Denair Boys Open Playoffs on Road at Summerville

Submitted by Denair High School

The Denair High School boys basketball will open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs Wednesday night in Tuolumne City against Summerville. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

It is the first time the Coyotes (13-12 overall) have qualified for postseason since 2010-11. Denair finished second in the Southern League with a 9-3 record, losing only to league champion Mariposa (twice) and third-place finisher Le Grand.

“Our goal was to play an extra game in February,” said Denair Coach R.J. Henderson. “I thought this group had an opportunity. We have a good mix.”

The Coyotes are seeded 11th in the 13-team Division V bracket; the Bears are No. 6. The winner will advance to play No. 3 seed Brookside Christian in Stockton on Feb. 23.

Denair has a little bit of history against Summerville (15-11), which finished fourth in the rugged Mother Lode League. The two teams squared off on Dec. 1 in the Riverbank Tournament, with the Bears coming away with a 44-30 victory.

“Our kids obviously have seen their kids. We didn’t shoot it very well that night,” Henderson said. “They’re a plodding team; very strong inside. They’re bigger across the board. They were able to dominate on the offensive glass that night though they didn’t shoot it well either.”

The Coyotes have made great since December. With only two seniors on their nine-man roster, the experience the younger players have gained has boosted their confidence – and it shows in the results. Denair was 4-9 in the preseason, but began to apply some hard-earned lessons when the league schedule began in January.

Led by first-team all-SL players Drew Pritchard (15.2 points per game) and Steffin Winston (15.1 ppg, 11.6 rebounds per game), the Coyotes held their own the first time through the league, then caught fire and won five out of their final six games.

“They’re definitely peaking at the right time,” Henderson said of his players. “We’re not a nervy bunch of kids. I think some of them actually play better on the road.”

He expects Denair will travel well next week with at least one rooters’ bus already scheduled to take excited students to Summerville. But beating the Bears will take more than full-throated fan support.

“They have two big 6-foot-4 lefties. They look like a football team out there, but they play basketball,” Henderson said. “I do think it’s the best matchup for us. … It’s a tough task, but it will be fun. It’s nice to have a couple of days of practice ahead of time.”

Henderson said it’s no secret what the Coyotes need to do Wednesday to pull off an upset.

“We have to limit them to one shot and we’re going to have to make shots. We’ll have to hit eight to 10 threes this game,” he said. “Our guards are going to have to shoot real well. … Our kids are excited. We want to get greedy and play another game.”

Two Denair Wrestlers Advance to Division V Meet

Submitted by Denair High School

Two Denair High wrestlers qualified for this week’s Sac-Joaquin Division V meet.

Cody Martinez (126 pounds) and Quentin Parker (160) both finished third last Saturday at the Southern League Championships at Orestimba High in Newman.

Martinez, a freshman, was 4-3 during SL dual meets before finding his rhythm last weekend.

“Cody is quick with the way he maneuvers out of being gripped by his opponent,” praised Denair coach Jorge Ruelas. “He uses his strength and endurance to establish his advantage and then executes either a pinning combination or moves that give him points if his opponent is not easily pinned.”

Parker, a junior, also is a first-time qualifier for the Division V meet. He was just 2-5 during the dual meet season, but also displayed some of his best wrestling at the league meet.

“Quentin is methodological when he is on the mat,” Ruelas said. “He looks for the appropriate opportunity to attack while using proper defensive techniques waiting for the right opportunity to pin his opponent.”

The Division V tournament will be contested Friday and Saturday at Delhi High. The top four in each weight class advance for the Masters meet Feb. 23-24 in Stockton.

Denair High Earns Impressive Six-Year Accreditation

Submitted by Denair High School

The hard work invested by teachers and administrators to increase the quality and breadth of education at Denair High recently was recognized by independent evaluators with the longest accreditation any school can receive – six years.

The decision was announced in a Feb. 5 letter to Denair Principal Kara Backman from the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The six-year accreditation period – instead of a shorter term – is a powerful endorsement of the strides taken just in the past two years at Denair High.

“The DHS community, which consisted of staff, students, parents and guardians, banded together to write a document over 100 pages about DHS,” Backman said. “It was an 80-week process that produced a document about all of the rigorous academic and extracurricular activities we have to offer at DHS.”

The WASC committee spent three days on campus last fall visiting classrooms, interviewing staff, evaluating programs and assessing the learning culture. As it does at every school, the committee was focused on asking and answering two key questions:

  • How do you know that all students are achieving based on your schoolwide student goals and academic standards?
  • Is the school doing everything possible to support high achievement for all its students?

