Denair Retirees Honored for Combined 128 years of Service

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

An account technician, the longtime director of technology, two popular maintenance workers and a special education assistant and have announced their retirements from the Denair Unified School District at the end of this school year. Combined, they have 128 years of service in schools.

Those retiring are:

  • Ana Rush, Account Technician
  • Mark Ranes, Director of Technology
  • Maria Gomes, Custodian
  • Genaro “Willie” Lugo, Utility Worker
  • Sue Patterson, Special Education Paraeducator

The five retirees were honored with gifts and testimonials May 10 at an emotional Board of Trustees meeting. There were smiles, hugs and more than a few tears – of gratitude and happy memories, and from close friends who won’t be seen quite as frequently.

Also acknowledged and congratulated on a job well done was Superintendent Aaron Rosander, who is leaving after 4½ years and moving to the Bay Area to be closer to his elderly parents.

Ana Rush, 38 years in the district: Rush and her husband, Randy, are 1976 graduates of Denair High. So are both their children, something not at all uncommon in the close-knit community. She describes having four Coyote alumnus in the same family as being “very special.”

Rush said it “has been a pleasure working” in the business office for more than three decades, but that she’s excited about the chance to spend more time with her family.

“My plans are to do what I want when I want, to help with my six grandchildren when I’m needed and to wait for my husband to retire so we can travel throughout the United States,” she said.

Among her favorite memories are the morning pots of coffee brewed by Ranes in the district office. “He used to make the best coffee,” Rush recalled.

“The other wonderful experience was meeting and becoming friends for life with other parents by being involved with Sports Boosters and Sober Grad,” she said.

Mark Ranes, 34 years in the district: Ranes spent the first 13 years of his Denair career teaching science to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Denair Middle School. But in the mid-1990s – when school districts could barely imagine the impact computers someday would have on education – he left the classroom to become the district’s first and only technology director.

“The biggest accomplishment early on in the technology area was being the first district in Stanislaus County that had a networked computer in every classroom. In 1996-97, that was unheard of,” Ranes said. “But overall, I think the biggest accomplishment of all is maintaining 20+ years of technology use in DUSD, where we stayed focused on the people using the technology, not the technology itself.

“Education is a people business. Empowering creative teachers with the ability to use technology as a tool, to open the minds of students, is what we do in the tech department.”

His responsibilities brought Ranes in contact with every district department, so it’s no surprise when he admits that his biggest adjustment will be making up for that daily interaction.

“Denair is my family,” he said. “Even when I’m not at work, I’m around people I’ve met through my career in Denair. This district is blessed to have some of the kindest, hard-working people I’ve ever met. They know their mission and want to provide the best education possible for Denair’s students. I will miss seeing these folks on a daily basis.”

Until his wife, Brenda – a teacher at Denair Elementary Charter Academy– retires and they can do more traveling, Ranes expects to spend much time on his twin passions – home brewing and baking.

“I’ll be able to brew on weekdays now!” he said with a smile. “I also want to master a couple areas in baking – sourdough bread and pies. Finally, I look forward to spending more time with our two Boston terriers. They can take me on walks.” Continue reading “Denair Retirees Honored for Combined 128 years of Service” »

Retiring Denair Leader Warns District Finances Still ‘Fragile,’ Emphasizes Need to ‘Increase and Sustain’ Revenue

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Even as the search for a new superintendent enters its final stage, the current leader of the Denair Unified School District reminded the community Thursday night not to become complacent about the financial progress that has been made in the past four years.

Aaron Rosander, the man hired in 2014 to engineer the district’s turnaround from the brink of fiscal crisis, will retire at the end of this year. His replacement has been chosen, though he or she is not expected to be publicly introduced until the May 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

The new superintendent will inherit a district that has made significant progress to earn back public trust by restoring financial stability and improving classroom results. But crucial work remains, according to Rosander.

Enrollment at the high school and middle school must begin to grow again, innovative new educational programs must be introduced and employee salaries must be fully restored after deep cuts enacted in 2013.

The key, he believes, is a two-pronged strategy unveiled two months ago: creation of a new charter concept to cover “seamless academic progression” from kindergarten through high school coupled with voter approval of a small parcel tax to provide necessary revenue.

Rosander shared with trustees Thursday night a financial review from the Stanislaus County Office of Education that expressed concern “about our enrollment … as it relates to our ongoing financial condition.”

He called Denair’s budget situation “balanced but fragile” and urged the district to “respond to our circumstance by embracing viable initiatives that will increase and sustain … revenue.”

Rosander’s replacement will no doubt play a pivotal role in galvanizing public support for the proposals. Continue reading “Retiring Denair Leader Warns District Finances Still ‘Fragile,’ Emphasizes Need to ‘Increase and Sustain’ Revenue” »

Denair Trustees Whittle Superintendent Choices to Final 4

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The Denair Unified School District board narrowed the list of applicants to become the next superintendent to four finalists at a special meeting Monday night.

Trustees also announced the names of nine employees and community members who will participate in two days of interviews this weekend that will lead to the selection of the next superintendent.

The board’s search for a replacement for Aaron Rosander has been guided by consultants from McPherson & Jacobson, who helped trustees winnow a list of 21 applicants to the final four. Rosander announced in February he will leave the district at the end of June after 4½ years.

Chief Business Officer Linda Covello, the district’s lead official for the search, said applications were received from educators in Stanislaus County, other parts of California and outside the state.

Two finalists will interview with trustees as well as the stakeholder committee on Saturday and two more will do the same on Sunday. The meetings are not open to the public.

The members of the stakeholder committee are student Adrianna Snyder, community member Dennis Findley, classified employee Gayle Schell, teacher Deborah Voss, Senior Director David Naranjo, Denair High Principal Kara Backman, and parents Gerardo Retana, John Greff, Cheryl Rice and Leticia Christen.

The committee will provide input and insight about the finalists to trustees, who expect to decide on a new superintendent Sunday night. Once that choice is made, McPherson & Jacobson will conduct a final round of background checks before an offer is extended.

That person is expected to be introduced at the May 10 board meeting, with the new superintendent in place by July 1.

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” »

Denair Trustees Hear Update on Superintendent Search

Denair Unified School District trustees heard an update Wednesday night from the consulting firm leading the search for a new superintendent. The current superintendent, Aaron Rosander, announced in February he will leave the district at the end of June after 4½ years.

In late February, a representative from McPherson & Jacobson held stakeholder meetings with 72 people representing community members, students, teachers, classified staff, administrators and parents. Each participant was asked to respond to four questions:

  • What are the good things about your community?
  • What are the good things about your schools?
  • What issues should the superintendent be aware of as he/she comes into the district?
  • What skills, qualities or characteristics should the new superintendent possess to be successful here?

Respondents to the first two questions frequently mentioned the tight-knit nature of the Denair community and its bond with the school district. Many referred to the relationship as reflecting the closeness of a “family” and believe the bond formed through generations of Denair residents is an important asset.

In terms of key issues the new superintendent should understand, enrollment – particularly at Denair High School and Denair Middle School – was a common theme. Both campuses have seen fewer students in recent years, offsetting consistent growth at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

Teachers cited complete salary restoration after pay cuts were imposed in 2013 as well as what they view as a high turnover rate among teachers as well as administrators.

Some in the community expressed concern that the new superintendent will be at a disadvantage because he or she is not available now to help guide the Board of Trustees’ decision to write a new charter for the district as well as seek a parcel tax, which would provide money for salary increases. Continue reading “Denair Trustees Hear Update on Superintendent Search” »