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March 31, 2010 > Fremont School Board highlights

Fremont School Board highlights

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting, held on March 24.

It was announced that the school district's three Assistant Superintendents, Parvin Ahmadi, Bill Stephens and Steve Betando have voluntarily taken a five percent salary reduction for the 2010 - 2011 school year.

A portion of their released statement read in part:
"As Assistant Superintendents of Fremont Unified School District, we have serious concerns about the economic crisis presented to the District by the State of California. The Fremont Unified School District makes students its number one priority as is shown in its commitment to student success through excellent programs provided by its staff at all levels."

"In attempting to preserve the excellent programs for students, while maintaining as many jobs and fiscal solvency, the Governing Board has identified budget cuts for the 2010-2011 school year. The District is working with employee group leaders to reduce costs through contract negotiations, including employee salary reductions. The final specific forms of those reductions have yet to be determined."

"Although the senior management contracts, including the Superintendent's contract, are independent of other employee groups, and independent from one another, we asked to amend our respective contracts to result in a reduction of five percent in annual compensation for the 2010-2011 school year."

"We want these dark budget years to end. However, we must be prepared to personally and professionally dig deeper for the unknown economic future of public education and our children's futures."

Bill Stephens added, "Under these difficult budget times, leadership has to step up and also take reductions. Isn't that what leadership is about?"

Homework Policy:
Parent Silvia Amico commented before the Board and Staff that she felt the Hopkins Junior High policies and their levels of homework were out of control. While on the school trip to Washington, D.C. the students, her son among them, were still expected to keep up with all homework assignments. On other occasions when her son's three to four hours of nightly homework affected his amount of sleep hours, she had him stop short of completing an assignment, which resulted in a paper pick up punishment. This situation has also happened to many other students.

"I did not agree to send my son to a military academy," said Amico. "Picking up garbage, for not doing the excessive amount of homework required is ridiculous."

Board President York stated, "This is not acceptable. Students are getting a double punishment, first by receiving the lower grade and then having to pick up paper." Assistant Superintendent Ahmadi agreed to check into the matter.

As far as the Second Reading of the Revised Homework Policy which the Board approved, Ahmadi stated, "I plan to spend time with principals going over Board policy. We will try to work with staff regarding implementation and have checks and balances for homework." The Board Policy had last been revised in 2002.

PRAA - Change in School Start Times:
For several years parents and students have been requesting that FUSD consider changing school start times so that students would be less sleep deprived. Community meetings were held and a follow up survey was conducted.

The Parent Representative Advisory Committee (PRAA) presented their extremely thorough final report on the survey results. Over 2,251 surveys were received since January. The findings concluded that the majority of the respondents were in favor of changing the school start times.
Option A was the preferred choice overall:
8:30 a.m. - 2:50 p.m. - Elementary - No change
8:15 a.m. - 2:25 p.m. - Junior High - 10 minute change
8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. - High School - 25 minute change

"I would like to go ahead and make the change this year," said Trustee Lily Mei. "I know it's a small change, but it's something that might make it better for the health of the students."

A motion was made and approved, with five ayes and one nay (Sweeney), to implement Option A at the start of the Fall 2010 term.

PRAA members Robert Hou and Kris Gramlich expressed satisfaction with their committee's efforts regarding the survey process and the resulting outcome.

Further details on how Staff will conduct these changes will be discussed at the April 14 School Board meeting.

Naming of Facilities for Coach Ingram at Tak Fudenna Stadium:
Fremont City Councilman, Bill Harrison and local businessman Mike Jacinto spoke on behalf of a committee comprised of local citizens, former students, teachers and business leaders who wish to recognize retired Coach Jim Ingram for his 40 years of dedication and service to the school district.

As Ingram had a major role in designing and planning the stadium, the group is requesting that a bronze bust be placed at Tak Fudenna Stadium and furthermore, that the Field House be named in his honor.

According to Harrison, the plan in the future is to possibly expand the tributes, by creating an ongoing "Walk of Fame" at the location for other notables from our region.

The Board passed one portion at this time, to erect the bust of Coach Ingram. It held off on approving the renaming of the Field House, pending examination of the Board policy, by next month's meeting.

Class Loads:
The Board approved the recommendation to cap elementary schools at 900 students; several schools which may exceed that level will need to receive additional assistance if that occurs.

Additionally, at larger schools, some classrooms may remain empty in the hope that if the ratio drops to the previous 20 students per teacher ratio with improved funding, there would be space, if the ratio drops back down to the previous 20 students per teacher ratio.

SERP (Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan):
After the presentation at the March 17 Board meeting, Gail Beal of Keenan Financial Services, as well as the various Fremont employee groups represented, investigated further and came to the conclusion that the SERP would not be a cost-saving option for the district.

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