Benicia Unified School District

Superintendent May Newsletter

Posted On: May 10, 2024


Parent Workshop-Supporting the Development of Personal Safety Skills in Children and Adolescents

Benicia Unified is hosting a virtual parent workshop titled “Supporting the Development of Personal Safety Skills in Children and Adolescents.” The training is designed for parents of Tk-12 students and will cover the following topics:

  • Body Autonomy
  • Assertiveness and Problem Solving
  • Counteracting media/society Messaging
  • Internet Safety Skills
  • Navigating tough Conversations with children
  • Bystander Intervention
  • Respecting “No”
  • Tricky Behaviors

This workshop is part of the District’s action plan in response to recent personnel matters.

Please review the event flier linked to this email for more information.

The parent workshop will be on May 14th from 6:00-7:00 via Google Meet.

The workshop will be livestreamed and recorded for later viewing.

BUSD Promotion and Graduation

Please review the 2024 promotion and graduation schedules linked here:

BUSD 2024 Promotion and Graduation Schedule

Health Services

Please remember to schedule your student’s oral health assessment. Please review the flier linked below:

Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment (KOHA) | Smile California

Transitional Kindergarten Preparation

BUSD highly encourages full potty training for general education pupils in Transitional Kindergarten (TK). What is fully potty trained? comes to school in big kid underpants (not pull-ups) can communicate a need to use the bathroom and wait in line can independently take care of toileting (pull down underpants, sit on toilet or stand at urinal, and void the bowels or bladder) can independently manage related hygiene (can access toilet paper, wipe, place used toilet paper in the toilet bowl, flush, pull up underpants without assistance, and wash and dry hands) Kindly, practice how to wash hands properly: how to turn on the water/faucet how to pump soap how to scrub hands with soap how to rinse hands and turn off the faucet how to pull a paper towel how to dry hands how to put used paper towels in the trash Q: If my child has an accident, will they be sent home? A: It depends on the extent of the accident: If it is a contained accident and the student is able to assist, school staff will assist as appropriate. If it’s a more extensive accident, a 3 person parent/guardian or preferred list of emergency contacts will be called to assist the child at school or take the child home if necessary.

Equity and Inclusion

This year, our districtwide Equity Leadership Team, a group of parents, students, and staff, worked collaboratively with our Solano County Office of Education partners to continue moving forward with our work.  We focused on supporting students with a sense of belonging through the 5th-6th grade transition and defining examples and practices for our identified best first instructional practices to engage all students, including those who have been historically marginalized, in educational experiences that are purposeful, challenging, and innovative. These were two incremental steps in our continuous improvement journey. 

Equity and Inclusion in BUSD

Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies will be a new California State graduation requirement for the graduating class of 2029-30.  The purpose of Ethnic Studies is to highlight the ethnic and racial groups whose history and stories have been traditionally overlooked.   

From the CA Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum:

“In K-12 education it is imperative that students are exposed to multiple perspectives and taught to think critically and form their own opinions.  Ethnic studies highlights the importance of untold stories and emphasizes the danger of a single story.  Each ethnic community has its own unique history, struggles, and contributions, and these are to be taught, understood, and celebrated as ethnic studies focuses on US culture and history from marginalized groups.”

Your voice is valued and matters to us. Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback as we develop our HS Ethnic Studies course. Ethnic Studies Survey

Elementary Music Concert

We thank Mr. Gabe Guevara and Mr. Eli Stamps for organizing an outstanding Elementary music concert. Thank you for introducing music to our young learners, and we look forward to celebrating their progress as they continue through District programs.

Mr. Andreas Kaiser’s Great Memories for the School Year

A team of eight BHS engineering students (STEAM Outreach team) worked throughout the school year to create a DIY solar-powered car kit for kids. After months of designing, 3D printing, laser cutting, assembly, and testing, the students presented their finished kit to the 5th graders at Mary Farmar Elementary School. Watching high school students helping elementary students build and race cars was amazing. The 5th graders were excited, and BHS students engaged with them very well. BHS students learned real-world engineering skills while inspiring the next generation of innovators. The whole experience reminded me that I have the best job in the world.

