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” »

Career Fair Encourages Students to Find Their Passion

Submitted by Denair High School

Denair High School graduate Randy Jones talked about what it’s like being a civil engineer for the City of Turlock. Sarah Jennings of the Paul Mitchell School in Modesto extolled the possibilities of a career in the hair or skin care industries. Explorer Scouts Landon Zamora and Carlos Lerma discussed what it takes to become a sheriff’s deputy.

They represented just a handful of more than 20 potential career paths Denair students were exposed to Wednesday morning during an informative and wide-ranging College and Career Fair.

The point, explained Principal Kara Backman, wasn’t to direct teens down any particular path, but to open their eyes to many different possibilities. Students from both Denair High as well as Denair Middle School participated.

“We really want kids to figure out what their inner passion is and learn about the kinds of skills they need to develop to attain it,” she said.

The presenters ranged from Turlock orthopedic surgeon Scott Calhoun (another Denair graduate) to a myriad of business owners, a real estate professional who also is a life coach, a police detective, someone from the manufacturing industry, dairy and almond farmers, teachers, an auto mechanic, a social worker, a welder and a dental hygienist.

Students were able to sign up for three 20-minute sessions to listen, watch videos in some cases and ask questions.

Jones, Class of 2005, told students how he turned a lifelong love of math and science into a career as a civil engineer. He talked about working together as part of a team to solve problems and create long-lasting solutions.

His latest assignment, he said is an $8 million project to redesign 1.4 miles of West Main Street between Highway 99 and downtown Turlock.

“Most of the homes along the road are 100 years old. The infrastructure also is 100 years old,” Jones said. “We’re trying to have the least impact on people’s lives and build a project that will last another 100 years.”

Answering students’ questions, he said engineers can expect to earn $75,000 to $140,000 a year after spending up to six years in college. Continue reading “Career Fair Encourages Students to Find Their Passion” »

Denair Campuses Have Big Plans to Mark Red Ribbon Week

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Next week is Red Ribbon Week at schools across the country. Red Ribbon Week began in 1980 as a way to discourage drug use among children while promoting healthy behaviors. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was one of the original proponents.

The campuses in the Denair Unified School District have a number events planned starting Monday. All are being coordinated by staff as well as student members of the PHAST (Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco) Clubs.

Denair High School

  • Monday: Crash scene. There will be a wrecked car on the grass near the student store unveiled about 8:40 a.m. The car will be an example of what can happen if people drink and drive, text and drive or are under the influence of drugs and drive. The car will be there all week as a reminder to students. A video was shared with students Friday to prepare them for what they will see Monday. During lunch, we will have games, music and prizes.
  • Tuesday: Drug dog demonstration, games, music and prizes.
  • Wednesday: California Highway Patrol presentation, games, music and prizes.
  • Thursday: Hollywood-themed photo booth, games, music and prizes.
  • Friday: Denair Fire Department presentation, games, music and prizes.

Denair Middle School

  • Monday: PJ Day. Students can wear pajamas to school. The theme is “Reach for Your Dreams, Don’t Let Drugs Get in Your Way.”
  • Tuesday: Celebrity Day. Students can dress up as their favorite celebrity. The theme is “Be Famous for Making the Right Choices.”
  • Wednesday: Twin/Pink Day. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness and Red Ribbon Week, we will join together as twins and wear pink as much pink as possible. The theme is “Join Together Against Drugs.”
  • Thursday: Character Day. Students can dress up as their favorite character — sports hero, Disney character or cartoon character. “Show Your Character, Stand Up Against Drugs!”
  • Friday: Harvest Festival. Students in each grade will wear different colored clothes – sixth (orange), seventh (yellow) and eighth (white). The theme is “Harvest Your Best Qualities, Don’t Fall for Drugs.”

Denair Elementary Charter Academy

  • Monday: Students will show their Coyote spirit by wearing purple or any kind of DECA clothing. The theme is “These Paws Don’t Touch Drugs!”
  • TuesdayStudents will wear sports-related clothing. The theme is “Let’s Team Up Against Drugs!”
  • WednesdayYoungsters are encouraged to dress up to match a friend. The theme is “Friends Don’t Let Friends do Drugs!”
  • Thursday: Students will wear crazy, mismatched socks and wild hair-dos. The theme is “We Are Crazy About Being Drug-Free!”
  • Friday: Students can wear pajamas to school. The theme is “Put Drugs to Sleep!”

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” »

Denair Students, Staff and Community Members Inspired by Rachel’s Challenge Program

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

“Only kindness matters.”

At its heart, that is the message delivered powerfully, emotionally and respectfully Tuesday to Denair students, their teachers and parents during a series of presentations known as Rachel’s Challenge.

The nationwide program is a tribute to Rachel Scott, the first student killed on April 20, 1999, in the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Denver. Before she died, Rachel was a champion on her campus for forgiveness, love and compassion, often defending classmates who were bullied, taunted or teased by other students.

Though rooted in tragedy, Rachel’s Challenge has become a force for teaching children and adults. Since it was started by her family, the program has reached more than 23 million people.

Tuesday, more than 500 middle and high school students listened intently to the 45-minute presentation in two sessions at school. Later that night, about 60 parents and community members also participated.

Superintendent Aaron Rosander first saw Rachel’s Challenge a few years ago when he was superintendent in Mariposa County. He worked more than a year to bring it to Denair.

“I felt it was important for kids to understand civility and kindness and compassion never go out of style,” he said, adding that he knows that “we have some kids who suffer silently.”

Rachel believed the definition of compassion was “forgiving and loving,” presenter David Hills explained. Though only a teenager, she wrote with maturity and clarity about her five-step approach to life:

  • Look for the best in others; eliminate prejudice.
  • Dream big
  • Choose positive influences
  • Speak with kindness
  • Start your own chain reaction of kindness

Continue reading “Denair Students, Staff and Community Members Inspired by Rachel’s Challenge Program” »