‘Buddy Bench’ Dedicated in DECA Teacher’s Memory

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Mark Selee was known for the special bond he formed with students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy. Not only was he a popular fourth-grade teacher, he also was a frequent presence on the playground, often joining basketball games or other activities with youngsters. He promoted inclusion, interaction and respect among students.

All of which makes the memorial bench recently dedicated in Selee’s honor so appropriate. Known as a “buddy bench,” it is a way to promote kindness and foster friendships on the playground.

“If someone is sitting on the bench, they want to be included in whatever is happening,” explained DECA Principal Kelly Beard at Thursday’s monthly Denair Unified Board of Trustees meeting.

Selee’s sudden death from a heart attack during Thanksgiving break in 2015 rocked the DECA campus and the saddened the Denair community. But the memory of his energetic, positive presence remains for his peers as well as some of the students who were first- and second-graders then.

The bench installed Monday provides a tangible way for all to carry out Selee’s legacy. It is on the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade playground. It has Coyote paw prints, but rather that sport a shade of purple like most items on campus, the bench is painted in gold and black – the colors of Selee’s favorite professional sports teams from Pittsburgh (Pirates, Steelers and Penguins).

“As a staff, we decided we wanted it those colors,” Beard said.

A second memorial bench for Selee is on order, she said. In addition, there is a memorial plaque for Selee in the gym. “Some of our teachers touch it every time they walk in,” Beard said.

DECA also has a memorial bench for a former student on its kindergarten playground.

In other action Thursday night, the board:

  • Heard a budget update that estimates the district will end the year with a cash balance of more than $3.5 million, but still is on track to have as many as 44 fewer students than a year ago. Most of the decline has come at Denair High School and Denair Middle School. Chief Business Officer Linda Covello also told trustees that rising pension costs continue to challenge the district. She estimated that contributions to CalSTRS (teachers) and CalPERS (classified staff) will cost the district an additional $151,000 this year.
  • Unanimously approved a contract for $237,102 with Stanislaus County Office of Education for business and human resources services, early childhood education training for teachers, special education and health services, instructional support services, college and career planning, outdoor education, student wellness and school safety, technology and learning services.
  • Voted 5-0 to approve school calendars for the next two years. In 2018-19, school will start Wednesday, Aug. 8 at all campuses. Winter break will be Friday, Dec. 21 through Friday Jan. 4. Spring break will be Friday, April 19 through Friday April 26. And high school graduation will be Friday, May 24.
  • Approved a trip for FFA students later this spring to the 90th annual Leadership Conference on April 22-25 in Anaheim. High school students will be exposed to workshops and seminars on eight ag-related careers, hear from speakers, take tours and meet other future leaders. They also get to go to the nearby Disney California Adventure.

Stakeholders Survey Available on the DUSD Web Site

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The Denair Unified School District, Board of Trustees, Denair, CA, is soliciting input in the superintendent selection process. Numerous meetings have been scheduled with the consultants from McPherson & Jacobson L.L.C. to receive input. We realize not everyone’s schedule allows attendance at one of those meetings. Please provide your input by answering the questions in the survey by visiting www.dusd.k12.ca.us. The survey is available in both English and Spanish. The last day to participate in the Stakeholders Survey is Monday, March 12, 2018.

DUSD Superintendent Search Firm Seeking Community Input

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees has selected McPherson & Jacobson, L.L.C., Executive Recruitment and Development to assist them in the important task of selecting superintendent candidates for the board to interview.

The firm is seeking the community’s input into determining the qualities of the next Superintendent. The search firm would appreciate it if you would take time from your busy schedule to meet with the consultants on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at 7:00 pm, in the Denair Middle School Coyote Center.

Your advice is very important to us, we hope you will attend! This meeting is open to any patron who wishes to provide input.

Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Citing the need to chart a “bold, new future,” the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees unveiled a plan Thursday night intended to confront chronic enrollment challenges and provide a reliable funding stream to increase teacher pay.

Board President Ray Prock Jr. read a three-page statement at the regular monthly board meeting that makes the case for a new charter covering all grade levels to create “a seamless academic progression” from kindergarten through high school.

Prock also laid the groundwork to ask district voters in November to pass a parcel tax of up to $100 annually. That money, he promised, would be used to “compensate our employees – our teachers, aides, specialists, campus supervisors, maintenance staff and others – at a level that is fair and competitive in the market.”

Five years ago, facing financial crisis driven by the Great Recession and reduced state funding, Denair was forced to slash salaries for all employees up to 11%. Pay raises over the past two years have restored some, but not all, of employees’ pay.

To pass, a parcel tax requires two-thirds approval from those who vote.

“For that reason,” Prock said, “it is critical that the district provides its community stakeholders with all the relevant information for them to make an informed decision.”

The board invited parents, staff and others in the community to collaborate on the district’s new direction. Prock promised that there would be multiple focus groups and opportunities for people to participate and that the board would “actively and carefully listen in order to … gain your trust.”

“Our goal, through these community interactions, is to identify practical steps that will stabilize enrollment trends and lead to enrollment growth at the middle school and high school,” he said.

Denair has 1,272 students on its four campuses – Denair High School, Denair Middle School, Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Charter Academy (which provides support and curriculum to home-school parents as well as independent study options for high school students.) Continue reading “Denair Board Proposes ‘Bold, New Future’ that Includes K-12 Charter and Parcel Tax” »

Denair Board Hires Firm to Lead Superintendent Search

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday night to hire a Lodi-based consultant to lead the search for a new superintendent.

The board called a special meeting to deal with the impending departure of Aaron Rosander, whose contract expires at the end of June. Rosander has led the 1,272-student district since February 2014.

In open session, the five Denair board members and Chief Business Officer Linda Covello interviewed two companies by phone Thursday night. Both are experienced in executive searches and recruitments related to education.

Representatives of McPherson & Jacobson as well as Leadership Associates were asked questions separately for about 25 minutes each about their processes and results.

Trustees then discussed the merits of both proposals for nearly an hour before voting to hire McPherson & Jacobson, whose headquarters is in Omaha, Neb., but has offices all over the country. Retired schools superintendent William Huyett of Lodi will lead Denair’s search.

Covello said the cost to the district will be between $8,500 and $13,650, paid for by so-called “one-time funds” received and saved over the past few years from the state.

She expects McPherson & Jacobson to present an outline of the recruitment timeframe at an upcoming board meeting. The company also intends to gather input from staff and community members about what they want to see in a new superintendent.