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Latest News in Denair, CA

Tuskegee daughters to speak in Turlock and Denair

Leigh Roberts and Michalyn Green are the daughters of the late Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts, who served as the first commander of the Tuskegee’s 99th Fighter Squadron. For two days in October, the two will be in Turlock and Denair to share the stories of their father and the iconic Tuskegee military unit.Roberts and Green will kick off their tour in Stanislaus County at noon on Oct. 18 at the fairgrounds in Turlock to speak with the Turlock Rotary. The next day, they will make two additional stops, first to Toscan...

Leigh Roberts and Michalyn Green are the daughters of the late Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts, who served as the first commander of the Tuskegee’s 99th Fighter Squadron. For two days in October, the two will be in Turlock and Denair to share the stories of their father and the iconic Tuskegee military unit.

Roberts and Green will kick off their tour in Stanislaus County at noon on Oct. 18 at the fairgrounds in Turlock to speak with the Turlock Rotary. The next day, they will make two additional stops, first to Toscana’s Ristorante to meet with the Turlock Sunrise Rotary Club at 7 a.m. and at the Denair Community Center at noon to meet with the Turlock SIRs (Sons in Retirement).

According to Rotary and SIRs member Gary Potter, the Tuskegee daughters will speak and showcase a video presentation to attendees. The local organizations will also present the daughters with a plaque commemorating their historic visit.

“We hold events, but nothing of this magnitude,” Potter said. “We want to make this open for the public. We had mentioned the events for the last couple of weeks at our meetings, and we had people come up afterward to ask about it, so I would imagine it has garnered some attention and interest.”

The Tuskegee daughters travel across the state of California with the Sacramento Tuskegee Airmen Heritage Chapter, hosting events with schools and other community groups in hopes of spreading awareness of the aviation crew and their contributions to American history.

“The Tuskegee probably did the best job of any group of flyers in World War II. They were in demand because of their skills and expertise, and it’s unique that it’s an all-Black unit. At that time, there was a lot of [injustice] taking place with the Black community. I would imagine under that premise that there is interest and a need to have somebody tell their story,” Potter said.

Potter explained that the idea of brining the Tuskegee daughters to the Turlock area came after having conversations with members of the Sonora Rotary club, which strongly resonated and recommended that they try to book the group.

According to Caleb Vance of the 130th Airlift Wing, Spanky Roberts had more than 100 missions in four different continents over the course of World War II. After the war, he became the Senior Air Corps Reserve Officer Training Corps Instructor at the Tuskegee Institute and later became the Dean of the School of Military Science. He later earned his master’s degree at Ft. Leavenworth before reporting to Korea as a Colonel, commanding the 51st Air Base Group. In total, Roberts accumulated more than 6,000 flight hours. He passed away in March of 1984.

Potter encourages all who are interested in attending the events to RSVP with the respective clubs prior to Oct. 11.

Denair Unified grappling with new start times

California passed a law three years ago that is going to require Denair Unified School District to change when class starts and ends each day starting with the 2022-2023 school year. The ramifications are likely to affect every student and every family in the district, Superintendent Terry Metzger told trustees at their monthly board meeting Thursday night.Currently, school begins at 8 a.m. for all of Denair’s 1,200 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The law passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor ...

California passed a law three years ago that is going to require Denair Unified School District to change when class starts and ends each day starting with the 2022-2023 school year. The ramifications are likely to affect every student and every family in the district, Superintendent Terry Metzger told trustees at their monthly board meeting Thursday night.

Currently, school begins at 8 a.m. for all of Denair’s 1,200 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The law passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019 says districts cannot start before 8 a.m. for middle school students or 8:30 a.m. for high school students. It was based on research regarding sleep deprivation in adolescents and the benefits of a later start time.

“This is going to impact families,” Metzger said. “There will be less time for homework. Sports are going to go later. It’s going to make dinner time and bedtime more challenging. While that may not be our responsibility, that’s a human factor that we are going to have to think about.”

Metzger said that all districts across California are “grappling with the change.” For small districts like Denair, the ripple effect of starting and ending high school 30 minutes later each day will touch everyone.

Transportation is going to be a major concern. Most parents and/or caregivers of Denair students work outside the home and many of their children rely on them for transportation to and from school. That could be complicated with a school schedule change.

