a Districtwide team since I arrived in July by expanding opportunities for us to work together in a variety of areas.
The creation of task forces and committees is one strategy I’m using to build our team. Not only do these groups tackle important issues, they also bring more employees into the fold and make them a part of the process. The Safety Task Force, Technology Committee, Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Task Force, Strategic Goal Setting Committee, and Extended Cabinet bring together a variety of employees from various sites to brainstorm ideas and solutions for challenges we are facing.
The work to build a coherent system has also begun. Executive Cabinet is reading Coherence – The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn. I’ve read the book twice already and am certain I will see something new this time through. According to Fullan & Quinn, there are four components to a coherence framework: focusing direction, cultivating collaborative cultures, deepening learning, and securing accountability. We will be diving into each of the components in the coming months.
Another area where we are making progress is goal setting. The Strategic Goal Setting Committee combed through all the feedback we gathered from the focus groups, online survey and community groups, and found themes that were consistent across the groups. Next, Extended Cabinet will discuss the themes at their meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
We have a Special Board Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 5. At this meeting, the Board will finalize the District’s vision, mission and core beliefs. This foundation, coupled with our District goals will provide a focused foundation to guide our work together.
We are on our way to making real change for our students, putting our students first, and creating the right conditions to ensure every student’s success.
Nearing the end of the calendar year, I find myself looking back with wonder and ahead with excitement. My first six months on the job could be described as a blur, but there are many memories that will be cemented in my mind. I’ve met so many wonderful people – employees and community members – and have been welcomed with open arms.
As I envision MCS in the coming years, I focus my thoughts on two essential elements needed within our culture. The first essential element is the need for all of us, classified, certificated, and management, to work together as a team to create the right conditions for all our students to be successful. Creating a districtwide team doesn’t happen by accident, but by design. In the coming months, I will continue to create opportunities for people to work together, to think together, and to solve problems together. This will help build a sense of team.
The second essential element is to build a coherent system. My experience shows me that school systems that struggle are those often riddled with incoherence – mismatched strategies, competing cultures, and initiative fatigue. As such, we are working together to define our district goals, identify how we will measure our success, and draft timelines for monitoring and adjusting our work. I am excited about all the work we have accomplished so far, and look forward to continuing our work and designing our path as we move forward in 2019.
Over the last two weeks, in addition to one-on-one meetings with staff and trustees, I met with my new Key Communicators group for the first time, conducted Tier 2 interviews for the Senior Director of Human Resources position (Congratulations Sara Gil!), participated in the Safety Task Force, held the third Strategic Goal Setting Committee meeting, attended the Women’s Auxiliary Dinner, and spoke at the Modesto Rotary Club. Getting out of my comfort zone and participating in the team building opportunities at the general staff meeting and District Office luncheon were the highlights! It was great to be able to share some laughter with staff.
Have a safe, peaceful, and restful holiday.
I spent much of the last week of November in San Francisco with the Board of Education for the California School Boards Association (CSBA) Annual Education Conference (AEC). We attended a number of valuable sessions on everything from Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to creating a strong governance team (one of my Leadership Core Beliefs!).
Take a moment to review this graphic organizer that lays out the planning process I’m using to develop goals for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond. I’ve talked about the “Focus Group Meetings” and “Vision, Mission and Core Values” in past updates.
Another part of the planning process is “Department Analysis.” We are analyzing our largest departments/divisions to ensure organizational efficiency with the goal of increasing student outcomes. How do we need to operate behind the scenes to increase supports for our schools?
The new Strategic Goal Setting Committee is working to “Identify Themes & Priorities.” The committee, a collaborative effort between MTA, CSEA, Managers and site staff, will use the data collected from the Focus Group Meetings to identify themes and priority areas.
