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Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

February 22, 2011

The following are selected highlights from the Fremont Unified School District board meeting held on February 9, 2011.

Superintendent’s Report:
FUSD Superintendent, James Morris, reported that Irvington High School’s “We the People” team placed 4th in California.

At another event, Irvington also tied for First Place in the Super Quiz at the State Academic Decathlon. A team from American High School also participated in the competition.

Recently, the all-district Junior High and High School Honor Band performed at a sold out concert held at Ohlone College.

The new Native American Museum held its official open house to the public, at its new location at the Fremont Adult School.

At the Board meeting, the Candlelighters, a dedicated group of volunteers, was honored by the Board, with a Resolution honoring their generosity over the years. Since 1969, proceeds from their annual Ghost House fund-raising event, have been distributed to worthwhile organizations throughout the Tri-city area.

Regular Board Agenda Items -
Approval of Citizen’s Oversight Board Report:
As required, an independent citizen’s oversight committee was established after Measure B was passed in the 2002 General Bond Election. The committee needs to report to the Board on a regular basis, typically annually.

Ken Ballard, a volunteer on the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee, gave a review of the Audit report conducted by independent Accountants Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co. LLP. This audit accounted for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2010. The District, having completed projects on time, under budget and being in compliance overall, received an A+ grade for the Bond Audit.

To date, 335 construction projects have been completed; four are in plan review and four others are currently in design. Additionally, there is a balance of approximately $6.4 million dollars remaining. It was suggested that these funds be applied to projects within the scope and intent of the 2002 Health and Safety Bond.

Trustee Lily Mei thanked the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee for their “great stewardship.” The report was accepted with a vote of 6 ayes.

Approval of Junior High & High School Course Catalogs:
The course catalog for Junior High and High School has been updated and is ready to be printed. Ann Crosbie, a Fremont parent, commented that the courses, as listed, do not indicate the school location; not all classes are offered at all schools, which could cause confusion.

Director of Secondary Education, Kathy Ashford explained that it would be difficult to add that information in at this time, as they would not be able to make those changes prior to the printing deadline. However, she will post an addendum online.

Additionally, Trustee Lara York stated that in light of the new homework policy, the course catalogs needed to indicate that Honors classes might assign more homework.

With these changes discussed, the approval of the course catalogs was passed by a vote of 6 ayes.

State Budget Update and Planning:
The Governor’s proposed budget spares K-12 education funding from further cuts for the time being. This proposal, however, depends on continuing the temporary sales tax and vehicle license fees, if approved by the voters at a special election in June 2011.

Basically, at this time there are a lot of unknowns with the budget, but the district needs to be prepared in any and every eventuality. At a minimum, FUSD could have a reduction of $19 per ADA (Average Daily Attendance) – the amount paid to the district based on the number of students attending school, amounting to $600,000. Or, in one of the worst scenarios, if the extension of the tax initiatives fails to pass, then FUSD could incur $349 per ADA, a loss of $11 million.

Board President, Bryan Gebhardt stated, “We’re planning for the Governor’s budget, but we need to be prudent and have contingencies in mind.”

At the February 23 Board meeting, Staff will need to present proposed budget reductions and recommendations.

FUDTA Sunshine Proposal:
A brief Public Hearing was held to present the FUSD “Sunshine Proposal” to the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) on a three-year successor agreement. The term “Sunshine Proposal” is contract language meaning “revealing the proposal to the public.”

During time for public comment, several educators chastised the District Staff for its proposal, which they deemed unfair. “The district is using strong language. Look at the test scores; we’re still doing our job. Your “sunburn proposal” is outrageous and inflammatory,” said Lorraine Riggio-Schwartz.

Superintendent Morris added, “There is opportunity for further discussion. We have to go step by step.” According to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Steve Betando, collective bargaining will come next and is confidential, until an agreement is reached.

School Needs and Sale Site Funding:
Washington High School is finally getting a Drama Instruction Classroom. The Board passed the motion with their vote of 6 ayes. A former woodshop area will be converted using Sale Site Funds, derived from the sale of surplus FUSD property, specifically earmarked for capital projects. Washington’s Drama teacher, Mark Ballin, thanked the Board and Staff for their assistance saying, “With a minimal investment, we’ll have an up-to-date workable space for years to come.”

Trustee Larry Sweeney also suggested that it would be helpful to have an overview of what facility needs exist at each school site. Superintendent Morris asked Director of Facilities, Therese Gain, to expedite getting the data prepared in order to help prioritize the needs school by school.

Criteria for forming a Measure K Oversight Board:
Superintendent Morris explained that following the passage of the Measure K Parcel Tax in November 2010, a Citizen’s Oversight Committee needs to be formed to administer it. At $53 per parcel, it is anticipated that the tax will bring in approximately $3.2 million over the next five years for Fremont’s schools.

FUSD Staff needs direction from the Board as to what their preference would be in regard to the composition, duties, scope and the timeframe needed to establish the Citizen’s Oversight Committee.

To move the process along, a subcommittee will be formed in the interim, to come up with recommendations by the next Board meeting on February 23.

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