Denair Retirees Honored for Combined 171 Years of Service

Denair retirees May 2017

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Five accomplished and influential teachers and a popular maintenance man have announced their retirements from the Denair Unified School District at the end of this month. Combined, they have 171 years of service in schools.

Those retiring are:

  • Patti Greer, second grade teacher, Denair Elementary Charter Academy
  • Carol Hammond, reading intervention specialist, Denair Elementary Charter Academy
  • Mary Worman, preschool teacher, Denair Elementary Charter Academy
  • Colleen Vickery, eighth grade language arts teacher, Denair Middle School
  • Johanna Hoyt, seventh grade language arts, Denair Middle School
  • Charlie Asbill, maintenance man, Denair Middle School and Denair High School

All were honored and presented with inscribed clocks Thursday night at an emotional Board of Trustees meeting. There were smiles, hugs and more than a few tears – of gratitude and happy memories, and from close friends who won’t be seen quite as frequently.

Superintendent Aaron Rosander referred to teaching as “a lifelong calling” as part of his tribute to the retirees. “I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with you. Thank you for all that you’ve done.”

The Pulse reached out to all six employees; four of them responded.

Patti Greer, 29½ years in the district (40 overall): Greer expects that she will miss her colleagues as well as the eager faces of her students.

“When you teach in a district as long as I have, you develop friendships that last a lifetime,” she said. “I might have a visit once in a while to get a kid fix.” Continue reading “Denair Retirees Honored for Combined 171 Years of Service” »

Denair Unified Employees Granted Additional One-Time 3% Salary Payments

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

All employees of the Denair Unified School District were granted an additional one-time salary payment of 3% by trustees Thursday night, the latest sign of the district’s improved financial health. Combined with previous raises totaling 5%, the money brings employees’ compensation this year to what they were in 2013.

“I know it’s only a one-time (payment), but it’s movement toward full salary restoration,” said board President Kathi Dunham-Filson.

The vote was 4-0, with Trustee Robert Hodges absent. Both unions already had approved the agreements. The payments for members of the Denair Unified Teachers Association and California State Employees Association will cost the district $215,650.

It is the second time this school year that trustees have approved one-time payments for Denair employees. Last October, all teachers who were on staff in 2015-16 received payments representing 2.37% of their salaries, matching those given classified staff members earlier in the year.

The payments are part of the plan to gradually restore wages that were slashed four years ago, when the district faced a financial crisis based largely on declining enrollment, overstaffing and reduced state funding.

Salaries for classified staff were reduced 12%; pay for teachers and administrators was cut 8%. Some employees were laid off.

Superintendent Aaron Rosander and Chief Business Officer Linda Covello – who both arrived in 2014 — initiated a financial recovery program that maximized the use of so-called “restricted” funds to pay for people, programs and equipment while reducing the burden on the general fund. Continue reading “Denair Unified Employees Granted Additional One-Time 3% Salary Payments” »

Innovative Assessment Program Approved for All Denair Unified Students

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Denair Unified School District trustees Thursday night enthusiastically approved the introduction of a sweeping assessment program for all grade levels that will provide greater clarity about students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Trustees heard a presentation by principals Kara Principal of Denair Charter Academy, Kelly Beard of Denair Middle School and Brian LaFountain of Denair Charter Academy in support of a program called Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP.

MAP measures student growth over time in English, math and science via computerized achievement assessments. Backman said MAP assessments provide detailed, actionable data about where each child is on his or her unique learning path.

“It allows teachers to identify areas of deficiency and proficiency and accelerate learning through both of those areas. It identifies where students are ready to learn,” she said.

Backman said MAP assessments differ from other data sources to inform instruction by being nationally normed, by tracking student progress throughout a year and across school years, and by being linked to software tools that can assist teachers and administrators in planning instruction.

“The whole idea is to provide real-time data that allows us to make course corrections now, not in May when state tests scores are released,” Superintendent Aaron Rosander said. “Our teachers need this data. We’re trying to better understand our students so we can better target our instruction.”

The tests are available in English and Spanish. LaFountain said the exams are adaptive – meaning they get harder as students provide more correct answers and slightly easier for those struggling. Teachers can follow the results in real time. Students at all grade levels will take the tests three times a year.

Color-coded reports are generated that can be shared between teachers, parents, administrators and students. Continue reading “Innovative Assessment Program Approved for All Denair Unified Students” »

Denair Trustees Cut Ties With 4 Certificated Employees

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

An emotional meeting of the Denair Unified School District board that lasted well past midnight ended with the announcement that four certificated employees will not return for the 2017-18 school year.

Two of the employees submitted resignations that were accepted. Two others still on probation were told their contracts would not be renewed. Certificated employees can be teachers or administrators.

Under the California Education Code and union agreement, teachers with less than two years’ experience in a district must be notified by March 15 each year whether they will be released.

With that in mind, more than 100 students, parents, teachers and community members gathered beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday in the board meeting room. Over the next 90 minutes, the five DUSD trustees listened to expressions of support for individual teachers.

Because personnel issues were involved, trustees and district officials could not respond.

The board took a short break at 7:45 p.m., then returned and heard from a few more audience members. Then, trustees spent the next 2½ hours dealing with their regular agenda, including accepting a financial report that shows the district continues to improve its position thanks to enrollment growth.

About 10:12 p.m., the board went into closed session. Trustees emerged about 12:07 a.m. and announced the personnel decisions to the 30 or so people who had waited.

The vote was 4-1, according to board President Kathi Dunham-Filson. She joined Trustees Ray Prock Jr., John Plett and Sandi Dirkse to support the motion related to the four certificated employees. Trustee Robert Hodges voted against it.

Denair has about 70 teachers and eight administrators in the district. Continue reading “Denair Trustees Cut Ties With 4 Certificated Employees” »

DHS and DCA to Use Block Grants to Beef up Programs; DMS Teachers Given More Time to Collaborate

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Additional academic assistance, enhanced college preparation and tangible ways to improve study skills among high school and middle school students were approved Thursday night by the Denair Unified School District board.

Trustees voted 5-0 to accept two $75,000 College Readiness Block Grants from the state – one each for Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy.

Board members also unanimously adopted a proposal to immediately add nine additional staff collaboration opportunities at Denair Middle School. The impact will mean shorter days for students every Friday beginning March 3.

The block grants at DHS and DCA are part of $200 million in state funding directed at high schools to better prepare students for college. The goal is to increase the number of students who enroll in traditional or vocational colleges and complete their undergraduate degrees within four years.

At Denair High, Principal Kara Backman told board members that the majority of the money will be used to implement AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID is a research-based system used nationwide to provide teachers “with training and methodologies that develop students’ critical thinking, literacy and math skills across all content areas,” according to its website.

All teachers will undergo five days of training before the next school year, Backman said. Most importantly, AVID will be the basis for a new requirement for next year’s freshman class to teach study skills to all students. The goal is to enable them to better prepare for Advanced Placement and other college-prep courses, Backman said. Next year’s sophomores also will be able to enroll voluntarily to sharpen their skills, she said.

A piece of the state grant also will pay for a computerized testing program intended to better identify students’ weaknesses and allow educators to provide targeted intervention more quickly, Backman explained. Continue reading “DHS and DCA to Use Block Grants to Beef up Programs; DMS Teachers Given More Time to Collaborate” »