We thank Cheryl Lau for organizing this project for us.

BHS ~ Board Meeting Highlights

Congratulations to the Benicia High School Students recognized at the Thursday, May 2, 2024 Governing Board Meeting:
Maya Chakraverty (11th Grade) - California Science & Engineering Fair Winner
Maya Chakraverty (11th Grade) – California Science & Engineering Fair Winner
BHS Seal of Biliteracy Recipients
BHS Seal of Biliteracy Recipients
French National Test Recognition
French National Test Recognition

Superintendent’s Message

Damon Wright
Memorial Day

As we approach May 27, 2024, a date of great significance for our nation, we prepare to observe Memorial Day. This is a day when we come together to honor and remember the brave military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Their willingness to put their lives on the line, to forgo personal safety and time with loved ones, is a testament to the highest ideals of duty, honor, and patriotism. Their selfless and courageous actions granted us the privilege to live in a democratic society where differences, rather than leading to conflict, contribute to our strength.  

With escalating conflicts worldwide, let’s reflect on the extraordinary heroism of those who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms. Standing a bit straighter during the National Anthem, attending memorial services, laying wreaths, or simply taking a moment of silence are a few of many actions to demonstrate respect and appreciation for our fallen patriots.

Let’s remember Memorial Day’s importance and the sacrifices our fallen heroes made. Let’s strive to honor their legacy by upholding the values of all they fought to defend.

Memorial Day 2024

Damon J. Wright, Ed.D.
Benicia Unified School District

Mothers Day

On Sunday, May 12, 2024, we celebrate our mothers—Happy Mother’s Day to the wonderful mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and community supporters. We hope your day is filled with the love you have provided your family and friends. Thank you for making our lives brighter through love, sacrifice, and unwavering support for family and friends. Thank you for playing an invaluable role in shaping our lives and community through nurturing, guiding, and spreading kindness and compassion.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

BUSD Welcomes New Administrators

Trudy Barrington- Bio
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we welcome Ms. Trudy Barrington as the Chief Business Official for the Benicia Unified School District. Ms. Barrington has over twenty years experience in finance that includes unified school districts, county offices, and county offices of education. In her current role, Ms. Barrington serves as the Chief Business Official within the Dixon Unified School District.

Ms. Barrington graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science, and a minor in German. She earned a Master of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Sacramento State, earned the Chief Business Official certification from (CASBO), and participated in the Chief Business Official Mentor Program through (FCMAT).

As an experienced CBO, Ms. Barrington believes, “School business is essential in developing and providing every student the right to a high-quality education that is aligned to the diverse needs of all learners and provided in a safe and nurturing environment.” Ms. Barrington also stresses the need for stable financial resources and processes, as well as the importance of each department’s contribution to the success of the organization.

Mr. Brian Dolan, current and long tenured Superintendent of Dixon Unified School District, said, “She is, hands down, the best CBO I have worked with in my career…. “In just two years, Trudy has brought us a level of organization, policies, procedures, and operations that has improved the credibility of and confidence in the business office.”

Ms. Barrington is excited to join the Benicia Unified School District and looks forward to engaging with students, staff, and the community. We are excited to have Ms. Trudy Barrington join BUSD and look forward to working with her. Welcome, Trudy Barrington!

Catherine Bellanti- Bio
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we welcome Ms. Catherine Bellanti as Principal of Joe Henderson Elementary School. Ms. Bellanti has over twenty-five years of experience in education that includes teaching at the elementary level, Literacy Coordinator, Response to Intervention Reading Teacher, summer school principal, literacy coach, and MTSS coach and facilitator.

Ms. Bellanti earned a Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree in Human Communication and Communication Disorders from Manchester University, Manchester, UK.. She earned a Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Education from Brunel University, London, UK and a Masters of Education in School Leadership from the  University of San Diego.

