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 The new requirements were later rescinded by the board and the old ones reinstated.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 Among the improvements planned by the district are replacing the “outdated” lighting and acoustic fixtures, converting and expanding old the costume shop into a dance studio, adding changing rooms in the backstage and production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

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.

School board adopts resolution providing input to council on cannabis – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: School board adopts resolution providing input to council on cannabis

Secondary principals to present student achievement plans board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: Secondary principals to present student achievement plans at Thursday’s school board meeting

BUSD highlights successes, areas for improvement in state test results – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: BUSD highlights successes, areas for improvement in state test results

BUSD to tackle state test data at Thursday’s school board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

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.

Source: BUSD to tackle state test data at Thursday’s school board meeting

Assistant supe provides update on LCAP goals to school board – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District heard an update on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The LCAP is a plan that is required by all public schools in California to receive funding provided through the Local Control Funding Formula, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013. BUSD’s LCAP has outlined three goals for the district:To create a collaborative team of highly engaged staff that supports the academic, emotional and social success of all students for college and career readiness.To modernize and improve infrastructure to provide a learning environment that offers opportunities for 21st-century teaching and learning.

To increase community and parental involvement through awareness and engagement.Assistant Superintendent Dr. Leslie Beatson and Educational Services Coordinator Stephanie Rice presented an update on the LCAP, which Beatson described as “a wrap-up from last year’s (strategic) plan.”

Source: Assistant supe provides update on LCAP goals to school board

School board to consider reappointment of 2 Bond Oversight Committee members tonight – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will be voting to reappoint two members of the Measure S Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) at tonight’s meeting.Per the general obligation bonds of Measure S which was approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide funding for facility improvements at Benicia schools, the district is required to have a CBOC with seven members who meet quarterly to go over bond expenditure reports. The seven members consist of one person representing a local business, one person representing a senior citizens’ organization, one person representing a taxpayers’ organization, a parent or guardian of a Benicia Unified student, a parent or guardian of a Benicia Unified student who also serves on a parent-teacher organization or school site council, and two at-large community members.

The term for each member is two years, and the terms of two— at-large member Ron Arrants and taxpayers’ organization representative Pat Lopes— are slated to end on Oct. 1. Per CBOC bylaws, members can not serve more than three consecutive terms and the school board has the ability to appoint members based on the recommendation of the superintendent.Superintendent Dr. Charles Young is recommending that the board reappoint Arrants and Lopes for two-year terms that run through Oct. 1, 2019. Both members had previously been re-appointed in 2015.

Source: School board to consider reappointment of 2 Bond Oversight Committee members tonight

Renovated Benicia High School stadium officially open – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

It is finally here. After more than three years of planning, discussing and numerous construction delays, Benicia High School’s stadium is open for play, following a grand opening ceremony Thursday.

In 2014, Benicia residents voted to approve Measure S, a ballot initiative aimed at providing $49.6 million in bond funding for improvements at Benicia Unified School District’s seven schools. One of the largest projects to be funded by the initiative was the renovation of Benicia High’s George Drolette Stadium, which was constructed around 1966. The renovation of the stadium, which consists of a football and soccer field as well as a track, was expected to be completed in Oct. 2016 but due to various delays— including one of the Bay Area’s rainiest winter seasons in years— the construction kept getting pushed back. Now the field is ready for play, and the school celebrated with a ribbon cutting Thursday.

The stadium boasts a number of new features including aluminum bleachers that can seat up to 3,300 people, an 8-lane all-weather track, upgraded lighting, a new concession stand relocated to the front of the stadium, a “memory brick” circle emblazoned with the names of past and present Benicia High Schoolers, and a new entryway with signage welcoming Panthers. The only element remaining from the previous stadium was the scoreboard.

Source: Renovated Benicia High School stadium officially open

New Drolette Stadium ready to shine on Friday night – Times Herald

By Thomas Gase

Times-Herald sports staff Michele Drolette was born in 1954 in the middle of George Drolette’s 21-year run at Benicia High School.

