Day 32 Sunday May 30, 2010: “A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime”


Today is Sunday, May 30, 2010 and Day 32 of my time left at the Mont. I’m pecking away at this while getting ready for church—probably finish it when I get home and go do laundry. By now people at the Mont who have been rejected will have gotten their letters, I’ll assume, although “assume” is such a dangerous word. On the series “The Odd Couple,” Felix Unger (Tony Randall) stood in a court and explained, while circling key letters in the word, that “When you ‘assume’, you make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” My English teacher didn’t think that was anywhere near as clever as I thought it was. I live in a world of differences of opinion.


I know some of you held out hope, because the acceptance letters went out regular mail and it was like the classic Chinese water-torture, checking the mail daily (why not email? Nah, too efficient) for your invitation to the party. My condolences for those of you who waited in vain, only to receive the certified letter stating, “Thanks, but no thanks.” If I joke or crack wise, please understand it is not mockery of you. Just my nature in dealing with high stress or painful situations.


My mind is bouncing around in time, like Billy Pilgrim in “Slaughterhouse 5,” catching glimpses of people and snatches of conversation. Sometimes it’s a jumble, or maybe an Impressionist painting, where if I just step back a bit, have some perspective, I can see the picture we all created together.


Today, Johnny Jauregui posted to a cover letter/timeline by Dr. George McKenna III, of Washington Prep fame (just hold still long enough and he’ll tell you) of the process of Restructuring (is that the R-word we’re using now? No longer Reconstitution?) at FremontHigh School. There are some highlights we need to dive into. The Timeline memo highlights feature McKenna statements in " ", Johnny’s comments in ( ). *Mine are bold because, well, it’s me.*

12/11/09: in a lunch meeting, Duffy tells teachers that they should not reapply to Fremont." (But this is not true, I was in this lunch meeting and from what I recall, Duffy did not mention this.) *Duffy did talk about the Fremont
teachers coming up with an alternate plan.*

1/26/10: “I again meet with the Fremont Faculty to discuss restructuring.” *Boy, was that a meeting! I wrote about it in Day 156  “Just Because It Doesn’t Make Sense Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Logical”  posted Wednesday 1/27/2010. Here follow some prize quotes. Let’s see how they withstood the test of time:*


 “You say you know about the standards, but I don’t see them, and I’ve been in a lot of your classrooms.” *This was met with uproar, then finally a show of hands of half-a-dozen teachers who actually had been visited by Dr. McKenna; his explanation was something along the lines of the other teachers were off-track or suchlike. Still never saw him in my class. Superintendent Cortines visited April 16, at least.*


“Nothing is being destroyed!” *So our baker’s dozen of SLCs are going to be folded into 6 on three tracks. Staff to be moved elsewhere? We had to destroy the village to save it?*


 “Your counseling duties will not change!... How could they possibly change?” *Yet in Day 83 “Superman’s Song,” posted Saturday, April 10, 2010, we discovered a couple of documents someone found after a meeting held April 5th, I would presume based upon a date printed. One document is entitled “Fremont HS Organizational Structure.” It showed “5 Academies – 3 Grade 9 Centers – 1 Magnet”. Each Academy would have a counseling caseload of  500, except on C-Track C-Track will have “The School of Law, Justice and Government,” at 500 students (actually, it works out to over 700) with a single counselor, and the “The Mathematics, Science and Technology Magnet” with 300 students, and overseen by a single counselor to deal with half the caseload of the counselor assigned to “9th Grade Center C”. That’s 600 students if you are not following the math.*

“You don’t even have to go through your resume. All you have to do to re-apply is fill out an application.”  *We were all encouraged to reapply and assumred that most of us would retain our jobs, that the Memorandum of Understanding was a mere formality. The ease of the application process was explained, that we would face a interview panel of two students, two parents, two “community members” (who have precisely what expertise to bring to the evaluation process?) and that the final say would be in the hands of the principal. It also has been pointed out, scripted interviews were used, and one parent on the interview committee who was encountered during the community walk on April 25 stated to those on the walk that she did not even turn in some of her interview notes to the principal. This was in Day 62 “Little Lies” posted 5/1/10. And yet the School Improvement Grant, which will feed SIX MILLION DOLLARS into Fremont over three years requires that 50% of the faculty be removed. Why was this not told to the faculty?*

2/7/10: “The ‘Save Fremont’ website, constructed by teachers in opposition to the restructuring, comes on line.” *Well, at least he wrote something right. I encourage members of the Board of Education to actually go to the site and read every entry, just so you get the unedited versions. I am editing for the sake of brevity.*

