LaFountain to Lead Denair Charter Academy

Brian LaFountain

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Brian LaFountain might have been an FBI agent. Or a lawyer. Or a whiz-bang minor-league baseball marketing executive. Instead, he became a teacher nine years ago, fulfilling a passion to work with and make a difference in the lives of children.

That circuitous career path has delivered him now to Denair Charter Academy, where he took over earlier this month as the principal. It’s a role he seems uniquely suited for.

DCA offers home-school curriculum for K-8 students as well as an independent study alternative for high school students who haven’t found the right fit in a traditional setting, have work or other family responsibilities, or have been expelled. The campus serves about 300 students, most of them high school age.

For the past seven years, LaFountain has worked in the Patterson Unified School District. Last year, he was the coordinator of the Open Valley Independent Study program.

“It is an alternative school of choice. It’s very similar to DCA,” LaFountain said. “The biggest difference is DCA is charter school and has the flexibility that brings.”

Patterson is LaFountain’s hometown. He grew up there, graduated from Patterson High School and once aspired to become an attorney, with an eye toward finding a job with the FBI or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

“My degree is in criminal justice from CSU Stanislaus. I wanted to be an FBI agent. I had a full ride to UC Davis law school,” LaFountain said. “Then I met with 11 lawyers in 11 fields of law and decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer.”

He ended up working in banking for a short time, then got a sales job at Big 5 Sporting Goods (where he worked with the husband of Denair Middle School Principal Kelly Beard). He moved on to an unpaid internship with Modesto A’s baseball team and did so well they created a full-time position for him.

Eventually, he followed his passion – working with children. He became a substitute teacher while going back to college to earn his teaching credential. He began his education career as a middle school teacher in Stockton before moving to Patterson seven years ago. Continue reading “LaFountain to Lead Denair Charter Academy” »

New Principals Announced for Denair High School, Middle School and Elementary Campus


Submitted by Denair Unified School District

A Denair resident with a diverse and successful education background, an innovative elementary school teacher already in the district and an experienced bilingual instructor from Patterson were announced this week as the three new principals in the Denair Unified School District.

Kara Backman will take over at Denair High School, Kelly Beard will become the new leader at Denair Middle School and Lucy Zamora will take the reins at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

The selections were revealed to teachers and other staff by Superintendent Aaron Rosander, who led a team that interviewed what he called six “outstanding” candidates last week.

Backman emerged as the choice to become the third principal in three years at the high school. She previously has served as principal at University Charter School in Modesto, Summit Charter Academy campuses in Porterville and Ceres, and Vanguard College Preparatory Academy in Empire.

Since 2011, she has been a managing associate at CT3 Education, traveling across the country to train other teaching coaches, school-based culture planning and leadership support based on No-Nonsense Nurturer Model and Real Time Teacher Coaching.

Her CT3 profile describes her as a “turnaround principal, a national transformational coach and a research-based, data-driven teacher.”

Denair High has battled with declining enrollment for the past few years. Backman says there are no easy answers, but that there is “a ton of opportunity” to add programs and improve academic performance.

“We have to figure out what our purpose,” she said. “What is going to be the identifier for Denair? What’s going to be the thing that draws children here?

“There have been changes in leadership at the high school the past couple of years and that can be a challenge. What I told them was this: ‘I’m not leaving. All three of my children will graduate from Denair High. I’m here for the long haul.’ ”

Backman and her husband, James, operate Small Town Genetics on property homesteaded decades ago by his grandfather. They have three young children – the oldest of whom will be in kindergarten at DECA next fall.

Her husband and many in his family graduated from the high school Backman now will lead. “It is very near and dear to my family. … We have some deep roots here.”

She called the decision to live in Denair “simple,” saying they were drawn by “a small, but rigorous community atmosphere embedded with high-quality education, rich agriculture and community trust.”

Backman has a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State University in agriculture education and animal science, and a master’s from San Jose State in educational leadership. She also was a member of Stanford University Principal Fellows Program in 2010. Continue reading “New Principals Announced for Denair High School, Middle School and Elementary Campus” »