The HCSD School Board holds "Celebrations" at their board meetings in order to recognize HCSD employees that have made a difference.
HCSD assistant superintendent Dawn Hagness praised the culture of learning and respect at Sonoma Heights Elementary School (SHES) during the March 12 school board meeting, highlighting three SHES teachers and principal Lisa Weber whose comments and approaches demonstrate that culture.
“It’s always such a great feeling when you’re in that room with these teachers and the administrators together. It’s very calm and happy and celebratory,” Hagness said, describing her opportunity to observe a recent training session at SHES.
During the training session, Hagness observed Nikki Bengochea, who is on the SHES leadership team, saying that being professional means “just being in the moment” and “taking that moment and really being present in it and putting everything else aside.”
Third grade teacher Chelsea Borowski said during the same session, “I’ve never felt so safe and ok to fail. It is always ok to make a mistake here and I know someone’s going to have my back. I know I can go and say ‘I just did this wrong, who can help me.’”
“That’s exactly what we’ve talked about in this room, that we want people to fail forward, and we want people to know it’s ok,” Hagness said.
Teacher Jared Kifer, always seeking advice, remarked that the school provides a safe environment to ask questions. He described finding a kindergarten teacher who had an answer to one of his questions. “Who would have thought a kindergarten teacher would give me the advice I needed?” Hagness quoted him as saying.
Hagness said SHES provides a safe space for learning and teaching. “And that safe space has been created for learning and teaching because of Lisa.”
“You really have a shared leadership style, and it’s evident in the way that you led that staff that morning, and the way you lead your staff all the time,” Hagness said.
Nikki Bengochea said during the session Hagness observed that she appreciated how Weber treats the teachers like professional adults rather than children. “You trust us a lot, and you believe that we’re professionals and you treat us like professionals,” she said.
After school practice led to an impromptu school board recognition for the McDermitt Lady Bulldogs basketball team. Pictured (Back, L-R) Marley Astor, Meianah Bitt, Takayla Antonio, Kallie Sam, Precious Masters, Katie Crutcher, Coach Jaimi Wilkinson, (front) Jasmine Northrupp and Victoria Navarro.
Regional champions McDermitt Lady Bulldogs went to afternoon practice last Tuesday and wound up in the spotlight, front and center at the HCSD school board meeting, which was held in McDermitt. The Lady Bulldogs were this year’s regional champions and first seed in the state finals in Las Vegas over the weekend. In addition to their regional championship, team members also received several individual awards:
Jaimi Wilkinson - Coach of the Year
Precious Masters – 3-time Northeastern Player of the Year
Jasmine Northrup - 1st Team All Division
Katie Crutcher - 1st Team All Division
Victoria Navarro - 2nd Team All Division
Takayla Antonio - Honorable Mention
Wilkinson said of senior Precious Masters, “It doesn’t happen very often that we get a three-time player of the year. She’s also leading the entire state of Nevada in scoring and rebounding and is 75 th in the nation for both of those categories as well.” Individual board members also praised the Lady Bulldogs for their successful season. Recent trustee for the Orvada/McDermitt area Sabrina Ulhlmann said “I think they’ve done an exceptional job, not just as a team but with individual awards they have earned.” She also thanked coach Wilkinson for coaching the team for the past 20 years and said it was fitting that Wilkinson received Coach of the Year this year.
January 30, 2018
School Board Celebrates Claudia Means
The Humboldt Sun
Humboldt County Migrant Recruiter Claudia Means thought she was supposed to make a presentation to the school board during the Jan. 8 meeting. Instead, she received appreciation and a certificate of recognition for her hard work and dedication to helping the county’s migrant families.
Means identifies migrant students and coordinates programming and support for them and their and families. She also helps when these families experience emergencies.
“She can be our person of the year,” said district Director of Opportunity DeAnna Owens.
Owens read an email she received from Nevada Early Intervention Services (NEIS) relating one example of Means helping families.
“Did you know we have a hero in our midst?” the email began.
According to the email, sent around Christmas time, the family of a child in NEIS was “in crisis.” Their propane had been turned off. “They lost heat, the ability to cook, and were cold and hungry,” the email explained. “Claudia went right to work making sure the situation was rectified. She went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this family was safe and secure.”
