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An accent on change at Orland
Orland high school students felt the wind of change Thursday, and they said it was like a breath of fresh air.
When they heard new principal Nicole Newman's voice come over the loud speaker on the first day of school, most hoped it was the start of a long tradition.
"I love her accent," said 16-year-old Yadi Anguiano, of the North Carolina native. "But that's not all. She's really nice and friendly."
Newman replaces Jeff Scheele, who moved to district administration as assistant superintendent.
Newman earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from East Carolina University and is working on her doctorate through Northcentral University in Arizona.
After spending the past three years as a K-12 principal in Colorado, Newman said finding and falling in love with Northern California was a lucky break for her family.
Her husband Dwayne is the new superintendent of Colusa Unified School District and the couple, along with their 5-year-old son Alden, moved to the area to escape the cold Colorado winters.
"This feels like home," said Newman, adding that she will never live in a cold climate again.
Newman's enthusiasm for education and student achievement, which made her the top pick for the job, boiled over on Thursday, the first full day of school.
Students returned from summer break Wednesday for a minimum day.
Together with dedicated teachers and support staff, Newman said she hopes to endow students with a deep respect for education and the intrinsic value of lifelong learning.
Of her immediate goals, she emphasized building trusting relationships with students, teachers, parents and the community, and plans to work closely with teachers to make sure they have the tools they need to do more great things for students.
"There's nothing we can't conquer," Newman said.
Newman has already pulled new ideas from her bag of tricks, including launching the school's first social networking site this month so students and parents have even greater access to information.
"Just about everyone is on Facebook, Newman said, "I know almost all of the students have Facebook and probably most of their parents."
While she still encourages parents to access information and their student's records on school's website, Newman plans to capitalize on popular technology to better inform the community about school events and achievement.
"Not every home has a computer," Newman acknowledge. "But just about everyone has a cell phone."
She also believes in incentives and is working on fundraising to provide end-of-year rewards — inclduing iPads — for accomplishments like perfect attendance.
Newman's enthusiasm has readily spread to students and staff.
"I thought high school was going to be boring, but not now," said freshman Chano Cisneros, 14. "I think it's going to be pretty exciting and fun."
"I love all my classes, especially 'careers with children'" said sophomore Becky Ramirez, 15. "But I like anatomy too, and we're going to take a field trip to see a cadaver. I think that's pretty interesting."
Freshman Rene Valdez, 14, is the first in his family to go to Orland High School, and he too is looking forward to the school year.
"I plan to get straight A's," he said.
Student enthusiasm for school is just the sort of springboard educators say will help them face increasing challenges when it comes to implementing changing education policies, providing for diverse student populations and accountability for student achievement.
"I think the kids are focused on academics," said Counseling Secretary Dera Miller, a 1982 Orland High School graduate. "They're petty excited and I think all the students want to be successful."