Remember Fremont

Never forget. Stand and Be Counted.


Everything Must Go

Posted by Chuck Olynyk on October 13, 2010 at 11:44 PM

Today is Wednesday, October 13, 2010 and Day 107 PF. While I was sitting in the Starbucks a mile from Big Stick High, trying to mentally (okay, emotionally) prepare and try to figure out how to salvage the damage done to my educational day by bait-and-switch with the schedule, a friend and former coworker got in touch. He’s now at David Starr Jordan High School, a four-year comprehensive high school of 2300 students, on 103rd Street in Watts. On Friday, October 8, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, went to Jordan, and told the faculty they had four choices: (a) Reconstitution (b) Green Dot (c) the Mayor’s program or (d) a plan created by the faculty.

Perhaps Superintendent Cortines drew his inspiration from the mockumentary “Waiting For Superman.” After all, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was visiting nearby Gompers Middle School on December 9th, the Superintendent came to Fremont High to announce reconstitution at a school that was raising test scores and was improving—just not fast enough. At his side that day stood Dr. George McKenna III, who was the subject of a made-for-TV movie wherein he was portrayed by a young Denzel Washington (just ask him, for I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it… again). Dr. McKenna will reappear in moments.

Whatever the reason, he made his announcement. Anyone feel like you were sitting at the kids table and the adults were talking?

There was outrage. There were tears. Some of the deportees from the Mont had ended up there. Now the specter of reconstitution looms over this refuge. The sense of urgency returns anew. Eli Broad would be very proud.

When I first heard the word, I tossed it quickly on Facebook, then bolted over to my new home, which is involved in the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. For those not in the know, Roosevelt High (which I refer to as Big Stick High, courtesy of a friend from S.C.A. days) is not really Roosevelt, and is part of what my friend referred to as “the Mayor’s program”. Instead it is seven Small Schools (something I wrote about earlier—Day 104 PF “My Hometown”). My faculty I.D., which I picked up as I signed in, reads “Humanitas Art School”. Yes, there is the red-and-gold “R” in the corner and if you have good eyesight, there’s probably “Roosevelt” on there, but it is a Small School, with it’s own principal, although the complex principal appears in meetings.

Why do I mention this? It is a plan already in place. I also recall back on June 25th, the L.A. Times ran an article with the following title: “Villaraigosa backs charter school bids, rips Cortines.” Mayor Villaraigosa sided publicly with local charter schools which he feels did not get a fair shake during the bidding in February, and was critical of Superintendent Ramon Cortines, his one-time ally. He was also unhappy with teacher groups, which were awarded some of the schools in February. Instead, Mayor Villaraigosa favored reconstitution, a word we are all too familiar with at the Mont. He seemed to view this as “transformative.” Maybe he’ll also bring up a sense of urgency, too.

Green Dot is also there, and given how much the media has proclaimed victory and “Mission accomplished” with regard to the metamorphosis of Locke High, there’ll be some credibility there.

Then there’s reconstitution. It destroyed the Mont, but according to UTLA President Duffy, it’s better now. Hey, any fans of “Battlestar Galactica” out there? So how exactly did New Caprica rate? For that matter, how was New Coke versus Old Coke? But we know that there are major problems there, aren’t there? Staffing issues, auxiliaries and suchlike.

There was a fourth option mentioned, but given that time would be needed to develop the plan, I doubt that option will be allowed.

Which brings us to Dr. George McKenna III.

He announced that reconstitution would not happen (so why did Superintendent Cortines mention it, unless it was to bring about an Eli Broadean “sense of urgency”?). After all, the Mont had developed a plan with L.A.E.P. only to see it gutted, because reconstitution was the favored answer and created enough drama, played for the attention of Secretary Arne Duncan. Instead, he told the staff, “You just going to do what I tell you to.”

Which is what was desired at the Mont, but Fremont had a reputation as a strong union school, even when our union didn’t back us up. One reconstitution later, and union members, or teachers of conscience, are being singled out.

Sure, just follow the Doctor’s prescription, and the patient will get better.

Maybe being taken under the wing of PLAS might be an option, perhaps the only option of preserving even a shred of union rights. But one thing is certain. Reconstitution will do little to benefit Jordan. What it will do is create the same situation as over at Fremont. And to allow Dr. George McKenna carte blanche would be to allow someone to take the last shreds of dignity and professionalism those people might have.

Let us hope and pray that, at last, our union leadership chooses to make a stand, and that the selling of the Mont will be the last betrayal in this was on education.

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1 Comment

Reply peter
9:07 PM on October 18, 2010 
"Mission accomplished?" Hardly. On the right path? In some ways, yes. Come talk to me 5-6 years from now. The funny part about Jordan being 'Green Dotted' is the expressions on children's faces when they realize, "Resistance is futile....." and they cannot escape the Green Dot onslaught!