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Out Of The Mouths of Babes- And Parents

June 28, 2012

Fremont High Graduates 700 Plus Students – A School Record  the LA Times headline screamed.  For a public  used to being lulled by numbers and statistics, this headline might not motivate very many to look deeper, but by chance if they did look deeper……………..they might have seen a couple of quotes that would cause them to question the propaganda.  In addition, it is most likely that some of these “graduates” walked the stage without actually finishing all of their classes.  Unfortunately,  numbers rather than substance resonates with the public.

Quote #1 from a parent disagreeing with her daughter that cool, young teachers who could relate to her are better than experienced teachers:

“I felt the teachers who were already there were more concerned with education and more familiar with the kids,” she said. “There were a lot of good teachers who didn’t return.”

Quote #2 from a student:  Wilmer Recinos for the money quote:

“They hired a lot of inexperienced teachers,” said Recinos, who plans to study engineering at UC San Diego. “They should have tried to hire people who were more adequate for the job. I could have learned more in my classes.”

Wilmer, if you only could have known, and maybe you did know- some of the fabulous teachers who did not reapply or were “not selected.”   Those adequate teachers were already there but only now are you recognizing that fact- after your education. And that’s not your fault; it’s the fault of parents and community members who didn’t step up to stand with the teachers  but instead turned their backs on them.

And just in case the parents and students of Fremont don’t know yet, a few weeks back, Fremont underwent yet another mini reconstitution in which new, inexperienced teachers were put in charge of the Small Learning Communities and then “interviewed” what was left of the veteran staff who survived the last reconstitution.  Not surprisingly, most of the experienced teachers were kicked to the curb.  Only Herb Niebergall and a few others survived.  And so it goes, especially with an inattentive community.  However, the quotes above indicate than not every parent or student is fooled by “cool, young teachers.”  Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for the demonization of teachers and the experimentation on the kids of South LA.   It is devastating, yet also weirdly comforting to read these comments validating and confirming what we knew all along about Fremont and the tragedy of reconstitution.

Just for fun, let’s go through a partial list of the great teachers who did not return in the 2010 reconstitution. This list is in no particular order, just by memory on my part:

1) Claudia Pilon– well-respected and creative English teacher in Magnet – loved by her students.  Replaced by someone not up to the task

2) Carter Hovland– social studies teacher who used to play guitar with his students outside of class.  Nice guy, great work ethic and committed to Fremont and his students.  He was also a world traveler and could share these experiences with his students.

3) Jackie Gonzales– lead teacher and LAUSD graduate; taught AP US History, Latin American studies as well as other social studies classes – worked around the clock for Fremont, she has fabulous classrooom management skills but they are being put to use not at Fremont, but at the Mendez Learning Center where many  former Fremont teachers now call home

4) Mario Becerra– English teacher who specialized in using higher level texts with his students- no body did this better.  His kids learned to think and write, write, write.  Now at a Magnet School. 

5) David Goodman– good social studies teacher  and a fabulous counselor.  He was able to act as a counselor for his SLC and received universally high marks for this endeavor.   Now teaching at a Magnet School.

6) Noehmi Garcia– Taught biology at Fremont along with her husband Johnny. She was well -loved by students.  She was also a real worker in the Fremont resistance.  She like other science teachers was replaced by 22 year olds from Teach for America who as Wilfred above noted, were not up to the task.

7) Beth Trinchero – Lead Teacher for the Small Learning Community People, Power , Passion and she had plenty of the latter.  Great leader, organizer and teacher.

8) Dan Le– social studies teacher who was an expert at motivating his students and like Carter Hovland above, he is a world traveler.  Last I heard he was at Roybal working for a principal who appreciates him.

9) Chuck Olynyk – social studies teacher who specializes in Living History  and the Holocaust.   Really, what can I say about Chuck, other than he is totally authentic and there is no one else like him  He makes much of his own history realia that he uses in his classroom but of course, no longer at Fremont.   Roosevelt High Students are now the lucky recipients of his teaching.

