Benicia High School informational meeting draws concerns over new graduation requirements, funding for PAB – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Parents, students and teachers packed the Benicia High School Performing Arts Building for an informational meeting Monday night about the new school board-approved graduation requirements where they voiced their concerns about their potential impact on art and elective courses.

At the March 16 school board meeting, the board held a discussion and first reading of the proposed new requirements to go into effect for the class of 2022, which Superintendent Charles Young said were modeled after the University of California and California State University requirements, although with some modifications. The required amount of units for graduation would remain at 220, but some of the units would be redistributed to additional 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 develop a pathway to prepare for that field, according to its description in the 2017-2018 course catalog.

Source: Benicia High School informational meeting draws concerns over new graduation requirements, funding for PAB

School board to consider awarding fire alarm upgrade to lowest bidder – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Benicia Unified School District is already in the process of looking for a contractor for the fire alarm upgrade at Benicia High School. The school board will be voting Thursday to award the contract to the lowest bidder.

The fire alarm improvement is another item to be funded through Measure S, the initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding to enhance facilities at BUSD’s seven schools. Much like the stadium renovation at Benicia High School and the fire alarm upgrade at Benicia Middle School, the project was taken to a public bidding process where contractors had to be pre-qualified in order to be eligible to bid. According to Measure S Bond Director Roxanne Egan, four contractors pre-qualified and three submitted a bid. The lowest was a $1.9 million bid submitted by Bockmon & Woody Electric Co. Inc. out of Stockton. District staff is recommending that the board award the contract to Bockmon & Woody, noting that the district’s electrical engineer has successfully worked on projects with the company and is confident in their ability.

Source: School board to consider awarding fire alarm upgrade to lowest bidder

Slate of Measure S projects on agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Lee Pollard of HY Architects and Measure S Bond Director Roxanne Egan will deliver an update on progress to the renovation of Benicia Middle School at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The renovation of BMS is one of the last remaining projects in the first phase of Measure S, an initiative approved by voters in 2014 to set aside $49.6 million in bond funding to be used for construction and renovation projects at Benicia Unified School District sites. The modernization of Benicia Middle School’s campus, which was built in 1976, is expected to begin in the fall of 2017 and will include new modular classrooms, a drama classroom, improving the quality of interior spaces and traffic congestion, new 21st century classrooms with new furniture,

Source: Slate of Measure S projects on agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting

School board approves pay increases, discusses new graduation requirements at Thursday’s meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District unanimously voted to approve a tentative agreement between the district and the Benicia Teachers’ Association at Thursday’s meeting.

In November, the BTA declared it was at an impasse with the district over contract negotiations regarding pay raises. On March 3, a tentative agreement was reached that offered a 3.5 percent increase for the 2016-2017 school year.

Deputy Superintendent Michael Gardner noted that the agreement had already been ratified by the BTA, and he brought it to the board for approval.

“It’s very important, the process that we go through,” he said. “It’s always been very respectful from each side, and I think it’s gotten better as the years have gone by since I’ve been here as far as listening to the other side and coming to some agreements. We came to a lot of agreements very quickly, and then some took us a little bit longer.”

Source: School board approves pay increases, discusses new graduation requirements at Thursday’s meeting

School board to consider teacher pay raises at Thursday’s meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

A tentative agreement between the Benicia Teachers’ Association (BTA) and the Benicia Unified School District offering salary increases is scheduled to be voted on at the school board’s Thursday meeting.

In November, the BTA declared that it was at an impasse with the district over contract negotiations for pay raises. Bargaining teams had met for six sessions and reached a tentative agreement during a mediation on Friday, March 3. The negotiations will be presented at Thursday’s meeting, and the board will vote to ratify the terms of the agreement.

The agreement is offering a 3.5 percent ongoing salary increase for the 2016-2017 school year.“The percentage increase shall apply equally to all steps and columns of the salary schedule, and shall be used as the basis to establish all other salaries, stipends, hourly rates and payments that are linked to the salary schedule,” the agreement read.

The increase will go into effect on April 1 exclusively for hourly rates, salaries, Ph.D and master’s degree stipends. Other stipend increases would go into effect on July 1.

