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June 1, 2010 > Letter to the editor: Fremont School Board

Letter to the editor: Fremont School Board

Is the school board a place for politics or a place for education? A recent FUSD School Board meeting could not answer that question. Trying to pass a resolution for Harvey Milk Day, some board members sought to make it political. Passing a resolution for Harvey Milk Day is redundant and only serves to politicize an issue further and divert attention from the true crisis - our children's education and the serious lack of funding.

Harvey Milk Day had already been signed into law by the governor. Most school districts in the Bay Area saw that there was no need to spend time on its own resolution. Not so for certain board members at FUSD. This week's meeting was nothing but political posturing and vote pandering on the parts of those who placed this on the agenda and voted for it. The entire first two hours of the board meeting were an embarrassment and a travesty of what a school board has been elected to do - educate our children.

I abhor bullying and intolerance. It is not allowed in my home - ever. My first grader is aware of the events surrounding May 22 and who Harvey Milk was. He knows Mr. Milk fought to ensure equal protection for everyone and that he died for that cause. He knows that fight is not over.

Some parents were forced to stand on the same side as bigots and hate-mongerers invited to speak and waste our valuable time. These parents had the courage to say this is not what we want to be spending our time teaching ... especially to elementary children. Trustee York stated the teaching would be "age appropriate." Why didn't the resolution say that? It said, "...suitable commemorative exercises." Those are not the same thing. And, even if it is age appropriate, time in the classroom needs to be spent on the academic curriculum!

This exercise was not only a waste of time but misrepresents Fremont as intolerant and non-diverse to unknowing outsiders, something which is absolutely not true. Corporations may be loath to give us grants based on that erroneous perception. Of the 11 speakers against the resolution, only four were actual parents in FUSD and each of those were speaking against the time and effort being taken away from the true goal of school, stressing academics. The rest, were people whose only interest was three minutes to spew ignorance and venom.

It was clear this resolution had very little to do with Harvey Milk; it had to do with "gay pride." Those were the exact words used by a teacher in FUSD. He was upset he wasn't going to get his day to show his gay pride. The student board member representative pointed out this would not be inclusive; it would actually be excluding the majority of FUSD students. Is there a day for Asian Americans' heroics to be taught and celebrated? And what of our soldiers who have died or are fighting now for the very liberties we want to celebrate? Outside of one trustee, Memorial Day was not even mentioned.

There has been a disparity between legitimate issues before the board and this made-up soapbox. At a previous meeting I was told as a parent representing a larger group, I could have up to 10 minutes to discuss our opposition to class size increases at the K-3 level. I was cut off at slightly over four minutes. Additionally, we have invited parents and children to meeting after meeting to speak but due to the "volume of speakers," Trustee York limited them to two minutes each. I guess these rules only apply to academic causes, not someone's personal soapbox.

A parent representative was given her full 10 minutes and more at this last meeting for the Harvey Milk Day Resolution. Remaining speakers were allowed three minutes each - even though the same number of speakers (or more) than previous meetings - to discuss budget cuts. I question the true agenda and loyalties of certain board members. Is it to parents who want to discuss PREP teachers, class sizes, and other budget concerns?

Trustee York stated she wished this could have been handled during the previous meeting when she had originally placed it on the agenda - when there wouldn't have been all of this attention. What I heard in that statement was, 'I wish I could have quietly pushed my personal agenda through with little or no fanfare because shh - no one is watching.'

Trustee Gebhardt thanked "everyone" for their civility in speaking to the board. Possibly he was asleep during the hateful, despicable speaking of the people who spewed venom and lies calling gays deviant and falsely claiming Mr. Milk was an ally of Jim Jones. They were not civil. A statement is read at the beginning of every School Board meeting: "Speech or conduct that is disruptive, threatening, abusive, defamatory, or impedes the orderly conduct of the Board is not protected."

Trustees Sweeney, Wu, and Mei had the backbone to say "no" and remain focused on our children's education. Trustees York and Gebhardt - SHAME ON YOU! The role of "president" of the board is a rotational choice, not an elected status by the populace. I hope that next year that position is held by someone who actually listens to the whole board and community, not just to their own personal agendas.

Gail Edwards-Bryan
Niles School parent, Fremont

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