Submitted by Denair Unified School District
The Denair Unified School board approved a new math curriculum for elementary students, offered an early notification incentive to teachers and discussed the potential impact of a new state law affecting concealed weapons brought on campus at a busy meeting Thursday night.
Trustees also shortened the Thanksgiving holiday break, meaning staff and students will be in class for two days next November rather than having the entire week off.
The new curriculum at Denair Elementary Charter Academy already is being implemented for about 500 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, said Principal Sara Michelena. Called My Math, it was the clear choice of her staff and recommended by the math consultant at the Stanislaus County Office of Education. It includes an online component in addition to other classroom materials. “We look forward to seeing where this goes,” she said.
The early notification program is aimed at teachers who may be considering retirement or leaving the district to take a job elsewhere. It offers a tiered financial payment structure for teachers who alert the district in writing of their plans by the end of February: $3,000 before Jan. 29; $2,000 by Feb. 12; and $1,000 by Feb. 26. A similar program was put in place last year, said Chief Business Officer Linda Covello.
“The whole point is to start the hiring process earlier,” she said, adding that the county hosts jobs fairs in March and April. “We need to know what positions are going to be open so we can recruit.”
The discussion about concealed weapons brought on campus or within 1,000 feet of a school site concerned Senate Bill 707, which was passed by the California Legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.
It requires that anyone who has been granted a concealed weapons permit by a county sheriff or city police chief to now also receive permission from a school superintendent before bringing a weapon or ammunition on campus or within 1,000 feet of one. On-duty policemen and deputies and others authorized to assist in emergencies are exempted, but gun rights advocates believe the new law unfairly restricts people from defending themselves or others.
Trustee Robert Hodges called SB 707 an “overreach” and said, “I personally like the idea of people, you have no idea who they are, who have been trained and have arms. I feel safer.”
Trustee Ray Prock Jr. worried that the law could make unwitting criminals out of law-abiding citizens driving on Lester Road – which has school campuses on both sides – who may be pulled over for a minor traffic violation. “Are they at risk of being charged with a felony if they have a legal weapon in their car?” he wondered.
Superintendent called the new law a “can of worms” and said it raises the question of school district liability if a gun was to be used “inappropriately.” He also wondered “what criteria would you use to justify saying, ‘Yes,’ to one person and, ‘No,’ to another.”
Rosander said he is seeking advice from the school district’s legal counsel as well as direction from the California School Boards Association since the law affects all the state’s public school districts.
In other action, trustees:
- Approved the 2016-17 school calendar. Classes will begin Aug. 11 and end May 25. There will be 180 of instruction. Rosander said the change Thanksgiving week was a function of 2016 being a Leap Year and also motivated by concern from some parents who had to arrange child care for an entire week when they weren’t off from their own jobs.
- Authorized Rosander to begin negotiations with the Denair Unified Teachers Association on a new contract. Bargaining should begin within the next month. The current three-year contract expires June 30. DUTA President Linda Richardson said the union’s primary concern is a partial restoration of wages. Teachers, administrators and other staff shared 8% salary cuts in 2013 because of the district’s financial problems.
- Discussed the wording of the district’s mission and beliefs statement, which is expected to be finalized later this spring. It envisions Denair Unified as “the first and best choice in Stanislaus County for students and parents seeking a small school environment.”
- Listened as Rosander complimented sixth-grade teacher Patricia Guillen for an innovative lesson in which she “engaged students” by using coupons, which helped them calculate value and percentages, and learn about wise spending habits. Rosander visited her classroom last week.
Heard a reminder from Rosander about a meeting at Denair Middle School on Feb. 17, when the Stanislaus County committee on territory transfer to announce its decision about whether to reject a Turlock housing developer’s proposal to move his unbuilt neighborhood from the Denair to the Turlock school district.