OH, the irony of it all…..

It’s April. Months have gone by and strange, ironic twists and turns have taken place in this whole 2.5 mess. The proposals have been submitted and can be viewed by all on-line.


Dave Sievers should be congratulated for producing a lengthy proposal. In many ways Dave takes factors into account that the other proposal writers ignore. I am impressed by his discussion of “support” mechanisms that are necessary for teaching successfully at a place like HPHS. These are teaching prerequisites that are severely lacking not only at HPHS, but elsewhere in LA Unified.

The network Design team proposal, sponsored by local District Six, is well written and manageable. It does not “bash” teachers at HPHS. It does not propose radical whirlwind Jihadist style change, which would be doomed from the beginning. It plans to begin with freshmen and gradually divide the school into smaller schools. I like the emphasis I see in it on technology. On the other hand, small schools are not the answer to underperforming large schools as Bill Gates recently announced. We are all well aware of his pedagogical expertise.

The network does propose a large “Pilot” school as its umbrella governance structure. Such an umbrella structure flies in the face of the purpose of the Boston Pilot model. Pilot schools were meant to be small schools that function with collaboration. The only real difference that would be effected by a “big pilot” would be the streamlining of the District/ UTLA contract. There would also be an “elect to work” agreement, replacing article nine of the contract. Other than that, I see more top down directives coming at us from above with plenty of power concentrated in the hands of the principal. At this moment in time, we have a reasonable, even-handed principal who genuinely talks with teachers and does not play favorites. What about the future, however? LA Unified is notorious for its “dance of the lemon administrators,” as incompetent administrators move from place to place spreading dissatisfaction and petulance.

The Academies Proposal is a glaring disappointment. It proposes an elaborate reapplication process for teachers, strongly implying that teachers are the problem at HPHS. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through the section on selection. The proposal writers would be exempt from this process, not only that, but they would be sitting in judgment on the other teachers as the rest of us reapply through interview and the video taping of a lesson demonstration. The interviewers would be judging teachers on the basis of their “mind-set” which would include their “response to authority.” I threw up my hands when I read this stuff. Who hijacked this proposal?

There were other problems with the proposal. It relied far too heavily on our ridiculous Princeton NJ periodic assessments as gauges of classroom learning. Core academic teachers could have called this into question, but many of the ones who volunteered to be a part of the writing team felt pushed aside. These core subject teachers left the team many weeks prior to the pertinent discussions, a very unfortunate turn of events.

Defections from the Academies proposal team were rampant. A series of emails were sent to Ms. Woerfel asking for various and sundry names to be removed from the final draft of the academies proposal. Contention and heated words descended like hail stones.

Since the submissions were made, Ms. Woerfel was elected as UTLA Chapter Chair to replace Steve Scanlan for the remainder of this academic year by a close vote of 56 to 48 against an out-of-classroom coordinator. Yes, I plan to run for Chair next year.

So here we are. April 12th is our Dooms Day. We wait to see what the board decides to do with us. They still have innovative forms of reconstitution in their arsenal. Nothing is for certain, although I strongly suspect that the decision has already been made. We’re waiting like, let’s see what would be a good simile here, like dogs for a beating? …. like slaves at auction? …… like cancer patients in the waiting room? Figurative language has its limitations.

The truth is that none of these proposals in and of themselves will make any real difference since the problems of student performance have to do with socio-economics and demographics. No proposals for “reform” make any claim to address these issues. How could they?

Funny thing, the small schools network proposal minus the pilot umbrella and tweeked in a few other areas would look remarkably similar to our original ideas about reform discussed at School Site Council meetings last year BEFORE the 2.5 mess came snowballing down on us by way of that mysterious source who hides behind the passive voice.

The irony of the whole thing has my head spinning.

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5 Responses to OH, the irony of it all…..

  1. Dave Sievers says:

    Hi Phil – Thank you for your kind words, they are much appreciated. My Dad taught at a school very similar to H.P. for 30+ years, so I know the challenges well and knew what I was getting into even before my first day at H.P. Please note that Mr. Taniform is also listed on the plan; without his help I would not have been able to finish in time. I have a website up, http://www.hpcip.org , that explains the plan in greater detail. – Dave Sievers

  2. It’s a real shame that the school board pushed us into a corner and pitted us against each other by word and deed. I am happy to be with a group of teachers who have a clear vision of what teaching should look like. There is nothing miraculous about either proposal, but finding a group of teachers who are looking at the future of our students and hoping to make their lives better is important to us. Unfortunately, our board, in reckless fashion has imposed a starting date of July 1, 2010 for whichever plan wins. Everybody knows that this will take a Promethean effort to get started, and the number of loose ends that can be tied up from April 12 to July 1 is overwhelming. The good news is that we are together as a faculty, no matter which plan wins, and we will contain to be the Fighting 300 of Sparta. We’ll weather the storm and then we’ll be on the offensive. Nobody is tougher than a Spartan.

  3. Ex-Fremont Teacher says:

    I strongly urge that no teachers reapply for the academy proposal. The reapplication process will be fraught with all kinds of discrimination, especially of those who speak out. A videotaped lesson? Those who wrote the plan should have to do the same thing. Unfortunately, some teachers have not learned that “united we prosper, divided we beg.” How unfortunate that they have put themselves above their colleagues. The district will turn just as fast on them, they just don’t realize it now.

  4. Pingback: And The Winner Is…None of the Above* « Fremont Watch

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