School board to vote on new, realigned BHS course outlines at Thursday’s meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Nine new or restructured Benicia High School course outlines are up for review at Thursday’s school board meeting.

“The course outline of record plays a critical educational role,” Dr. Leslie Beatson, assistant superintendent of educational services, wrote in the agenda. “It is the primary vehicle for course planning. When a course is revised or updated, it is the course outline that records the changes. As such, it forms the basis for a contract among the student, instructor, and institution identifying the expectations which will serve as the basis of the student’s grade and giving the fundamental required components of the course which the student is guaranteed to receive from the instructor and institution.”

The first course up for approval is advanced welding, a full-year course for sophomores through seniors which serves as the next step for students currently taking automotive, welding/fabrication or construction, all courses which were implemented this year.

Source: School board to vote on new, realigned BHS course outlines at Thursday’s meeting

Benicia High Student jump starts district’s move to solar – Times Herald

By Katy St. Clair

Victor Hugo once said that perseverance is the secret to all triumphs. Certainly former Benicia High School student Aaron Feigelman would concur.

The enterprising young man began spearheading the school district’s ambitious transition to solar power back in 2014 when he was a mere junior. Now this “triumph” in clean, sustainable, low-cost energy is set to power up sometime this year.

Feigelman is now well into college, but he’s closely followed the project that first began in his mind’s eye after an educational trip to Ecuador to learn about hydropower and sustainability.

“Every student who left there developed a sustainable master plan,” he said.

For him, it was solar — an energy source that had always fascinated him. While he saw it going up in parts of Benicia, he didn’t see any of it in schools.

Source: Benicia High School Student jump starts district’s move to solar

Benicia High School grad scores lead role in ‘Hamilton’ – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Austin Scott has had an incredible acting journey. The 2011 Benicia High School graduate has gone from starring in advertisements at the age of 8 to being cast in the title role in “Hamilton” for the smash hit musical’s national tour.

“It’s a dream come true,” Scott said of his role.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning hip-hop musical about the life of America’s first treasury secretary debuted on Broadway in 2015 and began its first national tour last year. Scott is succeeding Michael Luwoye, who starred in the original touring production and is now playing the same role in the Broadway version.

Scott first caught the acting bug at a young age when he and his mother passed by a John Robert Powers performance academy which was offering acting classes.“I just kind of looked up at her and said ‘I want to do that,’” he said. “She took me in, and that day we signed up for acting classes.”

Source: Benicia High School grad scores lead role in ‘Hamilton’

Board of Supervisors to recognize BMS campus supervisor as Classified Employee of the Year – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Solano County Board of Supervisors will present and adopt a resolution recognizing Benicia Middle School campus supervisor Angie Porter as the county’s Classified School Employee of the Year at today’s meeting.

“The Classified School Employee of the Year program is designed to highlight the contributions of classified school employees who support the education of our public school students in pre-kindergarten through grade twelve and to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of outstanding classified school employees,” according to the resolution. “They are vital members who play key roles in creating a school environment that promotes student achievement, safety and health.”

Porter has served as Benicia Middle’s campus supervisor for seven years where she has often been cited as the first person that students see when they arrive in the morning. She supervises students before and after school as well as during lunch and passing periods. She also provides support for teachers in their classrooms. Beyond her role as campus supervisor, she also is a co-facilitator of the student anger management group and a team member of Sources of Strength, in which students meet in peer groups to foster positivity for students dealing with anxiety or depression; and the school’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support program, a framework aimed at creating an educational climate to help all students achieve and learn.

Source: Board of Supervisors to recognize BMS campus supervisor as Classified Employee of the Year

Nearly 1k students took part in RCD’s education program during past year – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Reliable research shows that we remember field trips long into adulthood — journeys to museums, state and national monuments, state capitols, major libraries, seashores, national forests and the like — enriching visits that offer real educational value.

That, in part, is the mission of the Solano Resource Conservation District and its Suisun Marsh Watershed Education Program as it intersects with the missions of county school districts, which, like districts across the nation, are increasingly hard-pressed to fund.