2/11/10: UTLA attempts to conduct an unapproved parent meeting at Fremont." (This is not true...our permit was revoked and we moved the meeting to Praises of Zion.) *Mr. Balderas yanked the permits already granted for the rally held 2 days ealier, as well as for the parent meeting. If Dr. McKenna was serious about meeting with the parents, why was the permit revoked? How can ANY PARENT MEETING be disapproved of? I thought we wanted parental involvement. That was why we managed to gather 700 signatures during our community walks, as I stated to you at the May 11 Board meeting and wrote in Day 52 “Like A Rock,” posted that same day.*

"2/26/10: Principal Rafael Balderas sends to staff members an updated version of the school's internal organizational and instructional plan.  This was developed in collaboration with a few teachers, as most chose not to participate."  (This is not true, several teachers signed up for these committees, but Balderas never collaborated with them. Most teachers chose not to sign up because they could only provide recommendations and could not be taken seriously as decision-makers.) *Actually, that was discovered on the floor of the auditorium, scanned in and posted on Day 83 “Superman’s Song” on
Saturday April 10, 2010
. See that post for details.

3/11/10: UTLA produces its own improvement plan for Fremont but does not send a copy to my office.  This plan demonstrates low expectations of students and does not contain any substantive changes.  I received a copy of this plan on April 18, 2010
."  (This is not true, first of all McKenna received a copy of our PowerPoint for the March 11th community meeting from one of the community members who asked for the PowerPoint - Mr. Brown, member of the District 7 Parent Advisory Council.  I gave it to him on his flashdrive.  The PowerPoint was a quick, last minute summary of our Single Plan.  We actually made a more detailed and prettier one later in the month. The PowerPoint was a summary of our single plan, that was approved by our school site council in January, even the principal voted for it.  So no, it was not made by UTLA.  In fact our single plan was so good that Dr. Russ Thompson himself, LD7 Secondary Director, sent an email to Balderas and forwarded it to me, commenting that our single plan looked great.)

: UTLA conducts meetings for parents in opposition to the restructuring at a nearby church.  These meetings are attended by less then ten parents." (For those who were at the morning meeting or evening meeting, we know this is not true.  In fact we had over 40 parents/community members sign in for the March 11th meetings.)

3/16/10: 130 of 253 certificated...apply to remain at Fremont
.  This constitutes 51 percent of the existing certificated staff members..." (Did not McKenna state 60% reapplied in his radio address on KPCC?) : “Um, over 60% did reapply.  Many threatened and said, we’re not, none of us, going to reapply.  We’ll bind together.  They’re still demonstrating this weekend.  We have a flyer here that says they’re going to walk through the community.  They do something every week that says we’re not going to do this.  So, instead of collaborating, and we’ve written to them and asked them to collaborate.  They said, ‘We will resist.’  But it’s not on behalf of the students.  I think it’s a self-interest.  I think it’s unfortunate, ‘cause there are many good teachers.” *That was a quote from the “Patt Morrison Show” on which Dr. McKenna appeared on 4/26/10, quoted from Day 62 “Little Lies” posted on Saturday, May 1, 2010.*

"4/16/10: Mr. Balderas mails detailed restructuring plans to all Fremont parents." (McKenna is referring to the nice glossy pamphlet that
Fremont parents received in the mail the first week of May, a week before we went to the Board Meeting on May 11th.  It was sent out three weeks after the date on the coversheet of the pamphlet.) *Actually, the cover letter to the pamphlet was dated April 1, 2010
, kind of ironic, eh? Also, what kind of actual details does the pamphlet provide? Would YOU as a parent send your child to a school based upon the information provided?*

Okay, I’ll stop with the boldface. Time to take my helm off and just… talk. I’m a handshake kind of guy. I’m not cut out for politics. I don’t have the guile for it. I can’t even play poker well. But politics are being played with the truth, with the lives of these kids. Please understand, I am writing as a concerned faculty member of
FremontHigh School, a place I have dedicated myself to for 16 years. This is not about “taking the easy way.” I love teaching at Fremont, because I found a place where I am needed and where all of my special talents can be used. I do living history in the classroom to an extent that no one anywhere in the country does, to my knowledge. I don’t do it for awards. I do it because it works, especially here. I reach kids.


But I cannot allow Dr. McKenna’s twisting of events and implications of our motives to go unchallenged.


The process at Fremont has been inauthentic. These are simple distortions of the truth or “miscommunications,” as Dr. McKenna and Mr. Balderas explained away earlier statements how we would not be paid over the summer in order to get us to reapply. These are lies. The lies are hurting people whose faces I see everyday, many of whom are too afraid to say anything, hoping against hope that they’ll be left alone, just like the listeners referred to in that famous scene in the movie, “Network.”


Maybe they won’t say anything.


But I will. Because someone has to.


This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.

Leave a Reply.


    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



    RSS Feed