New Chromebooks a Big Hit in Denair Classrooms

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Technology permeates every classroom in the Denair Unified School District. It’s not a matter of if teachers and students will incorporate computer-based instruction as part of everyday learning, but how they will do it.

From the earliest grades at Denair Elementary Charter Academy to middle and high school students across the street and across all subject areas, access to technology is an expectation, not a luxury.

Every Denair student at every grade level has a district email account and access to Google Drive that allows them to log in in every class. They also can sign into their account from home to work on projects or complete homework.

“These kids have grown up with technology in their hands, unlike any other generation before them,” said Mark Ranes, a former teacher who is now the district’s technology director. “Most were using mobile devices before they could write. They are wired differently than us adults.

“We’ve reached a point in education where we are no longer teaching ‘technology’ to students; we’re teaching them to use technology to learn.”

The district has invested heavily to get to this point. This year, it used nearly $300,000 in state funding saved over several years to add 18 Chromebook carts to its tech arsenal. The portable carts can be moved from class to class. Each contains up to 30 Dell Chromebook computers with charging stations.

The new computers brought the district’s number of carts to 20, with another five in the pipeline for next year. Eventually, Ranes said, each student is likely to be assigned his or her own computer.

Demand has been tremendous across the four campuses – DECA, Denair Middle School, Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy. The rollout was delayed until the district could upgrade its wireless network last fall. Once that was completed, the computer floodgates opened.

“We were asked on pretty much a weekly basis when they were coming to the sites,” Ranes said. “We didn’t want to let them out in the wild until I was sure the network could handle 450 new devices.” Continue reading “New Chromebooks a Big Hit in Denair Classrooms” »

DCA Staff, Students Give Back to Community 
by Serving Food to Homeless at Turlock Shelter

Submitted by Denair Charter Academy

Denair Charter Academy Principal David Naranjo believes education is more than what can be learned through inspiring teachers, transformative programs, amazing online lessons or even well-written books. There is a human component that transcends traditional classrooms and involves helping mold teens into good citizens.

Wednesday night’s staff and student project feeding the homeless in Turlock was a perfect example.

School site counselor Sally Baker and teachers Jerrie Ogden, Greg Groll and Maureen Campos were joined by students Kyanna Roa, Tony Miranda, Ashley Pontillo and Karrin Weatherspoon at the We Care Program Turlock facility on Broadway Avenue.

Together, they served 55 meals to a group of homeless men. On the menu was chicken in cream sauce, pasta noodles, Caesar salad, rolls and milk. Dessert consisted of no bake cookies made by Ogden’s culinary students at DCA.

“They were super hungry,” said Baker. “They were very appreciative. They clapped for us.”

Dinner took about an hour to serve, but Naranjo hopes the life lessons will last much longer.

“The importance is for the students to have an impact on the lives of others in our society,” he said. “It’s noting a need in the community and utilizing their skills to make a difference. It’s understanding the commitment we have to each other.”

The project was part of DCA’s Love in Action Club, which includes eight students from the county’s premier independent study campus. Baker has been the advisor for the past few years.

Teachers reached into their own pockets to raise the $125 to buy the food. Others on staff donated supplies or their time to help.

“I’m very impressed with the generosity of our staff,” said Naranjo, in his first year as principal.

Previous student projects have included doing arts and crafts at various senior centers in the Turlock area or helping to bag and deliver groceries as part of the United Samaritans food program.

“We try to do something once a month,” Baker said.

The next event is next Thursday. The Love in Action Club will organize a small carnival for the kindergarten through eighth-grade home-school students who only spend one day on campus. There will be a photo book, face painting and prizes.

The carnival is part of the district’s celebration of Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign against drugs and unsafe behavior.

Calendar of Year-End Activities at Denair Charter Academy Includes First-Ever Senior Trip for Graduates

Submitted by Denair Charter Academy

As with most high school seniors, the final three weeks of the school year for the 95 soon-to-be graduates of Denair Charter Academy are filled with a mixture of stress, anticipation and excitement.

And, for the first time, there also is a Senior Trip to look forward to and a yearbook to sign.

Both experiences were the idea of first-year Principal Brian LaFountain and his staff, who wanted to add some of the traditional high school experiences to the county’s premier independent study program.

As its name suggests, independent learning provides the flexibility for many students to complete their studies even while holding a job or helping with family obligations. In the past, many DCA students only spent one day a week on campus to meet with teachers and assess their academic progress.

That still holds true for some students. But LaFountain and his team have brainstormed other ways to engage teens and give them a reason to spend more time on campus – and with each other. Popular electives like wood shop and yearbook were added and clubs created, all to expand opportunities. The former DCA office was turned into a student center, providing a place to share lunch, complete homework and socialize.

“We’ve got a group of kids who are getting involved in everything. Every elective. Every club. There are the same faces we see everywhere,” LaFountain said. “There is no reason they can’t come here and make lifelong friends, just as they might on a traditional campus.”

One of the incentives LaFountain felt especially strong about adding this year was a Senior Trip. For decades, seniors across California often have bussed to Disneyland for a chaperoned overnight party. Denair High School students will be doing that in a couple of weeks. Continue reading “Calendar of Year-End Activities at Denair Charter Academy Includes First-Ever Senior Trip for Graduates” »

Denair Unified Campuses to Host Open Houses on Thursday

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Thursday is Open House night across the Denair Unified School District — a chance for parents and community members to discover first-hand all the educational achievement occurring in Denair classrooms.

Here is the schedule:

Denair Elementary Charter Academy: 5 to 7:30 p.m. The event begins with a book fair, where parents can buy books for their sons and daughters. The Open House begins at 6 p.m.

Denair Middle School: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Teachers will be on hand to talk about what’s going on in their classrooms.

Denair High School: 6 to 9 p.m. Open House will be the first hour, followed by the annual awards ceremony starting at 7 p.m. in the Coyote Center. Dozens of students will be recognized for their academic performance and earning scholarships.

Denair Charter Academy: 6 to 7 p.m. Open House for the independent study program.

About 100 Enthusiastic Residents Celebrate Denair Night at Modesto Nuts Baseball Game

Submitted by Denair Charter Academy

It was Denair Night on Friday at the Modesto Nuts baseball game and about 100 hearty Denair residents and students braved a cold, windy night to support their community.

Denair Unified Superintendent Aaron Rosander threw out the honorary first pitch — a strike to home plate — as the crowd cheered.

The event was the brainchild of Brian LaFountain, the principal at Denair Charter Academy and, for the next month, at Denair Middle School. Special tickets were sold for $7. The money raised will help offset a portion of the cost of the first-ever DCA graduation trip May 18-19 at Magic Mountain.