A new bell schedule for students, a new grading system for teachers and a slew of upgraded facilities for everyone on campus have San Benito High School Principal Adrian Ramirez preparing for a seamless start to the 2018-19 school year.
For the fourth-year principal going into his 15th year at his high school alma mater, it’s an exciting time as 17 new teachers join the SBHS staff of more than 140 to help serve just under 3,000 students on the expansive campus.
“Year one and two, there was a little bit of anxiousness and nervousness. But by year four, there’s just a lot more excitement for the year to start,” said Ramirez a few days prior to the Aug. 16 first day. “For me, if you don’t love this time of year and have some level of anticipation of the kids coming onto campus, you’re in the wrong business.”
If any issues do arise, Ramirez stressed the importance of having the superintendent’s office in the same building so “I can just run upstairs, get the answers and take action quickly.”
The sprawling high school campus was already bustling Aug. 8 with a weeklong new teacher academy underway, a Link Crew workshop with Associated Student Body members helping with freshmen orientation and the math department leaders holding a collaboration on curriculum session.
“No matter what feeder school you came from, this is a big jump. This is a big transition for incoming freshmen,” Ramirez said. “But despite being a large school, it has a very tight-knit feel” among students and staff.
Students this year will see a new classrooms in a Visual Arts and Performing Art building, along with the completion of the practice athletic field in January and a pedestrian-only Nash Road in October.
This is the first year of full implementation of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, which helps students develop the skills they need to be successful in college. Ramirez said they have 400 students involved in AVID.
Another support mechanism brought in this year comes via the new bell schedule that has “imbedded time for intervention” in academics and social/emotional issues. There will be a gradual rollout to ease students into the routine, with a Monday homeroom and academic support sessions three days per week, according to Ramirez.
The first week of school will also come with the annual Rallying Club Kickoff Rally, which is centered around the “Baler Strong” core values of scholarship, teamwork, reflection, opportunity, nurture and growth. Ramirez and staff, which includes a new family community liaison this year, will also host parent community days throughout the year.
Another focus at San Benito is its inclusion model, which has “a focus and drive to set up structures for all kids to have access to general instruction” in all subject areas.
“Inclusion does not just mean special education here,” Ramirez said. “It means our (English Language Learners) or migrant students, our foster and homeless youth.”