By Staff Writer Sakshi Umrotkar
Who Is Vivek Prasad?
Prasad, a Fremont resident of 25 years, has worked in Silicon Valley as an executive. He currently oversees customer success as the Vice President of Applications Engineering at Synopsys, an electronic design automation company that focuses on chip design and software security. He has spent nine years on the MPFFA executive board, serving as MPPFA President for four of those years, during which he played a significant role in endorsing local bond measures and fundraising initiatives that brought in an annual increase of $105,000. Prasad was also an FUSD parent and uses his past experiences as a parent to reflect on changes that he wishes the district would implement to improve students’ experiences.
COVID-19 AND THE SCHOOL BUDGET:
To ensure equity in students’ educational experiences during distance learning, Prasad hopes to methodically open up selective classrooms with social distancing to provide FUSD students with appropriate learning environments.
He plans on surveying all stakeholders to determine future shifts to an in-person or hybrid learning model for school reopenings when it is safe to do so. His plan for reopening schools, when Alameda County approves it, is to allow students to return to in-person learning based on their needs. “The readiness and sanitation requirements that are necessary would have to be met,” Prasad said. “We have to go with whatever Alameda County’s guidance is. Once they allow it, our plan should be to phase it in rather than try to do everything all at once.”
“I don’t think we need to rush to come back to school,” Prasad said. He plans to give priority to unhoused students, students with inadequate learning environments at home, and students who don’t have the appropriate infrastructure to attend Zoom meetings everyday, with the rest of students being phased into this model eventually until all students can safely attend school in-person.
“We have to look at individual needs. And then, with a survey of who is actually being able to learn okay from home, those should be the last ones to be brought in,” Prasad said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created many budget shortfalls. Prasad hopes to make up for these by opening new channels of revenue and better policies. He seeks to introduce funding policies inspired by his experience in the corporate world, focusing his platform on newer revenue streams to benefit FUSD schools. He plans to build a strong relationship with FUSD alumni to bring in alumni donations and create endowment funds to help improve campus facilities. As a strong proponent of local bond measures, he advocated for the Measure E Bond in 2014, through which FUSD received $650 million to modernize schools and renovate campus facilities, equipment, and electrical wiring.
He also emphasizes that campus renovations and upgrades to facilities align with the district’s original budget. Hiring the most capable contractors is his solution to preventing unanticipated expenditures.
Prasad aims to acknowledge students who wish to follow educational pathways differing from the typical four-year plan for higher education. To address their needs, he wants to make external programs and vocational courses more accessible to FUSD students.
“Personally I see that student success has been deprioritized to some extent… I was not happy that the only path we were training students for was a path to college. There’s no path to vocational degrees. There’s no path for people who start working after high school… They may not be interested [in courses] and then we force them to take courses that [they] could fail. And then we call them failures,” Prasad said.
He plans to have the district partner with local businesses to give students internship opportunities and provide students with more hands-on and applied learning experience. “Partnering with businesses is a good way of making sure that what each of you aspire to do is really something that you would actually enjoy and not something that’s a fantasy,” Prasad said.
In response to recent claims regarding school curricula lacking cultural diversity, Prasad hopes to work with FUSD teachers and diversify their skill sets to integrate more multicultural curricula in schools. He also believes that the current curriculum for history classes are Eurocentric and one-sided in their perspectives, and he hopes to remedy this by incorporating more cultural education on campuses.
Prasad believes that mental health is one of the largest concerns in FUSD schools. His understanding of this district-wide problem is that students’ academic, extracurricular, and personal pressures create unhealthy and stressful environments that lead them to view school negatively.
“There is some structure needed in education, but by removing arts programs and support for music and sports, what we’ve done is removed the creativity part of it … For most students, not having options creates a challenge. So the stress levels can be managed by providing that variety,” Prasad said.
Some of his policies to ease students’ pressure include reallocating funds to sports and art programs, allowing students the chance to engage in hobbies and less stress-inducing courses as a break from their rigorous core curricula, and moderating the stress that teachers and parents may put on students. Another key implementation that he believes will improve FUSD students’ mental health in the long term is the introduction of mental health education in elementary schools.
“The other problem in mental health is that kids don’t realize that they’re stressed and they’re getting mental health problems. So how do we help them be self-aware?… Why not start in elementary school so that you can self-diagnose yourself?”
Prasad views inclusivity and diversity as FUSD’s strength. He believes that educating students and teachers about diversity and integrating sensitivity training into the district’s protocols will help combat issues of racism and prejudice.
“We want to educate our parents and teachers … so they’re not unnecessarily making things more competitive than they need to be,” Prasad said.
Prasad hopes to give special education students the option of enrolling in Honors and AP courses and integrating them with other students as well. He also believes that investing in speech therapy for students with speech disabilities will improve their communication skills while allowing them more opportunities to interact with peers on campus.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS:
Prasad believes that School Resource Officers (SROs) play a large role in ensuring students’ physical safety and wellbeing on campuses. He wants to include all stakeholders in this discussion — students, parents, administration and faculty — to guarantee transparency and encourage participation in conversations regarding SROs’ roles in student safety. The goal of increasing transparency is to expedite the decision-making process and ensure that the resolution prioritizes student safety.
LEARN MORE ABOUT VIVEK PRASAD:
Visit Vivek Prasad’s website at www.vote4vp.com