Beard Takes Over as Denair Elementary Principal; LaFountain Temporarily Moves to Middle School Campus

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Kelly Beard, who began this school year as the first-time principal at Denair Middle School, will finish out the year as principal at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

Beard spent 13 years as a first-grade teacher on the elementary campus before moving into an administrative role last summer. She replaces Lucy Zamora, who resigned to care for a family member facing a health crisis.

Beard’s appointment is permanent, Denair Unified Superintendent Aaron Rosander said Friday afternoon after a joint meeting with the staffs from the elementary and middle schools.

“We wish Ms. Zamora the very best as she navigates the challenges ahead,” Rosander said.

Brian LaFountain, the principal at Denair Charter Academy, will temporarily fill Beard’s position at the middle school for the final month of classes. Recruitment to hire a full-time principal already has begun, Rosander said. He hopes to have a new leader hired by early June.

“DMS is sure to be in good administrative hands for the remainder of the school year,” Rosander said. “Mr. LaFountain will return to DCA for the 2017/18 school year.”

Beard takes over a DECA campus that, along with the independent study program at DCA, has fueled the district’s enrollment growth the past two years. Part of the appeal to parents at DECA has been the addition of a dual immersion language program in which students are taught in English and Spanish. Each year, another grade level is added. The first students will be in second grade next fall.

The charter school also features traditional classes for kindergartners through fifth-graders. All students are introduced to the concepts promoted by the No Excuses University program, which aims to instill a college-going culture in youngsters.

“Kelly is well-liked and respected, and definitely will be welcomed back,” Rosander said. “All the programs that have been added the past few years will remain.”

DHS’s 2016 Grad Rate Continues to Exceed State and County Averages

Submitted by Denair High School

Denair High School long has been a leader among all Stanislaus County campuses when it comes to graduating its students. That trend continued with the Class of 2016.

Denair compiled a 97.1% graduation rate – 66 of its 68 seniors earned a diploma last spring. That compares with an 83.8% rate among all schools in Stanislaus County and 83.2% in California.

In the past seven years, graduation rates at Denair High have been as high as 100% (2010-11) and never lower than 93.7% (2013-14). By comparison, Stanislaus has fluctuated between 74.9% and 84.6% while  the state was as low as 74.7% as recently as 2010-11.

“Student graduation rates reflect the dedication of our community and schools to the education and success of our students,” said Aaron Rosander, superintendent of the Denair Unified School District. “We are proud as well of our teachers and staff who continue to raise the academic rigor that best prepares today’s students for their challenges that await them in college and their professional careers.”

Many of Denair’s graduates attended public and private universities in California, while others have been accepted at prestigious colleges out of state.

College attendance is emphasized and encouraged at all grade levels, there are college application workshops, presentations from schools from the UC and CSU systems, and Denair High School’s counselor works with students and their families on enrollment, grant and scholarship applications.

“Going to college improves students’ job opportunities,” said Cherie Gresham, the counselor and college advisor at Denair. Continue reading “DHS’s 2016 Grad Rate Continues to Exceed State and County Averages” »

Class Act! 10 Questions for Rhonda Bird

Submitted by Denair Charter Academy

Name: Rhonda Bird

 Family: I have two boys, Jackson, who will be leaving to attend Kansas State in the fall, and Colton, who is a student at Hughson High.

School: Denair Charter Academy

Subject taught: Special Education

Experience and education:  I have been teaching for 23 years and 17 of those years have been at the Denair Unified School District.  I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree from CSU Stanislaus and my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University.

Why most inspires you about teaching?  The students. I enjoy the interactions with them.

What are your biggest challenges as a teacher? I think the biggest challenge as a special education teacher is working with the varied abilities of students.  I find it challenging to modify curriculum for every student to make sure he or she is working at his or her ability without frustrating the student.  Another challenge is working with general education teachers and modifying the curriculum to make sure every student is working at his or her ability level and learning the material.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? My favorite teaching tool is technology now.  You can find any activity and lesson on the Internet.  It allows me to modify curriculum easily and still get the same standard taught to the student at his or her reading ability level.