His daughter therefore does not necessarily recall all of the X’s and O’s of her father’s legendary football career with the Panthers. She does, however, know how everyone remembers her dad.

“People come and go and sometimes people pass away and you don’t always recall that much about them but people still tell stories about my dad,” said Michele, who still lives in Benicia. “People really loved him and had a fondness for him. It’s really amazing to me.”

 

Source: New Drolette Stadium ready to shine on Friday night

BUSD chief business official discusses declining enrollment – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Unified School District’s chief business official went over the district’s decline in enrollment at Thursday’s Governing Board meeting.Tim Cahill noted that BUSD has been experiencing a slight decrease in enrollment over the last few years, although prior to that enrollment numbers had been stable for a number of years.

“It was a little bit up in enrollment, a little bit down maybe within 10 students in some cases,” he said.

However, this year BUSD was anticipating 89 fewer students. When the 2017-18 school year actually began, there were actually 106 fewer students than the previous year.Rahill said that enrollment numbers have been monitored every day since the start of school through monthly checks.

“We take a look at the first Monday enrollment count each month,” he said. “We started that in September, will do that in October, do that in November and that gives us kind of a monthly check on where we’re at in enrollment.”

Source: BUSD chief business official discusses declining enrollment

School board to discuss dwindling student enrollment – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Unified School District’s student enrollment for the 2017-18 school year is smaller than initially anticipated. Chief Business Official Tim Rahill will discuss the current enrollment numbers at Thursday’s school board meeting.

At a meeting in February, Rahill noted that prior to the 2016-17 school year, BUSD had five to eight years of stable enrollment but had decreased by 100 students in the 2016-17 year. The district was expected to have 90 fewer students in the 2017-18 year, but when school started in August, there were actually 106 fewer students, consisting of 78 fewer at the middle and high school levels and 28 at the elementary level.

There were some areas of slight growth. At the transitional kindergarten level, five more students were enrolled than the previous year and the district’s initial projections for the current year. There was also an increase among first-graders, a very slight increase among eighth-graders and a large increase among 10th-graders.

Source: School board to discuss dwindling student enrollment

New Benicia High School bell schedule, special education model discussed at BUSD board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Two of the biggest changes at Benicia High School this year are the adoption of a new bell schedule and the switch to a new special education model. Items on both were presented at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Bell schedule

The implementation of a new bell schedule at Benicia High has been in the works ever since it was suggested as a goal by a Western Association of Schools and Colleges visitation team more than two years ago. After two years of conducting research, soliciting feedback from the community and presenting various possibilities for a new schedule to go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year, Benicia High announced a new schedule in May. Rather than students having a non-rotating six-period schedule for all five days of the week, students will only have that schedule for three days of the week. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, students will have a block schedule consisting of three 86-minute classes each day. Odd-numbered classes will meet on Wednesdays, even-numbered classes will meet on Thursdays, and school will end for students 30 minutes earlier.

Source: New Benicia High School bell schedule, special education model discussed at Thursday’s school board meeting

School board to kick off 2017-2018 year with Measure S update – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Unified School District schools are nearly back in session for the 2017-2018 year, and so are the Governing Board meetings. As is usually the case, one of the items on the agenda is devoted to providing an update on the status of Measure S bond projects.

Measure S is an initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding for renovation and upgrades of school facilities. Bond projects completed to date include upgrading the technology infrastructure at all seven schools, playground enhancements at all four elementary schools, exterior painting at Benicia High School and repairing the roofs at Benicia Middle School and Mary Farmar Elementary School.Bond Director Roxanne Egan will deliver an update on items that were discussed at the July 25 BUSD Citizens’ Oversight Committee meeting, as well as updates on items being funded by Measure S.

