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January 20, 2010 > FUSD Board of Education spotlights bonds' success

FUSD Board of Education spotlights bonds' success

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens, painted a bleak picture of a $16 million budget reduction, based on Governor Schwarzenegger's recent budget proposal. "Next year is going to be harder on us than the current year," he added. Trustee Larry Sweeney called the extensive cuts to education as, "political theater at our expense."

School Bonds:
On the positive side, Stephens reported that as a result of the October 28 FUSD Board meeting, Trustees had authorized the District staff to investigate if a savings could be achieved on bonds issued in 1997, 1998, and 2002. Through a negotiated process, bond traders provided bid obligations that exceeded the Board goal, achieving a savings of more than three percent. The net result was a savings of $5,583,452.

This saving reflects a cost that the taxpayers will not have to pay in interest on bond projects. According to Stephens, "While, the individual savings is modest, the Trustees of the Fremont Unified School District have exercised their fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Fremont to contain bond costs and to be prudent fiscal stewards for the community. The bond money doesn't affect the general fund or the bottom line, but, we have saved taxpayers' money, who generously supported our bond measures."

Citizen's Bond Oversight Committee:
Gerry McFaull, Citizen's Bond Oversight Committee, told the School Board and Staff that they had received an A+ rating, from the audit company, on performance and procedures as well as clear representation of project finances. "We expect expenditures of $167.3 million from our $173.8 million budget," says McFaull. "We are approaching completion of 294 projects with a bond reserve of $6.5 million."

The CBOC recommended that these extra funds, remaining from the 2002 Health and Safety Bond, be put to good use in upgrading schools in five prioritized areas:
1. Construction of traffic separations
2. Paving
3. Building new play structures or bringing current play structures to code
4. Fencing around schools
5. Exterior lighting fixtures

Therese Gain, Director of Facilities Management for FUSD, and the CBOC were commended by the entire Board for their efforts and financial management. Gain facilitates monthly meetings with CBOC members, who serve as liaisons to the public. She provides updates on schedules, bids and construction.

"We meet at school sites to get presentations from architects and engineers on projects and to understand the scope of what they are doing. We've also been studying, for several months, regarding the $6.5 million reserve," says Gain. "We put together information and had discussions with the CBOC. So, my recommendation, if the Board wants to proceed, is that we can do planning over the next month or so and refine projects from the five areas listed, to present before the Board in a month."

Trustee Sweeney added, "All the projects, being completed on time and done well are because of you Ms. Gain and your diligence and foresight." Back in 2005, Gain had suggested adding 40 percent to construction project budget costs, to account for inflation.

The motion passed to proceed with exploring the list of potential projects utilizing the extra bond funds. Related additional motions were passed to reinstate bond project staff and extend the charter of the CBOC until final completion of all projects.

Other Topics of Interest:
After the recent succession of earthquakes in California as well as Haiti, parent Diane Jones of Parkmont Elementary expressed concern over potential injuries if bookshelves and other classroom items are not bolted down or secured properly. She hoped that parents and school personnel would work together to resolve this situation. Trustee Ivy Wu indicated that she is working with a group of parents who are 'adopting' one school at a time to help with various issues and encouraged Jones to do the same at her school.

Anne Damron, spoke about the Fremont Educational Foundation. Established in 1991, the Fremont Education Foundation raises necessary funds for three programs that benefit Fremont students. These are: the After-School Band program, for 4th, 5th and 6th graders, funded through the Music Telethon on March 23 & 25, the Guy Emanuele Sports Fund, which helps needy students with co-curricular sports expenses, and provides grants for after school sports programs at junior highs and elementary schools. (The Happy Fish Run on October 10 supplies its program funding.) Third, is the Innovative Education Grants for FUSD teacher projects in the classroom, funded through the Excellence in Education Gala on Friday, February 26.

Classified employees of SEIU 1021 Union spoke about cooperation and consideration regarding their job positions. Sarah Brennan, a Horner Junior High School Nutritionist stated, "We just want to tell you how important our jobs are. I've never let a child go hungry at our school, if they didn't have money. Transportation and maintenance people are important to the school and we want you to be fair and negotiate with us," pleaded Brennan.

Board and Staff received an overview on the successful Summer School Program, Supplemental Categorical Intervention Pilot (SCIP). The program which was utilized by FUSD last summer focuses on disadvantaged youth, Title I students, Native American and kindergarten children, to provide immersion and assistance for English learners and economically disadvantaged children in grades k-6. Last summer 694 students were enrolled. The four-week instructional period produced a 22 percent increase in reading, an 11 percent increase in math and a 39 percent improvement in writing.

The program, funded with Title I, Title III, Migrant Education and EIA funds, proved not only successful, but also cost effective at $486,000 or $35 per student per day. Discussion ensued and plans are to continue with this program in the upcoming summer with minor adjustments.

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