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New Benicia High Principal Looking Forward to Working with Staff and Community

The new principal is excited by the challenges and opportunities at the school and the shorter commute.

When Superintendant Janice Adams was talking to California High School staff and parents regarding incoming Benicia High School principal Damon Wright she heard two themes over and over: No one can out work the man and he relates well to students, teachers and parents.

Wright, who grew up in a Navy family and graduated from high school in San Diego, may be the youngest principal Benicia High has ever had and according to Assistant Superintendant Michael Gardner, “certainly the youngest in the past 20 years.”

“Age wasn’t a factor in the decision to hire him,” said Adams.  “It was his passion for education and I was looking for someone who was willing to commit to being in Benicia for a long time.”

Wright is aware of the morale problems with the staff at the high school related to the high rate of turnover at the principal position. 

“Change is difficult and a large amount of turnover in a short time can be challenging for a staff and a community,” said Wright.  “I’m hoping to make a long term commitment to Benicia.  I live right in American Canyon and I’ve been interested in Benicia Unified for several years now.  It is my goal to stay here for some years and really become a staple within the community.”

Wright agrees with Adams that age isn’t an issue. “I am 38 now and I’ll be 39 on July 3,” said Wright.  “I don’t think it’s a factor.  I have a lot of experience not only in education, but in law enforcement and mental health.” 

“I was a probation officer in San Diego for two-and-a-half years while I was getting my masters degree in education,” said Wright.

Wright is looking forward to working with the staff and the community. He believes his experience coupled with the “talents we already have in place in the district and on the campus” will mean a smooth transition.

Wright has spent the majority of his career as a counselor and school psychologist and the past three years as an assistant principal at California High School but he doesn’t see his lack of experience as a classroom teacher as a problem.

“I know what good teaching and learning looks like,” said Wright.  “I never taught, however I’ve done a lot of classroom observations, professional development and I’ve been able to work with teachers for the last three years as an assistant principal and also guide them into better instruction to ultimately improve student outcomes.”

The job in Benicia means a better work life balance for Wright who will have a much shorter work commute.  “My family will love me for that,” said Wright.  “As much as I love San Ramon and California High School – it was very hard for me to apply to an outside district – I think I’m in a good situation here in Benicia.  I can involve my family in the community and the events that take place at school just because of the proximity of Benicia and American Canyon.”

“I think we can do some great things in Benicia,” said Wright.  “Benicia is already doing some great things and my goal is to continue the tradition of excellence and just keep moving in an upward direction.”

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If there’s something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor JB Davis at 707-628-0051 or email him at benicia@patch.com.

