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Spotlight on Success: Elevating Student Voice

NVUSD Communications


Celebrate with us as we reflect on our 2019-2024 Strategic Plan and the many successes accomplished over the last five years. Silverado Middle School Principal Anne Vallerga and Napa High School Principal Ean Ainsworth share a success they experienced as a result of NVUSD’s focus on “Student learning, achievement, and access,” one of six goals in NVUSD’s 2019-2024 strategic plan. 

A buzz is in the air as approximately ten percent of Silverado Middle School’s student body enters the Library. Seventy-five middle school students have been told they will participate in a conversation with their principal and their anticipation, excitement, and curiosity are palpable. But no one here is in trouble; this dialogue is one of a handful of 'empathy interviews' that school leaders are conducting with students and staff at Silverado and Napa High to learn more about students' school life, motivation and learning, grades, attendance, and electives. “Students and our staff are providing insightful, candid input, and we're excited to empower them to have ownership in Silverado's future,” shares Silverado Middle School Principal Anne Vallerga.

These interviews, called empathy interviews, will help Silverado leadership formulate actionable strategies for the school. The feedback from students will guide the future direction at Silverado and Napa High School.

The interviews are also an expression of NVUSD’s Ecosystems of Cariño approach, an approach that focuses on providing students with high care coupled with high expectations. Napa High's Principal Ean Ainsworth attested to the impact of these interactions, saying, "Our Napa High Student/Staff Round Table discussions have been one of the most impactful actions we have taken as a staff. Students and staff can have real and vulnerable dialogue about issues that matter to both students and teachers." Principal Vallerga continued, “These conversations flipped the script for our students. They expected to be coached and presented to, however, they were given the time and space to share their thoughts. They leaned into the exercise in an exciting, impactful way.”

What happens next? Educators from Napa High and Silverado Middle School will review this grade data and student feedback. The goal will be to ensure that student voices remain central to any implemented changes. The initiative is a testament to the district's dedication to nurturing high-expectation learning within supportive environments. The initiative is setting new standards in educational partnerships while also showcasing the power of empathy, care, and collaboration.


Students and staff engage in empathy interviews in the Napa High library.

Photo: Students participate in empathy interviews as school leadership works to better understand the issues that matter to students and staff.

  • 01 - Elementary Schools
  • 02 - Middle Schools
  • 03 - High Schools