10) Juan Puentes – English teacher who specialized in speech and did a wonderful job.  He held his students accountable and they rose to the occasion.

12 ) Becky French – Taught social studies for high needs students and also came in at 6 am every morning to teach a reading class. Like all of the above teachers, she was not replaceable.  

13) Fred Simmons– taught science at Fremont and extremely committed to his students and Small Learning Community

14) Agnes Cesare – possibly the hardest working and most capable and caring counselor at Fremont- she always took the time to help a student in crisis. She wasn’t like the modern day counselor who programs classes, she was old school and worried about the student’s emotional health before all else.  Fremont’ s loss.

15) Deadra Bouligny – wonderful school psychologist who was an elementary teacher before she was  turned to student mental health and had Jackie Gonzales as a student all those years before.  

16) Germain Labat- BCLAD social studies teacher and Title 1 coordinator.  He did a fabulous job in that position and did his best to help teachers navigate field trips, copy machines and curriculum and supplies.  Always has a smile on his face, but not at Fremont anymore- now that smile greets students and teachers at Roybal.  He was dubiously displaced after the 2010 reconstititution to the dismay of many staff members. 

17) Kim Davis – former SLC lead teacher of AOTT – she put her students on a fast track for math to get them ready for Niebergall’s AP Calculus class and they often passed the AP  Calculus test.    She also had a record number of students pass the math portion of the CAHSEE the first time.   She was one of the most collaborative and friendly colleagues at Fremont.   One of her students said of her class that it was, the” hardest math class I ever loved ”  Now that is a compliment. 

18) Jill Pyrko  – another extremely outgoing colleague who knew how to relate to her students well.   Her English classes were well structured for all levels of students and there was always something exciting going on in her classes. 

19) Margherita Moraca – Art teacher who founded Humanitas at Fremont and forced into retirement when the illicit reconstitution of Fremont took place.   Known as the Humanimama by her loving students.  

20) Bill McCleary– Great English teacher from the SLC- AIR – Arts in Reality- he taught novels in a discussion format with  his students.  In addition, he and his wife Susan worked 24/7 for their students in AIR and often had cookouts and other gatherings for their students.  Extremely helpful and collegial.    His wife Susan used her nutrition time to teach remedial lessons to students. 

21) Margaret Ochoa– English teacher at Fremont who I regret to say I didn’t take the time to get to know. That’s what happens when you are one of 200 teachers on three tracks.   I know she was well -reguarded by her colleages and did not reapply when Fremont was reconstituted.  Ended up at a  Magnet school- isn’t it interesting how many Fremont teachers ended up at Magnets?  It speaks highly for our crew, doesn’t it?

22) Mary Hoover– dedicated librarian  at Fremont who was extremely helpful to students and staff alike.  For years we had a wonderful curriculum section in the back of the library that was a godsend to new teachers.  Mary held some Scholastic book sales as well in addition to enlarging posters and completing many other tasks for teachers that – lets face it- we now have to pay for at Office Depot since those support services for teachers. 

23) Nichole Dodd – Nichole attended Fremont back in the day and was hired by Principal Haydel who was the last long -term principal Fremont had (10 years).  This meant she started teaching in the 90’s so was there for Fremont’s really chaotic time.  Nichole had great rapport with her students and that is something you can’t replace with TFA. 

24) Micky (Michele) Thibeault– Micky had a background in publishing and I believe writing for TV shows before landing at Fremont.  There were two things we could all count on when we got one of Micky’s students in our own classes- her kids would know how to write and enter a classroom properly and keep their butts in a chair!.  I also remember Micky publishing the school newspaper – a really big job and staying late into the evening to help seniors write their personal statements so they could get into great colleges like UCLA.  

There are about 90 more teachers I need to mention because over 150 teachers did not return.  But it is too difficult for me to wade into the past right now so I will add more names on later.     Please send me more names so I can add them on as well as facts I may have missed about other teachers.   There are a couple of art teachers I have forgotten and manhy more.  

“Never forget the real Fremont”

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