If your children are enrolled in Fresno Unified School District and you haven’t yet heard from their teachers since schools closed due to COVID-19, you might want to call or email your trustee.
Frustrated parents normally would contact their child’s school principal, but it was made clear at Wednesday night’s board meeting that trustees want teachers to seriously ramp up distance learning. And, they voiced their concerns to Superintendent Bob Nelson.
The trustees’ email addresses and the phone numbers of their assistants are at this link.
Trustees said that they’ve heard from parents who are still waiting for their first phone call — five weeks after schools closed in an effort to contain the highly contagious novel coronavirus.
What’s The Follow-up?
Trustee Carol Mills said she has heard from families at different schools that they’ve had no contact with teachers.
“We’ve set standards and expectations for our teachers to connect with their students each week,” she said. “I would like to know if our instructional staff are following up on that.
“I understand there’s an adjustment period, but after five weeks I think families expected to have some contact.”
Nelson’s response was short and succinct: “Agree and will follow up with that.”
Fresno Unified teachers are supposed to connect with their students and their colleagues at least once a week and provide learning opportunities for students “to the greatest extent possible.”
The district is working on a plan for teachers to have virtual office hours for students.
Is Language A Barrier?
Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas said she has heard similar complaints of no teacher phone calls or emails from “lots” of families, particularly parents of English language learners.
She praised the hard work that many staffers are putting in as the district converts to a distance learning model of instruction, where students access their lessons online or with paper packets of instructional materials.
Even so, she said, the district needs to make sure that all students are being served by their teachers. If language is a barrier, teachers should have access to real-time language interpreting services, Jonasson Rosas said.
Sandra Toscano, assistant superintendent for English language services, said the district was working on a plan to increase accessibility for families to the site teams.
Trustee Veva Islas, who said she, too, has heard from parents about not being contacted yet by teachers, said parents should make sure that their phone and email is up-to-date in the district’s ATLAS information system.
Parents Need Support
Not every parent is fully literate, Islas said, and might benefit from directions that are more picture than word-oriented.
And for those who speak a language other than English — district students come from homes where 60 languages other than English are spoken — the district needs to make sure to communicate with them in their language, Islas said.
“Every parent deserves to be contacted and deserves to know how we will support them in the continuing education of their students,” she said.
Islas said that as a first-generation student herself, she knows the difficulties that many parents now face when trying to help their children with school work. Her own parents were unable to help her with algebra and science, for example, because of their own limited educations.
Support for these parents is crucial, she said. “Their advocacy is as much an effort about making sure their children have better opportunities in their life, and it is also a tremendous stressor for them. The more we can do to help support and alleviate that, the better.”
Dailey School Charter Renewed
After a lengthy discussion over whether Dailey Elementary Charter School is sufficiently diverse and not creating barriers for specific students, the Fresno Unified board voted 5-0, with abstentions by trustees Mills and Terry Slatic, to renew the school’s charter for another five years.
There’s no question about how well the school is performing academically, trustees said. But several raised issues over whether the central Fresno K-5 school is doing enough to increase enrollments of students who are low-income, English language learners, or in need of special education programs, they said.
When it came time for a vote on a motion to renew the charter, some of the trustees appeared to be confused over whether they were voting to table the renewal application for the second time that night (the first was when they agreed to table the application and consider it at the end of the meeting instead of nearer the beginning).
The district’s attorney informed them that once a vote had already started, they had to complete it.
The yes votes included board president Keshia Thomas and board clerk Valerie Davis, who sit with Nelson on Dailey’s seven-member board.