BHS nabs 13 Arty nominees apiece for 2017-18 productions – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Performing Arts Network (PAN-Arts) announced its nominees for the 34th annual Arty Awards, which honor theatrical productions at all levels in the counties of Solano, Napa and– for the first time this year– Yolo, this morning. Once again, Benicia High School and Benicia Old Town Theatre Group are well-represented among the nominees.

Benicia High School’s fall play, the fantasy/comedy/drama “She Kills Monsters,” racked up a total of 13 nominations, including outstanding high school production. Drama instructor Nathan Day received nods for directing, sound design and set design. Additionally, Brandon Nelson and Meghan Guertin received nods for lighting design, and Linda Wichelman received a nomination for costume design. In the acting categories, Eleanor Bettencourt and Pilar Gonzales are up for best lead actress, Kevin McLarty and Garrett Mingardi are in the running for best lead actor, Tate Reeves received a nod for best supporting actor, and Guertin and Skylear Clouse are competing for best supporting actress.

Source: BHS nabs 13 Arty nominees apiece for 2017-18 productions; BOTTG nets 5

School board approves tentative agreement with teachers union – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Following nearly a yearlong impasse over contract negotiations with the Benicia Teacher Association (BTA), the Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District voted to ratify a tentative agreement with a 2.5 percent salary increase at Thursday’s meeting.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, the BTA and BUSD’s bargaining teams met for several negotiation sessions. In January, the district had proposed a one-time bonus of 1 percent off the salary schedule for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. BTA countered with a 5 percent increase for 2017-18 and a 4.25 percent increase for 2018-19 school year. After being unable to reach an agreement, BTA requested to file for impasse. Teachers, students and parents voiced their disapproval at board meetings, with some educators providing lists of free services they would no longer offer to students outside of their contract hours unless an agreement was reached.

Source: School board approves tentative agreement with teachers union

BUSD survey results presented to school board – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Results from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and Relationships Effort Aspirations Cognition and Heart (REACH) Survey were presented at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Dr. Carolyn Patton, Benicia Unified School District’s special services director, presented a quick overview of the two surveys’ results. The reports come out publicly in November, so Patton initiated a preliminary discussion with some highlights locally.

The CHKS is administered to seventh, ninth and 11th-graders every two years to capture behavioral data in the areas of substance abuse, school safety, social/emotional wellness and student/teacher relations.

Patton noted that mental and physical health indicators were stable with a small decrease in substance abuse among students surveyed. She said the district defined substance abuse as “binge drinking” and “binge usage of marijuana,” although she was not able to say if chronic use had decreased.

Source: BUSD survey results presented to school board

Benicia High sophomore raising funds for volunteer trip to Africa – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Olivia Andrade just started her sophomore year at Benicia High School, but she is already looking forward to the summer where she will be embarking on a volunteer trip to West Africa as part of Global Leadership Adventures (GLA).

GLA is an organization that offers study abroad programs for high schoolers to provide them service skills in such nations as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Indonesia, South Africa and more. GLA has twice hosted events with Archbishop Demond Tutu in South Africa to discuss the lasting impact of apartheid, and in 2013 then-President Barack Obama recognized GLA founder Fred Swaniker in a speech.

Andrade’s family has resided in Benicia for generations. In fact, she is the great granddaughter of former longtime Benicia High teacher, administrator and coach George Drolette.

Source: Benicia High sophomore raising funds for volunteer trip to Africa

Benicia teen becomes coffee entrepreneur – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

At 16, Reid Burford is about the age where one might expect to find him working as a coffee shop barista, but that is not the case. Instead, the Benicia High School junior roasts and distributes his own coffee as part of his business Howling Hounds Coffee Roasters. What’s more: he has been doing it since he was 14.

Burford has been a coffee enthusiast since he had his first cup of joe at the age of 12. This interest was magnified as a result of going to coffee shops over the years.

“I was very interested in the process of roasting coffee and brewing it,” he said. “I saw these big, fancy, shiny espresso machines at the coffee shops, and I always found it interesting to watch the baristas prepare the coffee.”

