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Fremont High reportedly doing better, but staffing difficulties weren't revealed

December 16, 2010 | 12:09 pm

Midyear test results show Fremont High School is improving after restructuring, school officials say, but charges by the teachers union that the school was not fully staffed turned out to be true.

The promising news on student achievement was released Wednesday; the information on staffing problems has trickled out gradually from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The campus in the Florence neighborhood south of downtown became the first Los Angeles high school last year to be restaffed from scratch under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

All employees had to re-interview for their jobs and many teachers, in protest, declined to reapply,  saying they deserved better treatment after working hard under often-difficult conditions.

In the end, most teachers did not return -- 70% of those leaving declined to reapply, Principal Rafael Balderas said. 

So far, students are doing better than last year, said Supt. Ramon C. Cortines in a letter to the school’s staff.

“I would be remiss if I did not congratulate and commend you and tell you how proud I am of the report that was shared with me regarding Fremont High School's progress,” Cortines wrote this week. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In 9th- and 10th-grade English, more students are participating in midyear assessments and overall scores were higher, according to a district report. The picture was similar, to varying degrees, in algebra, geometry, chemistry, biology and world history.

The school also had made gains last year under the old staff, despite campus turmoil following the December 2009 restructuring announcement.

School restructurings across the country have a mixed record, which Cortines has acknowledged. The teachers union opposed it and later questioned district claims the school was fully restaffed July 1 at the start of the school year.

It turned out the union was correct.

Balderas had told reporters at the school’s opening that it was fully staffed with permanent teachers, but district data released months later showed that claim was false.

The exact staffing picture at reopening remains unclear because the district had not released all the relevant data.

But some details have emerged. When the year-round school opened in July, some teachers working on different tracks came back from their vacations to fill in for vacancies on the track that began July 1.

At the time, Balderas specifically denied any teachers were filling in this way.

The district has confirmed that "a couple" of teachers were used in this manner, although officials have yet to clarify the number. The school relied heavily on early career teachers, including many from outside the school system.

Four staff positions were still unfilled in late September, three months later, according to the district.


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-- Howard Blume

California Schools Guide