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April 5, 2011 > Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photo courtesy of Gail Minamoto

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on March 23, 2011.

Community Leadership/Superintendent's Report:
Fremont Schools Superintendent James Morris announced that Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) selected Sherea Westra, a second-grade teacher at Niles Elementary School as his 2011 - 20th Assembly District Woman of the Year.

Bill Stephens, the Assistant Superintendent for Business, determined that some of the district's bonds could be refinanced, resulting in a savings to the district and taxpayers.

The Dana Raimondi Math Program/Math Science Nucleus was recognized for partnering with Fremont Unified School District (FUSD), to help low income students excel at math. "We are assisting under-performing kids at the elementary levels. We care and are concerned about them," said Raimondi.

Ceremonial Items:
The Board passed resolutions in honor of "Week of Public School Administrators and Managers" (May 2 - 6) and "April as Volunteer Appreciation Month."

Superintendent Morris recognized a group of talented students from Centerville Junior High School who won numerous awards at the Musical Theatre Competitions of America, held recently in Southern California.

Retirement of Bill Stephens:
A special resolution recognizing "Lifelong Service to Public Education," was presented to Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens. He is retiring, after a distinguished career, of which the last six years were spent at FUSD. Superintendent Morris spoke of Stephens' incredible financial knowledge, loyalty and integrity, expressing that he will be missed.

Board President Bryan Gebhardt concurred, "You certainly brought consistency and stability to the district. And, your advice and collaborative style always came with integrity and a sense of humor."

Trustee Larry Sweeney discussed Stephens' financial savvy. "You came aboard when there was financial confusion and did a fantastic job explaining everything. The district has had excellent audits [because of your efforts] and you have inspired your staff. Your seat will be very, very difficult to fill."

Trustee Lara York added, "To get respect you have to give respect. You give respect to everyone you come into contact with."

Bill Stephens responded, "I've been very fortunate to have had a very enjoyable career. The capstone of my educational career has been Fremont, because of the people I've met. The Board, Staff, superlative teachers, students and community all work very hard to make this a high performing district."

Public Hearing on Measure K:
Board Trustees had the opportunity to receive suggestions and ideas from the public on the spending plan for Measure K funds, to encourage transparency and participation. Superintendent Morris stated, "We want to hear how the voters want the money spent to give the Board and Committee ideas."

Several Niles Elementary parents and teachers talked about using the funds to bring K-3 class sizes back down to a 20:1 ratio, as these young students need the most attention.

Others mentioned the need to keep the school libraries open to serve Fremont's students.

Carl Bullard, a Washington High School teacher made his viewpoint known by saying, "I am teaching 33 students in a tiny classroom, a room built for 20. Class size is a K-12 issue."

President of the Fremont Unified Teachers Association (FUDTA), Brannin Dorsey spoke about how many young students miss out on receiving one-on-one time with their teacher, when there are too many students crowded into a classroom. "Every child is important. Every child deserves attention and instruction from their teacher - every single day, to reach their potential," said Dorsey.

Updated Special Education Procedural Handbook:
Deborah Sims, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction related that it's been a while since revisions to this manual have taken place. This is the beginning of the first phase to review and make recommendations in order to ensure compliance with policies and procedures. The handbook is important in order to assist school personnel to understand and teach with practices that are consistent with Federal, State and District requirements, when dealing with students with special needs.

Financial Advisory Committee Status Report:
This committee advises and makes recommendations on financial matters to the Board. Information presented showed that Fremont students perform academically better than other students, even while receiving less money per student, from the state. Additionally, FUSD, which has had a positive certification for over 25 years, is a financially sound school district as verified by the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) and the State of California.

Update on District Demographic Study:
Superintendent Morris explained that many factors contribute to Fremont's demographics. Some of these include: birthrate, economy, construction, trends, immigration patterns, environmental issues, and school board policies.

FUSD's consulting demographer prepared an update to present to the Board, as per request. There have been no significant major shifts in the contributing factors previously mentioned. 2010 enrollment was 32,384, which is a 5 percent increase over the previous year (+176 students). The enrollment for 2011 increased by 281 students or 0.9 percent. The projection for 2015 is now 33,067 for an increase of 1.9 percent or 631 students.

The question of school/facilities capacity and program capacity needs to be looked into further. Acquisition of more property could be a solution; however, in this time of economic uncertainty and budget deficits, it might prove difficult to accomplish.

Annual Report on Assignment of Attendance Areas:
The Board's new policies on the process of evaluating new housing developments, for assignment to an attendance area, utilize the demographer's findings as a helpful component. Currently, several elementary schools are dealing with overcrowding or have new housing developments proposed within their areas: Ardenwood, Leitch/Warm Springs and Parkmont. Recommendations, made by the Staff, were presented to the Board in the Annual Report.

In time reserved for Public Comment on this agenda item, Mark Robson, of Robson Homes thanked the Board for, "considering this issue and looking into it."

Fremont parent Hiu Ng, stated, "Some developments are where we already have significant overcrowding in our schools."

Trustee Lara York posed a question regarding capacity at the Secondary School level. She asked Therese Gain, Director of Facilities/Operations at the district, about the planning process for new developments and how to proceed with public comment.

The Annual Reports were accepted. However, per Trustee York, the proposed Assignment Areas for the new developments were not voted on as the Board has asked for additional information from the Staff for the April 13 meeting.

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