Denair High Earns Impressive Six-Year Accreditation

Submitted by Denair High School

The hard work invested by teachers and administrators to increase the quality and breadth of education at Denair High recently was recognized by independent evaluators with the longest accreditation any school can receive – six years.

The decision was announced in a Feb. 5 letter to Denair Principal Kara Backman from the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The six-year accreditation period – instead of a shorter term – is a powerful endorsement of the strides taken just in the past two years at Denair High.

“The DHS community, which consisted of staff, students, parents and guardians, banded together to write a document over 100 pages about DHS,” Backman said. “It was an 80-week process that produced a document about all of the rigorous academic and extracurricular activities we have to offer at DHS.”

The WASC committee spent three days on campus last fall visiting classrooms, interviewing staff, evaluating programs and assessing the learning culture. As it does at every school, the committee was focused on asking and answering two key questions:

  • How do you know that all students are achieving based on your schoolwide student goals and academic standards?
  • Is the school doing everything possible to support high achievement for all its students?

Committee members found much to like at Denair. In particular, they cited these areas as strengths:

Areas to celebrate:

  • Revitalization of School Culture: They cited the behavior and happiness of students, the decrease in the rate of student suspensions and tardiness, and the satisfaction of teachers, measured in part by lower absenteeism.
  • Emphasis on Data-driven Instruction: In May, Denair High implemented a testing program from the Northwestern Evaluation Association that provides an earlier warning of students who may be falling behind in a particular subject. It is coupled with a Response to Intervention piece that provides additional academic and behavioral support to targeted students. In addition, the Pearson curriculum allows more data-driven assessment in core subjects like math and English.
  • Vision to Upgrade Technology and Blended Learning: Last year, the school added five Chromebook carts – each with 30 computers – that can be used in classes across campus. Students also have increased access to online textbooks, reflecting emphasis on blended learning.
  • Expanded CTE Program: Denair offers four Career Technical Education Pathways for its students to earn college credits – three in agriculture and the other in criminal justice. More than half the school’s students take one or more of the 18 classes currently available. Backman said additional pathways could include nursing as well as hair care and cosmetology.

Continue reading “Denair High Earns Impressive Six-Year Accreditation” »

‘Blackout Night’ Looms for Playoff-Bound Denair

Submitted by Denair High School

Back in Black is a rock anthem made famous by AC/DC long before any of the players on this year’s Denair High School boys basketball was born. But the title perfectly describes the scene that will happen tonight when the Coyotes – fresh off clinching their first playoff berth in seven seasons – return to their own gym to host Orestimba.

The atmosphere – like the classic song – should be rockin’.

Denair will forgo its traditional purple-and-white home uniforms to wear trendy black pants and jerseys on what is being billed as “Blackout Night.” Students, too, can get into the act with specially designed black T-shirts featuring the words “The Pack” over the top of a Coyote paw.

Coach R.J. Henderson said it’s the first time in his six years leading the team that he’s broken out the black uniforms.

“They were purchased before I got here,” he said. “We’ve never used them other than summer league. There are only nine of them. I thought about using them in years past, but we always had more than nine guys.

“The players are excited, I know. I expect the crowd on Friday could be our best ever.”

The fresh look comes as enthusiasm continues to build for the young yet seemingly fearless Denair squad, which has rolled to an 8-2 Southern League record with two regular-season games to go. The Coyotes have clinched no worse than second place behind unbeaten Mariposa (10-0), which comes to town Monday night.

More importantly, Denair has qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. The Coyotes will find out next Thursday who they play in the first round, which begins the next night.

Denair punched its ticket to the playoffs Tuesday night with a dominating 71-49 victory in Gustine. Junior Drew Pritchard led the way with 28 points, while senior Dylan Mann chipped in 15 and junior Steffin Winston had 12.

Just as special as anything Denair did on the court was something the Coyotes, at the urging of Pritchard, did to create a once-in-a-lifetime moment for one of Gustine’s players. Continue reading “‘Blackout Night’ Looms for Playoff-Bound Denair” »

Denair Boys on Cusp of Clinching Playoff Berth

Submitted by Denair High School

Possibly as soon as Tuesday night, the Denair High School boys basketball team can accomplish something it hasn’t done in seven years – clinch a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.

The Coyotes are 7-2 with three regular-season games remaining on the Southern League schedule. They are two games behind unbeaten Mariposa (9-0), but even more important, they are two games in front of third-place Orestimba (5-4).

