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L.A. school officials will shut down Fremont High and start over [Updated]

School officials will shut down low-performing Fremont High in the Florence neighborhood of L.A., dismiss its staff and reopen the school starting from scratch, the district confirmed today.

The controversial strategy, called "reconstitution," has never before been tried by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In the works for weeks, the move was announced Wednesday afternoon to the Fremont staff by Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. He moved up a scheduled Thursday meeting at the school when he found out The Times had learned of his plans for Fremont.

The news comes on the eve of a Los Angeles visit by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is expected to talk about acting aggressively to address high school “dropout factories.”

Turnaround models endorsed by Duncan closely mirror Cortines’ intended strategy for Fremont. In an interview, Cortines said that he’ll invite Fremont teachers to reapply for their jobs but that they won’t necessarily return. And if they do, they will have to sign an “elect-to-work” agreement that will establish special rules. Displaced Fremont teachers would be allowed to remain with L.A. Unified at other schools, he added.

Cortines insisted that the timing of his move was unrelated to Duncan’s visit.

“I had this in mind long before,” he said.

Fremont has long endured high dropout rates and low standardized test scores.  The superintendent said he was following through with his earlier vow not to tolerate poorly performing schools. Fremont will not be the last reconstitution if other schools don’t show marked improvement, he said.

The move opened another front of conflict with United Teachers Los Angeles. On Tuesday, a UTLA rally in front of L.A. Unified headquarters brought out 700 demonstrators to protest impending budget cuts.

The union is also threatening to sue over a school-control resolution passed by the Board of Education in August. Under the measure, 12 low-performing existing schools and 18 new campuses are up for bid to be operated by groups inside and outside the district.

Fremont escaped the resolution’s reach because the school’s scores rose last year. But they didn't increase enough to satisfy Cortines, for whom the campus will become a personal project, remaining directly under district control.

Union officials learned of the Fremont strategy today, said Mat Taylor, a Fremont English teacher who is a UTLA representative for schools in that area.

“I feel really bad for the students of Fremont because reconstitution doesn’t even begin to work,” Taylor said. “It’s just grandstanding, Cortines grabbing headlines, making it look like the district is doing something but just blaming the people at the school.”

He added: “The reason why Fremont isn’t as successful as it could be is the way Fremont has been run by the district and the issues of poverty. Reconstitution says it’s the teachers’ fault, and we completely reject that.”

Reconstitutions have been tried elsewhere, including in Chicago, where Duncan served as superintendent before joining the Obama administration. The closest example is Muir High in Pasadena. Locke High, near Watts, is the most similar effort in L.A. Unified. But that makeover was handled by a charter school company, which took over the campus.

[Update: An earlier version of this item incorrectly identified the name of the Pasadena high school that has been reconstituted.]

-- Howard Blume

 
Comments () | Archives (64)

Completely out of line. What about Jordan High?

Everyone move out of the way: with Fremont teachers removed, there will be a stampede of qualified, veteran teachers who will rush to South Central to take their place. NOT! Have to agree with Mat Taylor in this one: reconstitution is more show than true reform. The truth is that schools like Markham MS and other South Central schools are STILL not fully staffed in spite of a "pool of teachers" bumped out of their jobs with the layoffs this spring. If the district can't even staff regular schools in South Central then I sincerely hope they have an alternate plan to staff this important school.

I think that this is a great idea. The same thing should be done at other low performing schools. The California Public School system is a joke.

Did anybody ask what the community wanted? Did anyone ask the parents what they wanted? Have the teachers at Fremont been given a REAL chance to turn around there school? Has this been a proven method for improving schools?

I am tired of undemocratic top down change. I am tired of un proven reform efforts, while they cut and cut education budgets!


Are they starting with new students too?

I'd much rather leave and be placed elsewhwere and I suspect so will other competent teachers.

With a 12 % cut on the way, I think I'll let the district do all the work of placing me. After spending countless dollars on my classroom and students, this is the thanks I get. I'll miss my students, but that's all I'll miss. Goodbye, Fremont.

To my students: I'll miss you all dearly. "Find a Path or Make One."

It is very hard for me to believe that every single teacher at Fremont was a bad teacher. It sounds humiliating to me that they would need to "reapply" for their old jobs. You will not solve the problems of Fremont High unless you address poverty, racism, crime, immigration, etc., which is way above the pay grade of a public school teacher.

Fremont, Hayward all armpits.

I'm sorry for any kid that has to live in those hellholes.

The displaced teachers from the "dropout factory" aka Fremont will be placed elsewhere in the LAUSD system? WHY??!

another ghetto dump created by inept bleeding heart liberals and black racists.

I think that it's a great idea. The same thing should be done at other low performing schools. The Calfornia Public School System is a "joke".