Next, Executive Cabinet and Extended Cabinet will “Write Goals and Identify Metrics.” Extended Cabinet is a new leadership structure designed to build the capacity of senior leadership to create a stronger system of support for our schools and staff. Working together, Executive Cabinet and Extended Cabinet will use the themes and priorities identified by the Strategic Goal Setting Committee to write the goals, metrics and benchmarks.
“Structure to Support Goals” is the final piece of this year’s planning process. Executive Cabinet and Extended Cabinet will align the District’s infrastructure to meet and support the identified goals.
This process is a huge collaborative effort of all District stakeholders. I appreciate your participation and patience as we work through the steps.
We are nearing the half-way point of the school year. We know our students rely on us to provide a learning environment that promotes positive outcomes – that’s something we all have a part in, regardless of our role in the community or at MCS.
I understand everyone’s concerns about the air quality and thank you for your support this week as we chartered new territory. Along with all school districts in Stanislaus County, we followed the recommendation of the Stanislaus County Public Health Department and remained open, as they felt that was safest for our students. Unfortunately, many of our students would be without supervision or nutrition if school would have been cancelled.
Following declining air quality earlier today, we cancelled all Friday evening and weekend activities. This affects all indoor and outdoor activities, including performances, dances, athletics and competitions.
The decision was made after careful consideration and continuous monitoring of the air quality, which at the time, was continually getting worse.
I’m optimistic that air quality will improve over the weekend and look forward to seeing staff and students back at school on Monday.
Over the last two weeks I visited Shackelford, Fairview and Garrison, attended my first Special Education Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, and toured the Adult Education Program in Ceres Unified.
November 15, at the request of Davis Principal Sara Gil, I spoke at a meeting for parents of students in the Language Institute. The purpose of the meeting was to clarify for parents the district support for the Language Institute and provide parents and opportunity to ask questions. Parents walked away with the information they were needing and an understanding of the supports available to their students. I will respond to any questions that I did not immediately know the answer to last night, and continue to keep the lines of communication open. I’m grateful for the staff and parents that attended in support of our students.
Can you believe it’s November?! I feel like I blinked in August and January will be here tomorrow.
The last of the “Focus Groups” was last week at Hanshaw. It was the biggest group of the four meetings, with about 35 attending. Next steps include reviewing the feedback and looking for themes. If you were not able to attend one of the meetings, you can provide feedback online by answering the same questions asked at the meetings.
The new Strategic Goal Setting Committee will meet for the first time next week. This committee will work collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to develop themes and set priorities given the input from the “Focus Groups” that have been held. Once the themes and priorities have been identified, goals will be developed which will focus our work for the near future. I am excited to work with this committee which is comprised of teachers, administrators, classified managers, and union leaders.
The Strategic Goal Setting Committee is one of the four new committees tackling high priority issues. The other three committees or “Task Forces” include the following: Safety Task Force, Technology Committee, and MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports). Safety and Technology are self-explanatory. MTSS is a tiered system of intervention focused on individualized student needs to support academic, behavioral and social success. I will share updates from these groups as we move forward.
At Monday’s Special Board Meeting, we collaboratively reviewed our Vision, Mission and Values statements. The statements were originally created in 2014, for the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan that coincided with the 2014-2017 LCAP goals. Trustees, Cabinet members and union representatives shared their thoughts on key words in each statement, carefully considering each meaning as it relates to both students and staff. This discussion will continue at another Special Board Meeting on February 5, 2019, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Over the last two weeks, I visited the Davis Language Institute, El Vista for “Every Monday Matters,” Mark Twain, La Loma, Roosevelt and Fremont, met with Teresa Guerrero from El Concilio, Mariaan Kaanon with the Stanislaus Community Foundation, Cindy Duenas with the Center for Human Services, and Craig Orona and Irene Villeda with Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, and filmed a safety video with MPD Chief Carroll. I’m consistently impressed and inspired by our staff and community’s commitment to our students.
I am happy to report that I have completed my treatments and I am feeling great. I get stronger each day, and look forward to building my running endurance so I can keep up with all the students who have been running since September ??. Thank you for all your well wishes and support. I have learned a lot during the journey and feel blessed to be so lucky.
