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Fresno Unified Board Adopts Curriculum of ‘Hmong Voices’

August 9, 2007

By Farin MontaNez, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Aug. 9–Fresno Unified’s school board adopted a new curriculum Wednesday night in an effort to teach children more about southeast Asian heritage.

The “Hmong Voices” curriculum will be taught to all children in grades 2 through 11 beginning this school year.

The curriculum will include a “Remembering the Hmong” booklet about Hmong history and culture and the role of the Hmong people in the Vietnam War. Also included is a documentary series on DVD. Lesson plans for teachers are available online.

“This [curriculum] came about 30 years too late,” said trustee Manuel Nunez, referring to the time when Hmong refugees began to make Fresno their home.

Board member Tony Vang said it is a triumph that Hmong students will get to learn their history because they are otherwise unrepresented in history books. But learning their history will be hard, he said.

“When talking about Hmong history — it’s so painful, so painful,” he said after sharing that his father and four brothers died during the Vietnam War.

As a result of Assembly Bill 78, written by former Assembly Member Sarah Reyes and signed by Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, California became the first state to include a history of the Secret War — a CIA-organized mission waged in Laos — in its public schools’ standard curriculum.

A pilot program at Fresno Unified was introduced in January to 10th-grade Modern World History classes, said Caran Resciniti, the district’s curriculum and instruction administrator.

In other business

The board adopted a curriculum for all special education subject areas for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The curriculum and accompanying training for special education teachers and administrators will be paid for with $400,000 in California lottery funds, said Doug Jones, assistant superintendent of special education.

Before this adopted curriculum, teachers relied on networking to find materials to use with their special education students — which make up about 11% of the district’s enrollment. Now they have “a systemic, districtwide framework for students in these classrooms,” Jones said.

Trustees discussed the way Fresno Unified school board meetings and committees operate.

The board had written a policy that would increase the number of district meetings to three each month instead of two. But at the July 27 meeting, several audience members spoke out against the new policy, saying it could violate public meetings law and limit public access.

Over the past couple of weeks, a board sub-committee — made up of trustees Manuel Nunez, Cal Johnson and board president Carol Mills — discussed alternatives to the policy. They came up with a suggestion to hold two business meetings per month and only four workshops per year.

Fresno Unified school board meetings usually run about four or five hours, Nunez said. Under the new policy, the meetings would only last from 30 minutes to a couple of hours each by holding the consent agenda and discussion agenda on separate days, he said.

The goal is to streamline meetings and reduce the time that staff spend preparing for the meetings so that they can focus more of their time on student achievement, said trustee Janet Ryan.

The subcommittee’s suggestion would also allow more opportunities for public comment.

The subcommittee will meet again Friday to “flesh out the details” of a suggestion for a new policy, Mills said.

The reporter can be reached at fmontanez@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6308.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

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