TTUSD District Update

November 2022

In this Month's Newsletter

  • A Message from the Superintendent
  • Snow Days

  • Thank You to Our Outgoing Board of Education Trustees

  • Pathways 2026: District-Wide Strategic Planning Underway

  • TTUSD Staff Highlights

  • Student Support Services

  • School Bus Safety Week

  • Excellence in Education: Celebration of Education Event

  • Join the Team

  • Stay Connected with TTUSD

A Message from the Superintendent

Dear TTUSD Community,


As we enter into November, with Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for our incredible TTUSD community of students, families, teachers, staff, and supporters. Your combined enthusiasm, candor, and dedication to providing our students with the best educational experience, truly embody this year’s theme of Better Together. That commitment was recently seen at our two in-person community input sessions and through robust participation in our online survey, all contributing to the direction of our 2026 Strategic Plan. Our next step is compiling all the insights collected and researching the best ways to incorporate that feedback into the planning process. You’ll find more detailed information in this month’s newsletter, and I’ll continue to provide updates.


I also want to share a few celebrations that are once again a result of hard work and dedication by many. Donner Trail Elementary has been recognized as one of the best elementary schools in California. They were ranked #48 out of 7,163 elementary schools in the state - impressive! And Truckee High School was recognized by the American Field Services (AFS-USA) as one of the top 75 U.S. schools supporting study abroad participants over the last 75 years. AFS-USA empowers people to become globally engaged citizens by delivering meaningful intercultural experiences, and we’re grateful to partner with them. Additionally, congratulations to our first graduating class of the Community Interpreter program. Five TTUSD employees are now officially certified as community interpreters. You can find more information on this ongoing and important program below.


I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving in a few weeks and hope you can set aside a moment to reflect on those supporting you and your student’s educational journey.


With Gratitude,

Carmen Ghysels

Superintendent Chief Learning Officer

Snow Days

As we head into winter, we’d like to share insight into how decisions are made to close schools for a snow day. You can be assured that we don’t take the decision to cancel school lightly and, of course, as educators, understand the importance of keeping kids in school learning. However, the safety of our students and staff must remain a top priority in the decision-making process. Many times it’s a challenging call due to the 700+ square miles that our district covers - conditions vary throughout the region. And though being a “school of choice” district provides wonderful choices for families, it also creates a situation where we are transporting many students across the district.


Any time there is the potential of weather impacting school operations, our Snow Watch committee convenes at 3:45 am to assess the situation. This committee includes department heads from transportation, facilities, business services, communications, principals, and Superintendent Ghysels. At that time, all available data, including updates from CHP, CalTrans, the National Weather Service, Placer County, the Town of Truckee, and on-site personnel, is reviewed and considered.


TTUSD provides daily transportation to over 2,000 students, which is no small feat. Many buses need to be on the road by 5:30 am to accommodate our earliest school start time of 7:30 am, which, especially in these early season storms, can be before town and County plow services begin. Many of our partnering agencies are not adequately staffed for winter conditions yet, which affects the level and timing of snow removal. We must look at all areas within our region to consider the feasibility of buses traveling safely through them. As you know, snow levels and road conditions can vary greatly between the different neighborhoods and elevations within our district. So many times, decisions are based on the most difficult-to-access regions.


We are working with district-wide partner agencies to explore additional options, such as delayed starts, from an operational perspective and will keep you updated if that option can be implemented. As for distance learning, during the COVID state of emergency, we were granted permission to implement it through the CA Department of Education. TTUSD also received a special allowance from the state to utilize distance learning in lieu of snow days during that time. However, in June 2021, those permissions expired, which means we are no longer allowed to offer distance learning as an option.


Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate the wonderful, and sometimes challenging, mountain weather.

Thank You to Outgoing Board of Education Trustees


With election day approaching, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank two outgoing Board of Education Trustees - Kim Szczurek and Gaylan Larson. Both have shown tremendous dedication, professionalism, and compassion during their tenure with TTUSD. Each played an integral role in guiding district policy and maintaining fiscal health through transparent and rigorous decision-making. Thank you, Kim and Gaylan, for your service!

