Wednesday’s FUSD board meeting featured board members quoting Killmonger, grandmothers crying over school safety and questions around African-American students being English language learners. Most importantly, the board reviewed the proposed budget recommendations for the 2018/2019 school year.
Last weeks events in Parkland, FL also had an impact on Wednesday’s FUSD board meeting. School safety is a serious concern of the public’s and the board’s and Board President Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the Parkland shooting victims.
Superintendent Bob Nelson assured the public that FUSD is working closely with the police due to last weeks social media threats towards Edison and Sunnyside High School. Board member Christopher De La Cerda mentioned 1999 Columbine High School saying, “None of my colleagues and I ever thought that would happen again, and again, and again.”
A worried grandmother is asking for metal detectors in schools. She approached the board and asked, “What are we going to do about safety?” She teared up saying, “We could be those parents on national TV,” referring to the parents of the Parkland shooting victims.
District staff presented a proposed budget to the board that has yet to be approved. Board members had concerns with the English Language Learners Program. This program, on average, serves 28,000 English language learners enrolled in Fresno Unified every year.
Board member Brooke Ashjian said, “21% of American-American students meet their grade level standard.” It was a board wide concern that African-American children were not represented in the program.
District staff explained that African-American students weren’t represented because their primary language is English. Board member Ashjian argued that the programs mission didn’t specify that the students’ primary language had to be something other than English.
Ashjian went on to quote Killmonger from the new Marvel movie “Black Panther” saying, “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Ashjian continued, “If we don’t teach these kids how to read, we’re putting them in bondage.”
Board member Chukwuemeka (formerly Cal Johnson) asked district staff, “Why is it that African-American students have such low passing rates?” No one had an answer for him. Chukwuemeka went on to ask, “How committed are we to meeting the needs of those African-American students?” Changes will be made to address the concerns.
In other board news, FUSD is accepting name suggestions for a new southeast elementary school projected to open in 2020. The board approved Roosevelt High School renaming their theater in dedication of Audra Mcdonald. Lastly, a renewal agreement with Medical Eye Services was approved despite board member Ashjian’s concerns with the program.
Medical Eye Services goes to schools giving young students free glasses to help them read. Currently they don’t have enough optometrists willing to volunteer their time or other resources to go to every school in Fresno Unified. They are only able to visit a select few and this didn’t sit well with one board member. Board member Ashjian said, “It’s sounds like we’re picking winners and losers.” He wants the services to be available at all schools or none at all.
The next FUSD board meeting will be held on March 7, 2018. Connect with The kNOw on Twitter to see live updates.