Denair Classes Resume Today with Emphasis on Attendance

The presents have been unwrapped and the Christmas decorations packed away. Another page has turned on the calendar. It’s 2019 – time to file away all those fun holiday break memories and get back to school.

Class resumes Monday at 8 a.m. for students and teachers in the Denair Unified School District.

The second semester includes plenty of excitement, important tests and milestone events, capped off with graduation for the Denair High Class of 2019 on May 24.

There is a lot of work to be done between now and then.

One districtwide initiative that will begin with the new year is an increased emphasis on attendance.

There are many critical reasons that all students should attend school, yet even in a district like Denair with consistently high attendance rates across all its campuses, there are students who are chronically absent.

Superintendent Terry Metzger wants to remind students and parents that regular attendance is essential to establish a path toward academic success – at all grade levels. Students who fall behind and miss valuable classroom time sometimes have a hard time catching up.

“We want students to be on time, every day, and stay for the whole day,” she said.

School also provides an important social outlet for children and teens. Sports, band, clubs and other extracurricular activities are part of a well-rounded education and reinforce skills like teamwork, respect, trust and responsibility.

Starting Monday, all of the DUSD campuses will begin flying a special flag when attendance is 95% or higher that day.

Also Monday, a social media campaign will begin on the district’s various Facebook pages. The theme is “It’s Not the Same Without You. YOU Matter!” Over the upcoming months, the district will share a mixture of fun and serious reasons while all students should come to class every day.

In addition, each campus has plans to reward and acknowledge students with perfect or high attendance.

DHS Attendance Flag

Denair MAC Meeting Agenda for January 8, 2019

The Denair Municipal Advisory Council has posted the MAC Agenda for their January meeting, scheduled for January 8, 2019. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm. The meeting will be held in the DUSD Leadership Center/Board Room, located at3460 Lester Road, Denair, CA 95316.

I. Introduction and Roll Call

II. Public Comment*

III. Approval of the minutes from the December 4, 2018 meeting

IV. Agency Reports and Updates:

A. Public Safety:

i. California Highway Patrol

ii. Stanislaus County Sheriff

iii. Denair Fire Department

B. Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors

C. Denair Public Library

D. Denair High School Leadership

E. Denair Unified School District (DUSD)

V. Informational Items

VI. Correspondence

VII. Action Items

A. Nomination and Election of MAC Officers

i. Chairperson: Nomination:________ / Vote:_______

ii. Vice-Chair: Nomination:_______ / Vote:_______

iii. Secretary: Nomination:_______ / Vote:_______

B. Denair High School Football Team State Championship Recognition

C. Consider supporting or opposing the County’s recommendation to change the Denair Municipal Advisory Council’s membership from elected to   appointed.

D. Provide a recommendation on the Honest Choice Use Permit Application to allow for commercial cannabis business operations.

VIII. MAC Comments and Topics for the Next Agenda

IX. Adjournment: Next regular meeting – Tuesday, February 5, 2019

*PUBLIC COMMENT: Please limit comments to five (5) minutes, or as directed by the Chairperson. Matters under the jurisdiction of the Council and not on this agenda may be addressed by the general public at this time and the Council may consider adding the item to the next month’s agenda for further consideration. However, California law prohibits the Council from taking action on any matter that is not on the posted agenda unless it is determined to be an emergency by the Council.

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS: In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, please contact the Clerk of the Board at (209) 525-4494. Notification 72 hours prior to the meeting will enable the County to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to this meeting.

Cups of Kindness Coffee Cart Teaches Important Skills to Denair Special Education Students

Submitted by Denair High School

An inspired idea by Destiny Silva has created an inspiring experience for six of her special education students at Denair High School.

Silva is a paraprofessional at the school. Part of her mission is to help her students learn important job and social skills that will allow them to enter the workforce after graduation.

What better way than to have them team up on a small business with a big payoff. So was born the Coyote Cups of Kindness coffee cart. It was idea Silva conceived of over the summer that blossomed into reality beginning in November.

The concept is relatively simple. The students — Fernando Carrasco, Obed Gonzalez, Henry Johnson, Austin McGregor, Pearla Perez and Danielle Tigner – operate the coffee daily just outside the administration office and at special school-related events. They take turns at the various tasks – mixing the hot and cold drinks on the 10-item menu, working the cash register and stocking the mobile cart.

The customers are mostly Denair staff, but as parents and other community members have come aware, business has picked up.

“I heard about it and I’ve been wanting to come, so here we are,” said Melanie Keas, who was all smiles as she ordered a white chocolate latte recently. Her daughter, 2018 Denair grad Madison, was sipping a  Bee Positive – a combination of grape juice, pink lemonade, coconut milk and French vanilla syrup inspired by former special ed student Kayla Bernardi, who died of leukemia in 2015.

