FFA and SEAL participants address School Board
FHS Students who joined in the Navy SEAL program.
FHS Students who joined in the Navy SEAL program.

The Future Farmers of America along with the students who attended the Navy Seal Challenge were presented at the May 20, 2014 Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board Meeting. Other items were software analysis, computer/operations upgrades and a special program at Sierra High School.

Anna Morilli, Fillmore High School Dean of Students, introduced the Future Farmers of America Timmy Klittich, Jessica Manginelli, Hannah Wisart, Jaylene Ortiz, Macie Wokal and Chris Berrington. Each student carried with them various plaques given by political leaders in recognition of their achievement and importance to both the community and the country. Superintendent Dr. Alan Nishino addressed the students stating, "We want to promote the future leaders of this country."

Next presented were Fillmore High School (FHS) students, Nick Bartels, Joshua Ruiz, Angel Velez, Matthew Hammond, Jessie Vasquez, Michael Castro, Donovan Mittchel and Terell Morales (not present), who participated in the US Navy Seals Challenge at US Navel Base in Coronado, California. This is an invitation only event and FHS was one of a few to receive the privilege. A short presentation showing much of what the participants endured, such as running three miles carrying sandbags, 70 pull-ups, and 300 sit-ups and push-ups. The students did an outstanding job and were told FHS students will be invited back.

Sierra High School teacher Laura Todis gave a report on the progress of the School Yard Habitat & Restoration Program. Students grades kindergarten, 3rd, 4th, 7th and high school are learning about the native plants, fish, birds and other living habitat that depend on the Santa Clara River. They visit the eight stations along the river and observe first hand how trash contaminates and endangers the natural habitat. Some attended the program last year and today can see how the drought has impacted water flow, which encouraged the students to conserve water. Todis informed the Board that the program is building skills important to the Common Core Standards.

During the Educational Services Reports two software programs being used at FUSD were discussed. Gary Mayeda explained about Attention 2 Attendance, a software and web based program that helps track attendance. The process, which is in its second year, automatically mails and emails parents of excessive absences and truancy and a conference may then be scheduled. Students are eligible for a conference after receiving two truancy letters and six or more unexcused absences. As of April 28, 2014 803 students have become eligible for a conference.

Another web-based math software started eight months ago as a pilot program is BrainWare Safari. The pilot program engages 125 3rd grade students at four elementary schools for 30-90 minutes 3 to 5 times per week for 11 weeks. The pre-assessment was in December 2012. Students began using BrainWave January 2013 thru March 2013. Mary Williams explained how the software works through neuroscience to improve attention, memory, thinking, visual processing, auditory processing and sensory integration and is already showing student improvement, especially in special ed students. Students say it is similar to a video game and they look forward to their sessions.

The BrainWare Company Winter 2014 Bulletin focused on FUSD's pilot program titled "Fillmore California Students Get a Brain Boost and Their State Test Scores Show It." The bulletin went on to state, "Results from the 2012 district's pilot implementation during the 2012-2013 school year showed consistent improvements across the board on state test scores, in both English Language Arts and Math."

FUSD now has 11 Special Education Teachers at four elementary schools and Fillmore Middle School using the program. The cost of the software program is $40,000 for 18 months.

Two other software being considered are SkateKids (ages 7 to 12) and Ramps to Reading (ages 4 to 7). SkateKids works on phonics, word decoding, comprehension, fluency and vocabulary and Ramps to Reading works to improve alphabet knowledge, sound/letter identification, phonics and comprehension.

There was some confusion about BrainWare not having been on the agenda calendar, but instead on just the consent calendar. The Board agreed to have it come back on the next scheduled meeting, June 3rd, to allow for public discussion.

One of the problems FUSD is facing is a problem many school districts throughout the country are grappling with; the cost of replacing/improving technology. Mike Pace, Information Technology Department, explained to the Board the equipment needed today: central core and servers, switching and storage equipment, power conditioning equipment, backup power systems, heating ventilation/ air conditioning, equipment mounting racks, cable management systems, telecommunications systems e.g. telephone and microwaves, fiber optics to site and FHS data facilities, remote monitoring equipment, etc. Much of FUSD's equipment was purchased in January 2008 (switches in 2009), are now considered at end of life. Pace explained the recent failures in many areas and now on temporary equipment which includes the air conditioning. It is very important computers stay cool to last longer. Another recent failure was the servers email service and uninterrupted power service. Pace said the room where the District Data Center is stored needs to be expanded to the adjacent room. The cost of the needed upgrades is at least a half million but could go up to $1million. New designs must be for future physical and logical growth and FUSD must establish a budget for a recurring cycle of equipment replacement.

Another agenda item was the approval of membership to the Boys' State. The American Legion California Boys' State teaches our youth the duties, rights and responsibilities of American Citizenship. Activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands chorus and recreational programs. High school juniors are selected by local American Legion Posts to attend the program. Before approval, Board Member Lucy Rangel told the other Board Members that if they are to approve the Boys' State, they should also approve the Girls' State. Rangel was then asked if there was such an organization. Rangel responded "Yes" and both were approved.