Jeff Schwartz June 12, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Karen, I am saying that people are commenting that he never taught....I am saying that you don't necessarily need to have classroom teaching experience to be a principal or administrator.
Jeff Schwartz June 12, 2012 at 09:07 PM
The only redeeming quality you have is you are only capable of putting together one sentence at a time.
Joe Ellett June 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM
How did former board members get to participate in the decisions? Were they still in office but lame ducks at the time? Is there any way this type of situation can be prevented, any policy changes the voters should pressure the board to make? If lame duck is the problem, it seems like lame duck sessions should be minimized and no really big decisions should be taken during that time unless there's a true emergency,
Karen LaRiviere June 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Ok, that's what I thought. I'm getting a little punchy with some of these responses. I totally agree. The teachers on the panel didn't seem to have any issues with no classroom experience either. Sometimes other life experiences can add a different perspective.
JB Davis (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 09:21 PM
We will never know. This is a personnel issue. The main thing to consider is that the board voted 5-0 to demote Mr. Jensen.
Karen LaRiviere June 12, 2012 at 09:51 PM
In this case, I think the District Office made their decisions in both cases based on information from their own observations, as well as those from parents, teachers, students and other administrators (as they are supposed to do) and presented their recommendations to the Board. I don't think we have lame duck board members. The newly elected members are sworn in, I think, at the next meeting after any election so it isn't like Congress where they can really muck things up between November and January. My comment about the turnover of principals was really to put the whole picture in perspective. As frustrating as this situation has been, these 5 board members, and this District Office staff is not solely responsible for the "parade of principals." There have been many different circumstances, board members, DO personnel and even candidates from which to choose and each situation is unique.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM
The people who benefitted the most from affirmative action were Women and more so Jewish white Women, despite affirmative actions' original target of intent!!! AND THATS' A FACT!!! Remember the loophole, "hire a woman ie, a minority woman and fulfill your Quota.
Jeff Schwartz June 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Hey Bobby.....I was wrong....not much difference between you and Feltcher. Inappropriate racial remarks don't wash on either side. The feathers you spoke of earlier put both of you together......you have kept your enemies so close that you have become one.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Sorry Jeff Schwartz, if I offended. It wasn't my intent and the statement wasn't racist. It is noted and documented. It is a Social/Political footnote in the book of Civil Rights and Affirmative Action. It is in the past and don't get me wrong. Jewish people are Great people and have done a lot to further civil rights for Black Americans. But I was just stating a factual truth. Ask any Sociologist, hell email Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor Department under Bill Clinton. A great man and one of my heroes on my list of heroes. Jeff, I apologize if I offended you but my statement is a fact.
Jeff Schwartz June 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Bobby...I am far too wise and experienced in the world of prejudice to be offended by you but apology is noted even if you had to add a "but" in closing...kind of negates things. I have seen your posts before and if you are given "documented and noted" facts I have read your tirades. I have a generational family background in civil rights that I don't have to go into but trust me it would make your head twist around. As for your "spin" recant regarding the greatness of the Jews.....are you saying "Some of my best Jews are friends"?
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 01:22 AM
The African-American male did get the short end of the Affirmative Action stick. Affirmative Action on a large scale was a failure in that it did not fulfill its' purpose!!! It was meant to give those who was historically discriminated against a equal and fair chance to catch up. In my view and a lot of Socialist and Historians, that it didn't do. And then here comes Ward Connely, a Black man who was one of the few to benefit from it; was hired to get rid of it. And so we find ourselves where we are now at this juncture in time. Triple un-employment among African-American men, poverty, crime and broken families to name a few. So I, Bobby C. Richardson, speak out about it because it affects me directly, and it shapes me and make me who I am. So it is not my intent to offend but rest assure I will tell the story the way I see it through my eyes.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 02:35 AM
My History, My Story!!! You've taken my blues and gone -- You sing 'em on Broadway And you sing 'em in Hollywood Bowl, And you mixed 'em up with symphonies And you fixed 'em So they don't sound like me. Yep, you done taken my blues and gone. You also took my spirituals and gone You put me in Macbeth and Carmen Jones All kinds of Swing Mikados And in everything but what's about me -- But someday somebody'll Stand up and talk about me -- Black and beautiful -- And sing about me, And put on plays about me! I reckon it'll be Me myself! Yes, it'll be me.
Robert Livesay June 13, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Believe me Karen i new. I just wanted someone to put it in print. Now everyone knows. Just what is wrong with that. By the way Karen I am a great dancer. Sometimes the facts must be presented to confirm to the folks just what is going on. Does that make you upset. I do not care for your dancing around remark. I thought you were a lot more professional than that. You new very well i knew who was on the select group. You have been very vocal about this but at the same time silent on what was really happening. You knew Mr. Jensen was out. You did try to save his job but at the same time were not up front on this issue. i believe you had folks thinking that Mr. Jensen had a chance to over come this. You new all along there was no chance. Just stop beating around the bush.
Karen LaRiviere June 13, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Oh Bob - I'm sure you are a fine dancer. I just thought it was funny how you were fishing around for information over the last few days trying to get someone to bite but until JB went public, it wasn't my place to say anything. If you already knew, why didn't you say something? Not sure what I would be upset about. But I am pretty surprised that you would be so bold as to tell me what I knew and didn't know. That is pretty outrageous even for you. Until last Thursday night, I, along with everyone else, had no idea what was going to happen. There were different possibilities, but how would I know which way the Board was going to ultimately vote? No beating around the bush, just reality.
upptick June 13, 2012 at 04:06 AM
There are more black men in prision than in college. And most black children grow up without a father, let alone an engaged father. That's why I voted for Barack Obama. Little black boys desperately need to see that they can make something of themselves if they stay in school.
Joe Ellett June 13, 2012 at 07:01 AM
Then apparently I don't understand your "out of spite" reference, Karen. If it wasn't someone who had been voted out of office, what was it and what can we do to keep it from happening in the future? Thanks.
Karen LaRiviere June 13, 2012 at 07:37 AM
