Superintendent Noguchi's Message Archive
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.