By Katy St. Clair, Bay City News Foundation
Benicia Unified School District Superintendent Charles Young has announced he will retire at the end of the school year, according to a message posted on the district’s website.
Young said it was a “difficult” decision to retire after 35 years of public education service, the last seven of which were as superintendent in Benicia.
“My career as an educator has been profoundly gratifying and humbling,” he said. “I am profoundly grateful for each student I have taught, each teacher, principal, administrator, staff member of the many departments with a school district, and parent I have had the opportunity to work with.”
Source: Benicia USD Superintendent Charles Young To Retire | Benicia, CA Patch
By Tony Campbell
As the surging Omicron variant raises the number of COVID-19 cases in Solano County, local parents are increasingly concerned about keeping their kids in the classroom.
The rapid growth has been on the mind of Vallejo and Benicia school districts as they wrestle with the question of halting in-person instruction.
“As has been the experience of school districts throughout the region and across the state of California, the Vallejo City Unified School District has seen a steady uptick of positive COVID-19 cases among its staff and students,” district spokesperson Stephen Nichols said in an email to the Times-Herald on Thursday afternoon. “In alliance with the state and county public health agencies, the district continues to provide multiple and robust safeguards within its schools, offices, and classrooms to prevent the spread of the virus. At this time, absentee rates in the district average 20-25 percent overall, but it should be noted this includes all categories — not just COVID case absences, which is a fraction of the total absences.”
By Thomas Gase
There is no arguing it, Benicia High sophomores Gabriel Stockwell and Micheal Delgado know how to debate.
Stockwell and Delgado won gold and came in first place last week in the sixth annual Cal Parli Debate tournament. The tournament, normally held on the UC Berkeley campus, was much larger in 2021 due to it being online. The event drew teams from southern California and as far away as Connecticut. Still, it was Stockwell and Delgado that stood out above the rest.
“These two young men are talented, natural debaters, and they are supported by a skilled coaching staff and a dedicated group of fellow team members,” Benicia coach Michele Gaines said. “Michael and Gabe went the distance. We were all ecstatic. They were exhausted.”
Source: Making a case: Nobody argues like Benicia sophomores – Times-Herald
By Richard Freedman
Returning to Robert Semple Elementary School in Benicia is pure déjà vu for Kelli Huettenhain. Her first time in Room 9, she had no idea what déjà vu meant.
Huettenhain was in kindergarten, naturally oblivious that 49 years later, she would return to the school to teach fifth grade. And as much as Huttenhain tried to focus on Tuesday’s chaos of opening day, she couldn’t help but recall the memories after spending time in the hallowed space last Thursday and Friday as she prepared for this year’s challenges.
“The corner wall door is where I remember Mrs. Conway had a rocking chair,” Huettenhain said. “She would read books to us, sing songs, things like that.”
Source: Benicia teacher back in same classroom 49 years later – Times-Herald
By Maggie Fusek
Back-to-school planning has already begun in Benicia, with calendars available to help parents prepare for the first day in the Benicia Unified School District.
The first day of school for students in Benicia is Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Heading into the upcoming school year, some dates are subject to change as the coronavirus pandemic nears its year-and-a-half point. A mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid learning is still possible in Benicia, though Gov. Gavin Newsom recently reaffirmed his desire to see students back in the classroom so they can receive the social and emotional benefits that come with full-time, in-person learning.
Source: Back To School: Benicia 2021-22 School Calendar | Benicia, CA Patch
By Thomas Gase
Benicia High School graduate Olivia Mackey says she felt great that she was able to recently end her college softball career with a bang. And by “bang” she means a clutch triple off her bat that helped lead Southern Oregon to another NAIA Softball World Series title.
Although it was the second time in three years (there was no winner in 2020), Southern Oregon won the second of its back-to-back titles last week with a pair of same-day wins over Oregon Tech. Southern Oregon won the first game 3-2 in Georgia to force a second game, which it took 7-5 behind Mackey’s two-out RBI triple for a valuable insurance run in the ninth inning.
