Remember Fremont

Never forget. Stand and Be Counted.

Remembering the Mont: Lessons in Reconstitution


Welcome to Remember Fremont, the successor to Save Fremont at, which came into existence because of the reconstitution effort at John C. Fremont High School, LAUSD, December 2009-June 2010. Here, the goal will be to carry the news and discussions on attempts to improve troubled schools, the models proposed--and the human costs of these efforts. I want this to serve as a clearing house for information on reconstitution, a gathering place to discuss what is happening in the attempts to fix our troubled schools, a meeting of minds on the state of public education.

To properly pass the baton, I want to post the last post, left as a comment, at Save Fremont.

Long Time


Today is my last day at Fremont. I know I’ve been doing the Countdown at Mont-town, but betwixt furlough days and the vagaries of reading a calendar, I’ve ended up with two sets of numbers. I like to think the year ends on June 30, as it has every year. But today, mind you, the year at the Mont ends, June 25, 2010. The Old Fremont is dead. We lost.


We lost that battle. Many of you will move on, try to put this unpleasant six months out of your memories. You will try to forget about this place many of us fought for, You will concentrate on the new positions or try to get used to the New Fremont, where money will roll in and solve the problems. Or you’ll return to grad school or serve as a pool teacher somewhere.


But your thoughts will creep back. My advice? Face them. I remember when I was dating someone and her teenaged daughter got hit by a drunk driver (she’s okay, by the way). But I remembered my friend asking her daughter six months later to get a beer for me. I flew off the handle. I went nuclear. I thought my reasons were because a minor was going to hand me a beer. Then I had it pointed out that I was mad at myself for having driven that way in the past. Ouch. (For the record, I was still mad about the first part). But I wanted to shove that part away.


I urge you all to talk about what happened over these last six months. It will help. Yes, move on with your lives. Maybe folks will connect on Facebook. If what I’ve heard is true, no other place is like the Mont. It gets under your skin. There’s a certain vibe to the place. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to turn whatever school you’re at into the Mont. I think a number of us have made that mistake before, both with schools, and other areas. Yeah, I’m guilty. When have I ever tried to hide my faults, eh?


So I’m writing this to sort out my thoughts and feelings, as I’ve written for 163 days. Huh. I just looked at that number and just realized that’s a school year on our calendar.


When I first started firing off these blasts, I remember driving in on my off-track time and standing in Mary Hoover’s office questioning my sanity and what I was doing. I’d just seen “Pirate Radio” days before (my God, I think this was the day in January when McKenna gave us the line that immortalized the whole event), and was telling Mary how, in the first few minutes of the movie, I’d totally identified with the character of the Count, the American DJ whose disdain for the laws of Britain was pretty pronounced. In some ways, I started to see my job as the equivalent to the Count’s. I wanted to keep firing until we had nothing to fire.


Well, I still have stuff to fire. Just a few minutes ago, I just got a text that the N.Y. Times is running an article on what a success Locke High School is. And the question asked in the text: “Where are all the bad kids?” There’s stuff to write about. So I guess I’ve got to put the new site together.


But the website is winding down. When it was set up, it was given a lifespan of six months, since its creator figured the issue would be settled in six months. In a way, it has. Many of us are moving on. We’ve made our decisions. And like the ship broadcasting its pirate radio signal, the website is sinking. So I guess it’s up to me to play the Count for a few more minutes.


(Speaking on air for the last time as the ship is sinking) "To all our listeners, this is what I have to say, God bless you all! As for you bastards in charge, don't dream it's over. All over the world young men and young women will always dream and put those dreams into song.”—The Count, “Pirate Radio”


In the last six months, many of you have been participants in a tour through my head. Some of you were entertained. Many of you had suspicions confirmed. Some of you were dragged unwillingly into the way my mind works, and for that I apologize. I just wanted you to care about what was happening around you as much as I did. Some of you are reluctant/uncomfortable to speak up. Someone like me, who can be very loud and abrasive, can make your world unpleasant. But some have told me that I’ve at times given words to the feelings that many of you were having, whether it be of frustration, anger, depression… or shame. I tried to be that voice, no matter what the consequences, and sometimes I grew bitter over that self-appointed task. But when I saw some of you vulnerable, hugged of you as you teared up, it drove me on. I told one of you who reapplied that no matter what, win, lose or draw, I knew I would have to leave the Mont. We did not succeed. Many of us are leaving the Mont.


Superintendent Cortines will declare this a victory—even though he’s already training his anointed successor and will probably be gone when the fallout of this foolhardy decision gets bad. Dr. George McKenna III, while gloating that he “broke the teachers”, will be gone soon enough, looking for speaking engagements so he can talk about Washington Prep, but I doubt he’ll want to bring up what happened at the Mont. The School Board, which applauded Superintendent Cortines’ “courageous” decision, is already undergoing change. Mr. Balderas, who has celebrated success, still goes downtown and is still trying to fill positions, the boos from Graduation turning his ears red.


“Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, you move.’”—Captain America, “Amazing Spider-Man”


So today we make our goodbyes, get our signatures for the sign-out sheets, clear the last items from our desks as the maintenance crew prepares for the “deep cleaning” the school will undergo. I’ll have a last cup of coffee with my Mont family and look out the open windows at the desolate parking lot. My coffee maker and stand will be loaded into the back of my SUV and my laptop will be thrown in beside it—after I spent the morning listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Guess Who and Traffic. Today we hand over our rollbooks and go to Mr. Spielberg’s office to return our keys. I will shake his hand at that time, because I respect him.


"I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone… our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit… that the part of me that is going… will very much miss the part of you that is staying."

G'Kar to Sheridan, Babylon 5, “Objects in Motion”


Did we have a chance? Was it worth it?


Opening Narration: “Sports item, circa 1974: Battling Maxo, B2, heavyweight, accompanied by his manager and handler, arrives in Maynard, Kansas, for a scheduled six-round bout. Battling Maxo is a robot, or, to be exact, an android - definition: 'an automaton resembling a human being.' Only these automatons have been permitted in the ring since prizefighting was legally abolished in 1968. This is the story of that scheduled six-round bout- more specifically, the story of two men shortly to face that remorseless truth: that no law can be passed which will abolish cruelty or desperate need - nor, for that matter, blind animal courage. Location for the facing of said truth: a small, smoke-filled arena just this side of the Twilight Zone.”


Closing Narration: “Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone.”

            Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, “Steel”


Yeah. It was worth it. To stand as we did? Yeah, in a heartbeat. Good Luck.


Resurgam. I shall rise again.

 We're baaack!