Denair Trustees Accepted $181,000 State Grant Aimed at Helping Students in Key Academic Areas

An $181,000 infusion of one-time state money will allow the Denair Unified School District to create more options on its campuses to help students struggling in core programs such as math, English, and science.

Superintendent Terry Metzger, the principals at each of Denair’s campuses and representatives the teachers union have collaborated on just how the money can be put to best use.

The plans they created, Metzger told Denair trustees Thursday night, “allow us some time to study evidence-based practices, work with teachers and support staff, and then provide resources and support for students.”

She described the grant as a “final gift” from former Gov. Jerry Brown in his 2018-19 state budget. The money must be spent by June 2021.

“Each plan includes language that allows us to think about how to create inviting spaces for students to access technology, collaborate, study and get tutoring before/after school,” Metzger said.

Also Thursday, the board voted 4-0, with Trustee Regina Gomes absent, to implement a new middle school math curriculum that has shown promising results during a pilot period.

Known as enVisionmath2.0 Common Core, the program is a comprehensive mathematics curriculum for grades six through eight. It uses problem-solving, interactive experiences and visual learning to engage students. Personalized math practice, built-in interventions, and customizable content deepen understanding and improve achievement.

Denair Middle School math teachers David Rodriguez and Anthony Narsi have been using the program since last fall. They told trustees last month they believe it will help to improve students’ math skills and, ultimately, their performance on state tests, which has been a concern.

The middle school program is consistent with what was introduced last year at Denair High School. Metzger said it is a hybrid of written materials as well as online programs and videos that students access via Chromebooks at school or their own computers at home.

The cost of the program is $26,000 for a six-year license, plus hard-copy materials that must be purchased each year.

In other action Thursday night, trustees:

  • Listened to a presentation from Suzie Ramirez, the director of special education, and assistant director Breanne Aguiar. They reported that there are 165 students in the special education program, which is integrated into regular classes on all of Denair’s campuses. In the past year, five students have been reassessed and left the program. “That’s pretty remarkable,” Ramirez said. They said much work is being done to streamline and expand programs by updating course descriptions and pathways. Much of that effort involves the creation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each student. Training for all staff has been coordinated with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and monthly meetings have taken place to engage staff and share specific strategies.
  • Heard a report from William Jenkins, the district’s director of technology. Jenkins joined the district last summer. One of his first goals, he said, was to assess the district’s technology and learning framework. Using a nationally accepted method called CASE (Classroom Access Skills Environment), he surveyed staff and students in October about their use of and proficiency in technology. That provided baseline data for another survey that will happen in March. He said Denair scores in the “proficient” level regarding technology, but improvement can be made in how it’s consistently applied in every classroom. The district has more than 1,000 Chromebook computers students use in addition to other technology. Jenkins also recommended trustees consider an update to the district’s mostly analog phone system, replacing it with a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocal) system that would cost about $21,000 annually.
  • Unanimously approved comprehensive school safety plans for each of the four campuses. Each plan includes a public copy and a private copy. In order to protect the safety of students and staff, tactical response protocols are not included in the public copy. A copy of each school’s plan is available in the school office.

Approved the formation of a Computer Club at Denair High School. The club will meet after school once a week to receive a quick lesson on a new topic in computer programming. They will then have time to work on a free online interactive training program in a setting where they will be able to receive help if needed. They will also be given extra resources that they can choose to pursue on their own during the week to further their knowledge of programming.

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