Fall 2018 Newsletter
Now that the 2018-19 school year is well underway, we wanted to provide you with some information about critical issues affecting your campus and the entire District at large. We hope this information will be helpful to you, your family and your children as the year continues and provide context for some of the opportunities and challenges we face.Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Polly Bove, Superintendent & Bill Wilson, Board President
You may be aware, due to a barrage of recent news coverage both locally and across the country, that both California and the nation are facing a significant teacher shortage. A "greening" of the profession has been underway for several years, with many older and more experienced teachers retiring and leaving the profession. Currently, the most common teacher in California is in their first year of teaching, and 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years. At the same time, fewer people are entering teacher preparation programs and the number of people graduating from these programs is not keeping pace with the teaching slots that need to be filled in order to have a qualified teacher in every classroom. These worrying trends underscore the critical importance of retaining high-quality teachers within FUHSD.
While we have been fortunate once again to place a qualified teacher in every one of our classrooms for the 2018-19 school year, we do know that the high costs of living in the Silicon Valley continue to place a heavy burden on both our teachers and the classified staff. In acknowledgement of this burden, our Board and District staff have worked hard to continue to make FUHSD a desirable place to work.
Last year, we were able to provide a salary increase to all staff members, with an added boost to the first five columns of our teacher salary schedule so that our starting salary for new teachers is now $70,000 – the second highest in the county. We are also proud to provide an excellent benefits package, easing the burden of costs on our teachers, many of whom have young families.
Over the course of many years, District leadership has cultivated a positive relationship with all of its bargaining units. Working together cooperatively led to the creation of an innovative revenue sharing model, which has allowed the District to provide additional funds for salary and/or benefits to each bargaining unit in times of economic prosperity, while avoiding layoffs and cuts to staff and programs during economic downturns.
Creating a strong, positive culture of collaboration has also been a priority for the District. In 2013, FUHSD drafted a set of Belief Statements to inform the work of all employees and share the District’s guiding philosophy with the community. With an emphasis on excellence, equity and collaboration, the Belief Statements have been cited by many prospective employees during the interview process as a key reason for their interest in working for FUHSD. Our New Teacher Induction Program and full-time team of four new teacher mentors provide a network of support that is individualized to meet the needs of every new teacher, and our in-house professional development offerings seek to help teachers continually evaluate and improve their individual practice.
The multiple strategies described here and employed by FUHSD to attract and retain high-quality teachers have proved successful and have led to high levels of employee satisfaction. Currently, the District has a teacher retention rate of 90%. However, this decreased from 96% the year before, and as we see more teachers leave the profession and others leave our District because of the high cost of living, we need to find additional, creative ways to retain teachers and ease the burdens posed by teaching in what has become a prohibitively expensive area.
In 2016, a group of teachers banded together to create a committee that survey teachers about their needs and concerns as related to housing and other financial concerns. The survey found that more than half of our teaching ranks stated that they might have to leave the District sometime in the next six years if housing costs were not addressed. And while we have made great efforts to retain teachers even in the face of huge challenges, including partnering with some organizations that offer financial assistance to teachers and other educators, we know this a problem that we cannot solve alone. The high quality of schools in the region is one of the key reasons that many people choose to make this community home, and we hope that the members of the community, including governmental organizations, private entities, non-profit organizations and others, will partner with us to innovate and explore creative ideas that can help us retain the excellent teachers that educate our students.
New Bell Schedule
As you know, we instituted a new bell schedule this year at all five of our high schools so that the instructional day begins no earlier than 8 a.m. This decision was made as part of a larger, ongoing effort to address the critical issues of student sleep and wellness. As with any change of this magnitude, we do understand there have been growing pains at each of our schools and that it will take time for students, families and staff to fully adjust to the new schedule. We have, however, heard from many students that they appreciate the additional time they have to sleep and get ready in the morning before class. We have also seen traffic congestion at drop-off decrease at many of our sites.
Both school administrative teams and District staff have been recording feedback received so far in order to evaluate how the transition is progressing and determine what, if any, changes should be made. We do ask that our students and families be patient for the first few months of school, as we will not be implementing any changes until we have had ample time to allow staff and students to settle into the rhythm of the new schedule and collect all feedback, both positive and negative. Principals will be providing an official method for feedback later in the year. If you would like to provide feedback in the interim, please contact your principal or a member of the school's administrative team directly.
