Correction: FUSD negotiations

Friday’s print edition of The Argus had a story about the three Fremont Unified School District assistant superintendents volunteering to take 5 percent pay cuts.

The article went on to say that the district has discussed salary reductions with employee groups but that no union has agreed to pay cuts. It turns out that the district has met with the teachers union (and negotiations are ongoing), but there has been no talks yet with CSEA or SEIU leaders.

The article has been corrected online, and a correction should appear in Saturday’s print edition.

While we’re on the topic of cuts, what do you think of the asst. superintendents’ actions? Did they lead by example? Should they — as the highest paid employees behind the superintendent — have offered to take a bigger cut? Should the employee groups agree to pay cuts themselves?


Student columnist: hospitality lacking in Bay Area

Here’s the third student column, which we’ve started running monthly on the blog. Leslie Salvador is a senior at James Logan High in Union City.

Last month’s column was by Evangel Penumaka of Newark. Next month’s column will be by Jennifer Siew of Fremont.


leslie salvadorBy Leslie Salvador

New Haven Unified student board member

I have been fortunate to travel across the nation as a member of the renowned James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team. Last month, on my second trip to Mississippi to compete in the 2010 Hattiesburg Hub City Classic, I again experienced southern hospitality and realized that that trait is lacking in the Bay Area.

After roughly six hours of being on a plane, the James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team, headed by Coach Tommie Lindsey, was welcomed with open arms by two members of the Hattiesburg High School Forensics Team, Reggie and Cory, at the New Orleans airport. They rode with our team for two hours to Hattiesburg.

The time they sacrificed out of their schedules on a weekday to welcome us was a huge gesture, but the hospitality did not stop with the two young men. It started the moment I stepped off the plane and continued throughout the trip, which was something extraordinary. I have never felt so comfortable in a city other than Union City. Continue Reading


Do Fremont voters support a parcel tax to help schools?

I’ve gotten a few phone calls/e-mails today from readers upset that the Fremont school board is thinking of asking voters to support a parcel tax in the midst of the largest recession since the Great Depression. Some also are upset that the board this week approved $105,000 in consultant fees, public outreach and a voter poll. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Consultant: $25,000
  • Educational materials: $60,000 (I’ve been told the materials will explain why the money is needed and how it will be spent, etc.)
  • Poll: $20,000

While writing the article, I anticipated that some people would take issue with the $105K expenditures, given the nearly $33 million in budget cuts that trustees preliminarily approved last month.

I asked board President Lara York if she felt the expenses are justified. Her comments did not make it into the article due to space and deadline constraints, but she said the board is being “extremely responsible” by spending a fraction of the total cost to place a measure on a ballot in order to gauge voter support before it commits to spending more money.

The poll will help determine what tax rate voters are most likely to support, as well as the district’s chances of passing a tax in November (or if another election cycle would be better).

In upcoming months, some of you will probably be surveyed about a parcel tax. I know the consultant that FUSD hired will conduct a more thorough and scientific poll, but til then, here’s your chance to weigh in on whether voters should support a tax.


Fremont says “no, no, no” to school cuts

More than 300 Fremont teachers and other school employees, parents and students gathered at the intersection of Mowry Ave./Fremont Blvd. after school Thursday as part of a statewide Day of Action against education cuts. It was the typical rally, with cars honking and people waving signs and chanting.

For me, the most memorable part was listening to the head of the teachers union, Brannin Dorsey, lead the crowd in a song about budget cuts, written by Washington High teacher Matt Ballin and set to the tune of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Here’s a 10-second footage of the crowd singing (sorry for the poor quality) with some of the lyrics below (in blue):

Continue Reading


FAME Public Charter School audited

We had a story in Sunday’s paper about FAME Public Charter School and an audit which found a number of questionable business practices at the school — from using the wrong funds to pay bills and failing to report full wages on tax forms to using taxpayers’ dollars to pay the executive director’s speeding ticket.

The full audit report should have been posted online yesterday, but it didn’t make it to our Web site until today. To read the story and accompanying audit, click here.

