Saturday, December 12, 2009

CORTINES UNVEILS PLAN TO DISMANTLE AND REBUILD FREEMONT HIGH: City leaders and U.S. secretary of education applaud L.A. superintendent's strategy. The union president objects.

By Howard Blume | LA Times  THIS Article HAS BEEN EDITED - read the article in its entirety at

December 11, 2009 -- L.A.'s top school official on Thursday unveiled his plan to shut down Fremont High and start over from scratch -- a move denounced by the teachers union but applauded by city leaders and the nation's secretary of education.

After quietly alerting the Fremont staff Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines spoke separately with students, parents, city leaders and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was in town to promote such school turnarounds.

Fremont, Cortines said, has shown "some promise, with some of the finest teachers and the right principal . . . but it needed to be given a nudge because the status quo is not acceptable.

"There has to be a sense of urgency," he said.

The plan for Fremont, located in Florence south of downtown, includes dismissing the entire staff as of June 30. Those interested in returning would be interviewed before then by hiring committees that will probably include parents, instructional specialists, skilled teachers and Principal Rafael L. Balderas, in his first year at Fremont. Cortines himself would help develop an "elect to work" agreement for all hires. Under the union contract, Fremont's displaced teachers have the right to a district job elsewhere.

  • Such reconstitutions are new to the nation's second-largest school system.
  • Boston College education professor Dennis Shirley called the reconstitutions harmfully "disruptive," and said "policymakers seem to think there's this limitless pool of people who want to work in the most impoverished and struggling communities."
  • In Chicago -- where Duncan served as superintendent -- reconstitutions were neither uniformly successful nor easy to replicate, said Dorothy Shipps, an associate education professor at the City University of New York.
  • Talking to parents, Cortines …talked of shared accountability that would include imposing a dress code.  "I don't want the pants hanging down around the ass of the young men on this campus and I don't want the midriff showing," he said as some parents nodded their approval.

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