Denair High principal, student leaders share highlights about life on campus

The staff and students at Denair High School use words like “family,” “fun,” “supportive,” “collaborative” and “superb” to describe the culture and vibe on the campus. And like many small schools, there is a closeness that develops when there are just 278 students, many of whom are in the same classes as well as participate on the same sports teams or belong to the same clubs. They form bonds and relationships that don’t always exist at larger schools.

All those traits and more were in the spotlight at Thursday night’s meeting of the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees, who listened as the high school’s principal and student leaders shared what day-to-day life is like on campus.

A short video set to music was played that reflected the learning occurring in DHS classrooms as well as many of the fun activities involving students and staff. Principal Breanne Aguiar and six students — Skylynn High (student body president), Emanuel Renteria (rally coordinator), Alyssa Hernandez and Lilianna Marquez (publicity coordinators), Eddie Verdugo (spirit coordinator) and Natalie Rodriguez (leadership team) – took turns talking about various programs and successes.

The bottom line: There is a lot going on at Denair High.

Among the highlights:

  • The addition of a fifth career technical education (CTE) pathway this year. Arts, media and entertainment joins criminal justice, ag mechanics, agriscience and floral arrangement as a series of coordinate classes that help prepare students for careers that don’t necessarily require them to attend college.
  • A robust menu of academic choices for students who are on the college-going track, including the ability to earn college credits from Modesto Junior College while still in high school.
  • An exciting range of electives that includes classes in kinesiology, digital photography, art, agriculture, communication and debate, leadership, band, marketing and even being a teacher’s assistant at the elementary school.
  • An array of social and emotional support systems to help students encountering issues inside and outside the classroom.
  • A full complement of extracurricular activities, including sports teams for boys and girls, nine different campus clubs and opportunities in music and drama.

Aguiar said everything happening at the high school is intended to prepare students to succeed after graduation, no matter which path they may choose.

“Whether they’re interested in attending college, trade school or going into the workforce, Denair High School believes in providing students with opportunities to broaden their perspectives and interests,” she said.

Over the past few years, one of the key efforts at DHS has centered around building a strong culture of inclusivity and connectedness, Aguiar and the students said. That is reflected in how special ed students are integrated into campus activities as well as the ways high school students are serving as mentors to young children.

For instance, Aguiar said that in November many of her students will complete training to become certified in the Friday Night Live mentorship curriculum, which is provided through the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. Completion of this training will allow students the chance to mentor students at Denair Middle School as well as Denair Elementary Charter Academy. 

All of the classes, relationships with teachers and staff, and extracurricular activities help to shape a positive and impactful culture on campus, one that positively shapes students for life.

“Once a Coyote, always a Coyote,” said Renteria.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Voted 5-0 to ratify an agreement with the California School Employees’ Association and its Denair Chapter #113 that provides 8% salary increase retroactive to July 1 for the 2023-24 school year. CSEA represents most of the staff who are not administrators or teachers. All of Denair’s other employees have already received the same salary increase.
  • Heard an update on attendance at Denair Elementary Charter Academy since minimum days were flipped from Fridays to Wednesdays this year. Superintendent Terry Metzger said absences are down from an average of 42 on Fridays in 2022-23 to 34 in 2023-24. Absences on Wednesday are down from an average of 29 last school year to 27 this school year. 
  • Unanimously approved the Grad Night trip to Disneyland for the Class of 2024 and school staff next spring. Denair High students and chaperones will leave via bus on May 19 and return the next evening.
  • Voted to accept a $210,000 CalSHAPE Ventilation program grant. The money will pay for 270 filters and assessment and maintenance for 99 air conditioning and heating units at Denair High School and Denair Middle School.
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