Denair Trustees Hear Update on Superintendent Search

Denair Unified School District trustees heard an update Wednesday night from the consulting firm leading the search for a new superintendent. The current superintendent, Aaron Rosander, announced in February he will leave the district at the end of June after 4½ years.

In late February, a representative from McPherson & Jacobson held stakeholder meetings with 72 people representing community members, students, teachers, classified staff, administrators and parents. Each participant was asked to respond to four questions:

  • What are the good things about your community?
  • What are the good things about your schools?
  • What issues should the superintendent be aware of as he/she comes into the district?
  • What skills, qualities or characteristics should the new superintendent possess to be successful here?

Respondents to the first two questions frequently mentioned the tight-knit nature of the Denair community and its bond with the school district. Many referred to the relationship as reflecting the closeness of a “family” and believe the bond formed through generations of Denair residents is an important asset.

In terms of key issues the new superintendent should understand, enrollment – particularly at Denair High School and Denair Middle School – was a common theme. Both campuses have seen fewer students in recent years, offsetting consistent growth at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

Teachers cited complete salary restoration after pay cuts were imposed in 2013 as well as what they view as a high turnover rate among teachers as well as administrators.

Some in the community expressed concern that the new superintendent will be at a disadvantage because he or she is not available now to help guide the Board of Trustees’ decision to write a new charter for the district as well as seek a parcel tax, which would provide money for salary increases. Continue reading “Denair Trustees Hear Update on Superintendent Search” »

‘Buddy Bench’ Dedicated in DECA Teacher’s Memory

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Mark Selee was known for the special bond he formed with students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy. Not only was he a popular fourth-grade teacher, he also was a frequent presence on the playground, often joining basketball games or other activities with youngsters. He promoted inclusion, interaction and respect among students.

All of which makes the memorial bench recently dedicated in Selee’s honor so appropriate. Known as a “buddy bench,” it is a way to promote kindness and foster friendships on the playground.

“If someone is sitting on the bench, they want to be included in whatever is happening,” explained DECA Principal Kelly Beard at Thursday’s monthly Denair Unified Board of Trustees meeting.

Selee’s sudden death from a heart attack during Thanksgiving break in 2015 rocked the DECA campus and the saddened the Denair community. But the memory of his energetic, positive presence remains for his peers as well as some of the students who were first- and second-graders then.

The bench installed Monday provides a tangible way for all to carry out Selee’s legacy. It is on the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade playground. It has Coyote paw prints, but rather that sport a shade of purple like most items on campus, the bench is painted in gold and black – the colors of Selee’s favorite professional sports teams from Pittsburgh (Pirates, Steelers and Penguins).

“As a staff, we decided we wanted it those colors,” Beard said.

A second memorial bench for Selee is on order, she said. In addition, there is a memorial plaque for Selee in the gym. “Some of our teachers touch it every time they walk in,” Beard said.

DECA also has a memorial bench for a former student on its kindergarten playground.

In other action Thursday night, the board:

  • Heard a budget update that estimates the district will end the year with a cash balance of more than $3.5 million, but still is on track to have as many as 44 fewer students than a year ago. Most of the decline has come at Denair High School and Denair Middle School. Chief Business Officer Linda Covello also told trustees that rising pension costs continue to challenge the district. She estimated that contributions to CalSTRS (teachers) and CalPERS (classified staff) will cost the district an additional $151,000 this year.
  • Unanimously approved a contract for $237,102 with Stanislaus County Office of Education for business and human resources services, early childhood education training for teachers, special education and health services, instructional support services, college and career planning, outdoor education, student wellness and school safety, technology and learning services.
  • Voted 5-0 to approve school calendars for the next two years. In 2018-19, school will start Wednesday, Aug. 8 at all campuses. Winter break will be Friday, Dec. 21 through Friday Jan. 4. Spring break will be Friday, April 19 through Friday April 26. And high school graduation will be Friday, May 24.
  • Approved a trip for FFA students later this spring to the 90th annual Leadership Conference on April 22-25 in Anaheim. High school students will be exposed to workshops and seminars on eight ag-related careers, hear from speakers, take tours and meet other future leaders. They also get to go to the nearby Disney California Adventure.

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” »