Horace Tufts “Whit” Whitman was a former Air Force officer and former commercial airlines pilot who, in retirement, became a fierce advocate for public education.
He served on the Vacaville Unified governing board for nine years, his tenure ending in 2018, and was known for his strong opinions but also his generosity of time, spirit and money related to school district matters.
Whitman, 77 and a native of the Upper Midwest, had battled depression for some time and committed suicide Sunday, said family spokeswoman and sister-in-law Lois Chancellor. District officials on Monday also reported information about his death on the VUSD website.
Sara Bryan was set to begin a new life in August. She had recently moved from Martinez to her boyfriend’s house on Pleasants Valley Road in Winters and began teaching fifth grade at Orchard Elementary School.
Only three days into the school year, Bryan and her boyfriend had to evacuate with their home being destroyed in the LNU Lightning Complex Fire.
Brenda Hensley, a math teacher at Will C. Wood High School, also had to leave her home in Berryessa Highlands with her husband, cat and assorted belongings. Their home also burned down.
The 800-member Vacaville Teachers Association on Thursday announced its endorsements for four seats on the Vacaville Unified governing board, two for the Solano County Office of Education board and a City Council candidate who currently serves as a district trustee.
By occupation, the seven candidates range from an incumbent and an administrator at Travis Federal Credit Union to an attorney and a physician, among others.
In a press release, union president Todd Blanset, an English teacher at Will C. Wood High, said the ratification vote was held Tuesday, with final selections coming after “a long and exhaustive process.”
A stunning 1949 Riley motorcar charred to the frame. Another British auto, a 1959 Morris Minor, also incinerated. And, lastly and just as ghastly, a 1967 MGB. Also history.
Three classic cars — and the home — of John and Patty Phillips burned to the ground by the LNU Lightning Complex Fire along with plenty of memories.
Yet, the retired Vacaville Unified School District music instructors — John still performs with the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra — remained grateful with all lives spared, including the family’s four cats and a dog.
Physical activity seems to help the brain work more efficiently and effectively. So the brains of students in the Vacaville and Travis Unified School Districts must be in high gear, courtesy of a rigorous yet fun dose of physical education students are receiving via distance learning.
With no in-school classes, students are getting all their instruction online, including physical education, which research has shown can boost other forms of learning.
Jensen West of Vanden High School, Nick Voight of Will C. Wood and Jacob Wright of Vaca Peña Middle School are all passionate teachers of physical education. Their methods of P.E. instruction may vary, but the benefits reaped by the students are the same.
The LNU Lightning Complex Fire was a personal tragedy for two Vacaville High School teens, as people they cared about had escaped with their lives but lost everything else.
So Zanna Rosenquist, 17, and Lauren Gammon, 16, organized a donation drive to help make the burdens of fire victims a little lighter.
“We wanted to help out the families who are stuck in hotels or wherever they’re staying,” Lauren advised. “It’s not just for people who lost their homes. It’s for everyone. We’re just wanting to give them a break.”
Mike Sullivan, a former Reporter sports editor and writer who also found a calling as a longtime educator, coach and student mentor at Vacaville High School, remembered by many who knew him as selfless and having a significant impact on their lives, died Sunday with wife Kelle at his side in his Vacaville home.
He was 63 and had been in failing health for some years, his son, Buck, said.Mike Sullivan, former Vacaville Reporter Sports Editor and educator.
Born into an Air Force family, “Sully,” as he was affectionately known, graduated from Vacaville High in 1974. While in school, he played football, wrestled and competed in track and field. With the exception of a few short breaks, Sullivan largely lived the remainder of his life in Vacaville, his son said.
The Solano County School District announced Wednesday the following will remain closed for the rest of the week.
Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District
Travis Unified School District
Vacaville Unified School District
This is in response to widespread evacuations, power outages and unhealthy air quality.
The districts said they will also be providing meals for students to the extent possible and will communicate with families about the availability of school meal service, but it may change throughout the week due to unforeseen circumstance. According to its press release, Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District will be providing boxes of food with several meals for the week. Families will be notified of locations.
For the fifth year in a row, Orchard Elementary School teacher Jaxie Murray greeted her new class of kindergarteners, sang songs with them and had them do activities.
The difference this year is that she had to do all of that through her computer screen.
Vacaville Unified School District students returned Monday for the 2020-21 school year, a traditional rite of passage that serves as a new start for students each year. This year took that concept to another level. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Vacaville campuses remain closed for the time being, but students continue to attend classes through distance learning. By order of Gov. Gavin Newsom, schools in counties on the state’s watchlist for COVID-19 cases must start the year with distance learning and remain in the model until the county has been off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days.
Judi Honeychurch did not face a challenger in her last election and will have no need to campaign this fall, either.
Judi Honeychurch“I look forward to the challenges of the future and working with the superintendent and the teachers and staff,” said Honeychurch, who will enter her third term on the Fairfield-Suisun School District board of trustees.
