By Trina Bernal
— Stephanie Rice (@mrsriceteaches) September 23, 2018
This is the second board meeting of the school year of 2018-19. Seated at the table by the front, there were six board members in total, announced by Executive Secretary Betty Jensen; Superintendent Dr. Young, President Dianne Ferrucci, Trustees Stacy Holguin, Celeste Monnette, Peter Morgan, and Gary Wing.
At 6pm, there was a ‘Motion to approve for Closed Session’ where they’re expected “to uphold the recommendation of the committee”– keep all discussions during Closed Session as Confidential Agenda Items, such as employment and student matter discussion. A chorus of “Aye’s” was heard from all board members there. After, the board and the community recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
The second topic covered was ‘Highlights’, which included the board members’ attendance at local events. Alberto Barcenas, a Benicia Middle School teacher, is working diligently to integrate tech in grades TK-5. Various topics were covered, but one thing that stood out was the fact first graders have Google accounts. Barcenas knows the stigma that follows young ones having a digital device so early in their lives, but he emphasizes, “If you tell little ones they can’t do it, you’d be surprised with what they can do.” Benicia Teachers Association President Carolyn Fields, agrees as well, stating “It’s important to be cognizant of screen time.” Fields humourly adds that since teachers are working with other teachers to ensure young learners are being good digital citizens, it won’t be a problem at all for the stigma to quickly leave the parents’ wary mind.
Barcenas aims to also celebrate World Space Week (October 4-10) and Hour of Code Week (December 3-9) with young students. World Space Week is celebrated yearly and is described as “an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition.” Hour of Code Week occurs as well during Computer Science Education Week, and it aims to reach tens of millions of students in 180+ countries, whether you’re 4 or 104.
The third thing on the Board’s agenda was ‘Student Report.’ Normally, students who hold leadership roles from Benicia High and Liberty would announce recent and upcoming events for the month. In place of their absence, Superintendent Dr. Young announced the events to come: Panther TV’s new season (August 24), St. Patrick’s vs. Benicia football game on September 21, Parent Forum at L2/L3 on September 28, an ambient platform (with coffee and donuts) where parents can voice out their feedback and ideas they’d like to share with the Benicia High administration, Homecoming Game on October 12, and Homecoming Dance on October 13.
One of the Trustees, Gary Wing, said that there’s a “deep level of engagement with students” from teachers at Back to School Night. Wing also mentioned how Benicia Youth Action Coalition with US Congressman Mike Thompson is currently doing prevention programs where they can focus on anti-drug, anti-alcohol, and anti-smoking aspect for today’s learning environment. As for the elementary level, President Dianne Ferrucci was in awe of the National Geographic Program, which made possible for Turner to interact with eight other classes from Canada, US, British Columbia, Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. In this Program, they discussed how to become better earth citizens, primarily focusing ways to eliminate ocean plastics, for example.
The next bullet-point on the board’s agenda was ‘Comments from members of the public.’ There was only one comment; Jojo Donetti, the BHS tennis coach, announced their win 7-2 against Alhambra that day, as well as noting the team’s hard work raising money for tennis supplies. In the Labor Day weekend, a ball fundraiser was held where 25 people participated in a three-hour clinic, earning $177 worth of tennis equipment.
And the last topic of the night was ‘Discussion Items.’ Principal Kim Lewis at Liberty High introduced their new internship program called Big Picture Learning where students are exposed to the beginning of adulthood through either a part-time job or apprenticeship where someone shadows an expert in a craft or occupation. “Giving them choice… That’s important,” Lewis emphasized. It’s student-driven so Lewis is proud of the independent nature of this brand-new curriculum.
There were a few discussion items that are not to be shared. But as the night drew to a close, the board members felt compelled to share their thoughts in relation to Superintendent Dr. Young’s near exit from his council position. “You’ve had challenges — taking on societal issues confronting the city with courage… Proud!” Trustee Peter Morgan notes. Trustee Stacy Holguin also states that should Dr. Young’s term be satisfactory that they extend his position in the Council. A few more compliments follow, but the board meeting finishes after a few formalities, and the board members and community alike come to a sort of agreement: To be a cohesive city with a good school system is to be good communicators.