The district also has two bus routes that serve about 300 K-12 students. Metzger said the district cannot afford to have early buses for elementary students and later ones for middle and high school students.

In addition, Metzger said that the high school and middle school currently operate on the same schedule, which allows them to share staff.

The current schedule also allows older siblings to accompany younger children to school, something that could be problematic if Denair Elementary Charter Academy retains an 8 a.m. start time while the high school and middle school begin a half-hour later.

Metzger has had multiple discussions with staff and parents about the upcoming change, including a Zoom meeting Jan. 19 and face-to-face meetings in the following weeks. She also surveyed parents and 58 responded, many sharing ideas and expressing concerns about the schedule change.

Metzger said the advantages of moving the start time for all three campuses to 8:30 are: Families could stay on the same schedule; it allows for collaboration and shared staff at DHS and DMS; and the district could continue to provide transportation for all students who need it.

The district is also exploring free before and after school child care options for families.

The scheduling issue is likely to be a discussion item at the board’s March meeting, with trustees expected to approve a final plan in April.

Schools in Hughson and Denair focus on protecting educators’ mental health

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.With constantly changing teaching and learning conditions during the pandemic, teachers and other public-school employees face enormous challenges. Support for educators’ behavioral and physical health is essential to ensure that teachers and staff support effective student learning.Two rural California school districts, Denair and Hughson, are tackling the challenge....

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.

With constantly changing teaching and learning conditions during the pandemic, teachers and other public-school employees face enormous challenges. Support for educators’ behavioral and physical health is essential to ensure that teachers and staff support effective student learning.

Two rural California school districts, Denair and Hughson, are tackling the challenge.

Since mid-2020, when COVID started, public school administrators and staff at Denair Unified School District (Terry Metzger, superintendent) and Hughson Unified School District (Brenda Smith, superintendent) received philanthropic funding from EMC Health Foundation and Legacy Health Endowment to support mental health wellness. These resources allowed both districts to access a multi-faceted team of coaching and behavioral health professionals to aid their efforts in navigating the ever-changing landscape of educating children during the pandemic.

From school superintendents to front-line staff, assistance was offered and accepted. The theory: If the school’s human infrastructure was healthy, students would benefit academically, socially, and emotionally. We wanted staff to know that it was OK not to be OK, but it was not OK to stay that way.

Then, when most educators were adapting on the fly to ever-changing expectations both at work and home, they could benefit from a district’s culture that removed the stigma regarding struggling with your mental health and offered the needed support.

Denair Unified decided to extend its program beyond faculty and staff to include grades 6-12 through a mandatory mental health seminar taught by a child psychiatrist and supported by the district’s mental health team of counselors and clinicians. Students learned the basics of mental health, questions to ask, tools to use, and available resources.

The program started in September 2021 and was completed in December. And to ensure the student voice would be heard, Metzger launched her own student mental health council to receive continuous input from students and empower them to partner with the district to find practical solutions and support for students’ needs.

By November 2021, Superintendents Metzger and Smith saw that their entire teams — administrators to line staff — were nearing burnout. COVID, the delta and omicron variants, contact tracing, testing, masking, quarantining, and isolation protocols constantly changed, leaving the team exhausted.

We began talking about solutions to combat exhaustion, anxiety, and fear. After the holidays, the superintendents reengaged with staff and found the challenges had grown again. We have partnered with psychiatrists and mental health professionals to combat this by giving all staff remote access to mental health practitioners.

Their health insurance will cover costs, and where copays or deductibles may be financial roadblocks, or the health insurance coverage is limited, foundation dollars will be used. The goal is to eliminate all possible financial barriers and promote a healthy staff infrastructure.

Public education is the bedrock of our country’s success. It prepares our children to become informed and productive citizens, engaging effectively in our democracy and economy. And while the pandemic continues to threaten the capacity of that system, we must continue to create solutions to address the pandemic-induced stress placed on rural public schools.

Teachers, administrators, and other staff are education’s first responders. If they are not healthy, both mentally and physically, public education will collapse. Nothing could be more tragic. Nothing could be more wrong.

