Newark Unified’s response to “Swine” flu

We’ll have a story  in tomorrow’s paper about how local school districts are reacting to the Swine flu, but here is a bit of info for those who live in Newark. Superintendent Kevin Harrigan sent notes to district employee and parents this week addressing the issue. 

In a nut shell, the note to employees states that school activities will continue as normal unless a confirmed case comes from the area. If that happens, then the district will work with county health officials to determine if school closures are needed. (View note to staff HERE) (.doc)

The note to parents also addresses the issue, but urges parents to to keep their children at home if they exhibit flu-like symptoms. (View note to parents HERE) (.pdf)  (Spanish/Espanol version is HERE) (.pdf)

Newark Unified is also going to use it’s Web site to distribute information.


131 pink slips handed out at Newark schools

I spoke to Tim Erwin, director of human resources at Newark Unified, this morning and it appears that 131 teachers and administrators received layoff warning notices today. This number is noticeably higher than the 90 slips that had been anticipated. Erwin said the number is higher only because some candidates for layoffs share the same higher date, and additional information needs to be collected to determine who would be laid off if such measures become necessary. In one extreme case, there were 25 people with the same teaching credential and hire date, he said. In cases such as these, a tie-breaker system will be applied to determine whose jobs are more vulnerable if layoffs are required.

The school board will not begin making cuts until early April. At that time the district may begin rescinding notices. “We’re not going to make people wait,” he said.


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.


NUSD may need to cut as much as $6 Million

I attended the Newark Unified School District’s budget workshop meeting last night — a session that drew more than 50 people, most of whom were members of the teacher’s and district employee unions — and Chief Business Official Steven Shields told the board of directors that they may need to cut as much as $6 million from the district’s existing and future budgets. The district’s finance team is still interpreting the budget that was passed last week by the governor, so it is unclear exactly how much Newark Unified will need to trim. But Shields projected that it could be as little as $4.5 million and as much as $6 million to be safe.

Shields also spent 90 minutes discussing areas where cuts could be made within the district. This information was almost identical to that which was released during a special session last week. But what was made clear is that the information he was discussing was not a recommendation of what items or programs should be cut, rather options available to the board. Among the hot button items are the class size reduction program, salary reductions and teacher layoffs.

The meeting on Tuesday was informational in nature, so no decisions were made about where to trim the budget. However, decisions are expected to begin to be made at the next board meeting, scheduled to be held March 3. At that time, the district may have an idea if it will need to layoff teachers. If that avenue becomes a possibility for the board, the district will have to notify by March 15 the teachers whose jobs may be changed or cut. Those notices can be rescinded.

Several members of the audience were given a chance to address the board before the workshop. One teacher said that if class sizes significantly increase he may consider quitting his job.

“This isn’t what I signed up for,” he said. “I would consider leaving teaching.”

Additional information about the district’s budget can be found on Newark Unified’s NEW Web site (link). From the home page click the “Budget Crisis” icon near the top. There also are a few avenues in which parents, teachers or community members can voice their concerns or make suggestions about how to solve the impending issues. Those options are available on the Web site.


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


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.


Governor vetoes CAHSEE waiver

Gov. Schwarzenegger has vetoed Senate Bill 1446, which would have exempted special ed students from having to pass the California High School Exit Exam to receive a diploma. The exemption would have been good through 2010.

State schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell applauded the governor’s veto.

Since 2006, California students in regular ed have had to pass the exit exam, which tests students in 10th-grade English and eighth-grade math skills. For the class of 2008, 90.2 percent of students statewise passed, and almost 54 percent of special ed students had passed as of May. We wrote a story about this last month.


image from SuzanneK’s site at flickr.com.

Graduation v. dropouts

The California Department of Education today released revised graduation and dropout rates for the 2006-07 school year. For details, check out the state’s press release.

I’ve put together charts comparing the revised rates to the preliminary results that came out in July for schools in the Tri-City area.

Click here for the graduation rates and here for the dropout rates.