Fremont Unified eliminates parent conferences

There’s an article in today’s paper about Fremont Unified eliminating the two traditional parent conference days as part of this year’s budget cuts. Teachers had their work year reduced by five days (equivalent to about a 2.67 percent pay cut), so they’re not meeting with every parent. Some will still meet with parents who request a conference, but there are reports that other teachers are refusing to set up face-to-face meetings, opting instead to communicate by phone or e-mail. (District officials say they expect that if a parent specifically requests a meeting, that teachers would still honor that request.)

Some parents feel they’re not missing much by not having conferences, while others are outraged. Some feel the elimination of face-to-face time with teachers is a step back for a district whose leaders say they want to improve communication with stakeholders.

What do you think?


FUSD superintendent search

In the first of what most likely will be a series of special meetings to discuss the search for a new superintendent, the Fremont school board on Tuesday decided it would look at external candidates as well as current district employees (at least for now). The last time the board conducted a full search was in 2002, when it eventually hired John Rieckewald, an outsider, as schools chief. The two superintendents after him were hired from within the district.

Milt Werner, the current superintendent who’s retiring in June, said he favored a thorough search. “Without question, we have excellent internal candidates, but it’s healthy” to do a search, he said. “It looks long; it looks arduous, but you have more than 32,000 kids on your hands. You have an awesome responsibility.”

During the meeting, the head of the district’s management association said the group would like the board to conduct a full search to ensure it was not overlooking qualified candidates. Meanwhile, the president of the California School Employees Association said an internal candidate was preferred and singled out Parvin Ahmadi, assistant superintendent of instruction, as “excellent.”

Neither Ahmadi nor the other two assistant superintendents have said if they’ll apply.

It’s not clear yet how much hiring a firm to conduct a search would set the district back. The board tentatively is scheduled to vote Monday (during its joint meeting with the City Council) whether to advertise that it’s looking to hire a search firm.






MSJE picket

UPDATE (8:18 p.m.): The school board voted 3-2 not to transfer Curtis from MSJE. Trustees Ivy Wu, Lily Mei and Larry Sweeney voted not to move her. Trustees Bryan Gebhardt and Lara York were the “no” votes.

The regular board meeting also started nearly 1.5 hours late — a new record! I don’t know if the hold-up was due to the board not coming to an agreement over this decision or if it had to do with another issue.


(ORIGINAL ENTRY): Here’s a photo that someone submitted from Tuesday’s picket at Mission San Jose Elementary. A group of parents say their principal, Bonnie Curtis, is being forced to transfer to another campus, even though the administrator said it ultimately was her decision. Read the full story by clicking here.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the possible reassignment tonight.



Logan High alum in Samoa

James Logan High School alumnus Matt Leal (class of 2000) has been blogging about the deadly tsunami that hit villages in Samoa and American Samoa, killing at least 39 people, on Tuesday. Leal, 27, has been on a Peace Corps assignment in Apia, Samoa, since last October. His mom said that he and the other Peace Corps members are safe.

Here’s an excerpt from his blog (in blue):

Most of Apia evacuated to higher ground. Uphill roads became one-way highways for cars and buses, but most of us just walked. Tsunami sirens blared across Apia. Church bells rang. My school rang its bell. …

I walked with a couple girls from my 11.3 class and held an impromptu geology lesson.

There was much confusion as to where we were supposed t go and where we could stop. Students asked me where we were going, and I could only tell them we were going “Up.” A couple teachers also asked me. “I was following you,” I said. …

It’s unclear what this means for the rest of the school day. Since there’s no articulated evacuation point, students and staff were strewn across multiple villages and it seems impossible for us all to come back and spend the rest of the day as normally scheduled.

To read more of his first-hand accounts and view photos, visit diplomatt.blogspot.com.


Fremont teachers’ no-layoff clause controversy

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. Continue Reading


Newark teens IDed in murder, attempted suicide

Although investigators have not released the name of the teen believed to have been shot to death by her ex-boyfriend before turning the gun on himself Friday, multiple outside sources have identified the girl as Amanda Caravantes and the suspect as Erik Petersen, both 17.

Both teens attended Newark Memorial High at some point, and Petersen still is enrolled there, according to sources.

Community members have called a candlelight vigil at 7 tonight near Newark Junior High (at Lafayette Ave./Newark Blvd.).

The text in blue is a statement from the Newark school district:

The Newark Unified School District and the Newark Memorial High School community are saddened by the tragic loss and injury of two young people on Friday night in Fremont. 

In order to provide support to students and staff who may know these families, the District will have counselors and psychologists on call this week.  Parents and students are encouraged to contact school staff if they need, or know of anyone who needs support regarding this incident.

Please join us in keeping these young people and their families in your thoughts.


More students passing high school exit exam

Today, the state Department of Ed released its report about the number of sophomores who passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) this year. Students who did not pass have several more opportunities to retake the test their junior and senior years.

The exam tests students in their English and math skills. Students must pass the test to receive a high school diploma, although some special ed students may be exempt.

Click here for a chart showing the passage rate of first-time test-takers (i.e., sophomores) in each Tri-City school over the past three years.


Survey: Fremont schools parcel tax wouldn’t pass easily

If school officials decide to go ahead with a parcel tax measure next year, a recent survey of Fremont voters concludes a simple winning strategy: go small and and go short.

The survey found that the needed two-thirds super-majority of voters would only support a $79 tax per parcel, far less than the $149 tax the district has considered. Voters were also much more amenable to a tax if it sunsets after five years.

57 percent of those surveyed said they’d probably support a $149 tax, but that’s not enough in sunny California.

The survey polled 500 likely Fremont voters, 58 percent of whom were white. That might reflect the demographics of Fremont’s voting population, but it doesn’t reflect Fremont’s total population or its population of school-aged parents, a majority of whom are Asian.


Book too explicit for Fremont students

Bastard out of Carolina got a lot of press when it was first published in 1993. Three years later, Hollywood turned it into a movie, staring Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Apparently, it’s violent. The protagonist is a girl who was molested, beaten and raped by her stepfather.

And if Fremont students want to read it, they’ll have to go to the library.

The school board earlier this month voted 3-2 to exclude it from its list of approved books. It had already been approved by a district curriculum committee, but board members Ivy Wu, Lily Mei and Larry Sweeney didn’t think it belonged in the classroom. Bryan Gephardt and Lara York felt otherwise.

Click here for the book’s Wiki synopsis.

My understanding is that the board did approve the two other books before them:
1) The Man Who was Poe  – A mystery with Edgar Allen Poe as a character
2) Code Talker – A novel about Navajo Marines in WWII.


Fremont student gets good grades at overpriced east coast school

When your university 3,000 miles away has the staffing to alert your hometown newspaper reporter that you made dean’s list, you’re probably paying too much for your education.

Boston University wants everyone in Fremont to know that one their own got good grades for the Spring semester. Without financial aid that student, whose name I won’t mention, would have paid $38k just for tuition last school year.

If that student is a basketball fan, he/she would have seen his/her team lose by a point last February to my alma mater, whose in-state tuition is only $5,000 $6,769 (thanks head kvetch).