“I was getting thrown outside pitches all game but I was still hitting the ball to left,” Mackey said. “That final at-bat, I kept looking for an outside pitch to drive to the opposite field and I finally got one that seemed like a gift. When I got to third base I was so juiced up because we needed to score that huge insurance run. Words can’t describe how super dramatic that was for me.”
Source: Benicia High graduate Olivia Mackey helps Southern Oregon go back-to-back – Times-Herald
By Thomas Gase
Benicia High Student Body President Brode Alava received a few laughs when he brought up the line often said by teachers for four years — “The bell doesn’t dismiss you, I do.”
However, on Saturday morning, Alava and his Benicia class of 2021 were officially dismissed from high school.
Instead of a bell ringing there was plenty of whistles, applause, stomping of feet in the bleachers and yes, an endless amount of pomp and circumstance blaring from the loud speakers as the students graduated and celebrated with loved ones. The 122nd ceremony took place at Drolette Stadium, just two months after some students had returned to in-person instruction after a year of learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: ‘Resilient’ Benicia High graduates class of 2021 – Times-Herald
Nearly 30 school district staff, community members and one student have been selected for the annual Solano County Community Advisory Committee Recognition Award.
This year’s selections were specifically chosen “for demonstration of outstanding accomplishments and services for individuals with special needs during the 2020-2021 (Covid-19) pandemic.”
Among the qualities attributed to the nominees are “knowledgeable, approachable, welcoming, energetic, enthusiastic and 100% student-focused.”
Source: SELPA advisory committee recognizes 28 for work with children who have special needs
By Thomas Gase
The days of watching a graduation ceremony from the passenger seat of a car seem to be over for local high schools.
Vallejo, Jesse Bethel, St. Patrick-St. Vincent, Benicia, American Canyon and John Finney high schools will all be returning to a more traditional commencement event during the next few weeks, starting with St. Pat’s this Saturday. Some schools, such as Vallejo, Bethel and possibly Benicia, will be doing two events on the same day, with certain students showing up at one time and the other half at another time later in the day based on what letter their last name begins with.
St. Pat’s has 107 students in its 2021 graduating class, according to the school’s dean of students, Lane Hawkins.
Source: Local high schools going back to traditional graduation ceremonies – Times-Herald
By Thomas Gase
With the end of the school year on the horizon for the Vallejo and Benicia Unified school districts, focus is now starting to switch to the fall and whether or not the new school year will involve only in-person instruction.
Vallejo is moving toward mostly in-person instruction while keeping the option of distance learning, according to Vallejo City Unified School District spokesperson Stephen Nichols.
Nearby school districts have been back to hybrid or some form of in-person instruction for months, but VCUSD returned just recently with 7th grade through high school coming back on April 19 and kindergarten through sixth grade on April 12.
Source: Vallejo, Benicia schools aim for in-person instruction in the fall – Times-Herald
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
A U.S. history and ethnic studies teacher in Vacaville and a skills trades technician with the Benicia School District took home top honors Tuesday as the Solano County Office of Education honored classified and certificated employees.
Laura Roberts, who served time in the military prior to teaching, took home the top educator award.
She grew up in Vacaville, graduating from Will C. Wood High School. Roberts referred to herself as one of the students who fell through the cracks.
Source: Vacaville teacher, Benicia skills trades technician take home SCOE awards
Seven teachers and eight classified employees have been nominated as the top educators in Solano County for 2021-22.
The certificated educators nominated are:
Kelly Hughes, a fifth-grade teacher in the Benicia School District; Jenny Campbell, a response to intervention and English language development K-3 teacher at Dixon School District; Joseph Arbizu, a math, Algebra II, integrated math and geometry high school teacher in the Fairfield-Suisun School District; Ronald Major, a multiple-subjects (8-12), teacher for the Solano County Office of Education; Kylie Negin, an English and journalism high school teacher in the Travis School District; Laura Roberts, a U.S. history and ethnic studies (11-12) teacher at Vacaville School District; and Vivet Beckford-Nelson, a biology and engineering design and development high school teacher in the Vallejo City School District.
Source: SCOE to honor top 2021-22 educators, school staff
By Richard Bammer
The nominations are in, and the Solano County Office of Education will name the county’s two educators of the year during a virtual celebration on Tuesday.
