Statement from the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association

On FUSD’s decision to not reopen campuses for spring 2021

April 2, 2021

We share the disappointment and confusion of many in the community over FUSD management’s decision to keep school campuses closed for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. This is an injustice to our students.

We have been eager to collaborate with FUSD management on what reopening schools would look like since the District brought their first proposal to us in December, after reversing the School Board’s previous decision (which was to wait for 7 days of no new COVID cases in the county before discussing reopening campuses). Our negotiations have centered on school safety as the top priority, on supporting our most vulnerable students per AB 86, and on ensuring that FUSD qualifies for the additional funding provided by AB 86.

One of the most challenging parts of this process has been finding a middle ground for our community. We know that Distance Learning is not working for some students, particularly those identified by AB 86. In asking ourselves what we could do to provide additional supports for those students, we have also carried the weight as teachers of knowing that the vast majority of our students and their families actually want to finish the year in Distance Learning. This is informed not only by anecdotal experience shared by many of Fremont’s educators, but also by FUSD’s own survey data.

Therefore, our challenge was to find a compromise that would provide support for students who need it, while at the same time not creating new problems for the majority of students by dramatically lowering the quality of Distance Learning education in Fremont.

Finding this middle ground has been one of our greatest challenges as a teachers union. As educators who overcome the daily challenges of outdated materials, deteriorating classrooms, a severe lack of student mental health supports, and so many other injustices in the public education system, we were fully committed to finding a way to reopen in spring to meet the needs of our students.

We had made significant progress with FUSD management recently, and we were confident that an agreement on reopening elementary campuses was within reach. We were prepared to sign a tentative agreement on Wednesday. However, FUSD management’s last minute ultimatums undermined this process. Management walked away from our students, our teachers, and $10 million that could have done much for our community.

We felt management’s demands—such as requiring teachers to instruct over Zoom and in person simultaneously, without even a guarantee of student technology devices—were not what is best for kids, and were not necessary to reopen campuses for our vulnerable populations. The District previously agreed with teachers that this was not best practice and had written it into our original agreement, so we were confused by this ultimatum. We know that the majority of Fremont educators would vote to reject District management’s plans to implement this, because we have explicitly asked them multiple times.

We are also offended that FUSD management thinks our teachers are not currently working, as many of their comments to us have suggested. On the contrary, our teachers have worked tirelessly to shift their instruction to Distance Learning to best meet the needs of our students. We don’t know why District management chose to enter office buildings away from kids, but we chose to enter the classroom because we love teaching children and we put in the work to do it successfully. We are offended—but unsurprised—that District management disregards the invisible labor of a female-dominated profession.

We were prepared to sign an agreement for elementary on Wednesday, March 31. FUSD management walked away from any chance of an agreement by giving us an impossible ultimatum that we know our educators would have overwhelmingly voted down—as we saw happen this week in Newark.

Although FUSD management walked away from reopening campuses in spring, we continue in our commitment to collaborate with District management on summer school/ESY and the fall.

Our students deserve such commitment.

To join our efforts in providing the best education possible for Fremont’s students, please submit this form.

Always for our students,

Victoria Birbeck-Herrera

Educators Union President, FUDTA