Denair theater to close if volunteers don’t come forward

A Denair organization which has fostered an appreciation of the performing arts for community members throughout the decades is in danger of shutting down due to a lack of board members and volunteers.There are currently four Denair Gaslight Community Conservatory board members who volunteer their time and oversee all happenings at the Gaslight Theater on North Gratton Road — a selfless job which helps bring theater, music and dancing opportunities to the town’s youth.According to board president Katie Mullany, the ...

A Denair organization which has fostered an appreciation of the performing arts for community members throughout the decades is in danger of shutting down due to a lack of board members and volunteers.

There are currently four Denair Gaslight Community Conservatory board members who volunteer their time and oversee all happenings at the Gaslight Theater on North Gratton Road — a selfless job which helps bring theater, music and dancing opportunities to the town’s youth.

According to board president Katie Mullany, the GCC board was extremely active prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, once the virus hit and was here to stay, board members moved to different cities or were no longer able to be active and the organization was back at square one.

“We have to basically rebuild the entire program at this point,” Mullany said. “We’re looking for people that are willing to get in there and help replenish the board a little bit, as well as volunteer at the facility once we can get it up and running again.”

Volunteers are needed not only to oversee things from a board perspective, but the theater is also hoping to receive help from those who can run the stage and lights for different shows at the theater and teach children about the various performing arts.

The Denair Gaslight Theater is the former site of the Denair school, built in 1917. The Denair Community Services Committee purchased the building in 1968 and in 2002, the Gaslight Community Conservatory was formed.

The organization has never been in danger of shutting down before, Mullany said, emphasizing the dire situation in Denair. Rebuilding a program from the ground up via a volunteer-based model may be a tall order, but she believes the community can come together to make it happen — like they always do.

“We know a lot of kids that have gone through the programs and look back fondly on it, and even parents have been involved,” Mullany said. “It’s a community-based thing for everybody and it’s a gathering place and somewhere you can be creative. It just becomes a little family down there, and we've seen different families come in and out over the years.”

GCC board members are responsible for attending monthly board meetings and pitching in with all aspects of the organization, from helping to run the website to the actual operations of the facility. Mullany encouraged those who want to give back and are good at working in a team to inquire about a position on the board.

“We need good team players and people with strong leadership skills. We’re excited to get in and really get on the ground floor of it because we’re not just looking for people to be yes men where they come and vote and that’s it. We have to get in and get our hands dirty and walk the walk ourselves,” Mullany said. “That’s the type of personality we’re looking for — someone who’s creative and excited to volunteer with the community.”

Mullany said GCC is looking for a handful of new board members and additional volunteers to help the performing arts programs and shows at the Gaslight Theater get back up and running. If they don’t find enough volunteers by Jan. 1, 2022, the program will shut down. Those who are interested can contact Mullany at 209-424-1601.

Dinosaurs, bacon, the blues? Yep, there’s a festival for that set for Modesto region

Fall? Sure, summer has its hold on the Central Valley, but autumn is just around the corner.Come September, there will be plenty of festivals to celebrate the upcoming season. Community, cultural, food and other events are planned throughout the month in the Modesto and Mother Lode regions.Here’s a look at just some of what’s planned:NEWMAN FALL FESTIVAL — Sept. 2-4: Parade, children’s activities, booths, carnival and more. The carnival opens at 3 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Th...

Fall? Sure, summer has its hold on the Central Valley, but autumn is just around the corner.

Come September, there will be plenty of festivals to celebrate the upcoming season. Community, cultural, food and other events are planned throughout the month in the Modesto and Mother Lode regions.

Here’s a look at just some of what’s planned:

NEWMAN FALL FESTIVAL — Sept. 2-4: Parade, children’s activities, booths, carnival and more. The carnival opens at 3 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The parade on Sunday begins at 11 a.m. along Main Street. The festival is at Pioneer Park, 1250 Tulare St., Newman. Free. newmanfallfestival.org.

ASSYRIAN FESTIVAL — Sept. 3-4: Food, cultural exhibits, live music, Assyrian dance groups, a kids zone and carnival rides. Noon to 10 p.m. Stanislaus County Fairground, 900 N. Broadway, Turlock. $2. www.cvassyrianfestival.com.