Every year county school districts nominate one teacher and one classified, or school-support, employee to be recognized as the best of the best for the year.
During the online celebration, which begins at 3 p.m. on the SCOE Facebook page and at www.Solanocoe.net, each nominee for the 2021-2022 awards will be honored.
Source: SCOE names educator nominees of the year – The Reporter
Allison McCabe, a Benicia High School student, was the overall winner of the recent 2021 Virtual Science and Engineering Fair.
McCabe also took first in the Physical Science category in the Senior Division, in which high school students competed. There were also Elementary (third through fifth grades and Junior (sixth through eighth grades) divisions. McCabe is a sophomore.
“Our goal is to inspire more students to consider a career in science, engineering or a related field. The fair is an excellent opportunity for our elementary, middle and high school students to apply science and engineering skills to investigate problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and develop conclusions. Events like the Science and Engineering Fair have the potential to spark a lifelong interest in a related field.” Solano County Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson said in a statement announcing the winners.
Source: Benicia High student tops all others at science, engineering fair
On Monday, the Benicia High School football team released its five-game football schedule for the spring.
The Panthers will host a scrimmage against Northgate on Friday and then start the regular season March 19 at home against Campolindo.
Benicia will travel to Miramonte on March 26 and then host Acalanes and Will C. Wood on April 2 and 9, respectively. The Panthers will conclude the season April 16 at Las Lomas.
Except for the game against Wood, all of the games are against Diablo Athletic League opponents.
Source: Local Roundup: Benicia High releases completed football schedule – Times-Herald
By Matt O’Donnell
By now, the general public has become accustomed to wearing a mask in grocery stores and other retail outlets during the coronavirus pandemic.
How about playing a competitive tennis match with a mask wrapped around your face?
That’s something players like Benicia High School’s Kai Wills and his teammates will have to familiarize themselves with as the boys tennis season begins later this month.
“Personally, I’m pretty used to it but I think it’s something some players will struggle with,” Wills said. “I was training coming back from an injury and I had to do it for about three months.”
Source: Kai Wills, Benicia High boys tennis team ready for season to begin – Times-Herald
By Matt O’Donnell
Deep Purple is the classic rock group that features screaming vocals from Ian Gillian and blazing guitar solos from Richie Blackmore.
Benicia High School is not in “deep purple” yet. The Panthers are more likely in “early purple” mode.
Source: Some Benicia High School sports set to practice on Monday – Times-Herald
By Matt O’Donnell
No sport or activity is 100 percent shielded from COVID-19 transmission, but golf is as safe as they come.
“It should be really easy to maintain protocols,” said Benicia High’s boys and girls coach Bob Hall. “Kids will have to wear masks at all times, they’ll will have to keep at appropriate distances, there won’t be any handshakes and there will be no sharing of balls and equipment.”
Source: Benicia High boys, girls golf teams ready for potential season – Times-Herald
By Richard Freedman
The nation’s newly-minted and celebrated poet laureate, 23-year-old Amanda Gorman, inspired many adults with her “The Hill We Climb” inauguration message.
Christina Moore hopes Gorman’s words are equally admired by Robert Semple Elementary’s 460 students.
Moore, the Benicia school’s sixth-year principal, barely waited for Gorman to finish her presentation before rushing an excerpt from the historic poem onto Semple’s vintage marquee: “There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
“Not only has this generated some great interest, we might be getting a new marquee out of it,” said Moore.
Source: Benicia school seizes poet laureate’s wisdom – Times-Herald
By Matt O’Donnell
In 2018, Benicia High School’s Janari Boone admitted to being anxious before the start of the first game of the season.
After all, he was a freshman linebacker, starting on the varsity football team.
“It was crazy,” Boone said. “I was nervous and I was scared, but people told me, ‘Relax, you’ve been doing this your whole life’ since I had always played against older players before. But on the first play of the first game, I made a tackle and settled down.”
When Boone starts the first game of the 2020-21 season, he may not experience any tension. Instead, the feeling may be more surreal.
Source: Janari Boone should be two-sport star at Benicia High School – Times-Herald