The school board will be voting to approve the submission of two applications requesting grant funding for renovation of Benicia High School’s Performing Arts Building (PAB) at its Thursday meeting.
In May, an informational meeting was held at Benicia High to discuss two items. One was a new set of graduation requirements that had recently been approved by the school board, which parents, students, faculty and community members felt decreased opportunities for performing arts students. The new requirements were later rescinded by the board and the old ones reinstated. The other item was the PAB. Many felt the 36-year-old building was not being treated as a high priority for Measure S funding, despite safety concerns including overhead lights without support beams.
Benicia Unified School District is seeking funding from a California Proposition 51 Career Technical Education Grant. Proposition 51 was approved by California voters in the 2016 election to provide $9 billion in bond funding for construction and improvement of K-12 schools and community colleges in the state. The funding would include renovation of the current building as well as new construction. Among the improvements planned by the district are replacing the “outdated” lighting and acoustic fixtures, converting and expanding old the costume shop into a dance studio, adding changing rooms in the backstage and production support space in the backstage, and expanding the stage to provide more performance space.
Lights, camera, action…lots and lots of action. That is the best way to describe Benicia High School’s Panther TV.
Since its inception in 2013, the weekly web series that serves as an offshoot of the film production class has had the same goal: to deliver the news of on-campus happenings to students and their parents in a video format. However, each year, the student cast has brought something new to the presentation, and with showings now being required for the whole campus under the new schedule, this year’s class has sought to take it to a whole new level.Matt O’Reilly, the class instructor, said Panther TV began as a way for students to deliver news to their fellow peers. He describes the program as a class within a class where a group of film production students focuses on putting Panther TV together as a means to use their film skills for broadcasting.
The class began with seven students delivering the news from desks out of a ceramics room.“They were delivering information almost like how announcements were delivered on the intercom but at least it was in video format,” O’Reilly said.
The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District unanimously approved the Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSAs) at two of its elementary schools Thursday. The plans were written by the school’s site councils and presented by their principals.
Robert Semple Elementary
The first to present was Christina Moore, the principal of Robert Semple Elementary School. The first thing she did was go over the previous year’s goals.“These goals were written by our Site Council, taken to my staff and developed in a way that we thought would really allow us to monitor progress,” she said. “What we found was that it was actually more difficult than we anticipated.
”The first two goals were to increase the amount of students meeting and exceeding math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards by 5 percent, as measured by the results of the Benchmark and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) exams. Most grades showed increases in these areas and some showed decreases, but Moore said additional work needed to be done to analyze this data for future goals.
At the Oct. 19 school board meeting, the principals of Benicia Unified School District’s three secondary schools delivered the Single Plans for Student Achievement for their schools, which were unanimously approved by the board. Now the board is in the process of hearing from the elementary school principals, but unlike in past years where all four elementary principals would present their plans, the board will instead hear presentations from two at a time. This Thursday, the principals of Joe Henderson and Robert Semple elementary schools will go over their goals.
In her planned presentation, Henderson’s new Principal Melanie Buck highlighted three goals for the school, which are all aligned to BUSD’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals. The first objective is to have the number of students meeting or exceeding the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s English Language Arts portion from 61 to 68 percent by June 2018. Buck wrote that the previous year’s goal of having 100 percent of all kindergarteners through second graders show growth in the area of literacy was not met, as only 77 percent in this range met or exceeded the standards in this category. Likewise, Buck noted that achieving the same level of growth for third through fifth-graders was not met either, with 72 percent meeting or exceeding the standards, although this was an increase from the 71 percent at this level in the 2015-16 school year.
Two of Benicia High School’s most prominent student activist clubs have been working to promote a more inclusive campus. To further this, the club’s student leaders have been promoting the establishment of a gender-neutral, single occupancy restroom.The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and Intersectional Gender Equity and Feminism (IGEF) clubs have joined forces to craft a proposal recommending that at least one of the school’s since occupancy bathrooms change its signage to reflect being open to transgender and gender non-conforming students.
“Students cannot succeed in academia if they feel unsafe or unwelcome in their learning environment,” the proposal states. “This proposal would establish at least one all gender/gender neutral bathroom in order to create a safer, more inclusive learning environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students and their allies.”Valentina Quintana, GSA president and club member for all her four years of high school, said she had wanted to establish an all-gender bathroom for a couple years and frequently mentioned it at student forums.
Pension costs could run school districts out of business, a superintendent said Thursday at the State of Education in Solano County forum.
Schools may first reach a point where they do less for students because of contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System, said Brian Dolan, superintendent of the Dixon School District.
Benicia High School’s Panther Band Boosters held the program’s first-ever golf tournament fundraiser at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club on Sunday where money was raised and fun was had by all.
Benicia High School’s band program– including its jazz band, Color Guard, drumline and two concert bands– remains one of the school’s proudest organizations. The program has won an ocean of awards over the years and traveled all over to participate in band reviews, competitions and other events. After all, this was the same program that was part of the Rose Parade for two years and has even performed outside the state in places like Chicago and Georgia.
