Community input is crucial as the San Benito High School District works to serve current residents and a growing student population. I am proud to report that the newly-formed Facilities Needs Committee held its first meeting on Oct. 26 to provide input on the location, educational programs, facilities, and access for a planned new high school.
The Committee, composed of nearly 60 educators, parents, students, as well as community and business leaders, gathered in the Hollister High School Davis Library to discuss its goals, select officers, and discuss the District’s Facilities Master Plan. They were provided information about the enrollment and capacity of our current campus and how that growth has prompted the necessity for a second high school.
Building For the Future
Facilities Needs Committee Chair Betsey Lemay, the parent of 2019 and 2022 Hollister High School graduates and a teacher at the Hollister Dual Language Academy, said that she got involved with the FNC because “I want to ensure that future Hollister High School students can receive the best education possible; but with an overcrowded school it is hard on all parties. A heavy burden gets put on staff, as well as students.”
She said students “deserve the best we can give them. It is my belief we need a new school to help facilitate a positive outcome for all stakeholders...students and staff alike.”
Ms. Lemay, a self-described “highly-involved parent that had great working relationships with the teachers and administration” at Hollister High, said she “wants to see all students have as great an experience at our high school as my boys did.”
During its first meeting at the end of October, the committee held break-out group discussions to address questions about the district as well as facility needs challenges. They were asked about their knowledge of school-capacity challenges facing the district, ideas for addressing the immediate challenges of student population growth at Hollister High, and asked to share which issues they consider to be of high importance when considering a second high school.
“One of our biggest pluses/values regarding our committee is that it is composed of a multitude of differing opinions and perspectives,” Ms. Lemay said. “I think this is one of our key factors and a major plus in helping guide the direction we take. Respect among the members and their viewpoints has been clearly displayed as early as our first meeting. For example, I had a thought about one of our guiding questions, but then after listening to others, I was able to expand my perspective.”
Committee members at the first meeting were asked to share their vision for a new high school as well as where a new campus should be located, and why.
The Facilities Needs Committee will meet again on Nov. 30 to discuss school construction funding and the site selection process. Its meeting on Jan, 21 will be a chance to discuss a vision for the new high school and include a tour of the current campus. The first meeting in March will address how educational programs drive school facilities planning and the one on March 22 will follow that up with a presentation on the types of facilities that could be included in a new high school.
The committee will hold its final meeting of the school year on April 26 to develop findings and recommendations for the Board of Trustees, ahead of a presentation of the committee’s findings and recommendations to the Board at its May 23 public meeting.
Ms. Lemay, who sees her role as committee chair “as helping to organize and guide the work process of members that are willing to put in the time and hard work to get to an end product that will positively impact and serve our community,” said she appreciates how the District has put together “a melting pot of perspectives and viewpoints.”
“It’s going to take respect and the ability to listen to others to come to a consensus on the direction that a new high school will take,” she said. “ We have member input ranging from the perspective of traditional, long-time Baler families all the way to new families that have just recently moved to town. The work we will do as we come together as a committee will be exciting and extremely valuable to the conceptualization of a new school for our community.
Planning For The Future
We are fortunate to also have the guidance of Cathy Dominico of Capitol PFG, who will organize and facilitate meetings for the committee, which she says is “a valuable tool for the District as we establish a plan and vision for the new high school.” The committee, she added, “will be asked to provide input on how a new high school can best serve the needs of the local community, act as a sounding board during school planning, and become the voice to and for the greater community.”
Over the course of the next six months, the FNC will be educated about several topics, including:
• the impact of new development on schools
• school construction funding
• school construction costs and challenges
• selecting the best school site
• how facilities support educational program
• educational program opportunities
The committee, Ms. Dominico notes, “will use this information to seek input from their own relatives, friends, neighbors, and business associates about the vision for the new high school and provide recommendations to the Board at the end of the school year.”
On behalf of the San Benito High School District, I am thrilled and honored that so many community members have volunteered to provide input on plans for a second high school. After each of the Facilities Needs Committee meetings this school year, I will provide an update on the discussions and planning that took place. Our community members care about the future of education in San Benito County and we are so fortunate to have a group that is invested in ensuring the process benefits students now and into the futureOur Facilities Needs Committee members are an example that every day is a great day to be a Baler!
San Benito High School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum