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Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held on March 14, 2012.

Oral Communications/Public Comment:
Fremont Adult School Principal, Steve Giudice remarked on the school’s 78th Anniversary, which was recognized via a Board resolution. Additionally, Giudice commended Fremont Superintendent Dr. James Morris, for his support of the school and multiple visitations over this past year. Morris was presented with the “Alameda Chapter’s Friend of Adult Education Award” and a Certificate of Recognition.

In response to the state’s current financial situation, FUSD and other districts have had to make difficult decisions in order to file a balanced budget with the county and state. As approved at the February 22 Board meeting, and as a precautionary measure, “pink slips” (for potential termination of positions) have been distributed to specified classified and administrative personnel, as notification is required by March 15 per Education Codes and Board Policies.

Martha Kreeger and Christina Broadwin, both MSJHS parents, spoke out against this action. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t have community meetings with all the stakeholders about the decisions you are making. You haven’t included us as parents, administrators, or students in this. If you did, then I would feel like part of the team,” stated Kreeger.

Broadwin concurred with Kreeger’s comments adding, “I feel the carpet has been pulled out of them [school administrators]. I know tough choices have to be made, but this spreads the wrong message and is the wrong decision. They are essential and the grease that makes the wheels turn at the school. Why on earth would we do this?” said Broadwin.

Several other parents commented under the misconception that the policy would go into effect immediately, causing all school principals and vice-principals to lose their positions. With confusion over the “process,” Superintendent Morris asked Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Robert Lee, to move to another meeting room in the building and speak with the large group of parents in attendance to help alleviate their concerns.

Agenda Item – Special Education Opportunity Report:
Dr. Lee Funk of School Innovations and Advocacy (SI&A), a consultancy group, presented his detailed review and analysis of the district’s special education program, with the assistance of FUSD’s Director of Special Education Services, Judith Cameron. Dr. Funk commented that the district has made continual progress on placing identified students in the “least restrictive environments.” However, it appears that most Special Ed students do not leave the program; so, the district needs to take a look at criteria regarding exit procedures. Additionally, there is an over representation of African-American students in the program. Although not uncommon statewide, according to Dr. Funk, the district needs to address this disparity issue.

Agenda Item – Financial Advisory Committee (FAC):
Hugh Tebault, the chair of FAC, presented the committee’s report, noting that FUSD receives less ADA (Average Daily Attendance) monies, paid by the state per student, even though Fremont district students score higher API (Academic Performance Index) growth than most districts.

The district has been deficit spending 7 of the last 12 years, by utilizing conservative efforts and monitoring of its costs. “Our reserve only amounts to 5 weeks of spending—not a really long amount of time,” according to Tebault. “This is a huge cash flow issue when you look at the nuts and bolts. We used more than we brought in.”

Agenda Item – Public Hearings Sunshine Proposal/Collective Bargaining:
Time was reserved for both the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) and Fremont Unified School District (FUSD), to present and receive proposals on a one-year contract successor agreement.

Superintendent Morris explained that with this process, both groups publicly announce their proposals and then the Board isn’t allowed to talk about it during negotiations – “a code of silence,” (per the Brown Act) and to protect the privacy of collective bargaining.

The motion to accept the proposals was passed by the Board with 5 ayes.

Agenda Items: District Demographic Study/Assignment Areas:
Demographer Tim Reynolds and Therese Gain, FUSD’s Director of Facilities/Maintenance/ Transportation, provided an annual review of the student enrollment patterns and capacity levels at school sites. They reported that enrollment is relatively stable, but projecting the numbers over the next 6 years, would show more impacted/overloaded schools, especially Warm Springs, Ardenwood, Forest Park, Parkmont, and Warwick.

In line with this, several housing developments were scheduled to be designated for specific school attendance area assignment. However, during this Board meeting only two were approved: Guardino (Vallejo Mill/WHS area) and East King Avenue (Niles/WHS area). The 4 other housing project developments, (3 in the Mission attendance area and 1 in the Irvington boundary), will come back for assignment at a future meeting, when more information has been received regarding overloading and space availability.

Agenda Item – Transportation Report:
Director Therese Gain and Transportation Manager Jim Gannon discussed the status of transportation funding and related issues such as the impact of the revised bell schedules. Gannon explained the process for optimizing routes, to save the district money. “It’s a bit of voodoo we so well.” He added that the process begins over the summer, when the staff looks at core routes, by school site. They build in the history of overloads and add on the additional run time to help figure out the time frame required. Throughout the year, almost on a weekly basis, the dispatcher may need to change routes, as dictated by overloads (those students who don’t have space at their home school). Gannon asks the bus drivers fill out daily bus reports and evaluates their routes and driving safety on a regular basis. He commended the dedication of his staff and school bus drivers, who watch out for the districts’ kids. “We touch every elementary school in the district,” said Gannon.

Agenda Item – Facilities Needs:
A consultant from WLC Architects/MGT America presented the initial draft of their final report on the condition/analysis of the school site facilities in FUSD. The firm began this process in November of 2011. Several community meetings and focus groups were held and online surveys were available for the public to complete as well.

In particular, WLC went to each site and evaluated: building condition, suitability, site condition, and technology readiness. Scores for the sites were labeled: new/ like new, good, fair, poor or unsatisfactory. While findings indicated that most school sites fell in the Fair category, some fared worse. However, to fix or update all the recommendations of the Facilities Needs Assessment would cost an estimated $567,932,000. This is an even greater amount than what the proposed Bond measure would cover. To build upon this data, a prioritization of categories and projects will be developed by Staff for an upcoming Board meeting.

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