Cyberbullying Expert Challenges Denair Students

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Collin Kartchner didn’t set out to be an expert on cyberbullying. He was a full-time video producer who posted satirical sketches on Instagram, where he has a big following.

Collin Kartchner didn’t set out to be an expert on cyberbullying. He was a full-time video producer who posted satirical sketches on Instagram, where he has a big following.

But in 2016, the Utah man ran into an old friend. Her name was Roxanne. He asked about her daughter, Whitney, whom he had known when she was a child. Tragically, Roxanne said Whitney, at age 23, had committed suicide. Sadly, Kartchner learned, Whitney had become heavily involved in social media, which her mother blamed for her death.

“When she was 14 or 15, she was spending all her time social media and she was scrolling through these beautiful, curated photos of models and perfect people and she started feeling really bad about herself,” Kartchner told students at Denair High School on Tuesday. “And it led to depression, which then led to self-harming, which then led to addiction, which then led to her death.”

Kartchner felt he needed to do what he could to prevent similar tragedies.

“If we don’t stop this problem, it’s only going to get worse,” he said in one of his videos. “Adults can more easily understand that photos are manipulated or touched up, but kids don’t see that. They look at it and say, ‘Why is my life not like that?’ I shared that and I was flooded with hundreds of stories saying, ‘That was my daughter, that was my neighbor, that was my grandson. This same thing happened.’ ”

Kartchner decided to use his own social media platform – he has nearly 100,000 Instagram followers – to warn teens and their parents about the dangers of cyberbullying and social media addiction.

He created the hashtag #SaveTheKids to amplify his message. He produced videos aimed at teens and adults, and began to speak to audiences around the country. It is that campaign that brought him to Denair on Tuesday.

Everywhere he speaks, he asks teens to accept what he calls “the Collin Challenge:”

  • Take a week off social media each month to “reset your brain”
  • Get/give eight hugs a day for a minimum of 8 seconds
  • Start sharing more authenticity and positivity. Show others it is OK to be real.
  • Don’t participate in any kind of cyberbullying. Cut it off when you see it.
  • Do something awesome and DON’T share it
  • Fail at something and SHARE it proudly
  • Unfollow every account on Instagram or Snapchat that doesn’t make you happy

“My challenge is for teens to connect in real life,” Kartchner said. “Put your phone down. Don’t let social media tell you what you are worth. You will never be happy if you are chasing numbers and followers. You don’t have to follow accounts just because others do. Don’t follow accounts that make you judge yourself or make you feel less or inadequate.”

He readily admits he’s not a counselor or a psychiatrist, but said experts he has talked with are convinced there is a link between social media use and an increase in the teen suicide rate. He equated the addiction to social media to cocaine and said it “ruins lives.”

“They say giving a smart phone with social media and untethered access to all these apps with no training and no guidance is like handing the keys to a car with no driver’s ed,” Kartchner said. “So how do we sit here in shock wondering why kids are crashing and burning every single day.”

He emphasizes to teens that what they read and see on social media often does not reflect reality.

“We want to change the narrative with social media and how it’s affecting us to make us feel like we’re not enough,” Kartchner said. “To be able say that you are enough, that you are perfect the way you are. That you don’t need to compare yourself to people who are putting perfect photos that have been staged with an entire team, with professional makeup artists. That’s not real. Let’s just be happy with who we are.”

One of his main messages is that parents and their children must reconnect.

“What are we doing spending all day scrolling through other people’s photos that we don’t know?” he asked. “Why are we spending eight hours looking for validation from strangers we’ve never met? Let’s put our phone down. Let’s spend time with our kids. Let’s go make memories. Let’s go enjoy life.”

Kartchner held a separate meeting just for parents Tuesday afternoon at Denair Middle School. And he spent lunch talking about social media with Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger, school administrators from Hilmar and Keyes, officials from Sierra Vista Children and Family Services and Legacy Health Endowment, and about two dozen other adults.

“My big takeaways,” said Metzger, “were that he stressed the need to help build empathy in students, how we can empower students to use social media to share positive messages and how can we help parents.

“He talked about the ‘trust dance’ between parents and children, and how taking phones away or giving them back as a punishment or reward doesn’t work. He emphasized there is no shaming or blaming of parents, but that we must be real about the world we live in and that kids need parents to help them navigate social media.”

Denair Trustees Approve More One-Time Pay Raises in Ongoing Effort to Restore Staff Salaries

Submitted by Denair Unified School District:

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees continued to address one of its highest priorities Thursday night – salary restoration.

Trustees voted unanimously to grant one-time raises of 3.5% to classified, non-teaching staff and one-time pay hikes of 1.75% to teachers and administrators. The increases effectively provide more money in paychecks without boosting base salaries.

The district will use $252,363 in state money it has collected and saved over the past few years to pay for the increases.

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.

Since 2013, classified workers have seen their salary restored by 9.25% and all other employees by 6.25%. Thursday’s action essentially means everyone still with the district who had their salary cut six years ago will have it fully restored this school year.

“We feel very strongly that restoration is the right thing to do,” said board President Regina Gomes, who along with Trustee Crystal Sousa made salaries their biggest issue when they won election in November 2017.

