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Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

April 17, 2012

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held March 28, 2012.

Oral Communications/Public Comment Non-Agenda Items:
Changes are being proposed for the district’s Opportunity Program for “at risk” 7th and 8th graders, who have not had success in the traditional school environment. Brannin Dorsey, President of the Fremont Unified District Teachers’ Association, stated that the teachers had not been informed in advance.

Several teachers and a school psychologist spoke on the necessity of continuing the program as it is a place for students who feel they can’t fit elsewhere. These students do well in a smaller, safer and calmer learning environment, with attention from dedicated teachers.

Jim Nation, who has taught in the Opportunity Program for 22 years, addressed the Board, “Not every child can thrive in the traditional setting. We’ve sought to deal with the whole child, to engage students to build skills and habits to succeed in high school. The district has refused to build a support program to build more for the transition from Junior High to High School. Now you’re dissolving it! The district hasn’t asked for input from those involved,” Nation emphasized.

Agenda Item – Revised Board Policy on Student Bullying:
Director of Pupil Services, Rickey Jones, stated that staff has re-written and updated the definitions on student bullying and cyber-bullying and revised a bullying complaint form. These improvements are necessary to be in accordance with new requirements, as of January 1, in the California Education Code.

Trustee Larry Sweeney commented on considering the needs of the victim [in this revised policy] to make them feel whole, besides the disciplinary action toward the bullies.

Motion to accept this first reading of the new Board Policy was unanimously passed.

Agenda Item – New Board Policy on Search & Seizure:
Following the trend of other school districts, such as Newark and Pleasanton, who have recently approved the use of police dogs on campus to deter drug use, FUSD is also pursuing this tactic. Fremont school district office staff, the student organization SURF, and various city and community groups have been working with the Fremont Police Department to establish this policy and its expectations.

Supervisor of the district’s school resource officers, Police Sgt. Jim Koepf attended the School Board meeting to address any questions or concerns. To ensure a safe environment for students, the proposed plan recommends two unannounced searches per school year, by the police dogs, of school grounds, parking lots and locker areas.

“Our intent is to make sure that people aren’t bringing contraband [illegal drugs or alcohol] onto the campus,” stated Sgt. Koepf.

As requested by Trustee Sweeney, Sgt. Koepf will gather additional statistics to provide the Board and Staff with a breakdown of what illegal items have been previously found at Fremont secondary schools.

The motion to accept the first reading of the Search and Seizure Regulation was passed unanimously.

Agenda Item –Revenue Enhancements & Budget Reductions:
Assistant Superintendent of Business, Micaela Ochoa, discussed some preliminary ideas to help combat the anticipated $30.6 million deficit so far. Suggested options were to charge outside groups more for use of school facilities, additional furlough days by management, class size reduction, etc. Further input will be gathered and an updated list will be presented to the Board with recommendations at the April 25 meeting. Final decisions need to be made by May 23. Trustee Ivy Wu called on the community to be creative and do self-help and scheduled a “call to action” meeting for April 17 at the District office.

Agenda Item – Transportation Department:
FUSD is still one of the few remaining districts offering home to school bus service. However, in light of the State potentially eliminating funds for transportation services, the district at this time is considering eliminating all regular education bus service. Nevertheless, the District is still required by law to continue providing transportation for its Special Education students, no matter the cost.

There was a large group of bus drivers, union members, parents and student riders, present in a show of support. Scott Cantacessi, President of SEIU 1021 (Service Employees International Union) stated, “This discussion ought to be about getting kids to school on time. About everything comes out of General Fund. Polling data suggests that the tax initiative will pass. Don’t make the decision [to cut transportation services] this year. Make it next spring!”

Assistant Superintendent Ochoa had some suggestions for raising additional funds. Preliminary recommendations will be discussed at the April 25 Board meeting.

Agenda Item - Child Nutrition Services:
A discussion ensued around having the district’s five Cooks/Bakers housed in one central location. Many of those who spoke at the Board meeting were not in favor of that suggestion. Others discussed the overall need for increasing the amount of fresh and nutritional foods served to students. Various options are being considered.

Facilities Needs Assessment:
Based on the assessment of the District’s school facilities, conducted by WLC Architects/MGT America, $568 million would be necessary to repair or update all of the various school sites. As the proposed Facilities Bond, would not cover the entire amount needed, the next step is to rank and prioritize as well as seek public input.

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