Fremont Idol

Washington High School teacher Matt Ballin performed a song he wrote about the negative impacts of budget cuts at tonight’s school board meeting. The song, “California Children,” was made into a video. Click here to check it out. For the lyrics (as submitted by the California Teachers Association), click here.

On a related note, this Friday — dubbed “Pink Friday” because some 20,000 California teachers will receive pink slips — educators and parents will “Stand Up for Schools” with local rallies.

In Fremont, community members will meet between 3 and 3:30 p.m. at La Pinata (39136 Paseo Padre Parkway) and march down the street to Assemblyman Alberto Torrico’s office (39510 Paseo Padre Parkway).

I understand a similar rally will take place on the corner of Mowry Avenue and Cedar Boulevard in Newark.

The Fremont and New Haven school districts don’t plan to issue teacher layoff notices, but the Newark district will be handing out pink slips.


No pay for no results

The New Haven school board this week passed a resolution calling for legislators’ pay — which include their salaries, benefits and per-diem expenses — to be docked when they miss the annual June 15 deadline for passing a state budget.

I haven’t confirmed this, but I’ve been told that currently, legislators don’t get paid as long as the budget is late. However, once the budget is passed, they are eligible for retroactive pay. In other words, the pay is delayed but they ultimately receive full compensation. Under the NHUSD proposal, there would be no retroactive pay; the legislators would simply lose the equivalent of one day’s pay for each day they’re late in passing the budget.

Click here for the story.


No such thing as a free meal

A story in today’s paper mentions that the state may run out of funds for its school breakfast/lunch program before the end of the fiscal year unless the Legislature will appropriate more money.

By law, low-income public school children must be fed. With the sputtering economy, more families are signing up for the free and low-cost meals, which are subsidized by state and federal dollars. However, as our story reported, money is running out, and some districts are feeling the pinch.

What the article failed to mention is that neither the Fremont nor New Haven school district has seen a significant spike in new applicants. For some unknown reason, the stuff I wrote about Tri-City school districts was left out of the story, which was put together by our team of ed reporters. So here are a few highlights from my report: Continue Reading


Giving thanks

Millions of people will sit around the dinner table tomorrow and give thanks — for the roofs over their heads, the fact that they still have a job (as much as they may grumble about it) and for their family and friends. And if you’ve heard about Charmaine Kawaguchi (New Haven Teachers Association president), you may even pause to give thanks for the hair on your head.

Inspired by a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy, Charmaine — who for many years sported a braid that ran past her waist — recently chopped off about four feet of hair to donate to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that makes wigs to give to low-income children who are losing their hair due to cancer or other illnesses.

Here are before and after photos of Charmaine:

Disclosure: I, too, have donated to Locks of Love. However, my hair was never as long as Charmaine’s, and I only donated 14 inches. That reminds me: it’s time for another hair cut.


New Haven expected to name superintendent Friday

The New Haven school board is expected to name a new superintendent Friday evening.

A special meeting has been called for 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 34200 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City. The board will meet behind closed doors at first and, around 6 p.m., tentatively is scheduled to vote in public on the hiring of a new supe.

In all, 21 people applied for the position. The board, along with a panel of 20 community members, interviewed the top six candidates two weeks ago.

The new supe will replace Pat Jaurequi, who surprised everyone toward the end of summer when she announced she was leaving to become schools chief of San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento County. (Since school began, David Pava, last year’s deputy superintendent who was preparing to retire this month, has been serving as interim supe in New Haven.)

We’ll have a story in Saturday’s paper about the new leader.


Gebhardt’s not the fundraising king after all

Today’s story about local school board candidates raising money for their campaigns named Fremont’s Bryan Gebhardt as the top fundraiser, having amassed $34,296.

Well, he may be the biggest fundraiser among school board candidates in the Tri-City area, but he’s no match for the politicians in the West Contra Costa school district.

There, incumbent Karen Pfeifer has raised nearly $100K (about what the five candidates in Fremont have raised collectively), and Robert Studdiford has collected about $42K. Continue Reading


Eighth-graders get temporary relief from algebra requirement

In case you haven’t heard, a Sacramento Superior Court judge on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order that bars the state Board of Education from implementing the new algebra requirement for all eighth-graders until a public hearing has been held in December.

Back in July, the board — following a last-minute letter from Gov. Schwarzenegger in support of increasing standards — decided to require all eighth-graders to be tested in Algebra I, starting in three years. In essence, this would have required all eighth-graders to take algebra.

The request for a temporary restraining order was filed by the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators. Jack O’Connell, the state schools chief, supported the request. Continue Reading


Tri-City gang stats

I attended a gang and drug awareness info meeting at Washington High last night, put on by members of the Fremont PD and Southern Alameda County gang task force. Here are a few stats I picked up from the meeting:

* There are 3,105 known gang members in Fremont, Newark, Union City and parts of Hayward as of last month.

* About 98 to 99 percent of these gang members reside here.

* About 230 of these gang members are 14 to 17 years old.

* Some gang members are as young as 9 years old.


New Haven superintendent search process debated

There was an article in The Argus yesterday about the search for a new superintendent for the New Haven school district.

Long story short, some community members on the superintendent selection advisory committee criticized the process, saying they wish they had been given the opportunity to interact face-to-face with board members about the candidates. Instead, they apparently were instructed to direct their comments, one by one, to a facilitator while trustees sat in the back and listened. One committee member called the process “incomplete,” and Trustee Gwen Estes said, “It’s hard to call it a `community’ group when the community’s not involved.”

Today, another committee member, Michael Ritchie, sent an e-mail to trustees and others in the district, saying he was clear all along about how things would be handled. He also thanked the board for getting the community involved. Michael has given me permission to reprint his e-mail (in blue text). Check out his take on how things went: Continue Reading