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March 17, 2010 > FUSD Board Meeting Highlights

FUSD Board Meeting Highlights

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following is a selected summary from the Fremont Unified School Board Meeting held on March 10.

Recognizing FUSD's Outstanding Leaders:
At the Fremont Unified School Board meeting held on March 10, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Steve Betando stated, "Fremont USD is a great organization with leaders who can bring people together even in difficult times."

Yearly, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the Fremont School Management Association (FSMA) selects a group for their significant contributions to education. FUSD administrators and managers were selected this year for their outstanding commitment to student achievement and innovation in dealing with problematic issues facing education. They will be honored at the Leadership Summit and Awards Night on April 23 in Concord.

Here is the list of honorees and their categories:
Adult Education Administrator, Steve Giudici; Business Services Administrator, Bill Stephens; Central Office Administrator, Juan Espinosa; Classified Manager, Brent Hull; Confidential Employee, Roseanne Pryor; Continuation/Educational Options Administrator, Heidi McFadden; Curriculum and Instruction Administrator, Parvin Ahmadi; Elementary Principal, Giselle Hudson; Outstanding Media Coverage, Nicole Steward; Partners in Education, Donna Tonry; Secondary Co-Administrator, Lance Miller; Secondary Principal, Phyllis Hamilton; Special Education Administrator, Charlene Okamoto; and Superintendent, Milt Werner.

Additionally, Bill Stephens and Nicole Steward are being recognized as Regional honorees and Milt Werner, Juan Espinosa, Parvin Ahmadi and Mary Louise Bailey are nominated for distinguished public service awards.

Race to the Top Funding (RTTT):
Superintendent Werner reported that California was not selected to receive any of the $4.3 billion from RTTT, in Phase One. Those states that did not qualify are being encouraged to re-apply for funds in Phase Two.

Werner said that he wants to find ways to improve our application process. However, he added that receiving funds would be difficult as most RTTT funds will most likely be targeted to low performing schools and Fremont is known as a high performing school district.

Preschool Program:
Head of Federal & State Projects, Juan Espinosa and Director of the Preschool Program, Beverly Taub, Ph.D., discussed the success of the preschool programs which currently serve 324 three-and-four year old children on seven district campuses.

The district's preschool program began in the mid-1960's to assist young children from low-income families with kindergarten preparedness and offers referrals for health and social services if needed. Additionally, two of the 14 preschool classes are tuition based for those families who do not qualify for the State program.

As noted by Espinosa and Taub, Fremont's Preschool Program is self-supporting and actually generates funds for the district. Additionally, Taub has been successful with obtaining various grants and additional funding revenues. Both Espinosa and Taub are excited about Fremont being selected for a new special funding program, for preschool through first grade, provided by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Parcel Tax Update:

In May 2009, FUSD and staff began investigating the feasibility of a Parcel Tax, (a special tax levied on real property), which could provide new monies of extreme benefit to the school district. The initiative has been gaining support and "Support Fremont Schools," a community-based group of concerned citizens was formed to develop the leadership needed to move the process forward.

The next step is the Feasibility Phase to educate Fremont voters and to determine if there is sufficient support for the November 2010 ballot.

A contract for services will be initiated with TBW &B Public Finance Strategies to conduct the Feasibility Phase. Funds for their services would come from the Undesignated Fund Balance.

President of the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, Brannin Dorsey, spoke in favor of the Parcel Tax Initiative. "This gives us local control although it may not solve all the problems; but it does create a local revenue source for us that Sacramento can't take away," said Dorsey.

Board Vice President Brian Gebhardt added, "This is the beginning of a huge effort that requires everyone's help. It will take a two-thirds vote to pass. I believe in our community and I appreciate the committee members who have come forward to help."

A motion was made and passed unanimously by the Board to spend the $105,000 required for the feasibility study, tracking poll and public outreach needed, with the goal of getting the Parcel Tax on the November ballot.

Homework Policy:
Many district parents have raised concerns regarding the amount and quality of homework assigned. The last time the school district revised the Board and Homework Policy was in 2002.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Parvin Ahmadi, explained, "We've been working on this for over the past eight months and ran it by many different groups for input: PTAs, teachers, principals, students, and FUDTA, among others."

The Board unanimously approved the First Reading of the Revised Board Policy and Homework Review. The next step is to go through a Second Reading and receive additional suggestions from parents, principals, teachers and staff, prior to posting the general guidelines on the web for parents.

SERP (Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan):
Senior Vice President, Gail Beal of Keenan Financial Services, who had looked into the possibility of early retirement packages as a cost-saving option for the school district, presented her findings. Based on the assumptions of the number of potential retirees, Beal stated that the district would lose money over the next five years. Representatives from FUDTA, CSEA (Classified Personnel) and FSMA (Management) disagreed, but stated they needed more time to go over the actual figures to determine the break even points.

After receiving the additional input, the Board will review the SERP issue again at the next Board meeting, scheduled for March 24, before making a determination.

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