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” »

Community Invited to Rachel’s Challenge Event August 29

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

With school back in session, some parents may have concerns about the possibilities of their child or his or her classmates being the target of bullying – either in person or via social media. And though the Denair Unified School District has strong policies in place against bullying and discrimination of any kind, sadly, opportunities exist even when children are away from class.

With that in mind, district officials strongly encourage parents and community members to attend a free presentation of Rachel’s Challenge on August 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Coyote Center, on the campus of Denair Middle School.

Earlier that day, the same program will be shown to all middle and high school students in the district.

Rachel’s Challenge exists to equip individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying, discrimination and negative activity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion.

The program is dedicated to the memory of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the tragic shootings at Columbine High School in 1999. Hailed as one of the most powerful intervention programs ever shared in public schools, Rachel’s Challenge provides a stunning and inspiring story that holds the power to transform lives.

More than 23 million people have heard Rachel’s story in live settings around the world. It is reported that, as a result, at least eight school shootings have been prevented and more than 500 suicides have been averted.

“Her love, goodwill and compassion have gone around the world a thousand times,” said Aaron Rosander, Denair’s superintendent. “It is all about compassion, sympathy and listening to others. … It’s a great family event. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but you will walk out of this a changed person because of what this 15-year-old did.”

Rosander and his team invite everyone to join them on August 29 to start a chain reaction of kindness, compassion and positivity across our community and beyond.

New Principal Naranjo Brings Personal Experience to DCA; LaFountain Takes Over at Middle School

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

More than most school administrators, David Naranjo knows what it’s like to be a teen-ager struggling to make his way in high school. That empathy comes from personal experience. Naranjo was once a high school dropout himself. He has felt the uncertainty and the disillusionment, and sensed the lowered expectations that others have for teens in that situation.

And he’s living proof that there is a way out. That difficult family or financial circumstances or poor choices made as a teen don’t have to determine the rest of your life. There is hope.

As the new principal at Denair Charter Academy, Naranjo wants to be a role model for his independent study high school students, many of whom confront similar challenges as he once did growing up in San Diego County.

“I tell them, ‘I was a high school dropout,’ ” Naranjo said. “I had a tough family situation, but I went back and graduated from a continuation school. I started college when I was 23 and became a straight-A student.

“I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school or college. If I was going to break the cycle of not graduating, that was on me. I took it very seriously. That’s the example I want to set today for our students.”

Officially, Naranjo’s title is senior director of student support services. In addition to his duties at DCA, he will oversee various state-mandated responsibilities for all of Denair Unified’s four campuses. But much of his initial focus will be on the staff and students at DCA, which offers home-school options for parents of students up to eighth grade in addition to independent study for high schoolers.

Naranjo replaces Brian LaFountain at DCA. LaFountain moves across the street to Denair Middle School as principal.

Naranjo comes to Denair from the Tuolumne County Office of Education. His new role reunites him with Denair Superintendent Aaron Rosander. Naranjo was principal of Mariposa High School and Woodland Elementary School when Rosander was the schools superintendent in that county. Continue reading “New Principal Naranjo Brings Personal Experience to DCA; LaFountain Takes Over at Middle School” »