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.

Denair Enrollment Slightly Declines, 
Despite Continued Gains at Elementary Charter Campus

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Enrollment in the Denair Unified School District is down 38 students from last spring’s projections, trustees were told Thursday night. The losses primarily are at the high school and middle school, but have been partially offset by continued growth at the district’s elementary charter school.

The decline has implications for the district’s future budgets, Chief Business Officer Linda Covello told trustees. Public districts are largely funded by the state on Average Daily Attendance, or ADA. Covello projects this year’s ADA to be 1,225, which reflects an increase of 20 ADA at the elementary level, a decrease of 34 ADA at the middle school level and a decrease of 24 ADA between the two high schools.

Four years ago, when Denair confronted steeper enrollment declines, all staff took pay cuts while others were laid off. That’s not the case today.

The district’s finances have dramatically improved thanks to the strategic cost cutting as well as the introduction of programs that generated enrollment growth.

In particular, the dual immersion English/Spanish program at Denair Elementary Charter Academy has proven to be a magnet for new students. There now are classes in kindergarten, first grade and second grade, with another grade level introduced each year.

The district also has applied for additional grant funding to increase opportunities for students. Most recently, Denair applied for a CTE Facilities Grant to potentially bring in $1.15 million to expand career technical education programs.

“We currently are examining targeted grants and initiatives, along with program enhancements that will stimulate new growth, particularly at the high school and middle school,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander. “Continued prudent stewardship of our budget, in tandem with innovative program development, will be important linchpins in DUSD’s future growth and financial health.”

The district anticipates having positive monthly cash balances throughout the 2017-18 school year and an ending fund balance of more than $2.4 million, Covello said. Continue reading “Denair Enrollment Slightly Declines, 
Despite Continued Gains at Elementary Charter Campus” »

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” »