Lodi Unified School District Welcomes New Assistant Superintendents

Scott McGregor and Jeff Palmquist Selected to Oversee Elementary and Secondary Education

LODI, CA (July 13, 2018)—Lodi Unified School District is pleased to announce the appointment of two new Assistant Superintendents for its 2018‐19 school year. Scott McGregor was appointed by the Board of Education to the position of Interim Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education. Jeff Palmquist was appointed by the Board of Education to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.

Both McGregor and Palmquist are familiar faces to the District.

Photo of Scott McGregor, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education

McGregor most recently served as the Principal of Lodi Middle School for six years. He has worked in the District for 18 years, where he has held a number of positions including Principal, Vice Principal, and Assistant Principal.

Previously, McGregor worked in the Lincoln Unified School District, where he began his career as a physical education teacher. In addition, McGregor has mentored and coached numerous varsity sports teams, including swimming, water polo, and basketball.

McGregor holds a Bachelor of Arts and an Administrative Credential from the University of the Pacific. He also received his Professional Clear Administrative Credential from the California State University, Sacramento.

As the new Interim Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, McGregor will be responsible for the District’s elementary school and preschool programs.

“The Lodi Unified community appreciates the work that Scott McGregor has done over the years and we are very happy that he has accepted this position. He will provide outstanding leadership to the elementary division,” said Superintendent Cathy Nichols‐Washer.

Photo of Jeff Palmquist, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education

Palmquist, the District’s new Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, began his career in the San Joaquin County Office of Education Court and Community School Program. Palmquist then became a teacher in Lodi Unified, where he was later promoted to the position of Assistant Principal at Lodi High School.

After 14 years of service in the District, Palmquist joined Aspire Public Schools as a Principal. He was later promoted to the position of Associate Superintendent, where he served six years in that capacity. In addition, Palmquist has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Teachers College of San Joaquin for 11 years.

Palmquist is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received his Bachelor of Arts. Palmquist holds a teaching credential from the University of the Pacific and is a Doctor of Education Candidate at the University of Wyoming.

“Lodi Unified is excited to welcome Jeff Palmquist back to the District. We look forward to working with him on innovative programs for our high school students,” said Nichols‐Washer.
In his new position, Palmquist will oversee the District’s middle school, high school, and alternative school programs, as well as the Child Welfare and Attendance Department.

About Lodi Unified School District
Lodi Unified School District is located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Home to 49 school sites, LUSD provides high‐quality education to a diverse population of 29,000 students. LUSD encompasses more than 350 square miles, including the Cities of Lodi and Stockton as well as the rural communities of Acampo, Clements, Lockeford, Victor, and Woodbridge.

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Contact: Chelsea Vongehr, Lodi Unified School District
Phone: (209) 331‐8043
Email: CVongehr@Lodiusd.net

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Superintendent recognized at Board Meeting

Lodi school board superintendent marks 10th year

By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Sitting at the head of a small conference table in her office on Friday afternoon, Cathy Nichols-Washer looked at a resolution and certificate of appreciation given to her Tuesday night at the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education meeting in recognition of her 10th year as superintendent.

“Cathy, we appreciate everything you do for the district and how long you’ve been here,” school board president George Neely said.

The second-longest-serving superintendent of California’s 100 largest school districts, the resolution said, Nichols-Washer has served longer than many board members, district staff, principals and more.

“I feel very fortunate,” Nichols-Washer said. “This community elected outstanding trustees who really care about the students. Lodi Unified is a strong district on all levels, and I feel very fortunate to be here.”

Since becoming superintendent in 2008, Nichols-Washer has worked to expand programs such as Career Technical Education both at Lincoln Technical Academy and the district’s high schools, she said, to give students a chance to explore different careers before they graduate.

Improving safety is another achievement Nichols-Washer is proud of, she said, along with improving the district’s reading intervention program.

“That’s been one of the main goals of the district, since before I got here,” Nichols-Washer said. “Being able to read is critical not only to life in school, but to life after school as well.”

Nichols-Washer will also oversee a pilot program in which sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at certain schools can take home Chromebooks to supplement their studies before expanding the program to the rest of the district.

“Up until now, the Chromebooks have been in the classrooms only. We want students to be able to expand their learning beyond the classroom,” Nichols-Washer said.

Nichols-Washer thanked the voters who passed the Measure U bond, and everyone who helped the Giving Opportunities to Kids (GOT Kids) program raise money to pay for school trips, clothes and supplies for students in need and camps.

“I’m really proud of that because we started from nothing and now we’re able to give $100,000 back to students each year,” Nichols-Washer said.

Although Nichols-Washer enjoys her work, she has faced challenges such as stepping into the position during California’s budget crisis as well as an ongoing shortage of per-pupil funding, and trying to bring back services that had to be cut because of both issues.