Kim Szczurek


Kim Szczurek Dedicated 12 years of service to the TTUSD Board of Education as the Area 1 trustee and President. We asked her a few questions in reflection of her service.


Q: What are you most proud of from your time on the TTUSD board?

A: I am most proud that, twelve years ago, this board changed the conversation to a laser focus on what is best for kids and maintained that focus throughout those years. I believe this focus has made us a district of choice - one that provides an amazing educational opportunity for our students.


Q: Do you have any parting words to share with our community?

A: First, thanks to my husband and three kids, who put up with mom working full time and then volunteering for the school board too! Without them, I could not have done it. And as for parting words to our community, I have been so honored to work with the amazing employees of TTUSD, who tirelessly focus on the education and social/emotional well-being of our TTUSD students on a daily basis. And that parents have a huge impact on their kids' success, so always be involved!

Gaylan Larson

Gaylan Larson also dedicated 12 years of service to the TTUSD Board of Education as the Area 4 trustee. We asked him the same questions.


Q: What are you most proud of from your time on the TTUSD board?

A: I’m most proud of serving with a group of board members who were singularly focused on doing what’s best for our students and their future. That resulted in providing students and teachers with digital tools, a broad selection of AP classes and experiences, and a major upgrade to each of our school sites, all while keeping the well-being of our teachers and employees as a top priority. The board set an example of collaboration, openness, honesty, and kindness that affected the rest of the school district.


Q: Do you have any parting words to share with our community?

A: The board, superintendent, teachers, and all employees are a team that needs to collaborate creatively to provide the best education possible for all of our students. It’s imperative to remain committed to the district’s overarching strategic goals and beware of isolated groups that want their specific causes addressed. Of course, as a board, we are open to all input, but we must also be vigilant about staying focused and remaining objective.

Pathways 2026: District-Wide Strategic Planning Underway

Thank you to everyone who attended one of our in-person TTUSD Community Input Sessions or completed the recent online survey.


We are excited to share that during the month of October, more than 600 TTUSD community members engaged in the strategic planning process by sharing what they value most about our schools and helping to identify areas in which we might improve in the future.


Your input and feedback are crucial to creating a district-wide strategic plan that outlines our direction through 2026, and we are grateful to everyone for their important contributions. If you could not attend one of the October input sessions, please click here to see the session slides, which include more information about the process, timing, and initial focus.


Now, we’re moving into the next phase of this year-long process. Over the next five months, our 35-person TTUSD Strategic Planning Task Force — composed of representative Board members, administrative leadership, teachers, classified staff, parents, students, and local community partners — will collaborate with industry-expert consultants to analyze stakeholder feedback and research ideas to consider for Board review.


In January, we will have our next opportunities for additional community input, including a new online survey to help crowdsource research, and Superintendent Ghysels will solicit student input at school sites as we focus on areas to explore. We’ll continue to keep the community updated throughout this process with additional surveys and another round of input sessions tentatively scheduled for March 6-8. So keep an eye out through our communications channels for ongoing updates and next steps, which will also be shared with the Board during public meetings.


As always, you’re welcome to attend our board meetings to hear information updates in real time, or we invite you to email vision@ttusd.org at any time with questions or comments regarding strategic planning.

TTUSD Staff Highlights

Welcoming Our New Assistant Principals

Assistant Principals play a crucial role in each of our schools - we couldn’t do it without them! We have a few new Assistant Principals this school year that we’d like to spotlight. Join us in welcoming them to their new positions!


Mr. Andrew Losk is new to TTUSD and has taken on the role of Assistant Principal at Alder Creek Middle School in conjunction with Mrs. Amy King. Mr. Losk joins us after being the Assistant Principal at South Tahoe High School, where he oversaw the security team, was the dean of students, was the athletics administrator, and was a football and baseball coach. Prior, he was an 8th-grade social studies teacher, a curriculum leader, and an alternative education teacher. His focus is on fostering a student-centered learning environment by promoting equitable practices, a rigorous curriculum, and restorative justice in the classroom to ensure student success.