Silva said the idea of using the coffee cart to teach key life schools originated from a very personal place.

“My sister is blind and has special needs,” she said. “I have always had a passion for children with disabilities and I’ve always known I’ve wanted to create an impact and make a difference for these children.

“One day, I was thinking to myself, ‘How could I change the world in a little way?’ and then it hit me. A coffee cart. A coffee cart that only children with disabilities work. What a way to give those kids a sense of independence as well as self-worth. It is so important to me that they know they are contributing members to this society.”

She first approached her father about possibly taking out a business loan to fund the venture. Before that could happen, Denair High Principal got wind of the idea and pledged her support.

“The rest is history,” said Silva, who is quick to credit food service manager Kim Fuentez and facilities director Brian Holloway for their help in bringing the idea to life.

“They both took me under their wing when it was not required,” Silva said. “That says a lot about their character.”

Silva said it’s far more than drinks being created by the students working the cart.

“This program will teach them the basic life skills they will need for adulthood. After some time, we should start seeing their social skills expand tremendously, as well as their work-based learning skills,” she said. “We aren’t just focused on the coffee making, because that’s not what it’s about. What it’s really about is making sure our students are able to be completely independent once they walk that stage come graduation.

“I hope this coffee cart starts to bring knowledge and awareness when it comes to starting to focus on the ability instead of the disability. This idea will grow in the upcoming years. It has already exceeded my expectations. … We now are partnering with local businesses and hope to get our students out in the community next semester. Our students will be unpaid interns for the businesses and will be gaining the skills needed to maintain a job once they graduate high school.”

Silva’s heart-warming project already has drawn praise from district officials.

“That is a beautiful thing,” said Trustee Crystal Souza after a recent presentation at a school board meeting.

Added Trustee Ray Prock Jr.: “Destiny has a heart for this and it was great to see.”

Silva said there are plans to extend the program to middle school students as well. And, in the future, there could be a Coyote Cups of Kindness store outside of campus.

“I hope to start my own coffee shop only employing people with disabilities somewhere located in downtown Turlock,” she said. “Hopefully, my students can get prepared at the coffee cart, and once they graduate, they can come work for me.”

The Coyotes Cups of Kindness cart is open Monday through Friday from 7 to 10:30 a.m. and 1:55 to 4 p.m. on the south side of the district office. You can follow the students’ progress on Facebook at Coyotes Cups of Kindness.

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Denair Unified Excited to Begin Mentorship Program, Seeks Adult Volunteers to Work with Students

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Be someone who matters for someone who matters.

That is the main thrust behind a mentorship program set to begin early next year in the Denair Unified School District.

Trustees were briefed about it by Superintendent Terry Metzger at Thursday night’s board meeting.

The goal, Metzger explained, is to identify community volunteers willing to meet one-on-one for an hour each week with a student. The program will be overseen by Sierra Vista Child & Family Services, a nonprofit based in Modesto that operates a similar system with the 30,000-student Modesto City Schools District.

Informational meetings for potential mentors are scheduled for Jan. 10 at noon and Jan. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Denair administration office. They will be a chance for those interested to learn more about the mentoring program from Sierra Vista officials.

“We’re very excited,” Metzger said. “We feel like we have a number of students who can benefit from another caring adult in their lives.”

She already has reached out to local service clubs and said the response has been positive. All mentors will undergo a background check and screening conducted by Sierra Vista, which also will provide training.

The weekly meetings will be held during school hours on the child’s campus. Students from all grade levels and mentors will be matched based on teacher referrals and Sierra Vista’s expertise.

“It could be a conversation in the library or shooting hoops outside,” Metzger explained. “Most often, these students just need someone to be there to listen. They need an adult. Sometimes they’re being raised by their grandparents or caring for their younger siblings. They need someone who can be there for them.”

The partnership is an extension of a larger mental health pilot program that began this fall, also in collaboration with Sierra Vista. A full-time mental health clinician is stationed at Denair Middle School to work with students and their families from all DUSD campuses.

The program is funded by the Legacy Health Endowment, whose mission is to provide financial and technical support to improve the health of people living in Stanislaus and Merced counties. The nonprofit was created in 2014 as part of Tenet Healthcare’s acquisition of Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock.

One of Legacy Health’s grants funds a program directed by Sierra Vista that focuses on the mental health of people living in southeastern Stanislaus County. Research by Sierra Vista shows that some children and teens in the area can be adversely affected by their socioeconomic status or rural living conditions.

“That can lead to greater risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm, including drug or alcohol use,” Metzger said.

With that in mind, Sierra Vista Executive Director Judy Kindle – who lives near Denair – suggested that the school district become an incubator for the pilot program. Metzger quickly agreed.