Also, I noticed on the FAME Web site that it’s seeking candidates to serve on its governing board. Click here for more info if you’re interested.


Student column

Here’s the second student column, which we’ve started running once a month since January. This month’s column is by Evangel Penumaka, student representative to the Newark Unified school board. She attends Newark Memorial High.

Last month’s column was by Fremont student school board member Jennifer Siew. Next month, we’ll hear from Leslie Salvador of Logan High School in Union City (New Haven Unified student board member).



Newark Unified student board member

When I tell people about the club I started at school, I am sometimes met with skeptic faces and replies such as, “Invisible Children? What, do you go searching for kids that are, like, invisible?”

The other responses I get are positive, as most people become curious about what the club is, and if they’ve heard about it, they are eager to help.

Invisible Children is a non-profit which started in spring 2003 by three filmmakers from San Diego who traveled to Uganda. They were looking for a story and an adventure, but what they found shocked them. They learned about the war that has been waging in Uganda for more 23 years between a rebel army and the government. The rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, is led by Joseph Kony. When support for the movement to take control dwindled, Kony resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight in the war. Continue Reading


NHUSD’s controversial Barnard-White vote

People are still talking about the New Haven school board’s Tuesday meeting, when it voted 3-2 to reopen Barnard-White Middle School. The school closed two years ago as a cost-savings measure to deal with declining enrollment.

Although the board voted to reopen a school, it has not specified how many students can enroll, what type of school it will be (e.g., a regular school, small school, specialized academy, etc.) or how it will pay for it.

Many in the Decoto neighborhood want a school again that’s closer to home, but some community members say it’s fiscally irresponsible to open a school in the midst of budget cuts. The district is projecting a minimum $3.2 million deficit next year, and the board will be looking at possibly laying off teachers, increasing class sizes and cutting the budgets for transportation, band, forensics and other co-curricular programs.

Trustees Gwen Estes, Jonas Dino and Michelle Matthews voted to reopen BWMS while Gertrude Gregorio and Kevin Harper cast the dissenting votes.

For the full story, click here.


Fremont school board looks at budget cuts

The district staff is recommending the board cut at least $16 million from next year’s budget and has prepared a report listing areas that the board could cut to save a total of $22 million. Tonight will be discussion only. The board isn’t scheduled to vote on the cuts until next month, at the earliest. For today’s article, click here.

I should clarify tonight’s timeline, as it wasn’t clear in the article:

Around 5:30/5:45 p.m.: teachers will gather to rally against cuts

6 p.m.: The public can address the board before it heads into closed session to discuss negotiations with employee groups. Some teachers plan to speak at this time.

6:30 p.m.: Regular meeting will start. The public will have another opportunity to address the board at this time. Teachers again plan to speak.

To read the district staff report, including the areas of possible cuts, click here.


The Argus welcomes student columnists

Starting today, and once a month through the end of this school year, a student column will appear on this blog. The students come up with their own topics, which may address educational issues or youth culture in general.

The columnists are all student board members for their school districts. This month’s column is by Jennifer Siew, a senior at Irvington High in Fremont. Future columns will feature the writings of Newark student Evangel Penumaka and New Haven student Leslie Salvador.


Jennifer SiewBy Jennifer Siew

Fremont Unified student board member

Have you wondered why, as our political and social issues seem to grow, each generation’s interest in these topics dwindles? It just doesn’t make sense. You’d think with an election resulting in the first-ever African-American president, the participation of first-time voters — mainly those too young to vote in the last election — would significantly increase. Yet, according to a Gallup poll, the percentage of first-time voters in the 2008 election (13 percent) was identical to that of the 2004 election.

Opportunities for our upcoming citizens to get involved are growing exponentially, yet our voices are being slowly lost to fits of ignorance and indifference. Or are they? Does our generation not care about these issues, or are we just afraid to speak up?

High school exposes you to an unbelievable database of opinions, varying points of view, interesting perspectives and surprising lessons. I don’t believe for a second that students don’t care about the world around them, especially when the economic, as well as global, crises we’re in at the moment are affecting us all so heavily.

So why is it we don’t hear our students speaking out when we need them most? Continue Reading