“This is something that Claudia does every day,” Owens said. “She kind of makes sure that family needs are met and kid needs are met.”
December 8, 2018
School Board Celebrates Grass Valley 3rd grade teachers
The Humboldt Sun
Grass Valley Elementary School third grade teachers Mara Gilstrap, Hannah Haun, Tish Fullilove and Shannon Sanchez thought they were attending the school board meeting to talk about the new curriculum. Instead, they received some glowing praise for their hard work bringing that curriculum to life for their students.
“I’m so proud of the work that they have done together as a team to really take a brand new curriculum, and implement it in the classroom – it is such a hard thing to do,” Assistant superintendent Dawn Hagness said. “This curriculum is rigorous; it’s different than the way many have taught before.”
Teachers all over the district are teaching this new curriculum, and Hagness praised the way teachers were unified in what they taught. Hagness said when she visited Winnemucca Grammar school, a class was discussing whales and squids. “We went to Sonoma on the same day at a different time, and they were having the exact same conversation.”
“We have guaranteed learning going on in our classrooms, third through eighth grade,” she said.
The GVES teachers exemplified what the district hoped would happen with the new curriculum.
“But this group, I have to tell you, that together, talk about collaboration, cohesion room to room,” Hagness said. “We went room to room...they have the same anchor charts, which means they’re talking about the same stuff. We could see live vocabulary. It was coming to life for kids. We could see student writing across the classroom, we could see it in the hallways, we knew what was being taught. It was so incredible.”
“We could walk from room to room and pretty much pick up where the other teacher left off,” she said.
“These kids are doing such incredible work. But it’s not easy.”
One classroom gave her goosebumps, Hagness said, because students were making connections to stories and material they had learned previously. “I can’t even explain the conversations that kids were having about content knowledge. It was incredible,” she said.
For the teachers, this experience was business as usual. “[The teachers] said, ‘You caught us on a good day.’ But you know what? We caught you on a regular day just doing what was purchased, you put your heart into it, and your kids were so thoroughly engaged,” Hagness said. “And we got to see that process.”
September 22, 2018
School Board Celebrates Joe Brown and Mike Formby
The Humboldt Sun
The school board recognized a pair of district employees during the Sept. 11 meeting: Joe Brown, director of the Technology department and Mike Formby, director of the Maintenance and Transportation department.
“As we think about the amount of work that it requires to start a school district with 11 campuses, 3400 plus students [and around 4,000 computers], the prep work that Mike and his crew have had to do to make our campuses ready for students, the carpet, the painting, the vast amount of work, these are the behind-the-scenes things that most people don’t see or have the ability to recognize,” Superintendent Dave Jensen said. “But without Mike and Joe and their departments, we simply would not be in a position where we’re ready to welcome a new school year.”
“They’ve got some tremendous staff that they supervise and work with that make all of this happen, but these are the magicians...if it wasn’t for these guys, the teachers wouldn’t be as successful as they are,” Jensen said. “It has been amazing to watch the changes in their departments as a result of their leadership.”
Assistant superintendent Dawn Hagness said, “we had more positive feedback from teachers and administrators thanking Joe and Mike for their work. Administrators and teachers have recognized the part both of these men have played in the success of the schools.”
Both men work odd hours, and will receive calls about maintenance or technical problems whenever they occur, at nights and over weekends.
“We always joke about ‘other duties as assigned,’ and it starts at the top, right," Hagness said. “They definitely have other duties as assigned, so we are so thankful.”
May 8, 2018
School Board Celebrates Kay Eason
The Humboldt Sun
The Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees celebrated Grass Valley Elementary School speech pathologist Kay Eason during the May 8 meeting. Eason, who has worked in the district’s Pre-Kindergarten program, will retire at the end of this school year.
In a letter of commendation, DeAnna Owens described Eason as “a leader in her field.” Eason has mentored speech pathologists and “currently reviews every service provided by other pathologists in the district.”
“Kay is one who steps up when others need support. She can identify a problem and steps in, sacrificing her own needs to benefit others, including kids and staff,” Owens wrote.
Eason intended to retire at the end of last school year, but delayed retirement in order to support a new employee in the district needing input from a language and speech pathologist for her internship.