However, it does cost money to participate in these events, so the Boosters group puts on a variety of fundraisers to benefit the program. These include the Jazz ‘N’ Crab Fundraiser in January, the Benicia Bay Winter Review Fundraiser and the Classic Car Show Fundraiser in the spring. With three fundraisers in the spring semester, Booster President Holly Ojendyk said the parent group was looking for another one to hold in the fall.
Ever since the passage of Proposition 64 in November, the city of Benicia has had many discussions at various meetings over how the statewide legalization of cannabis should be treated within the city. On Sept. 19, the Benicia City Council reviewed a draft ordinance making recommendations for cannabis activities. Among these suggestions were allowing up to two dispensaries in commercial areas, restricting dispensaries to at least 600 feet away from schools, evaluating a recommended distance from youth centers and parks, limiting dispensaries’ hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., limiting personal cultivation to no more than six mature plants grown indoors, allowing manufacturing facilities and testing labs in the industrial zones, permitting cannabis deliveries for medical users, and requiring cannabis business operators to have a license.
In addition to many discussions at council meetings throughout the year, the issue was at the forefront of the Oct. 13 Planning Commission meeting. The issue even made its way to Benicia Unified School District’s governing board meeting, where the board unanimously adopted a resolution provide concerns and recommendations on the matter to the council for its Nov. 7 meeting, where it is slated to hold a final vote ahead of the state regulations taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
The fires that ravaged areas of California this month have had a devastating impact on the Wine Country. Buildings were destroyed, lives were forever changed and people were left to recuperate from their losses. Benicia High School saw the repercussions of the fire and became good Samaritans to their nearby cities.
When the fires first started raging, Benicia High School’s administration began thinking of ways to help. Following Hurricane Harvey a few weeks earlier, Benicia High adopted two high schools in the Houston area that had been affected and started fundraising for them. The school used this as its basis for helping those affected by natural disasters and saw what Northgate Christian Fellowship was doing by supporting fire victims with donations and decided to partner with the church. Over the course of several days, the school gathered enough supplies to fill a van with.
“We did this because we felt the need to help in any way that we could and because our parents and students wanted to be a part of a positive response as well,” Benicia High Principal Brianna Kleinschmidt said.
The principals of Benicia Unified School District’s middle and high schools will go over the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) at each of their sites at Thursday’s school board meeting.
SPSAs are put together by school site councils to develop goals that support the academic performance of all students and are aligned to BUSD’s Strategic Plans and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The principals of Benicia’s secondary goals will be presenting their SPSAs for board approval.
Benicia High School’s SPSA highlighted a variety of goals. The first goal was to improve school culture and student-staff relationships, which would be measured through an increase in students’ Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognitions, Heart (REACH) scores from 63 to 70 percent by June 2018. The second goal was to have the students increase the school’s overall English Language Arts (ELA) score on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) from 73 percent meeting or exceeding standards in 2017 to 78 percent in 2018. Likewise, the third goal was to increase the amount of students exceeding or meeting standards on the math portion of the SBAC from 52 to 55.6 percent. Principal Brianna Kleinschmidt also highlighted a long-term goal for the school to increase the number of students exceeding or meeting math standards on the SBAC to 70 percent by June of 2022, which would require a growth of 3.6 percentage points each year for the next five years.
Benicia Unified School District outlined positive highlights and areas for improvement when data from the most recent Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was presented at Thursday’s Governing Board meeting.
The SBAC was initiated in 2015 and replaced the previous California Standards Test following the state’s shift to Common Core practices. The statewide assessment is given to all students in grades 3 to 8 and 11 in the areas of math and English Language Arts (ELA). According to Dr. Leslie Beatson, BUSD’s assistant superintendent of educational services, the test is taken on a computer and quizzes students in a variety of formats, including multiple choice, short answer, constructed response and performance test. The test also utilizes a concept called universal design where accommodations such as enlarged text or Individualized Education Program arrangements for special education students can be built in.
It was a somber morning Thursday at Benicia High School. A group of students gathered during the school’s new Access period to hear the story of a young woman whose life was taken by a drunken driver and take the pledge not to drink and drive.
The assembly began with an introduction by students involved with Friday Night Live, an organization which promotes life choices for young adults. The program has been a part of Benicia High for the past two years.
“We think that it is important for you to be informed about staying safe on the road” Kirsten Lambinico, an FNL student student leader said. “For you, it’s probably a no duh that you shouldn’t drive while you are drunk, but it still happens and that’s why we are talking about this.”
Homecoming Week is coming. Once again, Benicia High School will maximize its spirit levels next week and welcome back former students with its annual rally, dance and football game.One Homecoming tradition will not be present this year, and that is float parade. However, school officials have replaced it with something just as appealing: a carnival.
