Today is Day 113 of my time left at Fremont. Many of us are engaged in making a statement—by not speaking. We’re calling it the Day of Silence. Many of us who have pledged not to reapply for our jobs at the Mont are dressed in black. Many have also set up lessons which are student-driven/student-directed—and we are not speaking (in my class, we just happened to be studying laissez-faire capitalism and the labor movement, so World History Standard 10.3.4 is posted (concerning those topics), and the students are being asked to apply those characteristics to the reconstitution process, deciding what roles are being played by teachers, administration, students, parents and community. What I find interesting is that while I was prepping the students yesterday, many were holding up their phones and telling me they had been forwarding text messages to also wear black in solidarity with the teachers. I expect visits today from administration and I’m sure some of us will get pressured or dinged on evaluations. At least we’re doing something and the kids are getting it—in fact, better than some adults.
Mat Taylor (for the benefit of those reading this who are not at the Mont), for many years team-taught sophomores and seniors with me, and has taught English at the Mont for a quarter of a century (and he’ll always be two years older than me ;)) served for many of those sixteen tumultuous years as the UTLA chapter chair, and currently serves as the South Area Chair. A couple of days ago he wrote something and placed it in our boxes. I decided it needed a wider audience:
Reconstitution: What We Must Do
Even though I have been coming to Fremont during my off-track time on a fairly regular basis, it wasn’t until I came back on-track this week that it hit me again—this may be my last semester at Fremont. I thought I had dealt with my sorrow and my anger in December. Seeing my students again has brought the emotions back to the surface. Like so many of us, I want to come back. “They can’t do this!” “This isn’t right!” “I’ve been here 25 years, this is my home!”
What makes things easier is knowing I’m not the only one—others feel just like I do. We recognize the look in each other’s eyes. We’re in this together. We’re family. My point? I know we all have individual issues, but… WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! As best we can, we need to make collective decisions. We won’t achieve our goals acting alone. The New Fremont mapped out by those above us, the “High Priority Committee” (whose names we aren’t informed of), without our input, will not begin to significantly improve academic achievement. Not even in three or four years will cosmetic schedule changes, wholesale teacher upheaval or cut and paste structural shifts increase test scores to a degree that the powers that be can claim our students are better off. And meanwhile, will there be simple growing pains or an unavoidable chaotic learning environment? Even with how rough the New Fremont road ahead looks, yes, we still would like to be a part of it. All of us want to return! But that doesn’t mean we will reapply for our jobs.
And why are so many of us still not reapplying? Because we know that the process is rigged, it’s a fixed game. Just like they’ve admitted that this reconstitution was planned months before they told us, they already have a list. They already know whom they will have back and whom they will not. Simply put, this is not fair, not even close to equitable or justifiable. Just be a part of the process they say. How can we and still look ourselves in the mirror?
More to the point, how can we look our students in the eyes, those wonderful young folks who we teach about truth, beauty, and joy no matter what the class may be called? We stand, all together now, stand for what’s best about Fremont High and what’s best for our students. We must send a message. All of us must return. Don’t divide us. Not now. The teachers will not be scapegoated. Our students will not continue to be blamed. The community should be involved, engaged and uplifted, not left out, ignored and abandoned. There’s plenty of blame to go around for all of this in a state where education funding is last in the country, in a district where consultants have more power than parents and at a school where generations of mediocre leadership have driven so many good teachers away.
So, we will not reapply. We will stick together for our students. What happens if we don’t? We will still have jobs, but we know that’s not the point. We belong here, and the only was we ALL can stay is if we ALL don’t reapply.
We must, we will, make them change their minds. We are doing this not just for Fremont, but for all of LAUSD and its teachers. If they can do it here, they’ll do it there. Cortines is already threatening many other schools. We must push back! We must show them reconstitution can’t be easily done. We must fight together to show them that this should never happen at another school. It’s clearly not just about ourselves, but about our responsibility and integrity as professionals.