Remember Fremont

Never forget. Stand and Be Counted.

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Today is Saturday, June 26, 2010 and Day 1 P.F. (Post Fremont to be politically correct, but the PF can stand for something else—heh). It’s taken me a while to get to this. Yesterday, I think we all had enough to do, and today I feel like I’m recovering from an emotional hangover. I had people hug me that rarely spoke with me. Someone called me Chuck and I cannot ever recall them doing so before. The compassion I’ve seen pouring out on Facebook for each other tugged at heartstrings and yet made me swell with pride. We are the Mont.

I was trying to put an analogy up there against what I was seeing and feeling. Predictably, it would be something like “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” or “Babylon 5,” but this afternoon, the series finale of “M*A*S*H” showed up in my head: “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” The cease-fire has been announced July 27, 1953, the camp is in tatters, and everyone is trying to get out as quickly as they can. They didn’t want to leave each other, but their other lives were calling to them.

That was how I felt, loading the coffee-maker, then the laptop, watching the cleaning crew come in as the rooms were being purged of our taint. Some wanted to fire their parting shots, I’m sure. I watched Mr. Hernandez do so, told that teachers were making this “too political” because I didn’t reapply, that reapplication was “just a piece of paper,” then watched him dress down a colleague who is remaining, dress her down in front of me while I waited for him to sign something. To be told a number of times that I’d be trusted to teach his kids was not something that was going to bring me back. I told him that, after all that happened in the past six months, I would think I had not given the impression I was returning. That last-minute denigration of teachers and saying that at the end of the day, he leaves the problems here and goes home doesn’t do it for me. Most of us did not work 7:35-3:04. Most of us took the problems of this place home. That’s the difference between them and us. To quote Captain Mal from “Firefly,” “It ain’t a hand of cards. It’s called a life. I’ve got a better life than you.” (Blame my friend Kim Heinrichs for reminding me, in a way, that I hadn’t used quotes from “Firefly” yet).

I didn’t even have to hear the comments that Mr. Balderas made to know they were true. Based on what I’d seen come out of him for the past six months, including calling D7 or Beaudry whenever tagging occurred which mentioned Superintendent Cortines’ name, why should anyone expect anything different? What was the use of calling people from downtown to come watch someone clean the sidewalks? Were they there to hold someone’s hand? Why not just clean and move on? It is what we are expected to do—or were. To see Mr. Spielberg just sitting in his office, since was not allowed to handle the return of keys, as was his normal duty, was another sad scene. The New Fremont, it appears, will not be built on trust or faith or compassion.

It was a bug-out yesterday (Boy howdy, “M*A*S*H” has suddenly been on my mind a lot). The parking lot emptied a little more each time the gate was left open.

Some left their rooms in shambles. Some cleaned their rooms, wanting them to be spotless. Some left messages for the new occupants, messages in bottles, after a fashion (that was a piratical reference for Beth, Jackie, Sara, Samantha, Jennifer, brought to you by the Letter R). I actually cleaned out everything, cleared the boards, and left my quotes for last week, quotes about freedom, the government and some other bits of wisdom I’d gleaned along the way, including the Zen maxim, “Empty your cup,” and my traditional farewell at the end of each track, but which has more poignancy now: “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Yesterday the L.A. Times ran an article with the following title: “Villaraigosa backs charter school bids, rips Cortines.”

Mayor Villaraigosa has chosen his ground in the struggle to reform our schools. Siding publicly with local charter schools, he has become critical of Superintendent Ramon Cortines, his one-time ally. Gathering such groups around him as ICEF Public Schools, and offshoots of Green Dot Public Schools, which he feels did not get a fair shake during the bidding in February, which received only four of the schools.

But another round begins. A deadline looms and bidding will begin to take over nine new schools and eight low-performing ones. The mayor is unhappy with teacher groups, which were awarded some of the schools in February. Now comes the mud-slinging (more like chimpanzees flinging… something else). There’s plenty of bile to be flung at Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has been accused of dismissing suggestions and having a different vision. He’s unhappy with LAUSD because teacher groups were awarded control of the campuses he tried to take over citing that groups from the low-performing campuses ought not to be competing for the schools in question, with the old song about the “track record” of an organization. It seems that he feels that any plan from such a group is “just a piece of paper."

Instead, Mayor Villaraigosa favors reconstitution, a word we are all too familiar with at the Mont. He seems to view this as “transformative.” Maybe he’ll also bring up a sense of urgency, too.

Superintendent Cortines, however, stated that reconstitution was a “last resort.” That certainly was not his tone on December 9th, when he stood before the faculty and staff of the Mont and sounded like a radio spot for selling cars: “Gardena, can you hear me? Lincoln, can you hear me? Huntington Park, can you hear me?” He also claimed that the example of what happened at the Mont caused other schools to reform on their own, to raise the bar.

But the threat of reconstitution and turnaround plans still looms, despite UTLA opposing reconstitution as unsupported by the data which supposedly drove the Mont into the ground. There’s supposed to be a media event on July 6th to mark the “victory” at the Mont. But there are still many questions: who will staff the Mont? How experienced are they? Why are so many of these new teachers appearing with credentials which are not registered with either the state or LAUSD?

Just so you know, we’re back. And we’re watching.

If you see any news stories or articles on reconstitution and educational reform, or know of schools undergoing this sad sham of a process, please let me know. Remembering Fremont is about getting the information out.

--Chuck

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