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.”

DECA Establishes Little Free Library on Campus

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

There’s nothing like a book to open a child’s mind. No matter the age, a picture book, a fairy tale or a more modern story can spark a lifelong joy for reading and learning.

The children at Denair Elementary Charter Academy – and the larger Denair community – now have one more source for books.

Two weeks ago, a Little Free Library was installed on the DECA campus. As its name suggests, there is no cost for students of all ages to borrow a book from the library, return it when they’re done and even donate gently used titles from their own homes.

The Little Free Library program is a national movement that has grown in popularity in the past few years. DECA’s library is one of more than 30 in Stanislaus County.

The library was donated to the campus by Becky and Eric Julien, two retired teachers who live in Turlock but have strong connections with Denair. Becky taught for many years at Denair Elementary School and later at the Denair Academic Avenues charter school. Eric was a science instructor for 37 years at Turlock High School.

The Juliens live not far from and are close friends with DECA fifth-grade teacher and leadership adviser Brenda Ranes. When she mentioned the possibility of adding a Little Free Library to the DECA campus, the Juliens jumped at the chance.

They ordered a library kit online for $460 that included all the materials for the structure, plus $100 worth of books. It has two shelves, a Plexiglas door and shingles to help make it weatherproof. The library was pre-painted lavender, the closest color to Denair purple the Juliens could find.

When it arrived in February, Eric Julien oversaw construction of the project one day after school by DECA’s leadership team – fourth- and fifth-graders Vanessa Hulbert, Julia Hayes, Emily Roland, Isabelle Prescott and Alaiza Campos.

“I brought a power drill, hammer and the kit,” he said. “I don’t think any of the kids had used a power drill or hammer before. … It was a ton of fun. They traded using the safety glasses and took turns helping. The holes were pre-drilled. When they squeezed the trigger on the drill, I was afraid they were going to drill right through the wood.” Continue reading “DECA Establishes Little Free Library on Campus” »

Class Act! 10 Questions for Stephanie De Muro

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Class Act – 10 questions for a Denair teacher

Name: Stephanie De Muro

Family: Husband Jason and son Casper

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Subject taught: Special education for transitional kindergarten through fifth grade

Experience and education:  For my undergraduate degree, I attended Johnson & Wales University in Denver. I received my Master’s degree at CSU Stanislaus and my Multiple Subject and Special Education Credentials at Brandman University.

Why most inspires you about teaching? My students. I love it when they finally grasp a concept and I see the light come on.  They keep me searching and learning about new ways to teach them.  I want them all to succeed.  My students inspire me to do the best I can for them.

What are your biggest challenges as a teacher? The biggest challenge for me as a special education teacher is planning for all of the different levels of students I work with.  I also have to be a scheduling genius to be able to juggle an SDC class and RS caseload.  I have to be very organized and on top of all my deadlines, which can be challenging at times.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I love teaching math and bring in a lot of manipulatives and hands-on activities to bring real meaning to math.  Math can be very difficult for my students and showing them how it pertains to the real world is important for their learning.

How has Common Core affected your classroom strategy? My students are unique and because of the way they learn I was already using some of the concepts that Common Core is teaching.  I use a lot of hands-on activities and tools to help teach concepts.  I think the biggest challenge with Common Core has been the curriculum. It assumes my students have more foundational knowledge than they do and there is not a lot of review.  A concept is taught and mastery is expected; that is not the case with my students.  I do a lot of re-teaching and spiraling. Continue reading “Class Act! 10 Questions for Stephanie De Muro” »

DHS and DCA to Use Block Grants to Beef up Programs; DMS Teachers Given More Time to Collaborate

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Additional academic assistance, enhanced college preparation and tangible ways to improve study skills among high school and middle school students were approved Thursday night by the Denair Unified School District board.

Trustees voted 5-0 to accept two $75,000 College Readiness Block Grants from the state – one each for Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy.

Board members also unanimously adopted a proposal to immediately add nine additional staff collaboration opportunities at Denair Middle School. The impact will mean shorter days for students every Friday beginning March 3.

The block grants at DHS and DCA are part of $200 million in state funding directed at high schools to better prepare students for college. The goal is to increase the number of students who enroll in traditional or vocational colleges and complete their undergraduate degrees within four years.

At Denair High, Principal Kara Backman told board members that the majority of the money will be used to implement AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID is a research-based system used nationwide to provide teachers “with training and methodologies that develop students’ critical thinking, literacy and math skills across all content areas,” according to its website.

All teachers will undergo five days of training before the next school year, Backman said. Most importantly, AVID will be the basis for a new requirement for next year’s freshman class to teach study skills to all students. The goal is to enable them to better prepare for Advanced Placement and other college-prep courses, Backman said. Next year’s sophomores also will be able to enroll voluntarily to sharpen their skills, she said.

A piece of the state grant also will pay for a computerized testing program intended to better identify students’ weaknesses and allow educators to provide targeted intervention more quickly, Backman explained. Continue reading “DHS and DCA to Use Block Grants to Beef up Programs; DMS Teachers Given More Time to Collaborate” »

Class Act! 10 Questions for Diana Hulbert

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Name: Diana Hulbert

Family: Husband, Clark; and three children, Trent, Danica and Vanessa

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy (DECA)

Subject taught: Transitional kindergarten

Experience and education: Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, 12 years of teaching experience.

What most inspires you about teaching? I am privileged to teach the youngest kindergartners.  TK serves students turning 5 years of age between September 2 and December 2.  I’m inspired by watching my students interact with one another and by the pure joy they find in learning.  By being one of the first teachers the students meet, I hope to set a positive tone that sets students up for success throughout their education.

What are your biggest challenges as a teacher?  Sometimes students have difficult and unstable home lives.  In these cases, learning takes a back seat because basic needs are not being met at home.  It’s truly heartbreaking.  Students who are frequently absent have difficult time keeping up with the class.  There are not enough hours in the day for me to re-teach what was missed.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I love using music and movement to teach!  We sing throughout the day, and I give my students ample opportunities to move.

How has Common Core affected your classroom strategy? Students are encouraged to talk to each other to solve problems.  It’s interesting to hear a five-year old explain how he or she got to a certain answer.

What do you want your students to remember? I’m sure some young students easily forget their earliest school experiences.  I hope my students will remember feeling safe and loved in our classroom. I hope they will remember the joy they brought to me and the fun we had together! Continue reading “Class Act! 10 Questions for Diana Hulbert” »