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Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

October 18, 2011

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held on October 12, 2011.

Superintendent’s Report:
Fremont Schools Superintendent, Dr. James Morris reported that Board trustee Ivy Wu’s mother had passed away unexpectedly. Morris also expressed his condolences regarding the passing of Sharon Jacobs, 70, who had worked in the district for over 22 years as a Para-educator. Out of respect, a moment of silence was observed in their memory.

Oral Communications/Public Comment:
Brandi Spiere, the campus supervisor at Mission San Jose High School spoke out on the outdated terminology used by FUSD when posting a recent job opening for another campus supervisor position. “I’m horrified, that you are only requiring an 8th grade education, not a high school graduate,” said Spiere. “I hope the Board can contact us [campus supervisors] as to what we actually do on the campus. We need to fill the position with people who are really qualified to do the job we need,” Spiere emphasized.

In response, Superintendent Morris stated, “Robert Lee, [the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources], has begun the process of reviewing all the job descriptions, systematically and updating them.”

Regular Board Agenda Item – Health &Sex Education Advisory Committee:
Superintendent Morris commended the dedicated members of the committee and introduced the committee’s Chairperson, Ann Damron, as someone “who runs the meetings with an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Damron detailed that the group has functioned very well as a full committee the past two years and includes two student members. Last school year, the focus was on reviewing suggested Health & Sex Education curriculum for grades four, five and six. Those programs that received the most positive feedback from the members were: “Growing Up Comes First” and “Puberty the Wonder Years.” Two others, “Flash” and “Always Changing” were not as positively reviewed.

There will be a follow up meeting with teachers to discuss the findings and receive additional input.

Public Speakers:
Dianne Jones, a Parkmont parent, complimented the Board for their support for the changes in regard to Health & Sex Education.

Ann Crosbie also thanked the Board for considering an updated complete curriculum at the elementary school level, rather than using the same outdated old video. Crosbie suggested that since 9th grade is the last time students receive any Health & Sex Education information, perhaps a one-week refresher course could be offered in 12th grade.

A district parent Hiu Ng, expressed another view stating he felt that two days was sufficient for sex education, and not a whole curriculum.

Adding to his sentiments, another parent, Kathy Critchfield said, “I strongly recommend that the District encourages parents first to teach their kids about human sexuality.”

Trustee Ivy Wu also expressed her preference for a two-day, gender specific program and not a longer curriculum.

Regular Board Agenda Item – Special Education Programs, Part B
Director of Special Services, Judith Cameron, continued with the second part of her presentation on “The Status of Special Education Programs in FUSD.” (Part A was previously presented at the September 26 School Board meeting.)

Cameron emphasized that the department has been realigning resources to support early intervention, to identify at an earlier age those students who are at risk. Overall, with “Response to Intervention” (RTI), the District could close the gaps and prevent some students from being incorrectly referred for Special Education services, when some of the learning and related issues, could be addressed earlier with the proper assistance.

Cameron has been at her position since February and has been working very hard to bring all standards up and improve documentation levels. The department recently achieved 100 percent compliance with their Records Review.

Board members and Cameron expressed concern over statistics that showed “students of color” had a disproportionately higher number of suspensions in the Special Education report.

Board President, Bryan Gebhardt asked, “What are the steps we’re taking? We need to figure out why the student numbers are as they are.”

Cameron explained that to look at this issue more fully, ongoing staff development has been taking place with staff and teachers. Additionally, according to Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Deborah Sims, several teachers in the District have received specialized training and will focus on 10 local schools. They will offer their support to teachers in grades K-3, as a form of intervention assistance, to reorganize instruction where needed and to put into place the best practices in the classrooms.

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