Charter schools could take over Fremont under superintendent’s new plan

Teachers, students, community mobilize to fight takeover

Sophomore+Wendy+Mora+joined+the+%23iamfremont+social+media+campaign+to+raise+awareness+of+the+positive+aspects+of+Fremont+High+School+and+to+help+stop+the+district+from+turning+the+school+into+a+charter.

Sophomore Wendy Mora joined the #iamfremont social media campaign to raise awareness of the positive aspects of Fremont High School and to help stop the district from turning the school into a charter.

Sophomore Wendy Mora joined the #iamfremont social media campaign to raise awareness of the positive aspects of Fremont High School and to help stop the district from turning the school into a charter.
Sophomore Wendy Mora joined the #iamfremont social media campaign to raise awareness of the positive aspects of Fremont High School and to help stop the district from turning the school into a charter.

The Fremont community survival could hinge on a meeting tonight where district officials will discuss a plan to open the school building to charter schools.

Fremont is one of five Oakland schools that could become homes to charter schools under a plan that Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Antwan Wilson announced the day before winter break.

At tonight’s meeting, district officials said they will explain the plan, which is called Pathway to Excellence Strategic Plan, and answer questions from the community.

The district’s plan is to have newly designed schools, which it calls “quality” programs, by the 2016-2017 school year.

Wilson said in a letter to the Oakland community that there will be no “closing schools” or “school takeovers.”

”We are not “closing schools” and there will be no “school takeovers,” wrote Wilson. However, he also wrote,”Our process will involve proposal submitted by in-district teams initiated from inside or outside the identified schools, and/or established charter school operators.”

Many students and teachers are outraged at the proposal.

“It’s another example of systemic racism at our school,” said history teacher Betzy Barron. “We automatically assume our students will fail.”

Students have started a social media campaign called #iamfremont to show the positive things that are happening at Fremont. Students in the Media Academy are producing Instagram posts and making videos of students telling what the school means to them.

Many students active in Youth Together, Leadership, Alternatives in Action and other organizations plan to attend the meeting tonight.

While Wilson said the new schools will better prepare students for college, career, and community success, many teachers and students are concerned he may do what he did as a Superintendent in Denver. Wilson converted Montbello High from a big high school into three small charter schools.

Many in Oakland fear that such a plan will spell the end of Fremont High which has existed on its current location for more than 100 years. It could also be the end of many Fremont sports programs, including its winning football program, say some.

Terry Hendrix, varsity football coach and an employee and graduate of Fremont High, does not see any benefits of the school becoming a charter. He said many charter schools do not have sports programs and hand pick their students. He is most concerned that the students who come to Fremont now and who need “second chances” will not be welcomed by charter schools.

Also, Hendrix said he does not see the Fremont football team making it past the current junior class because of recruiting difficulties.

In the past decade, Fremont High has gone through many significant changes. The school was converted into several small schools about 10 years ago. Those schools made slow, but steady gains on test scores and other measures, but were forced back into one school less than three years ago as enrollment declined and the district wanted to show it was saving money.

Also, many teachers lost their jobs or left the school when former Superintendent Tony Smith decided to make all teachers “Teachers on Special Assignment” and require them to work an extra month each year and extra hours each month.

Now in its third year of a reunited Fremont High, students and staff say that improvements are starting to be seen. For the first time in a decade, the school saw an increase of enrollment this year and was caught off guard when more than 100 additional students showed up than what had been projected by the district. Oakland Community Organizations also has been working with Fremont and other groups to transform the campus into a school that even more neighborhood students will choose to attend.

Senior Kammielyn Bauzon is upset with the possibility that Fremont will be turned over to charters.

“I have been going here since freshman year and I love this school,” she said. “Everyone here is family.”

Deantae Kennedy, a senior, said he was confused about what the plan will mean to Fremont.

“I feel like we don’t even know what is going to happen at Fremont,” said Kennedy.
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Willie Williams, Davonte Blackson, Nicholas Seals and Quenajonay Frazier also contributed to this story.