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The Battle for Fremont High

By Anthony Cody — February 04, 2010 3 min read
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Last month I published a guest post from Chuck Olynyk, a veteran teacher at Fremont High School in Los Angeles. Our education leaders have decided that one way to improve low performing schools is to shut them down, and make everyone working their reapply for their jobs. Education Secretary Arne Duncan did this to 60 schools in Chicago, and has plans to put the 5000 lowest performing schools in the country into a process that could lead to reconstitution.

This week we hear once again from Chuck, who allows us to witness this process as it unfolds. Things are heating up in LA.

Today is Day 152 of my time remaining at Fremont High School.

The workshop on “How To Transfer” really drove home how serious this situation at Fremont, which means other “loser” schools in LAUSD has become: ninety minutes on how to move out or be evicted from a place you dedicated the past sixteen years to. The library was packed, the facilitators bombarded with earnest questions. It’s funny how we talk daily about doing it, about strategies like not reapplying, of signing petitions (or, more properly, pledges, I guess) not to do so, then the inevitable that comes with such gestures.

“I don’t want to leave.” Picture a whining voice in your ear. “I want to stay here...” Yeah, guess what? We all do (well, mostly). A number of us envisioned finishing out our careers here at the Mont, but Superintendent Cortines would have it otherwise in his grand publicity stunt. Yes, Dr. McKenna (III, in case you need to figure out which one) “encourages” us to all “reapply,” if you were at Tuesday’s meeting. Does it actually make sense to ask us all to reapply if having us all together is such a bad thing for Fremont? Oh, wait, I remember... “Just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s not logical.” Yes, Mr. Balderas also is asking us to reapply. Can you blame him? What might look like a dream-come-true for a principal--hand-picking your faculty--is really a nightmare, with a bunch of us with experience saying, “Okay, pick a school for me, since I suck so bad and have no idea what I’m doing.” My sister is an M.D. and she likens having the majority of experienced people leaving to staffing a hospital with interns and medical students; sometimes experience matters.

“I’m not worried. I’m so good I know they have to hire me back. Only the bad teachers have to worry.” Assuming you are re-hired, under what working conditions will that be? Dr. McKenna says that it’s “a work in progress, subject to revision.” So you want to sign on, while the “contract/compact” is under revision? If so, can I get you to sign a blank check for me? Won’t you already be committed to working here and THEN you find out what the conditions are? What do plan to do then--leave? We need to know what the conditions are--and one of the conditions is that WE stay. (I think I’m channeling Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen--"This is one time we’re going all the way with the Army’s starting line-up?” “Even Maggot?” “Even Maggot.”)

If we are all being encouraged--no, begged--to remain, then we cannot be the problem. But if we are not the problem, then why the wholesale forced exodus, why the Trail of Tears, why the Stalinesque deportation to an educational Siberian gulag? Dr. McKenna, you need to stick to one story. If we’re being removed from Fremont because we have created a “culture of failure,” then why are we being encouraged by you to reapply? Why has it become so important for us--teachers, counselors, clerical staff, food services, security, school police, custodial, and assistant principals--to reapply?
--Chuck Olynyk

Note: This was written over the weekend. Today, I got an update from Chuck:


Lots going on at Fremont. Thursday is Parent Conference Night, so we’ve got networking with parents going on. Saturday, there is a neighborhood walk scheduled, with teachers going door to door. Tuesday will be a rally in from of the Mont after school. Thursday there will be another meeting on our football field.

And the petition/pledge now has something like 120 out of 240 (more or less) faculty, who will not be reapplying.

More news on this battle can be found at the Save Fremont! web site.

What do you think? Would you reapply for YOUR job if your school was reconstituted?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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