Dr. James Morris announces retirement to the Fremont community


Ayush Patel

After working for 37 years, Dr. James Morris has only taken one day off due to illness.

Ayush Patel, Student Life Editor

On April 12, Superintendent James “Jim” Morris announced that he would retire on July 1, 2017 after working for the Fremont Unified School District for seven years in order to take care of his aging parents. He will be succeeded by Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Kim Wallace. Dr. Morris started as a history and social science 30 years prior to becoming a superintendent in 2010. He worked as an elementary assistant principal, elementary principal, director of elementary instruction, assistant superintendent of instruction, and chief of staff in Los Angeles until a headhunter firm offered him a job as Superintendent of the Fremont Unified School District.

Since his appointment as superintendent, Dr. Morris has contributed to several changes about the district – two parcel (property) taxes, the largest school construction bond in Alameda history, a change in California Senate Bill 50, improvement in staff relationships, and the development of a new elementary school next to the Warms Springs BART Station.

“We passed two parcel taxes, which was really going out to the voters of Fremont,” Dr. Morris said. “Basically it says that you have to pay extra tax dollars to support kids in education. We passed the first parcel tax in 2010, and we renewed that tax in 2015.”

In 2014, the district passed a 650 million dollar construction bond, which was the largest in Alameda County history. The bond aims to fix and repair schools and as a result, Washington High School will have a new twelve classroom building next year.

In  addition to the construction bond, Dr. Morris and several students and parents traveled to Sacramento in order to modify California Senate Bill 50.

“We had a huge fight in Sacramento and we took busloads of folks twice to Sacramento last year, and we got the law changed to allow us to charge a higher fee to developers who are building new houses,” Dr. Morris said. “The other important fight that we took on was the Patterson Ranch fight. That was an interesting tussle we had with the developers building 500 homes in the north end of the town. We came to a settlement of a significant lawsuit that was really good for the school district because we have good schools for the kids to go to.”

Dr. Morris also worked to improve staff relationships with the district during his time as superintendent.

“Currently, we’re really focused on workforce housing,” Dr. Morris said. “We want to find ways in the community of Fremont in which we can build houses that the teachers in the school district can actually afford to live in. Right now, our teachers don’t make enough money –we can’t pay them enough money to buy homes in Fremont– and that’s just wrong.”

Finally, the district worked on building a new elementary school adjacent to the Warm Springs BART Station.

“We have developers who committed 42 million dollars, and are building the first brand new school that Fremont has had since Forest Park adjacent to the Warm Springs Bart Station,” Dr. Morris said. “People will see this school that sits at the intersection of Innovation Way, Discovery, and Enlightenment. ”

After Dr. Morris retires, the current Assistant of Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Kim Wallace, will take over his position as superintendent. Dr. Wallace has been with the FUSD for three years and has prior experience as a teacher, principal, and director. Dr. Wallace said that she plans to work backwards when she takes over Dr. Morris’ role.

“We’ve got about 10 major things happening in the district in 2018-19,” Dr. Wallace said. “We have our first middle school that’s opening. We have our special education preschool moving to a new site. We might have all of the adult education and continuation on one site. We’re looking at all kinds of different big moves. That means all of next year needs to be backwards planning so we’re reading for 2018-19 and everything goes smoothly. Really, we’re looking forward two years and then working our way back to see what do need to have in place to make sure all those big initiatives work out well.”

In the final part of the interview, Dr. Morris said that the most important job is serving the students.

“I believe in my heart that I am supposed to come to work to serve students,” Dr. Morris said, “and I was just raised to believe, if you have the heart of a servant and if you just remember that you’re supposed to be here to serve people, then the whole world will look different.”