Happy Fall Everyone!

I always look forward to this time of year! I love sunny days as much as anyone, but there is something wonderful about a cold, cloudy day, particularly on a weekend.  Staying inside and reading for a few hours, cooking or just lounging is somehow more enjoyable without the Calfornia duty call to get out there and enjoy the sunshine or as my mother often said: “For goodness sakes – go outside and play!”

A Compassionate Community: The devastation of the fires in Napa was a call to action in our schools, as many staff and students came together to volunteer their time to collect, sort and prepare emergency supplies for those in need. I am always inspired by the generosity and compassion our community demonstrates. Thank you to parents, students, and staff for their flexibility during our school closures and limitations on outdoor activities. Per the State Superintendent of Schools, Tom Torlakson, we are not required make up the missed days.

Culture is King: The year is progressing well as we continue to make progress on the goals and actions outlined in our strategic plan. Of particular note is our focus on promoting a positive culture for our District. To track our progress in this area, we administered, for the first time, an employee engagement survey to all staff. We have shared the results with the Trustees and all management staff who are sharing and discussing the results with their sites and departments. The survey covered six areas and included overall employee engagement, collegial relationships, communication, leadership, career growth and training opportunities and work environment.

We were pleased to note that our highest scoring responses closely aligned with the California School Boards Association survey regarding positive employee engagement and satisfaction. It is clear our employees enjoy coming to work and are proud to work in BUSD, experiencing meaningful collaboration with their colleagues and a feeling of safety while at work. While not dramatically low, areas needing further exploration include increasing collaboration and exchange of ideas among district, site leadership and staff. This will help enhance overall communication and decision making to further extend the culture of openness and engagement.

The Learning Side of the House:  We are pleased with the positive impact our new high school bell schedule is having on the overall learning environment for students and staff.  While change initiatives can be difficult, they can also bring about new directions and ways to improve program offerings for everyone involved. We believe the new schedule is accomplishing this goal. The site administration is working closely with staff and students, reflecting on what is going well and what can be refined, and will report these findings at an upcoming Board meeting.

Graduation Expectations: The conversation we started last year around graduation requirements is still an important one. We are currently in the process of planning further discussions around this topic with a focus on deeper engagement from staff, students and our parent community. One of the great challenges of public education is to continue refining what we do for students, making sure we are preparing them for a rapidly changing world and global economy. We are aided in being open to new ideas, flexible in our thinking and clear on what we are trying to achieve on behalf of our students. BUSD offers a strong, comprehensive educational program, and we will continue to promote, preserve and enhance what we do for our deserving and amazing students.

The Importance of Resiliency: There is a great deal of talk these days about the importance of grit, determination, and resiliency. I came across the following article in the Wall Street Journal and hope you find it useful and interesting. Click here for article.

Measure S Update: We continue to make solid progress with the facilities master plan and Measure S Bond dollars. We have recently completed the new fire alarm project at the high school and will start the same process at Farmar and Semple Elementary this summer. The next big project underway is the modernization of our middle school and we are also finalizing plans to address targeted needs at our elementary schools.

While the costs of our facilities master plan far exceed Measure S dollars, we are optimistic regarding our application to the state for additional facilities improvement dollars under Proposition 51. If we are awarded additional funding, we will be able to further leverage our Measure S dollars and complete more projects. We have also applied for a California Technical Education grant that could further help us leverage our Measure S dollars.

For a complete list of completed projects, please click on this link that will take you to the district website Measure S update tab.

Energy Efficiency and Production: We are excited about our solar project, which is well underway. As a reminder, the solar project is not related to Measure S but is funded through a zero percent interest energy loan and one low interest, government- backed energy loan. As I shared previously, the energy cost savings to the District, over a twenty-five year period, is projected at 5 to 7 million dollars.

We are also working on our energy efficiency plan through the Proposition 39 grant.  These monies do not need to be paid back and are awarded to districts throughout California, but you must apply for them and put together a plan – of which we have done both. The focus will be on indoor\outdoor lighting and heating and air conditioning systems throughout the district. We anticipate significant cost savings to our energy bills, which are considerable, once we put these new systems in place.

Budget Challenge:  There is a great deal to be happy about in BUSD. We continue to provide a high quality, comprehensive educational program to our students. However, each year seems to present a new challenge, and this year is no different. Like many districts in our state, we are experiencing a budget challenge, largely due to declining enrollment, rising energy costs and dramatically increasing employee pension contribution costs due to poor investment results at the state level. That being said, we will have a much clearer picture of the financial forecast moving into next year when we attend the Governor’s budget proposal in January. There are positive indicators in the economy, so we are being cautiously optimistic.

In closing, I want to thank you for being a wonderful, caring and passionate community.  Please enjoy your time with family and friends this Thanksgiving!  It is an honor to serve as your Superintendent.

Warmly,
Charles Young, Ed.D.

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Benicia High School, 1101 Military West Benicia CA 94510, Mail Office - (707) 747-8325 Counceling - (707) 747-8334