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Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

October 4, 2011

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held on September 26, 2011.

Report from Closed Session:
Superintendent Dr. James Morris reported on two appointments that were approved during the Closed Session:
Ted O as Director of Budget, Audit and Attendance
Sue Kessler as Categorical Program Manager

Superintendent’s Report:
Superintendent Morris spoke about MSJHS students Sumukh Sridhara and Andrew Han who had developed an iFUSD app for the school district’s website, which can be used free of charge, by the Fremont community. He stated that they had been interviewed earlier that day by KGO radio and asked why they had developed and donated the application. According to Morris, included in their response was the comment, “because we love our school district.” (The background story of Sridhara’s and Han’s app development process appeared in the August 30 and September 20 issues of TCV.)

James Leitch Elementary School was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, based on its academic success and for closing the achievement gap.

Oral Communications/Public Comment:
District parent, Ann Crosbie spoke in regard to the 2011 Summer School Report and the “no D” policy at Irvington, stating, “There is a different grade policy at Irvington High school,” [as compared to the other high schools.]

Scott Cantacessi, President of Local 1021, the SEIU employees group, spoke out strongly. He directed his comments toward a District office staff member, whom he felt had been unresponsive regarding a co-worker’s personnel matter. “I partnered up with Fremont School District, 25 years ago and I’m not going to be disrespected in my own house,” said Cantacessi.

Ann Crosbie took to the podium again to inform the Board about an upcoming special event by the Tri-Cities League of Women Voters. A celebration, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in California, will be held at the Fremont Main Library on Saturday, October 15 at 2:30 p.m. Additional information can be accessed at

Regular Board Agenda Item - Facilities/Finance:
Assistant Superintendent of Business, Micaela Ochoa along with the Director of Accounting, Robert Pascual, presented their financial report on the 2010-2011 Unaudited Actuals, which is basically a summary, closing out the books from last year.

Due to staff/personnel changes at the District, the report was presented late. FUSD had previously contacted the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) about the delay and was granted an extension.

After listening to the lengthy fiscal explanation, Kim Cantacessi, CSEA Regional Political Action Coordinator, questioned the Board and Staff during a time reserved for public comment.

Cantacessi wondered why there was a significant difference with the financial totals. She recalled that last year, during the unaudited actual report for the previous school year of 2009-2010, a projection of $7 million in unrestricted reserves was indicated for the 2010-2011 school year. However, as presented at this Board meeting, the current report shows that FUSD actually ended with $34 million in unrestricted reserves.

“These numbers disturb me, when compared to last year’s unaudited actuals,” said Cantacessi. “How could this happen? You have asked us to take cuts and reduce. How can our financial reserves be increasing when we are cutting salaries and positions? I am outraged that we have sacrificed to add to the district’s reserves.”

In response, Board President Bryan Gebhardt stated, “We take these questions very seriously, but sometimes things change. Fortunately, the reductions [from the State] were not as severe as we feared back in January. We were able to restore some programs, but the State budget is still a mess and we’re being careful. But we want to get resources back in the hand of our students. We may have to have staff look at this,” Gebhardt added.

Cantacessi was invited to attend the Board’s upcoming Budget sub-committee meeting, in response to her concerns.

Regular Board Agenda Item – Student Learning and Achievement:
Superintendent Morris introduced the presentation by explaining, “Although the State gives us an amount of money for educating students, there are additional costs based on what some students receive as far as Special Services.” He commented that [by this presentation], “We will hopefully have a better understanding of the status of Special Education in our district and how we compare with proactive trends in the state.”

Director of Special Services, Judith Cameron, presented a highly organized study on: “The Status of Special Education Programs in FUSD.” The information was so detailed that only the first portion could be presented during this Board meeting. The remaining information, Part B, will be saved for a future meeting.

Cameron stated that there are 3,210 identified “students with disabilities,” who attend schools throughout the Fremont school district. Approximately 300 certificated personnel and 300 classified staff work with the students, in a variety of capacities, to provide the necessary instruction, assistance, or guidance to enhance their learning experience. “The people who work with children with disabilities are quite special,” added Cameron.

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