The average citizen has no concept of the cesspool like conditions at these public schools.
The problems will not be solved by political grandstanding by arrogant administrators who are largely responsible for the problem, not the solution.
Major changes are required in public education. First, we must abolish the failed colleges of education which produce the incompetent politically correct principals and superintendents and their worthless Ed.D. degrees, who make such large undeserved salaries for failure. They also produce most of the incompetent and cowardly teachers too, who often refuse to speak up, and even place their job on the line, when worse than animal behavior by students is not adequately addressed by cowardly principals and other administrators. Remember the movie "Blackboard Jungle"? Little has changed in over half a century has it? They must be replaced by competent people with the highest standards of ethics, intelligence and determination, not necessarily with advanced degrees, who will support teachers and their problems in the classroom. Others with on the job experience should also be considered.
Second, teachers must have degrees in the subject matter they are teaching.
Third, teachers must have guaranteed independence and immunity to claims, just like most elected officials have now for much less, to discipline unruly students in their own classrooms with clearly stated rules and goals by the administration. If it becomes necessary for students to be sent to the principal's office, that principal must support the teacher at all costs with few exceptions.
Fourth, many of these students are lower than animals. They come from homes where the parents often refused to use birth control and the mother likely took drugs, used alcohol and/or smoked while pregnant and likely caused mental impairment of the fetus. The research on this issue is indisputable. This issue must be addressed immediately. These irresponsible parents often do not pay anything for the enormous education costs of the children they fostered and brought into this overcrowded planet. Government must end this politidally correct nonsense and take direct action at the level of the home environment lest these animals be permitted to gang rape the country.
Where is it authorized that a woman has the "right" to impair the intelligence of her children? Why does her privacy trump the welfare of an innocent child?
If necessary these children must be taken from the failed home and placed in state custody at an early age before they become so dangerous to others.
We as a society cannot continue to support the totally failed "business as usual" in the failed public schools and the failed politically corret non leaders operating them and failing year after year after year.
Many other suggestion could also be made.

Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics
Athens, GA
Formerly of Sierra Madre, California

I've got really mixed feelings about this. Obviously, we don't want the expense of maintaining and running "drop-out factories", but are they drop-out factories because of the teachers, or because of the culture of the students and their families? I imagine in some areas, the teachers can teach all they want, but the students won't attend class (in mind, even if in physical presence), and it's not fair to penalize a teacher for that. On the other hand, bad teachers who can't teach a willing a student do need to be purged from their positions, and that's the overall failure with the concept described in the article: it allows the teachers "fired" from this particular school to remain employed with the LAUSD by moving them to another school. What's the point? If they're really a bad teacher, now you're penalizing good students in another venue by giving them a bad teacher, if they're not a bad teacher, and it's the students' fault the students aren't learning, why punish the teacher with relocation or odd contracts?

JUST MAYBE IF GRADES 1st-8th got the much needed support , kids would not dropout by the time they get to high school!

Isn't it amazing that the only answer Superintendent Cortines seems to have for problems is to give them away. What happened to his school choice resolution and why could it not be applied to Fremont? Why is he not addressing the problems at Fremont and other schools, isn't he the Superintendent? What has happened to the revamping of the teacher evaluation system so that any incompetent teachers can be evaluated out of teaching through a due process system instead of being transferred to another school where they can still be incompetent? How about empowering your administrative staffs in schools to truly evaluate personnel without the political interference that occurred at Dolores St. School? When are we going to get a true educator as the Superintendent?

It has recently been reported that Duncan's plans in Chicago did not work. It just shuffled the kids around, and caused many other problems. Locke did not produce any significant improvement as a charter. We are just getting diverted from addressing the real problems because we do not have the political will to make the needed changes.

in reality, education is a stepping stone for our factions and "arrogant administrators". ramon cortines is really just grabbing headlines. what about the students? what about those teachers that actually make a difference? i attend a charter school and have seen how it is to have teachers that actually stick to the program. what we need is to solve the problem not fire everyone and start over. it is easier than it sounds. los angeles is a beautiful place, and we must do everything to protect its equally beautiful endeavors

I dont know if to say this is a good ideal or not, because it seems to me like everyone is losing focus of who,and what the schools are intended for. what about the kids is my motto. Los Angeles unified school district need to quite attempt to have all these teacher that come from other countries on visa attempting to teacher our american kids the major subjects of english and math that have serious language barrier problems and then expect our kids to be able to learn english and math profienct and be able to pass the cahsee test. Cortine needs to quite doing thing in the school district for politic gain. every needs to realize he was supposedly the back bone for the school district behind our last superintient and we all knows that he did absolutel zero and walked away with millions.

Once again another photo opportunity. People outside only get the media versions, while there may be some not as aggresive as others, I feel most of the teachers there are becuase they want to be, and are really concernded about the students. How about providing more resources, taking a more aggresive attitude towards parental involvement, and even more incentive for teachers in troubled communities. This is nothing more than a takeover. That should really solve the problem.

