Dear Discovery Families,
The first two weeks of school have been marked with many changes. From a new school calendar, lunch schedule, and preparation schedule to new curriculum, students have shared their excitement for it all and provided feedback. Revisions to school-wide procedures based on student feedback and observations of their needs have already taken place.
The administrators, Dr. Nohara and Mrs. Kettleson, have visited classrooms introducing themselves to students. This year, Discovery Charter School has more than 90 new students. The administrators spoke with students about school-wide expectations. They have spoken with students in Grades 4-8 about being leaders for the school and students in Grades K-3 about keeping themselves safe and keeping others safe. This includes physical and emotional safety. They have also spoken with students about lunch, recess, and snack procedures.
At both campuses, of the 30-minute lunch and recess block, students have a dedicated block of 15 minutes to eat. At the Hillpointe campus, students eat in the cafeteria while at the Mesa Vista campus students eat at picnic tables under the shaded structure. If students need or would like additional time, they may enjoy their lunch outside at the Hillpointe campus or continue eating at the picnic tables at Mesa Vista with the expectation that trash is thrown in the provided trash cans. Many students have enjoyed picnics with their friends on the grass or on the tables while others have enjoyed eating and reading under a tree during this time.
At both campuses, students have the ability to eat indoors if it is too hot or cold.
Although a recess block is not explicitly built into the master schedule, classroom teachers have built additional recess and/or snack breaks into their daily schedule, as necessary. We do this because we believe in honoring the professionalism of our teachers and their ability to make real-time decisions for our students.
Students have also enjoyed getting to know both administrators.
Deniece Nohara is one of two assistant principals at Discovery Charter School. Her career in education began in 2004 in Las Vegas. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in urban studies education, a master’s degree in literacy education, and a doctorate in educational leadership. Dr. Nohara has three children ages 10, 7, and 1 and has been married for 14 years. Her husband, Sonny Nohara, is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has trained mixed martial arts fighters for the UFC. Together, they have traveled to Tokyo and Dublin with the UFC. During the summer they take their children to Hawaii, where they grew up, so their children can spend time with their family on the Big Island.
Amanda Kettleson is the other assistant principal at Discovery Charter School. She began her journey in education in 2007 in Las Vegas. She graduated from Montana State University-Billings with a bachelor’s degree in music education, elementary education, and vocal performance. In 2012, she obtained a master’s degree in educational leadership. Mrs. Kettleson has been married for three years and has a newborn child at home. She enjoys singing, photography, golfing, and playing games. Her husband, Kenneth Kettleson, works for the Las Vegas Water District. Together they enjoy traveling, hiking, spending time as a family, and being youth leaders at their church.
At this time, a principal for DCS has not been appointed.
Dr. Nohara and Mrs. Kettleson alternate between the Hillpointe and Mesa Vista campuses to ensure there is always an on-site administrator; however, their schedules are flexible depending on the needs of students and teachers. The on-site administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the campuses.
Another change to DCS this year is the purchase of new curriculum. We purchased Ready for mathematics for all students and the Ready reading component for students in Grades 1-8. Kindergarten students will use Learning Dynamics and they, along with 1st grade students, will use Reading Eggs to build phonemic awareness. Ready’s online component, i-Ready, was also purchased for all grade levels. We have also purchased Thinking Maps to build cognitive skills in all content areas. Thinking Maps will also serve as a bridge for our writing program. Additionally, we purchased FOSS kits for science.
The decision to lock the school’s gates in the morning was not implemented as a means to keep families away from the campus. On the contrary, one of the successes of DCS has always been the involvement of our families and the community. We encourage families to volunteer in classrooms or have lunch with their children. Gates are locked in the morning to ensure the instructional day begins on time and to ensure the safety of our students. Having adults sign in at the front office lets DCS personnel know which adults should be on campus. If we see an adult who is not a teacher and is not wearing a badge, we will immediately know we need to speak with that adult to ensure the safety of our students. Additionally, in the event of an emergency we are required to provide first responders with the number of children and adults on our campus. If adults do not sign in, we will not be able to provide an accurate number.
DCS will still host events our families enjoy. These events include, but are not limited to, our Trunk-or-Treat, Family Feast, Carnival, and Art Gala. We are hosting an Open House on Tuesday, September 12th from 5:30-7:00 for our Hillpointe families and Wednesday, September 13th from 5:30-7:00 for our Mesa Vista families.
We are also adding a new weekly event to our schedule called Kindness Wednesday. Beginning Wednesday, September 13th, we are encouraging all students and staff members to wear a shirt with a message conveying kindness. Within the next few weeks, we will have a design contest where we will encourage students to design a kindness shirt. Students will then vote for the shirt they want printed and these shirts will be made available for purchase for students to wear on Kindness Wednesday.
Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance and engage in 30 seconds of silence in their classroom with their peers and classroom teacher. Teachers have access to a shared link with a video we created. The video begins with a picture of the American flag. Then, the administrators recite the Pledge and the Pledge appears on the page. This assists our youngest students in learning the Pledge, which is a standard in Kindergarten, and also allows them to practice tracking words and phrases. Later, during the 30 seconds of silence, words are shown on the screen to remind students of the purpose of the silent moment we take each morning. These words include honor, friendship, loyalty, and courage. At times, the administrators include a message for all students at the beginning of the video. In the future, we would like students to create, host, and edit our morning announcements.
Digital citizenship, and specifically cyberbullying, are addressed in the Technology standards and is something we feel strongly about. All of our students should understand the importance of all aspects of digital citizenship given their high level of exposure to technology. Our Technology class will use lessons from Common Sense Media when focusing on digital citizenship. Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization and their purpose is to educate students, families, teachers, and policymakers about the importance of digital citizenship. The curriculum is appropriate for K-12 students and lessons are included. It is a free resource for students, teachers, and families. Mrs. Ongbongan, our school counselor, will also address bullying and cyberbullying during parent meetings.
Monthly parent meetings will begin in the fall. We have not identified dates, times, or specific locations for the meetings but will keep you informed when that decision is made.
Our first priority is, and will always be, our students and teachers. For this reason, we will make every effort to respond to emails and phone calls within 24 hours, unless it is an emergency. We will continue to meet with parents at the beginning and end of the school day but if our students or teachers require our attention, they will take priority. As school leaders, and more specifically, instructional leaders, we need to begin focusing on classroom instruction.
We have openings for new students so if you feel DCS would be a great fit for a family you know, encourage them to call the office to ask about our openings. We would enjoy the opportunity to share our love of learning with more students.
Thank you for joining us on this journey,
DCS Administrative Team
Deniece Nohara, Ed.D.