“I’ll always think of her as the lady who schools me on speech pathology. She loves her profession and makes sure those around her are aware of the rules of the game” Owens continued. She explained later in the meeting that her own background was in Special Education, and Eason taught her quite a lot about speech pathology.
Superintendent Dave Jensen said, “I’ve always been impressed by Kay’s passion. Any time there’s a student that needs that support, Kay is there. Her thoughtfulness, her dedication to the field shows in everything that she does.”
April 24, 2018
School Board Celebrates Chelsea Cabatbat
The Humboldt Sun
The school board recognized Transition Specialist Chelsea Cabatbat during the April 24 meeting. As Transitional Specialist, Cabatbat acts as case manager for students with special needs as well as helping these students develop life and work skills to transition to life after school.
District Director of Educational Opportunity DeAnna Owens said, "When I think about our mission and our vision here...both of them mention success and college and career ready. Chelsea’s one of our folks that makes that happen.”
"Chelsea Cabatbat is new to her position as Transition Specialist for Lowry High. She has made phenomenal progress in this role," Owens said.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 requires schools to coordinate with Vocational Rehabilitation offices for the county and the state. Vocational Rehabilitation pairs people with special needs with participating employers, as well as other services to support them in their jobs. "Chelsea has been the liaison for HCSD and has worked collaboratively across the state to begin better meeting the work skill needs of students transitioning into the workforce," Owens said.
Cabatbat helps students in Study Skills classes learn self-advocacy, self-determination and career development that will help them succeed in life and in the workforce. She also compiles a binder for each student in special education at the high school to guide and track the student's transition progress.
"Chelsea is there for kids while they are here in our district and she is committed to ensuring they are ready for the workforce or college after graduation," Owens said, adding that Cabatbat "is really a shining star!"
April 10, 2018
School Board Celebrates Ronda Havens
The Humboldt Sun
With the start of the new budget season getting underway, HCSD superintendent Dave Jensen said he wanted to recognize the efforts and support of Ronda Havens from the district finance department during the April 10 board meeting.
And she thought she was only there to help present the new tentative budget.
"Ronda...spends an inordinate amount of time on behalf of Humboldt County School District," Superintendent Dave Jensen said. "The time and efforts that she puts in – I know she's here late nights, she's in here weekends, she's here over holidays – and that's because she cares about our district."
"She has a grasp and an understanding of what's happening in our district that no one else can match," he continued. "And because of that, I've relied very, very heavily on Ronda. When I authorize expenditures that Dawn asks, she kicks me in the shin and says 'knock it off,'" he joked.
"She really has a very strong pulse on what's happening in our school district. And at any time I can go to her and say 'I need to talk about this,' and immediately she can provide the answer and we're able to come up with some decisions that benefit the district. I consider her a personal friend. It's been a privilege to work with her and to watch her grow over the years that she's been with the district, and I told her she can't retire until I do."
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness said, "We are so grateful for everything you do to save all of us. To help all of us. Because we all go to Ronda. If we need something, that's who we go to immediately. She has the answer. She knows how to support out principals, too, and she knows who to go to if they need guidance and support. The sheer amount of work because of grants in the last two years. "There hasn't been anyone extra in that department. Ronda has taken that load on and tried to help train new people in the process."
"She's always positive, always willing to drop anything and just be there for you if you need something, Hagness continued. "None of us could do our jobs if it wasn't for you being the person that you are."
March 27, 2018
School Board Celebrates Julie Woods
The Humboldt Sun
Members of the Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees celebrated long term substitute Julie Woods at the March 27 school board meeting. Woods has spent four of the last five years leading the Comprehensive Life Skills (CLS) class at Sonoma Height Elementary School (SHES). She has decided this will be her last year as a substitute teacher.
CLS classrooms are part of special education and focus on teaching skills necessary for day-to-day life.
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness said the district "couldn't be more blessed" with Woods, a "strong and talented educator" who excels in "a very challenging position."
"Anyone would think she's a certified teacher," Hagness said, adding that she has often encouraged Woods to certify as a classroom teacher. Hagness said Woods always refuses, though, saying "that's not why I do this."