How has Common Core affected your classroom strategy? Common Core has given me the opportunity to give more projects and have more work moving away from the pencil and paper assignments.

What do you want your students to remember? Every student is smart and everyone learns in his or her own way.

How can parents support what you do? Be involved in their child’s education and ask what was learned at school. Continue reading “Class Act! 10 Questions for Rhonda Bird” »

Denair Students on the Move – Trips Set This Year to Fresno, Magic Mountain and Disneyland

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Students at Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy soon will be logging some miles traveling up and down Highway 99 to Fresno and Southern California.

School board trustees approved three upcoming trips at their meeting Thursday night.

The first is April 22-25 when as many as 19 FFA students from Denair High are expected to attend the state FFA convention in Fresno. The conference is one of the high points of the FFA calendar each year, anticipated almost as much as county fairs where animals are shown and projects are judged.

The convention provides leadership training, networking and growth opportunities for students. An estimated 5,000 teens from across the state attend each year. Denair’s attendees are selected based on their participation in FFA events, their grade-point averages and the effort they put forth in classes.

“There are sessions with speakers and other breakouts on different topics. It’s very popular and important for students,” Denair High ag teacher Molly Hanson told the board. She, fellow teacher Matthew Marshall and at least one other adult will chaperone the Denair contingent.

Trustee Ray Prock Jr. went to the convention with his son three years ago and said it was a terrific experience. “This is something to see. The only thing that rivals it is the national convention in Indianapolis.”

A second trip involves soon-to-be graduates at DCA, an independent study program separate from the traditional high school. For the first time, there will be a senior trip for graduates to a Southern California theme park. Only instead of going to Disneyland, as many schools do (Denair High grads will go May 10-11), DCA students will enjoy the roller coasters and other thrills at Magic Mountain in Valencia. Continue reading “Denair Students on the Move – Trips Set This Year to Fresno, Magic Mountain and Disneyland” »

Class Act! 10 Questions for Esmeralda Villa

Submitted by Denair Charter Academy

Name: Esmeralda Villa, principal’s secretary at Denair Charter Academy

Family: Jose (husband), Mariah (daughter), Nicholas (son), Christopher (son), Roxlin (granddaughter), Alexander (grandson) and Christopher (grandson)

School: Denair Charter Academy

Experience and education:  17 years’ experience as an administrative assistant

What most inspires you about working in Denair Charter Academy?  I am most inspired by our staff member, Mr. Barry Cole.  He inspires me to believe we are blessed with a DCA teacher who loves what he does, for the love of children. Teaching students to believe in themselves with his classes of science, culinary, woodshop and landscaping.

What are your biggest challenges as a classified staff member? My biggest challenge to being a classified member is the pay. I do believe and pray one day the district would invest more in maintaining staff with a higher pay wage and continued training.

What is your favorite support tool or activity? My favorite tool would be my social skills that work wonders with parents and students. Through my experience as a secretary, I have received training and actual public exposure to a wide spectrum of situations where I have been complimented and regarded for my skills in working well with the public and staff in difficult situations.

What do you want your students to remember? I want them to remember DCA as the school that made a difference in their high school experience.

How can parents support what you do? I feel that our DCA parents do support our office. We have built relationships with our parents where they respond to us with respect and understanding.

What will it take to improve academic success in DUSD schools? Continued training in the area of our school needs and programs. Success comes with understanding program procedures and policies with accurate and structured instruction.

What’s next in the office? We are promoting our Senior Events: 2017 Grad Night at Magic Mountain, Central Valley Prom, Cap and Gown. And we are excited about our first yearbook to be issued this year.

What would surprise people about your job? How much fun it can be. My job is very demanding, but definitely rewarding.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy traveling to San Francisco for great sightseeing and delicious food with fun company.