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June 1, 2010 > Fremont School Board Meeting Summary

Fremont School Board Meeting Summary

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following are selected highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on May 26.

Harvey Milk:
A decision, two weeks ago to put off the vote on recognizing Harvey Milk Day, angered many gay rights activists and community members. Picking up the issue again at this Board meeting, almost two hours was devoted to whether or not FUSD would pass a resolution recognizing May 22 as Harvey Milk Day. Milk a social activist and civil rights leader was assassinated in 1978.

Outside the building, two lone men stood with placards denouncing Milk. However, inside at the meeting, the tone of the crowd was overall respectful when listening to diverse viewpoints on the topic.

During time reserved for the many public comments, Pat Skillen spoke in favor of Harvey Milk Day saying, "When you refuse to accept role models for gay children, what does that say about how you follow the district's tenets?"

Others, such as Chung Wu, felt that the schools should focus on academics. "I am opposed because we are misusing our limited resources."

Board trustee Larry Sweeney reiterated that Governor Schwarzenegger had already signed the Assembly bill to amend the Education code. "I will defend any child or adult who is bullied or harmed. But this is political theatre and disheartening that we spent so much time on this. I don't think politics belongs in the classroom," added Sweeney.

Representatives from the Fremont City Council, Fremont Human Rights Commission and Fremont Unified District Teachers Association all spoke about their groups having passed resolutions in support of Harvey Milk Day.

The motion to approve the day was made, but failed with a vote of 4 nays (Mei, Sweeney, Wu, and Siew) to 2 ayes (Gebhardt and York).

Late School Start:

It was determined that the district would incur a projected cost of over $103,000 if it were to proceed with the change of school start times, specifically at the high school level. The route affecting Irvington High School, Horner and Thornton is most problematic due to the amount of time it would take to get to each location in a shortened span of time.

The Board decided at this time to move forward only at the Junior high school level, with the late start time of 8:15 a.m.

Young Composers:
General Manager of the Fremont Symphony, Susan Rose and Symphony Conductor, David Sloss, discussed the Young Composers Contest and showcased a promotional video on the Children's Concert.

The district, working with the Fremont Symphony Orchestra, holds a yearly Young Composer Contest for students in grades 4 - 6 who live in the Tri-cities area. The competition requires participating students to create an original piece of music. At each school site, the winning selection is submitted to the Fremont Unified School District.

At that point, Musician Consultant, Mark Volkert, selects and writes musical arrangements for the winning pieces, to be performed by the symphony orchestra at two concerts. The symphony then holds two free concerts for the students, conducted by David Sloss.

The 2010 Young Composer contest winners are:

Brandon Do, Chadbourne Elementary
Victoria Houston, Fremont Christian School
Bryce Liao, Christian Community School
Sacha Moufarrej, St. Joseph School
Hanna Pham, Our Lady of Guadalupe School
Michael Shahtout, Ardenwood Elementary
Abhinav Tripathy, Parkmont Elementary
Christine Yu, Mission Valley Elementary
Emily Zhu, Mission San Jose Elementary

A previous Young Composer participant from 2009, Lynnea Shuck spoke at the meeting about her experience with the event. "When the symphony started playing, it was just awesome. This program inspired me to become a musician and a composer, like Mozart. It is an experience I will never forget."

Robotics Team:
The Robotics Team, "The Insomniacs" came out in full force for an informational presentation about their program's organization. Co-founder Mark Edelman gave the background history on FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the nonprofit organization started 19 years ago, and active in Fremont for eight years, since 2002. This is an all volunteer organization.

FIRST began with Lego Leagues and tournaments for students in grades 4 - 8, at various elementary schools. At the high school level, FIRST Tech Challenge was created for students in grades 9 - 12. The FIRST Robotics team currently has members from all FUSD high schools.

Specifically, the Insomniacs, build robots to participate in competitions. Teams are given 6 weeks to build a robot and get it shipped to the location of the competition. The Insomniacs do their own fundraising and receive support from various sponsors such as NASA, Google, Abbott and Playing at Learning. The Insomniacs would like to receive additional support from the district to expand their program and are seeking easier access to the high schools, better communication and contact with all the schools and work space for their group, as they are currently utilizing a graduating member's garage.

Health & Sex Ed Survey:

Anne Damron, from the Health and Sex Education Advisor Committee discussed their Bylaw revisions in addition to publicizing that the terms of 16 members will expire in June.

The committee is reviewing the curriculum and materials for grades 4 - 6. "We need to clarify what Health and Sex Education curriculum should be taught in these grades," said Damron. Trustee Wu asked if the committee could check with doctors as she was concerned about children hearing things before they are ready.

Algebra 1:
A large portion of our students are having difficulty with Algebra when entering junior high school. The district is trying to determine ways to improve student learning and algebra performance. Last year an Algebra support class was begun and the committee is looking into improving and offering various levels of Algebra, to ensure that more students succeed.

Assistant Superintendent for Business, Bill Stephens reported that the most recent news from the State is still not good and shows that Education will take an additional $1.5 billion reduction or an additional loss of $44.31 per student. Fremont will now have a $28.3 million dollar deficit.

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