September 28, 2020
Dear FUSD Staff and Community,
It is my privilege to be the new Superintendent of Fremont Unified School District and I look forward to engaging in regular communication with our staff and community. In all circumstances, I believe in timely and honest communication. Today, I am writing to provide you with updated information regarding the following topics:
California’s new tiered system of reopening the economy and Alameda County Public Health guidance for schools
Updated information on FUSD’s fiscal forecast
Fremont Education Foundation Fundraiser
Building new relationships is significantly more challenging during a pandemic, but I am committed to finding pathways forward to ensure there is a meaningful connection with all our FUSD staff as well as throughout our expansive community. Thank you to all of those that I have been able to meet thus far for the exceptionally warm welcome to Fremont. From interactions with parents, guardians, community leaders, students, and staff, I have been incredibly impressed by the excellent level of performance of our staff, the passionate engagement of our community, and the combined commitment to finding successful outcomes for all FUSD students.
There is ample evidence at every turn pointing to the many reasons FUSD has a long history of high achievement and successful schools. Successful outcomes are often the product of continual changes to meet the dynamic needs of our students. I look forward to being part of the continual change process that honors and supports the successful things we have in place while forging new practices to create improved outcomes where we are not yet reaching our highest potential as an organization, and specifically where we can address issues of racial and social justice. This important work can not be done in isolation and I look forward to engaging in collaborative discussions with FUSD staff, students, parents/guardians, our labor partners in FUSD, and community members.
If you are interested in attending an upcoming virtual “Meet and Greet” for your attendance area, check out the information on our FUSD website for upcoming dates/times and information. I really hope you are able to join us for one of these events (Meet and Greet information).
California’s Tiered System and Alameda County Guidance for Schools
Effective August 28th, the State of California established a new tiered system, based on metrics related to the spread of COVID-19 within each county, for reopening our economy. This tiered system also has a direct connection to public schools throughout the state of California. If you would like to review information specific to this system, you can review it here (CA Blueprint for a Safer Economy).
Schools within Alameda County have not been able to open for in-person instruction for all students due to being in the purple tier unless they had an approved waiver (only applicable to TK-6th grade) from Alameda County Public Health. Until a new Health Order is issued, there is no change to these circumstances. At this time, FUSD has not moved forward to seek a waiver for in-person instruction. If you are interested in reviewing the waiver requirements you may view them here: (ACPHD).
Just this week, Alameda County moved from the purple “widespread” tier into the red “substantial” tier. When a county is a red tier or a lower-tier (orange/yellow), a school district may reopen for in-person instruction without a waiver, if permitted by the local public health agency. In recognition that opening schools in the midst of a global pandemic is remarkably complex and many risk factors remain present, it is not required that schools open for in-person instruction. It is extremely important to highlight that in order to reopen, there are extensive protocols and requirements that must be put into place successfully.
The Alameda County Public Health Department retains the authority to add requirements and restrictions related to reopening criteria, even with the red tiers. It is anticipated that Alameda County Public Health will give further guidance in the very near future by providing an updated Health Order. As you can imagine, the collection of requirements from both state and local levels will have a significant impact on our planning and response. For example, guidance and recommendations from the state, and possibly future requirements from our county, indicate that school districts may need to regularly test staff members. The guidance highlights a ratio of testing 50% of FUSD staff each month. As we consider how to best design plans, and implement protocols, we must ensure that any changes maintain the health and safety of our students, staff, and community as the top priority.
As a parent of two school-aged children who are currently in a distance learning program, I certainly understand the challenges and impacts from an emotional, physical, and educational perspective. My compliments to the FUSD staff for doing such an exceptional job with Distance Learning. Despite the incredible ability of our staff and students to overcome the challenges of distance learning, we all recognize that nothing can replace the benefits of full, in-person instruction within an inclusive school setting. Fremont Unified School District is committed to creating a comprehensive reopening plan with input and feedback from our stakeholder groups. As we continue to engage in that work, I want to inform you that we are not making changes to our Distance Learning program at this time.
I recognize that this topic will generate many strong emotional reactions for members of our FUSD community, staff, students, parents, and guardians. As we focus on a safe and sustainable plan for in-person instruction with comprehensive systems to keep students, staff, and our community safe, our collective energy must remain focused on working together to make progress toward this outcome. Working together, we can accomplish great things.
I commit to making sure our staff and community continue to receive timely information on these developments. None of us know what is to come in the next few months as it relates to the traditional flu season or the future spread of COVID-19. It is anticipated that counties may move up and down in the tiered system based on the spread of COVID-19. While those developments may remain outside our control, we will continue to focus on what is within our control.
In an effort to share clear communication and manage expectations around the re-opening of FUSD Schools, I want to highlight FUSD’s next steps which will include the following
Continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 within our county.
Continue to collaborate with Alameda County Public Health.
Continue working on a reopening plan, aligned with current and developing state and local mandates.
Engage in conversations with our labor partners and community groups.
Consider how we can meet the needs of smaller specific populations of students who may require specialized support and/or specialized instructional services.
Further Board of Education discussion will take place at a November Board Meeting.
If you are interested in reviewing my recent presentation on this matter to the Board of Education, you can review that information here (presentation begins at 06:25 mark).
Given the economic downturn associated with a global pandemic, it is not surprising that our California economy would also be significantly impacted. Within the current state regulations for funding public education, our FUSD funding is directly tied to the economic conditions of the state. Public school districts across the state are facing challenging fiscal constraints. In Fremont Unified, we have some additional funding challenges related to a decline in our overall enrollment numbers in the last few years, increased costs, and no cost of living adjustment from the state.
There are many complicated aspects of school funding in the state of California. However, our current fiscal condition can be simply defined, our FUSD expenditures continue to exceed our revenue and we will need to make reductions in our ongoing costs for the next two fiscal years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023). The Alameda County Office of Education has solidified this need by providing a Conditional Approval of our current budget. Based on our current projections and the most updated information we have about future funding from the state, it is anticipated that FUSD must make eleven (11) million dollars of reductions for the 2021-2022 school year, and an additional sixteen (16) million dollars in reductions for the 2022-2023 school year. Combining for a total of twenty-seven (27) million in reductions over the next two budget years, it is very clear that such significant reductions to our budgets will undoubtedly have a significant impact on our educational programs.
It is possible that these projected reductions could increase or decrease when we receive the Governor's proposed budget in January. We must move forward in preparation for these difficult circumstances. In conjunction with our Board of Education, I am committed to making sure we engage our community, staff, students, and parents/guardians in discussions about how we may achieve the targeted expenditure reductions or revenue enhancements. As we move into the months of October, November, and December, please keep your eyes out for further information about how and when you may be able to engage in these important conversations.
Fremont Education Foundation’s $20 for 2020
I recently donated to this awesome campaign and want to give a huge “thank you” to everyone who already donated to the Fremont Education Foundation’s ‘$20 in 2020’ campaign to support FUSD students during this time of distance learning. I would like to remind families and the Fremont community there is still time to ensure students and staff are equipped with the technology and high-speed internet access needed to succeed during these challenging times. FEF will match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to the first $25,000 received! To make your tax-deductible donation, please either send a check payable to the Fremont Education Foundation and specify “Quality Distance Learning” in the memo line, or you may easily donate via the FEF website with this direct link.