TNB Visits Twin Rivers USD Campuses

A Look At The Other
Natomas School District

The Twin Rivers Unified School District serves approximately 27,000 preschool through adult ed students in North Sacramento. The district encompasses 120 square miles which includes five campuses here in Natomas. Recently, THE NATOMAS BUZZ had an opportunity to tour and get to know those who work and learn at the four campuses situated along the Northgate corridor.

Garden Valley Elementary School
3601 Larchwood Drive

This campus may date back to the early 1960s, but it sports a brand-new library and state-of-the art technology in its classrooms. Principal Michele Williams says the now-thriving school has closed – and reopened – at least once over the years due to fluctuations in the area’s population.

This is a PK-6 campus of 420. Students here use Smartboard technology during lessons, have access to computers in their classrooms and spend time in the school computer lab twice a week.

The library opened last year has proven a success with both students and their parents. At parents’ request, Williams has added an adult section to the library which includes titles in both English and Spanish.

“We have amazing parent volunteers,” says Williams.

Parents unable to help in the classroom because of language barriers, help with other tasks around campus. In return, the school hosts monthly parent-teacher meetings during which teachers make presentations to parents on a variety of topics.

Smythe Academy of Arts & Sciences
2781 Northgate Boulevard

Principal Linda Kyle is known as a mover and a shaker within the Twin Rivers Unified School District and her work here is no exception.

This PK-6 dependent charter of 560 students has the look and feel of a neighborhood school, but draws students who live along the Northgate corridor and elsewhere in the school district.

The dedicated parent room is a standout here. At Smythe, teachers put all their busy work – stapling, cutting, pasting – in a large plastic tub which an army of parent volunteers tackle during workdays held every Wednesday.

“We are trying to keep things going in these hard times,” says Kyle of the parent support.

The parent room is also used for everything from weekly Zumba to classes which help teach parents basic computer skills and how to do homework with their children.

Kyle has created a dedicated science lab at the campus where teachers have pooled materials and can bring students to work on experiments and projects. Next year, plans are to hire a teacher for additional science instruction.

Hazel Strauch Elementary School
3141 Northstead Drive

Drumline, after school sports, band, pep rallies, GATE camps, a garden club – oh, my! The energy principal Linda Bean and vice principal Gewon Richards bring to this PK-5 campus is certainly infectious and there’s no such thing as down time.

Partnerships with community organizations and active grant writing support much of this school’s programs. The goal: make everything available to every student whether or not they can afford it.

“That’s really what it’s about, doing whatever it takes,” says Richards. “We’re here because it’s a passion.”

But it’s not all about extracurricular activities here. Bean and Richards emphasize academics and meet individually with each student to review test scores and to brainstorm ways to improve. The school also recognizes those students who shine with a 600 Club which celebrates students who score a 600 or higher on the STAR test.

Not surprisingly, the school has a supportive parent group and monthly meetings always draw a standing-room-only crowd.

“We have done a lot of problem solving this year,” Bean says.

Rio Tierra Jr. High School
3201 Northstead Drive

Across the street, principal Paul Orlando’s passion for his post at the 6-8 school is also catching. This is a true neighborhood school attended by generations from the same families over the last 54 years.

Orlando stops a student in the breezeway to ask where his father – and his grandfather before him- went to junior high. The boy’s answer to both: Rio Tierra.

“My grandmother went here, too,” he adds.

Family support takes a different form at the junior high level, but parents remain a presence here, Orlando says. They coach after school sports teams, maintain athletic fields, serve on site council and fund raise for the Booster Club.

Rio Tierra test scores having grown more than 200 points since 2000 and a free, after school tutorial program is offered Monday through Thursday to help students who struggle with academics.

The school has a GATE program, AVID, MESA, the JASON project for science as well as Advanced Placement, honors and college prep classes. Students may participate in wood shop, drafting, symphonic and concert band, guitar, choir and year-round sports.

“We have had a 40 percent reduction in out of district transfers,” says Orlando. “There have been no expulsions the last four years.”
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