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Special Meeting held by FUSD
By Miriam G. Mazliach
June 8, 2010
The Fremont Unified School Board held a Special meeting on the evening of June 1, to discuss the joint fundraising efforts by “Save Fremont Students” and the Fremont Education Foundation who are seeking to mitigate budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year.
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Parvin Ahmadi explained, “This group is composed of concerned parents working in conjunction with the non-profit organization, Fremont Education Foundation (FEF). Their plan is to raise money to retain specialty teachers for grades 1 – 6, help preserve the lower class sizes for grades K – 3 and to lower class sizes at the Junior and Senior High levels.”
Over the next 6 weeks, the group is working at a frantic pace to raise their goal of $4.5 million by the district’s July 15 deadline. Save Fremont Students is trying to replicate the recent successful fundraising efforts of the Cupertino school district. The end result there raised $2.2 million dollars in 8 weeks, enough to save the positions of 100 teachers previously slated for layoff.
At the Board meeting, during time reserved for public comment, Niles parent, Gail Edwards-Bryan questioned why Save Fremont Students had aligned themselves with the Fremont Education Foundation rather than going through the District or its special fund. She further inquired to which schools the Prep (specialist) teachers would be assigned, if the fundraising goals are achieved, and how funds would be dispensed, if goals are not met.
She alluded, “The lead person for FEF (Sherea Westra) is the number 2 person (Vice President) at Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, at the minimum this seems as a conflict of interest,” said Edwards-Bryan.
In immediate response, both Westra vehemently denied the inference and addressed the concerns. Local attorney and FEF Vice President, David Bonaccorsi, stated, “All I have is fiduciary duty for FEF. I would like to see a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between FUSD and FEF. Your actions tonight will be seen as authorizing this goal.”
Other parent committee members of Save Fremont Students discussed that the efforts had just kicked into gear ten days previously and working with an already established and well-respected organization, such as the Fremont Education Foundation, would help to expedite their efforts.
Various speakers clarified that donations would be primarily received through a secure online website and funds would be earmarked for Save Fremont Students only and not an FEF account.
“FEF is proud to be in partnership with so many dedicated parents. They’re here for the right reasons and for the students,” said Westra.
This entire parent effort had begun when Virginia Hom, a Mission Valley Elementary parent, concerned about the school district’s budget crisis, decided to see what she could do to help raise money.
“At first, I didn’t think anything was possible,” said Hom. “I inquired at my school’s PTA and eventually I was referred to FEF and then waited until they approved the campaign.”
Several parent meetings followed and somehow word began to spread and parents started joining in and getting involved. These parents don’t just want to talk; they want to do something.
According to Hom, one source for raising funds is through a recommended donation of $475 being requested per family in Fremont. Other plans underway are for corporate and matching funds, community outreach, publicity and a family-oriented fundraising event.
Some of the core team group of Save Fremont Students parent committee members include: Virginia Hom, Sameer Deshmukh, Subra Nathan, Krishnan Iyer, Fahria Khan, Paul Rogers, Daphne Lau, and Vitus Lau. Others also involved are Sree Sanker, Sonali Desai and Arun Ramani.
Most realize that this mission may have to be ongoing, as California schools will probably continue to endure a pattern of serious underfunding.
FUSD Board voted and passed the motion to approve the Save Fremont Students campaign.
Website to donate online: www.SaveFremontStudents.org
By check: Make check payable to FEF with Elementary or Secondary on the memo line and mail to: FEF – SFS Campaign, P.O. Box 3526, Fremont, CA 94539