Lawmakers, educators, and community come together at California School for the Deaf, Fremont

Article Published on November 16, 2023

Elected leaders came out to see the work we do every day to keep California running, and union workers at California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSD) provided them with an educational opportunity.

On Friday, November 3rd, elected officials, including state senators, assembly members, and Local 1000 and public education leadership attended a tour of the CSD campus, where they were introduced to staff, students, and community members. 

Ty Kovacs, an educator at CSD, union leader, and chair of the Save Our School committee, saw this opportunity to showcase the educational excellence that CSD provides as an internationally recognized leader in bilingual and multicultural education, as well as to address the cost of living issues that have plagued the school.

“We need this to be approached and recognized by elected officials so we can see the changes that we’ve needed for over 30 years now,” said Kovacs, “The State should feel proud of the educational workers here and that takes an investment from elected officials.”

CSD, which provides an environment for Deaf students to socialize in their own language, focuses on maintaining a ‘critical mass’ of students using ASL as both the language of instruction as well as the language of socialization. This is rarely present in other schools, and ASL speakers often struggle without access to social and leadership opportunities.

“The students shared their stories with the visitors, talking about how they struggled at a mainstream school before they were able to attend CSD,” said Kovacs. “Here, they have clubs and programs they can participate in, and they made it clear how they’ve grown, how they have become leaders by having full language accessibility.”

Attendees were impressed with how students led the tour of the facility, introducing the principal, the buildings and the campus to the visiting elected officials.

“This helps build their confidence and gives them experiences interacting with elected officials, which is a unique opportunity for students at CSD,” said Kovacs. “We saw some tears from our staff who had struggled and were living in vehicles and still were able to provide for our school and remain strong.”

Fremont is the only fully accessibly school for Deaf students in Northern California. Without educational programs like these, students would not be able to access their culture or these opportunities at another school.

“Without CSD, the Deaf community in Fremont would suffer. Issues like gentrification and cultural genocide have an economic and social impact on the Deaf community, so educators try to provide students with leadership experience and learning about policy,” said Kovacs. “It’s important that we approach the hearing members of the administration with our community, our culture, and our academics. We provide a high quality of education, and we’re trying to share that with the broader community.”

CSD moved to Fremont in 1980, after the State used their previous location to expand the University of California, Berkeley campus. At the time, the cost of living was low in Fremont and a Deaf community soon developed, anchored around the school. However, by 1990, the cost of living was already rising, and soon people began being priced out.

“We need assistance from the State to ensure these resources continue to be available and keep our community in Fremont,” said Kovacs. “If we don’t persevere this, our community will be gone.”

Local 1000 plays a huge role in helping protect the school and its community. It’s hard for educators and staff, already dealing with day-to-day issues of teaching and making ends meet in the high-cost area.

“The Union allows us to approach the State with our issues, and we appreciate the Union addressing these issues through bargaining and negotiation with the State,” said Kovacs, “eespecially when the State is unwilling to address something. We work closely together with our bargaining unit and legislators, and without the Union’s support, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show the campus to elected officials.”

The visibility of these programs is important to their continued success. While CSD is a model school, elected officials seeing firsthand the programs, services, and academic rigor provided is very important.

“Sometimes people assume our school is different because of the students’ needs, but our students are very capable,” said Kovacs. “We were glad to see the commitment to supporting our school from leaders.”