“It is one of our highest priorities,” Sousa emphasized.

Salary restoration will be among the chief objectives in next year’s budget, said Superintendent Terry Metzger. She said continuing to increase overall enrollment as well as attendance are key to making that happen.

Enrollment currently sits at 1,270 students. Initial projections are that it will rise to about 1,300 students next year as another Dual Language Immersion kindergarten class is added at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

The district also has focused this year on increasing Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which directly impacts how much money it receives from the state. Though well more than 90% of students attend class each day, that number has fallen slightly in the past two years. Each 1% rise in attendance over the course of a school year means about $100,000 more for the district, Metzger said. Continue reading “Denair Trustees Approve More One-Time Pay Raises in Ongoing Effort to Restore Staff Salaries” »

Mobile Dental Clinic Coming May 23 for all Students

The Denair Unified School District has partnered with Big Smiles to provide in-school dental care for all our students. Notices that include permission slips began going home with students this week.

The mobile dentistry clinic will be on site on Thursday, May 23 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The team is comprised of licensed local dentists and dental hygienists. Services include an examination, cleaning, fluoride, X-rays and sealants. Parents may accompany their children. If not, there will be district employees available to escort them to the dentist.

Each child will receive an oral health report card to take home after the dental visit. Patient care coordinators will contact parents of students needing additional follow-up by mail or phone.

All insurance is accepted, including Medicaid and CHIP. For those without insurance, a low cost self-pay option is available. And no child will be left unseen due to the inability to pay.

Proactive dental care is a way to keep your child healthy, in school and learning. Children who see a dentist regularly often have fewer health issues such as:

  • Early tooth loss caused by dental decay
  • Gum disease
  • Heart disease
  • Impaired speech development

Students will be provided with permission slips to take home and return, or parents may simply go to www.myschooldentist.com and sign in there. All children 18 and under are eligible.

 

Parents, Community Invited to Ag Day on April 18 at Denair High School

Central California agriculture and many associated industries will be on full display next week when Denair High School celebrates Ag Day.

Parents and community members are invited to come to the campus April 18 beginning at 8 a.m. An estimated 40 vendors from the region will be on hand representing many diverse aspects of agribusiness – tractors and farm equipment, ag mechanics, livestock and animal feed, the plant and nursery industry, dairies, hogs, nuts, and irrigation.

There will be a booth highlighting Denair’s historical connection to agriculture. Non-ag careers in firefighting and law enforcement – including members of the Modesto Police Department K-9 Unit – also will be represented.

Members of the Coyote Cups of Kindness program will be on hand with refreshments.

From 8 a.m. to noon, the activities around the high school campus will be led by members of the Denair FFA Club and Associated Student Body leadership team. High school students will welcome more than 500 younger children from Denair Elementary Charter Academy and guide them on a series of fun, hands-on tours.

One will focus on floral arrangements and principles. Youngsters will be able to decorate writing pens that they can take with them.

A second tour will allow elementary students to milk a fake cow designed by a Denair High art class and fill up milk cartons donated by Crystal Creamery.

The final lesson will enable children to build “soil” layers with candy and cereal in clear cups that they can take home.

At noon, the elementary students will return to their campus and Denair Middle School students will arrive to enjoy a barbecue with their high school counterparts. There also will be booths highlighting various ag and non-ag careers, and a petting zoo featuring horses, heifers, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits for students to enjoy.

‘Red for Ed’ Part of Effort to Grow Support for ‘Full and Fair’ Education Funding in California

If you have reason to be on a Denair Unified School District campus Thursday or attend the monthly school board meeting that night, you may notice many teachers, administrators and staff members wearing red.

No, the Coyotes have not changed from their traditional purple to a new color.

Instead, red reflects a local one-day public effort called “Red for Ed” to call attention to a campaign driven by multiple unions, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators highlighting the chronic lack of funding for schools in the state.

Here are a few sobering statistics:

  • Despite being the fifth-largest economy in the world, California ranks 41st in per-pupil spending in this country
  • California ranks 45th nationally in class size
  • California is 48th in pupil-to-staff ratio

Red for Ed is one way for educators to galvanize public attention on a problem affecting almost every school in the state.

“School districts across the nation are being asked to provide more support for students than ever before,” said Terry Metzger, Denair’s superintendent. “Yet new mandates rarely come with the funding required to carry out the task. The Red for Ed movement is about standing up for resources that  our students, schools and communities need.”

California spends an average of $10,291 per student per year, nearly $2,000 less than the national average ($12,252). Class sizes average 22.1 students, well more than the national average (15.4). And in California there are 11 students per staff member, three more than the national average.

In California, there currently is a push at the state level to increase school funding to the national average by 2020 and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025.

“To put it in perspective,” Metzger explained, “if we were funded at the national average, Denair’s annual budget would see an increase of more than $2 million! This money would positively impact our ability to provide the programs and services that our students deserve.”

Thursday’s Red for Ed display has the support of the DUSD board and administration as well as the Denair Unified Teachers Association and local members of the California School Employees Association.