#MNPSVoices: Alethea Gurabardhi, ELL Teacher

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Among the most diverse cities in the country serving most of Nashville’s children, Metro Nashville Public Schools reflects that incredible diversity with more than 140 different languages spoken.

Metro Schools’ English Language population is faced with trying to learn in a language that is not their own – a struggle that Alethea Gurabardhi, an EL teacher at Caldwell Elementary, is quite familiar with.

Gurabardhi was raised in Taiwan and moved to the United States at the age of 14 with her family. After attending college she went back overseas to teach English in Romania and Albania.

Three years ago, she made the decision to relocate to Nashville and teach for Metro Schools. She worked for two years as an itinerant EL teacher at Kirkpatrick Elementary and Caldwell Elementary, and now serves the EL population at Caldwell full-time.

“It has been exciting to watch [Caldwell’s] population grow enough to need a full-time EL teacher,” Gurabardhi said.

Because of the nature of Gurabardhi’s job, she spends a fair amount of time with her students and their families outside of school to ensure they are understanding and able to support their child’s education.

“What I really enjoy is bonding with my students, both in school and during home visits,” Gurabardhi said. “I have found this to be a key component in motivating students to do their best. I try to ensure that my visits are for good news reports as well as areas of concern. This bridges trust between my parents and me.”

With limited resources for international families trying to understand a complex education system, Gurabardhi draws upon her own experiences as a transplant in a country where she also didn’t know the language to help her students. Last fall, she and her co-workers noticed letters from teachers were not being signed because of language and cultural barriers. The school brought in a translator and held monthly meetings for parents and teachers to converse with each other.

“This meeting was very helpful to both the parents and teachers because it gave them an opportunity to air concerns,” Gurabardhi said. “These have helped parents to navigate school expectations for medical insurance needs, questions about teacher expectations, school calendar dates, how the school would contact parents in the event that their child became sick and even how to traverse the surprises of adolescence in the United States.”

Despite the challenges of teaching students whose first language is not English, Gurabardhi has found her calling in a district filled with a diverse student population from all over the world.

“I have poured my affection mixed with careful scholastic grounding into these precious children,” Gurabardhi said. “It is my desire that my students and their parents are able to successfully transition into American citizenship and learn to blend their native cultures with the American one. It is my ambition for all of them to take that blending, and improve life for all of us.”

Metro Schools to host Kindergarten Readiness Fair on April 21

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Get an early start to preparing your child for the first day of school with the MNPS Kindergarten Readiness Fair. Join us on Saturday, April 21, from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Lentz Public Health Center (2500 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville) for this free event for the family!

At the fair, families can receive information to support their child’s transition to kindergarten and ask MNPS departments, such as Transportation, Extended Learning and Exceptional Education. questions about kindergarten. Families can also take part in our School Bus Experience that provides children a chance to tour a school bus and ask their questions.

Plus, every family will receive a book to build their home library.

The event provides a one-stop shop for incoming kindergarten families, featuring:

  • Kindergarten Enrollment and Assessments
  • EL Services
  • Student Immunizations*
  • MNPS & Community Partner Information Booths
  • Kindergarten Transition Workshop
  • School Bus Experience
  • Door Prizes

*Student Immunizations Provided by Lentz Public Health Center

Let’s get #MNPSKReady together!

Kindergarten Readiness Fair Flyers: English | Spanish | Arabic | Kurdish | Somali

For more information visit: https://www.mnps.org/kreadinessfair or call the Family Information Center (615) 259-INFO.

Lakeview Elementary celebrates 50 years of education and service

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Lakeview Design Center Elementary held its 50th anniversary celebration April 13 acknowledging its legacy of providing students with a strong academics and service to the community. The celebration welcomed back former administrators, teachers, and students to share in the milestone occasion as well as remarks from State Rep. Harold M. Love, Jr. (D-58).

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Principal Claire Jasper opened the day with greetings addressing a crowd of more than 100, along with unveiling a special presentation highlighting some of Lakeview’s accomplishments over the years. Another highlight of the program included an open letter from former student, Likisha Rhodes, now a teacher at Lakeview. In addition, official proclamations were presented to the school from Senator Thelma Harper (D-19), Speaker of the House, Rep. Beth Harwell (D-56), and Rep. Love.

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Lakeview opened in the fall of 1967 as the “Bell Road School.” It was later renamed Lakeview Elementary by a committee of students, parents and faculty because of its proximity to Percy Priest Lake.

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Today, the school continues to provide its diverse student body with strong academics, and instills values of character, community, responsibility, and respect to ensure Lakeview students can grow both intellectually and emotionally. Immediately following the program, guests were treated to a reception in the library.

