Safe Schools

1/9/08 School Board Meeting

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

Employee Contracts
The board ratified the agreement between Local 1021 SEIU and Fremont Unified School District for 2007-2010. Additionally, a tentative agreement is now in place with the teacher union (FUDTA). Both of these contracts only set salaries for one year, which means next year the district and employee groups will have to negotiate salary again, but given the ominous state budget deficit it may be for the best.

Community Day School
Val Williams (Directory of Pupil Services) presented her teams report on finding a location in Fremont to set up a community day school. She is exploring the Fremont Teen Center.

I am very supportive of this initiative. The challenges are many but I can think of no more important group of kids to invest in. It makes me think back to what former school board member Guy Emanuelle has said, "“Never give up on a student even when a student may have given up on themselves."

Having served on the board, I can say one of the most difficult jobs a school board has is being the final review for all student expulsions. I am thankful that we had the option to send our students to Hayward Community Day School, but that is not a great solution because many of the students never make it there. It's just too far. When you look at Robertson Continuation School that serves another group of at risk students, routinely 30% of their students miss school. And to those who say these kids don't try hard enough, you try being a 14 or 15 year old and take public transportation for as much as 3 hours a day to school from north Fremont.

You have to remember that these are kids that have "given up on themselves." We need to show them we value them, they are part of our community, and that there are other ways to behave and succeed. They benefit and we, society, benefits. And frankly, $155,000 in additional money it would cost is a cheap way to provide hope and help to this group of kids.

Two-Story Modular Construction and Approve Classrooms for Warm Springs Elementary School.
The board approved adding 7 classrooms to Warm Sprints Elementary School. These are the first two story modulars in the district. They are much more expensive than single story classrooms, but given the size of our sites in the north and south of Fremont and the growth at each end of the city I think we'll be seeing more pressure for two story construction. The big question will be how to fund these.

Safe Schools
When I was on the board in 2006, we established district-wide goals including one focused specifically on safe schools.

2007-2008 Safe Schools Strategic Goal:

To ensure that our schools provide a safe environment, conducive to learning, for all students and staff, and that our schools encourage positive behaviors and choices, teach students to respect themselves and others, and provide appropriate discipline and counseling for negative and self- destructive behaviors.



This update presented the many types of programs that the district and community have organized to make schools safer and give students the skills to resolve conflicts. Students need to feel safe at school, because only students who are safe will be able to focus on learning.

I had the great fortune to talk a bit with Jan Steed the assistant Director of Pupil Services. She really helped me understand that safe schools programs are about helping student make better choices. We want to arm our students with the skills to choose words over fists, compassion over ignorance, understanding over name calling.

But how do you measure safe schools? For example, the number of suspensions and expulsions are a bad measure. Suspensions and expulsions are tools to improve school safety, like any other program. The measures need to be the behaviors we're seeing in our students. Maybe we measure the number of fights in schools or continue surveying our students. I don't know what the right measures are, but we need to find the best ones to evaluate our programs and the choices our students our making.

The next board meeting is on January 14, 2008 (next Monday) for a Patterson Ranch study session and to ratify the teachers contract. It's at 6:15 pm at City Council chambers.

Two other important unscheduled but upcoming items:
  1. The updated SchoolWorks demographic study and report is almost ready and will be is coming soon to the board.
  2. Length of residency as an overload requirement is being evaluated by legal council now.

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