Remember to vote November 6!
I am conducting research every day – visiting classrooms, attending events at our schools and in the community and meeting people from all walks of life. I even went to the homecoming rally at MoHi in my pursuit of knowledge about MCS. It is important to know where we’ve been so we can develop a plan for where we are going.
In September I shared my first of five “Leadership Core Beliefs” – Students come first in all actions and decision making. My second core belief is A highly effective District governance team is the cornerstone to student success. The governance team sets the foundation for good leadership throughout the District, and a high functioning team needs a gamebook – a set of operational protocols created to ensure optimal productivity.
I’ve been working with Board Members to review the protocols regarding operations since August. Examples include best practices for Board Members to share community concerns with me, place an item on a Board meeting agenda, accept public comments at Board meetings, and more. Protocols are different from policies in that they are essentially guiding principles for Board Members and the Superintendent regarding how we work together as a team; they are intended to help us make sure of the roles and responsibilities both individually and collectively.
We will continue to work together as a governance team on the Board protocols at our next Special Board of Education meeting scheduled for October 29, at 4 p.m. Additionally, at this meeting, we will begin the process of collectively developing the district’s vision, mission, and the board core values. This is very important and we need gain feedback from all our partners as we work to develop this vision for the district. The vision, mission and core values will serve as the foundation for how we work toward achieving the district goals that we will collaboratively develop in the late fall and spring.
The first of the four Community Focus Groups was Monday night. It was a small group, but they provided valuable feedback. That feedback, along with the feedback from other meetings I’ve held is available on our website. Please consider attending one (or more) of the three remaining meetings. The next meeting is tonight, Thursday, October 18 at 6 p.m. in the Davis High School Little Theater. Remaining dates and times are listed on the website.
One thing I know for sure – we have passionate, dedicated employees who are invested in our students. I saw this first hand over the last two weeks as I visited Marshall and Robertson Road elementary schools, the Modesto Marching Band Invitational, the MTA precinct walk, the general staff meeting for District managers, the SPIE School & Business Partnerships luncheon, and the amazing District-wide professional development day we had on Monday. I’m confident that working together, we can create a school district where teachers enjoy teaching, students reach their potential, and parents seek out high quality academic programs to enroll their students. Join me in working towards creating Modesto City Schools as the destination school district for Stanislaus County.
A high functioning team needs a gamebook – a set of operational protocols created to ensure optimal productivity. Given that I am new to this team and new to the District, I am grateful to our Board of Education for their willingness to take time to review our protocols.
Governance Team Protocols
We began, and continue, to review the protocols that we agreed to regarding operations. Examples of these include best practices for Board Members to share community concerns with the Superintendent, the process for placing an item on a Board meeting agenda, protocols around accepting public comments at Board meetings, and more. It is important to note that protocols are different from policies in that they are essentially friendly agreements between the Board Members and Superintendent regarding how we work together as a team. Policies are the law of the District. Board protocols have been in place in Modesto City Schools since 2013.
To that end, it is important to note that operational protocols are not intended to alter an individual Board Member’s personal leadership style; rather they are intended to help us make sure that all responsibilities are clear, and that they are met.
For example – and not unique to our District – some Board Members have children in our schools, and they may want to continue to volunteer in classrooms and attend school events as a parent, not in their official Board Member capacity. This would mean they can be present at their child’s school without scheduling a visit. Alternatively, when Board Members visit schools in their official capacity, our protocols outline that they will notify the site administrator a couple of days in advance to ensure their visit will not disrupt instruction, testing or other critical work.
The Board began to discuss our protocols on August 9, and this discussion will continue in our next special meeting scheduled for October 29, at 4 p.m.
Vision, Values, Mission
In our October special meeting, we plan to discuss the very important themes of vision, values and mission, which serve as the overarching guide for work across all departments and throughout our District.
