fudta and the community
April 19, 2021
We frequently find that the interests of public school educators in Fremont align with the interests of the community. Per our mission statement, we strive to "collaboratively to improve the conditions of teaching and learning; ensure that the human dignity and civil rights of all students and educators are protected; and promote a just, equitable, and democratic society."
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Looking Back to Do Better Moving Forward
As we returned from Spring break to work this week, we are also looking forward to Summer School and next year. Reflection about how we can improve the negotiations process with District management has been at the forefront of our minds. There are some things better left behind us, but there are other issues that will hinder future progress if left unaddressed. In this letter, I want to provide information on (1) our current efforts to collaborate with District management, (2) plans for fall, (3) commentary on transparency and communication, and (4) plans for summer.
1. Our current efforts to collaborate with District management
I reached out to the Superintendent on April 1st to issue a joint statement to the FUSD community. I believed strongly that a timely joint statement from Fremont educators and District management would send a positive message that we are all committed to honoring our contract in the fall for regular in-person reopening as we come out of this pandemic. As disappointed as we are about District management’s decision not to pursue spring in-person instruction, most at this point in April are most concerned about what this means for all moving forward—students, parents, and staff.
Without a joint statement issued, doubt continues to fester throughout the FUSD community about how we plan to proceed in Fremont. It was disheartening to have the last two weeks pass by without an agreement from the School Board to (together with our educators) say we will do the preparations necessary to have a full in-person restart in the fall. This was a missed opportunity to show that we are on the same page. The School Board’s refusal to issue something together continues to show their difficulty in moving forward working with positive communication in service of the FUSD community. Fremont educators believe educational leadership must continue to work with stakeholders and decision-makers for our students, no matter how difficult it can be.
2. Plans for fall
While there would have been greater strength in stating this together, I would like to reiterate the Superintendent’s message on proceeding with plans to return to full in-person learning conditions for the fall. It is important for all to remember that only safety restrictions beyond our control prevented us all from our students’ regular learning conditions last spring when we closed, and throughout the summer as we bargained a temporary contract for the 2020-21 school year, which was necessitated by new legislation from the State of California. As our Distance Learning MOU expires in June, Fremont educators look forward to resuming our regular contract for the 2021-22 school year.
As excited as most are to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, Fremont educators recognize that there will be many families who will have circumstances that do not make in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year the best option for them. It is important for parents to know that if the District does not present a plan to FUDTA and support staff to offer Distance Learning to families who request it, it will be eliminated as an option for our students moving forward. Fremont educators want the best learning conditions possible for our students.
We want to be proactive in getting all programs sorted out before the end of the current school year. District management has communicated to the public that “virtual learning academies” will be formed. Fremont educators are in favor of this plan to meet student needs. However, District management is already creating obstacles in our partnership. When we asked for their plans in our negotiations meetings with them this week, they responded with a letter merely stating, “live in-person instruction will commence for the 2021 - 2022 school year.” No written response was given for their plan of virtual learning academies. If District management does not do the work necessary in advance, we will see avoidable problems emerge at the last minute. For example, one anticipated problem would be changes to enrollment at schools, which can have significant, negative impacts on matters that directly affect students, such as combination classes (combining elementary grade levels) and prep specialists (loss of specialized music, P.E., computer, and science classes). Fremont educators will continue to expect and demand FUSD management provide timely preparations for staff, students, and the community.
3. Commentary on transparency and communication
It is responsible and necessary for school districts to carefully review the costs of proposed programs or changes to services in advance of implementing them. Schools receive funding for the purpose of providing high quality education. Because funding is so limited, school districts must be vigilant about the financial impacts of their commitments. Unfortunately, our school district can do better. As an example, FUSD grossly misunderstood the estimated costs of their elementary spring reopening proposal (by over 10x the actual cost). It was a mistake for FUSD’s Bargaining Team to not to invite anyone from FUSD’s Business Services Department (which manages the budget) to any bargaining meetings. Incorrect assumptions were made about the fiscal impact of proposals, which is counterproductive to progress.
Although the decision to involve Business Services to provide the District Bargaining Team with a financial analysis is historically District management’s decision to make, we could certainly have made the request on their behalf. We may need to be more vocal advocates on this front, as we have been notified there will be turnover in our Associate Superintendent of Business Services position after only two years. Just as we continued to collaborate with District management when the Superintendent of Schools and the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction were replaced this past summer, we will give District management grace and patience as they onboard new leadership once again. Fremont educators will continue to be the constant foundation and retainer of institutional knowledge for our students and community.
4. Plans for summer
Aside from petitioning FUSD management for clarity and transparency on their announced intentions for the fall, we have also begun negotiations with the District’s Bargaining Team over summer school. (Negotiations are necessitated by the impact of the pandemic on working conditions.)
In reflecting on the negotiations process for reopening campuses in the spring, it is clear that we did not assert our expectation of transparency and communication early enough in the process. It would have been incredibly productive in our discussions of reopening in the spring if we were provided information about the methods of in-person instruction and the technology and materials students would receive access to throughout the day. Moving forward, we will prioritize transparency and communication in our recognition of their importance.
Endeavoring to understand is our duty, and we have committed ourselves to modeling improved clarity and accuracy from the start this week. Please read below for our bargaining update to show our progress in Summer School negotiations. While Summer School does not affect all students, extended services for students are more important than ever, and Fremont educators are committed to working on improvement of the negotiations process and our communications now.
Educators continue to have the number one in-school impact on student success, and FUDTA will persevere in our efforts to attract and retain the highest quality, most dedicated educators for our students. Fremont students deserve highly qualified and committed educators to care for them. We must foster a community of respect and value for the contributions of Fremont educators in addition to their well-being as human beings. We the embrace the necessary work in our FUSD community to create the atmosphere needed for our students to thrive. Thank you to all of those who have reached out to share positive thoughts throughout these challenging times.
Bread & Roses,