Source: School board to consider teacher pay raises at Thursday’s meeting

Teachers, community address school board over teacher shortage – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The weightiest topic discussed at Thursday’s school board meeting was not one of the agenda items but rather something discussed during the public comment portion. As with the Dec. 15 meeting, it concerned contract negotiations and teacher shortages.

Back in November, the Benicia Teachers’ Association declared an impasse with the Benicia Unified School District over salary negotiations. A discussion with a mediator was held on Feb. 23, but a settlement was not reached.

Another related topic that was brought up was a shortage of teachers in the district, which educators have said has created some problems. Among the issues most frequently brought up: at least 14 teachers at Benicia High School teaching above their contract, vacancies being filled by non-credentialed teachers, teachers covering an extra class during their prep periods and Spanish teachers monitoring the use of Rosetta Stone.

Source: Teachers, community address school board over teacher shortage

School board votes to set retention of 2 Measure S projects at 10% – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

After a public hearing, the Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District unanimously voted to set the retention for two Measure S projects at 10 percent for being substantially complex at Thursday’s meeting.

The first project in question was a fire alarm upgrade at Benicia High School— not Benicia Middle School as previously reported. Factors that make the project complex include the fact the construction timeline is critical, the system is unique in nature and requires specialized training, and the system is directly related to fire, life and safety at the school.

Source: School board votes to set retention of 2 Measure S projects at 10%

School board to hold public hearing on ‘substantially complex’ Measure S projects – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will be holding a public hearing at Thursday’s meeting to set the retention for two Measure S projects at 10 percent because they are considered substantially complex.

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. Such projects include upgrading the playgrounds at the elementary schools, fixing the roof at Benicia Middle School, re-painting the exterior at Benicia High School and renovations the stadium at Benicia High, the latter of which is currently in progress.

However, there are two projects that are considered substantially complex: the upgrade of Benicia Middle School’s fire alarm system and solar retrofitting at several of the schools.Per public contract code, retention proceeds that are “withheld from any payment by a public entity and an original contractor, between an original contractor and a subcontractor, and between all subcontractors thereunder, relating to the construction of any public work shall not exceed five percent of the contract price.”

Source: School board to hold public hearing on ‘substantially complex’ Measure S projects

Safety plans on slate for Thursday’s school board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will be considering the approval of safety plans for the district and its seven schools at a shortened meeting this Thursday, which will start at 6 p.m. so the trustees can attend Benicia High School’s open house that evening.

Recent tragedies at schools across the nation have reinforced the need to update school safety plans, especially since Benicia High experienced a scare of its own last September when the school was placed on precautionary lockdown after a student had made threats online. Each school will be reviewing and updating its Comprehensive Safety Plan which have to be submitted to their respective School Safety Committee by March 1. The plans include procedures to follow in the event of an emergency and strategies to use to create healthy, safe environments for the schools. The plans are approved by each school’s site council and then submitted to the school board for approval. Dr. Leslie Beatson, the assistant superintendent of educational services, will be delivering an overview of the plans for the schools and district.

Benicia High School’s safety plan, for example, designates crisis response plans in the event of fire alarms, earthquakes, precautionary lockdowns, bomb threats, air contamination and severe windstorms or tornados.

Source: Safety plans on slate for Thursday’s school board meeting

BUSD board meetings will now be streamed online – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Following the adjournment of Benicia Unified School District governing board meetings, video of the meetings will be posted on the district’s website.

Previously, the meetings were broadcast on TV on Comcast Channel 27 or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. However, the district has opted to phase this out in favor of having footage of the meetings posted online. In a manner similar to the City Council meetings, Benicians will be able to view the meetings from their computers or smartphones. The videos will be uploaded to the district website after the meetings are over.

Source: BUSD board meetings will now be streamed online

Architects present revised Benicia Middle School campus remodel plans at board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Lee Pollard of HY Architects delivered a presentation on plans to modernize the Benicia Middle School campus at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The project is one of many to be funded by Measure S, an initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding to be spent on facilities at district schools. As noted in an earlier presentation by Bond Director Roxanne Egan, 11 projects have been completed so far with another currently under construction: the renovation of the track and field at Benicia High School.

There are three projects that are scheduled to begin this summer: fire alarm upgrades at Benicia High, districtwide solar updates and the first phase of a remodel of the BMS campus. Egan had presented initial plans at a November board meeting, and after district staff met with architects to determine the best fit for a new campus, revised plans were presented on Thursday.

