Classes will be back in session Tuesday throughout the Lompoc Unified School District, which will kick off the 2017-18 school year with a renewed focus on Common Core State Standards.

Several changes are in store for the Lompoc-area campuses, which will welcome 50 new teachers, a few administrative shifts and some fresh educational programs that have district leaders excited for the future.

To help prepare its new educators, the district held a two-day new teacher orientation last week. Among the topics covered at the orientation, according to an LUSD spokesperson, was how to use quality educational research to drive classroom instruction, how to use student data to provide the best possible instruction and quality classroom management.

“It was a great two days and we got very positive feedback from the new teachers on this training,” LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald said. “We take very seriously our support for new teachers and our obligation to help them succeed.”

McDonald added that the district was “very excited to have these new, energetic and committed educators working here (at) LUSD to provide outstanding educational opportunity to our students.”

The teachers won’t be the only new faces around the district, as the start of the school year will also introduce some leadership changes.

La Honda STEAM Academy will welcome a new principal in Noelle Barthel, who had been an assistant principal at Lompoc Valley Middle School. Barthel replaces former La Honda Principal Bree Valla, who accepted a position as the district’s director of human resources. Additionally, Becky Sausker will take over as principal at Miguelito Elementary School and Christine Nagel was tabbed for an assistant principal position at Vandenberg Middle School.

Those moves were approved by the LUSD board of education this summer.

Most of the administrators in the district took part in a retreat Aug. 2 and 3, focused on leadership in the establishment and maintenance of professional learning communities.

All administrators were given a copy of “Learning by Doing,” a book authored by Richard and Becky DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas W. Many and Mike Mattos.

“The Professional Learning Communities concept is at the heart of effective teaching and learning,” McDonald said. “With expert guidance by Dr. Judy Sargent, who is now in her second year of working with principals and teams of teacher leaders, we will continue to develop in this area.

“We focus our efforts on students, teaching and learning here at LUSD — nothing is more important than this,” he added. “These important concepts and the leadership of Dr. Sargent will keep us focused like a laser on student academic achievement.”

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Regarding academics, district leaders appear to be excited about several new textbooks and programs geared toward meeting Common Core standards.

Among the texts is “My Perspectives,” an English language arts and English language development book that will be added to relevant curriculum for high school students. The textbook, according to the district, provides learning experiences that promote higher achievement and helps develop the competencies needed for college and career.

The district is also bringing back “StudySync” for a second year for sixth-through eighth-graders.

“StudySync” is a “cross-curricular, core literacy program with hundreds of texts, dynamic video and multimedia lessons geared to advance reading, writing, critical thinking, speaking and listening skills to prepare students for college and careers,” according to John Karbula, a district spokesperson and assistant superintendent. “‘StudySync’ provides powerful digital instruction with engaging print resources to ensure teachers can provide students a systematic path to success.”

The district also has new programs for elementary schools that are aimed at socio-emotional development, literacy and language proficiency.

“LUSD’s vision to prepare students with the skills to be productive citizens in a rapidly changing global society is supported by its newly adopted English language arts curriculum,” said Kathi Froemming, LUSD’s assistant superintendent of education services. “Common Core standards are integrated across grade levels in the new textbooks and will support coherency in delivery of curriculum throughout the district.”

LUSD had about 9,500 students at the end of the 2016-17 school year at 16 school sites, not including adult education.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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