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Fremont Unified School Board meeting update

By Miriam G. Mazliach

December 21, 2010

The following is a selected summary from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) board meeting held on December 8, 2010.

Board Business:
Fremont Superintendent of Schools, James Morris, administered the Oath of Office, to newly re-elected School Board Members, Lara York and Larry Sweeney.

As part of its annual re-organization process, Trustee Bryan Gebhardt was elected to the position of Board President, Lily Mei to Board Vice-President and Ivy Wu to Board Clerk.

Superintendent’s Report:
Standard and Poor’s has given FUSD an increased credit rating, citing two main reasons: the district’s exemplary financial stewardship and the approval of Measure K by the voters, demonstrating their commitment to education.

This is important because in the event that the district should need to borrow money in the future to meet its obligations, it would cost less [interest-wise] with this improved credit evaluation.

Superintendent Morris stated he was proud of James Leitch Elementary School (K-2) which has been selected as a National Blue Ribbon school and one of only 33 in California being honored. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the designation is given to “public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students.”

FUSD is also asking students to participate in its ongoing “Logo Re-design Contest.” The competition gives students the unique opportunity to design a new logo for the Fremont Unified School District. The winning student will receive $500 towards post-secondary expenses. The design should reflect the diversity of Fremont’s community and the district’s high educational standards and expectations for students. To submit a design, save the file to CD and turn it in by the March 15, 2011 deadline. All entries should be delivered to: Mrs. Carole Pine, Fremont Unified School District, Office of the Superintendent, 4210 Technology Drive, Fremont, CA 94538. Additional information is available at

Teacher Recognition:
Three exemplary educators were honored with resolutions:
After 46 years, Coach Peter Michaletos recently retired from Kennedy High School and FUSD. The much admired and respected coach was recognized for all his dedication, above and beyond, to the many students he has worked with and helped during his tenure. “You have created shoes that will be impossible to fill,” commented Board trustee Larry Sweeney.

The California Art Education Association named Susan Manbeian from Hopkins Junior High as the Outstanding Visual Art Teacher for 2010. In addition, Edie Christensen of Mission San Jose High School was recognized as the Outstanding Secondary Visual Art Teacher for 2010.
Public Comments:
During time reserved for Oral Communications, various community members and teachers addressed “class size” concerns. Among those, Chuck Ontiveros, a first grade teacher at Weibel Elementary, explained how the increased number of students has caused more time needed to complete lessons, a crowded classroom atmosphere with the additional students and desks, less time to help students who need it, and more papers to grade with longer hours and less pay. He added that there would be a terrible impact on students if the increasing class size continues.

After several parents asked about Honors/GATE (Gifted) programs and the composition of the committee, Deborah Sims, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction stated, “There will be opportunities for the public to voice their opinions on GATE/Honors programs before it comes to the Board for approval, sometime in the future.” Currently, various recommendations are being reviewed and input is being gathered. It is hoped to have recommendations for the Honors Program presented at the January 25 Board meeting and sometime in May for the GATE program.

Save Fremont Students Funds Report:
Through the community effort of the Save Fremont Students campaign, well over $534,000 has been raised and designated for elementary and secondary school sites. More funds are still trickling in. At the elementary level, six prep teachers were hired. Secondary schools received funds distributed on a per-pupil basis. At the Board meeting, however, only the Elementary School Funds report portion was approved. Approval of the Secondary School Funds report was delayed until a future meeting, pending clarification of some of the areas where the funds were to be spent. Niles parent, Gail Edwards said that these funds should be used “to directly impact students, and not for teachers to attend conferences.”

Budget and Finance:
Mark Martinelli, Director of Budget, Audit and Attendance presented an overview on the Certification for the First Interim Financial Report. Twice a year, the district is required by the State to certify its fiscal stability to demonstrate that it is able to meet its fiscal obligations. According to Martinelli, “It is key to show that the district has 2 percent [of expenditures], as a minimum reserve, in order to receive positive certification.” However, nothing in the district’s budget can be set in stone, particularly since FUSD has to wait for the State’s budget update in January for any mid-year funding changes.

With a vote of six ayes, the Board accepted and passed the First Interim Financial Report.

Bill Stephens, Assistant Superintendent of Business, conducted a Budget Study Session and Planning for the 2011/2012 Budget/Jobs Bill Funding. He explained that the State had delayed the June revise until late October and said, “We’ve had a dysfunctional budget system from the State of California for a number of years. Our district has had to make difficult cuts, but we’ve had to do it. There isn’t enough money in the State to fund what’s going on,” he added.

Stephens reviewed the budget cycle and requirements as well as the various funds FUSD receives from the Federal Government and State. Additionally, the district has been awarded funds from the ARRA/Jobs Bill, received monies raised by the Save Fremont Students campaign and is looking forward to the needed funds from the recently passed Measure K Parcel Tax.

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