"We want her to know before she goes how much she is appreciated," Hagness said.
A letter of commendation from SHES written by Lisa Weber and Dan LaRose praises Woods as "truly a strong and talented educator, as evidenced by her proficiency and her ability to meet the individual needs of students in the CLS classroom."
Woods has a "natural ability to succeed in a classroom setting," the letter continued, and "clearly understands the needs of her students."
"Helping children reach their highest potential and achieve their personal best is a high expectation that she has set for herself."
"Mrs. Woods genuinely cares for each and every student. It is an honor and privilege to have worked alongside such a dedicated educator," the letter added.
March 13, 2018
School Board Celebrates Andy Herrera
The Humboldt Sun
The Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees continued its recently initiated tradition by recognizing maintenance department employee Andy Herrera during the March 13 regular meeting.
"Continually, anywhere I go throughout the district, when people mention Andy Herrera, they mention his smile, they mention his laugh, and they mention the fact that he's a hard worker, willing to do anything for anybody at any time. And that's something we really appreciate," said Superintendent Dave Jensen.
"We just wanted to recognize Andy, and make sure he knows how much we appreciate him, specifically all that he does for the district."
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness agreed. "There's not a time where you can't walk by him, whether he's in the middle of a crisis with a pipe, or he's running off to take care of something else, he will always smile, he will wave if you're driving down the road. He always checks in with everybody and wants to know how they are."
Other district employees expressed their appreciation of Herrera's willingness to do whatever is needed, Hagness added. "They always know that there is someone taking care of them, and that he's not just going to do the one work order on the job. He's going to make sure if there's anything little, he can get the job done and not come back for another trip when someone happens to put in the work order."
"Andy exemplifies everything that Humboldt County School District Maintenance Department says are their team values, and tonight he deserves to be recognized for that, and more," Hagness said.
February 13, 2018
School Board Celebrates Lisa Evatz
The Humboldt Sun
The school board recognized the efforts and talents of Lisa Evatz during the Feb. 13 meeting. Evatz is a counselor at Winnemucca Grammar School.
Evatz and other Humboldt County School District counselors developed a crisis response protocol used throughout the district. Recently, Evatz helped organize district-wide support after the sudden loss of Grass Valley Elementary School learning strategist Robbie Campbell.
“In times of crisis, including staff or student death, Lisa is immediately called to provide critical counseling supports for both students and staff,” Superintendent Dave Jensen said.
“Any time in the district that we find ourselves in the position to need outreach to support staff, students or parents, Lisa is the first person I turn to. She has a phenomenal feel for...this type of a process.”
Jensen added that Evatz brings “a level of ease to the most difficult circumstances.”
“Lisa always makes herself immediately available and seeks opportunities to support staff and students throughout the district. It is a pleasure to work with Lisa and I value the insight and expertise that she brings to the position of counselor,” Jensen said.
“She is an outstanding counselor and an individual who makes a difference in Humboldt County School District.”
January 23, 2018
School Board Celebrates Noel Morton
The Humboldt Sun
The Humboldt County School District (HCSD) Board of Trustees recognized School Performance Director Noel Morton for her hard work and dedication to helping students succeed.
Morton received the Central Office Professional-Technical Administrator of the Year award from the Nevada Association of School Administrators. She also received the award for District Level Administrator Impacting Student Achievement from the Nevada Association of School Boards in November.
Morton played an integral part in the district’s efforts to improve achievement at some of its lower-performing schools. Her contributions included developing computer programs to track student progress and leading focus group discussions with administrators, teachers and students.
“[Noel’s] passion, her understanding of curriculum and instruction her ability to lead, guide and motivate is exactly what we needed,” Superintendent Dave Jensen said. “Over this past three-and-a-half years she has had a profound impact on McDermitt Combined Schools. She’s also worked with the junior high and French Ford (Middle School).”
“I know from both Dawn’s and my perspective we couldn’t imagine our central office without having her leadership, her insight and what she brings as value to our group,” Jensen continued. “We’re fortunate to have somebody like Noel in our district.”
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness said, “I don’t know if there’s anyone on our cabinet or administrative level who can engage in the type of conversations that Noel has.” She explained that Morton can talk to parents about helping students at home, she can advise administrators and engage in collaborative meetings with teachers.