“We have a lot of critical needs, and to prioritize them is pretty painful for the board because they know so many of those are so important,” Nichols-Washer said.

The district has also been working to provide “wraparound services,” Nichols-Washer said, such as counseling for students dealing with trauma outside of school so that they can focus on learning.

Although Common Core State Standards brought a host of new teaching methods and materials to the district, Nichols-Washer said, she applauded the teachers for overcoming the learning curve so that they can teach students.

“I think the teachers adapted very well. They don’t have the same angst I noticed when we first started rolling this out. I think the teachers are doing an outstanding job,” Nichols-Washer said.

Parents had to overcome a learning curve of their own, Nichols-Washer said, particularly with math which prompted schools to host “Math Nights,” to bring parents up to speed and enable them to help their children with homework.

Moving forward, Nichols-Washer plans to expand community involvement in the Local Control and Accountability Plan that governs how the district spends money.

With the ongoing economic and population growth in Lodi, Nichols-Washer said, a new school might be in the city’s future as well.

“If anything, a K-8 school might be next for the City of Lodi. We probably need to start having some serious talks pretty soon,” Nichols-Washer said.

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School Bus with Text - Safety

Lodi Unified school board reviews district safety procedures

By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Prompted by the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education examined the district’s safety and security plans during Tuesday night’s meeting in the James Areida Educational Support Center.

Chief Business Officer Leonard Kahn gave the report, along with Mitch Slater, director of maintenance and operations, and former Lodi Police Chief Jerry Adams, who helps coordinate the district’s annual active shooter drills.

Slater began by outlining safety measures such as single-point entry, visitor identification systems and ensuring that all classroom doors remain locked at all times.

Slater then explained that district staff review approximately half of all school sites each year to determine if changes to procedures are necessary, adding that eight sites were found with outstanding issues in the past year.

“What we first noticed, years ago, was that doors were open, people weren’t paying attention to what was happening around them. Compare that to where we are today — none of the doors were open, although some had locks that weren’t engaged,” Slater said.

Elementary schools are required to conduct four active shooter drills each year, Slater said, and secondary schools must conduct two. Schools may have more than the required number of drills, Adams added, at the discretion of each site’s administration.

Adams visits school sites to observe the drills and train staff, he said, as well as to physically assess each site and report to Slater each year.

The most recent drill at a high school was held at Bear Creek High School in Stockton last year, Adams said, and at Lodi High School the year before that. Both drills involved the cities’ respective police and fire departments, he added, as well as simultaneous training of the District Emergency Operation Center.

“We worked on training fire departments on getting into hot zones. A few years ago, the standard training was for fire to wait outside until SWAT had cleared the building before going in to rescue injured people,” Adams said.

“We’ve also adopted the procedure of keeping classrooms locked throughout the day. What we’ve learned from incidents around the country is that a shooter can be in and out of two or three classrooms in a couple of minutes,” he said.

Kahn informed the board that he met with five principals about the possibility of replacing locks at the district’s schools. The principals reported their current locks are functioning properly, Kahn said, and would rather the district spend money on installing additional security cameras.

Slater and Adams also spoke on the importance of cameras, saying that they proved invaluable during the active shooter drills.

“The Bear Creek exercise was unique because as we were viewing it from the live feed, we were able to tell law enforcement where to go, we could tell them where the shooter was,” Slater said.

“When we did the Lodi High scenario, we had the ability at that time to transmit real-time feeds directly into fire or police command posts where they can be seen by a SWAT commander. The district also had a great set-up. I think at one point we were viewing up to 41 cameras. From what I heard from police and fire, they were very impressed with our ability to do that,” Adams said.

Board member Ron Freitas applauded Slater and Adams for their work, saying that their efforts help the district achieve their goal of creating a safe atmosphere for students, staff and teachers.

“I think being on campus and having that presence is going to compliment our anti-bullying campaign and anti-violence campaign, and that’s going to give students the best possible environment in which to learn,” Freitas said.

Board president George Neely also commended the safety policy, saying that it is far more advanced than many other school districts. He also stressed the importance of not only training staff and students, but also reaching out to troubled students and getting them the help they need.

“The first thing we have to do is restrict entry. The second thing we have to do is teach people what to do when that security is breached. These drills aren’t just for students, they’re for the people responding, as well. The third thing we have to do is make sure that kids aren’t feeling bullied and like they want to respond that way, and that’s on us (the school district),” Neely said.


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Former Marine challenges Lodi students to perform 8,000 acts of kindness

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2018 11:00 am
By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Techno music pulsed in Lois E. Borchardt Elementary School’s cafeteria as fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders entered for a special assembly by Think Kindness on Thursday morning.

Think Kindness inspires “measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world,” according to the organization’s website. Founder Brian Williams spoke at Borchardt in 2017 and inspired students to collect more than 1,700 pairs of shoes that were donated to children in Africa.

