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” »

New Testing Procedure for all Denair Students Will Drive Personalized Instruction in 4 Key Areas

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Testing procedures and analysis is about to go to a whole different level in the Denair Unified School District.

The goal, school trustees were told Thursday night, is to better understand student performance in order to create customized plans to address specific academic weaknesses. Parents soon will be receiving reports that chart their children’s progress in four performance areas and include recommendations to help them improve.

“This assessment allows us to target specific skills that can be improved throughout the school year,” explained David Naranjo, the district’s senior director of student support services. “We can target the specific intervention by setting goals with students.”

The testing program is part of the NWEA system, an international organization recognized for its student assessment systems. NWEA’s results provide the national averages to which Denair students from kindergarten through 11th grade were compared.

The tests themselves cover four core subjects – math, reading, language usage and science. Each child is expected to complete them, including students in special education programs as well as those for whom English is a second language (starting this year, exams also will be given in Spanish). The tests are taken at the district’s various computer labs; each subject takes about 50 minutes to complete.

The tests will be given three times a year, Naranjo explained, so performance can be measured and interventions introduced as necessary. The first tests were given in May. Those results were shared Thursday night.

High school principal Kara Backman said the initial analysis shows that Denair students “are generally strong in language use” across the district, but are “average” to “low average” in other subject areas. Continue reading “New Testing Procedure for all Denair Students Will Drive Personalized Instruction in 4 Key Areas” »

Independent Auditor Gives DUSD Thumbs Up

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

An independent auditor praised the Denair Unified School District for the accuracy of its financial projections Thursday night while cautioning trustees to pay close attention to future spending.

In particular, Debbie Fry of School Services of California advised school board members to avoid making long-term financial commitments without a corresponding revenue stream to pay for them. Those dollars from the state, she explained, are directly tied to enrollment – which has been flat or declining in Denair. Enrollment is projected at about 1,300 students this year, down from nearly 1,600 10 years ago.

The district’s $16.2 million budget for 2017-18 includes about $1 million in so-called “one-time money” collected and saved over the past three years, said Linda Covello, chief business officer. The additional money has been Gov. Jerry Brown’s preferred method of funding schools beyond what is legally required.

Denair will use that money to add modular buildings on the fast-growing Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus, buy new textbooks at all four campuses, and pay for computers and other technology to better prepare those students.

Saving the extra state dollars to spend on specific projects is a key part of the district’s strategy to attract more students, Covello said. By law, the one-time funds cannot be spent on ongoing expenses such as employee salaries.

“The top priority for the district has been to increase enrollment … to generate additional ongoing revenue and be able to increase ongoing expenses (salaries and benefits) in a way that is sustainable,” she explained. “So over this year and the next, the district plans to spend down all of the one-time moneys sitting in the ending fund balance on one-time expenses that can improve and/or increase programs.”

Added Superintendent Aaron Rosander: “This is all planned. The one-time money is going to disappear as we invest in technology, infrastructure and other programs.” Continue reading “Independent Auditor Gives DUSD Thumbs Up” »