Mrs. Amy King moved into the Assistant Principal role at Alder Creek Middle School after being a 6th-grade teacher there for the last five years and 20+ years in education. In 2021 she was the recipient of the Teachers Who Make a Difference award and is excited to focus on supporting students and teachers in their learning from her new position. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on contemporary issues in education.


Mrs. Melanie Cooke joins the administrative teams at Kings Beach Elementary and Tahoe Lake Elementary, where she’s splitting her time. Mrs. Cooke brings extensive experience to this role through past positions as a first and second-grade teacher, working in experiential education, providing instructional coaching, and recently as principal of the Tahoe Expedition Academy. Her passion for teaching is centered around the fundamentals of reading. Last year, while in the role of Instructional Coach, she introduced LETRS training to the TTUSD district as a facilitator.


Mr. Jason Estabrook joined the Truckee High School team as its second Assistant Principal in conjunction with Mr. Neuberger. Mr. Estabrook, a THS graduate, was previously an assistant principal at ACMS. He has spent the last 26 years in education through various positions, including teaching at THS for ten years. He holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Congratulations to Mr. Rowe, 2023 CA Teacher of the Year Finalist

We are thrilled to celebrate Craig Rowe, a Truckee High School English teacher, who was selected as a finalist in the statewide California Teacher of the Year program. This is a tremendous honor that he shares with only 15 teachers in the entire state. Mr. Rowe is an enthusiastic and revered teacher who creates daily opportunities to inspire, prepare and empower his students for college, career, and a purposeful life. His unconventional use of music, diverse content, and thought-provoking conversation invites learners to engage in complex ideas in a supportive environment. We couldn’t be more proud of Mr. Rowe for this incredible accomplishment and are delighted he’s being recognized for his extraordinary daily work. Congrats!

Community Interpreter Program

We’re excited to share details on a new program offered through TTUSD. In 2021, Barbara Kane, our Coordinator of Translations and Bilingual Community Services, became a licensed trainer of The Community InterpreterⓇ (TCI) program, the only national training program for community interpreters. TCI is a highly interactive, skills-based program incorporating the latest field advances. TCI is unique because it can be given as a medical interpreting program or geared for educational, social services, or general community interpreting.


Barbara put her training to use and taught five TTUSD employees through a 40-hour certification program during August and September. We are thrilled to congratulate our first graduating class of employees and look forward to watching them put their learnings to use within our community.


Due to this success, Barbara will collaborate with Dr. Todd Wold and the Tahoe Truckee Community Adult School to provide this opportunity for bilingual adults in the community starting January 2023. The program will empower graduates to accomplish the following for our community:


  • Close skill, employment, and equity gaps (Equity around accessing community resources)

  • Provide language access to the wide range of services our community has available

  • Boost equity and impact of the TTUSD Community Adult School

  • Increase diversity in the workplace

  • Support the most underserved populations within our community

  • Address workforce shortages by providing access to jobs that can lead to family-sustaining wages

Information on this program will be available soon, but please feel free to contact Barbara Kane, barbara@ttusd.org, in the meantime, with any questions.

Student Support Services

Free Online Tutoring Available to all TTUSD Students

Good news! All TTUSD students have access to free online tutoring.


Through HelpNow, live real-time homework assistance is available 24 hours a day by laptop, tablet, or phone from qualified tutors familiar with state standards. Students get immediate access without logging in; however, by logging in, students can continue to work with preferred tutors and get access to a “writing lab” where they can drop off written work and receive feedback.


For instructions on how to log in, visit our website.

9th Grade What’s Up Wellness Check-Up

We are dedicated to looking at students holistically, which means providing quality academics and committing to wellness initiatives to ensure our students reach their full potential outside the classroom. One tool we utilize is the What’s Up Wellness Check-Up adapted from TeenScreens, a nationally recognized program developed by Columbia University and now managed by Stanford University. The 10-minute screening helps identify risk factors associated with depression, anxiety, and alcohol and substance abuse. Any teens whose answers reveal a potential red flag are connected with a trained mental health professional for further support. All who take the screening briefly meet with staff to review coping skills and are reminded how to access additional support systems should they want them down the road. This free, voluntary, and confidential screening is offered to all 9th graders within TTUSD, and additionally, guardians can request one for their students in 10th - 12th grades. Contact our Wellness Manager, kbradley@ttusd.org, or contact your school counselor for more information.