Source: Benicia teen becomes coffee entrepreneur

Strong schools are hallmark of Solano life – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

One of the great influencing factors for choosing a place to live, particularly for families with young children, is the quality of education available.

As far as Solano County is concerned, the quality of education at all levels is generally strong. Most of the schools in the Fairfield-Suisun School District, for example, are at or above statewide targets for school with a similar makeup of student bodies.

The same holds true for the school districts in Vacaville and Travis, with each of these having a particularly strong collection of elementary schools.

The Benicia district and Dixon district, each representing smaller communities, have high-performing schools throughout different levels.

Source: Solano Life 2018: Strong schools are hallmark of Solano life

Local labor group announces council, school board endorsements – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Napa/Solano Central Labor Council (NSLC), a labor collective representing Napa and Solano counties, announced its endorsements in local races via a Facebook post.

According to the post, the NSCLC held 53 interviews with candidates in races throughout Solano and Napa counties over several days with a panel of more than 30 affiliate leaders. The goal was to seek candidates who they felt would serve the needs of labor workers. The recommendations were ratified by the NSCLC and Napa Solano Building and Construction Trades. Members voted at a delegate meeting to ratify the votes which were announced Saturday.

In the Benicia City Council race, the NSCLC endorsed the same two candidates it endorsed in 2016: Economic Development Chair Lionel Largaespada and former Councilmember Christina Strawbridge. Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye and retired journeyman carpenter William Emes are also in the race.

Source: Local labor group announces council, school board endorsements

What’s new at Benicia Unified schools in 2018-19 – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia High will see a variety of new educators this year, including math teacher Ken Knight, medical careers teacher Anouk Dorrance, digital media teacher Larry Kurnarsky, visual arts teacher Katelynn Burmark, world language teacher Jose Martinez Mejia, special education teacher Charli O’Malley, and college & career counselor Gina Marwick. New courses include medical science and terminology, advanced welding and fabrication, advanced construction technology, alternative energy: wind, water and solar; and scientific research.

Joining Brianna Kleinschmidt in her third full year as principal and fellow vice principals Kathrine Cole and Sean Thompson is new VP Yadira Zapata. Zapata was a Spanish teacher at Alhambra High School in Martinez where she served on the WASC Leadership Team and received an administrative credential from California State University East Bay.

Source: Benicia Heads Back to Class: What’s new, what to expect at Benicia Unified schools in 2018-19

School board to vote on resolution removing obsolete books – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

On Monday, students throughout Benicia will be returning to school, but nearly 2,000 outdated books in Benicia High School’s library will not be joining them. Over the summer, Benicia Unified School District officials and student volunteers weeded certain books out of Benicia High’s collection, and the school board will be voting to declare these books as well as library furniture to be obsolete when it reconvenes from its summer break on Thursday.

According to the school board agenda, BHS has 14,314 books in its collection. The district went through a process to remove approximately 1,930 items which were either in poor condition, had information that was no longer relevant or were available online through Benicia High’s current database. The books will be donated to either the Benicia Public Library or Benicia High art classes for future projects. Student volunteers assisted with the process for three days, and a Benicia Public Library representative provided consultation.

Source: School board to vote on resolution removing obsolete books

BUSD announces guidelines for free, discount meal eligibility in 18-19 – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Benicia Unified School District announced its guidelines for free or reduced meal programs under the National School Lunch/Breakfast Programs for the 2018-19 school year.

According to a news release, BUSD’s Food and Nutrition Department offers lunch services at Matthew Turner Elementary School, breakfast and lunch services at Mary Farmar Elementary, Joe Henderson Elementary, Robert Semple Elementary, Benicia Middle School and Liberty High School, and breakfast, lunch and nutritional snack break services at Benicia High School. The cost of breakfast is $2 and the cost of milk is 50 cents for all grades, and the cost of lunch is $3 for elementary schoolers and $3.50 for middle and high schoolers.

