Day 133  Friday, February 19, 2010: Lie To Me or Won’t Get Fooled Again


Today is Day 133 of my time left at Fremont.


When it was proposed that teachers and other staff and select parents step up and join the “committees” to design the New Fremont, there were few takers from the faculty. Many of the faculty felt that if their roles were to be purely advisory, that participation did not guarantee re-employment, then why go along with the sham. And there are those unfortunate few individuals who feel it is not an “employee’s place” to dictate policy.


We’re not “employees,” except in the strictest of senses. We’re not parts that can easily be replaced like the way my Ukrainian immigrant dad kept his fleet of 70s Datsuns (yes, I said Datsun, not Nissan) running. But evidently we already have been replaced. Encouraged to reapply, we have been warned by the administration that there exists the magical organization ready to supply Fremont with 150 fresh new faces, that on Tuesday, Day 136, that 100 applications to reapply at Fremont have been turned in—on the same day that the Pathways and Humanitas C SLCs marched in en mass to have their transfer papers signed.


And now we see the plans for the New Fremont at,1,Slide 1


Looks to me like those committees really were window dressing after all. Looks like there is no input from faculty, staff, parents, students, community—you know, what’s that word that gets used during accreditation visits or gets trotted out by administration and LAUSD whenever people see a need for change… Ah, “stakeholders,” yeah… Where was the input from the stakeholders in this vision of the New Fremont?


Did LAUSD have this plan already in place when they asked teachers to join the “committees”? If so, why ask us to rubber-stamp it?


If the plan was quickly assembled in the last couple of weeks, without faculty or parental or student or community input, then certainly the “stakeholders” do not matter in this. I certainly am inclined to believe these groups do not matter, anyway, because LAUSD revoked permits for UTLA rallies, which would have offered dissenting opinion to district policy, have revoked a permit for a parent/community meeting, which was far better advertised and announced that the sham meeting a handful of parents attended.


Why does LAUSD not want the parents and community involved? Could it be that when this travesty was attempted in Chicago, that some of the neighborhoods organized and said, “No”? Why does LAUSD fear the word “No”? Why do they fear even the thought of hearing another opinion?


Let’s time travel. Let’s look at the New Fremont.


A lot of the numbers will have remained the same, for Fremont will still be in the same community, so we’ll see (I’m pulling these “stats” directly from,1,Slide 1) :

A high school in District 7, run by Dr. George McKenna III,  and no reason to expect he’ll treat the new staff any differently than he does the current faculty;

4600 students oin a 3-track, year round calendar;

92%  Latino, 8% African-American;

85% socio-economically disadvantaged;

10% Special Education students—500+;

37% English Learners—1700+;

Math and Science Magnet—280 students;

240 certificated teachers and support staff;

150 classified employees.


There will be a new schedule—4x4 Block, with 90 minute periods, capable of bending time and space as easily as any Star Trek engineer, cramming 14 classes a year where only 12 existed before, and the remaining 12 SLCs (since the Magnet school gets to remain with their 300 students) will be collapsed into 5 Academies of 500 students each, and the 9th graders will be placed in “Centers”—and there will never be a 9R! How miraculous is that?


But since classes will be longer (and they already are longer than classes at traditional schools, which makes the absenteeism even more crucial), each day a student misses school, they will have missed that much more of instruction. Our classes are 59 minutes long, while traditional periods are shorter; to miss a couple of days at a Concept 6 school actually creates a greater impact than at a traditional school, if you think of minutes of instruction—and we are frequently reminded by the administration to have “bell-to-bell instruction.” Or is what we do that easily replaced, eh? So, given the average student misses 25-30 days of instruction in a 162-day Concept 6 year (the Good Doctor’s figures), imagine the impact of missing 25-30 days of 90-minute periods.


