9/26/07 School Board Meeting

Here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda and background packet).

STAR/API/AYP testing report

This was a fascinating presentation. API scores in Fremont have flattened this year. District wide API was 839 in 2006 and is 834 in 2007. The slight decline is probably not statistically significant. From 2002 to 2006, Fremont has gone from 797 to 839. These have been huge jumps. Board President Nina Moore helped explain that many districts have seen these big growth's in scores as they have updated their curriculum to cover the then new California state standards. After the initial growth, many districts see flat growth which may be what Fremont is seeing now. Essentially, teachers and students are using better tools and instruction has been more effective.

How do we continue to improve?

Superintendent of Instruction Milt Werner looked at this. In particular he went to schools that are having success in working with lower performing students. He asked them how are they being so successful. They mentioned there aggressive academic interventions, but more interesting was that all of the schools also highlighted the "culture and climate" work they are doing at their schools. This includes things like celebrating diversity, providing students with engaging activities, and inviting parents of low performing students. Put another way when the students are engaged they do better and schools and communities that work to engage their students succeed.

I will save a discussion for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for another blog post, but suffice to say the bar for student achievement that the Federal government has set will be jumping aggressively every year from now until 2014 and even great district's like ours will not be able to meet it. The mandates are unrealistic and woefully underfunded.

Bottom line: When you look at all California schools, Fremont schools continue to be among the best, and we should all be proud of the work our students, teachers, and parents have done. We have fantastic schools. But we can't stop there, and I am thrilled to see how hard staff is working to find ways to continue to improve our schools.

Sabercat Development Attendance Area Assignment
On the heels of deciding to allow non-contiguous school boundaries on 9/11, the board decided that students generated from the proposed Sabercat development go to Irvington schools even though it is currently in the Mission attendance area. Mission schools are overflowing and just don't have physical space for any more students. In the past 6 years there have been around 300 units added in the Mission area. Sabercat would add 158 more generating an estimated 65 students. This seems to be one of the few options the board has to manage the overcrowding from Mission area developments.

Other Notes
  • Community meetings on facilities and overcrowding are being scheduled.
  • We've seen declining enrollment this year, which can have serious budget impacts. In their Oct 10 meeting this will be discussed more.

Web site update - changed blog theme

I changed the blog page from the school chalkboard theme the rest of the site uses as that them didn't work very well for blocking. This theme works much better with my blogging software.

I'll be playing around with the look of the web site a lot over the next few months. Let me know what you think of it. Contact me here.

Visualize API scores with School Performance Maps

Recently a friend pointed out this cool site to me. It provides a map interface to look at California school API scores. A picture is worth a thousand words, so...

Fremont API Map

Each pin corresponds to a different elementary or secondary school. The colors represent their average API base rank from 2004 to 2006. I clicked on the Mission SJ High School pin above.

Click here to see the map above.

CAUTIONARY NOTE: School API scores are but one measure of a school's performance and a volatile one at that. It doesn't take much for a school's score to change by 10-50 points. I encourage anyone interested in a measuring schools to visit the school. Talk to the principal and teachers. Look at how involved the parents and community are. Those are just as important measures.

9/11/07 School Board Meeting

I will do my best to share my observations and thoughts about the school board meetings I attend in the next year on this blog. Starting tonight here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda).

  • Springboard Partnership Agreement -- This is an exciting program. It is a coordinated district wide consulting partnership. Together with FUSD they developed a "plan that includes coaching and professional development to assist site administrators and teachers in raising student achievement and closing achievement gaps." I think staff development is so important and think this is a worthwhile investment. It is important that the right metrics in place to measure it's success before we make this an ongoing expense, but this first year collaboration is a great proactive step.
  • Discuss Master Facility Plan Goal on Contiguous Boundaries -- The board decided to change the policy to allow non-contiguous boundaries. This means that in impacted areas when a new development comes in the district will have the option to assign just the houses in that development to a school that is different from the schools the surrounding neighborhood is going to. This is a good move that gives the district more flexibility especially given how tight space is in many of our schools.
  • Sale of Site Funds -- This refers to the fund containing all the one-time funds from the sale of sites over the last 5-10 years. Among other things this fund has been used for the MVROP building, leased classrooms, and permanent classrooms.
  • MVROP -- Great news! We have completed the new MVROP facility on budget, and the land we were selling to pay for it has been sold. In this real estate market we are very fortunate no problems happened with this deal. I am president of the district's financing corporation and signed this $18 million bridge loan that allowed us to build the new MVROP building. On top of this the district has applied for about $5 million in matching state funding. A great move to stretch our dollars.
  • Leased classrooms -- The district routinely leases modular classrooms to handle temporary fluctuations in student populations at various schools. Paying for these ongoing costs out of a one-time fund is not a great long term solution, but is the best option at the moment.
  • Permanent classrooms -- On the flip side the district is also using this money to replace the temporary classrooms with permanent construction.
  • Mission San Jose Elementary project -- With this nearly $2 million project the site will get 2 new classrooms, an updated library, an updated computer lab, and a staff room. It's hard to spend this much of the sale of site funds on one school, but this school is particularly small and overloaded, which contributes to the high cost of this project.