Ms. Bellanti believes her “leadership is centered in truly knowing that every child can succeed in an educational environment that is culturally responsive, academically engaging, and safe.” She also stresses the importance of building professional relationships and establishing trust.

Mr. Jacob Hobson, Principal of Glenwood elementary school stated, “Ms. Bellanti’s partnership with staff increased their capacities and overall connection to the school community, which further increased student levels of success.

Ms. Michelle Reece, Teacher on Special Assignment from Berkeley Unified School District stated, “Cathy is clearly skilled in the delicate art of managing people in a way that makes individuals feel valued while also ensuring accountability. Cathy’s attention to detail and clear communication is phenomenal. Teachers ranged from veteran to first year teachers, and Cathy empowered all with the support, materials and confidence needed to provide a positive learning experience throughout the summer school program.”

Ms. Bellanti is excited to join the Benicia Unified School District and looks forward to engaging with students, staff, and the community. Welcome, Ms. Bellanti! We look forward to working with you!

Erica Dudley- Bio
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we welcome Ms. Erica Dudley as the Director of Early Education, Expanded Learning (CDU/ELOP) and Adult Education for the Benicia Unified School District. Ms. Dudley has over sixteen years experience in early education that includes serving as an Administrative Assistant, Pre-K teacher, and lead kindergarten teacher at Merryhills School in Folsom CA. Ms. Dudley also worked as a head permit teacher for the Benicia Unified school district and in her current role, Ms. Dudley is the Coordinator of CDU for our District

Ms. Dudley graduated cum laude from Sacramento State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Child Development.

As an experienced leader, Ms. Dudley understands the importance of building relationships within the community. She believes her commitment to excellence, unwavering work ethic, and expectations for high standards enhances her performance and the performance of others.

Dr. June Regis, current Director of CDU stated, “One of Erica’s standout qualities is her ability to lead and inspire a team. In her coaching of teachers, she cultivates a work environment that prioritizes collaboration and inclusivity, actively promoting open communication and the exchange of ideas among team members. Erica is able to bring out the best in others, creating a positive and productive atmosphere that is conducive to achieving both individual and collective goals.”

Ms. Dudley is excited to transition to her new role and we welcome her with open arms.  Congratulations and Welcome, Erica Dudley!

Pat Andry Jennings- Bio
Pat Jennings is a visionary educational leader with over two decades of experience in fostering excellence in teaching and learning. As a decades long resident of Benicia, Ms. Jennings is excited to serve the students and families in her hometown beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. Throughout her career, she has held various roles within educational organizations, demonstrating a profound commitment to social justice, equity, and student success. Currently serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services at Napa Valley Unified School District, Ms. Jennings has spearheaded transformative initiatives, earning recognition for her exemplary leadership and dedication to educational advancement.

As the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, Ms. Jennings initiated the “Ecosystem of Carino” program to foster a compassionate community of educators that supports students while maintaining high academic expectations. Her efforts in organizing multilingual family learning sessions earned her district the prestigious 2022 California Pivotal Practice Award from the California Department of Education. In previous roles, including Director of Employee Engagement and Development and Coordinator of Certificated Induction, Curriculum, and Instruction, Ms. Jennings demonstrated exceptional leadership in professional development, mentorship, and program implementation. Notably, she led the creation of the North Bay Teacher Residency Program, fostering the growth and development of new educators in partnership with Sonoma State University. Ms. Jennings has been recognized as the 2024 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators, Region 4, and the 2022 Exemplary Leadership in Education Award by the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators. Her dedication to teaching excellence was evident early in her career, earning distinctions such as Solano County Teacher of the Year and Vallejo City Unified School District Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Jennings is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from California State University, East Bay. She has earned a Master’s of Arts in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s College and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Loyola Marymount University. Ms. Jennings is a contributor to educational research, presenting papers at prestigious conferences such as the American Education Research Association Annual Conference and the Hawaii International Conference on Education. Her research interests include teacher residency programs, diverse teacher recruitment, and the well-being of educational leaders.

