Sousa, Gomes Win Election to Denair Unified Board

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Educator and parent Crystal Sousa and retired schools technology support specialist Regina “Reggie” Gomes were elected this week to the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees.

In results released Tuesday night, Sousa received 382 votes (36.17%), Gomes 290 (27.46%), retired Denair Middle School custodian Charlie Asbill 234 (22.16%) and self-employed businesswoman Tina Gresio 144 (13.64%).

Sousa and Gomes will be sworn in at the Dec. 14 board meeting. They will replace Trustees Sandi Dirkse and Robert Hodges, who did not seek re-election.

The new board members will serve an extra year – until 2022 — thanks to a decision by the current board last month to move trustee elections from November in odd years to November in even years.

The move is consistent with the state’s preference to consolidate local elections with statewide voting already scheduled for even years. There is abundant data that shows voter turnout is much higher in even year, when people have more issues and candidates to consider.

The next time that voters in the Denair district will elect trustees is 2020, when the terms expire for the other three trustees – Kathi Filson, Ray Prock Jr. and John Plett.

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.