The board has also added some of the Mission area developments to the 9/26 board agenda to discuss which attendance area they will be in.

The school board and city council have a joint meeting on Oct 1. The city and school staff's are working on a draft white paper to share at the joint meeting.

Mike McMahon's web site

Board member Mike McMahon has an excellent web site that contains a host of information for those interested in school issues and especially how school boards and districts work. It is focused on Alameda Unified School District where he currently sits on the board, but is useful for all interested in school issues.

Click here: Mike McMahon AUSD

I first met Mike at the Alameda County School Board's Association. This group meets once a month to discuss issues that effect all boards and districts. It is an incredibly useful resource for school board members.

My History with Fremont Schools

I have been involved with Fremont school issues since 1992 and was a student in Fremont schools since 1979.  Here are some of my accomplishments.
  • Advisory Commission on Instructional Equity (2007 to present)
  • Board of Education Trustee (2006)
  • Financial Advisory Committee (2003 – 2006) – Served as Chairperson in 2005.  Advised the district on $9 million in budget cuts in 2003.  I worked to develop the district’s User Friendly Budget.
  • FUSD Educational Facilities Financing Corporation (2004 – present) – As president of the board of directors, I signed the $18 million loan required to build the new MVROP facility at Kennedy High School.  The loan is to be repaid from the sale of the Liaola site.
  • Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Group (2005 – present) – A joint effort by staff and the community to establish a FUSD technology vision and technology advisory committee.
  • School Services State Budget Workshop (May 2005) – As FAC chair I was invited to attend the May Revise workshop.
  • Technology Task Force (2003-2004) – Member of this superintendent-created 6-month task force
  • Citizen’s Facilities Committee (1998-99)
  • Graduate of Fremont schools – Washington High School, 1992
  • FUSD Student Board Member (1991-1992) – Served on the board during the 1991 Measure A bond and the approximately $5 million in budget cuts.

The Purpose of Public Schools

A quote I saw at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. summed up the purpose and importance of public schools to me.
– James Madison
Education is the foundation of personal freedom and central to a healthy, vibrant democracy.  Public schools provide equal opportunity for all to seek knowledge.  They empower everyone with the knowledge and skills to succeed.  They create better citizens, which produces a more responsible community.

[I originally posted this on Friday, June 16, 2006 on a previous web site.]

The Purpose of School Boards

As the only elected officials that represent children, the school board’s fundamental role is keeping the district focused on the learning and achievement of all students. The board accomplishes this by:
  • Setting the strategic direction of the district for staff and the community
  • Listening to every view in the community to inform their deliberations
  • Evaluating and adopting policies consistent with the district vision
  • Equitably allocating district resources based on the district’s vision and goals, and monitoring the district’s fiscal health
  • Operating openly and honestly
  • Performing regular and timely evaluations of the superintendent’s and the district’s effectiveness
  • Representing and protecting the district’s interests at the local, state, and federal levels

[I originally posted this on Friday, June 16, 2006 on a previous web site.]

My First Post

I am excited to announce that I am running for the Fremont Unified School District’s Board of Education in November 2008. I am also excited to announce my first blog.

Through this blog I hope to reach out to all people -- parents, students, teachers, community members, etc. I will share with you:
  • Campaign news,
  • Insights into Fremont schools and current school policies in California and the U.S., and
  • More about my education philosophy.

My goal is to update this blog several times a month. Watch this blog for campaign and school board news!

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