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May 31, 2011 > Hayward Unified School District Board meeting report

Hayward Unified School District Board meeting report

By Robin Michel

Not only was every seat taken at the May 11 Hayward Unified School District Board meeting, so was almost every seat in the overflow room equipped with large screen. Some were there to celebrate the announcement of beloved elementary school teacher Diane Shepard as Teacher of the Year. Others were students from Hayward Adult School and Faith Ringgold who showed up once again to provide compelling stories to the district about the importance of preserving their schools and programs.

Young men and young women took turns talking about having troubled youths and how the Hayward Adult School turned them around. "I went from group home to group home," one young man said, describing how the Adult School staff cared about him and helped him find his path, and becoming his home. A young woman spoke about being a troubled teen and getting pregnant. She described the lifeline that the Adult School provided. "I can now help my daughters with their homework," she said.

Older adults spoke about the importance of the Adult School in helping them learn English and the customs and mores of their new society, or how they have come to the Adult School to learn new job skills and receive training after losing a job. One man said that he was a property owner and taxpayer, and a student at Hayward Adult School. "More than 8,000 students are served," he said, adding that he feared what would happen to those students, his neighborhood and community should the doors to the Adult School be shuttered.

The stories of lives changed and transformed by adult education-and the Hayward Adult School teachers specifically-were interspersed with stories from students and families who benefit from the small alternative learning environment provided at Faith Ringgold Art and Science Elementary School. According to those who spoke, Faith Ringgold provides a safe and inclusive atmosphere where students are "accepted for who we are" and can thrive no matter how diverse from the mainstream.

Once again, a mother and daughter who spoke at an earlier board meeting shared their story with the Board. "I am a tomboy," said the fifth grade girl, describing how her appearance would make her the target of ridicule and cruelty on most campuses. According to her mother, the girl's grades are stellar and she is excelling in reading and math. "I need a safe space for my girl to turn out to be whoever she turns out to be," said the mother.

The regular Board meeting was interrupted by a special board meeting to consider changes to the district's preschool program. One preschool teacher described the district's plan to reduce the number of preschool teachers from seventeen to twelve, move all child development programs to school sites, and the swiftness with which a new job description was passed giving current staff only two weeks to receive a site supervisor permit. This move would result in many devoted preschool teachers and aides, who had worked for many years in Hayward's child development program, to lose their positions. The Board was reminded of how critically important these early learning years are for children, the impact on K-12 academic success, and the devastating impact reducing programs would have on these young students and families.

The Board took no action on the proposed restructuring of the Hayward child development programs and asked that staff bring back more information to the May 25 Board Meeting.

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