Denair superintendent maps out ambitious three-year plan to prepare district’s students for real world

On the same night Denair Unified School District board members unanimously extended Superintendent Terry Metzger’s contract, trustees also heard her lay out a vision for where the district would like to be when that new deal is up for renewal in three years.

In California, all school districts must develop a strategic plan that lays out for parents and the community how they will spend the millions of dollars they receive each year from the state. That document is called the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). It reflects the district’s goals, actions and metrics relating to how progress will be measured. 

“In Denair Unified, we see the LCAP process as a great opportunity to think deeply about the focused actions we’ll be taking to improve student outcomes,” Metzger said Thursday night.

Specifically in Denair, the broad goal for the next three years is that all children will have a foundation for post-secondary success. That means preparing high school graduates to enter a two- or four-year college, or having the skills to go directly to a trade school or another kind of vocational field in order to begin their professional careers.

One key measure of success in the next three years, Metzger explained, is for at least 80% of Denair’s 1,300 students to demonstrate literacy – reading, writing and speaking – in all content areas. She described that as teaching students to speak well, to organize their thoughts, and to be able to create and give presentations. 

And all that only will happen, Metzger told trustees, if Denair continues to provide “exemplary instruction and powerful, innovative programs” while maintaining “exceptional environments” on its four campuses. That means investing in teachers and their training to keep class sizes small, providing top-of-the-line facilities and classroom materials, restoring key services like busing to and from school, and recognizing the importance of students’ socio-emotional health by offering targeted mental health services.

“It means that we are going to help all students have the tools they need to be successful after graduation, whether it be college or career,” Metzger said. “We are looking at four areas – academics, social-emotional wellbeing, technology and life skills.”

Parents and students will see a greater emphasis on career exploration, especially at the high school level, she said. In addition to the focus on literacy across all subjects, Metzger said the LCAP goal also includes a greater use of technology in the classroom – something that already has begun thanks to the distance learning required during the past year thanks to the COVID pandemic.

Trustees also listened as Metzger described the district’s strategy to apply for more than $850,000 in additional state money, which would come in the form of Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants. They are part of about $4.6 billion targeted to schools in an effort to help overcome the learning losses suffered by students because of the pandemic. 

Denair already qualifies for extra state money based on its student demographics. Nearly 70% of the students are classified as English Learners, low income, come from foster families or are homeless.

The LCAP was many months in the making. Even during the pandemic, Metzger held socially distanced as well as virtual meetings with community members to share her vision, listen to feedback and gather other ideas. Recently, those meetings included time with Denair High School students, who asked “some very good questions,” Metzger said.

Trustees listened to Metzger’s LCAP outline Thursday night. At their June 3 meeting, they will hold a public hearing, where community members can weigh in. A vote to approve the LCAP is expected at the June 10 board meeting.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Extended the contract with Metzger, who was hired in 2018, through the 2023-24 school year. Her base salary is $167,021, plus a $350 a month car allowance. She is eligible for 3% raises each year based upon her performance.
  • Honored two retirees, Gregory Groll and Barry Myers. Groll taught at Denair Charter Academy for 25 years while Myers was a custodian at Denair Elementary Charter Academy until his retirement in April.
  • Recognized four Denair High students — Pureza Avila, Alejandra Diaz, Leslie Tadeo and Arlene Zacarias – for earning the state Seal of Biliteracy, which will be affixed to their diplomas. The seal means they demonstrated proficiency in English and Spanish after passing oral and written exams or taking an Advanced Placement test.
  • Heard reports from FFA advisor Holli Jacobsen about the club’s activities this year as well as updates from parental and booster clubs at other campuses.
  • Approved the addition of a floral design class at DCA.
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