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Fremont Unified School Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

August 7, 2012

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board meeting held July 25, 2012.

Superintendent’s Report:
Dr. James Morris, Superintendent of Fremont Schools commented, “Our District has 32,500 individual students with unique talents,” and stated that Mission San Jose High student, Raymond Liu, achieved 3rd place status at the International Biology Olympiad recently held in Singapore.

The District office has instituted a significant and on-going recycling program, working closely with Allied Waste. Recycling bins for paper as well as those for food waste have been distributed throughout the building.

The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the CSEA was ratified.

The Superintendent held up a large stack of responses he had received back from community members, mostly favorable, in regard to the District’s survey regarding facilities’ needs.

However, in light of the information reported at the July 16 Special Board meeting, by the polling firm contracted by FUSD, there is less support now for a Facilities Bond measure, than when Fremont residents were originally polled in February. Therefore, as taxpayers appear skittish and polling numbers were not within a “margin of error,” the District will not submit the bond measure at this time. “The District will look to November 2014 and continue with the facilities planning process,” according to Therese Gain, Director of Facilities.

Consent Calendar Agenda Item:
SAVE’s (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments) Community Engagement Specialist, Erin Daly and the Executive Director, Rodney Clark, spoke on behalf of the School Board adopting a resolution proclaiming February 2013 as “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.”

Additionally, the recognition would mandate that prevention education be provided to students and would encourage teachers and administrators to attend trainings in order to understand and act effectively as situations arise. SAVE has partnered with FUSD for the past 14 years and their prevention program called “Loves Me, Loves Me Not,” is available at no cost to secondary school classes.

Daly stated, “One in three high school students will experience dating abuse, yet 81 percent of high school staff said there is no policy in place regarding this issue.” Asking for the Board’s support, Clark added, “This resolution is a good step forward. It’s important for the students to get this information from teacher who will have the education and training.”

After a motion was made, the resolution was adopted unanimously. Fremont now becomes only the third school district in California to implement these policies, behind Los Angeles and Oakland. This measure (for February 2013) was adopted early to ensure that teachers have adequate notification and preparation time.

Oral Communications - Public Comment:
Niles Elementary Teacher Sherea Westra and First Vice-President of Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) stated that the District is doing away with the teachers’ “No Layoff Clause” and did not communicate with FUDTA. “Where is the cooperation in that? she asked.

John Gallagher who teaches at Forest Park Elementary School commented, “This is a political maneuver to blame teachers for problems in education.”

Hiu Ng, a district parent added, “The most important thing in a school district is its people, not money.”

(Board members are prevented from commenting on personnel matters in public.)

Agenda Item – FLASH Curriculum for 9th Grade:
The original 9th grade FLASH curriculum which had been used for Family Life and Sexual Health is no longer available on the website, as there is now an updated version. Therefore, in March, several Health teachers met to review the (newest) 2012 Second Edition FLASH curriculum and then presented it to the Health and Sex Education Committee for discussion.

District parent, Ann Crosbie commented, “Thanks for aligning to the California Education Code requirement that Health information be medically accurate and age appropriate. The FLASH Curriculum includes strong family involvement, and a Special Education version.”

Mike Chase, Former ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) Board member declared his support for the updated program. “It [FLASH curriculum/Family and Sex Education] is very important, as information leads to lower rates of pregnancy and STDs. (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). The curriculum is a clear-cut responsible choice for the students.”

Director of Secondary Education, James Maxwell and Washington High School Health/Family Living teacher, Ruth Bauer answered questions from the School Board members regarding the FLASH curriculum.

Maxwell explained that the curriculum would be made available to parents online or in the office. “They are obliged to have access,” he said.
Furthermore, he added, “All Health teachers are in support of and enthusiastic about the curriculum.”

The new FLASH curriculum is usually covered in a 3 to 4 week timeframe and Bauer explained that it was developed in Seattle, which has one of the lowest pregnancy rates in the country.

Trustee Larry Sweeney had several concerns about information that was not included in the curriculum, such as details on condom failure rate, what an abortion really entails, and “why we don’t do anything to punish the guy who walks away [after getting someone pregnant]?” He also felt that the length of time for teaching the program was too long. However, as the curriculum is an Opt In/Opt Out program for participation, he stated, “I will reluctantly have to live with this, although I would have preferred other choices.”

Board member Wu stated that FLASH is not California based curriculum and had concerns regarding students who engage in underage sexual activity.

After much discussion, the motion to accept the FLASH curriculum was passed, with only trustee Wu voting against it.

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