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By Miriam G. Mazliach

April 26, 2011

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on April 13, 2011.

Upset over the slow pace of contract negotiations, several hundred Fremont teachers loudly demonstrated prior to the School Board meeting, by circumnavigating the exterior of the City Hall complex. The current teachers’ contract expires on June 30.

Once inside and awaiting the start of the meeting, a chant arose: “What Do We Want? A Contract! When do we want it? Now!” Other members of FUDTA (Fremont Unified District Teachers Association), led the crowd in singing “Solidarity Forever, ” followed by shouts of “We deserve our reserve,” referring to their wish that the District’s financial reserves should not be saved for a rainy day but rather, in their words, “used for educating students in Fremont.”

(A district spokesperson stated that Staff can not respond or comment on ongoing negotiations, but that updates are posted on the FUSD website.)

Ceremonial Items:
A resolution was adopted, recognizing May 11 as Day of the Teacher in FUSD.
In its support, President of FUDTA, Brannin Dorsey, “We are one and unified for the cause of Education. We are all here to provide a quality education to students of Fremont. You can’t do that by preserving the reserve.”

Superintendent’s Report:
Fremont Superintendent of Schools, James Morris reported on the following items:
The district’s logo contest has ended after receiving many incredible submissions from students. A committee will narrow down the choices and then several options will be posted online for the community to vote on for the winning logo.

Ms. Micaela Ochoa was introduced as the new Assistant Superintendent of Business. (Bill Stephens retired on March 25.)

FUSD had a reaffirmation of its excellent credit rating to a “double A minus” by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Walters Junior High took first place at the Cal State East Bay (MESA) Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement school competition held on April 2.

Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) was selected as a California Distinguished School for closing the achievement gap, only one of two schools in Alameda County recognized for this honor.

Fremont Education Foundation received a $129,000 grant from Toyota USA, to support innovative Science and Mathematics programs in FUSD.

Joseph Martinez a respected water polo and swim coach at MSJHS and Ohlone College died unexpectedly after a fall at his home. He was only 28 years old.

Oral Communications:
A speaker from the League of Women Voters discussed that the organization is working to eliminate harassment of any kind that might be directed at students.

Another speaker encouraged the district to re-explore the use of solar technology, in order to potentially save money and become energy independent.

Budget Planning - Agenda Item:
In regard to the budget, Superintendent Morris stated, “We are trying to make things as transparent as possible.”

Assistant Superintendent of Business, Micaela Ochoa presented a 2011-2012 budget update which also included additional items for consideration by the Board. It seems apparent that the Governor’s proposal of a June ballot measure calling for the continuation of sales tax and vehicle license fees to help Education funding, is dead in the water. Therefore, FUSD’s best case scenario, Plan A is not in the cards. And what that means, is that further cuts are likely and would need to be considered in a variety of areas. In preparation, Ochoa explained, the district has outlined two other scenarios, Plan B and Plan C, reflecting a $22 million dollar revenue reduction and a $37 million dollar revenue reduction respectively and what their impact would be on FUSD.

Afterwards, several Board members expressed the need to have the Fremont community gain a better understanding of the school district’s financial situation. Several suggested posting information online and sending a flier home to parents, as well as community meetings.

“A cash flow chart would be good to see to better understand the reserves and learn that they would be used up quickly,” said Trustee Lily Mei.

Board trustee Ivy Wu added, “I hope people can see we are not hiding money. People need to see the big picture and what is best for our kids and come up with solutions.”

Trustee Larry Sweeney suggested, “At a future meeting, the public should state what their priorities are [if more cuts need to be made] and what means the most to them. Start the conversation, in a peaceful way. Keep civility as we go through this process.”

The Board decided to collect input from the community at the May 11 meeting, and then on May 25, to get some key things in motion, if possible, for next year’s planning purposes. Superintendent Morris informed those present at the meeting that as required by law, the district must provide a three-year balanced budget.

Report on Overcrowded Schools and Attendance Area Assignments:
Therese Gain, Director of Facilities/Maintenance/Operations and Transportation and Demographer, Ken Reynolds presented a report regarding the procedure of assigning students in areas of new housing developments.

Several elementary schools, in particular, Ardenwood, Leitch/Warm Springs and Parkmont are experiencing overcrowding or will be, with new housing developments proposed within their neighborhoods.

Although, Staff presenters recommended a 28:1 loading, (28 students per classroom/teacher) in order to minimize the number of students re-assigned to non-neighborhood schools, most Board members preferred a lower loading factor of 26:1. Board President, Bryan Gebhardt was mostly in favor of a 20:1 loading, especially for K-3.

Superintendent Morris explained, “This is a one-year recommendation and the most realistic for the district. We also want to be fair to the developer. The reality of getting 20:1 is probably not something we can do. We’ll seem fickle if we change every time.”

A motion was made to approve, using the 26:1 loading factor for grades K-3, planning purposes and it passed with 4 ayes and 1 nay (Gebhardt).

According to Trustee Lara York, an additional motion was made to approve all the remaining recommended projects as listed on the 26:1 loading factor, excluding two developments, Patterson Ranch and Mid-Town Village. Patterson Ranch will return for discussion at a later date with consideration of not including it in the Thornton/American area. Whereas, Mid-Town Village is to be considered for inclusion in the Kennedy attendance area at all grade levels.

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