School Bus Safety Week

October recognized National School Bus Safety Week. During that time, our team and students were hard at work reinforcing essential skills and creating awareness for fellow motorists who may need reminders of the importance of sharing the road with school buses carrying our most precious cargo!


Drivers were focused on safety while loading and unloading students. They also led practice evacuation drills where students evacuated through the side emergency exits while transportation and school staff assisted. Check out our website to learn more about the training our drivers undergo to ensure safety all year.


And in the spirit of safety, here are a few reminders to make sure we’re all being school bus safe!


  • Vehicles on both sides of two-lane roads must stop when school buses stop and display their flashing red lights, even when there is a center turn lane.

  • Drivers can pass a stopped school bus when the red lights stop flashing and the stop sign is no longer extended, but you must do so cautiously. We advise you not to pass a school bus unless you are absolutely confident that you can do so safely and legally.

  • California requires trained bus drivers to escort preschool through eighth-grade students when crossing the street, and our district policy extends this through twelfth grade.

Excellence in Education: Celebration of Education Event!

The Excellence in Education Foundation invites the community to a Celebration of Education on Tuesday, November 15, at Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats in downtown Truckee. The event starts at 5:30 pm and will feature musical performances by local middle and high school students. Tickets are $75 each and include food and one complimentary drink. Proceeds benefit the Excellence in Education Foundation.


Come and learn more about how Excellence in Education invests in ideas, teachers, and classrooms to enhance the educational experience for TTUSD students. Tickets are available at www.ExinEd.org.


Join the TTUSD Team

TTUSD is still hiring! We’ve had luck filling open positions, but there are still opportunities to join the TTUSD team. All available positions can be found on EdJoin, but we’d like to highlight a few below.

School Bus Drivers

Our bus drivers are the first point of contact for many students and a great way to connect and positively impact a child.


Full-time bus driver benefits include the following:

  • Starting Wage of $24.54-29.84/hr

  • $3,000 Paid Bonus

  • Paid Professional Training

  • Work the same schedule as your students

  • 14 Paid Holidays, School Breaks, Weekends Off


We are also looking for substitute bus drivers.


Don’t have your Commercial Driver’s License? No problem! Once hired, we provide all the training you need to pass the tests and be ready to drive students!

Custodians

Custodians are an important part of our school community. They are some of our behind-the-scenes heroes that make schools a safe and clean place for students to thrive.


Full-time/year-round custodial position benefits include the following:

  • Starting Minimum Wage of $20.13/hr. with Annual Wage Increases

  • $2,000 Paid Bonus (incrementally over two years)

  • 14 Paid Holidays and 12 Days of Sick Leave per Year

  • 2 Weeks of Vacation Accrued per Year

  • SSA and PERS Retirement Benefits


Typical shifts are from 2:00 pm to 10:30 pm. Part-time positions are also available (no benefits, flexible schedule).

Special Education Instructional Aides

Work as a Special Education Instructional Aide in a district led by outstanding employees! They are the first and last point of contact for many of our students and make a direct, positive impact on their lives.


The benefits include:

  • Minimum Starting Wage of $20.25/hr

  • $1,500 paid bonus

  • Work the same schedule as your students

  • 13 Paid Holidays, school breaks, weekends off

  • Part-time between 6 - 7 hrs/day

  • Open positions at most of our schools

Stay Connected with TTUSD

We have several informational channels to share TTUSD updates, celebrations, and all the great work throughout the district. Please follow us to stay in the know of all things TTUSD!


And get the TTUSD app for your phone. It’s got great info and is the first place we announce snow days!


Facebook: @TahoeTruckeeUSD
Instagram: @TahoeTruckeeUSD and @TTUSDfood
Twitter: @TahoeTruckeeUSD