Committee members found much to like at Denair. In particular, they cited these areas as strengths:

Areas to celebrate:

  • Revitalization of School Culture: They cited the behavior and happiness of students, the decrease in the rate of student suspensions and tardiness, and the satisfaction of teachers, measured in part by lower absenteeism.
  • Emphasis on Data-driven Instruction: In May, Denair High implemented a testing program from the Northwestern Evaluation Association that provides an earlier warning of students who may be falling behind in a particular subject. It is coupled with a Response to Intervention piece that provides additional academic and behavioral support to targeted students. In addition, the Pearson curriculum allows more data-driven assessment in core subjects like math and English.
  • Vision to Upgrade Technology and Blended Learning: Last year, the school added five Chromebook carts – each with 30 computers – that can be used in classes across campus. Students also have increased access to online textbooks, reflecting emphasis on blended learning.
  • Expanded CTE Program: Denair offers four Career Technical Education Pathways for its students to earn college credits – three in agriculture and the other in criminal justice. More than half the school’s students take one or more of the 18 classes currently available. Backman said additional pathways could include nursing as well as hair care and cosmetology.

Continue reading “Denair High Earns Impressive Six-Year Accreditation” »

‘Blackout Night’ Looms for Playoff-Bound Denair

Submitted by Denair High School

Back in Black is a rock anthem made famous by AC/DC long before any of the players on this year’s Denair High School boys basketball was born. But the title perfectly describes the scene that will happen tonight when the Coyotes – fresh off clinching their first playoff berth in seven seasons – return to their own gym to host Orestimba.

The atmosphere – like the classic song – should be rockin’.

Denair will forgo its traditional purple-and-white home uniforms to wear trendy black pants and jerseys on what is being billed as “Blackout Night.” Students, too, can get into the act with specially designed black T-shirts featuring the words “The Pack” over the top of a Coyote paw.

Coach R.J. Henderson said it’s the first time in his six years leading the team that he’s broken out the black uniforms.

“They were purchased before I got here,” he said. “We’ve never used them other than summer league. There are only nine of them. I thought about using them in years past, but we always had more than nine guys.

“The players are excited, I know. I expect the crowd on Friday could be our best ever.”

The fresh look comes as enthusiasm continues to build for the young yet seemingly fearless Denair squad, which has rolled to an 8-2 Southern League record with two regular-season games to go. The Coyotes have clinched no worse than second place behind unbeaten Mariposa (10-0), which comes to town Monday night.

More importantly, Denair has qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. The Coyotes will find out next Thursday who they play in the first round, which begins the next night.

Denair punched its ticket to the playoffs Tuesday night with a dominating 71-49 victory in Gustine. Junior Drew Pritchard led the way with 28 points, while senior Dylan Mann chipped in 15 and junior Steffin Winston had 12.

Just as special as anything Denair did on the court was something the Coyotes, at the urging of Pritchard, did to create a once-in-a-lifetime moment for one of Gustine’s players. Continue reading “‘Blackout Night’ Looms for Playoff-Bound Denair” »

Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Citing the need to chart a “bold, new future,” the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees unveiled a plan Thursday night intended to confront chronic enrollment challenges and provide a reliable funding stream to increase teacher pay.

Board President Ray Prock Jr. read a three-page statement at the regular monthly board meeting that makes the case for a new charter covering all grade levels to create “a seamless academic progression” from kindergarten through high school.

Prock also laid the groundwork to ask district voters in November to pass a parcel tax of up to $100 annually. That money, he promised, would be used to “compensate our employees – our teachers, aides, specialists, campus supervisors, maintenance staff and others – at a level that is fair and competitive in the market.”

Five years ago, facing financial crisis driven by the Great Recession and reduced state funding, Denair was forced to slash salaries for all employees up to 11%. Pay raises over the past two years have restored some, but not all, of employees’ pay.

To pass, a parcel tax requires two-thirds approval from those who vote.

“For that reason,” Prock said, “it is critical that the district provides its community stakeholders with all the relevant information for them to make an informed decision.”

The board invited parents, staff and others in the community to collaborate on the district’s new direction. Prock promised that there would be multiple focus groups and opportunities for people to participate and that the board would “actively and carefully listen in order to … gain your trust.”

“Our goal, through these community interactions, is to identify practical steps that will stabilize enrollment trends and lead to enrollment growth at the middle school and high school,” he said.

Denair has 1,272 students on its four campuses – Denair High School, Denair Middle School, Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Charter Academy (which provides support and curriculum to home-school parents as well as independent study options for high school students.) Continue reading “Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax” »