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January 25, 2011 > Who Should Speak First?

Who Should Speak First?

Hayward Unified School District Board meeting report

By Robin Michel

At the January 12 Board of Education meeting, newly elected Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) Board President Lisa Brunner cast a tie-breaking vote on the first matter of business: approval of an amendment to the night's agenda.

Trustee Jesus Armas suggested a friendly amendment to return board comments to the end of the agenda in consideration of speakers' time and so that the Board could hear from constituents first, saying that it was "more important that we hear from the public initially." However, it became a matter of debate; both Vice President William McGee and Clerk Luis Reynoso opposing. Mr. McGee said that while it was important to hear from the community, it was his observation that many of the comments from the public were on things the Board said, so that was the intent of the agenda change. Mr. Reynoso said that it was important for the community "to hear from us, so that when you come up you can tell us what you're thinking about what we're thinking. We're here to serve you."

President Brunner said that while she would like to move Board Comments up, she too, would like to hear from the public first and suggested that Board Comments could immediately follow Items from the Public. She supported this suggestion by referencing yellow cards community members fill out to request speaking before the board. "The cards say this provides an opportunity for the public to address the board, as opposed to the Board addressing the community."

"That appears to be a good settlement," said Mr. Reynoso, "but it doesn't allow the community to comment on our comments. We're here to serve you," he again said. "Not the other way around."

Mr. Armas said he would support the incorporation of President Brunner's suggestion to have Items from the Community followed by Board Comments and amended his amendment.

"I second the motion and reject it, "said Mr. Reynoso. There was discussion about proper protocol or rules of order that resulted in Trustee Maribel Heredia rescinding a second on the original motion to approve the agenda in order to second the amendment. The amended motion passed by a 3:2 vote.

Once this agenda item was put to rest, three students from Mount Eden High School were recognized for their recent art awards by the Personnel Commission, and the Board was treated to a showing of the winning art. Mount Eden High School is holding an Art Showcase Reception honoring former Board member Paul Frumkin on Thursday, January 27 from 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

The Board of Education recognized Hayward High School Counselor Paul Gonsalves, who was recently honored by the California League of High Schools as outstanding Educator of the Year. Mr. Gonsalves has been a counselor at Hayward High for ten years, and is an alumnus. He said that both of his parents were educators, and his wife, Jennifer Gonsalves, is also a Hayward High teacher and a new teacher support provider. Of teaching, he said, "It's not a job. It's a lifestyle. It's a passion."

During Public Comments, two teachers took turns reading a response letter signed by twelve teachers regarding a letter to parents posted on the HUSD website concerning combination classes. "The letter contains misleading statements... and sugar coating it does not make it better." In addition to the difficulty of teaching two grade levels, according to the letter read aloud, the most inexperienced teachers in Hayward are assigned combination classes. The community was invited to become involved in the discussion by visiting where the rebuttal letter is posted.

Hayward Education Association (HEA) President Mercedes Faraj addressed the Board about the Association's disappointment over the news that Superintendent Janis Duran had decided to leave at the end of this school year, saying, "While we are grateful that no medical issues [are the reason], we are dismayed by the resignation of Superintendent Duran...once again, we have the revolving door of Superintendents."

Hayward teacher Lance James, who serves on the negotiations team, also addressed the Board, saying that he was recently elected to the board of a sister district and he wanted to see HUSD "gain the same level of respect between board, administrators, teachers and staff. He urged the District to get back to the negotiations table, saying it was time to "build bridges, build respect and build trust."

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