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Report on FUSD Board Meeting

By Miriam G. Mazliach

September 14, 2010

The following summary contains selected highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on September 7.

From the Personnel Department:
Dr. Maria Dehghanfard has been appointed as Categorical Program Specialist.
Dehghanfard began her career as a 1st grade teacher in Portland, Oregon in 1978 and also taught 1st grade in Texas from 1987-88. The next six years were spent with the Hayward Unified School District as an English Language Immersion Teacher for an elementary combo class for grades 1-2, ELD (English Language Development) for 6th-12th grades and a Program Resource Teacher for Kindergarten through 6th grade. Dehghanfard became a Vice Principal with Mt. Diablo USD in 1995 and has also served as a principal with San Leandro and Oakland Unified School District. Her last position was as Coordinator of Discipline with Oakland USD.

Superintendent’s Report:
Superintendent Morris related an interesting anecdote about a painting that had been on a conference wall at the district office for many years, relatively unnoticed. But being fairly new at his position, the artwork caught his attention. Morris’ curiosity led him to discover that the “plein air,” or outdoors/nature-themed painting, had been done by Sarah Decoto Horner, probably around 1870.

The surnames should sound familiar to most people in this area as both the Decoto and Horner families are part of Fremont’s history.

As for Sarah Decoto Horner, she had been born in Irvington, studied art in Paris and was the wife of Fred Horner, who was the son of John Horner. Horner Junior High School is named in his honor.

The painting had been found nailed to the wall of an old destroyed building in Niles. In 1958, it was donated by the Clark family to Horner school; their son Jim had attended there. Mrs. Berge, the mother of Horner teacher, Carmelita Freitas, did some re-touching and re-framing of the painting.

Years later the painting made its way to the district office and now Superintendent Morris pledges to display more prominently, this “treasure of the Fremont Unified School District.”


Patterson Ranch Project:
Attorney Gail Hashimoto, a consultant for the school district and Therese Gain, Director of Maintenance/Operations and Transportation Facilities at FUSD, presented an in-depth overview of the proposed Patterson Ranch development and how it will impact schools in Fremont.

The development encompasses a large tract of land in the Ardenwood area, which abuts Newark and Union City. The 428-acre Patterson Ranch project is configured into 3 sites as follows:

Site One: 111 acres for residential development and 14 acres for parks and trails;
Site Two: 10 acres as two 5-acre church sites; and
Site Three: Open Space Reserve with 316 acres with no land use designation change proposed and 136 acres of open space easement (eventual donation to public agencies).

The residential development area, slated for 500-520 housing units, would impact the surrounding school attendance area, effecting American High School, Thornton Junior High School and the elementary schools of Ardenwood and Forest Park.

According to Hashimoto, the most recent Environmental Impact Report (EIR) concluded that the district would be able to handle the increased student population, resulting from the project, without having to construct additional schools. “However, with our current increasing enrollment, 500 students would be overloaded from this area of Fremont,” said Hashimoto.

The developer had proposed a new school site on the west parcel of up to 40 acres. EIR said there are several site limitations related to it and there would need to be another EIR report undertaken if that area is to be considered. Among these are: the proximity to Coyote Hills, Willow Slough, wetlands and concerns over liquefaction as well as being in a designated flood zone.

Additionally, the option of remediating problematic land, or building an additional school, is daunting and probably not realistic in this time of budget deficits.

“We don’t have the money to build schools and this land is suspect,” stated Board Trustee, Larry Sweeney. “There is too much liability, unknown land conditions, environmental issues and hidden costs.”

Other school housing options outlined by Hashimoto each had varying obstacles or safety concerns. Currently no site plan is in existence and if approved, it would take several years to go through the planning and development stages.

The latest version of the EIR has been distributed for public comment. The Patterson Ranch project will proceed to the City Planning Commission for review at their September 23 meeting. The plan is tentatively scheduled to be reviewed by the City Council, at the October 26 meeting.


Unaudited Actuals:
Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens; Director of Budget, Audit and Attendance, Mark Martinelli and Director of Accounting, Jon Dimter presented their report to the Board. By September 15, FUSD has to review and accept for submission to the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), the unaudited actual financial report from the previous year. Basically, this is how much money came in before a given time period and how much was left. As discussed at the previous School Board meeting, due to careful fiscal management, the district “deficit spent” $4 million less than originally anticipated. However, due to state budget cuts, the district’s fiscal deficit is expected to increase as it receives fewer funds from the state.

It was suggested, by Board President Lara York, that an effort is made to invite the community to attend Financial Advisory Committee budget meetings in order to gain a better understanding of the district’s financial situation.


In Other Business:
The Board voted on and appointed community members to the Health and Sex Education Advisory Committee as well as the Advisory Commission on Instructional Equity.

The Board approved the First Reading of the New Board Policy on Regular Personnel.

The next FUSD School Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 22, 6:30 p.m., at the City of Fremont Council Chambers, 3300 Capital Avenue.


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