Making deeper connections with families that influence positive outcomes for students will be one of the primary focuses of a newly created department in the Natomas Unified School District. Communications and Family Engagement will provide families with education, resources, tools, and a variety of opportunities tailored to meet the unique needs of our diverse school community.
“Although feedback has been positive about our communication efforts, and we’ve had good attendance at our workshops and other offerings through Parent University, this is an opportunity to expand our current actions and target families that have been at times harder to connect with,” said Chris Evans, superintendent.
One of the first steps in that effort will be learning the barriers and challenges that limit some parent’s ability to engage and participate. Whether it’s work schedules, mistrust from an experience or tough circumstances, staff wants to listen and adapt their outreach efforts to connect with more families. This work will be critical as the district implements an 18-month recovery plan to get students back on track who experienced learning disruption because of the pandemic.
“We’ve been looking at research and lessons learned from other districts who had to rebound after a disaster, and what we’ve seen repeatedly and specifically with Hurricane Katrina is that it’s imperative to get parents engaged and empowered immediately to return to some form of normalcy,” Evans adds.
This new department is an exciting addition in support of the district’s vision that “all NUSD students graduate as college and career ready, productive, responsible, and engaged global citizens. Although the department will officially launch July 1, preliminary work to start making those connections has already begun. Updates will be shared with the community along the way.
The team that will be leading this effort has a diverse set of skills that make a perfect combination to lead this work. Meet our team and their new roles.
Deidra Powell, Executive Director of Communications and Family Engagement
Deidra Powell joined NUSD 2019 with more than 20 years of experience in school communications and 10 years as a TV news reporter and producer. She served as Director of Communications for San Juan Unified School District and Santa Ana Unified School District and as Senior Director of Media Relations for University of Pacific before joining the Natomas Unified team to lead the district’s communications efforts.
A resident of Natomas, she is passionate about community outreach and engagement and contributing to meaningful work that makes a positive impact in her community. Her empathetic nature and ease to connect with others are strong assets that will be highly beneficial in her role to lead this team.
Powell will also bring a parent perspective having four children of her own with two that already completed the K-12 journey and college and two currently attending Natomas Unified schools.
Lisset Mijares, Coordinator of Communications and Family Engagement
Lisset Mijares joined NUSD 2013 with a long-standing career as an entrepreneur, having owned a successful bridal business and barbershop. With her excellent leadership skills and connectedness with the community, she founded a non profit international organization with chapters established all over the world.
Mijares has worked in a variety of capacities at NUSD including programs serving our youngest learners, programs that give students access to college through college field trips and mentoring programs, and programs that keep NUSD connected to the community. Bilingual in Spanish, Mijares’s leadership in building Parent University, a hub of resources for parents, has been instrumental in getting families connected and engaged in their student’s academic/social success. She has also been the district’s community liaison with organizations that support the Hispanic/Latino community. Lisset has two children, who are both avid soccer players. Her oldest has already graduated from high school, and her youngest is in high school.
Ekuah Ramsey-Gilbert, Coordinator of Communications and Family Engagement
Ekuah Ramsey-Gilbert joined NUSD 8 years ago and within that time frame, she has served as a Math Teacher, Adult Education Teacher, College and Career Coordinator, Coordinator of Student Affairs, Assistant Principal, volleyball and basketball coach, and Counselor, which is her current position at Inderkum High School. A native of Sacramento and resident of Natomas for 10 years, Ramsey-Gilbert is an advocate for students and looks forward to working towards increasing community and family engagement while focusing on equity and inclusion to help support student success.
Before her career in education, she had a successful career in the world of sports where she received a “full ride” scholarship to play Division 1 basketball at California State University Long Beach. There, she garnered many titles including “MVP” and was afforded the opportunity to play professionally overseas in Europe. After returning to the states, she furthered her education with a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree in Psychology, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in Counseling, and an Administrative Services Credential. In addition to her career in sports, education, and strong knowledge of the role of counselors and other site-based positions, Ramsey-Gilbert will also bring her parent perspective. With her husband, she has three children who all attend Natomas Unified schools.
In support of the district’s ongoing communication efforts, the team will also have the continued support of two classified staff members – Lauren Schnitzler, who manages the district’s websites and social media platforms and Jeff McPhee, who produces an array of visual storytelling videos that keep families and the general community informed of what’s happening throughout the district.