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Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report
By Miriam G. Mazliach
January 27, 2012
The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held on January 11, 2012.
Community Leadership - Superintendent’s Report:
Superintendent James Morris briefly commented on several items:
Two Fremont schools, Durham Elementary and Hopkins Junior High were selected to apply for National Blue Ribbon status, which is awarded to schools demonstrating dramatic gains for disadvantaged students.
Mission San Jose High School music students returned from participating in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in London.
The FUSD website has information for parents and students interested in the Magnet and Language Immersion programs available at certain schools in the district.
Blacow Elementary School has a new bumper sticker: “Biliteracy…priceless!”
School Board members Lily Mei, Larry Sweeney, Ivy Wu and Lara York, completed a course in the “Masters’ in Governance Training” presented by the CA School Board Association.
Community Leadership - Budget Update:
Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Micaela Ochoa, said that regarding the 2010-2011 school year, FUSD had previously set aside $8 million to cover any mid-year cuts. Now, the updated information is that Transportation will be cut by $1.2 million and revenue to the district reduced by an additional $500,000 in cuts, resulting in a $1.7 million reduction in revenue for the district.
As for the 2012-2013 school year the Governor proposed tax measures on the November ballot that could bring in needed revenue. We’ll know more about this by the next Board meeting.
Oral Communications/Public Comment:
Sherea Westra, a Fremont teacher who also serves as a Vice President of the Fremont Education Foundation, announced details of their upcoming fundraising event. This 10th annual “Excellence in Education Gala” will take place at the Fremont Marriott, on the evening of Friday, February 24. Proceeds will benefit the Innovative Education Grants Program. For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.fremont-education.org.
Westra also took the time to express her appreciation to the Board and Staff, regarding the District’s two “Literacy Coaches” who have provided invaluable assistance to the students and teachers. “They are truly effective and know their stuff,” commented Westra.
Consent Calendar –Public Comment:
Rodney Clark, Executive Director of SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments) spoke in support of the District adopting a resolution proclaiming February 2012 as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. He stated that this is “a real issue and a real concern,” and because of that, throughout the year, SAVE has been doing presentations on the subject in local classrooms. Last year SAVE served over 1,200 students, usually through their 9th grade Health classes. SAVE tries to bring to the students, an awareness of the differences between healthy and non-healthy relationships/interactions.
Regular Board Agenda Item – Local Educational Plan Addendum:
Due to the fact that FUSD has several subgroups of students, (Hispanic, African-American and Economically Disadvantaged), who are not performing as well academically, in comparison to other Fremont students, the district was notified earlier in the school year that it has been designated as a “Program Improvement” district. In light of that, FUSD was required to put together a team to research the problems and develop a plan of action to help ameliorate the situation.
The completed plan will serve as an “addendum,” to the District’s Local Educational Agency plan. At the meeting, Kathy Ashford, Director of Federal and State Projects for FUSD, presented a nine-step plan to help the specific academic problems of low-achieving students.
District parent, Hiu Ng commented, “The plan is good but how are we going to make it happen?”
Trustee Lara York echoed the sentiments expressed by Ng and suggested, “We need to let everyone know and get the support of teachers and parents.” York also suggested that perhaps 180 teaching days were not enough to accomplish all that the District is expected to be doing during a regular school day.
Board Vice President Ivy Wu stated, “This is a comprehensive plan. No guarantees we can do this, but I have confidence in our staff.”
Lily Mei, the Board President added that 85 percent of all the school districts in California are in “Program Improvement,” so Fremont is not alone in this process.
After further discussion, the motion to accept the addendum was approved unanimously by the Board. This plan will be sent by the January 23 deadline to the State, after which time implementation would begin.
Regular Board Agenda Item – Junior High & Senior High Course Catalogs:
Director of Secondary Education, James Maxwell introduced the new 2012-2013 course catalogs, which are in the process of being finalized. The catalogs will now indicate at which school specific courses are taught, making it easier for students and their parents, when selecting classes. Additionally, seven new courses have been added and the ROP schedule is included in a more readable format.
Regular Board Agenda Item – Budget Development Calendar:
Yearly in January, after the presentation of the Governor’s budget proposal, the District develops its own Budget Calendar, based on the important tasks to accomplish and deadlines to be met. Assistant Superintendent of Business, Micaela Ochoa explained, “The Budget Calendar begins in January and runs through September when we close books for the current year and do planning for next year. It helps to better understand what goes into this process.”
Regular Board Agenda Item – Facilities Bond Consultant Contract:
Various school site facilities are in need of updating or repair and following up with earlier Board meeting actions, a comprehensive needs assessment was authorized to create an overall detailed Facilities Master Plan for the district.
But to support the costs of the facilities’ upgrade and in consideration of what can be done to meet the funding needs, the FUSD Staff recommended that a new facilities bond be brought before the voters.
The first step would be to conduct a poll of Fremont voters to explore their reactions towards a facilities bond. In line with that, the Board was asked for their approval of a contract for the consulting firm of Godbe Research.
In attendance at the Board meeting, Brian Godbe explained that the survey would be similar to the one completed for the recent Parcel Tax. When asked about the procedure, he explained that a telephone survey would be initiated, with the questioning process expected to last 15 minutes. The firm’s consultants would attempt to call 20,000 Fremont residents of which the likelihood would be reaching 3,000. Then from the 3,000 they would realistically hope to have a minimum of 600 completed surveys.
The end of February would be the target date for the telephone survey to begin. In order to be able to have a facilities bond added to the November ballot, the deadline is August 10. The 75-word ballot document would have to have its wording finalized by the end of July at the latest. Prior to that, there is the need to communicate information to district parents, staff, and the community.
Discussion ensued and it was stipulated by the Board that the contract would not exceed $30,000. (The budget source for the funds is the Unrestricted Ending Fund Balance.) After the motion was made, the contract with Godbe Research passed unanimously.