By Quenajonay Frazier
Green & Gold
Fremont High will no longer be Fremont High after next year — it will be called Innovation School of Oakland.
This change is one of many outlined in a 37-page document that the Fremont Design Team submitted to the Oakland Unified School District on May 20.
It was the only proposal made in response to Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s “Call for Quality Schools,” which asked for groups inside and outside the school district, including charter companies, to compete to recreate Fremont. Four other schools also were put out to bid for new designs.
The school board will vote June 24 on the plan for Innovation School of Oakland, which would open in August 2016. Construction for a new facility would start at a later date.
Members of the design team said that the name would better fit the goal of the new school, which will focus on “design thinking,” technology, engineering, health and international studies along with the three main career paths it now offers.
But not everyone likes the new name or the concept of the new school.
“I am disappointed because I wanted to be an alumni [of Fremont High],” said senior Jessica Lindemulder. “Little did I know I would not be able to return to the school I know.”
Under the plan, Media Academy, Architecture Academy and Mandela Law & Public Service Academy will stay on campus but will be broadened into pathways with additional courses. Media will be part of the Digital Media & Technology pathway; Architecture will be part of the Architecture & Engineering pathway; Mandela will be part of the Public Service & Global Studies pathway.
And a new Science, Health and Forensics pathway will open in the new school.
This excites some students, including freshman Bianca Ramirez, who helped with the design in part by visiting several schools in Southern California.
“I love the new labs because that means more hands on,” said Ramirez.
Other students who were involved in a fight to keep Fremont from turning into a charter school were not happy with all parts of the final plan.
“Students felt betrayed and did not like the fact that the school’s name is changing,” said senior Angel Cornejo. “The teachers were too busy trying to fit in someone else’s norms that they forgot the real purpose of the fight.”
One thing members of the Leadership class generally like about the plan is the flexibility it has for students.
Newcomers and special education students will be able to join all classes and pathways. Students can take classes in other pathways, not just their own.
“We can take the class we want for our career,” said freshman Janet Chavez.
The plan calls on everyone at the school to be learners and for teachers to use technology for blended learning in their classes. That would mean that students would do most of their work independently on computers and they would move at a pace that fits their learning style. The teacher would be roaming the room to help students wherever they are in their learning.
“I do not think that it (blending learning) is the greatest idea,” said senior Loata Fine of the Architecture Academy. “No child should be left behind. Everyone should learn together at the pace so they can learn and build off each other, rather than working on a computer alone.”
Along with asking teachers to adopt blended learning, the proposal gives teachers other new roles.
“Teachers will have advisories,” the plan states. “Advisory curriculum will serve to personalize learning for all students and support them academically, socially and emotionally.”
Richard Charlesworth, a Media and Mandela history teacher, said one of his concerns about the plan is not understanding what “design thinking” actually means. He also worries about teacher turnover. Students cannot learn with different teachers each year, he explained.
But he sees positives of the plan.
“We are good at keeping the strong staff and most of the new plan we have already been doing,” he said. “We do not throw the baby away with the dirty bath water.”
Nidya Baez, co-leader of the design team and a Fremont alumni, said the name of the new school is still pending.
Baez said she believes it is necessary for the name to change because there are many people who view Fremont High negatively and the design team wants people to believe that there will be an actual change on the campus.
However, Baez said just because the name will change does not mean Fremont will no longer be Fremont.
“The name change doesn’t erase the 110 classes” that have graduated from Fremont, said Baez, who hopes the new school will keep many Fremont traditions.
The design team dropped at least one controversial idea from its original plan. It no longer wants to add sixth, seventh and eighth grades to the campus.
Anyone who has feelings about the proposal can address the school board at any of the regular school board meetings. The next board meeting is at La Esquelita Education Center tonight (June 10).
A graduate of Fremont High School’s Class of 2015, Quenajonay Frazier wrote this article for the June 10 edition of Fremont’s student newspaper, “The Green and Gold.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)