Source: Architects present revised Benicia Middle School campus remodel plans at Thursday’s school board meeting

School board to vote on Benicia Middle School campus renovation – Benicia Herald

By  Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will be voting on a proposed renovation of Benicia Middle School’s campus at Thursday’s board meeting.
Construction on the current BMS campus was completed in 1976 and was comprised of four buildings and eight portable classrooms. Now the school is looking to modernize its campus by replacing the portables and redesigning the courtyard in an ampitheater-style setting. Funds for the remodel would be provided through Measure S.
Roxanne Egan, the bond director for Measure S, and Lee Pollard of HY Architects will be presenting will be presenting the results of a discussion held at a series of meetings in December regarding the total number of classrooms required for the school’s educational programs and the best location for those classrooms. Egan will be presenting examples of current modern designs at other Bay Area schools.
The project would have four phases. The construction of new modular classrooms would take place in the fall of this year. he campus modernization would be scheduled for the summer of 2018. The redesign of the kitchen, lunch shelter and drama room would be slated for spring 2018 through December of that year. Finally, construction on the lower portables would be done in the summer of 2019. Egan also suggested the area be preserved as a swing space while construction going on. There is also an optional fifth phase regarding resurfacing of the tennis courts which would take place in the summer of 2017.

Source:  School board to vote on Benicia Middle School campus renovation – Benicia Herald

Benicia Unified dives into survey data at Thursday’s school board meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District heard further discussion on student responses to the Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognitions, Heart (REACH) survey at Thursday’s meeting, this time focusing on the district’s efforts to improve its scores.

The REACH Survey is administered to students in grades 6 through 12 to examine the relationships between students and teachers and see what further work needs to be done. Students are polled in the five following categories.

*Relationships: Do teachers believe in their students?

*Effort: How students view their own intelligence influences the effort they put into their school work.

*Aspirations: Do students have positive visions of their futures and set and work toward their goals?

Source: Benicia Unified dives into survey data at Thursday’s school board meeting

School board to hear additional data of REACH Survey at Thursday’s meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will hear a further overview on Benicia Unified School District students’ responses to the Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognitions, Heart (REACH) survey at Thursday’s board meeting.

The REACH survey is considered a supplement to the California Healthy Kids Survey and further examines the relationships between students and teachers and identifies internal assets known to increase achievement. The survey was issued for the first time in the 2015-2016 school year, and Dr. Carolyn Patton— the district’s special services director— presented an overview at the Sept. 1 meeting. Benicia Middle School, Benicia High School and Liberty High School students were polled on the following five categories:

*Relationships: Do teachers believe in their students?

*Effort: How students view their own intelligence influences the effort they put into their school work.

*Aspirations: Do students have positive visions of their futures and set and work toward their goals?

Source: School board to hear additional data of REACH Survey at Thursday’s meeting

Accountability plan update on school board agenda – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District will hear an update on the district’s progress toward goals listed in the 2016-2017 Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) at Thursday’s meeting. The discussion will be led by Leslie Beatson, assistant superintendent of educational services, and educational coordinator Jan Rogenski.

The LCAP serves as the district strategic plan and outlines goals of the district. It also works to insure increased services and programs for BUSD’s English learning, economically disadvantaged, foster youth and homeless students. According to Beatson and Rogenski, 4,760 students are enrolled in LCAP programs and the plan has been able to fund $8,045 per student in 2016-17.

Coordinators are predicting the number to go up to $8,530 in 2020.The presentation will also review progress toward the LCAP’s goals, which are to support the needs of alls students for college and career readiness, modernizing and improving infrastructure to provide opportunities for 21st century learning, and increasing community and parental involvement through awareness and engagement. Additionally, it will provide information on the new accountability rubrics and tools that have been adopted by the State Board of Education.

Source: Accountability plan update on school board agenda

Social worker Celeste Monnette is newest Benicia Unified trustee – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

When the Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District meets on Dec. 15, a new face will be seated among the trustees. Social worker Celeste Monnette will be sworn in Thursday to succeed outgoing Trustee Andre Stewart.

Monnette filed paperwork to run in the 2016 election for a two-year term. However, since a minimum of three candidates were eligible to run and only three candidates applied— the other two being incumbents Gary Wing and Stacy Holguin—, the board opted not to hold an election that year. All three will be sworn in at Thursday’s meeting.