SIERRA NEVADA ARTS AND CRAFTS FESTIVAL – Sept. 3-4: More than 50 booths featuring handcrafted items, specialty food and antiques. In addition, the Ebbetts Pass Volunteer Fire Department will sell local ales. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bristol’s Ranch House Café parking lot, 961 Highway 4, Arnold. Free. www.brotherspromotions.com.

DENAIR FARM AND FAMILY FESTIVAL – Sept. 10: Food and craft vendors, entertainment, farm equipment show and more. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classic and antique tractor parade begins at 9 a.m. on Main Street. Downtown Denair. Free. www.denairfestival.com.

MODESTO BACON FESTIVAL – Sept. 10: Bacon dishes, vendors, cornhole tournament, face painters and other kids activities, DJs and live music. Craft cocktails, beer and a full bar. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. I Street from 11th to 12th streets, Modesto. $15 presale. www.modestobaconfest.com.

ACORN FESTIVAL – Sept. 10-11: The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians holds its annual celebration with traditional dancers, native arts and crafts and more, including an intertribal powwow, barbecue dinner and Indian tacos. It begins at 10 a.m. both days. Tuolumne Rancheria, 19595 Mi-Wu St., Tuolumne. Free. mewuk.com.

49ER FESTIVAL – Sept. 17: Parade on Main Street, vendors, live music, Old West reenactments and other activities. The annual chili cook-off competition and tasting also are planned. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mary Laveroni Community Park, Groveland. www.49erfestival.org.

GREEK FOOD FESTI-GO — Sept. 17-18: Takeout event features a Greek dinner and homemade pastries. Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 313 Tokay Ave., Modesto. $18 advance by Sept. 7, $20 at the window. www.goannunciation.org.

IRONSTONE CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE – Sept. 23-24: This annual event features more than 300 antique and classic cars, as well as other vehicles. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ironstone Vineyards, 1894 Six Mile Road, Murphys. $25-$45, free under age 14. 209-269-6950. ironstoneconcours.com.

BLUES AND BONES FESTIVAL – Sept. 24: Annual music festival and barbecue competition. The event features live music by Eric Gales, Tia Caroll, The Blues Cartel Featuring Jeramy Norris and the Kyle Rowland Blues Band. 11 a.m. Calaveras County Fairgrounds, 101 Frogtown Road, Angels Camp. $39.99-$59.99. bluesandbones.com.

FIDDLE & BANGO CONTEST AND CHILI COOK-OFF – Sept. 24: The “Bango” misspelling dates back to when this annual event began. Musicians compete for prizes in fiddle, banjo, vocal, guitar, mandolin and song categories. 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbia State Historic Park. Free. 209-536-1672.

EGYPTIAN FESTIVAL – Sept. 24-25: Food, music, church tour, activities for children and more. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 25. St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, 315 Orange Ave., Ripon. www.stmarkripon.org.

COYOTEFEST – Sept. 24-25: There will be a car show, vendors, coyote howl contests, live music and entertainment in Coulterville Park. A parade starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Sunday will feature a motorcycle show in the park, vendors and live music. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Downtown Coulterville. Free. coyotefest.org.

EDIBLE EXTRAVAGANZA – Sept. 29: The Center for Human Services annual fundraising event will feature 30 of the region’s restaurants, breweries, vintners, bakeries and local growers. Bands will perform. 6 to 9 p.m. Venue 833, 833 10th St., Modesto. $60 advance, $65 door. www.edibleextravaganza.com.

JURASSIC FESTIVAL – Sept. 30: Great Valley Museum will unveil its new dinosaur in the Great Valley Nature lab. There will be dig pits to locate (but not remove) fossil replicas, and other activities. Brontoburgers and pterodactyl tea will be available for purchase. 5 to 7 p.m. At 4 p.m., dinosaur expert Tara Lepore will offer an all-ages talk on why people are fascinated by dinosaurs. It will be in Sierra Hall Room 132 on the West Modesto Junior College campus. At 7:30 p.m., Lepore will give a similar presentation geared to ages from junior high and up. Festival at Great Valley Museum, 2201 Blue Gum Ave., Modesto. Free. www.mjc.edu/instruction/sme/maps.php.

This story was originally published August 29, 2022 7:00 AM.

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