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Leadership takes many forms at the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD). From our principals and teachers who set the foundation for student learning to our student government representatives who support important grade-level initiatives, the opportunities for cultivating a leadership mindset are endless. Join us as we explore these opportunities below and discover innovative leadership programs and experiences across NVUSD.

Student Leadership at Alta Heights Elementary School

Fourth and Fifth-Grade Teacher Leslie Gracia and Education Specialist Ashley Cox know leadership. As the new Student Leadership Advisors at Alta Heights Elementary, they have joined together to shape and refine the leadership programming available to students, setting clear expectations in the process. Student leaders are asked to lead by example through their behavior, academics, and actions. Specifically, to be safe, kind, respectful, and responsible, participate in class and complete their classwork and homework, and take an active role in projects and programs. Gracia and Cox support students in this work, sometimes through gentle reminders and other times through thoughtful discussions about the importance of effort and resilience when working through an academic challenge or implementing one of their projects. 

To date, student leaders have accomplished much. They have picked up trash on the playground, participated in spirit days, lead the whole school in yearly give-back projects, acted as conflict managers at primary recess, participated in school assemblies by providing backup for Principal Ward as well as performing skits, songs, and chants to teach skills to their peers, and acted as school ambassadors during parent tours. “The framework Ms. Gracia and Ms. Cox have put in place provides clarity for students,” shares Alta Heights Principal Ted Ward. “They know what is expected of them and live up to those expectations in impressive ways.” 

Gracia takes this notion a bit further suggesting that learning these important skills not only leads to successes while in school but will translate into successes later in life. One new addition to the leadership framework that supports the growth of these lifelong skills is the addition of Student Leadership Supervisors. Four Student Leadership Supervisors are selected by fourth and fifth-grade teachers each year after being identified as caring, empathetic, and responsible. These Supervisors work to support other student leaders. 

According to Gracia, “Our Supervisors check in with students on a daily basis and provide supportive feedback to their peers. For example, Supervisors make sure our flag volunteers are raising the flag each morning to complete our flag salute, jumping in to assist when needed and giving them a note of praise for work well done. In addition, these students have That-a-Gators to pass out when they are moving through the school to any of our 300+ students that they witness being safe, kind, respectful, and/or responsible.” 

Both Gracia and Cox are appreciative of their student leaders. Cox shares, “We have a really wonderful group of Gators, and watching them rise to the occasion and lead their peers is not only exciting and fulfilling as an educator but also gives me hope for the future. Gracia concludes, “They are motivated to be leaders, and desire to make the world a better place which gives me great hope for our future generation of citizens.” 

Congratulations to these amazing student leaders and the impactful educators who make these opportunities possible.


Want to see more leaders in action? Read our related story about Safety Patrols at Donaldson Way Elementary School.

Safety Patrols

Enthusiastic 5th-graders wearing bright orange and yellow vests line the entrance to Donaldson Way Elementary School. There, they greet parents and help younger students out of their cars as they arrive for school drop-off. This is part of the 5th-grade Safety Patrol Program and 5th-grader Sophia, “Loves it!” She shares, “We do a lot besides just helping with drop off and pick up. We deliver breakfast to classrooms, stay after school to make sure all students have gone home, help the Kindergartners stay in line, and remind students to stop running.” 

These students volunteer their time and talents but must be selected for this leadership position. Fellow 5th-grade student Aaron explains that to be a safety patrol students have to do more than just turn in a permission slip. They also have to write an essay about why they want to join the safety patrol program. He concludes, “It’s not easy.”

Donaldson Way Grandparent and leader in his own right, Mr. Allen Quisenberry started the 5th-grade Safety Patrol Program over 11 years ago. He worked closely with Principal Marilyn Abelon and the American Canyon Police Department to develop a traffic flow pattern that would work for families who drive their children to school. He then worked with the Donaldson Way Team to put a system in place so students could give back. The program has taken off. 

Now, every morning at 7:30 am, he meets with the Safety Patrol Team to discuss their duties. He coaches them on leadership, self-confidence, and volunteerism and sometimes even throws in a vocabulary lesson on words such as Attitude, Resilience, and Positivity. Mr. Quisenberry motivates his patrols each day and in turn, their cheerful smiles and thoughtful “have a nice day(s)” make each school day a little safer and happier for all.