Let’s look at the 9th grade “centers” (why aren’t they “academies—perhaps the question is merely… academic?): We had the attempt of the 9th-grade house, where teachers were given an extra period to counsel students who were in trouble academically (and Lord knows how many other ways a 14-year-old can get into trouble); there were successful advances, but when the funding dried up for that extra attention, there were those 9Rs (and we have been promised “No 9Rs” in the New Fremont). They will be isolated from the rest of the population and serviced (anyone else hear Beevis and Butthead?) in a Pyramid of Success by everyone except teachers, as has been observed by at least one observant 9th grade teacher. By the way, lots of pretty pyramids and circles and flow charts on the Powerpoint, but as with most Powerpoints, pretty and vague brushstrokes and not much substance; guess that’s kind of like a Monet (I think I just quoted “Clueless”—I’m so ashamed…)—very pretty from far away, but up close is a very different picture.


Look again:


There are 240 certificated teachers and support staff, and 150 classified staff. Remember that there are these magical organizations ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to replace all those lazy Fremont staff. So let’s pretend those 150 teachers who are ready to go, do just that—go to the Mont. That leaves 90 experienced teachers, while a bunch of enthusiastic recruits fresh out of college will be in overcrowded classes. Wait, the classes are still going to be overcrowded, right? Or did the budgetary problems which caused as the RIFs (hi, Cynthia Rosado and Oscar Navarro—everyone else reading can add their own names to the “Comments” section) and which threaten more this year reverse themselves and we might actually lower the student-to-teacher ratio (is it “lower” when there’s fewer students?).


So let’s picture a 10th grade world history class: At the beginning of each semester, there are usually 40+ in my classes. It generally takes me a few weeks to get enough seats for everybody, crowding the kids around the tables in my room. Let’s assume this will remain the same, except someone new will we in my old room, the “O-Zone.” New teacher (maybe first or second year), 40+ students (constant movement there because some disappear, others move in, others get dumped in). No working phones or speakers in either of the rooms that were designated the O-Zone, so there goes contact. Every morning, whoever is teaching there will get to reassemble the room because of the ravages of adult school or Saturday school—Beyond the Bell in all its glory—and will have to leave shortly after school.  Under the current situation, I would know which teachers to check with and to plan cross-curricular teaming to solve problems in class, and to plan vertical teaming for the students’ following years. Kiss that goodbye, for the 13 SLCs are not collapsed into 5 academies and the Magnet school. The subjects go back into isolation, no longer visibly connected for the kids. To give you examples, Ms. Naneka William’s teaches the book “Things Fall Apart,” while I cover the historical aspects of imperialism and colonialism. Ms. Edelman teaches mythology and I cover the Classical World (I teach in 2 SLCs, so I can reach more 10th graders); she teaches Shakespeare—I cover the Renaissance. Simple, yes? The kids make connections between the subjects.


That goes away, wished into the academic cornfield of LAUSD’s Twilight Zone. Mine is not the only case. Most of us are doing this very thing, but next year you will have 150 new teachers (62% or something like that—remember I don’t get ratios) teaching in isolation in overcrowded conditions. And be expected to increase the graduation rate and raise test scores.


But don’t worry. Next year will only be a “period of adjustment,” while LAUSD and the Fremont administration “irons out the problems.” (Hey, maybe we can just go out an buy the solution from Scholastic Books… ). So if you are a parent or a student at the New Fremont, you just have to be patient and understanding. Transitions take time… You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs… So what if your children get a quarter of their time at Fremont written off.? The year after next will be better… Oh, yeah, the year after next the population of Fremont gets divided between Original Fremont and the two new high schools, so Fremont will get to play that game all over again… And, after all, you have to be patient that year, too; each of these schools will really be THREE NEW HIGH SCHOOLS with faculty, staff, students, parents and community all adjusting to the changes together.


My, what a bright, rosy future those teachers who are reapplying, and those 150 new teachers and support staff and 150 classified staff have to look forward to.


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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.


    August 2010



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