But just ending its 10th year, the RCD program — which uses Rush Ranch, just south of Suisun City, and the massive adjacent marsh as an outdoor classroom — continues to flourish, thanks to its partners: the Solano County Water Agency, the Solano County Department of Resource Management and the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.

Source: Nearly 1k students took part in RCD’s education program

Semple, Henderson students assist peers with proper waste disposal through new program – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Elementary school is when students begin to learn the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. However, with the help of Republic Services, Joe Henderson and Robert Semple elementary students are absorbing the other trio of Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.Waste collection company Republic Services, which provides service for Benicia, has been working with school districts to help minimize food waste by setting up new recycling programs.

“With Republic Services, our job is to work with the schools and the businesses to help them reduce what’s going into the landfill,” Marie Knutson, a recycling coordinator for Republic Services, said. “There’s also a California law, AB 1826, in regards to food waste. Pretty soon, everyone with four yards or more of trash going per week will have to have composting as well as recycling by law.”

Source: Semple, Henderson students assist peers with proper waste disposal through new program

School board approves financial report, suggests serious look at budget – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The school board voted to approve the 2017-18 first interim financial report at its Thursday meeting.

The contents of the report were presented and summarized by Chief Business Official Tim Rahill. He noted that the general fund was budgeted at $50.5 million, 86 percent of which comes from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), 6 percent of which comes from the state’s other funding sources including a one-time grant, 2 percent— mainly special education funds and smaller programs— from the federal government, and 5 percent from local and other funds such as donations and the Benicia Education Foundation.Rahill also noted that $5.5 million came from solar fund proceeds, but they would not be included in the second interim financial report. He also broke down the LCFF funds, 63 percent of which were derived from the state budget and 37 percent from property taxes.Also in the presentation were expenses budgeted by Benicia Unified School District. According to Rahill, 49 percent of these consisted of salaries for certificated employees, 16 percent salaries for classified employees, 20 percent for employee benefits, 11 percent for services and capital outlay and 4 percent for supplies.

Source: School board approves financial report, suggests serious look at budget

BUSD reopens graduation requirement discussion at community forum – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Six months after Benicia Unified School District halted its proposed new high school graduation requirements, the discussion was reopened in a forum at Benicia High School on Tuesday night.

The school board held a study session in January to discuss proposed new graduation requirements and went into further detail at its regular March 16 meeting.The proposed requirements— which would have gone into effect starting with the class of 2022— aimed to increase college readiness for all students and were modeled after the UC system’s A-G requirements. These conditions included requiring an extra year of science, an extra year of math, two years of the same world language, one year of a visual or performing art and one year of a new ninth-grade course titled “Get Focused.” The requirements were unanimously approved as part of the consent calendar at the board’s April 6 meeting.

Source: BUSD reopens graduation requirement discussion at community forum

First interim financial report up for BUSD review – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will hear a discussion and then vote on the district’s 2017-18 first interim financial report at Thursday’s school board meeting.The district provides the report using information from the budget adopted by the state in June along with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) as well as other budget assumptions.

The LCFF is a funding system approved by the state in 2013 which establishes grants in place of funding streams. It is how school districts in California, including BUSD, are funded. According to a presentation by Chief Business Official Tim Rahill, the LCFF provides $8262 per BUSD student and includes a base grant as well as a 20 percent increase for English language learning or foster youth students as well as those enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program. According to Rahill, those three groups make up 22 percent of BUSD’s student population.Utilizing information from the state budget, Rahill wrote that the district would be operating at a $1.8 million operating deficit, not including negotiating costs with any of the district employee groups and would provide for the state’s 3 percent Reserve for Economic Uncertainties and the Local Board Policy Reserve, consisting of an additional 4 percent reserve.

Source: First interim financial report up for school board review

BMS, Henderson receive $1,000 music grants – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Middle School and Joe Henderson Elementary School were among 13 schools in Solano County to receive a Wong Music Mini-Grant from the Solano Community Foundation.

