From high school dropout to Denair Charter Academy’s newest principal, David Naranjo is certainly someone who students can look up to. He serves as living proof that difficult family, financial circumstances or poor decisions do not have to dictate the rest of their lives, and as principal, Naranjo hopes to be a role model for his independent study high school students.
“I tell them, ‘I was a high school dropout,’” he said. “I had a tough family situation, but I went back and graduated from a continuation school.”
Naranjo started college when he was 23 and became a straight-A student and the first in his family to graduate from high school or college. He took the responsibility of breaking his family’s cycle of not graduating very seriously, he said.
“That’s the example I want to set today for our students,” said Naranjo.
As DCA principal, Naranjo hopes to collaborate and lead through action. He calls himself a “people person,” and believes that his personal experiences allow him to bond with teens.
“I think I have great rapport with students,” he said. “I really believe I can convince them of the value of education and pushing forward…I share my story because I think it can help them. When they understand you’ve gone through similar situations, they tend to grab on more. There’s a validity. You grab them by the heart.”
Naranjo’s official title at DCA is senior director of student support services, and in addition to his duties at the charter academy, he will also oversee various state-mandated responsibilities for all of Denair Unified School District’s four campuses. He will replace DCA’s former principal Brian LaFountain, who will now serve as Denair Middle School’s principal.
“David is one of the good guys in our industry,” said DUSD Superintendent Aaron Rosander. “He’s honest, he’s ethical and he will be a terrific addition to our team.”
Naranjo comes to Denair from the Tuolumne County Office of Education, where he once worked alongside Rosander. Naranjo was principal of mariposa High School and Woodland Elementary School while Rosander served as the county’s superintendent.
Naranjo recognized the significant improvements that DUSD has made under Rosander’s leadership over the past three years, which saw the district overcome a financial crisis and add dynamic programs to its curriculum.
“It’s impressive,” he said. “I think they have a very innovative, energetic team and I think it’s a great time to join them.”
DCA will benefit from Naranjo’s leadership as well as a $16.2 million spending plan for the district approved by trustees last week, which will provide $415,000 toward the purchase and installation of up to 10 portable classrooms on the campus by the 2018-2019 school year.
The budget also reflects a $500,000 Clean Energy grant received from the state, which will pay for energy-efficient lighting and a heating and air conditioning system installed last week at DCA, new LED lighting at the Denair High School gym, lighting for about half of the high school’s classrooms and lighting at Denair Middle School.
New textbooks at all four campuses and technology will also be provided through the budget, including new textbooks in Spanish, English language arts and math and eight to 10 Chromebook carts.
“It’s exciting that we’re updating so many things,” said Trustee Ray Prock Jr.
In addition to the budget, trustees also approved the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is the narrative that explains how the money spent is used to meet the district’s goals.
In the LCAP, DUSD’s greatest needs are identified as improving English language arts and math scores for all student groups, as well as helping students to make progress academically, socially and emotionally. In order to address these needs, the District will implement measures to determine student academic readiness levels, as well as a Parents for Quality Education program which will offer parent classes to educate parents on the importance of being a part of their child’s learning experiences in each parents’ native language.
Denair’s LCAP shows it has one of the lowest student suspension rates in California as well as one of the highest graduation rates for white students.
Its areas of greatest need, according to state metrics, are improving math and English test scores districtwide. The Latino graduation rate of 79.5 percent mirrors the state average and also is a target for improvement. A new program called Parents for Quality Education will be rolled out this year to educate parents in their native language about the importance of being a part of their child's learning experiences.