The mental health clinician provides services not just for Denair students, but also their families, Metzger explained. Referrals come from the students themselves as well as teachers, principals or even family members.

“Our goal is to help families in crisis who have long-term needs,” she said. “If our students can be assisted by our counseling staff, that’s what happens. But this opens up Sierra Vista resources for the students and their families.”

Metzger used a hypothetical example to describe how the mentoring program and mental health access might overlap.

“A high school student suffering from depression might see the clinician, but his or her siblings who need someone to talk to might see the mentors,” she said.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Heard the first interim budget report from Chief Business Officer Linda Covello. Attendance across the district is 1.9% higher than expected, including an increase of 12 students at the middle and high school level. If that continues through the end of the school year, it will mean an additional $200,000 in revenue to the district, Covello said. Multi-year projections anticipate continued growth, with the elimination of deficit spending in the 2020-21 school year. “We remain cautiously optimistic,” Metzger said.
  • Reviewed the updated California School Dashboard results. Areas of strength include the district’s high graduation rate and the middle school’s low chronic absenteeism. The district will continue to focus on academic achievement, particularly in math.
  • Honored the state championship football team and coach Anthony Armas. The Coyotes thrilled local fans by winning the Division VII title Dec. 1, beating Santee of Los Angeles 42-14 at Jack Lytton Stadium.
  • Approved the addition of a college course at Denair High School. Beginning in January, an American sign language course taught by Modesto Junior College instructor Pam Martinez will be offered for up to 30 high school students each Thursday from 4:30 to 7:35 p.m. Students who pass the course will receive college credit.
  • Elected Trustee Reggie Gomes to be the board president for 2019. Crystal Souza was chosen as clerk. Board meetings will continue to be the second Thursday of each month.

Denair High Boys Host 20th Holiday Classic This Week

Submitted by Denair High School

Expectations have risen for the Denair High School boys basketball team.

The Coyotes have two all-league players returning from a squad that finished second in the Southern League last winter and qualified for the playoffs. They also have an athletic roster, including four players who still are riding high from winning a state football championship, plus a precocious freshman who already has flashed playmaking potential.

Seventh-year coach R.J. Henderson knows full well that expectations, potential and lofty goals are just empty talk in mid-December. The true measure of success will play out on the court between now and the end of February.

The Coyotes stand at 4-5 as they prepare to host their 20th annual Denair Holiday Classic Tournament this week. They will face Turlock Christian (a team that beat Denair 60-48 three weeks ago) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Big Valley Christian at 8 p.m. Friday and Escalon at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“The effort and athleticism on this team are by far the best of my seven years here,” assessed Henderson after Tuesday’s practice.

The Coyotes didn’t reach full strength until last week – after the football team’s amazing run that earned it a state title on Dec. 1.

Steffin Winston, Drew Pritchard, Elvis Silva, and Hunter Musgrave were all key members of the football team who only started practicing basketball last week. Henderson said they were on a minutes restriction as their bodies adjusted to a different sport, but that ended with Tuesday night’s 52-48 win over Livingston.

The two returning all-league seniors – Winston and Pritchard – led the way with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Mario Plasencia, only a freshman, sealed the win with an offensive rebound and left-handed put back off a missed free throw in the final minute.

“He’s ambidextrous,” marveled Henderson.

Winston and Plasencia also dominated inside – racking up 29 rebounds and nine blocked shots between them, though both are only about 6 feet tall.

“They’re both quick jumpers who play like they’re 6-4 or 6-5,” Henderson said. “They’re going to surprise some guys this year.”

Junior shooting guard Austin Upfold also has improved his game. He averaged nearly 17 points a game before the football players joined the team and presents another threat on offense.

Henderson is high on two other juniors – wing Elvis Silva (the football quarterback) and Turlock High transfer Hayden Feldman (the first big man off the bench).

“Elvis is just one of those glue guys every team needs,” the coach said. “He can guard three or four positions in the Southern League. And he’s very low maintenance. Just a super special kid.”

After this week’s tournament, Denair plays only two more non-league games – Dec. 20 at Soquel in Santa Cruz and Dec. 28 at home against Pacheco of Los Banos. The preseason schedule and tournaments all are geared to prepare the Coyotes for the start of the Southern League season Jan. 3.

Henderson says defending SL champion Mariposa still is the team to beat, but he expects the Coyotes to try and repeat their success of last season when they steadily improved and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. They lost in the first round to Summerville.

“We haven’t beaten Mariposa in my six years here,” Henderson said. “That’s got to change.”

Tip-ins: Henderson said the first Cajun Crab Boil fundraiser in November netted the team nearly $10,000. … The Denair Youth League basketball clinic begins on Jan. 12 and continues with games the next four Saturdays. The clinic is open to any boy and girl in grades kindergarten through sixth grade who lives in the Denair Unified School District.