Day 18 Sunday June 13, 2010: The Boys Are Back In Town


Today is Sunday, June 13, 2010 and Day 18 of my time left at the Mont. Sometime soon, when the administration thinks it can get away with it, the Charlies, our security people (the redshirts in “Star Trek” terms), will be told who will stay and who will “not be a good fit with the New Fremont.” If last week was any indication, I want my stuff moved out by the end of the week.


Am I fanning the flames of panic? Nah. But I am one of those veteran teachers Mr. Higgins scorned during his tenure because experience made me question decisions being made. I guess that doesn’t make me a very good teacher. Or is that a good soldier?


Too bad. If I see a proposed path leading over a cliff, I’ll suggest we try a different route, perhaps one not so dependent upon gravity at its worst carrying matters to a painful conclusion.


You see, that experience thing is really the core of my subject area: history. History is pretty much based upon experience and asks did people benefit from experience? “What did we learn?” “Don’t do that.” Too often, we see the opposite, like the kids who did not pay attention about due dates and chances for extra credit. To steal a perfect expression from former Mont Special Ed teacher Debbie Ward, “It’s over. You missed the sale.”


That’s what these little love notes (or notes tied around flung bricks) are—experiences and perspectives fired like Green Arrow’s missiles. Insert Robin Hood, for the comic book challenged. Unfortunately, my record for hitting the target with these words is much more dismal that Oliver Queen’s aim. I just have to rely upon persistence, which I’ve been told is my forte. Annoying sidebar: I tried to think of the Ukrainian word for “persistent” (recall my persona’s name in the SCA is Kyr [Sir] Yaroslav the Persistent, and that my coat-of-arms bears a phoenix), but the only word that kept coming up has more of the connotation for “stubborn”; go figure. I know many of you are shocked.


So whither are we bound this time, you ask? When Rosa Morley was principal of the Mont, does anybody out there remember the series of fires, something like six fires in eight days or eight fires in six? Remember how we, so used to hearing the fire alarms sounding all the time, had to knock on doors and tell people “It’s a real freakin’ fire—get out!”? Stuff like that happens when the students sense that there is no strong authority on campus. And while Rosa Morley really was a strong principal, the students had sensed some sort of change—and the fires came. Remember there were two fires in Jeremy Krantz’s room that week?


This was different from the fights and tagging that occur at the end of a track or the end of a year. Lupe Simpson’s administration was marred by it, almost continually, even ending upwith a walkout that made national news  (By the way, when Chris Burns and Tina Cardinale showed up to shoot a part of “In Service to the Dream,” the walkout was occurring; there’s an incident of filming in my class, when a student who was part of the walkout comes pounding on the door).


Auggie Herrera’s tenure wasn’t so plagued; he managed to work miracles in the few months he was at the Mont (hey, I worked for him), before deciding he would be damned if he worked for Dr. George McKenna III. Damned? What an interesting expression, especially for those of us in D7 right now.


Margaret Rowland’s tenure was marked by all sorts of stuff—I remember bomb threats. The first one we were ordered to evacuate and led along a circuitous route which led us not away from but near the quad where there was a box labeled “Bomb”—guess they didn’t have room for “Da” on there. The other one I recall because I was knocking on doors at the north end of the building, because I was in Room 200 then, and giving instructions. I guess James Hooker’s famous hall passes didn’t prevent any of that stuff. I remember administrators overturning tables at the first floor T in the main building, chaining doors shut (Really? “Lean On Me”? Really?) and spilling soapy water on the floor to prevent a student walk-out; the result of that was an OH kid with a walker slipping on the soapy floor.


LaVerne Brunt’s administrations had no such experiences as I recall.


But the end of the Higgins regime certainly did, especially after Rosa Diaz-Denny left for GageMiddle School. The fights were constant. The tagging grew daily and the inside of the main building looked like parts of the Berlin Wall. That probably spurred on the fights. After all, one has to defend one’s marking of territory…


Which leads to our current situation. The tagging is becoming more frequent. It was evident before the “act of violence” and “act of cowardness [sic]” which was written about in Day 66 “One Headlight” when tagging naming Superintendent Cortines appeared by the library. Now it’s springing up like acne on a teenager’s face before prom night.


The fights are also growing in frequency. I told Mat on the way back from lunch, “There’s going to be a fight.” Spidey-sense, I guess, maybe from working with Federal inmates. I don’t know what it was, but I knew. Mat told me, “No. The kids don’t care enough anymore to fight.”


It was because others stopped caring, I think, that led to the fight. “And if the boys want to fight, you better let ‘em.”—“The Boys Are Back in Town.” I love that song, but it saddens me it fits here.


When I jumped into the middle of the fight at the end of lunch on Wednesday—I think it was Wednesday—I caught flashes of what others were doing: screaming at students to “Get to class NOW!” Reminded me of Kevin Bacon’s Chip in “Animal House” yelling “Remain calm. All is well.” There were flashes of administrators with hands on hips, attempting to quell the crowd with gazes of steel. I heard there were other incidents occurring in the quad, but I couldn’t really afford to look around too much. I knew the school police were involved, heard the command, “I need everyone who isn’t a police officer OF THE RADIO NOW!”


When the two combatants were subdued, they were led off by one school police officer. I trailed along behind. Mat told me, “You called it.” And that’s when it hit me. The kids KNOW that the school is in chaos. When I can hear a Charlie’s radio barking contradictory orders from administrators and a have the Charlie holding the radio at me and silently looking on, things are out of control. When an administrator doesn’t seem to help break things up in the fight, but can confront the combatants after they are handcuffed, things are getting out of control. Why would little thugs respect that?


And when a little punk talks tough, then whines about his face, then glares at me and announces to a room full of school police officers, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” we are in trouble. When a good kid gets moved to another school rather than the gangbangers who were sweating him and mad-dogging others in the quad, which I found out that same day, we are in dire straits.


So, is the plan to just let them run amok (crap, I’ve got Sarah Jessica Parker as a witch in some forgettable movie burbling, “Amok, amok, amok, amok”), and blame the behavior on the bad Fremont teachers, hoping everything will be under control as soon as the new year starts, with kids having freshly-scrubbed faces in new uniforms. For the sake of the kids, I hope they can pull things back under control. But how long will it take? And how many other good kids will get shipped to other schools rather than getting too many black marks for OT-ing too many thugs? When are the good kids going to be protected?


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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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