BY KYRA BACON
A hushed silence fell over the crowd of Cooper City High School’s DECA students. Decorations transformed the cafeteria, cakes were spread along the tables and the last student had arrived just moments ago. Everything was set, and suddenly, a lone figure appeared outside. Whistling to himself, he strode towards the door and opened it with a loud creak. The silent room erupted into a chorus of “Surprise!” They watched as Brian Chalk, the DECA adviser for the 2012-2013 school year, looked confused, then shocked, and then completely elated. It may have seemed like a normal surprise party to an average passerby, but to DECA last year, it was their final chance to say goodbye.
Having been the adviser for almost a decade, Chalk had been feeling the stress of carrying DECA as well as the majority of the Academy of Finance program on his shoulders. The enactment of the 7-period schedule was the final straw for Chalk. Not long before the end of school last year, Chalk finally broke the news that he was leaving to the DECA kids and moved on to teach at Coral Glades High School.
“He considered it since the 2011-2012 school year because that’s when things were getting tough,” DECA President Joey Khoury said. “Once block scheduling changed, his decision was final. I think Mr. Chalk waited so long to tell everyone because he didn’t want to upset them for Nationals and it was a very hard decision for him to make. He wasn’t absolutely sure until the end of last year.”
Two new teachers were brought in to replace Chalk. Rachael Dubrow, a science/business teacher from Stoneman Douglas, has taken on the challenge of running most of CCHS’ DECA as well as teaching Financial Operations, the final class in the Academy of Finance. Co-advisor Betty Jo O’Connor agreed to help Dubrow run DECA and take on the Academy of Finance program.
“Mrs. O’Connor and I have decided we’re going to take a team approach on as many things as possible for both the Academy of Finance and for DECA,” Dubrow said. “We know it’s a big change for DECA too, but to have two full-time advisers is a huge advantage to be able to divide up the tasks that Mr. Chalk had to do all by himself.”
Dubrow was the co-founder of Stoneman Douglas DECA chapter. She also taught a few science classes at her old school and is teaching Biology 1 Honors here at CCHS. Unfortunately, she was forced to give up her job as teacher and adviser at Stoneman Douglas when she took an extended maternity leave. But her experience and passion for business have been evident since coming to CCHS.
“It’s very different coming from a program that was just starting out to a program that has a history of excellence, but the officer team has made the transition really easy,” Dubrow said. “I’m really grateful for the initiative that the DECA board has taken and all the support they have given me.”
O’Connor is also experienced in the field. As a real estate agent, O’Connor learned more than just the fundamentals of business. In 2005 she started using her skills and knowledge to teach the Business Core class to adults at Sheridan Technical Center. Unfortunately, the center was forced to make budget cuts and her class was dropped. However, her unique experience and certification in real estate and marketing landed her this job and she plans to use those skills in her role as DECA adviser.
“I’d like to start some sort of mentoring program with experienced DECA members to get the new recruits acclimated,” O’Connor said. “I think we are going to have a big enrollment this year, and because they are new, this would be very beneficial to them.”
Dubrow and O’Conner haven’t had to take this task on by themselves, other teachers who had been part of DECA over the years were eager to help in the transition. Linda and Brian Snider, both business teachers at CCHS, have been advising Dubrow and O’Connor and have agreed to chaperone some competitions.
“Mr. and Mrs. Snider are as supportive as the advisers,” Khoury said. “I couldn’t ask for any more support from them.”
Besides the new advisers, changes have been slight this year. One main difference is the new website. Created by the DECA Board over the summer, it allows potential members to complete the membership application and executive board application online. The executive board process has been another change. Instead of voting for one person per business class, now each DECA Board member will have two executive board members of their choosing. Also, unlike recent years, the testing categories that each student enters will depend on their event. New partnerships are in the works as well, especially the prospect of professional membership, in which a business becomes a member of the CCHS DECA chapter.
“The DECA board has been very receptive of any new ideas I have,” Dubrow said. “In all honesty, I wish I could predict the changes that are going to happen, but a lot of it is a learning process as we’re going through the year and preparing for different competitions.”
DECA hopes to hold strong this year. Many, including Khoury, Stone, O’Connor, and Dubrow want the CCHS chapter to become an 800 club, in which 800 members have competed at the national level.
“Mark Rael, the man who started and ran CCHS DECA for a long time, will be helping us more this year and he’s a legend here. Our chapter is full of kids that excel academically and members who are very eager,” Khoury said. “We have very high expectations this year for DECA.”