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April 21, 2010 > FUSD board meeting

FUSD board meeting

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following is a selected summary from the Fremont Unified School District Board Meeting held on April 14.

Homework Policy:
At the last Board meeting on March 24, the newly revised homework policy was passed. Regarding its implementation, Brannin Dorsey, president of Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA), expressed concern that teachers have not had an opportunity to review the policy at their school site and with administration.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Parvin Ahmadi, responded that she is meeting with the elementary school principals and is asking them to start working with their teachers to look at reducing the minutes of homework assigned. The school plans are due by June to be ready for the fall start of school. Ahmadi plans to meet with the secondary school principals as well.

Teaching Positions:
The meeting room was filled to capacity with concerned teachers. Many addressed the Board about their shock and feelings of not being respected for all their efforts in light of the number of teachers being considered "surplus" and the unavailability of sufficient teaching positions for them, based on their years of experience and dedication to the District.

Afterwards, Dorsey stated, "We will all have to work together on how the surplussing has happened and work so that every surplussed teacher will have a job."

Others present spoke up against the elimination elementary preps of Science and P.E. and about the need to limit class sizes.

"Please allow Mattos to continue to be a Science Magnet School," said Susan Burgess, Mattos' Science Specialist. "It's taken many years to develop the program and our teachers have made Science an integral part of our curriculum. Without Prep Specialists, programs will disintegrate."

Library Information Technology Specialists/ Library Media Techs (LMTs):
Maile Ferreira, Library Specialist and District Librarian, told the Board, "District-wide, 500,000 fewer books have been checked out by students this school year, primarily due to the slashing of Librarian and LMT positions. Studies have shown that school libraries make a difference in how well students do. You are widening the gap and losing student achievement."

Allyson McAuley, Library Media Tech at Irvington High added, "Students are not getting help, they are not learning research skill, libraries are closed, and there are fewer new books being purchased. This is not working for anyone. I love my students and job but I feel that with the cuts it's impossible for me to do a good job for them. I'm going to leave the school district," McAuley added.

Responses of Board Members:
In response to the comments expressed, School Board President, Lara York stated, "We are working hard to negotiate with teachers and staff, trying to be as fair and compassionate as possible."

Trustee Bryan Gebhardt admitted, "It was not the best way to send surplus teachers' lists out, but in regard to the budget, we are losing $580 per student and that amount is 20 percent lower than four years ago. Together we're going to get through this."

Budget Update:
"We spend about $260 million a year in Education," said Assistant Superintendent for Business, Bill Stephens. "We will only have $19 million in reserve as we have spent approximately $10 million of the reserve to save programs."

Stephens explained that it is important to maintain the good credit rating that we currently have, as the District would pay less interest if we ever need to borrow funds.

"We are looking at budget cuts of $27 million," said Stephens. "To keep this district solvent we have to have budget cuts. It's not something we want to do. It is not a duty taken lightly."

According to Stephens, many other school districts in our county and across the state are "negatively qualified" and are in dire financial straits.

Superintendent Search:
The Board is currently receiving and reviewing applications and is very pleased with the pool of applicants for the position. Interviews will be scheduled soon with the selection panel with the hope of making a decision in May.

Parcel Tax:
The Board has recently engaged a consulting firm, TRW&B, that has been working to develop outreach and strategies for placing a Parcel Tax on the November 2010 ballot.

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