She is the only incumbent who does not have a challenger.
Clifford Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Music & Sound in downtown Fairfield, pulled and filed candidacy papers Thursday for the Trustee Area 1 seat held by Bethany Smith. Trustee Area 2 incumbent Joan Gaut will run against Leslie Unverferth, and Area 6 incumbent John Silva faces Ana Petero.
Local school districts are above average in a new WalletHub study on the state’s most, and least, equitable school districts.
More than 900 school districts were looked at for the study.
To find out where school funding is distributed most equitably, WalletHub scored districts in California based on average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per child.
The Fairfield-Suisun School District was ranked No. 79, averaging $10,661 in expenditures per student.
To make up for lost maintenance work at Vacaville Unified School District schools due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, crews performed work on the baseball fields at Hemlock Elementary School and Willis Jepson Middle School this past week.
The work began Tuesday and is scheduled to be completed Friday.
Images of the fields after a tractor had run through them had become widely circulated throughout social media beginning Tuesday with parents expressing outrage that their kids would not have a place to keep their minds at ease and stay active during the shutdown. One common explanation given was that the district was trying to keep kids off the fields while school and sports are not in session
Vacaville parents and coaches are furious after they say softball fields were destroyed by the Vacaville Unified School District.
“The fields are getting destroyed out here in Vacaville,” Luis Perez, a parent and coach, said.
“We’ve seen that on Tuesday at one of our sessions for workouts and training we had; there was a tractor out on the field coming out and blatantly stated that they were going to destroy the field,” Angelia Sandoval, a parent upset over fields, said.
Property owners in Vacaville Unified School District will see a reduced property tax rate on future bills, district officials announced in a new release.
This past month, VUSD refinanced $39.56 million in general obligation bonds, a move officials said would save district property owners more than $4.19 million in property taxes.
“With interest rates near historic lows, we wanted to take this opportunity to save our community money, particularly in light of the downturn in the economy,” Superintendent Jane Shamieh said in a statement.
After two years of serving on the Vacaville school board — and a longer career as an educator — Michael Silva has his eyes set on the next rung on the public service ladder.
Silva is running for the Vacaville City Council in the newly implemented District 3, which consists of the most central area of Vacaville, including the downtown. Areas include portions of Main Street, Mason Street, East Monte Vista Avenue, Brown Street, Rocky Hill Road, Allison Drive, Nut Tree Parkway and Elmira Road. It is one of two districts not currently represented by a sitting council member.
Silva said he wants to continue the goals he sought when he ran for the school board, just on a bigger level.
About a dozen people gathered outside Vacaville Unified School District headquarters Thursday to rally for a full reopening of the schools instead of the 50/50 plan approved for fall.
Kids need to return to school full time, they said, not a hybrid mix of two rotating days of 2 1/2 hours of instruction each and two days of distance learning.
The kids need the structure, the socialization and their teachers, supporters said, not being stuck at home trying to learn digitally.
“It’s for their mental health,” emphasized Lauren Walus, mom of two little girls at Hemlock Elementary and the event’s organizer, adding: “Today we’re hoping for change in the district’s decision for their reopening.”
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge across the state and nation, some Solano school districts have laid out plans to reopen, which may change with updates of pandemic data and county public health directives.
The key question for school district leaders and teachers is balancing the need to bring students back into classrooms while also enforcing strict safety protocols to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, which has infected more than 2,000 and killed nearly 30 Solano County residents.
At the same time, parents, teachers and trustees have mixed reactions to plans from districts — such as Vacaville Unified — that want to begin classroom instruction in mid-August using the so-called “hybrid model.” This calls for two different groups of students to receive in-person instruction on rotating days, Mondays and Wednesdays and Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, with one or more days devoted to distance learning.
Education Week reported that schools in at least 11 states suspended high school sports activities in June after players or coaches tested positive for coronavirus amid a resurgence of cases across the United States.
Games, practices or training and conditioning sessions have been suspended in parts of Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas just weeks after schools reopened athletic facilities for students and coaches.
Close to home, on July 5 Dixon High School suspended its athletic activities. The school issued a press release stating, “Based upon recent COVID 19 cases locally and information from the state, we have to suspend workouts for Dixon High School athletics. We expect to hear from the county health office early in the week. We will be in touch as soon as we have county approval.”
Like everything else, Vacaville public schools will feel very different when classes resume in the fall.
The Vacaville school board voted 4-3 to approve a reopening plan where 50 percent of students receive in-person, on-campus instruction on certain days of the week and continue with the distance learning model on other days at a special meeting Tuesday.
In March, Vacaville Unified School District followed other school districts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic by closing campuses and allowing students to continue their education through take-home packets and learning online. The closure was initially intended to last two weeks but continued through the remainder of the school year.