Benicia High School Dance Community,
I want to thank the BUSD Advanced Dance students and their supporters for their patience as the District addressed our communication challenges and identified potential solutions to the concerns raised. The passion for supporting BUSD Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) students and programs reminds us that Benicia is a community with a rich history in the arts. Contrary to discussions in public forums, BUSD is not interested in reducing nor canceling VAPA programs; BUSD embraces the arts culture and seeks to enhance them through Prop 28 funding (designed to increase art programs within our District).
On Friday, May 20, 2023, while conducting her regular job duties, a BUSD staff member emailed three Benicia High School students informing them that BHS would not offer Advanced Dance next year and inquired about an alternative course. Our students within the Advanced Dance program and the community that supports them were unaware that the District may not offer the Advanced Dance class for the 2023-2024 school year. That message understandably triggered emotional responses from our students and community, resulting in a petition to save the program.
On Saturday, May 21, 2023, Principal Kleinschmidt shared a communication with BHS parents adding context and a rationale by stating,
“Benicia High School was made aware of concerns regarding our CTE Performing Arts Dance program being cut and a petition posted online. We want to clearly state that we are not cutting our Dance program. We do need to pause the Dance program for one year as our dance teacher, Mrs. Sanchez, will be on leave, and we do not have another credentialed dance teacher on staff. We remain committed to the Dance program and continue our work to grow the program in the future.”
The District considered a one-year hiatus from the Advanced Dance program due to the credentialing requirements to teach the course, as the teacher must have a Career Technical Education (CTE) credential or qualify for a preliminary credential so that we can continue offering CTE Pathway completion, college credits, and other program benefits. On Monday, May 22, 2023, the District revisited the Master Schedule offerings, and due to other personnel changes, it increased the likelihood of the District securing a credentialed teacher for the program next year. We plan to offer two dance sections and conduct interviews to fill the vacancy next week. If we cannot find a credentialed Dance teacher, the District will consider other alternatives, including long-term substitutes with community partner assistance. While the latter is not ideal and is the worst-case scenario, we intend for students to continue the program.
There is no excuse for the lack of communication regarding a program our District and community hold in high regard. We apologize for the angst this has caused. We also invite parents to contact the school or District office with concerns before sharing dissatisfaction on social media platforms, as this allows us to understand problems and clarify issues as early as possible. I assure you that we always intend to resolve the issues before they escalate.
Damon J. Wright, Ed.D.
Benicia Unified School District