Early College High School Program to provide students access to opportunity and excellence

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Today, Nashville State Community College (NSCC) hosted the official kickoff of Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Early College High School Program, a groundbreaking magnet program for high schoolers that will be offered at the NSCC campus starting in the 2018-2019 school year. Early College students will have the opportunity to graduate with an Associate of Science in Information Technology – helping prepare them for an in-demand industry in Nashville. Early College event attendees included NSCC and MNPS leadership, community partners, representatives from IT companies across Nashville and students currently enrolled in Middle College High School.

“What a day for Nashville State and Metro Schools,” said Dr. Shanna Jackson, NSCC’s incoming president. “It is all about partnerships and continuing this great work together — this is simply the right thing to do for our students.”

Background on the Early College Program

The Early College High School Program will gradually replace the current Middle College High School, which provides students the opportunity to earn college credits but does not guarantee students earn the college associate degree. The Early College High School curriculum is designed to ensure students earn a high school diploma and associate degree within four years and at no cost to families. The new program provides the opportunity to fast track their college plans and build a career.

“I am beyond excited to introduce this Early College model to our district,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools. “This program will open doors for our students and their families by giving them the advantage of alleviating some of the financial challenges tied to getting a college education.”

Those enrolling as Early College students are presented with the unique opportunity to be a part of a first of its kind program in Nashville that will not only benefit Metro Schools, but the thriving IT industry. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment within computer and IT occupations is expected to grow 13 percent from now through the year 2026, adding nearly 600,000 jobs. Because the program is free and allows students to fast track their college credits, it saves both time and money.  Students leaving high school with two years of college credits means they can either graduate from college sooner or take more advanced classes toward a bachelor’s degree.

There is still time to enroll. Applications for the 2018-19 school year are still being accepted from current eighth grade students with qualifying test scores and a GPA of 85 or greater.

“We pride ourselves on graduating energetic learners and workers who are ready to make meaningful contributions in our society,” Middle College High School Principal Roderick Manuel said. “We are excited about the Early College High School Program and the impact it will have in furthering student achievement and career readiness.”

Learn more about the Early College High School program here and watch the live event at http://www.facebook.com/MetroSchools.

 

Breaking Down the Budget: STEAM

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We’re breaking down the budget proposal for the 2018-2019 operating year. Metro Schools will focus on Our Students and Our People in the 2018-19 operating budget, with the majority of spending aimed at improving equity and excellence across the district.

Read more about the budget proposal here.

In August 2017, Metro Nashville Public Schools announced a bold goal: to transform teaching and learning in our middle schools over the course of a three-year transformation.

We know middle school is a pivotal time in a child’s education – it’s a time that we need to capitalize on by grabbing students’ interest and motivating them for success in high school and beyond.

That’s exactly what STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) does for our middle school students. With next year’s budget, we will expand STEAM curriculum from 18 middle schools to 28 middle schools.

“Our students are finding their voices – through a rigorous approach that challenges them to think critically, to think creatively, to communicate with one another and to collaborate with their peers.” – Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, State of Schools Address March 2018

Eighteen schools have laid the groundwork for this expansion, one that would not have been possible without our teachers and administrators.

Next year’s expansion will continue to build on the success of this year, which includes:

  • This year alone, our teachers have completed more than 11,000 hours of STEAM professional development, including specific arts-integration professional development.
  • Investing in technology and advanced academics to ensure our students have access to rigorous instruction that will prepare them for their futures. Every STEAM has a two-to-one technology ratio, an investment we’ll continue in year two. This means our students have access to learn and interact with the technology they’ll experience in high school.

In addition, our community partners have stepped up to ensure our students have meaningful curriculum-career connections and opportunities in STEAM industries. Students can’t be what they can’t see – and our community partners across the city are helping our students see and shape their futures.

For example, at Croft Middle School, we expanded our partnership with the Nashville Zoo to create a new virtual zoo concept for students and Dell Technologies announced four of our phase two and phase three schools will each receive a grant, up to $2,500 dollars to help enhance their STEAM curriculum.

We believe what we’re doing in the classroom won’t just impact our schools –it will impact the entire Nashville community.

Our students will graduate Metro Nashville Public Schools and head to whatever is next for them – be it college or a career – with a great understanding of how they can impact their cities and how their unique skill set can be applied across many industries.

Take a look instead our STEAM classrooms:

2018 State of Schools Address: STEAM from Metro Nashville Public Schools on Vimeo.

 

#MNPSVoices: Dr. Natalyn Gibbs, Principal

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Bright colors and warmly decorated halls greet guests as they enter Shwab Elementary. Even brighter are the faces of Shwab’s diverse students and cheerful office staff lead by Principal, Dr. Natalyn Gibbs. From the moment you meet Gibbs, it is clear how much she cares for her school and has built an intentional focus on the experience of her teachers, parents and students.