Benicia Middle School and Joe Henderson Elementary School were among 13 schools in Solano County to receive a Wong Music Mini-Grant from the Solano Community Foundation.The grant was established in 2011 by Donald and Rose Marie Wong who were concerned by the amount of schools eliminating or reducing music education programs. Since then, funds have been used to repair or provide new instruments, pay for band uniforms and sheet music, and more. Rose Marie died in 2016, but her name lives on to ensure that students have the materials for a proper music education.

Source: BMS, Henderson receive $1,000 music grants

Benicia High School grad helps bring next swing revival to LA – Benicia Herald

By the Editor

Art Blakey said that “Music washes away the dust of every day life.” The L.A. Swing Barons are helping make that happen in Southern California. The classic 13-piece jazz big band was formed in 2015 when it became clear that no one in the greater Los Angeles area was playing music capturing the hard swingin’ 1930s /1940s Kansas City sound of Count Basie and his peers.

Dancers from all over Southern California come once a month to the iconic and historic Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles to dance to the Swing Barons’ live & lively music. Many dress in vintage clothing from the era.

They have just released their first CD, and it features a graduate of the Benicia Unified School District’s music program and 2013 Benicia High School graduate Liam Robertson, who plays lead alto saxophone.

Source: Benicia High School grad helps bring next swing revival to LA

Fantasy, reality become intertwined in Benicia High School fall production – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

One might associate fantasy fans and theater fans as being disparate groups of people, but they will come together for Benicia High School’s fall play “She Kills Monsters,” which opens tonight. However, the fantasy elements will be intertwined with the harsh realities of grieving and growing up.

Qui Nguyen’s comedic drama only debuted off-Broadway in 2011 but is quickly becoming a popular production for high schools. The story is set in the ‘90s and centers around Agnes Evans (played by Ellie Bettencourt), a young high school teacher reeling from the loss of her parents and teenage sister Tilly (Pilar Gonzales) in a car accident. Agnes learns that Tilly was an avid “Dungeons and Dragons” player after uncovering a notebook of game scenarios and soon becomes a part of that world— both literally and figuratively— while learning about the side of her sister that she never really knew.

Director Nathan Day said he chose the play due to its themes, which he felt audiences could relate to.

Source: Fantasy, reality become intertwined in Benicia High School fall production

High school business continues ‘Odd Jobs’ through holidays – Benicia Herald

By George Johnston

The kids are all right. Well, at least the ones in Benicia. Last year, a group of high schoolers started a business where they do odd jobs for the community.We Do Odd Jobs was started by Benicia High School junior Chris Weldon and a group of his friends. This group was trying to figure out a way to pay for summer camp and came to the solution of creating a service where they would do odd jobs for the community like moving items and yard maintenance. Once they had the idea of what “We Do Odd Jobs” would do, they had to start advertising their new business, which they did on the Facebook group “Benicia Happenings.” From there, the We Do Odd Jobs started getting hired more frequently. Business continued to improve after the group received praise on the internet from their clients.

“We just want to give back to the people of our community.” Weldon said. “We do these services that weren’t being provided by anybody, and it was kind of clicked together and it was something Benicia was kind of missing.”

Source: High school business continues ‘Odd Jobs’ through holidays

BUSD applying for grant funding for BHS Performing Arts Building renovation – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: BUSD applying for grant funding for BHS Performing Arts Building renovation

Benicia High news broadcast program continues to evolve – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: Benicia High news broadcast program continues to evolve

School board OKs first half of elementary student achievement plans – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: School board OKs first half of elementary student achievement plans

Henderson, Semple student achievement plans on table for Board Meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Student clubs advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms at BHS – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: Student clubs advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms at BHS

Pensions pack punch for school district budgets, superintendent says – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

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.

Source: Pensions pack punch for school district budgets, superintendent says

BHS Panther Band hosts first golf tournament fundraiser over weekend – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: BHS Panther Band hosts first golf tournament fundraiser over weekend