All meetings are held in the Board room at the District office, and as always the meetings are open to the public.
Sara Noguchi, Ed.D
There are some amazing things happening in our schools. Over the past two weeks, I have continued to meet passionate, dedicated teachers, staff and parents. MCS is really a wonderful school district.
The state released the official Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) results on Tuesday, and we have reason to celebrate! The number of elementary students meeting or exceeding standards grew 3% in ELA and 2% in math! Everett Elementary School posted large gains in both ELA and math – 6.9% and 8.5% respectively. Other elementary highlights:
- Every grade level posted gains in math
- Grades 3-7 posted gains in ELA, grade 8 remained flat
- Three schools had growth at every level in ELA – Fairview, Lakewood and Hanshaw
- Three schools had growth at every grade level in math – Everett, Mark Twain and Roosevelt
- Martone posted a 7.2% gain in ELA
- Sonoma posted an 8.5% gain in math
Our 11th graders did not fare as well this year, with an 8% dip in ELA and a 1% dip in math. Despite the overall drop, ELA scores at Beyer, Enochs, Gregori and Modesto exceeded the county average, and Davis, Downey and Modesto posted gains in math.
The drop in 11th grade results was consistent with statewide results – although our drop was much larger. Read this article from EdSource for more information.
On Tuesday, MoHi hosted an “AVID Showcase” for about 25 educators from all over California. MoHi was named an AVID National Demonstration School in spring 2018, making it in the top 2% of all AVID schools nation-wide. The “Showcase” provided the visiting educators the opportunity to see AVID in action. The team at MoHi is clearly well trained and work together as a team. Teamwork is central to the success of any school and/or program. MoHi is a model for effective teamwork.
Principal Jason Manning, Associate Principal Jared Lawson and AVID Coordinator Sue Blickenstaff painted a very clear picture of how AVID is working for students at MoHi. I especially loved hearing about MoHi AVID students graduating from MoHi, going off to college, and returning to MoHi to become an AVID teacher. What an awesome testament to the school’s culture and the program’s success.
My Looking, Listening & Learning Journey “Focus Groups” begin the week of October 15. I want to hear from you. You have incredible insight into what is happening on our campuses. Please consider attending one or more of the meetings. Dates, times and locations are available on our website, along with a link to provide input if you are unable to attend.
Modesto City Schools has incredible things going on, I am confident, that working together we can ensure that all of our students have access to high quality instruction and engagement opportunities.
It has been another fabulous two weeks of meeting people and visiting school sites and classrooms. We are so fortunate to be part of a deeply committed community of learners and support providers who are dedicated to supporting the teaching and learning of our youth.
We recognize that our technology services have been challenging this year; however, we have also seen that they have greatly improved from the beginning of school. As a result, Educational Services is convening a District Technology Committee with the purpose of identifying challenges facing teachers and developing recommendations to improve conditions. Committee members will include teachers from all grade levels, instructional coaches, and staff from Information and Technology Services and Educational Services. Next week we will meet with MTA and CSEA leaders to collaborate on the development of the committee and meeting dates.
Over the past few weeks I enjoyed visiting Back-to-School events where all the campuses were clean and well cared for, and attending a Student Leadership Forum at Elliott where students honestly shared what supports they need to ensure academic success. Principal Summits left me awestruck at the commitment to instructional leadership and encouraged by the plans outlined to ensure further growth for our students. The “Junior Chef” program provided by ASES was a treat, literally and figuratively; all students were engaged and learning vital life skills. The Golden Valley Health Clinic, a model for community health clinics, was inspiring. Meeting with the Stanislaus County Workforce Development Director to discuss future workforce development leads gave me hope. Finally, I appreciated the opportunity to hear from the community, Board members, and Cabinet at the September 10 Board meeting.
I am inspired by the deep commitment and dedication I see in our community; from the Board Room, to the classroom, to the community. I am confident that working together we can further develop our school system to ensure that all our students have the skills they need to be successful in our community and society at-large. Join me in making this happen.
