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Fremont Unified School District board meeting report
By Miriam G. Mazliach
November 19, 2010
The following are highlights from the Fremont Unified School District board meeting held on November 10, 2010.
“Fremont is only one of 2 districts in the state to pass a local funding measure, such as Measure K. We are extremely proud and humbled to have this support from the community,” stated Superintendent Morris. Additionally, he singled out Peggy Herndon for spearheading the effort with a group of dedicated volunteers, who worked tirelessly to get the word out to the Fremont community. Herndon commented, “Over 70 percent of the voters said ‘yes’ to our schools. You need to be commended. A group of 12 committee members as well as Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA) came to donate and help the electorate. The citizens of Fremont overwhelmingly demonstrated support for our schools,” added Herndon.
The campaign raised $65,000 which covered most of the expenses related to publicizing Measure K to the voters. However, $18,000 is needed in order to retire the remaining debt from this undertaking. Anyone interested in donating is encouraged to send a check to: Yes on K, P.O. Box 1, Fremont CA 94537.
Superintendent Morris also spoke about a successful meeting he held with the Fremont Police Department regarding a notification system for incidents at schools or in the community. “We want to make sure that we have an easy and clear system when there is an incident at a school or in the surrounding community. A dedicated phone line is being installed, only to be used at those instances by the police to get the information out to us,” said Morris.
Phil Swift of the Centerville Business and Community Association handed out gift certificates, valued at $100, to representatives from each of these 6 neighborhood elementary schools: Cabrillo, Niles, Maloney, Glenmoor, Parkmont and Vallejo Mill.
Parent Gail Edwards spoke on behalf of school nurses, who are a vital part of the district. Her son had recently been helped by the school nurse at Niles Elementary, regarding his vision issues. School Board President Lara York informed the meeting attendees that Fremont, with 11 school nurses, is one of the few districts in California with such a high ratio of school nurses.
Lisa Ogrey told of an upcoming presentation for parents, by the Fremont PTA, being held on November 17, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Washington High School. For further information visit FremontCouncilPTA.org or email the speaker at email@example.com.
Ogrey also discussed the need for repairs on the lunch benches at Niles Elementary, which had been vandalized, leaving a group of young students without a place to sit and eat their lunches. She suggested using some of the District Facility Use Fee funds for that purpose.
Scott Cantacessi, of Employee’s Union SEIU 1021, spoke out against the cuts to Maintenance and Operations & Grounds employees, which he stated is affecting the safety of students.
Board Agenda - Villa D’Este:
A large contingent of parents and families from the Villa D’Este Housing Development came to speak out to ensure that those who had lived in the area since its construction be allowed to remain within their [Ardenwood/Thornton J.H./American] attendance area.
The area is already overcrowded with a large number of Ardenwood Elementary and Parkmont Elementary students being overloaded to other schools and the situation is only going to get worse. An additional 190 units are being completed for the final phase of the Villa D’Este development. “My recommendation is that we do something the school district hasn’t done in the past,” said Superintendent Morris. “We need to designate an ‘at-large’ attendance area, not to a particular set of schools and we have to assign to whatever school has space,” he added.
Over a period of several hours, 15 speakers took turns addressing the Board, most stating that they had bought homes in the area a few years back, with the expectation that their children would be going to schools in the Ardenwood attendance area. “You’re taking away a social infrastructure if the students are sent to another attendance area. It’s a systemic problem,” said Villa D’Este resident Mike Chen. “Please take the families and children of that area into consideration.”
Superintendent Morris clarified that there would be differentiation for students currently living in the area and attending school. “The change to another attendance area would be only for future students who would come into the area,” he explained.
Trustee Larry Sweeney stated, “Fremont is a high performing district and I believe your kids will receive the best education anywhere.” However, he commented that this is a great opportunity to have more voice in telling developers where future developments should or shouldn’t be built.
Another School Board Trustee, Ivy Wu, suggested looking into a “lease to buy” of newer property, such as a vacant building or warehouse in the Ardenwood area, to utilize for K-2 students. In that way students would be retained in their attendance area. In response, Superintendent Morris informed attendees that any place the district moves students has to be built to Field Act standards, in order to ensure the building would stand up in the event of an earthquake.
“We need to hold the developers and the city accountable,” said Trustee Bryan Gebhardt. “We have tried to work to find the solution but we have to have the developers wake up and work with us. We need to tighten up our process when reviewing developments and attendance areas,” he added.
After further comments and discussion, a motion was made by Trustee Sweeney and passed with 6 ayes. It stated that after Staff delineates the existing number of homes in the Ardenwood/Villa D’Este, those residents will remain in the American attendance area; all other future homes/developments being built are to be assigned by the district as “at-large” [to other attendance areas, or as space dictates].
Board Agenda – Patterson Ranch Development:
This item was for up for community input and informational review only and not to be voted on at this time.
Approximately 500 homes are planned in the Patterson Ranch development, which was recently approved by Fremont’s City Council. Space at neighborhood schools is already problematic, with many students currently being overloaded elsewhere.
Several scenarios have been suggested to date:
Option 1: Patterson Elementary expansion – Construction of additional classrooms and overall expansion of site to accommodate a total enrollment of 900, at an estimated cost of $16 million.
Option 2: Ardenwood Elementary Sister School: - Creation of a “mega-school” with the addition of K-2/3-6 sister school on property for a total enrollment of 1400 students. Cost would be approximately $25 million.
Thornton Junior High and American High School would also need to each add 14 classrooms at an approximate cost of $7 million at each of these two secondary schools.
Option 3: This was proposed by a parent at the Board Meeting. It was suggested that all Patterson Ranch development students be assigned to the Kennedy Attendance area.
Several young students, who currently attend Ardenwood Elementary, spoke out against turning it into a mega-school, which would decrease their green park and play areas.
Most Board members agreed that the Kennedy Attendance area option was a good idea but that all options need to be considered.
Superintendent Morris indicated that he will take this back to Staff to determine what the plan would look like if Patterson Ranch students were to be assigned to the Kennedy Attendance area. “We won’t solve this problem today, but we’ve had a healthy discussion and will continue to look at additional options,” he stated in conclusion.