Day 52 Tuesday May 11, 2010: “Like A Rock”


Today is Tuesday, May 11, 2010 and is Day 52 of my time left at the Mont. My last year is not going as planned—duh. Lessons I wanted to cover get merged together, details blurred or sacrificed because we have the time crunch. The year is shorter—to save a buck. The sacred CSTs loom like a storm from Mordor, the same CSTs which have cursed us as losers in a profession, and is the excuse for the District to sacrifice the next several years of education on the altar of buzzwords and consultants… and maybe a bit of union-busting along the way. Money will flow in, to assuage the guilt of those on the fence. Money will flow in to deep-clean the school, ridding it of our essence. Money will flow in for incentive pay, for those who raise test scores, for those who improve attendance, for those who just raise their grades. Money will flow in for yet another set of PDs which the faculty does not select. Well, “Take One,” eh?


In the mean time (boy, does that phrase have an edge now), teachers are trying to leave, at least those who now realize what the New Germany—I mean the New Fremont—entails. Students are trying to leave. Juniors and sophomores ask questions beyond the dreaded uniforms, actually seeing what is about to befall the school.


A group of about a dozen teachers from all over the country, rallied by Anthony Cody, is also attempting to speak (or is it have an audience with) Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education. Details can be found on Facebook: “Teachers’ Letters to Obama,” which Anthony Cody started in an attempt to get others to see what is going on. I am one of the dozen, flustered because they all seem to be NBCT and I’m the “loser teacher” from a P-infinity school undergoing reconstitution. What the hell am I doing here?


What I always do. My dad taught me to fight, to stand up and be counted.


So I try to make my words come out, to try and not sound like the stereotypic teacher from an urban school. Maybe if they see me, they might, at last, see the rest of us for what we actually are and what it is we do every single day.


So, I’m not in my classroom today. I’m going to try to speak to the Board of Education. Here are the words I hope to use.


“Members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Cortines, Ladies and Gentlemen,


“As a long-time faculty member of FremontHigh School, I implore you to stop the reconstitution effort directed at our school. While we are not the worst, Fremont has HAD problems with low test scores. But to base improvement solely upon test scores fails to view the larger picture and excludes both family and community from the process—as is evident from the over 700 signatures we have collected from within a few blocks of our school of those who want this injustice halted. In the quest to fix our low-performing schools, we have to be careful not to toss out both baby and bathwater.


“The stereotype is a group of “loser, apathetic teachers firmly entrenched in the tenure system, knowing they can coast through their careers” as the culprits at such schools. From a personal view, that is far from the case. When we propose “turnaround models” and “reconstitution” as the fix, we ignore the wider-ranging issues of poor student attendance, high student transience, a large proportion of English language learners, and students who do not care much about academic success, issues all directly related to poverty and social inequity.


“Getting rid of all the teachers or even half the teachers does little to address the deeper problems. The key is to personalize the learning, to develop relationships. I keep thinking of an anthropology book called "Small Is Beautiful," by Schumaker, which can be applied to those struggling schools. Isn't this the concept behind Small Learning Communities, to personalize education, the village raising a child, to cite the West African proverb? To be able to have (besides the smaller class sizes we all long for but will probably never appear) a group of teachers sharing a group of students (at the Mont, each SLC is about 400, which works for US) so that we know the problems of the kids and are able to plan for grade-level and vertical teaming, lowering the number of students who "slip through the cracks." One of the successes we had in the use of SLCs is what I call the Legacy Effect. Brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and cousins learn to look forward to being in the same program, which builds success.


“Extending the year won't do it, nor will an introduction of block scheduling, because these students already have a bad track record for attendance; the block schedule looks like a quick-fix to recover lost credits. Our faculty has also voted against it. So, short of reducing class sizes, I think this might be the best path. Growth and progress seem slow, but do you want to build quick and shoddy or for long-term? At this point, not only will there be a shortage of qualified teachers (isn’t that what NCLB was about, to begin with?), but now I personally know juniors who have decided that they do not wish to sacrifice their educations to this grand experiment—and they have brothers and sisters… Many sophomores I know are following suit. The New Fremont will not only bleed qualified teachers, but the students we entered this profession to serve.


“We are on the road to success for our students and community. Let these Pathfinders travel this path we have found! It will lead to success.”


May 11, 2010: “Tension Continues Over Mandated Fremont High Reforms”

Video clips of May 11th School Board Meeting

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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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