We are off to a good start to the school year. As I visit different schools, attend various meetings, and meet principals, teachers and families at Back-to-School Nights, I am enjoying my time learning about the culture and traditions of MCS. It is clear we have a dedicated staff and supportive community committed to student success.
I have heard many say they feel that there is a new energy and change is in the air. In a recent meeting with representatives from MJC, CSU Stanislaus, SCOE, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, we discussed the need and desire to work together to ensure we create the conditions for our students to be successful. By coordinating our efforts, we can guarantee that we build the bridges needed for our students to navigate through MCS and into college and/or the work force. I am excited about the opportunities before us, and the future it will bring to our community.
As I continue on my “Learning Journey,” I have begun a series of "Focus Groups" dedicated to learning stakeholders' perceptions of MCS - what's working, and where there are "gaps" that need to be addressed to improve student outcomes. Together with a team, we will use the information gathered to identify a direction for MCS and develop a three-year strategic plan. More information on the "Focus Groups," including how you can get involved, is available on mcs4kids.com.
Finally, twice each year, we hold “Principals' Summits” where principals present an analysis of their schools’ student achievement data and outline the leadership plan to address LCAP and site goals. Summits started last week with our junior high and high school principals.
It was exciting to hear their plans as they work through the cycle of continuous improvement to build stronger instructional and engagement programs for students. Key focus areas are improving attendance and chronic absenteeism rates, raising academic achievement, and supporting teachers in the classroom. I look forward to seeing growth at the next round of Summits in January.
Please follow me on my learning journey on Twitter @mcssuptnoguchi.
Dear MCS Families,
As the first few weeks of school draw to a close, I would like to thank all Modesto City Schools' team members for helping us to achieve a smooth opening to the new year. We successfully welcomed 29,800 students and 3,478 staff members. Visiting sites and meeting with our teachers, staff and students has been a joyful experience for me. I am impressed by the positive energy and great attitudes that I see throughout our District.
I realize this week we have been challenged by technology issues, and want to thank you for your patience.
New this year, we provided all students in grades 7-8 with an HP x360 device so they can access curriculum, textbooks and all information electronically. This is the second year our high school students are using a device in the same way. We are excited about this important initiative and investment in our students’ learning.
The internet filtering systems put in place to accommodate the significant increase in online activity needed adjustment. Our Information and Technology Services team has assured me the necessary adjustments have been made by our service provider, and we will be returning to smooth online access.
I learned long ago that when we embrace meaningful changes, whether at work or in our personal lives, we must be willing to tolerate unexpected challenges. Please accept my sincere appreciation for your understanding.
I look forward to continuing my Looking, Listening, and Learning journey. Join me as I document my journey on Twitter @MCSSupt.
Here’s to a wonderful 2018-19 school year.
August 20, 2018
To All Parents of Modesto City Schools Students:
As an educator and a parent, I know firsthand that healthy school communities are built on trust, and trust – in large part – comes from honest and forthright communication. These principles have guided me to share with you news about a personal situation that my family and I now face.
A few weeks ago, after I accepted my position with Modesto City Schools, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Those who have faced, or are now facing, a serious medical condition understand that this news shocked me. Like me, you may be familiar with the expression, "We may not be in control of our circumstances, but we can control how we I handle them." My family, friends, doctors and even my new seven bosses, the Board of Trustees have joined "Team Sara" to support me in beating this disease. I have excellent doctors who developed a plan of action that gives me complete confidence I will have a full recovery. I will be getting all my treatment here in Modesto.
I began treatment earlier this month. While I expect that some days in August and September will be tough, my doctors advise me that I likely will miss very little work. However, in order to make sure that any absences will not delay district progress, I asked Ms. Marla Mack, Associate Superintendent of Education Services, to serve as acting superintendent if I need to miss a work day. Please join me in thanking Ms. Mack for graciously and energetically agreeing to offer this support.
