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Fremont High teachers balk at mandatory reforms

February 26, 2010 |  7:55 pm

More than half of  the faculty at Fremont High School have pledged to leave the school rather than participate in a mandated improvement plan.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is requiring all school employees to reapply for their jobs. It’s an aggressive attempt to alter what district officials describe as a school culture grown complacent with poor student achievement.

Most teachers have signed a petition saying they won’t go along, staff organizers said.

The ongoing rebellion was underscored at a Friday morning news conference near the school, which is located south of downtown in Florence. A small group of teachers, students and parents took part.

“If new teachers come in, they won’t know anything of the past history of the community,” said Mirna Rico, the parent of a ninth-grader. “There’s a certain stability that students need and, as it is, the school has been very unstable. But it’s getting better.”

Veteran administrator George McKenna countered that progress has been too slow and inconsistent.

“The data is dismal,” said McKenna, the senior administrator for the local region. “And it’s been going on so long long it feels normal to people.”

Only 13.6% of the school’s students tested as proficient in English language arts. Math was worse: Of 3,226 students tested in 2009, only 45 were proficient. Only two students scored as advanced.

Fremont senior Patricia Gonzalez said she had 50 students in her calculus class, which she said was emblematic of a shortage of resources. She said blaming the staff by making them re-interview for positions is the wrong approach.

She, too, said things have improved, which she credits for the recent graduation of her 19-year-old sister and her own academic success. Not all of her siblings have done as well. Of the six that preceded her at Fremont, only two graduated. The others dropped out largely because they felt lost, uninvolved and uncared for in the large school, Gonzalez said.

L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has said he will not back down from the restructuring plan, which McKenna will oversee in conjunction with the principal.

The teachers who refuse to reapply would be assigned to fill vacancies elsewhere.

“We’d like most of the staff to be rehired at Fremont," McKenna said. “They can all be rehired if they participate. We’re still asking them to participate in the restructuring process.”

--Howard Blume