DECA Students Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

For some students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) already is an important part of their family culture. For hundreds of years , it has been a time for Latinos to honor friends and relatives who have passed away.

But for non-Latino DECA students, Wednesday was a learning experience, an opportunity to understand how others remember and celebrate loved ones who are no longer alive.

Dia de los Muertos occurs Nov. 1-2 each year. Though the timing is close, it is not the Latin version of Halloween. Artistic skulls often are part of the altars created at home or at cemeteries, but Dia de los Muertes is about family, not candy.

“It’s a way to show love and respect for one’s ancestors,” said Bibiana Alonzo Sandoval, DECA’s Spanish language lab instructor and one of the coordinators of Wednesday’s event.

More than 500 kindergarten through fifth-graders were ushered into the DECA gym during the time they typically had either a physical education period or their twice-weekly Spanish class.

In the gym, teachers spoke about Dia de los Muertos in English and Spanish as part of a Power Point presentation. Five altars created by students were arrayed around the gym along with a mural of student artwork.

Sandoval and DECA learning director Laura Cardenas led students from altar to altar, taking time to explain the significance what was on display. There were photos of grandparents and others being remembered, along with other traditional items like marigolds, candles, paper skulls, cookies and various decorations.

In many Latin American countries, children who have died are celebrated on Nov. 1 while adults are remembered on Nov. 2.

It is the second year that DECA has included Dia de los Muertos as part of its lessons across all grade levels.

“This is a joyful tradition in Latin American countries that honors relatives who have passed away,” said Principal Kelly Beard. “I believe it is important to help all children understand different cultures.”

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” »

DECA Recognized for Efforts to Implement Behavior Program

 

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Denair Elementary Charter Academy has received recognition for its implementation of a national program that supports proper behavior by students on campus.

Known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, the program offers a range of “evidence-based interventions to achieve academically and behaviorally important outcomes for all students.”

According to the PBIS website, “the important supportive relationship between positive school- and classroom- wide culture and individual student success is emphasized.”

DECA’s staff began staff training in 2015-16 for the tier 1 PBIS guidelines, which were implemented last school year. There was training last year for the second level of the PBIS program, which will begin when classes resume this week. And training will occur this year for the tier 3 guidelines to be implemented next fall.

DECA is among hundreds of schools in California that follow the PBIS standards. In recognition, the campus received a bronze medal for 2016-17 from the California PBIS Coalition.

Denair High Graduates Make Lasting Impression on Younger Students at DECA

The Denair High School Class of 2017 provided real-life inspiration to their much younger peers Thursday morning, donning their purple and white caps and gowns and marching through the Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus.

It was the first step in a daylong series of events, including a mid-morning graduation practice walkthrough, leading up to Friday night’s commencement ceremony. Graduation begins at 7:30 p.m. at Jack Lytton Stadium.

Thursday’s first-ever Grad Walk was the brainchild of high school Principal Kara Backman and Amanda Silva, the district’s assistant director of special education. It was patterned after similar events discussed at a No Excuses University conference in January, Silva said.

NEU is an educational model built around the belief that every child has a right to be prepared for college, starting at the elementary level. Denair schools have embraced that philosophy and are working toward NEU certification.

Beneath their robes Thursday morning, Class of 2017 students wore T-shirts from their colleges of choice. Backman said 47 of the 70 graduates plan to attend a college or trade school of some kind.

The march to DECA campus was intended to be a vivid reminder of the educational journey the elementary students have just begun. Continue reading “Denair High Graduates Make Lasting Impression on Younger Students at DECA” »

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.