Vice Principal Cassandra Sotelo kicked off Thursday’s assembly along with the Borchardt’s Kindness Crew, a group of 10 students formed after last year’s Acts of Kindness assembly to take the lead on kindness projects. One student introduced Gary Xavier, a former Marine sniper and childhood friend of Williams, who began working with the organization in 2014.

“One of the main issues I have with kindness is that is doesn’t run deep enough. I think that serving your enemy, someone you don’t like, is what makes kindness real. It’s what makes its true power come out. In light of all the shootings that have happened, there’s been a lot of talk about legislation. What we’re concerned about is students legislating their own hearts,” Xavier said.

Xavier entered to more techno music, jumping with the audience before asking them to sit back down. Channeling his Marine Corps roots, Xavier raised the students’ energy levels by introducing the Kindness Crew, with each student’s name followed by an enthusiastic “Hoorah!” from the crowd. He used a picture of himself landing on his face after a failed backflip to show that first impressions are not always correct before explaining the similarities between being a sniper and being kind.

“To become a sniper, you have to train every single day. It’s not easy, it’s not the most glamorous thing to do. It’s sweaty, it’s really hard work. To be really kind, to be kind to someone who doesn’t want it, to be kind to someone who hurt you, that takes training. I actually think that you (students) are better teachers for doing that,” Xavier said.

Xavier used various animals to represent three personality traits that must be acquired to practice real kindness, starting with a sheep representing apathy and the desire to remain in one’s comfort zone instead of doing what is right.

“A real sheep will eat grass until it eats dirt. A real sheep will walk over the edge of a cliff following another animal. A real sheep just wants to do what feels good, it doesn’t care about doing what’s right,” Xavier said.

Xavier enlisted the help of fifth-graders Maggie Lawrence and Landon De Silva to illustrate his point. De Silva fell to the ground, pretending to be injured, and Xavier instructed Lawrence to first ignore him, the comfortable thing to do, then help him, the right thing, explaining that controlling one’s inner sheep leads to compassion, the first trait.

Xavier also told a story from his own past to show the dangers of apathy. When Xavier was 15, his father died of cancer, causing him to disregard the consequences of his actions and make poor decisions. At age 19, Xavier parked in a red zone and threw his keys at a police officer who wrote him a ticket, and was arrested for assaulting the officer.

“I’m sitting in jail and realizing that my sheep has made me sick. I am sick, I’m sitting in jail for parking in a red zone. The bad guys always lose, think about the movies you’ve seen. They might win today, but in the end, they always lose,” Xavier said.

Xavier then used a wolf to represent the danger of peer pressure, anger and lies. Wolves take advantage of those weaker than them, he explained, because their friends encourage them to do so. People succumb to peer pressure, he said, because they fear losing friends if they stand up to them.
“A wolf sees something and just wants to take it, that’s why they’re so angry. A wolf just takes what’s his, so no one else can have it. A wolf will never say ‘I’m the best,’ but they’ll say, ‘I’m better than you.’ That’s wolf talk,” Xavier said.

He had Lawrence pretend to kick De Silva, then help him, to prove his point. Xavier told the students that anyone who would tell them to hurt someone is not a real friend, and that by helping others they can make new friends who may return the favor. Controlling the wolf leads to courage — doing the right thing despite one’s own fears, he said.

He used a lion to represent the final personality trait, power, saying that kindness is “truly the only superhuman power we have.”

“You might see a new kid on the playground, who doesn’t have any friends. The sheep thing to do would be to leave them alone. The wolf thing to do would be to make fun of them, but the lion thing to do is to say: ‘What’s your name?’” Xavier said.

Xavier then gave the students their two-part mission. The first part challenges each student to complete a list of 10 acts of kindness, he said, such as helping with household chores, thanking teachers and introducing themselves to someone they don’t know.

“If you can finish these acts, this school will have done over 8,000 acts of kindness. The final act is the most challenging, and that is to do something kind for someone who has hurt you. The second part of the challenge is that every class in this school is going to do something to make this school better. You’re going to do this one big thing on top of those 8,000 acts of kindness, and you’re going to do this in 15 days! These next 15 days are yours, and I can’t wait to see what you do with them,” Xavier said.

Sotelo hopes the children will learn about compassion and the rewards of helping others through projects like cleaning up the campus, making banners to thank school staff and writing letters to students in Parkland, Fla., returning to school after last week’s tragic shooting.

“We want our students to have experiences with helping someone who might not be able to help themselves or who might not be having a good day. And what I truly want our students to understand and believe, is they have the power inside of them to make the right choice. Our children have the power inside of them to choose to be a kind person, and we need to keep telling them that until they hear us,” Sotelo said.

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