Day 97 Saturday, March 27, 2010: “Signs”


Today is Saturday, March 27, 2010, Day 97 of my time left at the Mont. No sign of my rat, which remains at large. Actually kind of rooting for him now that others are reporting hearing rustlings in the ceilings, a “The Hunt For Red October” sort of thing. I’m sure I’m going to have different feelings if I actually run into the rat again, but then again my feelings have been all over the map anyway. I’m feeling my way along, just like the students were on Thursday when the lights were off in the hallways ten minutes after the bell rang for students to go to class.


After dropping off lesson plans and that bit of help I give students before school (as well as reminding them I wouldn’t be around), it was off to UTLA, realizing I was bone-tired, the kind of tired that gets into your soul. To quote “Jeremiah Johnson”:

BearClaw (Will Geer): “Ya come far, pilgrim.”

Johnson (Robert Redford): “Feels like far.”



It was a day of recharging, even though we were reminded that those of us involved in trying to save the Mont probably have targets hung on our backs. But, on the trip home, fighting my way out of L.A.,, when I was forced on to surface streets, I saw something. A sign, quite literally, hung on an intermediate school on Whittier Blvd. It was when I saw this sign that this song came on the radio. I drove back there this morning after cleaning the church just to get a picture of it.


The 5 Man Electrical Band (some fellow Frostbacks from Ottawa)
lyrics as recorded by The Five Man Electrical Band in 1971 and included on
the 1990 compilation album "Made In Canada - Volume Three 1965-1974"

“And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Huh! Me workin' for you!"

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

“And the sign said anybody caught trespassin' would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, "Hey! What gives you
"To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in"
"If God was here he'd tell you to your face, Man, you're some kinda sinner"

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

“Now, hey you, mister, can't you read?
You've got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can't even watch, no you can't eat
You ain't supposed to be here
The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside

------ lead guitar ------

“And the sign said, "Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray"
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a
penny to pay
“So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said, "Thank you, Lord, for thinkin' 'bout me. I'm alive and doin' fine."

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Sign, sign”

© 1970, 2002 Five Man Electrical Band

With that, here’s our own little signs along the road to ruin—or reconstitution—or rebellion:

Overview of Save Fremont Events


October-December 2010 LAEP Vote and Fremont Single Plan Development

The Fremont faculty vote to collaborate with the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) to strengthen the SLCs and improve instruction and support for students.  At the same time, Fremont finally develops a Single Plan created by teachers, parents and students.  This was the first time that teachers wrote the single plan document rather than an administrator.  It was the first time that the parent advisory councils at Fremont wrote out their recommendations and these were embedded in the single plan.  The plan called for clear action steps to address the key focus areas such as ELA, Math, Graduation, Parent Engagement, and Attendance.


December 9, 2009 Reconstitution Announcement

Cortines announced to the Fremont faculty on A and B track in an emergency meeting afterschool that he would dismiss them and staff and create a new plan for the school.  He said that because of low test scores, the teachers were not doing their jobs and all other efforts to save the school had been exhausted.  He stated that he felt the teachers did not have a sense of urgency about improving test scores.  All staff would have to reapply except for the principal.  This was one week before first semester finals and two weeks before Christmas.


December 10, 2010 Student Sit-In at Fremont

The students organized a sit-in at Fremont to protest the dismissal of their teachers and the staff.  They congregated in the quad and on a microphone shared their views.


December 15, 2010 Faculty Meeting with McKenna

George McKenna, LD 7 Superintendent basically told the faculty that they were not doing their job.  This faculty meeting turned into a preaching session.  Out in the front of the school at the same time, a press conference was made by a few of the Fremont teachers to bring up the issue to the public from the teacher’s perspective.


January 14, 2010 Save Fremont Meeting

Group of teachers met at the UTLA building to discuss the reconstitution and decide whether to protest the Superintendent’s decision.  The meeting resulted in these teachers taking an oath to not reapply in protest of the reconstitution and take action through petition, demonstrations, etc.  This was the founding of the Save Fremont Committee.  This same day, this group called a meeting with the Fremont faculty after school to inform them that there were going to be efforts to stop the reconstitution.  The teachers began a teacher/staff petition to show the principal and superintendent that the faculty disagreed with the decision.  The Save Fremont Committee also establishes the savefremont.org blog site.


January 26, 2010 Faculty Meeting with McKenna part 2

This meeting was a continuation of the January 7th meeting, with McKenna describing how Fremont teachers were inept at teaching.  McKenna provided the faculty on track a general timeline of the reapplication process as well as a teacher expectations sheet.  This was the first time that the C track teachers were directly notified of the reconstitution.  It resulted in most of the faculty walking out and even one theater teaching opera singing in protest.


January 27, 2010 Board Member LaMotte Stakeholder’s Meeting

Two teachers met with Marguerite LaMotte’s staff (LaMotte was not present due to illness).  The teachers made it clear that there was a movement to stop the Fremont reconstitution.  They invited LaMotte to the February 11th community meeting.


