Michael Jackson’s students will miss ‘Mr. Media Academy’

After more than 27 years of working at Fremont High School, Michael Jackson is making his way off stage.

Students learned in February that this academic year was the last Jackson would teach at the Media Academy.
In his last year, he taught Advanced Drama, U.S. History and Cyber High. Jackson has been academy director or co-director for 27 years.

Jackson founded the Media Academy with Steve O’Donoghue in 1986. He has been working as a teacher for about 37 years, including four years at Skyline High and five years at Frick Middle School.

Jackson graduated from University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in history and drama. Jackson is married with three grown sons and one grandson.

Many students believe Jackson is a unique instructor who cannot be replaced.

“It’s going be garbage because no one can teach like Jackson, and I don’t think students will learn as much without him,” said Media Academy junior Giovanni Gaines.

Just like students, mentors and staff say they will feel the impact of Jackson being gone.

“I’ve never experienced the school without Jackson,” said Eric DuBois, who worked as the Media Academy case manager for 12 years before taking a job with the freshman house this school year. “He’s always very intellectual. The kids love him. It’s going to be a loss without him.”

College adviser Jaliza Collins was a Jackson student in 2006 when she was a student at the Media Academy.

“My first memory of Jackson started when I was in 8th grade. My sisters and her friends were talking about Jackson and how he bailed a student out of jail so he could walk the stage,” said Collins. “It was awesome, mind boggling.”

In move that surprised many, Principal Daniel Hurst “consolidated” Jackson this year, which means he was told he could not come back to Fremont High although he still could work in another position in the school district.

Hurst had that power this year because the school no longer has teachers. They were all replaced by educators with the job of “Teachers on Special Assignment,” which is job with an 11-month contract that has to be renewed each year.

“He doesn’t get the respect he deserves most of the time,” said Collins.

Some of Jackson’s top accomplishments include leading the Media Academy to become one of just a handful of Lighthouse Academies, which serve as models for the state’s 500 Career Partnership Academies.

Six-year Journalism teacher Lisa Shafer will be the new Media Academy director and said she feels pressure already.
“One student told me, ‘you’re no Jackson.’ That is true, I am no Jackson. I will have huge shoes to fill. Michael Jackson has done so many wonderful things for the Media Academy. I just hope I can do a fraction of them,” said Shafer.

Students feel the school will be different without Jackson as a director, teacher and mentor.
“I’m going to miss Jackson tremendously. He’s always been there for us and it’s time for us to be there for him,” said senior Crystal Lopez.