Grantee Corner  |  Napa Valley Unified School District

Two boys hold sheep puppets
Willow Arts Integration Magnet School students tell stories with puppetry at the Magical Moonshine Theatre

Five female students with yellow umbrellas and hats pose on stage
Willow Arts Integration Magnet School students perform Shel Silverstein’s “Rain”

Students work at a table on laptops
Bel Aire Park IB/Communications and Media Magnet School students digitize with a green screen for media production

Three students stand in front of microphones at a radio desk
Bel Aire Park IB/Communications and Media Magnet School students broadcast the weather forecast at KVYN Radio Studio

Two female students work with colorful shapes to create a 3D version of a design on a tablet
Phillips Leadership, Engineering, Art Design Magnet School students engineer from a virtual design to produce a physical model

Three students use a laptop and have a circuit board in front of them
Phillips Leadership, Engineering, Art Design Magnet School program and code computers

A group of students gather around a box of computer parts
Phillips Leadership, Engineering, Art Design Magnet School use a kit to build a functioning computer

Christine Gross, NVUSD Project Director

Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) enrolls approximately 17,000 students, who are 55 percent Hispanic or Latino, 29 percent White, 9 percent Two or more races, and 7 percent Asian, with 49 percent student participation in the Free or Reduced-Price Meals program. NVUSD is located in Napa County in The North Bay subregion of California’s San Francisco Bay Area. Napa County is affected by the Bay Area housing crisis. Housing affordability continues to contribute to the rapidly changing demographics of NVUSD schools, resulting in a wide range of residential areas segregated by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. 

NVUSD’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant has dramatically changed school integration efforts by supporting theme-based programs to innovate and revitalize historically isolated schools. MSAP funds support three schools’ efforts to reduce Hispanic minority group isolation and isolation of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

The three MSAP schools are Bel Aire Park International Baccalaureate Magnet Elementary School; Phillips Leadership, Engineering, Art Design (LEAD) Magnet Elementary School; and Willow Magnet Elementary School. Bel Aire Park and Phillips are racially isolated at 74 percent and 92 percent Latino enrollment, and 73 percent and 87 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged enrollment, respectively. Willow is a diverse campus with desegregation goals to reduce isolation at two specific feeder schools. The feeder elementary schools are isolated with 93 percent and 91 percent Latino enrollment, and 86 percent and 88 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged enrollment. To date, the MSAP schools have made significant progress in meeting performance measures and providing students with high-quality, theme-based engaging learning opportunities.   

At Bel Aire Park, students use artistic, technological, and interpersonal skills to communicate ideas. The new magnet standards infuse literacy; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and visual and performing arts into the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program. Student voice is expressed through public speaking and broadcast media in a new media production center. Staff from community partner KVYN Radio mentor teachers and provide authentic learning experiences for students in the KVYN recording studio. 

Phillips is developing student engineering skills and building habits of mind for leadership in areas such as persisting, thinking flexibly, creating, imagining, innovating, finding humor, and applying past knowledge to new situations. Phillips has partnered with Napa Valley Community College to provide mentoring by college students to elementary magnet students in engineering and design experiences. Students regularly engage in engineering activities tied to inquiry-based learning experiences.  

At Willow, an arts integration magnet school, students participate in a unique educational opportunity based on musician Leonard Bernstein’s belief that the process of experiencing the arts provides a fundamental way to instill a lifelong love of learning. Students engage in learning as they move through the four stages of the innovative Artful Learning model: experience, inquire, create, and reflect. In this model, a key concept and significant question guide each lesson inquiry, and students use a variety of research techniques to delve into content. A selected artistic masterwork launches each art unit, and students design an original creation to show new knowledge and understanding of core curriculum. The Magical Moonshine Performing Arts Group coaches Willow teachers in arts integration, and the Museum of Children’s Art supports teacher use of high-quality arts materials to support student academic achievement. 

Dr. Christine Gross, MSAP Project Director for NVUSD, has more than 10 years of experience working with school integration. With her background as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea, South Pacific, and an international teacher in Cameroon, Africa, Dr. Gross holds foundational beliefs in the equities and benefits of educating children in diverse learning environments. NVUSD magnet schools remain proud to offer families a quality and viable option for public school choice.