In an emotional Denair Unified School District Board meeting Thursday night, Aaron Rosander announced that after over four years of service he will not be returning as superintendent after his contract expires this June.
Rosander, 61, came to the district in February 2014 from Mariposa, where he was the county schools’ superintendent. In addition to his tenure in Denair and Mariposa, he has worked in Hollister, Tulare County, Calaveras County and Nevada County, and the former science teacher was once named the state educator of the year.
In Denair, he came to a district in severe financial distress that barely had avoided state takeover by layoffs and salary cuts.
Within two years, the district no longer required budget oversight from state and county school officials. Under Rosander, Denair opened a popular new elementary charter school, expanded programs at all four campuses, partially restored salaries, worked to restore community trust and successfully repelled an effort by Turlock Unified to take over some of Denair’s territory.
Rosander read a letter at Thursday’s monthly Board of Trustees that he sent Friday morning to all district employees. In it, he acknowledged the difficult choices he initially confronted as well as the pivotal decisions that lie ahead.
“As I look back on our past four years, I am reminded of the many chapters of our bold work to overcome the formidable challenges that threatened the very existence of our schools,” he said. “And, while the work that we ventured into is not entirely complete, we can declare that we now stand on solid ground and be proud of the powerful platform we have set for our schools in future years.”
Without unveiling specifics, Rosander intimated that major changes could be coming to the district, which still faces chronic enrollment issues. Even as it has added students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy thanks to the dual immersion language program, the number of students at Denair High School and Denair Middle School continue to decline.
DUSD enrollment peaked at 1,600 students in 2008, but had declined to less than 1,400 by the time Rosander arrived in 2014. It dropped to 1,275 two years ago and then crept above 1,300 last year, but fell back to 1,272 this year.
“The Board of Trustees, our administrative team and employee groups are beginning to examine and discuss an innovative preliminary schematic that aims to grow student enrollment by dramatically expanding districtwide programs and opportunities for our students,” Rosander said. “If fully implemented, this would appreciably increase our revenue and afford the district the financial freedom necessary to profoundly benefit our schools and employees.”
School board President Ray Prock Jr. said a search for Rosander’s replacement will begin immediately, and the district will move quickly to identify Rosander’s replacement. He directed Chief Budget Officer Linda Covello and attorney Roman Munoz to identify potential recruitment firms by Jan. 18, with the goal of hiring one soon after to lead the search for the next superintendent. Rosander’s current salary is $137,703.
Rosander will remain on the job until the end of June, after his daughter graduates from Denair High in May. He plans to move to his hometown of Sunnyvale to be closer to his elderly parents.
Prock was complimentary of the legacy Rosander will leave in Denair.
“Denair Unified is in a much better place because of Mr. Rosander,” he said. “The board is extremely grateful for what has been, and will be, accomplished during Mr. Rosander’s time in Denair. The board remains committed to the continuance of the mission and vision for education in Denair Unified that Mr. Rosander was integral in crafting.”