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.
Monnette has two children who attend Mary Farmar Elementary School, so she has firsthand experience with BUSD. Additionally, she also wanted to become a trustee to fulfill a long family history with civil service.
“I feel a strong duty to participate on the school board’s governance team not only as a way to contribute to my children’s education and experience but to also contribute to my community as a whole,” she said. “As a resident, I see it as my civic duty to participate by giving my time and attention to the education of our children. Democracy works when we participate.”
In preparing to join the school board, Monnette became impressed with the commitment of Superintendent Charles Young and district staff in providing learning tools to its students.
“As a parent, I have seen deeply committed and dedicated teachers and school-based staff work tirelessly to educate and care for our children,” she said. “As far as curriculum, I have been pleased and impressed by the Reader’s Writer’s Workshop in that I have seen it light a fire of curiosity and creativity in my children and their peers. I was also impressed that the district chose to use well-established research to modify their elementary school homework policy.”
However, Monnette also feels the district needs to incorporate art into its curriculum, especially at the early elementary school level.
“In 2015, the Every Child Achieves act named music and arts as core subjects as they are crucial components of a well-rounded education,” she said. “There is an abundance of long-established research that shows that music helps children to learn other core subjects and contributes to cognitive development. Furthermore, it is fun, uses both hemispheres of the brain, encourages movement and provides an opportunity for cooperative and dynamic engagement between students.”
She also stressed the need for band and choir programs at the elementary schools during the day and the establishment of choral groups at the middle and high school levels.
Monnette is pleased to work on the school board and is eagerly anticipating the challenges it will bring.
“I am looking forward to representing the children and families of this district in any way that I can,” she said. “I also welcome the challenge that will come with decisions that require balancing the needs of our students with available resources.”
“Furthermore,” she added, “I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Young, the governance board and district staff whose varied experience not only contributes a wealth of information and experience but also a true dedication to the children of our district.”
The board will meet Thursday, Dec. 15.