“Rain or shine, we can count on our safety patrols showing up,” shares Principal Abelon. Every member of our school community plays a critical role in making sure our campus is welcoming and safe, and that leadership and learning are priorities at our school. They remind me about how important community is at Donaldson Way. ”

Posted 11/30/22

We distributed a new edition of our Family eNewsletter today; read it wherever you receive your ParentSquare messages or click here. 

Posted 11/17/22

The retirement of Debbie Walden at American Canyon Middle School (ACMS) last spring left big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Alan U'ren, a talented middle school music teacher with twenty-one years of experience, jumped at the opportunity.

Two factors were attractive to U'ren, the strong music program and the opportunity to collaborate. He noted, “American Canyon is known for their appreciation and support of music. Their support and Ms. Walden’s great work created a thriving program.”  With three choir classes and three band classes, the ACMS program also allows him to reach more students, creating a winning combination that U'ren wants.

The opportunity to collaborate with the American Canyon High School (ACHS) music program was another factor that attracted U'ren to ACMS. He is impressed with the ACHS music program, specifically how they invest in the middle school. U'ren observed, “Jamie Butler and Brendan Day work with the middle school to collaborate and support the program, and I wanted to be a part of that.” The admiration is mutual. “We are thrilled to have Mr. U'ren step into the ACMS Music Teacher position. Teaching all three disciplines (Band, Strings, and Choir) is so difficult and takes years of experience and loads of talent to pull off. Mr. U'ren has all of that and then some,” said Jaime Butler. Brendan Day added, “finding out he was filling the position in a program that had been built up over many years by Ms. Walden was a comfort to me. His years of experience teaching a similar program gives me confidence that he is well-suited and prepared to continue the success that ACMS had found under Walden's leadership.”

U'ren and the ACMS choir perform at ACHS.Caption: Pictured above, ACMS choir students performed for NVUSD staff at our October professional development. Read all about their new director in the NVUSD News.

U'ren sees vertical alignment and continued public performance in the American Canyon community as essential components of a robust middle school music program. Speaking to this point, U'ren shared ways the programs align, noting that 5th graders will get to work with middle schoolers and the middle schoolers will get to work with the high schoolers. “We are also planning concerts with the high school choirs that involve high school and middle school singing together-hopefully with band and strings, too.” Butler, who has already worked with the early flight (0 period) choir at ACMS described them as “fabulous,” adding, “We look forward to hosting the ACMS Choirs on our campus for the American Canyon Choral Day and at our March Festival Concert. ACMS and ACHS are very fortunate to have Mr. U'ren, and we are excited about the possibilities of collaboration for years to come!” Brendan also registered his excitement for collaborating with the ACMS music program, saying, “I am looking forward to coming in as a guest in his band and orchestra classes, and I'm excited to bring our students together to interact and play a piece as one large group.”

Since starting the position in August, U'ren has enjoyed the community support he has heard so much about. He particularly appreciates the many volunteers helping him this year. When asked how our community might continue to help and support this program, U'ren shared, “Attend the concerts to lend moral support to the students and donate old, unused/unwanted instruments of all types to the music program.” With the holiday season upon us, you can do this by attending their winter concert on December 6 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the American Canyon Middle School Gym. While the tickets are free, they ask all attendees to commit to enjoying the entire program. 


Posted 11/17/22

Our wonderful faculty and staff give back to NVUSD as teachers, counselors, principals, and coaches - the list goes on and on! However, did you know that many also attended NVUSD schools growing up? Join us as we take a trip back in time and learn about our NVUSD faculty and staff NOW and THEN.

Cheri Flohr

American Canyon High School Assistant Principal

American Canyon High School Assistant Principal Cheri Flohr is no stranger to NVUSD. NVUSD is family…literally! Her NVUSD lineage started with her maternal grandmother Georgina Swearingen and her paternal grandmother Bessie Agnew, one was a teacher at Vintage High School (VHS), and the other was a Librarian at Silverado Middle School and NHS. Her mother Sandy Swearingen followed, teaching at NHS. And as fate would have it, or require it, she then met her husband Mike Flohr, a teacher at Vintage High School.

