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DUSD gets public approval for proposed charter
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When asked if she has received any kind of negative feedback regarding the potential formation of Denair Elementary Charter Academy next year, Sara Michelena was undoubtedly pleased as she struggled for a response.

“I haven’t heard of a whole lot of pushback, I really haven’t,” said Michelena, principal at Denair Elementary School and Denair Academic Avenues.

According to Michelena, who answered questions during a public hearing at the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, the proposed charter program has garnered nothing but support from stakeholders.

“I appreciate how much input you’ve taken from the community, and parents, and teachers,” said Board member Sandi Dirkse.

Michelena reported that, if approved, the charter would pull from the strengths of the District’s existing traditional elementary school, DES, and D2A for the 2015-2016 academic year.

As detailed in the charter, DECA will consist of a Common Core State Standards-based curriculum focused on language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, technology, performing arts, and physical education.

The curriculum will also include character education, which is an enrichment constituent that will expose students to key concepts such as respect, integrity, honesty, hard work, determination, and responsibility.

“Character education is an important component of our program,” the proposed charter states. “This helps to develop DECA students into good citizens. When children believe in and adopt these characteristics as their own, product is the byproduct.”

In addition to core curriculum, students will also be able to dabble in a variety of elective pathways, including, but not limited to, world and foreign languages, drama, music, art, and dance.

According to Michelena, one of the biggest components of the program is the foreign language component. Along with D2A Spanish teacher Donna Williams, Michelena has crafted a schedule that will allow Williams to meet with students four times a week.

“As in past years, students will continue to be instructed in Spanish on a daily basis, according to their language levels,” said Williams. “Students will have real-world practices as they learn Spanish through music, drama, role play, technology, fictional, and non-fictional text.”

Another element that the charter is looking into is the creation of an on-site Spanish lab by combining two existing classrooms together. Michelena is currently collaborating with various departments to determine the feasibility of the project.

“We’re still in the proposal stage of things, but it’s looking very promising,” said Michelena.

If approved, DECA would serve as a California charter school operated and governed by DUSD, with a term of five academic years beginning on July 1. The school would effectively serve students enrolled in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We are really excited about next year, all 23 teachers have signed off on the petition, which I think is really amazing,” said DES teacher and parent Kelly Beard. “I think we are going to have an amazing program next year and I think we are going to be top-notch.”

“I don’t think anyone in this area is going to be able to compete with us,” Beard continued.

The proposal will return for approval at DUSD’s April 16 meeting and the finalized document will be due to the State Board of Education by April 30.