Former Fremont High teachers join charter school movement

By Elizabeth Warden

imageJohn C. Fremont High School, located in South Los Angeles, recently underwent reconstruction, a process that allows the Los Angeles Unified School District to make teachers at low performing schools, evaluated by a consecutive high dropout rates and low standardized test scores, reapply for their jobs. Some Fremont High teachers, at the time, decided not to reapply for their jobs as a symbol of opposition to the school district.

“It definitely [does not have] a community in mind,” said Joel Vaca, a 10-year Fremont High veteran during an interview in spring 2010 after the school district had approved the reconstruction process in Dec. 2009.

“Every other neighborhood in LA had a voice in their opinion: East LA had a choice with the public school choice initiative, the beach harbor area had a voice when their schools went up for vote, and it’s the disenfranchisement of South Central and neglect of what happens here in South Central,” he said.

Fremont’s reconstruction and the maelstrom that ensued speaks to the politics of culture and change that often make school and community reform exceedingly difficult.

But just around the time reconstruction at Fremont High began happening, the LAUSD public school choice 2.0 options sprouted up in the spring of 2010 and the district announced nine new campuses. The district intended to use one of the campuses – South Region High School #2 – to relieve overcrowding at Fremont High and neighboring Jefferson High. This gave a team of former Fremont High teachers, and some from Jefferson High, the opportunity to send in a letter of intent and draft a proposal for the South Central Region #2 High School campus that the school district had already started constructing.

Some former Fremont High teachers – like Erica Hamilton who taught at the school for six years – had been looking at alternatives for Fremont High students far before this. She had explored the option of charter operators as early back as 2006, which was the only option at the time.

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