“There is no ‘I’ in team but [there] is one in win,” Gibbs said. “We all have a contribution that leads to a bigger picture – grade connects to school, school to district and district to state – and the larger picture of success requires taking ownership of our individual pieces.”

Under Gibbs’ leadership, Shwab has been recognized by the district for the largest achievement gap closure for limited English proficiency and has received an honorable mention in having the largest value-added gains in reading and language arts. The school’s population is 50 percent Hispanic with 40 percent of students as English Learners (EL). Because of those substantial numbers, Gibbs added more supports through an EL-trained staff that includes a part-time translator at Shwab three days a week and full-time English Language Development (ELD) teachers who provide daily support to English Learners. At least one teacher on each grade level is also EL certified. Gibbs’ goal is to provide all learners access to a rigorous and interactive education regardless of what language they speak.

“When you serve such a diverse population, it is crucial to give students not only extra support but also have an open-door policy to give parents access to their student’s academic experience,” Gibbs said. “There needs to be trust.”

While she focuses on the students first, calling them the “royalty for which we serve,” Gibbs does not discount the importance of focusing on staff, their personal well-being and professional development.

“Teaching is the profession that creates all professions,” she said. “I want my staff to know I have the highest respect for their leadership and expertise.”

Gibbs provides teacher-leader positions and has implemented incentive programs to acknowledge her educators’ willingness to go above and beyond in service for their students. The program encourages teachers to take advantage of available roles and collaboration opportunities.

“I never ask more of my faculty and staff than I am willing to give,” Gibbs said. “This is an environment of shared leadership.”

She has always had a knack for leading; she spent the beginning of her career in the business world before following a passion for teaching and learning. Gibbs taught in the classroom and spent time as an assistant principal in Metro Nashville Public Schools. When she earned her first lead principal role six years ago, Gibbs worked hard to rebuild the team and create the focus and direction she felt the staff required. The rebuilding has paid off with significant gains in testing and other achievement data.

Reflecting on the year, the Gibbs is proud of her team for taking full ownership of the district’s vision and strategic framework. Next year, she wants to build on the momentum in her school.

“Our team is at a great place with synthesis––I am proud of our staff and pedagogy that they bring,” she said.

“I have parents who say Shwab needed me– but not as much as I needed Shwab, being here has by far been my best and most challenging experience.”

Breaking Down the Budget: College & Career Counseling

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This week, we’re breaking down the budget proposal for the 2018-2019 operating year. Metro Schools will focus on Our Students and Our People in the 2018-19 operating budget, with the majority of spending aimed at improving equity and excellence across the district.

Read more about the budget proposal here.

At the start of this year’s budget season, Dr. Joseph visited many different high schools for one reason: to speak to groups of students about what they need to succeed. The answer was universal and resounding. Our students told us loud and clear – we need more help with preparing for college.

That’s why this year’s budget proposal includes operating funds for three additional positions, two will provide counselor support and supervision and one will work directly with our foster care students. In addition, the district will use federal dollars to fund 15 new positions specifically dedicated to college and career counseling. These 15 positions will serve our 12 traditional high schools and our magnet high schools MLK and Hume Fogg. Nashville School of the Arts and East Magnet High School will each have a counselor on a half-time basis.

“Counselors across the district are making a difference for countless students…and helping them to navigate the college application process.” –Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, State of Schools Address March 2018

A recent report published by the Nashville Public Education Foundation underscores the need for an investment in career and college counseling. According to the report, sixty percent of jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, yet only 24 percent of MNPS graduates earn a degree within six years after graduating from high school.

In addition, approximately 80 percent of our students’ parents have never attended college, making most of our MNPS students’ first-generation college students.

While the interest is high and students are motivated for the next chapter after graduation, navigating the post-secondary world is challenging and complicated, especially for lower-income students.

Nobody knows this quite as well as Connie Hensley, the college counselor at Pearl-Cohn High School. Through her dedication, Pearl-Cohn seniors are well-educated on their post-secondary options. Watch this video to learn more.

2018 State of Schools Address: Counselors from Metro Nashville Public Schools on Vimeo.

College and career are the next steps for graduates of MNPS – and funding career and college counselors in high schools across the district will help to ensure when students leave our schools, they will have the knowledge to know exactly what steps they need to take in order to make their dreams a reality.

 

Breaking Down the Budget: SEL

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This week, we’re breaking down the budget proposal for the 2018-2019 operating year. Metro Schools will focus on Our Students and Our People in the 2018-19 operating budget, with the majority of spending aimed at improving equity and excellence across the district.

Read more about the budget proposal here.

We recognize that if our students’ social and emotional needs aren’t met, they cannot thrive in the classroom. This is why we’ve selected social and emotional learning as one of our budget priorities for the 2018-2019 school year.

