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From Chuck Oynyk: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing

September 4, 2010

Below is Chuck’s latest post from

Just a few short months ago, WE were the ones worrying, remember? Then slowly as we started to hear positive things about our colleagues getting employment at good schools and obviously Fremont was not in receipt of 600 applications for our jobs. All of a sudden, during those final last few days as we said our goodbyes, we realized it was McKenna, Balderas and the district who would have to worry. I wondered why Balderas looked so nervous toward the end of June. I mean, he got what he wanted, right? All the “bad” teachers removed from the Mont and only the “cream of the crop” was rehired. What could there possibly be to worry about? We were about to find out.

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”

Today is Friday, September 03, 2010 and Day 70 PF. Payday, for which I am supremely thankful. Hey, didn’t Mr. Balderas say we weren’t getting paid over the summer—unless HE said so? Oh, wait, he did, as was referred to in “All the President’s Men” as a “non-denial denial” (got to love that mustacheless Jason Robards delivering that line) or a “miscommunication (that WAS the term that Mr. Balderas and Dr. McKenna agreed to use to cover such indiscretions, right?).

My room, the O-Zone’s been set up, which should have been the sign to reassure me that I’m now a part of Roosevelt High. Don’t know if it was the furniture moved in and mostly arranged, or my superhero posters up, or the unit posters up, or even meeting with one of my new partners…

Then a couple of seniors stopped by my room. I’d met the one lugging the football helmet a few days before, while his girlfriend quizzed me about what Design Team (Roosevelt code for what Small School you belong to) I was in. Then came the part which showed me I was part of the school. “Mister, I’m selling these cards to raise money for the football team…” Didn’t even listen to the rest of it about discounts from local businesses. “How much?” They’re ten dollars each, sir.” I calculated, sweating for payday. “Fine.” I flashed a twenty. “I don’t have change…” “Fine, give me two.”

It’s hard not to make comparisons to Fremont, but Ican’t help it, because I’d never seen this over at the Mont, nor had I ever seen the multi-colored professional-looking posters detailing the football schedule, which I’d see at other schools. I can’t even read the damned cards; for all I know, I could get a free car; they’ll go in my pocket or my laptop bag and I’ll rediscover them next year. That’s what made me feel like I’d come home.

I just realized this has been my longest “vacation” in 23 years, if you count my vacation (alright, honesty time, “staycation” because of the July furlough-day-infested check and August’s let’s fix-the-computer-and-laptop check) as beginning the afternoon of June 25 (because all vacations really start as you are leaving the parking lot, if not sooner…). For people like me, a vacation is about time. For others, it’s about money—and maybe doing time… heh.

Like the LAUSD charter operator who “misappropriated $2.7 million.

Before I go any further (any you know I will, as I sit in Coffee Bean and swill more expresso), I’d like to remind my handful of readers that there are only FOUR models for “fixing” a “troubled school” and that one of them the staff knows full well (the “turnaround model” which involved getting rid of half the staff and replacing the principal, which did not happen—LAUSD is reaping the benefits as I write, in addition to trying to squeeze $100,000 out of Fremont). A second model, called “restart model”, calls for converting a school or closing and reopening under a charter operator, a charter school management, or an educational management organization. This happened to Locke High School, which was handed over to Marco Petruzzi of Green Dot in 2008, who rehired 40 of the 120 Locke teachers, and is spending $15 million over the four-year rejuvenation.

For those of you keeping score, that’s a lot bigger that the $6 million School Improvement Grant in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, renowned for their devotion to accuracy in reporting educational matters, on June 25th, 2010, “Villaraigosa backs charter school bids, rips Cortines,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa chose his ground in the struggle to reform our schools. Siding publicly with local charter schools, he became critical of Superintendent Ramon Cortines, his one-time ally.

Gathering such groups around him as ICEF Public Schools, and offshoots of Green Dot Public Schools, which he felt did not get a fair shake during the bidding in February, which received only four of the schools.

Whenever budgets get really large, I get nervous. I envision the hundred dollar hammers and thousand dollar toilet seats that defense contractors became infamous for. Even if it was only a few (and use logic, it really HAD to be only a few), they tainted the rest. Which is why folk view certain professions with such stark suspicion. Like ours.

While the refugees from the Mont were busy this week either going through PDs (mine are next week) or looking at their rooms, B-Track has gone off-track, and many, most certainly, were pressganged into “agreeing” to cover vacant positions on A-Track, which began on Monday, August 30th. My reason (okay, one of my many reasons) for mentioning it, was that the media seemed to miss the golden opportunity for shilling for the New Fremont. For the uninitiated, a shill is a “plant”, someone in the audience who asked questions the speaker really, really wants to respond to, and who probably leads the applause for the speaker, rising to his feet and cheering in response to some witty bon mot.

After all, LAUSD managed to make whores of the media on July 6th and 7th:
Witness: MyFoxLA,0,4014929.story?track=rss,0,2596116.story

But on Monday, the media was quieter than a man asked about commitment. The
media went so quiet, you could hear a mouse fart in church. One could argue that
“value added assessment” (and remember, you can’t spell “assessment” without
“ass”) had distracted them—and when was the last time you heard from Howard
Blume? I digress.

The media weren’t the only ones quiet. “Run Silent, Run Deep” seemed to be the
motto of LAUSD—and to some extent, UTLA. But, even though the media says
nothing—after all, Howard Blume says he can’t write anything because LAUSD won’t
talk to him (but he can interview the Two Jasons—his education-beat cohorts at
the L.A. Times on his radio show and NOT ask any probing questions), others are
speaking out.

Students are speaking out:

“I can’t get several classes I need. I was promised them, but the office can’t schedule them.”

“The AP is going to force me to change schools because I won’t wear the uniform.”

“Mr. O, I have subs…”

“It’ll take a couple of weeks to straighten out my classes…”

Former teachers of the Mont are speaking out:
“They gave me a laptop and more supplies than I’ve ever seen…”

“I was given more supplies at this Mayor’s school than I’ve ever received in four years of teaching!”

Here’s pictures of my new room.” Hey, I did it, too.

Some teachers are speaking out:

New teachers who transferred in, speaking to Mat Taylor: Did you feel it? The toxic atmosphere when you came on campus?”

And a very disturbing silence from Fremont itself, as well as LAUSD.

Why would LAUSD miss a prime opportunity to gloat? Why wasn’t the media there?

If July 6th was such a success, shouldn’t it stand to reason that August 30th should be a return to glory, driving the success of reconstitution further home?

I know they haven’t made their point yet. Why haven’t they made it? Teachers are quitting the Mont. Kids are complaining about what has been done.

So when does Los Angeles Unified admit it screwed the pooch on this one?

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