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Fremont teachers’ no-layoff clause controversy

By Linh Tat
Thursday, September 24th, 2009 at 4:09 pm in budget, Education, Fremont, Fremont Unified.

What was supposed to be a united rally against state budget cuts and a push for local school funding turned into an attack on the Fremont teachers’ union and the no-layoff clause for permanent teachers in its contract during last night’s education/budget forum.

 

Overall, the event was a tame affair. Three or four dozen people attended — about half of which I recognized as elected officials, school administrators or the super-involved parents who serve on various school committees. A couple of the organizers said after the event that they had hoped for a larger turnout and agreed that perhaps they had been preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, they’re hoping those who heard their message will pass it on to others in the community.

 

That message being that the fiscal crisis the district finds itself in (about a $20 million deficit) is the fault of the state Legislature which keeps making cuts to education; that there needs to be a Constitutional amendment so that state budgets no longer need two-thirds legislative approval to pass; and that it behooves everyone in the community to support a local schools parcel tax.

 

The superintendent and the presidents of the school board, Fremont teachers’ union and Fremont Council PTA sat side-by-side, speaking of the need to work together for the common good of the children.

 

Everyone seemed to be in agreement for the most part until the Q&A session. One audience member asked whether it’s true that the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association is the only teachers’ union in the state with a no-layoff clause (answer: yes, at least as far as anyone in attendance could tell). Someone else asked about the seniority system used in determining layoffs.

 

Larry Sweeney, school board president, said the no-layoff clause was added to the contract long before any of the current board members (and probably teachers’ union reps, for that matter) joined the board and that any changes to the contract would have to be negotiated and agreed to by both parties. “Like it, hate it; it is what it is,” he said.

 

Brannin Dorsey, head of the teachers’ union, said that even teachers with seniority could be dismissed if (s)he is proven to be ineffective, but that there is a process that must be followed prior to dismissal. She also said the no-layoff clause did not cause the budget crisis and isn’t the problem here, to which a man in the audience cried out, “It makes the problem worse.”

 

There was one more question after that (about something not as controversial), if memory serves me, before the forum ended.

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  • Bruce

    Did anyone mention that Fremont gets less money per student than other local districts? I think Pleasanton gets about $1000 per student more each year than we do. The ratios were fixed after Prop 13 passed, and we have been getting short changed by the state ever since.

  • Marty

    “Like it, hate it; it is what it is”

    I’d say the same about the 2/3 super majority needed to pass a budget.

  • Linh Tat

    Bruce, I don’t recall anyone bringing up the point that FUSD receives the lowest amount in the county per student, although school officials have mentioned it during many other occassions.

    The superintendent did mention that despite all the financial challenges facing FUSD, the district continues to be high-performing. Hopkins is the No. 1 junior high school in the state, based on the latest Academic Performance Index (API) released earlier this month. Grimmer Elementary, a school that was placed on a federal watchlist a few years ago for low test scores, has turned around and scored 800 on this year’s API, which means it’s considered “high-performing.”

    Also, I think the superintendent said that seven Fremont schools are in the top 100 in the state, although I’d need to double-check since he was talking really fast.

  • Bruce

    I’m sure most of the people there know about the ADA payment inequities, I just could not resist bringing them up. They make me grind my teeth, Grrrr…

  • Marty

    Linh, I truly believe those metrics are a reflection of the type of parents and students who live in Fremont rather than the performance of the district.

  • Hiu Ng

    FUSD ended the 2008-2009 school year with $20 million in the bank not counting the over-funded dollars from CA. It could have put at least $32.5 million between the state cuts and the students without losing a single teacher, a single counselor, a single library hour, and a single bus driver. There is no need for increasing class sizes, cutting teacher prep time and buying more furniture. In the middle of a major budget crisis, FUSD didn’t have a solid budget for the public or the Board for 3 months.

    I can go on and on.

    Who should get what credits for the high-performing schools are debatable. The students, the parents, and the tutors deserve a lot, perhaps most, of the credit. FUSD itself isn’t doing anything significantly different for its high-performing schools.

    I am about to publicly ask the Board to undo some of its cuts, again.

    I didn’t go to this Forum. I didn’t want to hear more spin from some of these people. I am interested in the truth. The #1 priority for FUSD is to get its own finances under control. It should stop blaming others and it should not ask the Fremont public for more money – at least not at this time.

    This comment is from a real parent using a real name.

    Hiu Ng

  • http://www.ishanforcouncil.com Ishan Shah

    Bruce: Constitutional Convention.

  • http://crosbie4kids.com Ann Crosbie

    FUSD receives approximately $750 less in average daily attendance dollars per pupil less than the AVERAGE California school. With almost 32000 students that is a chunk of change!
    When individuals talk about not wanting additional taxes they need to understand how underfunded we are. At least with a Parcel Tax the money would stay right here and not have to be sent to other government agencies before we get our small portion back.
    Education is one area that gives you a big bang for your buck. A worthy investment.

  • Matt Zinger

    Yes, Teachers Union is one of the problems in FUSD. There are so many ineffective teachers in FUSD who in the private sector should have been laid off for non-performing reasons. Everyone, the administrators, teachers and politicians talk about kids well-being for the talking cause but in the end, all they need is good salaries, benefits at the cost of tax payers and community. Is it true that the ex-superintendent Mr.Gephardt is getting pension from FUSD? If so, why?

  • bbox231

    I dont know if teachers union is a problem in FUSH – or if we produce more with less income per student.

    The fact remains that there are no effective and agreed upon standards of teacher performance.

    Attempts to measure (and compensate) based on performance (as opposed to tenure) are consistantly denounced and rejected.

    Inaccuracies in any metric exist . . . .

    Wouldn’t it be swell if our highest performing teachers could earn a living commensurate with other highly valued civic employees, like P.D., or City Administrators, or F.D. – and if the few who are a drag on the system, couldn’t ??

    As salary ranges go today, it is difficult for me to imagine how anything EXCEPT personal pride is a motivator for those who excel in this, most important, of civic professions.

  • Linh Tat

    Matt, it’s not true that former Superintendent Doug Gephart is getting pension from FUSD. He’s drawing pension from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS).

    I asked the district if Gephart is receiving any other benefits from FUSD, since I know of a few other public agencies in the Tri-City area that offer lifetime health benefits, etc. to the retired superintendent/CEO and, sometimes, to his/her spouse as well. I was told that’s not the case in FUSD.

  • Chinmoy Roy

    It is indeed gratifying to notice the enthusiasm that Fremont residents have in suggesting what we need to do to improve the district. However, can anyone point out FUSD’s strengths? What is it we do very well.

    For starters we have Measure B, the School Bond that the residents passed at the start of this decade. The district demonstrated that they can expend public funds to the satisfaction of the taxpayers.

    Is maintaining high API scores another one? Have at it and remain positive by focusing on the strengths.

  • Robert Hou

    I attended the Education Forum, but I found it disappointing. I thought the purpose was to discuss ways to improve the funding in FUSD. Only Larry Sweeney discussed the Parcel Tax. No one else had any other ideas that I can remember.

    California already spends 40% of its state budget on Education. I don’t see any more funding coming from them. If anything, our portion will go down if the economy continues to struggle.

    FUSD gets less than the average school district. The LA area gets more than its fair share. But the political power resides in LA, and I don’t think they are going to give it up.