Source: School board to kick off 2017-2018 year with Measure S update

Bond committee will discuss possible future Measure S projects over summer – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Unified School District trustees heard an update on Measure S projects completed to date and potential projects for the future at Thursday’s school board meeting. The presentation was delivered by Roxanne Egan, the Measure S bond director.

Measure S was a ballot initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding for projects for the district’s seven schools. The bond funds were initially going to be issued in three series: Series A, B and C. Due to low interest, Series B and C were consolidated into one bond issuance. Series A projects were announced in 2014, and 11 have been completed so far: technology infrastructure upgrades at all the schools, phone system upgrades at all the schools, renovated playgrounds at all the elementary schools, fixing the roofs at Benicia Middle School and Mary Farmar Elementary, fixing the softball field bleachers at Benicia High School, repainting the exterior at Benicia High, installing new camera security systems at all the schools, upgrading the fire alarm system at Benicia Middle, upgrading the IT server and replacing the clocks, bells and PA systems.

Two projects are currently in construction at Benicia High: a renovation of the George Drolette Stadium and fire alarms. The former is expected to be completed over the summer while the latter is estimated to be completed by October, Egan said.

Source: Bond committee will discuss possible future Measure S projects over summer

School board reinstates previous graduation requirements – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

After more than a month of hearing people’s concerns, the Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District voted for Benicia High School to revert back to its previous graduation requirements at Thursday’s meeting.

On Jan. 14, the board held a study session to discuss proposed new graduation requirements for Benicia High and went into further detail at its regular March 16 meeting. The proposed requirements— which would go 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: School board reinstates previous graduation requirements

School board to vote again on graduation requirements – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will be holding another vote on the graduation requirements for Benicia High School at Thursday’s meeting before it embarks on its summer recess. Staff is recommending the board revert back to its previous graduation requirements in an effort to hold further discussions with the community.

On Jan. 14, the board held a study session to discuss proposed new graduation requirements for Benicia High and went into further detail at its regular March 16 meeting. The proposed requirements— which would go 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 9th grade course titled “Get Focused.” The requirements were unanimously approved as part of the consent calendar at the board’s April 6 meeting.

Source: School board to vote again on graduation requirements

School board approves 5 new BHS courses, delays vote on 2 – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District approved five new Benicia High School courses— advanced engineering design, basic welding and automotive, Construction & Building Trades 1, introduction to medical careers, and yoga— and held two— physics of the universe and “Get Focused”— for further discussion at Thursday’s meeting.

Dr. Leslie Beatson, the assistant superintendent of educational services, presided over the discussion of the new courses. She immediately requested pulling physics of the universe, a required course for 9th-graders, from that night’s agenda because she wanted it to be agendized for the June 15 meeting when proposed pathways for the science courses as well as California’s Next Generation Science Standards will be discussed. She then introduced Benicia High Principal Brianna Kleinschmidt to go over the other courses. She described the basic welding and automotive course as the first course in a two-part pathway that also serves to resurrect a previous long-time Career Technical Education (CTE) course.

“We used to have an auto shop program,” she said. “It was very popular, and that went away for a few years, so we’re happy to be bringing it back.”

Source: School board approves 5 new BHS courses, delays vote on 2

Community makes plea for support at Thursday’s BUSD school board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Hundreds of students, alumni, parents and teachers filled the Benicia Unified School District office to address concerns over Benicia High School’s new graduation requirements, scheduled to go into effect for the class of 2022, at Thursday’s school board meeting. In fact, the turnout was so large that the majority had to watch a livestream of the meeting that was set up in the Liberty High School gym.

On March 16, the school board held a discussion on proposed new graduation requirements to more closely resemble the University of California and California State University requirements. The proposed changes were as follows:

* Health and the semesterlong elective that accompanied it would be replaced by a new yearlong course titled “Get Focused,” intended to help freshmen be successful by identifying their life and career goals early on and developing a pathway to prepare for that field, according to its description in the 2017-2018 course catalog.

Source: Community makes plea for support of arts, electives at Benicia High School during Thursday’s school board meeting