Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Citing the need to chart a “bold, new future,” the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees unveiled a plan Thursday night intended to confront chronic enrollment challenges and provide a reliable funding stream to increase teacher pay.

Board President Ray Prock Jr. read a three-page statement at the regular monthly board meeting that makes the case for a new charter covering all grade levels to create “a seamless academic progression” from kindergarten through high school.

Prock also laid the groundwork to ask district voters in November to pass a parcel tax of up to $100 annually. That money, he promised, would be used to “compensate our employees – our teachers, aides, specialists, campus supervisors, maintenance staff and others – at a level that is fair and competitive in the market.”

Five years ago, facing financial crisis driven by the Great Recession and reduced state funding, Denair was forced to slash salaries for all employees up to 11%. Pay raises over the past two years have restored some, but not all, of employees’ pay.

To pass, a parcel tax requires two-thirds approval from those who vote.

“For that reason,” Prock said, “it is critical that the district provides its community stakeholders with all the relevant information for them to make an informed decision.”

The board invited parents, staff and others in the community to collaborate on the district’s new direction. Prock promised that there would be multiple focus groups and opportunities for people to participate and that the board would “actively and carefully listen in order to … gain your trust.”

“Our goal, through these community interactions, is to identify practical steps that will stabilize enrollment trends and lead to enrollment growth at the middle school and high school,” he said.

Denair has 1,272 students on its four campuses – Denair High School, Denair Middle School, Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Charter Academy (which provides support and curriculum to home-school parents as well as independent study options for high school students.) Continue reading “Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax” »

Denair Board Hires Firm to Lead Superintendent Search

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday night to hire a Lodi-based consultant to lead the search for a new superintendent.

The board called a special meeting to deal with the impending departure of Aaron Rosander, whose contract expires at the end of June. Rosander has led the 1,272-student district since February 2014.

In open session, the five Denair board members and Chief Business Officer Linda Covello interviewed two companies by phone Thursday night. Both are experienced in executive searches and recruitments related to education.

Representatives of McPherson & Jacobson as well as Leadership Associates were asked questions separately for about 25 minutes each about their processes and results.

Trustees then discussed the merits of both proposals for nearly an hour before voting to hire McPherson & Jacobson, whose headquarters is in Omaha, Neb., but has offices all over the country. Retired schools superintendent William Huyett of Lodi will lead Denair’s search.

Covello said the cost to the district will be between $8,500 and $13,650, paid for by so-called “one-time funds” received and saved over the past few years from the state.

She expects McPherson & Jacobson to present an outline of the recruitment timeframe at an upcoming board meeting. The company also intends to gather input from staff and community members about what they want to see in a new superintendent.

Aaron Rosander to Leave at End of School Year; Denair Begins Search for New Superintendent

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

An emotional Aaron Rosander announced Thursday night that he will not return as the Denair Unified School District superintendent after his contract expires at the end of June. School board President Ray Prock Jr. said a search for Rosander’s replacement will begin immediately.

Rosander, 61, came to the district in February 2014 from Mariposa, where he was the county schools superintendent. In Denair, he took over a district in severe financial distress that barely had avoided state takeover by layoffs and salary cuts.

Within two years, the district no longer required budget oversight from state and county schools officials. Under Rosander, Denair opened a popular new elementary charter school, expanded programs at all four campuses, partially restored salaries, worked to restore community trust and successfully repelled an effort by Turlock Unified to take over some of Denair’s territory.

Rosander read a letter at Thursday’s monthly Board of Trustees that he sent Friday morning to all district employees. In it, he acknowledged the difficult choices he initially confronted as well as the pivotal decisions that lie ahead.

“As I look back on our past four years, I am reminded of the many chapters of our bold work to overcome the formidable challenges that threatened the very existence of our schools,” he said. “And, while the work that we ventured into is not entirely complete, we can declare that we now stand on solid ground and be proud of the powerful platform we have set for our schools in future years.”

Without unveiling specifics, Rosander intimated that major changes could be coming to the district, which still faces chronic enrollment issues. Even as it has added youngsters at Denair Elementary Charter Academy thanks to the dual immersion language program, the number of students at Denair High School and Denair Middle School continues to decline. Continue reading “Aaron Rosander to Leave at End of School Year; Denair Begins Search for New Superintendent” »

Denair Enrollment Slightly Declines, 
Despite Continued Gains at Elementary Charter Campus

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Enrollment in the Denair Unified School District is down 38 students from last spring’s projections, trustees were told Thursday night. The losses primarily are at the high school and middle school, but have been partially offset by continued growth at the district’s elementary charter school.

The decline has implications for the district’s future budgets, Chief Business Officer Linda Covello told trustees. Public districts are largely funded by the state on Average Daily Attendance, or ADA. Covello projects this year’s ADA to be 1,225, which reflects an increase of 20 ADA at the elementary level, a decrease of 34 ADA at the middle school level and a decrease of 24 ADA between the two high schools.

Four years ago, when Denair confronted steeper enrollment declines, all staff took pay cuts while others were laid off. That’s not the case today.

The district’s finances have dramatically improved thanks to the strategic cost cutting as well as the introduction of programs that generated enrollment growth.

In particular, the dual immersion English/Spanish program at Denair Elementary Charter Academy has proven to be a magnet for new students. There now are classes in kindergarten, first grade and second grade, with another grade level introduced each year.

The district also has applied for additional grant funding to increase opportunities for students. Most recently, Denair applied for a CTE Facilities Grant to potentially bring in $1.15 million to expand career technical education programs.

“We currently are examining targeted grants and initiatives, along with program enhancements that will stimulate new growth, particularly at the high school and middle school,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander. “Continued prudent stewardship of our budget, in tandem with innovative program development, will be important linchpins in DUSD’s future growth and financial health.”

The district anticipates having positive monthly cash balances throughout the 2017-18 school year and an ending fund balance of more than $2.4 million, Covello said. Continue reading “Denair Enrollment Slightly Declines, 
Despite Continued Gains at Elementary Charter Campus” »

Denair Trustees Vote to Move Elections to Even Years

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The two people elected next month to the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees will serve an extra year, thanks to a decision by current board members Thursday night.

Trustees voted 4-0, with Sandi Dirkse absent, to move the election of trustees from November of odd years to November of even years. The move is consistent with the state’s preference to consolidate local elections with statewide voting already scheduled for even years. There is ample data that shows voter turnout is much higher in even year, when people have more issues and candidates to consider.

Packaging elections also is more cost effective, Superintendent Aaron Rosander told trustees.

“There’s been work to align elections to even years to save money, that’s the impetus,” he said. “I think as time goes, you’ll see any election in an odd year go away. It’s very expensive.”

The upshot of Thursday’s decision means that voters in the Denair district will select two candidates from a field of four on Nov. 7 and then wait until 2020 to vote again. The terms of those elected next month will run until 2022.

On the ballot are Crystal Sousa, Charlie Asbill, Tina Gresio and Regina “Reggie” Gomes. They are competing to replace Trustees Robert Hodges and Sandi Dirkse, who chose not to seek re-election.

Also affected are the three trustees whose terms would have ended in 2019 – Kathi Filson, Ray Prock Jr. and John Plett. They now will serve until 2020.

Board members and the audience also watched a presentation Thursday night from two members of Stanislaus County law enforcement. Probation officer Maribel Garcia and criminal investigator Louis Balentine shared information about the FOCUS (Focusing on Children Under Stress) program. Continue reading “Denair Trustees Vote to Move Elections to Even Years” »