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January 13, 2010 > Community meetings held on Fremont superintendent search

Community meetings held on Fremont superintendent search

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Parents and community members were asked for input this week regarding Fremont's search for a new Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Milt Werner, who currently holds the position, has decided to leave at the conclusion of this school year. The open forums, on January 7 and 9 at American and Irvington High Schools, were facilitated under the direction of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the consulting firm hired to assist the district with this process. "We hired the search firm to help us hear what the challenges are and what kind of person Fremont parents want for their Superintendent," says Lara York, President of Fremont Unified School Board.

According to York, a total of 33 meetings are being held for input from the community. She explained that the consultants had the opportunity to meet with Special Education parents (active members of SEPTA, CAC, Autism Task Force), Student Leadership (SURFBoardE, ASB officers), PTA/PTO/FEF, former school board members, Chamber of Commerce and Business Associations, all District Committees and Commissions, School Board members, Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents, Employee Groups Leadership (FSMA, CSEA, SEIU, FUDTA), Employee Groups members (FSMA, CSEA, SEIU, FUDTA), School Principals, MVROP Superintendent, City of Fremont Mayor, Council, Manager, Attorney and Fire Chief, Ohlone College Board President and Education Foundation President, League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women.

"We also sent out emails to many other community groups asking them to attend the open public forums," says York.

At the community forums, Phil Quon, a consultant with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, who currently serves as Superintendent of the Cupertino School District, posed three major questions to those in attendance:

What are the significant strengths of F.U.S.D.?
What are Fremont's unique challenges as you move forward?
What are the characteristics you want to see and envision in your next superintendent?

"Your responses are important and will assist us in putting together a leadership profile for the district. We will also read all the completed forms which have been sent in to us," says Quon.

Pegeen Brosnan, 6th grade teacher at Warm Springs Elementary, was concerned about families who might consider leaving Fremont. "Our biggest challenge in our current budget situation is the exodus of our high-achieving students. Their parents have the option of enrollment in private schools or moving. Our district would face a downward spiral when achievement levels drop as these students leave," says Brosnan.

"This population is a big factor in Fremont unlike other cities. I want to make sure we don't ignore them as we make adjustments for more kids in classrooms and limited funds," adds Brosnan. "Unlike other large districts, most parents choose to send their children to public schools in Fremont. Education comes first to our families and if they feel their child's needs aren't being met, they'll take the student elsewhere," she states.

Warm Springs district parent, David Wu, responded to the facilitator's questions. "The new superintendent needs to have a vision of the future and know the diversity of the community with its different ethnic backgrounds. He or she must have a sense of budget issues, should not be afraid to make difficult decisions and needs to stay away from special interest groups." Wu adds, "The new superintendent must understand students' needs."

Another parent commented, "We need someone who is down to earth, can work well with the Board to get things done and thinks 'outside the box' to accomplish our goals. This superintendent needs to have continuity and a true commitment to the school district."

Other remarks from attendees included: "Does being 'score driven' only make a good school?" "The new superintendent needs to know how to resolve conflicts and needs to seek more support from the business community." "We need a superintendent who is not afraid to challenge strong teachers, if needed." "The new superintendent needs to trust the professional judgment of teachers." "We need to invest in the efficiency of the newer technologies." "Need to ensure that all schools have equity and access to the same resources."

The search firm will review and compile the data received from the community and complete a report by February 1, to be presented to the Fremont Board of Education and Superintendent's staff. The job search process will then proceed until the March 19 cut-off date for receipt of resumes. The hope is for an announcement in May of the new Superintendent of Schools.

Parents and interested community members, who were unable to attend the meetings, can go online to the district's website at www.fremont.k12.ca.us/suptsearch and complete the Leadership Profile Assessment form. Deadline for submission is January 15.

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