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November 2, 2010 > FUSD School Board Meeting report

FUSD School Board Meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following is a selected summary from the Fremont Unified School District board meeting held October 27, 2010.

Superintendent's Report:
According to Superintendent James Morris, FUSD has achieved recognition for its success with students who are English learners. Based on a statewide review of 10,000 schools in California, Harvey Green Elementary was ranked 15th for schools and FUSD placed 4th overall in the state, on the various criteria used to evaluate the progress of English-learning students.

Public Comments:
District parent, Ann Crosbie asked that the Board not designate the planned additional wing of classrooms at Mission San Jose High School as the "Special Education Wing." She stressed that no group of students should be made to feel separate from the rest of the student population. Board President Lara York concurred and further clarified that the new wing will replace old, deteriorating classrooms. While the first floor will be used by the Special Education department, the second floor will be used by other departments.

Scott Cantacessi, of employee's union SEIU 1021, spoke out strongly about the number of employees who had been laid off from his group. "We took cuts you didn't even know about," he said, when stressing that their number of employee reductions were at a higher percentage as compared to teacher groups.

Agenda Items:
The decision on school assignment designation for the Villa D'Este Housing Development was postponed until the next School Board meeting on November 10.

Innovative Education Grants:
David Bonaccorsi and Desrie Campbell of the Fremont Education Foundation (FEF) presented plaques to recipients who had received 2009-2010 FEF Innovative Education Grants. A total of $30,000 worth of grants, to implement specific programs or projects, had previously been awarded to the 22 teachers from 11 different school sites. Fundraising efforts from this year's FEF Gala, to be held on February 25, 2011, will be used to support Innovation Education Grants, for the 2010-2011 school year.

Waiver Request:
Superintendent Morris reported that the State utilized ineffectual criteria that caused four Fremont elementary schools and a continuation high school, to be incorrectly identified as low-achieving schools: Blacow, Cabrillo, Durham, Grimmer elementary schools and Robertson High School. According to the "Open Enrollment Act,' this label would enable parents in those district schools to have the option to enroll their child in a different school having a higher API (Academic Performance Index). Two of the schools in question actually received state academic recognition last year and two others raised their API scores.

To remediate this situation, FUSD's Director of Federal and State Projects, Juan Espinosa and Superintendent Morris explained that a general waiver has been prepared and will be submitted to the State Board of Education, asking them to exclude the five Fremont schools from the list of low-performing schools. Espinosa has spent many hours working with the schools, parents, School Site groups and FUDTA (teacher's union) to ensure that the district met the criteria for this waiver process. With a vote of 6 ayes, the Board approved the motion to submit the waiver.

Homework Policy:
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Deborah Sims, introduced a discussion of how the new Homework Board Policy, which was adopted on April 14, has been progressing at the district's schools. Principals have been working with their staffs and departments to ensure they implement the plan. A report containing the homework plans developed by the five Fremont High Schools was presented to the Board.

Principal of Mission San Jose High School Sandra Prairie related to the Board how her school and faculty have worked together to come up with their plan.

Some concerns still exist as to the amount of homework, either too much or too little, based on the comments of some parents and teachers.

Parents Dianne Jones and Ann Crosbie expressed their support of the new policy, which encourages teachers to lessen the amount of homework assigned so that children are not overstressed with an abundance of homework. Jones stated, "Research shows that excessive homework shows decreased academic success later on."

An opposing view was expressed by Irvington High School teacher Liz O'Connor who teaches 9th grade English Honors and 11th grade AP English classes. "Students have to work at a certain level of rigor in order to prepare them for college. I understand that students are overloaded but I believe that this [homework] is one of the last things that should be cut," said O'Connor.

School Board President, Lara York supported the new Homework policy that so many students and parents had been requesting over the years, and additionally cited potential health benefits in the hope that less homework might mean more sleep time for students.

Budget and Finance:
Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens, presented an overview on how a district's budget calendar is set up throughout the fiscal year.

Also, at his recommendation, the Board agreed, with 6 ayes, to proceed with refinancing the outstanding 2002 Series A bonds for the district's taxpayers, which will reap a potential savings estimated at between 3 million- 5 million dollars.

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