Fremont High is fully packed with students in grades nine through twelve. If by the ninth grade these students are unable to read and do simple math, why is Fremont High getting all the flack for not teaching these students reading and mathematical skills?(Skills that should have been acquired in grades one through eight.)

If you want to blame teachers, shouldn't the blame go further down the line to the elementary and middle school teachers? What were THESE teachers teaching for those eight years?

To expect these high school students to be able to read and interpret classical works of literature and to be able to perform higher-level mathematical computations when they can't properly read or do simple math is ridiculous.

Fremont which is an overcrowded year-round school also houses an adult school as well as continuation school along with offering intersession classes. The buildings are in disrepair because there is never any "down time" to properly clean and service the campus. You'd think the community and parents would get involved in cleaning and bettering the school, but parent involvement is nil.

The school district was WELL AWARE of all the problems that Fremont was facing year after year after year when it became a year-round school fifteen years ago. The school district and the endless parade of superintendents and board members chose to do nothing.

Sure, blame the teachers.

I AM A GRADUATE OF FREMONT HIGH SCHOOL(CLASS OF 93). I CAN ASSURE EVERYONE OUT THERE THAT THIS SCHOOL NEEDS A MAJOR OVERHAUL. I FEEL ROBBED OF A BASIC EDUCATION. ALSO I REMEMBER TEACHERS DATING STUDENTS, TEACHERS BUYING DRUGS FROM STUDENTS, AND TEACHER PARTYING WITH STUDENTS. DURING MY SENIOR YEAR MY HISTORY TEACHER HAD SEXUAL REALATIONS WITH AT LEAST 3 GUYS DURING A DITCHING PARTY AT MY FRIENDS HOUSE. I HAD ANOTHER TEACHER THAT GAVE ME THE KEYS TO HER CAR SO I CAN GO TO NEAREST BURGER JOINT AND GET LUNCH FOR HER. I KNEW A SECURITY GAURD THAT DELT DRUGS AND WAS A KNOW BLOODS GANG MEMBER. THE REASON THAT YOU DONT HEAR ABOUT THIS ON THE NEWS IS STUDENTS IN THAT AREA MIND THEIR BUSINESS AND DONT RAT ANYONE OUT IN FEAR OF RETALIATION. IF YOU INTERVIEW ANY CURRENT OR FORMER STUDENT AT THAT SCHOOL, YOU WILL FIND THAT THEY HAVE SIMILAR STORIES. IT IS ABOUT TIME THIS SCHOOL GOT SOME ATTENTION. FIRE EVERYONE AND DUE BACK GROUND CHECKS ON EVERY STAFF MEMBER BEFORE THEY ARE ALLOWED TO RESUME THEIR POSITIONS.

Sadly, Mat Taylor(for his comments), has been suspended for a couple of days. Another way that Private interest tries to surpress decent.
Oh! on a lighter note, Cortines will meet with parents this afternoon; the notices went out YESTERDAY afternoon!, so you can guess there's going to be a big turnout. Students are being pulled from class to meet with cortines, only to be told NOT to defend their teachers "They can take care of themselves"!. It's not about the students1,not here anyways.

I am currently a student at fremont high school and i think that this is very unfair for cortines to do. Us students have tried our best to pass the standardized test...but that does not give you guys as reason to shut down our school...Cortines needs to hear us out and be able to understand that we need our Teachers,Counserlers,Deans,Security,e.c.t to help us get educated and graduate..I wanna put Cortines to the challege! If he could teach us for a whole month and actually teach us something than he can make his changes! Either than that THEN NO!

Everyone commenting at this report has bad grammar. Fremont does have poor grades and does not meet state requirements but there are brilliant students. Most of Fremont teachers are rigorous and they do prepare students for college. Those students who go around saying "Fremont did not prepare me" only say that because they were in classes that had interruptions. I graduated from Fremont about 3 years ago with a 3.87777, National Honors and so on, I wasn't just given those awards I earned them, my teachers helped me earned them. Maybe Fremont would be a lot different if staff members didn't make crazy changes such as changing time schedules and the hours. If the Principal didn’t spend so much time talking non-sense over the P.A. there would be more time to get with the lesson… Maybe if we had less drama-such as “another assistant principal gets caught with student.” Over all Fremont is a great learning environment is you allow it… If a student wants to learn he or she will put all the effort and come out of Fremont fully prepared… Heck, there are many of us at UCs, Cal States and so on thanks to Fremont… how come there isn’t an article that mentions the hundreds of formal Fremont students who are soon to be college graduates? Quit putting Fremont down, talk about our accomplishments… talk about students who have given Fremont a better reputation.

I am currently a student at fremont high school and i think that this isnt fair Cortines needs to hear us out.
He shouldnt fire everyone. We have tried our best to pass the standerized including (CAHSEE, SAT, ACT, ect) Us as students have the right to speak and demonstrate how we feel in this situation. I would like to challenge Cortines! If he could teach at fremont for a whole month and actually teach us something than he could do his changes. Either than that then NO!

 
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