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February 3, 2010 > Fremont School district braces for more cuts

Fremont School district braces for more cuts

By Miriam G. Mazliach

In response to Governor Schwarzenegger's recent address, Fremont Unified School District Board held a special meeting on January 27, to deal with the potential of even further cuts to its already decimated budget.

It was 'Standing Room Only' at the City Council Chambers, as representatives from the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA), a large contingent from the Fremont Adult School, concerned educators, parents and students, crowded in to express their opinions.

FUSD's current General Fund Budget for 2009 - 2010 is $272,000,000 and a further reduction of $16,000,000 is targeted for 2010 - 11 to make up the deficit, based on the Governor's budget.

Emotions ran high as Bill Stephens, Assistant Superintendent for Business, explained the potential list of future cuts that amounted to $22 million. "This can get even worse than it is now," said Stephens, "and 1,030 school districts all throughout California are suffering; it's not just a Fremont problem."

As outlined and discussed during the meeting, these are the areas with suggested reductions:
Adult School - $2,000,000
Deferred Maintenance - $200,000
Art & Music Block Grant - $437,353
Routine Restricted Maintenance - $1,000,000
Operations & Grounds Reductions - $215,756
Custodial Reductions - $251,070
Secondary Class Size Reduction Elimination (9th grade English and Math) - $1,395,044
Increase Grade K-3 Class Size: (30:1) - $2,968,338
Elementary Transportation Reduction - $122,000
Elementary PREP Reduction - $1,812,174
District-Wide Stipend Reduction - $468,868
District- Wide Pay Cut (additional 4 percent) - $6,456,462
District-Wide Work Year Reduction (5 less instructional days) - $4,801,297

Superintendent of Schools, Milt Werner remarked, "These reductions are not what the City of Fremont wants for our community. Reduced funding has been imposed upon us by the Governor. He is using 'divide and rule' hoping to divert attention from reality," said Werner. "What has been imposed on us is not our own doing. Fremont is willing to fight for our children."

Beth Pesek, a teacher at Mission Valley Elementary told the Board, "Make cuts as far away as you can from students and teachers. Don't make the burden harder to bear with larger class sizes and show respect for our professional judgment and experience."

FUSD has reserves of $18,520,506 put aside of which, $5,229,279 (2 percent), is a State mandated reserve. Many of the speakers requested that the Board use the remaining 'rainy-day' funds to help the schools retain teachers and class sizes, now that we are experiencing a 'torrential rainstorm' of financial issues.

Sherea Westra, FUDTA, 1st Vice President, stated, "The Governor said cuts should come from Administration. Teachers are frustrated and shocked over the list of potential cuts. We have done nothing but work together with FUSD. These cuts should be as far away from classrooms as possible. Direct staff to go back and add cuts to highest level of management first," Westra added.

The Fremont Adult School is faced with a potential loss of $2 million dollars which would devastate their curriculum. The school had already lost 16 staff in layoffs last August.

Marvin Garcia shared his story of learning English at the Adult School, getting a job with the State of California as a result, studying for his GED and attending citizenship classes.

Yelena Zimon, who teaches Advanced ESL at the Adult School, came here from the Soviet Union in 1993. Zimon asked the Board, "How can you leave in the lurch, the people who depend on our school? It has been the treasure of this community for so many years."

The Board and Staff of FUSD listened intently to the multitude of concerns and views expressed by those present. Board President, Lara York responded, "We all just received this information. This is an open process and the first time the entire Board will have to talk about it. None of us looks at this list and thinks it's a good thing or something we want to do." York added, "We need to go ahead by planning for the worst, hoping for the best and working together."

Based on all the comments from the attendees and Board, the Superintendent's Staff will go forward and revise the entire set of budget reductions to bring back to the Board for further review at the February 10 meeting.

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