A victory Tuesday night against Gustine (4-6) would assure Denair of its first playoff berth in R.J. Henderson’s six seasons as head coach.

“I’ve told them to embrace it. It’s uncharted water for us,” Henderson said Monday. “We used to get 50 or 60 people in the stands, but now we’re playing in front of several hundred. It’s fun. The guys are big men on campus right now. They’re walking around with their chests out.”

After Tuesday, Denair will be at home for its final two league games – Friday against Orestimba (5-4) and next Monday against Waterford.

The playoffs begin Friday, Feb. 16. Depending on how they finish, there is an outside chance the Coyotes could host their first game. More likely, Henderson said, is that they will be sent on the road to play a higher seed.

No matter. This year’s players and coaching staff are riding a wave of excitement not felt since 2010-11, the last time Denair qualified for postseason.

Last Friday, the school chartered a rooter’s bus for the team’s away game in Delhi. More than 70 people climbed aboard. They were treated to a rout – Denair crushed the Hawks 62-35.

“It was electric,” Henderson said of the support from the stands. Continue reading “Denair Boys on Cusp of Clinching Playoff Berth” »

Pathways in Ag and Criminal Justice Give 
Denair Students a Head Start on College and Careers

Submitted by Denair High School

Alexandria Sanders wants to be a veterinarian. Diana Soto can’t wait to join her family’s welding business. Isabella Libby dreams of being a forensic police investigator.

Classes all three girls are taking today at Denair High School not only are helping to prepare them for their potential careers, they are potentially earning the three teens credits to the colleges or vocational schools of their choice.

The career technical education (CTE) courses are part of four unique Pathways programs at Denair. Three Pathways are related to agriculture – ag welding, animal science and horticulture/plant science – and the fourth is criminal justice.

Well more than half of the school’s students take one or more of the 18 Pathways classes that are offered. The instructors follow the syllabus and books used at Modesto Junior College, which provides academic oversight and offers two units of college credit for each class.

“It gives students an opportunity to pick a certain discipline they can explore early in their high school careers and, if they like it, hopefully pursue it later in college,” said Cherie Gresham, Denair’s college and guidance counselor.

Sanders, a senior, has taken Pathways classes in ag all four years at Denair. She’s already been accepted at the University of the Pacific in Stockton and still has hopes of landing a spot in the veterinary program at the University of California, Davis. She expects to hear in March.

Friday, she was busy breaking down labels and analyzing the ingredients of various kinds of animal feed in Nicole Hefner’s animal nutrition class. She’s also enrolled in Hefner’s ag leadership course and is actively involved in FFA. Continue reading “Pathways in Ag and Criminal Justice Give 
Denair Students a Head Start on College and Careers” »

Denair Boys Ready to Host Basketball Tournament

Submitted by Denair High School

Seven games into the season and on the eve of hosting their own holiday tournament, Denair High School boys basketball coach R.J. Henderson is beginning to understand his team.

The Coyotes are exceedingly young, they are more athletic than they have been in years and they’re still figuring out how to play together.

An opening night victory over Turlock Christian was followed by four losses in a row – three of them at the Riverbank Tournament two weeks ago. Then came blowout victories last week over Millennium and Stone Ridge Christian.

“I think we’ve definitely turned the corner,” said Henderson, now in his sixth season as head coach. “We really struggled to shoot it in Riverbank. The effort was there, but it was very disconnected.”

Part of the early season growing pains could have something to do with youth and unfamiliarity. The Coyotes only have nine varsity players – two seniors, four juniors and three sophomores. Henderson expects them all to “play and contribute.”

What little depth Denair has already is being tested. Senior center Dylan Mann – the tallest player at 6-foot-5 – rolled his ankle in Riverbank and may not play until the Southern League schedule begins in January. The other senior, forward Justin Short, suffered a broken nose last week against Stone Ridge. He’s out at least a couple of weeks.

That means the Coyotes will have seven healthy players when they take on Waterford on Thursday at 8 p.m. in the first round of the Denair Holiday Classic. Denair’s other games in the round-robin tournament are Friday at 8 p.m. against Turlock Christian and Saturday at 2 p.m. against Hughson.

Still, Henderson is confident the players who are available will continue to work together – even if rest will be at a premium this week. Continue reading “Denair Boys Ready to Host Basketball Tournament” »