Denair Schools Take Precautions Because of Smoky Air

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Officials in the Denair Unified School District moved quickly Wednesday to cancel athletic events and practices, modify recesses and move other activities indoors because of unhealthy levels of smoke in the air from the devastating fires in Sonoma and Napa counties.

At the high school, football practice was cancelled. At the middle school, a soccer tournament was postponed. And at all campuses, students were required to spend lunch breaks and recesses inside.

A strong north wind blew smoke from  more than 120 miles away into the valley, blanketing the sky with a layer of brown haze.

At 1 p.m., the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District website warned that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the Turlock area was 113 pg/m3. Air is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” (young children, seniors and those with asthma) when readings are between 36 and 55 pg/m3. All groups are at risk of breathing problems when readings exceed 75 pg/m3.

Schools officials decided by midmorning to keep students indoors for their safety. Children and staff were alerted via internal announcements; social media was used to communicate with parents and others in the community.

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” »

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.

Independent Auditor Gives DUSD Thumbs Up

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

An independent auditor praised the Denair Unified School District for the accuracy of its financial projections Thursday night while cautioning trustees to pay close attention to future spending.

In particular, Debbie Fry of School Services of California advised school board members to avoid making long-term financial commitments without a corresponding revenue stream to pay for them. Those dollars from the state, she explained, are directly tied to enrollment – which has been flat or declining in Denair. Enrollment is projected at about 1,300 students this year, down from nearly 1,600 10 years ago.

The district’s $16.2 million budget for 2017-18 includes about $1 million in so-called “one-time money” collected and saved over the past three years, said Linda Covello, chief business officer. The additional money has been Gov. Jerry Brown’s preferred method of funding schools beyond what is legally required.

Denair will use that money to add modular buildings on the fast-growing Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus, buy new textbooks at all four campuses, and pay for computers and other technology to better prepare those students.

Saving the extra state dollars to spend on specific projects is a key part of the district’s strategy to attract more students, Covello said. By law, the one-time funds cannot be spent on ongoing expenses such as employee salaries.

“The top priority for the district has been to increase enrollment … to generate additional ongoing revenue and be able to increase ongoing expenses (salaries and benefits) in a way that is sustainable,” she explained. “So over this year and the next, the district plans to spend down all of the one-time moneys sitting in the ending fund balance on one-time expenses that can improve and/or increase programs.”

Added Superintendent Aaron Rosander: “This is all planned. The one-time money is going to disappear as we invest in technology, infrastructure and other programs.” Continue reading “Independent Auditor Gives DUSD Thumbs Up” »