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May 22, 2012 > Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Highlights of the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting May 9, 2012.

Superintendent's Report:
Hopkins Jr. High School recently won the National Science Bowl Competition (Junior/Middle School level), held in Washington D.C. Over 1,140 teams competed in the event. The victorious five-member team is comprised of Catherine Zeng, Brian Tseng, Karthik Bharathala, Mark Choi, and Dhruv Muley. The students' coach/teacher is Dr. Paul Ricks.

The Board passed a resolution in recognition of "Day of the Teacher." Superintendent Dr. James Morris stated, "We owe a huge amount of honor and credit to our teachers for their hard work, day in and day out." President of the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, Brannin Dorsey, added, "Teaching is a lot about connecting with our students and igniting a spark within them."

Director of Certificated Personnel, Juan Espinosa introduced FUSD Teacher of the Year - Jennifer Teguia of Kennedy High School.

Update on iFUSD:
Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) students Andrew Han and Sumukh Sridhara created, launched and donated to the school district, an "app" (application) designated "iFUSD." It enables users to access information from the FUSD website and receive "push notifications" (messages) from the district. Since the launch, iFUSD has gained 1,700 users and those surveyed, gave it a top rating.

Han and Sridhara, joined by Adi Jung, also a MSJHS student, presented an update, not only for the iPhone but the Android too. According to Han, iFUSD on the Android platform has all of the features of iFUSD for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, except push notifications, which will be released at a later date. Han, Sridhara and Jung also announced that they would publish the source code online for anyone to use, becoming one of the first school districts to do so. To download the apps, go to Google Play or the Appstore on your phones and search "iFUSD."

Superintendent Dr. James Morris explained, "Year after year, the Board is required to provide a balanced budget to the county by June 30 for the school year and two 'out' (additional) years. We are deficit spending (above our income) at approximately $10 - $11 million a year. Employees across the district are stepping up and taking on more to fill in the gaps," said Morris.

Assistant Superintendent of Business, Micaela Ochoa, again outlined best and worst case budget scenarios for the district. Based on whether or not the Governor's Tax Initiative passes or fails, the cuts could range from $11.7 million to potentially $31.4 million. Since 2008, the district has lost about $95 million in state funding.

There are only a few "non-negotiated items, which can be cut by the Board. One is class size; increasing the number of students per class could result in a savings of $2.2 million. However, the Board received 1,000 parent letters against increasing class size. Trustee Lara York stated, "This is not a comfortable thing to do," and suggested that if teachers would take a 1-1/2 percent pay cut, the district might not need to increase class sizes. However, with no options in sight, School Board trustees voted unanimously to raise class sizes.

Homework Policy:
Director of Secondary Education James Maxwell and Director of Elementary Education Debbie Amundsen reviewed changes to the Board Policy on Elementary and Secondary Homework. They reported on survey results that indicated most parents seemed pleased and have noticed a reduction in the amount of homework assigned, especially at the elementary level.

District parent Ann Crosbie questioned the actual homework time, especially at the high school level. She asked the directors to "re-do the survey and get student input which would be more meaningful."

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