Day 27 Friday June 4, 2010: Under Pressure

 

Today is Friday, June 04, 2010 and is Day 27 of my time left at the Mont, 16 days of actual class time. It is also essentially the one-year anniversary of when teachers and counselors chose to lose an hour of paid time. (Actually, the anniversary is Sunday, the anniversary of what everyone prefers to call D-Day, but that’s the weekend, eh? Doesn’t count.) On that day, they wore black and stood in front of the Mont to protest the RIF notices, eliminating teaching positions. They also awaited the arrival of Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

 

When he did at last arrive, I remember people shouting, “There he is!” Many of us followed him and he faced us in the Quad, where we put questions to him. I think that was when we lost the Mont.

 

People have asked the same question since December 9th. “Why us?” It has been observed that we are not the worst school in D7 or LAUSD. We didn’t even make the list of worst schools for the state of California. Yeah, Superintendent Cortines has his complaints, such as the one he sent me in an email dated June 2nd: “I know that there are people that believe Fremont is running well, but I just don't know how any of us can justify that only 1.5 percent of the students at Fremont are at the proficient level in mathematics.”

 

But we still are not the worst or even among the worst schools. So why?

 

After we confronted Superintendent Cortines, he met with us in the library a couple of weeks later. He then told us “Fremont holds a special place in my heart” and that we would be able to have input into the selection of a successor to Larry Higgins. RIF notices were discussed; cases were made for individual teaching positions and just who could be saved from the unemployment abyss. Jobs were saved, but I had to say goodbye to Cynthia Rosado, a former student who shared two periods of sophomores with me her first and only year of teaching at the Mont. When she realized I would be her partner again and we could plan across the curriculum, she dove into it with enthusiasm—only to be one of the ones not saved. Another casualty.

 

But we were getting others back, concentrated on them.

 

Then we got Mr. Balderas in July. Yeah, we didn’t pick him, had no hand into his selection, but many of us shrugged it off. On a personal level, I was trying to get used to a lack of the open animosity Mr. Higgins showed me.

 

So, “Why us?”

 

When many of us took our action that day in front of the school, when many of us wore black, and carried a coffin emblazoned with the words, “Budget Cuts Kill Kids’ Futures”, and had someone dress as the Grim Reaper… there were meetings going on at D7… But…

 

We are not the worst or even among the worst schools, as we all have said. But no war gets fought for only one reason. This is a war.  Against us.

 

Test scores are a factor.  One factor.  So is greed. “I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.”—Gordon Gekko, “Wall Street” Odd just how, with just the substitution of “school” for “company or corporation” and “Fremont” for “Teldar Paper” that this monologue be made to fit our state of affairs. Think about that SIG grant  of six million dollars and what has been destroyed in the name of educational salvation  “Why do you need to wreck this company?” “Because it's WRECKABLE, all right? I took another look at it and I changed my mind!”

 

I would hope that this has nought to do with vengeance. Yet, why are no administrators permitted to write letters of reference? Why was a memo issued to that effect (on pink paper, remember?)? Why has the process of rehiring been so opaque, rather than the transparency promised? Why were threats made about not being paid during the summer, loss of benefits? Options get eliminated before our eyes.

 

And no the letter sits beside me, pulled from an envelope with a red “Confidential” stamp in the lower right-hand corner. The directions on the letter state that I am “required to follow the instructions” and contact a Personnel Specialist, and that my “Notification of Displacement”, which states I am being “displaced” because I’m at an “over-teachered School”, has been faxed to Human Resources. There’s also a number for, I presume, counseling, to provide me “with assistance during this transitional period.”

 

Feels like I’m staring into an abyss. But, to quote “Wall Street,” “Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

 

I called the number and as soon as I mentioned Fremont was told, “Register for a Job Fair to be held for District 7 on Friday, June 11th.” Or I could go try to find a job on my own after mine had been taken from me without any bad evaluations. When I asked about the transfer papers I filed on February 16th (as posted in Day 136, “Teach Your Children”), I was told that information was not available.

 

“Why not?”

 

“The computer is still processing it.”

 

“Really? Still? When will I be given the results?” Maybe this was an early, wood-burning or coal-burning model they were using.

 

Silence. “In a couple of weeks.”

 

“The computer is going to have to work on my transfer for two more WEEKS?”

 

“Yes, sir, about that long.” Well, using ISIS to take attendance or do grades seems to take that long… Maybe…

 

I thought computers were fast. I mean, I’ve seen them in “Star Trek.” Maybe the District one is calculating pi or is battling illogic. That always worked in “Star Trek.”

 

But “Star Trek” is science fiction.

 

I think this is fantasy. “You could always register for the job faire.” (Sorry, that spelling always looks more proper to me. Must be the medieval and Renaissance stuff). Now THAT firmly puts the situation in the realm of fantasy, eh?

 

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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