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School Reform at the Top

November 23, 2002

It's oh so easy, and much too convenient, to stereotype inner-city schools like John C. Fremont High School -- as The Times has done in "State Praises Turnaround at School" (Nov. 14) and "A Failing School Perks Up" (editorial, Nov. 15). Simplistic reportage leaves all of us seriously out of touch with the realities of education, especially in a part of our city forgotten in so many other ways.

As an English teacher for 17 years and a former longtime United Teachers-Los Angeles representative at Fremont, I've witnessed years of sad neglect from the powers that be. I can report on the majority of the students with heart and determination. And of bureaucrats only concerned with paychecks.

I can report on creative teachers who take their jobs home every night. And of broken promises from state audit teams. It is the teachers who have maintained standards and high expectations for our students. It is the teachers who have desperately called for skilled administrators for four years.

It is not the teachers but the state and the LAUSD that consistently show little accountability, and much cynicism, when it concerns overcrowded classes, mismanaged funds and deficient administration. As we've shown, teachers support our new principal. But to report a major change at Fremont since the arrival of LaVerne Brunt is to not look past the dog-and-pony show, the sugarcoated surface.

When parents aren't marginalized (still no parent center), Fremont will genuinely improve. When teachers' input isn't trivialized and systematically oppressed, real change will occur. When the state and the school district stop playing politics with our students, all will be enriched.

Fremont's students need so much more than tardy sweeps -- "no child left behind" in the hallways? Top-down reform supposedly was left behind in the last century. Talk to the teachers and the parents. Listen to student concerns. Respect, trust and love are real. Stereotypes are not.

Mathew C. Taylor

San Pedro

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Thank you for praising the work of Principal Brunt at John C. Fremont High School. I had the pleasure of working with her when she was an assistant principal at Palms Middle School, and she is a gem! We were sorry to see her leave our school.

Please offer more news of the many fine teachers and administrators who are working hard for the children of our city.

Ann Bourman

Los Angeles

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