Dear Benicia Community,
I hope the new year finds you happy, healthy and prospering. There is certainly much to be thankful for and much that can create an uncomfortable degree of angst – which is why my wife has recently put me on a news diet, as she calls it. Nevertheless, each season brings its challenges, rewards, and opportunities for growth.
Speaking of seasons, I recall the classic Byrds song Turn! Turn! Turn! (dating myself, I’m sure), where we are reminded that times in our life and work can be viewed in terms of seasons. This time of the school year, we are in the season of reflection and planning. We are currently reflecting on the goals and actions outlined in our Strategic Plan\LCAP (visit LCAP site here), analyzing our own local data, and data from the State, that being the new assessment system.
You will be pleased to know the Board and staff are deeply involved in this process and the close analysis of our results guides the development of the goals and actions we add, refine or eliminate due to completion. We also provide opportunities for input to the parent community as well. The LCAP\Strategic plan is due to the County office by the end of the school year for approval, and we are making excellent progress toward this goal.
The Season of Negotiations: Each year, the District engages in the negotiations process with our two bargaining units and the Management Team. We have settled with the Classified Unit and the Management Team, and are currently in mediation with the Teachers’ Unit. It is important for the public to know we are striving to agree upon a fair and equitable settlement agreement that acknowledges our amazing and talented teachers while ensuring the financial viability of the District and the overall quality of our program offerings.
Unfortunately, there are several challenging economic factors in play, of which we are being mindful regarding our current and ongoing financial state. As of January, the Governor projected much smaller growth in revenue due to the slowing economic growth in California which equates to less money for public schools. In addition, the growth in revenue we saw under the implementation of LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula), is now being offset by the fiscal obligations of PERS (Classified Employee’s Retirement System) and STRS (Certificated Employees Retirement System) contributions.
The rates for STRS contributions are set by California Legislators. The rate for PERS is set by a board which consists of 13 (elected and appointed members) from across the state. This increase is significant to our overall budget and we are planning carefully to support current staffing and program offerings.
Other challenges for BUSD include declining enrollment, which reduces the amount of revenue we receive from the State, and increased special education costs from the Solano County Special Education Local Plan Agency (SELPA).
I share all of this to ensure the public we are committed to a full partnership with all bargaining units and committed to a fair and equitable settlement while keeping in mind the Governor’s January projection of much smaller growth in revenue, increased costs for PERS and STRS, declining enrollment and increased special education costs. Our next mediation session is coming up shortly and we are working hard to agree on a settlement that is a win-win for all of us.
Bond Update: The current bond projects include completion of the upper stadium and installation of a new fire alarm system at the high school. We are currently adding details to the next big project which is a school-wide modernization project for our middle school, including the exterior and classrooms as well.
Regarding the upper stadium, the question we get most often is when will it be completed and will we be able to hold this year’s graduation ceremony there. The goal is to have the field completed in time for graduation, but this is contingent upon weather. We are working on options just in case construction is not finished in time. (For a review of all Bond projects, please see the November newsletter.)
BUSD App. Benicia Unified is excited to announce the launch of our new mobile app Wednesday March 8th. We were able to partner with Blackboard, our notification system to provide this app. Parents can now stay connected on their mobile device to:
- Keep up with your student’s information and directly contact staff
- Access cafeteria balances and Library usage
- Get the latest District news
- Get push notifications about breaking news, closures, weather, events, and more
- See the latest photos from school events
- Tap to see school locations, phone numbers, and staff information, fast
- To download the free app on your mobile: Visit iTunes App Store ® or Google Play®
During the week of March 6th, parents will receive an email from the District with a one-time login to customize the mobile app to include personalized information about their students.
Season of Appreciation: This is a season I try to keep going all year long and want to extend my gratitude to the entire Benicia community who comes together, in powerful ways, to provide a world-class educational experience to all our students.
Dr. Charles Young