Boulder Valley School District

‘This is the type of work that I’ve been passionate about all throughout my whole career’

Randy Barber

Nativity Miller shares how her new post is bringing together several departments to better serve students that often feel ‘invisible’

New BVSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nativity Miller has her work cut out for her. In this summer’s

reorganization, an alphabet soup of departments, mostly known by their acronyms – including MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support), SPED (Special Education), CLDE (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education), Reading, and GT (Gifted and Talented) – were pulled out of the original regional structure, to ensure that there is a district-wide approach to how we provide access and opportunities to students.

“We are working to build a new team culture with a collective vision,” Miller said. “Of course none of our department leads have worked for me, but previously, each of them were reporting to different area superintendents.”

Now these directors are meeting monthly working collaboratively to support students and schools, with a focus on addressing the significant disproportionality identified in the All Together for All Students Strategic Plan. With all the directors around the same table, they are able to add their expertise to the discussion and make decisions together. She believes that this will result in far better coordination than we’ve had in the past, all for the benefit of our students.

“Dr. Anderson’s vision was to lift these really essential parts of the system out of the organization. It is allowing us to pull these components together and focus on how they work together,” continued Miller. “Our focus is to create cohesion between them. In many situations, the support offered by Special Education, CLDE, GT and Reading cross paths. We are working to build collaborative connections so that we are all working together, not separately -- to serve students.”

RELATED: What is MTSS?

From the moment that Miller heard about plans to unite these departments, she wanted to lead the work.

“These are really my passion points. This is the type of work that I’ve been passionate about all throughout my whole career. When that opportunity arose, I had to apply.” Miller said.

Growing up in Arvada, Nativity always wanted to be a teacher and got her foot in the door early. While she was still attending college, she helped to run the before and after school program at a school in Jefferson County. She also worked as a paraprofessional before becoming a reading interventionist and English Language Development (ELD) teacher at a Title I school in the Adams 12 School District. 

After 12 years at the same school, she moved to Butler Elementary in Fort Lupton, where she served as assistant principal for three years and principal for eight years. Four years ago she came to Boulder Valley School District, overseeing schools as an executive director for elementary education and then the East Network.

By playing so many roles, she can see this work from every angle – systemically and at the school-level. 

“I bring that lens of both creating the vision of the work, but also supporting principals with implementation,” Miller said. “My experience as a principal – specifically in schools that were culturally & linguistically diverse – I had the pleasure of leading the implementation with many of these same components.”

Ensuring students are no longer ‘invisible’

A big part of her focus is to center her new team’s work on the data. She is determined to ensure students that might have been “invisible” in the past are seen, supported and succeed.

“It have always advocated for those who cannot advocate on their own behalf,” Miller said. “I always see myself in this type of work, and I think it is essential that students of color see leaders such as myself in leadership roles. I believe this job specifically is an opportunity to create a district vision around these areas, create opportunity & access for students who have been underserved, as well as provide learning to strengthen all of our educators.”

She is quick to mention that, while data driven instruction has become one of the most widely discussed concepts used in education, yet it is also often misunderstood. 

“Data driven does not mean we must sacrifice authentic learning, or teaching to a test,” Miller said. “Educators engaging in this work have found that identifying what students are learning and what they are not, drives how they respond and adjust their instruction. It is about creating the opportunity to look at student work, beyond the right or wrong answer, to identify what exact skill students need to learn a new concept or standard.”

Based on the information they have so far, her department is already looking at creating professional learning tracks in the science behind kids’ brains and how they read, how general education teachers can support emerging bilinguals and other key topics.

Encouraging balance

Meanwhile, knowing how overtaxed teachers and administrators are at this time, she is working to encourage educators to balance. Whether she is talking to her team, the cohort of new principals she teaches through the University of Colorado Denver or anyone else she meets through her position, she is constantly encouraging them to slow down and be sure that they are building time for friends, family or whatever brings them joy! 

“This is hard work and it is important work, but there are glass balls you will always juggle, and the one you cannot afford to drop is your family. I try to model that and I try to support that with the leaders I support right now,” Miller said. “One of the mistakes I made as a principal and in leadership, was not caring for myself. I would always tell my staff, take care of your family, go to their events, but in the last five years of my principalship, I really lost that. It wasn’t until my daughter was like – you don’t read to me anymore or you don’t brush my hair anymore.”

She says that she really tries to be intentional about spending time with friends and family, because it grounds her. Often she will invite her mother & son to coffee, head off to the pumpkin patch with her high school-aged daughter or catch a movie on Netflix in the evening with her husband.

Despite her very busy schedule, she has found ways to be part of her kids’ extra-curricular activities.

“I have worked full time since my kids were little, whether it was when I was a principal or now. I could never be the parent that went on the field trip or worked the school store. I couldn’t even bake for conferences,” Miller said. “I have, however, found ways to participate as the team mom.”

She has helped to lead a group of parents whose job is to help ensure that the coaches, whether it was for her son’s football team, before he went off to college, or now her daughter’s cheerleading team, could focus on their job – instead of all the team dinners and bonding events.

Last year, she was recognized by Adams 12 for leading an effort with two other moms to have parents adopt seniors, creating 350 special gift baskets based with their favorite foods and candies – to help soften the impact of the pandemic year.

“ It was really amazing how our community came together,” Miller said. “Students said it was their favorite thing last year.”


 

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