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May 9, 2006 > Excellence in education

Excellence in education

There was something different at the Newark Unified School District (NUSD) offices on Friday morning, April 28. Balloon bouquets at the ready, a group including Superintendent Dr. John Bernard along with Newark Education Foundation members Pat Danielson and Wendell Arnold boarded a school bus to make surprise visits to winners of the annual Awards of Excellence. Teachers, principals and district employees were delighted as the entourage approached each winner. Students and fellow employees applauded as the awards were announced. Shock, tears and smiles were the result of the morning visits as each recipient was presented with their bouquet and an invitation to "A Night for Music II" on May 18 where formal recognition will be given to the winners.

The first stop to see Michelle Concepcion in the district office was a good omen for the remainder of the morning as shock was followed by Michelle's smiles and cheers of co-workers. Dr. Bernard had asked for a meeting without further explanation and Michelle's thoughts focused on previous actions that may have precipitated such a meeting. Surprise and delight were clearly visible as her co-workers offered congratulations. As the School District Nurse, Michelle was nominated for her hard work and initiative. The nomination form notes that she "provides professional support and consultation" and "outreach to the community."

Schilling School was visited next as Music Teacher, Carol Zilli and Science Teacher, Mondana Tang were honored. It is difficult to forget even a casual meeting with Ms. Zilli. Her enthusiasm for music is overwhelming as students express themselves in song, dance, reading and playing instruments. She directs the Schilling School Chorus and prepares Schilling students to participate in the Newark Days Parade. As Executive Director of Music for Minors II, Ms. Zilli is an outspoken and effective advocate of music in public schools.

Co-worker Mondana Tang shows the same unquenchable enthusiasm for science as the Science Resource Teacher at Schilling Elementary School. She has created "inventive ways for the students to learn material" and promoted a team approach for problem solving. Her "exceptional skills" resulted in a successful Family Math and Science Night, promoted by the "Tang Team." Ms. Tang meets once a week with students for a "power lunch" and helped plan and coordinate Schilling's first yearbook.

On to Newark Junior High School, the caravan of congratulations delivered a bouquet to Principal Dr. Donald Gill, who greets 1200 students daily with a "genuine smile" and supportive manner. As Principal of the Year, Dr. Gill has created a safe and participatory atmosphere for students, staff and teachers. A passionate advocate of his school, he has motivated everyone to work toward a common goal of excellence.

At the physical education building, the group stopped to see Paul Weiss, the popular Physical Education teacher of the school. His self-effacing style belies a sincere dedication to students and "a master of classroom management." Working with students during an intense period of their lives, Paul is "challenging but understanding and demanding and fair. Every morning, he opens the gym for an hour before school so nearly 200 students can play badminton and relax before school.

Milani School was the next stop where Fran Nelson, English/Reading Language Arts Teacher has created an exemplary Read 180 program, emulated by others. Her students have shown "measurable progress" bringing national recognition and participation in the Oakland A's Home Run Readers' Day Celebration.

Janet Zutler, Special Education teacher at Milani is known for her "outstanding preparation and delivery of lessons as well as her collaboration with parents and colleagues." Her work inside and outside the classroom has motivated her students to succeed at a high level and be mainstreamed into regular education.

Bunker Elementary School is the home of Katherine Jones, a mathematics teacher that knows the score. She has been on "special assignment" this school year, working as a Mathematics Coach for Graham Elementary School teachers. Ms. Jones has also worked with Milani and Music Elementary School teachers and in April, hosted a "Math Games Make and Take Workshop" for K-6 teachers.

Bunker Elementary School has developed many innovative programs including a Leadership Team composed of representatives from all grade levels that propelled it into the spotlight as School of the Year. Administration promotes "excellence and high expectations for all students." The Cougar Cub Pledge exemplifies a code of behavior that guides students, faculty and administrative personnel in behavior that is positive and caring. "If it's not right, I will not do it. If it's not mine, I will not take it. If it's not true, I will not say it. I will be kind. I will be safe. I will respect people and property. I will do my best at all times."

One of the last stops was to visit Steve Barber at Newark Memorial High School. His outstanding work as a History/Social Science teacher brought him honors as the recipient of the Social Science Award of Excellence. Conducting Advanced Placement tutorials, facilitating student participation in the Harvard Model Congress in San Francisco and giving extra attention to student needs sets Mr. Barber apart as a role model for students and others in the field of education.

Kevin Harrigan was nominated and chosen as Administrator of the Year due to his commitment to excellence and exemplary work by creating and working with the Special Education Task Force resulting in a agreed upon set of standards, instructional and intervention materials. The K-12 science program has strengthened under Mr. Harrigan's leadership and so has administrative professional development.

As a community partner, Steve Oldfield has been a steady and dependable friend of NUSD. He serves on the NUSD Strategic Plan Steering Committee and leads efforts to maximize existing funds and develop new funding sources. Mr. Oldfield is one of the community leaders who helped create the Newark Education Foundation, Steve has been an unselfish volunteer assisting the Board of Education improve their governance skills and develop a world class education in Newark.

On May 18, A Night for Music II will formally honor each of these award recipients and help support music programs in Newark schools. The program will feature the Yowza Band and students from NUSD.

A Night for Music II
Thursday, May 18
Reception at 5:30 p.m.; Dinner & Awards 6:30 p.m.
Newark Pavilion
6430 Thornton Ave., Newark
(510) 794-5576

Adults $40; Children & Seniors $25
Send checks to:
Newark Educational Foundation
6222 Thornton Ave., Newark 94560

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