Source: BUSD announces guidelines for free, discount meal eligibility in 18-19

Former BHS teacher chosen to direct Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park production – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park is going deep— in more ways than one— for this year’s play, which is directed by a well-known forner Benicia educator.

Christine Mani, who taught theater at Benicia High School for 17 years, is directing “Measure for Measure,” which kicks off a four-week run in multiple cities Friday. William Shakespeare’s dark comedy, written in either 1603 or 1604, is set in Vienna when its duke, Vincentio, decides to go on a break from ruling. He puts the strict Judge Angelo in charge, who enforces harsh immorality laws, sentences a man named Claudio to death for impregnating his fiancee and offers his sister Isabella a deal where he will spare Claudio from death if she has sex with Angelo.

While the play is not as universally known as other Shakespeare titles like “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet,” it is one that has a lot of relevance in today’s political and cultural climate.

Source: Former BHS teacher chosen to direct Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park production

Farmar PTA to raise funds for music program with benefit concert – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Lucca Beer Garden is generally not open Wednesdays, but to help raise money for a good cause, the stage will be filled with the sounds of music for a special concert benefiting the music program at Mary Farmar Elementary School.

The Mary Farmar PTA Music Committee will be hosting its Gimme a Beat! Benefit concert next week to finance music education at Farmar. Committee Chair Shelley Rice said the group was formed as an offshoot of the school’s Parent Teacher Association after the music program lost a private donor.

“We were left with no funds and a program we wanted to continue, so we put this committee together,” she said.

Source: Farmar PTA to raise funds for music program with benefit concert at Lucca

Potential candidate comes forward; incumbent trustee will not seek re-election – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The filing period for Benicia’s school board election is not until tomorrow, but if a panel at Thursday’s Progressive Democrats of Benicia (PDB) meeting was any indication, the race has already begun. Among other things, the panel saw the emergence of a potential challenger and the announcement by an incumbent that she would not seek re-election.

What remains to be seen is if the election will be a repeat of 2016, in which no election was held since only three candidates ran when three seats were available. One thing is for certain though: No matter the outcome, there will be new faces on the school board.

This year, three seats are up for grabs: those belonging to President Diane Ferrucci and trustees Celeste Monnette and Peter Morgan. Morgan announced at a previous school board meeting that he does not intend to seek re-election, and Monnette— a social worker who has served on the board since 2016—made the same announcement at Thursday’s PDB meeting.

Source: Potential school board candidate comes forward; incumbent trustee will not seek re-election

School board OKs 18-19 budget – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District approved the budget for the 2018-19 school year at the final school board meeting of the 2017-18 year on Wednesday.

Chief Business Official Tim Rahill noted there were no changes to the budget from the May 31 meeting when a public hearing was held. Rahill said the district would be operating at a small one-time surplus of $88,000, which includes the costs of employee negotiations from the tentative agreements with the classified employees union and confidential/management group, which were unanimously ratified at Wednesday’s meeting.

Trustee Peter Morgan asked if costs associated with the Benicia Teachers Association were included in the budget, considering negotiations were ongoing and the tentative agreement was voted down. Rahill said he contacted both auditors and school services.

Source: School board OKs 18-19 budget

Fire Department distributes child ID kits to kindergarten families – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

No parent ever wants experience having a child go missing, but should that happen, the Benicia Fire Department has acquired a resource to assist in bringing lost children home safely.

City firefighters have partnered with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and California Fire Foundation as well as the Benicia Unified School District to distribute “Child ID Kits” to Benicia elementary schools. The kits contain fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and other tools aimed at allowing parents and guardians to record information about their children. Adults keep the information in their homes to be provided to authorities in the circumstance one of their children goes missing. The kits were distributed to kindergarteners last week during the final week of school for children to take home to their parents.

Source: Fire Department distributes child ID kits to kindergarten families

School board to vote on LCAP Wednesday – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Following a public hearing at the May 31 school board meeting, a discussion on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is up for the trustees’ approval for the last meeting of the 2017-18 school year Wednesday— a day earlier than when school board meetings are usually held.