Mary Wheat, Benicia High’s activities director, said a lot of factors inspired the decision to end the floats. One was the breezy length of the parades. The parades typically consisted of four floats designed by members of each of the classes.“The parade was always a fun activity, but it was always very short,” she said. “It ran approximately 15 minutes from beginning to end.”
Benicia High last held a float parade in 2015. Wheat said the school offered to do a parade last year without floats, but students did not think it would be worth it.Additionally, when the school could not find a warehouse to store the floats, students had to build them in the Multi-Purpose Room, which Wheat said was taking up space utilized by physical education classes and the school’s wrestling team.“People loved the floats, but not everyone realized the money and time that went into building them,” she said. “Although it was a tough decision, we felt it was best to end the tradition of building floats.”
The school board will hear a report and discussion on the data from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) at Thursday’s meeting.
The SBAC is a statewide assessment administered to all third through eighth-graders and 11th-graders in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The SBAC replaced the California Standards test following the state’s shift to Common Core standards and allow students to not only answer questions in a variety of formats but also require students to explain their answers in an effort to demonstrate their knowledge. It also utilizes a computer whereas the previous test used the traditional pencil and paper.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Leslie Beatson and Educational Services Coordinator Stephanie Rice will dive into the findings from the results at Thursday’s meeting.
They may not be college-bound students, but they will draw upon relevant high school math and English lessons on construction jobs, a longtime sheet metal worker told more than two dozen Vacaville Unified students.
The teenagers, most of them from Vacaville and Will C. Wood high schools, listened closely as Dan Riley, training coordinator for Local 104 of the International Association of Sheet Metal Workers, spoke Friday morning in an assembly room at the union’s Apprenticeship Training Center in Fairfield.
The students, many of them seniors looking forward to a June graduation and entry into a well-paying construction job or a training program, were part of some 100 from five different Solano or Napa county districts who participated in a half-day “Tour of the Trades” informational event.
Six middle school girls, including two from Benicia, will share their experiences of attending a weeklong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp this past summer during the Benicia-Vallejo American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) potluck dinner on Tuesday.
The girls’ experience was part of Tech Trek 2017, a summer camp founded by AAUW of California member Marie Wolbach to provide middle school girls with a camp featuring science, technology, engineering and math-based activities and inspire them to pursue one of those fields. The goal is to make those fields more accessible to middle school girls since that is typically the age when girls lose interest in those areas, according to AAUW research.“We all know about the lack of women that are in STEM careers and professions,” Christine Dunn, the Tech Trek coordinator for Benicia-Vallejo AAUW, said. “We are trying to rectify that. We want to get girls interested in this kind of career early on. I think there’s been a lot of research that shows that girls in middle school drop off, lose interest in the sciences and mathematics, and we want to encourage them to stay in it.”
After a few weeks’ delay, the 2017 online state standardized test scores are in, and most Vacaville-area school districts posted results that met or exceeded Solano County and state averages but largely remained the same as last year’s, reflecting the latest state averages, several administrators said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday the results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English and mathematics, noting, in a prepared statement, that they
“remained steady and retained the strong gains students made in 2016.”
Everyone needs a helping hand every once and awhile. When a group of middle of Benicia Middle School students heard the family of one of the school’s teachers was affected by Hurricane Harvey, they decide to offer that helping hand.
Benicia Middle Schoolers Pharrah Barrow, Ella Beatson, Julia Rogers, Kelly Chamberlain, Caitlyn Begbie, Jiana Lyons, Jada Rivas, Juliana Leonares, Michelle Fernandez and Ava Mainini found out the family of Matthew Cunningham, an eighth-grade English teacher, had damage done to their home during Hurricane Harvey. They decided to start a donation fundraiser to help out Cunningham’s family.
The students have raised more than $1,664 ,so far and that is not including the checks they have also received. They did this by going out every morning before school began and asking for donations. The students also hung up posters, baked cookies, made donations boxes and rang a cowbell when someone made a donation.
One major impact of Hurricane Harvey was on schools. The storm caused schools in the Houston area to delay the beginning of the year, damaged several campuses and caused several teachers and students to lose their homes and possessions.
The California Interscholastic Foundation and the Sac-Joaquin Section— the league where Benicia High School plays all its sports— set up a fundraiser where its schools would be partnered with affected schools in the Houston area. As a result, Benicia High is sponsoring two schools in the Klein Independent School District in Harris County, Texas that were impacted in their own way.
Lemm Elementary School in Spring suffered extensive flooding damage that resulted in the school being temporarily closed. Much of the destruction occurred in the library, where two feet of water had soaked the room leading to books and electronic equipment being removed. The entire campus is being renovated and could take as long as a year for it to be back in shape.
The Suisun Marsh attracts professional scientists from all over the world who come to study it.
Few people know that young, local scientists have been studying the marsh consistently for the past eight years thanks to a free opportunity offered by the Solano Resource Conservation District.
About 1,000 sixth- and seventh-graders will conduct soil, water and plant analysis during visits that began Monday and continue into early December. Testing happens during a visit to Rush Ranch Open Space, owned by Solano Land Trust.