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January 18, 2011 > Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

Fremont Unified School District Board meeting report

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District Board meeting held on January 12, 2011.

Changes to Agenda Format:
School Board President, Bryan Gebhardt, outlined some noticeable changes to the agenda. He is including the Mission statement at the beginning of each agenda:

"Educate - Challenge - Inspire
Our mission is to provide equitable opportunities that educate, challenge, and inspire students of all ages, talents, and ability levels while preparing each with the skills required to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing world."

To help regulate the length of Board meetings, which have recently drawn out until past 1 a.m. or even later, a suggested amount of time will be set for each of the items listed on the agenda. However, Gebhardt added that these are just guidelines and still allows for additional time when needed.

Several agenda categories have been updated. A couple of examples: Curriculum and Instruction is now titled Student Learning & Achievement; Business and Finance is now Finance/Facilities.

Superintendent's Report:

Superintendent Morris stated that James Leitch Elementary School (K-2) has been selected as a National Blue Ribbon school. This designation is assigned to public and private schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students.

Students from Thornton Junior High participated in the WordMasters Challenge and scored in the "highest honors" category in this national Language Arts competition.

Oral Communications:
Brannin Dorsey, President of Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA), commented that 51 grievances have been filed on behalf of MSJHS teachers in regard to class sizes.

Niles district parent, Gail Edwards-Bryan expressed her view that the district needs to work on bringing down class size and that all parties need to ensure that parent/teacher conferences are re-instated.

Several attendees, including students from Washington and Irvington high schools as well as parents Mary Anderson and Sylvia D'Amico spoke out against potential cuts in counselor positions. All recognized the important role of school counselors and all they do in support of the students.

Audit Report:
As required by law, an annual audit must be undertaken by an independent outside source to evaluate the district and its business practices. The firm of Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Company presented their report for Fiscal Year 2009-10. There were no material findings and the audit was accepted with a vote of six ayes.

Health and Safety Bond:
Additionally, an audit was done and a report filed in regard to the March 2002 bond initiative. This is to ensure that the funds derived from the sale of the bonds have been expended only on designated health and safety capital projects within FUSD. The report was all clear as it has been every year since 2002. The audit was passed with a vote of six ayes.

Mandarin Immersion Report:
A presentation on this new program was made by Juan Espinosa, Director of FUSD Federal & State Projects; Carole Diamond, principal of Azevada Elementary; Orchid Wang, Mandarin Immersion teacher at Azevada and Wei-Lin Tong, head of the Chinese Immersion Parents' Council of Fremont.

After being given approval by the Board in June, the Mandarin Immersion program began this fall with a kindergarten class of twenty-seven students at Azevada Elementary School. By all accounts, the program and the students are progressing amazingly well. The curriculum covers the required California standards, but is taught in Mandarin for 90 percent of the classroom time. The program is supported through funds raised by the Chinese Immersion Parents' Council, as well as by supplemental categorical funding and grants.

For next year, the hope is to expand the program to two kindergarten and two first-grade classes. Parents interested in registering their child should call Azevada Elementary at (510) 657-3900 or contact the Chinese Immersion Parents' Council:

Sale of Site Funds:
This fund, which can only be used for capital expenditures, was established when the district sold property that was considered surplus. In previous years, Brookvale, Forest Park and Millard received science labs at their school sites through site funds. Four schools in the district were left awaiting science labs: Blacow, Green, Grimmer and Warwick. At the Board meeting, with six ayes, final approval was given to proceed and bring these remaining schools to parity with others in the district. At Blacow, Green and Grimmer two smaller classrooms will be converted to create the science lab, whereas, at Warwick a large portable will be installed.

Save Fremont Students:
At last month's Board meeting questions arose regarding certain items listed on the Secondary Education Save Fremont Schools Funds and Plans. Several speakers stated that the funds should only be used to directly impact students. After that meeting, Dr. Morris met with each of the Secondary level school site representatives to clarify and make changes where necessary. The revised Secondary SFS Fund Plan was approved with a vote of six ayes.

State Budget Update:
The news regarding the State budget is still dismal. Governor Brown is trying to solve this $25 - $28 billion problem. Although K-12 Education has been spared at this time, FUSD will also be experiencing a reduction of $225/per ADA (Average Daily Attendance). The State of California is running out of cash and unfortunately the district will have to pay the price.

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