Ms. Flohr credits NVUSD for providing her with a solid foundation as she studied and competed her way through Snow Elementary School, Ridgeview Middle School, and then Napa High School. Ms. Flohr fell in love with athletics early on and participated as a member of the  Snow Elementary "RoadRunners" Track & Field Team (Coach Beverly Efishoff), Ridgeview Jr. High School Volleyball (Coaches Sue Sears/Teresa Gainer), Tennis and Track & Field Teams (Coaches Albie Gray/Pam Gray/Coach Schroeder), Napa High School Varsity Softball Team from 1982-1985 (Coach Les Franco), and the Napa High Volleyball Team from 1982-1985 (Coach Barb Franco). Cheri then went on to be the Varsity Volleyball Coach at Vintage High School from 1996-2000, was MEL Coach of the Year in 1996, and continued her coaching career at Redwood Middle School from 2001-2015 in volleyball, track and field, and Soccer. She shared, “I fell in love with fitness and athletics because of the outstanding teachers and coaches that supported me as a student-athlete.”

Now, Ms. Flohr takes all she’s learned and gives back to her ACHS community by “doing whatever it takes to offer as many positive educational experiences for students as possible!” We are grateful Ms. Flohr gives her time and talents back to our students and her NVUSD family. NVUSD is in her genes!


Posted 11/10/22

We distributed a new edition of our Family eNewsletter today; read it wherever you receive your ParentSquare messages or click here. 

Posted 11/3/22

In observance of Día de los Muertos, students throughout the district read books, learned about artistic design, designed works of art, learned ballet florklórico, performed ballet folklórico, and set up Ofrendas. We invite you to read about and enjoy pictures of our students’ learning and artistic expression in a festive atmosphere. You can also view student contributions to the first Napa Día de los Muertos celebration in downtown Napa this Saturday, November 5, from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. 




One of the 3 pillars of dual language education is sociocultural competence. To help foster this as a dual language school, students at NVLA learned about and created works of art in the celebration of Día de los Muertos. 

In Teresita Ayala’s classroom, students read different books about Día de los Muertos and how it's a time to remember our loved ones that have passed, and her students brought pictures of their loved ones to display on their classroom ofrenda.  

In Maestra Nummelin's class, students learned about the artistic design of papel picado, cutting along fold lines to create patterns of symmetry in their own unique pieces that were strung together to decorate the classroom. Students learned about papel picado as a symbol of wind and as an important addition to the celebratory atmosphere during Día de los Muertos. 

Students watched a video about Día de los Muertos and did papel picado (una calavera) in Maestra Vega’s.  

Fourth-grade students made papel picado banners for the Napa Día de los Muertos on Saturday, November 5th, in downtown Napa. Many learned ballet folklórico and will be performing on Saturday.  Fourth-grade students read about Día de los Muertos,  brought in items to set up an ofrenda, created papel picado, and colored in their Calaveras on paper. 


students celebrate at NVLA

Pueblo Vista Magnet School 


Pueblo Vista is also a Dual Language Immersion elementary school that leveraged Día de los Muertos as a teachable moment to help kids develop their sociocultural competence.

According to principal Helen Roca, Maestra Montelongo is a visiting teacher from Mexico who shared with the students of Pueblo Vista the traditions of Día de los Muertos in Mexico. She worked collaboratively with the staff to create an ofrenda where Pueblo Vista families could participate. This provided students the opportunity to learn about the meaning of the ofrenda (each level). Students also created thier “Calaverita” with card paper (pictured below) and learned about “Alebrijes” that are part of the traditions on this day.


Pueblo Vista students celebrate


Willow Elementary School


Willow Elementary is a TK-5 Artful Learning School where students experience their academic learning through art. The Napa Dia de Los Muertos event allowed students to connect on a more personal level to their unit concept of "relationships."

After learning about the artist and author Carmen Lomas Garza (The Birthday Party), students were inspired by the papel picado that can be seen in her painting and decided to create papel picado of their own. Our first graders found joy in this activity and even invited their teachers to participate by creating colorful papel picado (which also connects to their learning of lines and shapes). Papel picado is used on ofrendas (alters) during Dia de los Muertos as a symbol of the “union between life and death” and “wind.” It was a wonderful opportunity to bring our community together, create our own Willow Ofrenda, and make connections to the relationships that we create and how they affect our everyday lives. 