I'm sorry Joe, the "out of spite" comment came out from my perception of when certain board members (long gone) managed to cut funding to just about all the District Office positions under the guise of "budget cuts" but it appeared to be more spiteful in that they were very angry that a particular Superintendent had been hired by other board members (they were on the short end of the decision). These cuts made it very difficult for the few remaining staff members to conduct the day to day functions of the job. I don't think they had any involvement in hiring or firing of administrators because that is not what any school board member is supposed to be doing but their decisions with the District office staff had a ripple effect. They are supposed to take the information provided to them by the DO, ask questions to make an informed decision. It's important to pay attention to what individual board members' strengths, ideologies and voting history is especially around finances. It is hard to make a judgment about how they handle personnel issues though because we, as the public, don't have all the information they have to make their decision. It usually seems that the only time people get involved at board meetings is when there is some crisis or issue of interest to them. It's when nothing is going on that folks need to pay attention to get a clearer picture.
Jeff Schwartz June 13, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Your perception is your reality.
Robert Livesay June 13, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Karen I was not fishing. The public did not know until JB put it on line. If I had not asked it appears it would not have been public. I do believe the residents when they saw that Mr. Jensen was relieved of his position then knew it was reality. Then very shortly after that a new Principal was announced. I am sure many residents thought Mr. Jensen still had a chance to keep his job. When that happened all at once I believe many residents felt it was a done deal long ago and they were being kept in the dark. Most had no idea the interview process was going on. Karen you have been a big supporter of the schools and very involved. Parcel Tax just for one. Residents look to you for leadership and as it goes they say just ask Karen she will know. You put yourself in that position. Why would I not think you were not in the know. I do appreciate your work. I believe the way this was presented gave Mr. Jensen false hope and that must have been very painful. No one should have been treated that way. He may of new all along, that I do not know. But I still believe anyone close to the issue knew what the final result was going to be. It was not at all a surprise to me when he was relieved of his position. On another on-lne comment section I said it was over. I recieved some rather negative comments about what I said. Guess what I was right. Anyone that follows politics knows in almost all cases how a vote is going to go.
Lori Cannon June 13, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Like seeing the evolution of Benicia...as a retired teacher, you don't have to teach to run a great high school, need to Listen to what Teachers are Saying....so good luck and wishes to New Principal...don't let them run you out...and to the students...if he's a straight shooter don't let the BOARD or the Parents get rid of him...make a STAND behind him
Jill Ray June 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Wow Mr. Livesay, so nice of you to speak for 'most' residents! How much time have you spent in BUSD schools? Do you have students in the 'system'? How many times have you sat down with BUSD personnel, including Mr. Jensen, the School Board and the District Office staff? Anyone who asked, knew who was on the interview panel, it was not a secret that there was an interview panel or interviews. Mr. Jensen was demoted at the same meeting that Mr. Wright was hired. That was no secret, either. Everyone involved in this issue knew that it was going to happen at the same meeting. I encourage public participation in any governmental process - but for you to simply read what is published in the newspaper and make general comments without being really involved in an issue is quite pompous, to say the least.
Robert Livesay June 13, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Jill Ray you were involved. You wrote many times about the issue. You should have informed the readers of the process. What makes you think everyone is going to call the offices to find out. Try none. The folks depend on involved people like yourself to give them the straight dope. Please do not come down on me when all I am trying to do is make sure the folks maybe have some info that was not printed. Tell me what is wrong with that. I happened to be on your side. Think about that. I have two gc in Benicia shools now and had two gc graduate from Benicia High. One is now a school teacher the other will graduate from college next year. When my children were in school my wife and I were very involved. My oldest daughter is a high school teacher. So please do not think I do not know a little about how these issues develope and are completed. Many concerned residents do not take the time to dig in and find out. I would think you would be very pleased to share all the info to help them get a better understanding. You were very involved. To say the least.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I have had the pleasure of meeting Lori Cannon. She is a true and real Street and Social Soldier; fighting in the trenches. While most of us on Patch and in America are lending lip service to the problems of our Society, i.e, 1percenters, wall street melt down, war, poverty, in-equality , etc, etc. Lori Cannon is out there in the blood and guts of it all!!! Keep up the Great work Lori Cannon. You got my vote and my SUPPORT!!!
Lori Cannon June 13, 2012 at 06:33 PM
WE THE PEOPLE have to improve our schools...this means backing the Principal who backs the TEACHERS...WE THE PEOPLE must challenge our young people...shout out to Michelle Obama who is getting good food into our schools...I had to watch my students eat garbage for so long...Change is slow but I do see change
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Jeff Schwartz, its' my history and my holocaust and I'll tirade and cry if I want to cry if I want to cry if I want to You would cry to If it happened to you!!!
Jeff Schwartz June 13, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Please watch how you use/relate the word "holocaust"....you have not a clue. Your reply is inane, immature, and actually several other words I will not post. A nar vakhst on regn Here is a saying in Yiddish appropriate for you. Research and figure it out.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 13, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Jeff Schwartz we have not a saying in Black America...We have a whole song and this is your lucky day. Here is a sample of it, and its' appropriately titled, The Message. Take heed!!Here it is: THE MESSAGE Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge I'm tryin not to lose my head It's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under I said it's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under!!!
Jeff Schwartz June 13, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I actually just shared your postings with several of my black friends on the east coast...they had a good laugh! Zie Gesuent!
Barbara Aragon June 14, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I am appalled and embarrassed for all Benicia residents by Mr. Fletcher's comment.
Maurice H September 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM
According to Mr Schwartz you can't ask any of these type questions. Maybe the students are mostly minority and can't relate to a white principal. Its the truth! I hope Mr Wright does not hold totally responsible for these kids not doing well. Of course its never the "inner city kids" fault. Its always the teacher that fails!

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