In July, the Board of Trustees approved placing Measure CC, a $275 million school bond, on the ballot in November. Measure CC would allow FUHSD to continue the work started under Measures B and K to build classrooms and modernize facilities at all five high school campuses, which are each at least 50 years old. Between Measures B and K, we were able to build 127 new classrooms district-wide. The continuation of this modernization process under Measure CC would include necessary upgrades to infrastructure and would touch the remaining 400 classrooms that have not yet been updated at Cupertino, Fremont, Homestead, Lynbrook and Monta Vista high schools so that all students and teachers have modern classrooms and facilities. All voters in the Fremont Union High School District will be asked to vote on Measure CC on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
Modernization in each classroom would include new Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, LED lighting replacement and ceiling tiles, fire alarms and sprinklers, a technology refresh, new furniture, painting and patching, roofing and flooring.
Measure CC would provide strict accountability, with all funds audited annually and reviewed by an independent citizens' oversight committee. The average yearly cost to property owners in the District would be a maximum of $16 per $100,000 of assessed value (not market value). FUHSD is proud to have the highest possible credit rating for a school district from both Standard and Poor's (Aaa) and Moody's (AAA). This has allowed the District to refinance bonds at favorable rates and save taxpayer money.
Read more about the FUHSD Bond Program, projects currently under construction and our future needs here.
Board Office Hours
In recognition of the critical role that communication, transparency and accessibility play in the relationship between the FUHSD Board of Trustees and the parents, families and community members that reside in our district, the Board is continuing to host Board Office Hours sessions at each school site throughout the course of the year. Our next session will be held on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Homestead High School in Room L109. The session will include an update on construction at several sites, but all parents are welcome. For more information, visit the Board Office Hours webpage.
This election cycle will also be important to FUHSD because we have three open seats on our Board and six candidates running to fill those seats. Please be sure to learn more about each of the six candidates by visiting the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters website and reviewing the ballot information you receive in the mail. And please remember to exercise your right to vote this November!
As you may know, several of our schools were subject to hoax threats during the course of the 2017-18 school year. While this was an unfortunate and disappointing situation, it did provide us with the opportunity to review and strengthen the safety practices that we already had in place. And while we did communicate with parents specifically about safety last Spring, we would like to remind parents again about what we do to prepare for a crisis situation and what they can do as a family unit to prepare for an emergency.
What We Do to Prepare for Emergencies
- Each school and office site has an emergency plan in place.
- District staff regularly works in coordination with our local law enforcement and public safety agencies and collaborate on all training and emergency exercises.
- Regular emergency drills are held at each of our campuses throughout the school year.
- Plans and procedures are updated regularly to incorporate current emergency management issues and topics.
- All district personnel receive annual training in emergency response and emergency management procedures.
- Key personnel at the district and each school site receive ongoing training in their emergency response plan.
- Each school site has staff members trained in crisis intervention to respond to psychological needs, as well as staff members who maintain current First-Aid and CPR certifications.
- Each campus has an athletic trainer and health aid on staff.
- AEDs are in place at all of our campuses, with all administrative staff and coaches trained to use them.
- School/offices have emergency response plans, guidelines, and reference guides to assist staff in every type of emergency.
- Emergency Communications:
- An automated all-call telephone and email communication system exists to communicate and disseminate information to parents and families. The District is currently working to add student contact information to this all-call system.
- Schools have hand-held radios for on-campus and cross-district communications.
What Parents and Students Can do to Prepare
- In the event of an emergency, the District will communicate with parents through the primary phone and email address listed in Infinite Campus. Parents and guardians, please make sure you have the correct contact information on file with your child’s school and update that information as soon as it changes.
- We also strongly encourage parents and students to create and discuss their own emergency preparedness plans as a family. As part of this process and for the safety of our students, it is critically important for students to memorize key contact numbers, including the cell phone numbers of their parents and other family members in case of an emergency where they are unable to access their own cell phones.
Student and staff safety is our top priority, and we will continue to ensure that students feel safe, connected and ready to learn in our school communities.