Following a Western Association of Schools and Colleges mid cycle report and review, Denair Charter Academy principal Dawn Allen breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday as she revealed the committee found more commendations than recommendations following their two-day visit to the charter school.
“Commendations are a couple of pages long and recommendations are not, so that’s a good thing,” said Allen to the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees.
Based on the last three years, WASC congratulated DCA on the fact that numerous stakeholders continued to protect the vision of the charter school through a bout of enormous staffing changes at both the school and district levels, a period which WASC described as “tumultuous,” as well as the fact that the current Board of Trustees, District and Allen all articulate a clear vision for DCA improvements.
The school was also complimented for its orientation process that streamlines the student’s introduction and transition to DCA, and DCA classified staff was applauded for providing a friendly, safe and clean campus.
DCA teachers did not go unrecognized by WASC, who praised them for their willingness and ability to take on a significant workload in order to meet the needs of their students. Teachers were also acknowledged for their ongoing high level of commitment to build positive relationships with their students.
“The teachers at DCA work very hard with their mind, but they also have a strong heart for their students and I could not have been more proud sitting in that meeting and hearing the questions that were being asked of the staff,” said Allen. “WASC is here to see what you got and sometimes they are a little challenging, but they wrote statement after statement on the relationship the teachers have with their students and their commitment to the school and our district.”
WASC also presented DCA with a number of recommendations following the information gathered and data analyzed, including the proposal to involve all stakeholders in the self-study process above everything else.
“We have stakeholders involved in our school, no doubt, but the visiting committee wants them involved in the action plan process,” said Allen.
Following the visit from WASC, Allen said that DCA needs to incorporate curriculum coordinators, which are full time equivalent teachers with single subject credentials in English, Science and Math, more classroom space, additional secretarial support and counseling services.
“DCA student population is special—we love them,” said Allen. “They have needs and regardless of our numbers, students need counseling support. We’d like to ensure that those services stay in place and with a contract those things can be provided and happen.”
Denair High School Principal Alecia Meyers also went before the Board of Trustees on Thursday to bring forth various proposals regarding changes to the school’s Advanced Placement program and Agricultural Science pathways.
“When I arrived here in July, I knew that I would spend a few months uncovering what the focus and priorities might be,” said Meyers.
Meyers brought up a number of proposals in regards to the AP program, including updating books, implementing summer assignments for students, and requiring training for teachers. In order to make the program “cohesive,” she also proposed section changes she would like to see implemented next year, such as offering a Pre-AP English 10 course instead of an English Honors pathway, and dropping the AP U.S. History course and possibly offering AP Government or Economics instead.
“One of the requirements in terms of offering Advanced Placement courses is that there is a teacher on campus who approaches and wants to teach it, and that’s something we’ve been looking at as an AP team this year,” said Meyers. “We have a social science teacher who would be interested in delivering the Advanced Placement Government course or Econ; however, the U.S. History is not a desired course. We don’t have a teacher.”
The course offerings that DHS currently has in class are AP Statistics, AP English Literature, which will alternate every other year with AP English Language, AP Biology, which will alternate every other year with Anatomy and Physiology, and AP Spanish.
The high school also offered AP Calculus this year online, which Meyers said includes five students who all recently took the final exam. She said that three out of five students said that they would have rather not done it online.
“We’re really open to offering Advanced Placement courses online if we can do that,” said Meyers.”We want to make sure that we’re finding a way to get that to students who are requesting it.”
Meyers said that the school also has plans to put in place an AP contract, and as a result the campus will be hosting a parent meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 29 for those with students interested in AP courses.
“We want our students to be successful in Advanced Placement and we thought this might be a good way to support them in doing that,” said Meyers.
The high school proposed a number of changes to its graduation requirements, including adding a three-year math requirement instead of the current two-year requirement beginning with the class of 2018. The campus is hoping to add a math course, such as Consumer Algebra, as the third year of math option so that students are able to have access to a non-traditional college prep math course until Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing in eleventh grade.
Meyers also proposed adding 10 credits of World Language to the class of 2020 in addition to the 10 credits of Fine Arts, which she said reflects college entrance requirements.
In the high school agriculture department, Meyers is hoping to include three pathways in ag science, ag mechanics and horticulture for students who intend to complete four years of an agricultural pathway in order to increase their Agriculture Incentive Grant funding.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed is that in our Agriculture Incentive Grant, we’re missing out on dollars because we lose students that start in an ag class as a freshman and then don’t stay in it all four years,” said Meyers. “The idea is to get pathways together so that when students enter as freshmen, they have a clear idea of where they’re going in the ag program and that we have four year completers.”