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June 29, 2010 > Fremont Unified School District Board report

Fremont Unified School District Board report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Note: The day after the Board meeting, a tentative contract agreement for the 2010-2011school year was reached by the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) and the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA). (Please see separate announcement in this issue.)


The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on June 23:

Superintendent Werner Farewell:
The Board adopted a resolution in recognition of Superintendent Milt Werner's retirement.

"You have been a teacher to many of our managers and the teachers in the district," said Board President, Lara York. "Thank you for your great listening skills and for helping us to function better."

In his parting comments, Superintendent Werner stated "I have truly learned what it means to serve others. This is one of the best educational achievement districts in the state. I encourage everyone to work together and wish you the best from the bottom of my heart."


Chinese (Mandarin) Immersion Program:
During time reserved for public comments, parent Luke James spoke in favor of the Chinese Immersion Program slated to begin in the fall at Azevada Elementary. "I want to thank the Board for passing this program. It will benefit the children of our community and offers them a rare window of opportunity [for language acquisition]. Please lend your full support."

One kindergarten class of the Chinese Immersion Program has already received 28 applicants, with room for two more students. Encouraged by the positive response, parents and community members are raising additional funds for a potential second kindergarten class No money is coming out of the District's General Fund.

If interested, please contact FUSD, Department of Federal and State Projects at (510) 659-2531 or go to the Chinese Immersion Parents' Council of Fremont website: http://cipcf.wordpress.com.


Oral Communications:
Several parents spoke in support of, in their words, "outstanding" Irvington High School Math teacher, Vincent Wu, who will be losing his position due to his lack of seniority and the budget cuts. "We need to put performance as a priority when negotiating teacher contracts," said district parent Kathy McDonald.

Ann Crosbie, a Fremont parent, requested that the Board consider reinstating the Honors History class at Thornton Junior High.

Brannin Dorsey, President of Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, took the opportunity to thank Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Parvin Ahmadi, for her 13 years of dedicated service to the district. "Thank you for opening the door to ensure educational integrity," said Dorsey.

Ahmadi has been hired as the Superintendent of Schools for the Pleasanton School District.


Budget Update:
Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens, explained that the district was running out of time to turn in Fremont's school budget for review to the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), by the July 1 deadline. Ongoing negotiations between the district and its employee groups made it difficult to calculate the 2010-2011 proposed budget without the necessary facts and figures related to benefits, salaries and various additions or reductions therein.

Furthermore, the district will have to tap into its surplus funds to deal with the additional revenue reductions caused by a deficit in state funding. This will create a drop below the 2 percent reserve of FUSD's budget, an amount required by the state to be held back by the district as a safeguard measure.

Like many other school districts throughout the state, FUSD has asked for an extension on finalizing their budget, according to Stephens. However, the district must still submit its current adopted budget, along with the stipulation that it will provide an amended list of actions or cuts needed to balance its budget, when turning in the "First Interim Budget Report" due to ACOE by October 31.

"We have some additional time to come to some solutions," said Stephens. "This is as good as we can provide at this moment."


PRAA - Safety Sub-Committee:
Diane Jones, parent and head of the Parent Representative Advisory Assembly's (PRAA's) Safety Sub-Committee, gave an informational overview of the efforts of the group. They have concluded a survey of the "safety" needs of all 42 school sites in the district.

Most sites need more storage space in general. Fifty-nine percent of schools have less than 10 percent of the amount of water recommended for emergencies and most have an inadequate amount of food reserve at the three days worth per person ratio. Other areas to address are training of staff to shut off utilities, radio operations and CERT and CPR.

Jones discussed the work started by several volunteers to bolt or strap down hazardous classroom equipment, which if not done, could cause potential injury to staff and students in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. The process is ongoing and currently there are approximately 4,900 unsecured TVs, computers and pieces of furniture in district classrooms.

The committee is actively looking into additional grants to help secure funding to obtain the needed safety items and programs.

A final written report will be presented to the Board of Education.


Parcel Tax:
July 21 Board meeting will be the last time for final discussion on whether to proceed with putting the Parcel Tax on the November ballot. Accordingly, the tracking poll will be sent out and the district will be able to better determine what the voters will support and if they can get a two-thirds vote possibility.


Program Improvement:
Director of Assessment & Elementary Instruction, Roxane J. Liu and Juan Espinosa, Director of Federal & State Projects, gave a presentation on Program Improvement.

Although Fremont is a high-performing school district, one school, Durham Elementary was designated this year as a Program Improvement School, requiring it to demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) and improvement in student achievement for two consecutive years in order to retain Title I funding.

Additional assistance will continue to those students and groups requiring more assistance and packets were even sent home during the summer to continue with the effort.


Secondary Texts/Books:
The Secondary Schools' Textbook Adoption Committee, comprised of parents, teachers administrators and a Board member (Lily Mei) met in May to decide on new textbooks and various reading books as suggested for review by classroom teachers.

These were as follows:
Spanish language textbook series: !A toda vila! Published by EMC

Extended Reading Books:
Junior High level:
Flush by Carl Hiaasen
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

High School level - Advanced Placement English:
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Waiting by Han Jin

During the Board meeting, these books were on the agenda for approval consideration. Although Waiting had intense sexual themes, it was Bastard Out of Carolina, in particular, that was cited by Board members Wu, Sweeney and Mei as being too controversial for high school students with its frequent depictions of rape, and sexual violence.

"This book does not reinforce positive behaviors," said Board member Larry Sweeney. Added Mei, "It can be found in libraries, but I don't want to make it mandated or required reading for the classroom."

After further discussion, Board President York, stated that she had been won over by Sweeney's comments; she decided, along with Mei, Wu and Sweeney to exclude Bastard Out of Carolina from consideration. Board member Bryan Gebhardt was the lone dissenter and commented, "AP English students would be able to handle the subject matter."

With a vote of 4 ayes (Mei, Sweeney, Wu and York) to 1 nay (Gebhardt), the Spanish language text series and the remaining three books were adopted.


Save Fremont Students (SFS):
The grassroots effort by parents and students, begun by Virginia Hom just two short weeks ago, has blossomed into over $240,000 being raised so far to help Fremont schools with their budget crisis. The group has targeted a lofty goal of $4.5 million by the July 15 deadline, required by the district to make staffing decisions.

Although several speakers and Board member Wu expressed concerns regarding where the funds would ultimately end up, most commented positively about the fundraising campaign by the volunteer group of parents and students.

Additional fundraising events are continuing throughout the next several weeks including a "Shop for Our Students Day" on July 8, supported by local merchants. To donate or for further information, go to www.saveFremontStudents.org or www.sfsworkforce.org.

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