“I feel like we’re very fortunate to have someone who is very well-rounded and brings an HR perspective, but can tie it all together and sit in our cabinet meetings and challenge us and push us every day and ask the questions to make sure we’re making the best decision in the interest of the kids,” Hagness said.
January 9, 2018
School Board Celebrates Grammar School Superstars
The Humboldt Sun
The Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees continued its new tradition of celebrating outstanding teachers and employees during the Jan. 9 meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness identified two Winnemucca Grammar School (WGS) teachers who have had a significant impact on student learning: Kindergarten teacher Rhonda Stevenson and Fourth Grade teacher Lori Seidlitz. WGS Principal Jonathan Reynolds attended to show his support.
Hagness said Stevenson embraced her role of helping Kindergarten students learn to write. She would invite administrators and teachers into her classroom, saying “My kids are writing! Look what my Kindergarten kids are doing!”
When Stevenson learned that the district wanted to purchase the Fountas and Pinnell reading materials, she told Principal Reynolds, “This is what I’ve been waiting for my entire career. I would have given anything, and this is what I wanted.” She said she could finally teach the way she always wanted to teach.
Hagness said Stevenson wasn’t afraid to tell anyone how excited she was about the materials. “You can see it in her classroom,” Hagness said, adding that the classroom’s energy on the first day Stevenson used the new materials gave her goosebumps.
“Rhonda, I can’t thank you enough for your commitment to Winnemucca Grammar School, to your Kindergarten kids every year, your teaching staff – because that energy is very important – and what you bring to the entire district because of that.”
Lori Seidlitz helped implement a new math program. Once Hagness convinced Seidlitz that she was the right person for the job, “Lori was so thoroughly involved in every bit of that, and wasn’t afraid to say ‘Come into my classroom and see it working.’”
“Once she commits, she's all in,” Hagness said. “And her kids are all in.” She explained that Seidlitz develops the classroom environment that fosters success and cooperation very early in the school year. “Lori has the talent to develop that in her students, and very early on.”
She has a very open classroom, inviting teachers and administrators from across the district. And she always asks for feedback so she can continue to grow and improve.
“Not only has she helped Humboldt County in this way, she’s been asked across the region to have other teachers from other districts come into her classroom to see what’s going on,” Hagness continued.
“I always love the opportunity to go in. I’m challenged in that room, and I appreciate the enthusiasm and the ability that she is able to pull out of kids. And her test scores reflect what she does every day with her kids.
“Lori Seidlitz, congratulations and thank you for what you do for Winnemucca Grammar School, Humboldt County and teachers across the region.”
November 28, 2017
School Board Celebrates Janhunen and Johnson
The Humboldt Sun
For the first celebration, the board recognized Gail Janhunen and Marcel Johnson.
Janhunen has worn many hats in the school district over the past 25 years, including classroom teacher, Literacy Specialist, Learning Strategist, Dyslexia Specialist, Family Engagement Coordinator, CLIMBS (Content and Language Integration as a Means of Bridging Success) Trainer and Educator Effectiveness Coordinator.
Leslie Molina described Janhunen as “visionary in implementing evidence-based instructional strategies” throughout the school district.
About Janhunen, Winnemucca Grammar School Fourth Grade teacher Tava Dennis wrote, “her mentorship has been more beneficial than any college course because she built a relationship with me and my students.” Dennis also said that Janhunen taught her “to give the students something to be proud of. In turn, she gave me something to be proud of.”
The board celebrated Marcel Johnson as School District Employee Making a Difference. Johnson currently leads the credit remediation and recovery program at Lowry High School. The program offers computer-assisted instructional programs to students at risk of not graduating due to credit deficiencies. During the 2015-2016 school year, Johnson helped 89 credit-deficient seniors catch up to graduate with their class. She did the same for 56 students in the 2016-2017 school year.
The board wrote that Johnson “developed a program that saw individual students for their positive attributes and abilities, as opposed to deficits or past behaviors.”
“No longer do students maintain a sense of failure, rather, [they] have come to understand that with hard work, supports are in place to assist each in meeting their goals of graduation.”