The LCAP is a tool for all school districts in California to receive funds through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). According to a report by Dr. Leslie Beatson, the assistant superintendent of educational services, the LCAP has three main goals: supporting academic and social-emotional success for all students, modernizing and improving infrastructure to promote 21st-century learning, and increasing parental and community partnerships so that all students graduate college and career ready. Beatson highlighted a number of programs that contributed to academic and social-emotional success, including Odyssey of the Mind, Visual and Performing Arts programs and Outdoor Education.

Source: School board to vote on LCAP Wednesday

Graduating eagles soar at Liberty High School’s graduation – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

In his message to the crowd at Liberty High School’s graduation ceremony, Principal Zachary Pless said he had asked staff upon starting his position what their favorite time of year was. Their answer was not the holiday dinners, field trips or other special events but rather Graduation Day. Traditionally, Liberty’s graduation ceremony has been an event to reinforce the often repeated statement that the school is “like a family,” remind students of how far they have come and inspire them to keep that motivation with them as they move into the future. All of that was on display Thursday, as families gathered on the Marina Green to watch 32 Liberty graduates take their next steps into the world.

To kick things off, Superintendent Dr. Charles Young said the ceremony was a celebration of the hard work put in not only by the students but also their parents and guardians who guided them along the way.

Source: Graduating eagles soar at Liberty High School’s graduation

Spirited Benicia High graduation ceremony celebrates accomplishments of 2018 class – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

“Many teachers have told me that we were the best class,” Shannon Sweeney, the outgoing Associated Student Body senior president, said in her remarks at Benicia High School’s Class of 2018 graduation Saturday. “I would have to agree.”

Sweeney and her teachers were not alone in this opinion. As the speeches by graduating seniors and school officials rolled on, the reviews became apparent: this was a particularly exceptional graduating class. Judging what makes a class “great” is purely subjective, but Principal Brianna Kleinschmidt was quick to note that the class of ’18 had a lot to celebrate.

First of all, this was the first class to graduate on Benicia High’s campus in two years, as last year’s festivities had to be held 12 miles away at Diablo Valley College as the finishing touches were being put on the remodel for Benicia High’s usual venue, the George Drolette Stadium. The 2018 class got to be the first to graduate in the new stadium, and even amidst windy conditions where many graduating Panthers had to hold down their caps to keep them from blowing away, they were still energized to take that next step.

Source: Spirited Benicia High graduation ceremony celebrates accomplishments of 2018 class

School board to vote on LCAP Wednesday – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Following a public hearing at the May 31 school board meeting, a discussion on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is up for the trustees’ approval for the last meeting of the 2017-18 school year Wednesday— a day earlier than when school board meetings are usually held.

The LCAP is a tool for all school districts in California to receive funds through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). According to a report by Dr. Leslie Beatson, the assistant superintendent of educational services, the LCAP has three main goals: supporting academic and social-emotional success for all students, modernizing and improving infrastructure to promote 21st-century learning, and increasing parental and community partnerships so that all students graduate college and career ready. Beatson highlighted a number of programs that contributed to academic and social-emotional success, including Odyssey of the Mind, Visual and Performing Arts programs and Outdoor Education.

Source: School board to vote on LCAP Wednesday

Benicia High School top 2018 graduates ready for next big step – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

When Upraj Singh entered Benicia High School, he did not know he would be the top student in his class.

“Freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t even have a concept of what the valedictorian was,” he said. “It was only junior year I was seeing people striving for this position and basically striving for academic excellence, and I thought, I definitely could be part of them. So, junior year, I thought, I’m gonna strive for this position.”

Madeline Beyer figured she could rank near the top, but she had a lot of competition.

“I knew I was at the top for all four years and that I’ve always been a little bit ahead of everybody GPA-wise just because I was able to take a couple of AP classes early on,” she said, “but I never thought I’d make it to the top two. It was really competitive.”

Source: Benicia High School top 2018 graduates ready for next big step