Day 69 Saturday April 24, 2010: Don’t Look Back


Today is Saturday, April 24, 2010 and Day 69 of my time left at the Mont. Yesterday I had some C-Trackers making their goodbyes, continuing the process more or less begun Thursday, Earthday, the last day of C-Track finals at the Old Fremont. It was a time of looking back, speculation as to our fates. Sometimes it feels like the scene in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” as the Enterprise limps away from the Genesis planet, and Sulu shakes is head, saying, “We’re not going to make it, are we?” Maybe this is our Kobayashi Moru test—the no-win scenario, where there will be casualties no matter what we do.


And Downtown jumps at it. Why, with 70 days to go?


There’s a lot of braying from D7 and Beaudry, a lot of posturing, which affects us all in different ways. No one is immune to it. Yet, to quote Bones in another Star Trek, “Dagger of the Mind,” “Jim, that doesn’t quite ring true.”


For example, a growing number of those who reapplied voice a lot of discontent. Maybe it’s to “fit in,” like some of the barflies from a place I got “86-ed” from, who would visit me from time to time in my new haunts; maybe there was some sort of “cool-factor” I’m not aware of. One could argue, “Yeah, there just hanging out with the ‘bad boys and girls’ for a few minutes. Then they’ll go back to their accustomed haunts.”


“Jim, that doesn’t quite ring true.”


Discontent is being voiced. When teachers and counselors have to take it upon themselves to go “clean up Dodge City” and go out to the P.E. area—and administrators find amusement in it, there is a problem. It shows a lack of initiative and responsibility on the part of the administrative team to go clean up an area where most of the students ditch on campus. When you find humor in it for several days straight, it shows a lack of respect for the staff that had to go out and do SEJ (somebody else’s job). Do you think you are going to keep a staff when you do that?


I’m also hearing about a number of folks who reapplied, but who are now actively searching for other spots in the District—or just withdrawing their applications—or is that reapplications? Why would that be? Trouble in the paradise that is the New Fremont?


It might go to how we as a faculty have been treated. Let’s look back in time. Gary Page found this gem while cleaning out his classroom. It’s a memo from Rafael L. Balderas, dated July 22, 2009 and the subject was “FIRST TWO WEEKS AT FREMONT HIGH SCHOOL.” Please bear in mind, it may read a little differently in light of recent events—okay, the past four months eh? It’s sort of like finding one of those cards from an ex who wrote something like, “Our love is forever.” To quote Bender in “The Breakfast Club,” “I feel all hollow and broken inside.”


I actually want to jump ahead to the third paragraph, wherein Mr. Balderas stated (yeah, past tense, the Good Old Days), “… Based on my observations, it is my professional opinion that the staff of Fremont High School has worked hard to develop many instructional programs that correlate to my vision [from the second paragraph, “My current vision for Fremont High School is to develop an environment where students, staff and parents work together to enhance student achievement and develop a thriving educational center within the community.”] For starters, FremontHigh School has personalized instruction through the Small Learning Communities (SLCs), where the needs of the students are met.”


Quite a different cant these days. Within five months came the announcement that the thirteen SLCs (and let’s name them, just to make the point: Aesthetics, A.I.R., A.O.T.T., Earth, CALAs A and B,  Enrichment, Humanitas A, B and C, Pathways, P3 and Magnet) were to be dismantled and merged into five Fremont Academies, The Magnet Academy and three 9th Grade Centers. They are gone


In the fourth paragraph, Mr. Balderas stated, “This year in an effort to continue our academic objectives, the State grant SB1133 has been granted to our school. The primary objective of this grant is to reduce class sizes in the core subject areas (English, Math, Science, and History), as well as to reduce the counselor to student norm. The main objective of the grant is to help continue to increase our graduation rate. With the additional funds the school has ambitiously embarked on hiring 29 additional teaching positions and five counselors … As a professional learning community we will continue with our shared vision, collaboration, and our dialogue on what matters most for students… We have momentum on our side…”


Not here. Not now.


On Thursday, Earthday, it was C-Track’s last day of finals, a minimum day, wherein under most administrators, after the students leave the gates remain open; staff drift out the gates. It is also the norm at just about every school I’ve worked at. For example, when we have Open House/Back To School Night/Parent Conference Night (I call it “the Impressive Child-Beating Ceremony”—sort of an homage to Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and its “Impressive Fainting Ceremony”), where in most of us put in a more than twelve-hour day, the next day is a minimum day, the students leaving at 12:29; the adults follow suit.


Not here. Not now.


This is about destroying the morale of one’s coworkers. That is something apparently forgotten by the current authoritarian regime at the Mont. We are coworkers in this profession. But that has changed.


Not here. Not now.





Well, the class sizes increased—and sometimes not uniformly. I know of at least one social studies teacher who keeps getting students added to his classes, one in particular, driving that class up to 42 students. And next year, the counselor to student ratio will increase from 1-400 to 1-500 in the Academies and 1-600 in the 9th Grade Centers. If the main objective was to increase the graduation rate, I fail (and so will many students at the New Fremont) to see how this will be achieved. And the “momentum on our side” is about to be derailed.


Not here. Not now.


With the morale so low, do you really think the kids don’t pick up on that? If the Mont was really under control, would the fire have been set on Tuesday? If things were really under control, would the hallways look like passing period all day long? Wouldn’t you think the administration would be upstairs or around the campus, ASSISTING THE CHARLIES, instead of declaring that “there’s going to be a tardy sweep” DURING FINALS (and do what to the guilty, pray tell?) and playing music over the P.A. with questionable lyrics—as in yesterday?


Yet the administration has things under control. They can put little red dots on our timecards, whether we are absent or not (like on mine when I went to the school board meeting April 13—see Day 80 “Questions”), for not signing out (hard to do that when the books aren’t out, eh?), declare SLC meetings on PD days for SLCs that will no longer exist in two months, and be told over the P.A. during the tardy sweeps that teachers need to post an agenda and to be ready to teach when the bell rings—as well as all the other assumptions that we are barely trainable and slide through the day not doing our jobs.


Just so I can put it on record: on Thursday and Friday, the two minimum days which were also furlough days for us, days where LAUSD would stop paying us after 12:29, but Mr. Balderas announced we would have to remain until 1:15—on those days I was in at 5:20 a.m. and left at 2:30 p.m.


Consider this a continuation of “our dialogue on what matters most for students…” and on “collaboration” at the Mont. As to momentum, and having momentum on your side—be careful. When you have chased out so many of the teachers from the Mont, you may be seeing a lot of others leaving who had reapplied, but are now reconsidering what they see. So, many of us can look forward to being placed in the sub pool. Punish the teachers, eh? But what about developing “an environment where students, staff and parents work together to enhance student achievement and develop a thriving educational center within the community”?


I guess that’s not as important as ego, eh?


I've got a community walk to go to. That a "dialogue." Try it some time.


Have a good weekend.

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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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