By: Tammy Tseng
On October 23, SURFBoardE (Students United for the Representation to the Fremont Unified School District Board of Education), FUSD’s student council, hosted its first ever school board forum. SURF is comprised of student representatives from each of the FUSD high schools, who organize an annual leadership conference for elementary and junior high students as well as several charity events and drives throughout the year. This year students decided to take a step beyond giving to the community and get directly involved. With the November elections right around the corner, the forum gave school board candidates Desrie Campbell, Ann Crosbie, Reshma Karipineni, Lily Mei, Hiu Ng, and Yang Shao another chance to address the community’s educational concerns. Rather than concentrating on the board policies or budget cuts the candidates had spoken about in previous forums, SURF’s forum was unique in that it specifically focused on teaching and educational regulations that directly affect students. The moderators’ questions covered teacher evaluations, math and science curriculum, reduced class sizes, sex education, and the homework policy.
The increased proportion of students in the audience as compared to previous forums encouraged candidates to focus on issues that most heavily influence youth education. Karipineni emphasized learning in the context of student interests to engage classes and take learning to a higher level. Shao stressed the need for teachers to guide students toward self-improvement and Crosbie spoke about her desire to decrease student stress and work closely with parents and the community. Campbellstated her intent to reward outstanding instructors to improve retention of the district’s best teachers. The forum also gave the candidates an opportunity to let their personal experience shine through. Many of them cited their own experiences as FUSD parents in substantiating their policies and goals. Mei advocated balancing out homework loads with quality family time and Ng underscored the need for promoting clear goals and time management among students.
WashingtonHigh Schoolseniors Kyle O’Hollaren, current SURF president, and Harley Litzelman moderated the forum. All the questions asked at the forum were written by SURF members and meant to address the issues and concerns faced by most FUSD students. “I feel that I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish,” said Litzelman. “The forum went well and we effectively addressed student and teacher concerns.” The candidates also expressed surprise and pleasure at the student turnout that night. “I thought the questions were very thought-provoking and that the students did a great job,” said Crosbie.
Crosbie and many of the other candidates praised SURF for planning the forum and for their efforts to bring the focus of the election to the students. “I definitely want to see this forum continued in the future,” said Litzelman. “Since we still had questions we wanted to ask today, in later years there could be multiple student-run forums to address all pertinent issues. SURF could also try switching to hosting forums in high schools or as assemblies during school time to encourage higher student attendance.”