Posted On: November 8, 2023
Incivility, bullying, and hate present themselves at varying degrees, and we all feel the impact. I have experienced racially motivated hate throughout my lifetime; thus, I never want others to experience the dejection that comes with it. As a middle schooler, I left my house to walk to school only to find racial slurs tagged across my property. In a separate incident later in life, a driver speeding down Interstate 5 yelled a racial slur and intentionally swerved his vehicle toward me while I assisted my friend in changing his flat tire. These two experiences are a pale comparison to the experiences of others, but I share them to provide insight into “the why” I value diversity, tolerance, acceptance, and peace.
The Benicia Unified School District supports equity, inclusion, and social-emotional learning. Hate, discrimination, bullying, and violence do not belong in our organization, and I am committed to addressing such matters thoughtfully. As I think about our trajectory, our focus on educating the whole child will provide leadership preparation for global citizenship. BUSD graduates past and future, will contribute to a world united in peace, love and acceptance.
Hate, exclusion, and senseless acts of violence are dominating the world’s stage. I watch video footage and view graphic images from the war in Europe and the Middle East and conflicts brewing in other parts of the world with a heavy heart and growing concern for our students’ well-being. I wonder how students are processing and interpreting the global incivility and hope that trusted adults are monitoring, supporting, and providing context and reassurance.
As a District, individuals have inquired about our position regarding the various wars. While our District has approximately 4,300 students and about 500 staff members, all with unique experiences and perspectives, I will only share my views. I remain politically neutral and advocate for peace. My heart is with the innocent people caught in the crossfire; I empathize with all individuals enduring physical and psychological trauma and grieving with the families that lost loved ones. I believe in equity and inclusion, peace and understanding, and I envision an amicable resolution.
While the conflict rages many miles from here, Benicia residents have families or connections impacted by the war, and the personal and emotional bonds generate a heightened level of sensitivity and awareness. While these current events potentially generate rich classroom discussions and assignments, as educators, we remain neutral during school hours and share multiple perspectives, encouraging students to formulate their own opinions.
The irony in sharing my perspective in November with Veterans Day and the Thanksgiving Holiday/ Indigenous Peoples Day approaching, I am incredibly thankful. While I am fortunate and immensely grateful for many things, I thank this country for my constitutional right to legally disagree with or discuss inequities and grievances through my First Amendment right. I am immensely thankful for the veterans who sacrificed their lives to maintain a democratic society and cherish the service people who continue to protect our nation. Happy Veterans Day and thank you for your service! I am also thankful for the right to surround myself with friends and family representing different races, cultures, religions, and beliefs, as the diversity of thought and experience makes me a stronger person. Peace and acceptance is the answer. Let’s continue unifying our community and paving the way for a better tomorrow.
Damon J. Wright, Ed.D.
Benicia Unified School District
On Thursday, November 9th, the Benicia High School student body will honor BUSD staff members who have served, or are serving our country as active duty military or military reserves. The event will take place in the BHS Red Brick Quad at 1:00 pm. The Benicia Unified school District will close its doors on Friday, November 10th for Veterans Day observance. The District will resume operation on Monday, November 13th.
Native American Heritage Month
While we recognize and appreciate Native American Heritage everyday, we especially honor and celebrate their contributions in November.
Ruby Bridges Walk
Facilities Improvement Measure
The Benicia Unified School District relies on the generosity of our community, and we appreciate our partnership. The residents of Benicia have a history of supporting facility improvement measures in 1991, 1997, and 2014. Measure S, the most recent facilities improvement measure, provided $49.6 million to enhance and replace District facilities, and we are proud of the progress made with our project upgrades, including,
- Constructing New Classrooms,
- Fencing the Perimeter of all schools
- Repairing and Renovating Aging Classrooms
- Repairing Leaking Roofs and Deteriorated Restrooms
- Improving Classroom Technology,
- Constructing the BHS Stadium Project,
- and the Entryway at Mary Farmar and Benicia Middle School
The Measure S funds have been allocated and entirely spent by the end of this school year. While the District has well-maintained schools, our facilities are old, and significant upgrades and renovations are needed to ensure the health, safety, and security of those who use them. As the highest performing district in Solano County and the vision of being recognized as the top District in the state, we are committed to providing an excellent education for our students.
The District also aims to finish the work we started to bring our schools up to standard with curb appeal that makes our community proud.
BUSD has conducted a facility assessment, which provides summarized facility needs and facility lists for all of BUSD school sites. The total projected costs of the District’s facilities needs include infrastructure, safety and security, new construction, and the modernization, upgrade, and renovation of classroom and school facilities over $150 million. The Facilities Master List is a working document as the committee adds projects and prioritizes them as we gain input and perspective from our educational partners. The scope of improvements needed at the Benicia Unified School District is far more than the current funding sources available. The per-pupil funding that the District receives from the state does not enable Districts to fund significant upgrades, renovations, and modernization projects or new classrooms and facilities.
On November 2, 2023, the Benicia Unified School District Governing Board moved to place a $122.5 million facilities improvement measure on the March 2024 election ballot. It is important to note that the facilities improvement measure will not increase the tax rate of Benicia residents due to previous bonds expiring in 2026. The proposed measure will extend the current program, and taxpayers will pay at a lesser rate than they are currently paying.
The passage of this improvement measure will provide our students with a better learning environment by making repairs and upgrades to existing classrooms and school facilities, many of which are also used by and available to the community. If the proposed measure does not pass, our classrooms and school facilities will continue deteriorating. The funds that would otherwise go to classroom instruction will be needed to make critical safety repairs and improvements at each school. The District would need to postpone significant repairs and, as a result, will potentially be more expensive to make.