Irene M. Snow Elementary School


At Snow Elementary School, a group of parents created a beautiful Día de los Muertos ofrenda in the multi-use room. The parents then gave a presentation to students about the history and components of the ofrenda (pictured below). 


Snow students learn


Unidos Middle School


During advisory at Unidos Middle School, students learned about Spanish culture by creating art to display at the Napa Día de los Muertos event in downtown Napa on November 5.

In Maestro Hernandez’s class, students painted Calaveras (skulls) in bright colors. Shelby, a seventh-grade student, shared that she did not know much about Día de los Muertos before starting the project but learned that “the skulls are a celebration of loved ones who have passed away.” Sitting next to Shelby, Aly said that she has always celebrated Día de los Muertos with her family and added that “the bright colors carry meaning; red represents blood, orange is the sun, and yellow represents the Mexican flower marigold which means death.” Both girls look forward to attending the event in downtown Napa to see their Calaveras on exhibit. Maestro Hernandez said that the skulls will be added with colorful flowers to a wooden casket that together will be an ofrenda on display in downtown Napa. 

In Maestra Knutson’s Advisory, students assembled a grid drawing using oil pastels of La Catrina, Mexico’s Lady of Death, popularized by the work of José Guadalupe Posada. First, students learned about La Catrina, as well as techniques for using oil pastels. Then, students drew their pieces of the grid. Next, they expanded pieces of the original drawing into a larger portion of the work. Like Maestro Henandez’s Advisory, Maestra Knutson said that her advisory will assemble all of the pieces of La Catrina for display in downtown Napa.


Unidos students celebrate


Valley Oak High School


According to Ryan Strole, XicanX Literature Teacher, the theme for this year's celebration of Día de los Muertos at Valley Oak was education and inclusion. Members of the community who may have observed the festivities in the past but not felt personally included were invited to bring ofrendas for their loved ones. On Monday the 31st, a table with colored popsicle sticks and a printer turned paper and wood into framed color pictures. Each advisory class brought  papel picado and our XicanX Literature class made velas out of beeswax in the traditional Oaxacan style and created "found" poetry to lay on the table. The ofrenda went up on Friday, October 28, and was decorated with calacas, catrinas, and painted calaveras.


New Tech High School


At New Tech High School, students and staff brought items and pictures for a school ofrenda (pictured below). They also made papel de picado to decorate their common area where the ofrenda is displayed. 


New Tech ofrenda


Napa High School


In the library, Layla and Leadership made an ofrenda where students displayed pictures of their beloved deceased ones to honor them. The quad was decorated with papel picado and flowers, and on Wednesday, November 2, students painted faces, and a Catrin/Catrina contest with prizes was held (pictured below). During the lunchtime festivities, students also performed two types of ballet folklórico. Arianna V perform El Zapateado from Veracruz, and Abril M. performed El Son de la Negra while Isaiah V. demonstrated his Lasso skills. Afterward, Andrea B sang La Llorona, we were hoping our mariachi club could play, and many were dressed in traditional Mexican clothing and face paint. 


Napa High Celebrates Día de los Muertos


Vintage High School

At Vintage, the Spanish Club, made up of students from different levels of Spanish classes, set up ofrendas and did other cultural crafts for an exhibit in the center of the World Languages building, continuing the tradition established by retired Spanish teacher Azalea Aguilar. Students were invited to enjoy the exhibit throughout the week–see photos below.


Vintage High School ofrenda

Posted 11/3/22

With students back in school last fall, but many COVID restrictions still in place, Vichy Elementary School teacher Ginette Ilsley worried that students might not get to celebrate Halloween. She recognized that Vichy’s garden presented the perfect place to host their very own pumpkin patch. Her sister-in-law and fellow Vichy teacher, Lorrie Ilsley, were inspired by the idea and suggested that they turn it into a class scarecrow contest! 

Principal Sally Zikmund loved the idea and helped bring it before the parents and staff. According to Principal Zikmund, "while this came together, Ginette and Lorrie fronted the money for pumpkins to ensure that the event was possible." Thus, a new Vichy Elementary School Halloween tradition was born in the garden. 