“We know our schools are safer when we can train the adults within our buildings to know their students and help students understand their own triggers and ways to de-escalate their emotions.” – Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, State of Schools Address March 2018

With next year’s operating budget, we will dramatically enhance the infrastructure of our social-emotional work by staffing a quadrant support structure to train more than 3,000 teachers annually on an SEL model.

We also plan to add five new positions to provide direct training and support to our teachers and repurpose 35 existing positions to better serve the needs of our students and schools.

In addition, we’ll invest $640,000 in training and support for implementing the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support model.

The final way we plan to invest in SEL is building upon our nationally recognized Community Achieves work. We know the community schools model is successful and – most importantly – impactful for our students and their families.

Next year we will invest and expand these efforts:

  • Community Achieves will continue to support the 18 current schools implementing the full-service model
  • We are expanding the scope of Community Achieves to focus on elementary chronic absenteeism. This will be done in partnership with Communities in Schools, one of our district partners that is providing similar supports in 18 additional schools, to provide case management and support for chronically absent students in our elementary schools that have the highest rates of truancy and chronic absenteeism.
  • We will continue to work with Alignment Nashville to explore ways to address health disparities and chronic health conditions among our students.
  • Lastly, we are adopting new national community school standards that align to the district’s Key Performance Indicators and the goals we have set for the Community Achieves program.

2018 State of Schools Address: SEL from Metro Nashville Public Schools on Vimeo.

 

Our district has already made great strides in the area of social and emotional learning, but there is still work to be done. Investing in the social and emotional needs of our students will provide them with the support they need to succeed in college, career and beyond.

Breaking Down the Budget: Literacy

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This week, we’re breaking down the budget proposal for the 2018-2019 operating year. Metro Schools will focus on Our Students and Our People in the 2018-19 operating budget, with the majority of spending aimed at improving equity and excellence across the district.

Read more about the budget proposal here.

One area of the budget of significant importance is our investment in literacy.  The ability to read and write is a civil right for our students – and we know with strategic investments we can continue the march towards our goal: doubling the number of students reading on grade level by third grade by 2025.

“We have declared war on illiteracy in our district.” – Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, State of Schools Address March 2018

For the second year in a row, Metro Nashville Public Schools will continue to make strategic investments in both resources and staff. Last year, we invested $18.5 million form our operating budget and additional dollars from grant funding in every tier of our organization – our classrooms, our schools, our leaders and our central office capacity.

With next year’s operating budget, we will continue strategic investments in both resources and staff through a comprehensive literacy plan and additional schools supports for literacy expectations.

As with last year, supporting our school staff will be a critical component of this work. Watch this video to learn more about how our Literacy Coaches support our teachers and students throughout the district.

2018 State of Schools Address: Literacy from Metro Nashville Public Schools on Vimeo.

And we know we won’t do this work alone – the Nashville Public Education Foundation raised just over one million dollars for our literacy work this year and has committed to doing the same for our students next year. The entire Nashville community is rallying behind our students.

Through this community effort and with our dedicated and exceptional educators, we know we can work to ensure all students will have comprehensive literacy instruction from early childhood to graduation.

#MNPSVoices: Will Butler and Kristin Moon, Theater Directors

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Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being” and finding it requires a deep and often lengthy self-discovery process leading to the source that make one’s life worthwhile.

For the past four years, Will Butler and Kristin Moon have worked together to create some of the most notable theatre productions in Nashville as co-directors of The Hillsboro Players. As a result, they have helped numerous students and audiences discover their own ikigai or source of value.

“I know firsthand the transformative power theatre has on a person,” Butler said. “As someone who faced many difficulties growing up, theatre provided me the escape I needed to keep my mind, body, and spirit focused. I teach theatre because I want my students to have a safe place to explore their own creativity and grow not only as artists but as members of society.”

As a graduate of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Moon first found her love of theatre while attending Glencliff High School.

“I teach theatre because I believe theatre has something to teach everyone,” Moon said. “In the production process, kids learn creativity, empathy, and discipline which helps them become successful adults. I hope my passion for theatre inspires my students to change the world.”

Butler and Moon’s journey to Hillsboro High School began as a meeting through mutual theatre friends, in which they instantly connected. After seeing Moon’s production of “Seussical,” Butler was so impressed with the quality that he wanted to become more involved.

“I didn’t have an education background,” Butler said. “My passion, in conjunction with Kristin’s, to give the students a theatre experience unlike any other high school and the idea to begin improving the community involvement of The Hillsboro Players, along with the marketing and production value, was enough to get me hired.”

Since then, Butler and Moon have worked as one voice challenging and encouraging each other to create conceptually strong and expertly performed theatre. Through their own pursuit of excellence, the students continually raise the bar of what they are capable of achieving.

“High school theatre is a phrase often used with negative connotations, but we guide our students to create theatre that fights and crushes that connotation,” Moon said. “Teenagers can create quality art that deserves to be seen and experienced by their peers and the community.”

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