Denair leader provides update on key district goals

Every public school district in California must create a Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP. It is intended to be a road map, one that lays out specific goals and measurable ways to track their progress over a three-year period.

At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Denair Unified School District board, trustees and the audience listened to an update from Superintendent Terry Metzger about the district’s LCAP, which went into effect in the 2021-22 school year. 

The LCAP was created with input from staff, parents and the community. At its heart, it is an action plan to carry out the district’s vision, which proclaims: “Denair Unified School District empowers tomorrow’s leaders through exemplary instruction and powerful innovative programs. Our exceptional school environments are the best educational choice for all students.”

Those are more than words printed on a banner that hangs on a wall in the board meeting room. They are meant to be the north star that guides every decision the district makes.

The LCAP’s broad goal addresses the first part of the vision. It states that every Denair student will have the foundation for post-secondary success – meaning, after graduation from high school, they will be academically prepared to attend college, a vocational school or step into an entry-level trade profession.

To that end, part of the district’s focus this year, Metzger told trustees, is to better explain to parents “how to help your child be successful in school and get them to college and career.”

“Not only getting parents involved, but helping them understand what it takes to be successful after graduation,” she said.

The district has set an ambitious target to measure success — by the end of the 2023-24 school year, at least 80% of students will demonstrate literacy (reading, writing, and speaking) in all content areas.

Metzger said that requires honest evaluation of “what we are teaching, how we are teaching it and how we know students are learning it.” 

“We’re being very intentional in each content area,” she said. “What does it take to demonstrate you are literate in that area?”

That districtwide effort includes setting up support systems that target students at each grade level who need extra academic help. It also includes attention to students’ social emotional learning and mental health.

“Those are the ‘soft skills’ in life,” Metzger said. “Academics are the hard skills. Do you know how to read and write.”

The second part of the district’s vision – creating an “exceptional school environment” – seeks to assure parents and students that all children, regardless of background, ethnicity or culture, will have an equal chance to thrive in Denair schools.

Metzger laid out six principals that will help move the district toward what she calls “cultural proficiency:”

  • Focus on the moral purpose of the work.
  • Develop and manage support structures and practices with a lens of equity.
  • Invite, require and value multiple perspectives.
  • Focus on student engagement as well as achievement and results.
  • Develop a critical mass of equity stewards (people who feel responsible for taking on this work).
  • Be willing to ask critical questions.

For their part, board members agreed to evaluate progress by keeping in mind the “two B’s” – increasing belonging and reducing barriers to participation by students, whether in class or via extracurricular activities.

“You can have a mindset that’s open, but if you don’t think about the barriers that prevent some kids from participating, you’re missing something,” said Trustee Carmen Wilson.

In other action Thursday night, trustees:

  • Voted 5-0 to approve an updated facility use form and fee structure for the first time in nearly a decade. Groups such as parents or booster clubs, the FFA and others affiliated with the district will continue to pay nothing to use the district’s facilities, but outside groups can expect to pay 30% more from now on to rent a gymnasium, meeting space or athletic field. “We’re not out to make money, but we can’t lose money,” said Metzger, adding the fees are in line with or lower than other nearby school districts. “They’re still a value.”
  • Unanimously approved a motion to allow the district to continue contract negotiations with the two unions representing most employees – the Denair Unified Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association. Labor contracts with both unions expired June 30; once finalized, the new agreements will be in place until June 30, 2025.
  • Listened as Metzger described partnerships with outside groups focused on helping teachers plan for retirement, work on their mental health through individual and group coaching, and to know if they qualify for the public service student loan forgiveness program.
  • Congratulated Food Services Manager Kim Fuentez and her staff for their recent efforts to feed more than 300 Hickman students for a week and a half after that district’s food vendor ran into issues. Fuentez summed up her approach to student nutrition and helping this way: “If they’re in our county, they’re my kids.”
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