Increased Attendance Rate Means More Money for Staff

Submitted by Denair Unified School District:

A slight uptick in attendance rates could mean more money in the paychecks of Denair Unified School District employees.

Denair’s four schools traditionally have enjoyed attendance rates well above 90%. Still, district officials decided earlier this year to put increased emphasis on students coming to class.

They rolled out a campaign called “It’s Not the Same Without You … You Matter,” using social media and various attendance-based campus incentives to motivate students.

The goal was as much pragmatic as financial: Students who are in class more often are connected to school and perform better academically.

Across the district, attendance rates rose from 0.5% at Denair Elementary Charter Academy to 1.5% at Denair High School, compared with the same time last year.

The numbers may not seem like a lot, but California schools are reimbursed from the state based on attendance. In Denair’s case, the increase is estimated to be worth an additional $60,000 – money that officials intend to direct toward ongoing staff salary restoration in the next budget cycle.

“It’s a really important number because it has to do with revenue,” said Superintendent Terry Metzger of the rate of attendance during her presentation to trustees Thursday night.

Salary restoration has been a pivotal issue for employees as well as the board since pay was slashed six years ago when the district faced a financial crisis.

Classified employees absorbed cuts of 12.75%; teachers and administrators took 8% decreases as the district moved to balance its spending in the face of declining enrollment and state reimbursements.

Later in Thursday’s meeting, the board reaffirmed its commitment to restoring salaries by approving a contract with the non-teaching staff represented by the California School Employees Association for 2018-19. The agreement includes a 1.75% raise retroactive to July 1, 2018, that already has been paid as well as a one-time 3.5% payout that will be in their May checks.

The deal also raises starting salaries for crossing guards, morning aides, noon aides, afternoon aides, PE aides and food servers from $12 an hour to $12.24 per hour to stay ahead of minimum wage, provides an extra week of vacation for employees with at least 10 years of service and includes a provision for catastrophic medical leave for someone dealing with a serious injury or illness for themselves or a family member.

“I want to thank the members of the CSEA for all the hard work they do,” said board President Regina Gomes.

Negotiations between the district and the CSEA on a new three-year agreement through June 2022 will begin soon. Also expected next month for the board’s consideration is a deal between DUSD and the Denair Unified Teachers Association.

In addition to attendance, Metzger briefed the board about student discipline, interdistrict transfers, and surveys of students and staff taken earlier this year.

  • Discipline: Metzger said that 69 students have been suspended at least once this year, mostly at the secondary level. Seven have been expelled, including five at the high school (three of them related to the same incident.)
  • Interdistrict transfers: There were 294 transfers approved this year for students who live in the DUSD’s boundaries to other schools. Most of them attend Turlock schools, Metzger said, either because their parents work for that district or they work for another business in Turlock and having their children attend school there is more convenient. The total number of transfers is down about 100 from 2017-18 – meaning more students who live in the Denair district are attending Denair schools. And the total doesn’t include the 160 out-of-district students who go to DECA, which doesn’t require transfers because it’s a charter school.
  • Healthy Kids survey: Fifth-, seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders took the survey in January, along with staff members. Metzger said 76% of students and 64% of staff feel safe at school, numbers she would like to increase. About 70% of students also said they have at least one caring adult in school. However, one alarming response for Metzger was the fact most teachers do not feel students are strongly motivated to learn. “That’s really worrisome to me. We need to dig deeper,” she said.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Approved a one-year contract extension for Metzger, who is nearing the end of her first year. The new deal will be in place through June 2022. “I’m very grateful for Dr. Metzger,” said Trustee Crystal Sousa. “She jumped right in and works herself to the bone. She listens and tries to accomplish everything we have asked of her.” Metzger, who will make $147,252 this year, said the extension “conveys a level of confidence that we are on the right track and provides additional stability for the district.”
  • Heard a report from Kathy Pritchard, president of the Denair Sports Boosters. She said the organization has contributed $27,254 this school year, including $3,300 in scholarships handed out to Denair High students. She also said an event April 5 netted about $21,000 for next year.
  • Listened to a self-evaluation of the Denair State Preschool from site supervisor Lenora Gomes and teacher Erica Prock. They said surveys of parents indicated 100% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the program. They also said parents wanted more information about how they can be involved and/or communicate with staff.
  • Honored two retiring DECA teachers – Brenda Ranes (fifth grade) and Nancy Tanner (third grade). Principal Kelly Beard called Ranes “our Miss Sunshine” and credited her with setting a positive tone on campus. “Our students love her. Our staff loves her. Our parents love her. We’re really going to miss her.” Tanner began as a special education teacher, Beard said, and is widely admired for her artistic ability and her mentorship of other teachers. “She creates amazing lessons and activities that are relevant to students,” Beard said. “It’s always about the kids.”
  • Recognized outgoing student board member Logan Pierce, thanking him “for his thoughtful and active participation with the governance team.”
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