It is a tremendous honor and privilege to help serve our 30,000 students and supportive community.
Thank you for your thoughtful attention to this message. And, thank you for joining me in embracing a new school year with a shared commitment to deliver our very best to each and every student in our school district.
Dr. Sara Noguchi,
20 de agosto de 2018
A todos los padres de Modesto ciudad las escuelas alumnos:
Como un educador y un padre, conocer de primera mano que las comunidades escolares saludables se construyen en la confianza, y confianza – en gran parte – proviene de comunicación honesta y directa. Estos principios han guiado a compartir noticias acerca de una situación personal que ahora enfrentan a mi familia y yo.
Unas semanas atrás, después de que acepté mi situación con el Distrito Escolar Modesto, me diagnosticaron con cáncer de mama. Aquellos que han enfrentado o se enfrentan a, una condición médica seria entienden que esta noticia me impactó. Como yo, puede ser familiar con la expresión, "no podemos estar en control de nuestras circunstancias, pero podemos controlar cómo nos manejan." Mi familia, amigos, médicos y hasta mis siete nuevos jefes, la Junta de Síndicos se han unido a "Equipo de Sara" que me apoyen en vencer a esta enfermedad. Tengo excelentes médicos que desarrolló un plan de acción que me da plena confianza de tendrán una recuperación completa. Se puede recibir mi tratamiento en Modesto.
Comencé tratamiento este mes. Mientras espero que algunos días en agosto y septiembre será muy duras, mis médicos me aconsejan que probablemente le echo muy poco trabajo. Sin embargo, para asegurarse de que cualquier ausencia no retrasará el progreso del distrito, le pregunté a la Sra. Marla Mack, asociar Superintendente de servicios de educación, para servir como Superintendente interino si necesito perder un día de trabajo. Por favor únase conmigo en agradecer a la Sra. Mack graciosamente y enérgio acordaron ofrecer este apoyo.
Es un gran honor y un privilegio para ayudar a servir a nuestros 30.000 estudiantes y apoyo comunitario.
Gracias por su atención reflexiva a este mensaje. Y gracias por acompañarme en abrazar un nuevo año escolar con un compromiso compartido para ofrecer lo mejor a cada estudiante en nuestro distrito escolar.
Dra. Sara Noguchi
Welcome Modesto City Schools Families!
I am honored to have been selected as your new superintendent and look forward to learning more about the history and traditions that made our schools what they are today. My first month on the job was a great experience. I met with community members, representatives from local non-profits and organizations, and greeted our wonderful staff to welcome them to the 2018/2019 school year.
Through these interactions, I learned that this District is filled with remarkable students, families, and dedicated educators and staff who have helped shape Modesto City Schools.
I reached out to all schools looking for opportunities to get to know students, parents and community members within the individual neighborhoods. My calendar is quickly filling up with exciting occasions to meet school staff, attend student assemblies and join parent meetings.
During my transition period and beyond, the following core values will guide my leadership:
- Students come first in all actions and decision-making.
- All students have a right to equal access to education and opportunities.
- All people have a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- Open, honest communication will build public trust and confidence, foster positive relationships and propel Modesto City Schools forward.
The primary focus of my first 100 days will be in building key relationships, while building trust with all stakeholders within Modesto City Schools. I am confident that the knowledge and insight I gain will provide a framework of understanding that will support me as I work with the Board of Trustees to create the right conditions for all our students to be successful.
I am deeply committed to ensuring that all students have equitable access to education and to opportunities. I want every student to thrive. I want our best students to soar to the highest levels of success. I want our average students to stretch and achieve exceptional levels. I want our struggling students to catch up to their peers, so they can achieve amazing things and fulfill their dreams.
I believe that working together, we can create the right conditions for all our students to learn the skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century, which in turn, will ensure our community thrives.
Please join me on my learning journey on Twitter @MCSSupt.