A psychiatric social worker who has lived in Benicia for six years, Monnette received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Humboldt and her master’s in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently employed as a psychiatric social worker with Kaiser Permanente Medical Group where she works to provide crisis services for those seeking mental health treatment. She also has worked as a psychotherapist in private practice.

Source: Social worker Celeste Monnette is newest Benicia Unified trustee

School board to mull options for Benicia Middle School lower campus renovation – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of Benicia Unified School District will hear a discussion on options for Benicia Middle School’s lower campus redesign at Thursday’s meeting.

Roxanne Egan, the Measure S bond director, will be leading the discussion. Measure S was approved by Benicia voters in June 2014 to provide $49.6 million in bond funding for projects that would improve student life at each of the district’s seven schools. Projects include an upgraded stadium at Benicia High School, upgraded playgrounds at all the elementary schools, improved phone systems at all the schools and improving the PA system at all the schools.

At the Oct. 6 meeting, the school board voted to approve Oakland-based HY Architects for Benicia Middle’s lower campus renovation project, another item on the Measure S bond’s Facility Master Plan. The project will largely consist of replacing the portables on the lower end of campus with new buildings and replacing the tennis courts.

Source: School board to mull options for Benicia Middle School lower campus renovation

School board OKs achievement plans for middle, high schools – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District unanimously voted to approve the Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSA) at Thursday’s meeting.The SPSA is established by school site councils to develop goals, aligned to BUSD’s Local Control Accountability Plan, which would support the academic performance of all students. At the high school level, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) goals act as the SPSA, with the goals and actions updated each year to represent continuous growth cycles. Each site team studies state and local measures to gauge progress and put together plans that represent the uniqueness of each school.

Benicia Middle School

Damian Scott, the principal of Benicia Middle School, was the first to present. The first two goals were to increase literacy and math proficiency respectively by 10 percent. The previous year, literacy proficiency had decreased by 5 percent, but math had remained consistent. In terms of other goals from the 2015-2016 school year, Scott noted that BMS saw a 59 percent decrease in suspensions and a 53 percent decrease in incidents. It also met its goal of using technology to promote 21st century learning by having two Chromebooks per every one student and allowing all professional learning opportunities to have a technology focus.

Source: School board OKs achievement plans for middle, high schools

Benicia Middle, high school achievement plans on slate for Thursday’s school board meeting

By Nick Sestanovich

Two weeks ago, the principals of Benicia’s four elementary schools presented their Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSA) at Benicia Unified School District’s governing board meeting. On Thursday, the principals of Benicia’s middle and high schools will be presenting their goals.

The SPSA is established by school site councils to develop goals, aligned to BUSD’s Local Control Accountability Plan, which would support the academic performance of all students. At the high school level, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) goals act as the SPSA, with the goals and actions updated each year to represent continuous growth cycles. Each site team studies state and local measures to gauge progress and put together plans that represent the uniqueness of each school.

For its plan, Benicia Middle School Principal Damian Scott has outlined five goals as well as provided progress not he goals from the 2015-2016 year. For example, one of the previous year’s goals was for students to increase their literacy proficiency by 10 percent on the CAASPP English Language Arts Assessment.

Source: Benicia Middle, high school achievement plans on slate for Thursday’s school board meeting

Benicia Police Department, Benicia USD to join forces for Cyber Safety Night tomorrow – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

In the past month, Benicia Unified School District had two separate scare instances that initiated the need for a discussion on teens and the use of social media.

In September, a Benicia High School student made violent threats against his school on the messaging site Kik. After the incident was reported to Benicia High officials, the school was placed on lockdown and the suspect was arrested.

In October, in the midst of a “creepy clown” media frenzy, a Benicia Middle School student reported a post on Instagram with a photo of a scary clown’s face and the caption “I’m going to shoot up your school BMS.” Police could not determine if the threat was leveled at Benicia Middle School but still increased its presence at the campus the following day.

As a response to both incidents, BUSD will be partnering with the Benicia Police Department to host Cyber Safety Night at Benicia High School. BPD will be delivering a presentation and allow time for questions and answers at the end.

Source: Benicia Police Department, Benicia Unified School District to join forces for Cyber Safety Night tomorrow