Each class envisioned and created a scarecrow with a special Halloween theme. Parents donated items from home, and the Parent Club helped collect donations from all that were able to cover the cost of the pumpkins. In preparation for the big day, teachers put up their class scarecrow and layed out all the pumpkins. Then,  on the last day of school before Halloween, each class visited the garden to enjoy the scarecrows and select their pumpkin. Mrs. Johnson’s Frida Khalo scarecrow stole the show.


2021 Vichy Halloween Scarecrows

The event was a smashing hit this year too! Chris Hattich, the Vichy garden and STEM teacher, along with student helpers prepared the garden for the event. On the Friday before Halloween, students visited the garden, class by class, with two tickets to cast as votes for their favorite scarecrows. Then they chose a pumpkin to take home. This year featured two winners, the Michael Jackson scarecrow from room 14 and Yodacrow from room 6.

We invite you to enjoy this new Vichy Elementary School tradition through the pictures below. You can enjoy more photos of students voting for their favorite scarecrow and picking out their pumpkin in the Vichy garden, along with Halloween pictures from schools throughout the district on our Facebook and Instagram pages.


Students from Room 4 with Pumpkins

Posted 11/1/22

Dear NVUSD Families,

It’s hard to believe our students have been back in the classroom for over 100 days! What a gift it has been to witness their learning firsthand. From our middle school students analyzing microscopic organisms during labs to our high school students collaborating in wonderful and grand performances during athletic events, their growth has been tremendous. We should all be incredibly proud. I’ve also enjoyed meeting with you during Superintendent Coffee Talks, board meetings, and around Napa and American Canyon as we continue working together to educate children. 

As the end of the calendar year approaches, please make note of a few important dates. Open Enrollment, the process for offering families school choice, where possible, continues until November 30, 2022. For additional information on the enrollment process or to contact our staff, please visit Also, take a moment to make sure you have the latest information on Measures A1 and A2, two bond measures up for vote on the November 8, 2022 ballot. Lastly, please remember that collaboration and learning don’t stop over winter break. Winter break day camp options will be shared in the next Family Newsletter. 

Thank you for all you do to instill and inspire lifelong learning in each of our students. Go NVUSD!


Posted 10/31/22

We had the honor of welcoming the Chef Ann Foundation that hosted California’s First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom State Senator Nancy Skinner Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, school board members Cindy Watter and Robin Jankiewicz, and many others at our NOSH - Napa’s Operative for School Food Health Central Kitchen for a working lunch, prepared by our Central Kitchen.

The event's purpose was to better understand the potential impact of California’s Healthy School Food Pathway Program, which aims to increase scratch cooking in California K-12 school food programs and establish a pathway for pre-apprentices and apprentices in their districts.

We are proud that our Central Kitchen was selected as the location for the event because we stand as an example of a district that is successfully transitioning from processed heat-and-serve food to a self-operated scratch-cook food program.

We invite you to catch a glimpse of the event on our Facebook  or Instagram.  

Read more here.

Posted 10/26/22

NVUSD’s Open Enrollment period has begun and runs from October 15 - November 30, 2022. Open Enrollment is a process for offering families school choice, where possible. This includes welcoming new families from inside and outside the Napa Valley Unified School District’s geographical boundaries. 

Click here to learn more about our Middle School and TK - 8 School Open Enrollment Information Sessions and Tours for 2022-2023.

Read below for some frequently asked questions, or visit  to learn more. 

  • What is open enrollment?  
    • Open enrollment is an option to apply to a school other than a student’s school of residence.
  • Can anyone enroll their child during open enrollment?  
    • Yes! Now is a wonderful time to get your student started in the enrollment process.
  • Can out-of-district families participate in open enrollment?  
    • Yes! Families who do not live in the NVUSD attendance boundary are welcome and encouraged to complete an open enrollment application.  
  • How do families complete open enrollment?  
  • What if I have questions? 
    •  Our Enrollment Team is available Monday and Thursday, 8 am-6 pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8 am - 4 pm, for questions. You can also call (707) 253-3435 or email our team.
Posted 10/21/22