FUSD answers parents' concerns

District says it has programs for truancy and English learners.

The Fresno BeeFebruary 22, 2013 

Fresno Unified already has programs for truancy and English learners that address concerns raised Thursday night by a speaker at a Roosevelt High-area town hall meeting, a district official said Friday.

But the district "will continue to pursue strategies to make sure all of our students have the greatest opportunity to succeed," said district spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser.

The district provides training to teachers and staff to ensure that all students are prepared for college and careers, Fraser said.

The Roosevelt meeting was the second in a series organized by Reform Fresno Unified. Last month, Bullard-area residents and parents packed that school's cafeteria to voice concerns about overcrowding, school discipline, student uniforms and a lack of gifted and talented programs, and last week Bullard parents presented school trustees with a list of demands.

Roosevelt's meeting drew six of the seven district trustees, with the exception of Cal Johnson, who represents the Edison area. Board members did not address the audience at the meeting.

Having multiple trustees in attendance did not violate the Brown Act, Fraser said. The act allows a majority of the board to attend an open and publicized meeting organized by a person or group other than Fresno Unified to address a topic of local concern, she said. However, the trustees cannot discuss among themselves business of the district.

Trustee Luis Chavez, elected in November to represent the Roosevelt area, said he took two messages from the meeting: "We need to work on how we track and classify our English learners and focus more resources toward that, and we need to expand and provide more options for vocational training for our students."

Chavez said the district dedicated a new classroom wing at Roosevelt High on Thursday morning, which includes space for vocational training, a step toward expanding options for students. But for English learners, Chavez said, the district needs to provide a way for parents to monitor the progress their children are making to become proficient.

At the town hall meeting, Esmeralda Diaz, who ran unsuccessfully against Chavez in November, said English learners are about 25% of the students in the district, but only 9%, or 1,816 students, were considered proficient in English and redesignated to other classes.

Fraser said Friday that 16,897 students are English learners -- about 23.8% of the district's enrollment -- and the district redesignated 10,087 students as proficient in English. These are students who were initially identified as English learners and have met the criteria to be reclassified as English-proficient students, she said.

Chavez said the meeting became heated at times Thursday night, but he welcomed the exchange of ideas and dialogue. "The most important thing is, we work toward solutions."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, banderson@fresnobee.com or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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