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Fremont Unified School District School Board meeting update

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The following is a summary of selected issues from the Fremont Unified School District board meeting held on January 26, 2011.

Community Leadership:
Human Resources announced the following two appointments, approved by the Board of Education at the meeting:

Micaela Ochoa has been appointed FUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, effective March 28. Ochoa started her career as the Program Coordinator for the Early Academic Outreach Program for the University of California, Berkeley in 1989 and has been the Budget Analyst for the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget in Washington DC. Ochoa then became the Fiscal and Policy Analyst for the California Joint Legislative Budget Committee in Sacramento. She later spent four years as the Manager of KPMG Consulting in Sacramento and was the Applications Manager for Stanford University. Ochoa then spent time as the Director of Finance and Business Operations at the Center for Educational Outreach for the University of California, Berkeley. She was the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for Alum Rock School District in San Jose and was a Lecturer in Finance for Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. Her current position is the Chief Business Official, Business Services for San Mateo-Foster City School District in San Mateo.

John Krull has been appointed the Director of Technology, for FUSD, effective February 28. Krull started his career as a Teacher and the Technology Coordinator at Shoreline Schools in Shoreline, Washington in 1988 as well as the Adjunct Instructor for Seattle Pacific University. From 1998-2000, he was the Systems Engineer Manager for Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington. John then spent four years at Virage/Autonomy, Inc. as the Senior Director, Information Technology, Application Services and Training in San Francisco, California. His current position is the President of Technology at Envision Schools in Oakland.

Superintendent’s Report:
Superintendent of Schools, James Morris, thanked Administrative Assistant Sharon Coco for excellent “Nordstrom’s quality of service,” in handling all the calls from the public and the many forms related to the Parcel Tax waivers for senior citizens.

Superintendent Morris also expressed his gratitude to parent groups who helped to bring the important documentary on teen stressors, “Race to Nowhere,” to the Fremont area. It was shown at American High School and Gomes Elementary.

Susan Debus, a Data Technician at the Fremont Adult and Continuing Education School. She was recognized by the statewide organization, California Council for Adult Education. In addition, the Excellence in Support Services award that she recently received was made at the regional level through the Costanoan chapter. According to Principal, Steven Giudici, “The Adult School has many talented and dedicated support staff, but Susan’s long record of service makes her one of our shining stars.”

Student Board Member’s Report:
Divya Gupta related that Mission San Jose High School raised over $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The efforts culminated with Science teacher, Nathania Chaney-Aiello, agreeing to have her head shaved, during an assembly, with winning bidders doing the honors.

Speakers on Consent Calendar Items:
Parkmont parent Dianne Jones commented that the school district needs to follow through by having schools turn in the required yearly safety plans.

Irvington parent Sylvia D’Amico, called for the disbanding of the Equity Commission.

Regular Agenda Items:
Happy Fish Swim School and its owner Liz Elliott were recognized with a Board Resolution acknowledging their generous efforts. Through the Happy Fish Run 4 Education, more than $80,000 has been raised over the past 6 years for the Fremont Education Foundation’s Guy Emanuele Sports Fund. This program provides scholarships to high school students in FUSD who wish to participate in extracurricular sports or cheerleading, but could not without the financial assistance.

Receive GASB 45 Report on Actuarial Study:
The Board and staff heard a presentation on GASB 45 by FUSD Accounting Director, Jon Dimter. GASB 45 is an accounting and financial report required of government employers, such as school districts, to report the liabilities associated with post-employment benefits, excluding pensions. Basically, districts must disclose post-retirement expenses such as: medical, pharmacy, vision, dental, and disability. Currently, Fremont USD has about 300 retirees who receive these benefits at a cost of $2.6 million per year. As costs will continue to rise each year, the district needs to consider various solutions to deal with this issue.

Oral Communications:
Kim Cantacessi, on the Executive Board of California School Employees Association (CSEA), has been newly appointed as CSEA’s State Region 41 Political Action Coordinator. Cantacessi addressed the Board and Staff, “I want to work together cooperatively to get through the problems that the State of California has created.”

Desrie Campbell, Vice-President of the Fremont Education Foundation, reminded everyone of its upcoming fundraiser, the Excellence in Education Gala. This year’s event will have a Mardi Gras theme and will be held on Friday, February 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the Fremont Marriott. Tickets are $75 per person and can be ordered online at www.fremont-education.org. Proceeds from the Gala benefit the Innovative Education Grants, which provides funding for FUSD teacher projects in the classroom.

Ann Crosbie, who serves as Chair of FUSD’s Instructional Equity Commission, wanted it known that there are openings currently available on the commission. Seats are available to parents or community members and teachers from any grade level. For more information visit: http://www.fremont.k12.ca.us/domain/50.

State Budget Update:
Superintendent Morris stated that in the proposed budget, “Governor Jerry Brown, spares K-12 education funding from further budget cuts, [thus] acknowledging past devastating ones.” In order to close a $25.4 billion budget gap, for 2010-11 and 2011-12, $12.5 billion must be cut from other areas.

To maintain the education funding level as planned, voters will be asked to support the extension of the temporary sales tax and vehicle license fees, in a June 2011 special election.

Mark Martinelli, director of Budget, Audit & Attendance, presented an overview of the Budget. He stated that the Governor’s objective is to reach a balanced budget with a $1 billion reserve. However, Martinelli explained that if the state tax extensions do not pass, an additional $9 billion in budget cuts would need to be made with $2.3 billion of that out of education. That could mean FUSD might lose $11 million or $349 per ADA, (“Average Daily Attendance) – the amount paid to the district based on the number of students attending school.

Criteria for Participation in Honors Classes:
For quite some time, community parents had expressed to the district that many capable students were being denied access to Honors classes, if they were not GATE identified. Therefore, at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, a task force was established and included representatives from each of the five attendance areas: teachers, administrators and parents. A process then began to develop a framework for Honors eligibility.

Although district staff and the Board acknowledged that the Honors Program needs to remain vigorous and challenging, they agreed that the program needed to be more inclusive of higher achieving students who had been previously shut out. Board member, Larry Sweeney dissented stating that he was not in favor, as it would attach a stigma to those students who would not be able to make it into the Honors classes. Additionally, he was not sure at this time of what the costs would be for the increased numbers of Honors classes.

English Teacher Patty Allen of Mission San Jose High School vehemently stated her opposition to the proposed criteria. “We need to respect and uphold the Honors program. We have experienced problems with children being misplaced [in advanced classes] – damaging self –esteem. Can a dumbing down of the Honors program be next?” she added.

Board trustee Lily Mei said that parents should focus on what’s right for their child and also that children shouldn’t take a class just to please their parents. Although Mei had mixed feelings on the Honors criteria, and the issue of student stress, she nevertheless agreed to support the new plan that would open up the program to more students.

After further lengthy discussion, the motion to accept the new Honors criteria passed, with Board member Larry Sweeney voting against.

The new Honors criteria will be posted online, after the course catalogs are approved at the February 9 Board meeting. In the interim, the information can be found at the district website http://www.fremont.k12.ca.us. Select the Board of Ed heading and then scroll to the January 26 meeting Board Packet, (pages C & I 10, 1 – 5).


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