February 11, 2010 1st Fremont Community Forum

The Fremont teachers met with parents and community members to discuss the reconstitution.  The meeting was originally set to take place at FremontHigh School.  However the Superintendent revoked the permit causing the teachers to find another venue to meet with parents.  They met at Praises of Zion Church several blocks down the street from Fremont.  From this meeting it was obvious that the community was not fully informed about the restructuring.  Many parents thought that Fremont was going to be a charter school or that it was going to be closed down.  Many parents were angry that they could not meet with the teachers on campus.  Most of the parents stayed after the meeting to sign a parent petition to stop the reconstitution and organize for future protest events.


February 16, 2010 “The New Fremont” PowerPoint posted online by the district

This PowerPoint laid out the general plan for next year, including the dismissal of all the small learning communities (SLCs) except Magnet and Humanitas.  The PowerPoint described a 9th grade house in the next year 2010-11 even though five years before, it did not work at Fremont.  The PowerPoint also described a 4 x 4 schedule that would allow students to take 8 classes per year instead of 6 classes.  The problem with this plan was that it was created by the district, LD7 and the administration, but had no buy in or vote from the parents, current teachers or students.  At the same time across the city, other communities were voting on a new plan for their schools in a process called the Public Schools Choice.  Fremont was not included in this process because they in fact had improved their API score in 2009.


February 24, 2010 Board Member LaMotte Stakeholders Meeting

Several teachers and a student met with LaMotte, her staff and guests to discuss the reconstitution of Fremont.  She commented that she was not familiar with the details since she was sick for the past few weeks.  She heard from the teachers and a community member who was present at the meeting who was in favor of the reconstitution.  LaMotte stated that she would research the subject and in a few weeks would come out with where she stood on the issue.


February 26, 2010Fremont Press Conference

Save Fremont Committee called a press conference in front of the school to update the public on the protest of the reconstitution at Fremont.  It was successful in that numerous TV stations, newspapers and online media were there to get information.  Parents, teachers and students spoke in the press conference about why the reconstitution was wrong.  One teacher spoke on the radio on the Pat Morrison show (89.3 FM) and participated with George McKenna and A.J. Duffy, UTLA President regarding the restructuring.


March 2, 2010 Morning Faculty Meeting

Save Fremont Committee called a morning meeting before school in the library to talk to the A Track teachers who had been on vacation in January and February.  They were updated on February’s events and many signed the teacher petition.


March 6-7, 2010

Parents, teachers and students begin doing community walks around Fremont to inform parents about the reconstitution and to gather petition signatures.  They plan to do this every Saturday and Sunday.


March 8, 2010LocalSchool Leadership (LSLC) Vote

The LSLC voted down the 4 x 4 schedule proposed by the principal, McKenna and Cortines.  This council felt that it was being undermined as an elected body of teachers, parents and students to do its job in having oversight over the school schedule.  The council called for a meeting in two weeks to have discussion with the principal on the pros and cons of the 4 x 4 schedule.  Since Fremont would not legally be considered a new school in 2010-11 (because then it would lose its Title I and QEIA funds), the LSLC empowered themselves to make decisions for the upcoming year.


March 10, 2010 Faculty Survey on the Reconstitution

The faculty was surveyed on whether they believed the reconstitution would improve the school.  Based on the survey results, the faculty overwhelmingly disagreed with reconstitution.


March 11, 2010 Teacher Day of Silence

In solidarity, teachers and students wore all black to school to protest the reconstitution.  Many teachers took a vow of silence for the day to symbolize their dismissal from Fremont.


March 11, 2010 SLC Lead Teacher Team Meeting Vote

The SLC Lead Teacher Team consists of teachers elected by their SLCs.  The SLC Lead teachers voted to maintain the current SLCs and not to accept the academies proposed by the principal and Superintendent.



March 11 8am and 5:30pm 2nd Community Forums

Teachers, parents and students met together again at Praises of Zion Church to discuss the reconstitution and take further action.  This time the meeting was led by a parent.  There was a discussion of the District plan for Fremont versus the Community Led Plan.  Parents sat down and participated in writing letters and postcards to send to LaMotte and Cortines to show their disapproval of the reconstitution.



March 16, 2010 Reapplication Deadline

After two months of threats by the administration to reapply, many teachers at Fremont do reapply for the following reasons: 1) not feeling they are supported by UTLA 2) The principal has gone around to many teachers and basically threatens them with not having a job in the next year or having to face an assignment at a middle school.  One teacher is asked by the principal, “will UTLA pay your mortgage…then you need to reapply.” 3) Some teachers are informally offered certain coordinator positions if they reapply 4) Provisional teachers are promised a “riff-free” zone at Fremont, meaning that even though they are probationary, if they reapply to Fremont then they are guaranteed a teaching position.  5) Some teachers are just indifferent and believe that whatever protest they take will be futile and not worth the time and effort.


March 17, 2010Fremont Demonstration

Teachers, parents and students held a demonstration in front of the school.  The parents and students expressed their views of the reconstitution.  It was covered by the media, discussed on ABC 7 news and in the LA Times.


March 20, 2010 Cortines and AJ Duffy on ABC 7 News Show

The host of the ABC news show asked Cortines about Fremont teachers reapplying.  He stated that ¾ of the teachers had reapplied, implying that there was nothing to worry about.  His statement wrongly suggests that the teachers who reapplied support the reconstitution of Fremont.


It isn’t over yet. We started in resignation is December, the week the audit was supposed to be conducted, the mysteriously mute audit, but this sign says something to me.


I’m not ready to yield yet. How about you? Got courage?



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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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