Throughout her career, Ms. Jennings has worked to close the opportunity gap by cultivating strong family and community engagement, providing innovative learning experiences for students, and leveraging professional learning to support teacher and site leader growth. She will begin her tenure with Benicia Unified School District on July 1, 2024.

Staff Celebrations

Retiring Class of 2024: The Benicia Unified School District is a destination District where staff members spend most of their career serving our community. We are fortunate to have a dedicated workforce committed to excellence. After this school year, forty-two of our dedicated staff members will transition to the next chapter of their lives. On Friday, April 26th, BUSD ceremonially celebrated the retirees.

Retiring class of 2024, when you are between travels, your honey-do list becomes overbearing, and you get tired of watching reruns on television, we have substitute positions available to fill your cup. From the bottom of your hearts, we wish you well in your future endeavors.

Retiring Class of 2024
Staff Appreciation Week: The nation collectively celebrates teachers from Monday, May 6, 2024, to Friday, May 10, 2024. BUSD joins the celebratory week by acknowledging the commitment and dedication of teachers and all District staff. 

BUSD staff, thank you for inspiring students and supporting our community. We appreciate your relentless efforts to invest in the future and your unwavering commitment to excellence. Thank you for laying the foundation for a stronger tomorrow. We celebrate you!

Staff Appreciation Week
School Principals’ Day: On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, BUSD recognized School Principal’s Day. We thank our Principles for leading their respective school communities. Thank you for your exemplary educational leadership.
BUSD Governing Board and Principals

BUSD Governing Board and Principals

National School Nurses Day: On May 8, 2024, BUSD recognized National Nurses Day. We thank Ms. Michelle DiLello for keeping our students healthy, safe, and thriving at all seven school sites. We appreciate you, you are making a difference.
National School Nurses Day: On May 8, 2024 | Michelle DiLello, BUSD Nurse

Michelle DiLello, BUSD Nurse

Coach Kristin Grubbs – CA Softball Coach of the Year

Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Award Recipients

The Community Advisory Committee honors educators, support staff, parent volunteers, students, and community agency personnel within our District who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to students and adults with disabilities.  

“Congratulations” and “thank you” to the fantastic award recipients honored at the CAC awards ceremony for exemplary services within Special Education. Thank you for representing BUSD!

From left to right: Steve Phillips, Sukhdip Broom, Keayra Collins-Mceuen, Dr. Andrew Potter, Bonnie Ramirez, Christian Roldan, Kathleen Sauter

From left to right: Steve Phillips, Sukhdip Broom, Keayra Collins-Mceuen, Dr. Andrew Potter, Bonnie Ramirez, Christian Roldan, Kathleen Sauter

2024 SCOE Educators of the Year Awards

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, this year’s BUSD Educator of the Year recipients, Mr. Kris Altman (BMS History for 34 years), Certificated, and Mr. Chuck Schauer (BHS Lead Custodian serving the district for 38 years), were honored at the 48th annual Solano County of the Year Awards Celebration at the Sunrise Event Center in Vacaville.
Chuck Schauer 2024 educator of the year | Mr. Kristopher Altman 2024 educator of the year
Meagan Caroll, Rotary Teacher of the Month 

Congratulations to Ms. Meagan Caroll, teacher at Mary Farmar Elementary School for earning the Rotary Teacher of the Month.

Paul Adler, Rotary President; Rhonda Flemming, Principal Farmer,Dr. Gill, Assistant Superintendent Human Resources; Meagan Caroll, Teacher; Damon Wright, BUSD Superintendent

Paul Adler, Rotary President; Rhonda Flemming, Principal Farmer,Dr. Gill, Assistant Superintendent Human Resources; Meagan Caroll, Teacher; Damon Wright, BUSD Superintendent

Elementary School International Night

The Elementary schools host a yearly International Night honoring and celebrating the wonderful cultural diversity within our school community.  It is a special way to see our families share their customs, heritage, stories, and traditions. Please enjoy this video shared by Matthew Turner of their special evening made by Monica Carlisle

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