Harvey Milk controversy

Harvey MilkFremont school board trustees have been getting flak this week for tabling a resolution recognizing Harvey Milk Day, in honor of California’s first openly gay elected official.

Community members I’ve heard from personally have all said they’re disappointed in the board’s action. But I’ve also been told that trustees have gotten e-mails from people who support the decision.

For the record, trustees Lara York and Bryan Gebhardt wanted to move forward with voting on the resolution but Larry Sweeney, Lily Mei and Ivy Wu wanted it tabled. To read their reasons, click here.

The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution May 26 — four days after the state’s official Harvey Milk Day.


FUSD superintendent’s contract

Jim MorrisLast week, I wrote about FUSD’s new superintendent, Jim Morris, and the fact that he’ll be bringing home at least $242,000 a year.

What I failed to mention was that he agreed to a 5 percent furlough for next year.

Also, I heard tonight that the current LA Unified employee took a $10,000 paycut and walked away from lifetime health benefits for him and his wife to take the Fremont post.

I asked Morris why he was willing to leave all that behind. He said he could tell from comments by district employees and parents that Fremont is a passionate community and that people here care.

And based on conversations with teachers, parents and other community members, it seems people here are excited to have him.


Congrats, Livia!

Livia Thomas, who’s taught at least 30 years, was named Fremont’s Teacher of the Year tonight. She teaches at Grimmer Elementary.

 Livia Thomas

Here’s what she had to say at tonight’s board meeting when she was introduced as the Teacher of the Year:

* “It is very strange, indeed, to receive an award for doing something that I love.”

* “(My students) are my passion and my joy. They give me hope.”

* “I am a better teacher and a better person (because of my students). Let’s salute the children.”

While Livia is busy saluting the children, the district will be busy saluting her. Livia now will compete for the title of Alameda County Teacher of the Year.


Day of the Teacher

Hundreds of Fremont teachers, parents and students rallied outside City Hall, starting about an hour before the school board meeting (which just started). The rally was to protest budget cuts and to honor California’s Day of the Teacher. Take a look:

fudta rally (may 12)

The board will also be honoring the district’s Teacher of the Year shortly. To watch it live, go to Comcast Channel 26.


Honors vs. non-honors classes

Here’s the latest student column by Fremont Unified’s student board member Jennifer Siew. It was to run last month, but due to e-mail problems and computer glitches, followed by (dare I admit) oversight on my part, it’s just now coming to you.

The next column, by Newark Unified’s student board member Evangel Penumaka, will be posted later this month.

 Editor’s note: Since the initial school board discussion, trustees have decided not to have honors social studies classes at junior high schools.


By Jennifer SiewJennifer Siew

Fremont Unified student board member

“I have a dream.” Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these famous words in 1963, calling for the day when blacks and whites in America could live in harmony, without prejudice or segregation, without the differentiation of children and adults based on skin color and ancestral background.

As a country, we’ve broken down the barriers between “us” and “them,” overcoming immovable obstacles of hate and ignorance of one another. Our country continually progresses toward complete tolerance and integration, being the leading figure and role model for other countries. Yet, as racial tensions are split and removed, a new kind of segregation not only has manifested itself in our society, but it’s being bred in our schools, nurtured alongside the growth of our youth and finding shelter in our acceptance and tolerance of its existence.

About two months ago, the Fremont Unified School District’s director of secondary education, Kathy Ashford, and Assistant Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi gave a presentation dealing with our junior high schools’ honors and non-honors system. The main goals of the new proposition were to give students who don’t score well on standardized tests better opportunities to enter the honors program. This included lowering the minimum STAR test scores for entrance into honors classes. Discussions on the issue resulted in one basic statement: We shouldn’t let kids who aren’t “up to par” in the same classes as our “honors” kids; if they can’t make the requirements, they should remain in non-honors classes.

Think about this statement for a moment. Honors vs. non-honors. Blacks vs. whites. See the parallel? Continue Reading


Who will be Fremont Unified’s new superintendent?

The board is scheduled to appoint a new superintendent during a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. today at the district office, 4210 Technology Drive.


Welcome Jim Morris, current chief operating officer of LA Unified, to FUSD. Story about Morris hopefully will post shortly on our website. Here’s a photo of him and some comments he made to the public when he accepted his new post today:

Jim Morris

“I know I have a lot to learn. … I promise you I will be very teachable.”

“This is a district about action and about doing the right thing all the time.”

“I will work relentlessly every day for every child and every teacher and every staff member in every school.”


Fremont asst. supe to head Pleasanton Unified

Parvin Ahmadi, assistant superintendent of instruction for Fremont Unified, has accepted a position as the superintendent of Pleasanton Unified for next year (press release below).

Those of you who follow Fremont school news know that the current schools chief, Milt Werner, is retiring. Some people I’ve spoken to over the past months thought that Parvin might apply for his job. I don’ t know if she did or not, but this latest news certainly is interesting.

Our Pleasanton schools reporter is working on the story about Parvin. Meanwhile, here’s the press release from Pleasanton Unified (in blue):

PUSD Board of Trustees announces selection of new superintendent

The Board of Trustees of the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) is pleased to announce the selection of Parvin Ahmadi as the new Superintendent of Pleasanton Unified, pending final approval of the Board. Continue Reading


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?


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.