School board to hear quarterly bond update at Thursday’s meeting – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

As Measure S bond projects continue to move along, attendees of this Thursday’s school board meeting can get a greater understanding of which projects have been completed, which ones are nearing completion and which projects will be taken on next. The discussion will be presented by Bond Director Roxanne Egan.

Measure S was a ballot initiative approved by Benicia voters in 2014 aimed at providing $49.6 million in bond funding for improvements at each of the Benicia Unified School District’s seven schools. As of Dec. 31, 11 projects had been completed, technology infrastructure upgrades at all the schools, playground modernizations at the elementary schools, fixing the roofs at Benicia Middle School and Mary Farmar Elementary School, painting the exteriors at Benicia High School and renovating Benicia High’s stadium.

Egan also identified 10 approved bond projects in progress. These include fire alarm replacements at Liberty High School and the District Office as well as Mary Farmar, Joe Henderson and Robert Semple elementary schools, a fire alarm upgrade at Matthew Turner Elementary School, a modernization of Benicia Middle School’s campus, miscellaneous infrastructure upgrades, alternative education improvements and repairing the gym floor at Benicia High. Another approved project is improvements to Benicia High’s Performing Arts Building, which Egan said is part of the district’s efforts to apply for a Career Technical Education grant for the building. If the grant is awarded, then the district will be required to match up to a maximum of $3 million in local funding. If the grant is not awarded, then a minimum amount of $400,000 will be allocated for PAB improvements.

Source: School board to hear quarterly bond update at Thursday’s meeting

Teachers rally for higher funding priorities – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Several Benicia Unified School District teachers rallied outside City Park an hour before Thursday’s school board meeting to raise awareness of ongoing negotiations between the Benicia Teachers Association (BTA) and BUSD.

On Jan. 24, BUSD and BTA held a negotiations meeting one day after a budget workshop which focused on providing information related to school funding, namely revenues and expenses, according to an update on the BUSD website.

“With declining enrollment, steep and ongoing pension, step and column and special education cost increases, even with the proposed budget update from the Governor, which still must pass in June, BUSD needs to make budget adjustments totaling_$800,000 for the 2018-19 school year,” the post read.

BUSD proposed a one-time bonus of 1 percent off the salary schedule for both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, citing a desire to remain competitive with surrounding school districts. BTA countered with a 5 percent salary increase for the current school year and a 4.25 percent increase for the following school year. The post noted that while school board trustees are committed to reaching a “fair and equitable” settlement, the proposed raise by BTA would cost $3.2 million.

Source: Teachers rally for higher funding priorities

BUSD trustees to vote on resolution requesting more money for CA public schools – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

The superintendent of the Benicia Unified School District is asking school board trustees to support a resolution by the California School Boards Association (CSBA) requesting more money for state schools at Thursday’s BUSD Governing Board meeting.According to the resolution, “California has the sixth largest economy in the world and the largest Gross Domestic Product of any state in the nation,” however “the state falls in the nation’s bottom quintile on nearly every measure of public K-12 school funding and school staffing.”

The resolution notes that California ranks 45th nationally in the percentage of taxable income used on education, 41st in funding per pupil, 45th in pupil-teacher ratios and 48th in pupil-staff ratios.

“California’s investment in public schools is out of alignment with its wealth, its ambitions, its demographics and the demands of a 21st-century education,” the resolution states.The resolution cites a 2007 report titled “Getting Down to the Facts,” which posited that it would take an additional $17 billion annually to meet the state Board of Education’s achievement targets. It also cites a 2016 CSBA report, “California’s Challenge: Adequately Funding Education in the 21st Century,” which updated the 2007 report and came to the conclusion that, when adjusted for inflation, an additional annual $22 billion to $40 billion would be crucial to provide all public school students with access to high-quality education.“In order to prepare our students for participation in a democratic society and an increasingly competitive, technology-driven global economy, California must fund schools at a level sufficient to support student success,” the report reads.

Source: BUSD trustees to vote on resolution requesting more money for California public schools

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

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

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