Again, the measure will not increase the tax rate local property owners are currently paying. Instead, it will extend the current tax rate, expiring in 2026. We thank our community as we have enjoyed the support over the years. We are seeking their support once again. We want to continue providing a service and have facilities our students, parents, and community are proud of.
Damon J. Wright, Ed.D.
Benicia Unified School District
Results from Statewide Assessment, CAASPP, in May 2023
This assessment measures students mastery of content standards and requires abstract thinking, reasoning and communication. You can view practice tasks and questions to see what types of problems students need to solve. CAASPP Practice Tests-Question Samples-Click on Student Interface Practice/Training Tests.
Once the results are released, staff review the results holistically and also through looking at disaggregated data. We use this data, along with district local data, to set goals and identify practices to support student learning acceleration.
As a District, our results in ELA and Math have remained flat over time, with slight increases and decreases. While we are the highest performing District in Solano County and have outperformed the statewide average, our results are not acceptable for where we know our students can and should be performing.
You can review the summary of our performance with this slide deck, CAASPP Results 2023. On the slide deck you will see highlights and opportunities for the District and each school site. The last two slides list some of the actions we are taking as a District in response to our data.l You can also review the data for Benicia and other Districts on the CAASPP website.
Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent
State Attendance, Chronic Absenteeism and Updated Sick Day Guidelines
Letters will be automatically generated for students who are considered Chronically Absent.
- The first letter is sent when a student has five absences for any reason.
- The second letter is sent when a student has missed 10 school days prior to the 100th day of school or 10% or more of the days enrolled past the 100th day. A site attendance team meeting will be held with the parent/guardian and student.
- The third letter is sent when a student has missed 15 school days prior to the 100th day of school or 15% or more of the days enrolled past the 100th day enrolled. Parent/guardian and student are referred to a Multi-Agency Student Support Team meeting.
Research has shown that students who miss 10% or more of days they have been enrolled in school are more likely to struggle academically, behaviorally, and socially emotionally. The intent of the letters is to ensure the student and parents/guardians are aware of the adverse consequences of poor attendance, and jointly develop a plan for improving the student’s school attendance.
Last school year Benicia Unified School District’s (BUSD) Chronically Absentee rate was 23.3%. Almost one in four students missed 18 or more days of school. During the 2017-2018 school year BUSD’s Chronic Absenteeism rate was 8.2%. Currently, for the 2023-2024 school year, BUSD’s Chronic Absenteeism rate is 13.4%.
During the 2022-2023 school year November, December, and January were our lowest months for attendance. Below is the updated (September 2023) guidance from the California Department of Public Health for when you should keep your child home from school and when they can return.
Please review this link to identify symptoms of illness/when should my child stay home and when can they return.
Jon Ovick, Ed.D,
Director of Student Services
Ruby Bridges “We Are All Related”
The inaugural “We Are All Related” event will celebrate Ruby Bridges and help children get ready for the annual Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges stepped into the history books November 14, 1960, when she became one of the first students to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since 2018, students have celebrated Ruby’s courage by walking to school making Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day the perfect opportunity to teach children about the civil rights movement and make connections to our ongoing, collective efforts to end racism.
Sunday, November 12th at the Benicia Public Library
- 2pm: Stories about and related to Ruby Bridges
- 3pm: Messages from Benicia Mayor Steve Young and BUSD Superintendent Damon Wright
- 3:15pm: A screening of the movie about Ruby Bridges
PLUS, snacks, crafts, and community conversation.
Press Release: Benicia High School Debate Team, Michele Gaines, Debate Team Advisor
When the day was over, 10 Benicia debaters had won trophies, earned by prevailing in a majority of their debates. Coaches familiar with the team could not remember any other Benicia squad doing as well.
There were stories of perseverance and great sportsmanship, last-minute team changes and surprise wins. Above all, there was evidence of great team spirit throughout, so that win or lose, all were happy they spent the day together.
Debating issues touched on political polarization and its effects on national security, the timing of the New Hampshire presidential primary, and sweeping proposals to change U.S. foreign policy. Debaters prepare by following the news and discussing it at practice, but they have no idea of the precise topic until it’s announced 30 minutes before the actual debates. Their primary teachers for the event were students – captains Michael Delgado and Gabriel Stockwell, both seniors with their own lengthy list of accomplishments.
Delgado switched hats from captain to debater and partnered with junior Cozette Calderon, Benicia’s star of the last GGSA tournament. Together they won three of their four varsity matches. Competing in junior varsity for the first time were Mariska Jedzinak-Webb and Bella Cannon, who also earned trophies for winning three rounds.
Six students new to debate this year also took home trophies: Vinny Glover, Ripley Leonard, Nehmat Sekhon, Daniel Delgado, Garret Slody and Tanya Bik. Senior Spencer Ball competed on his own when his partner was unable to attend, but he met the task with enthusiasm. That’s twelve speeches in one day!
“They did pretty good,” said captain Delgado.
“The team has a kind of esprit – an infectious liveliness that makes what can be a serious endeavor a lot of fun,” said team advisor Michele Gaines. “They cheer each other on, laugh at their mistakes, and then dig in to go after their next opponents.
Members of the team will next be heard on November 14 when the high school celebrates Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day. Following that, on November 27 through December 1, the team will host it’s annual lunchtime debates, where parents and fellow students can watch the team in action.
Those events are open to the public as well.