By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Simpson has declined public comment on problems at the school.
Simpson‘s immediate supervisor, cluster leader Charles Jackson, acknowledged in June that he first learned of Simpson’s history at Nimitz from teachers during May‘s death-threat crisis. “I had no evaluations of her performance with Nimitz,” Jackson admitted. “If these kinds of issues had come up all year,” he explained, he might have had a reason to look at them.
Jackson’s decision to keep Simpson on, he said, rested on both her short time at Fremont and his sense of the “pulse of the community.”
One of Jackson‘s sources for gauging the pulse, he said, was Shirley Garrett, a Title 1 employee at Fremont who has two foster children there and blames the school’s shortcomings largely on teachers who, she says, out of laziness or racist indifference, make little effort to see that their students gain any skills.
Fremont‘s image is expected to come under attack from yet another direction this week when a lawsuit is filed by the Congress of Racial Equality, says Dr. Sandra Moore, CORE vice chair. The lawsuit will demand that the school be put into receivership for consistent failure to educate minority children. Moore, who visited classrooms every Friday over the summer months, shares Garrett’s view that Simpson is not the villain, and considers many teachers “racists,” by negligence if not by intent. Simpson is not the focus of the suit.
Students entered the debate over Simpson‘s tenure last week, when 80 percent of them walked out, complaining of too much policing and not enough teaching.
Students were rankled by new security policies subjecting them to random searches if found outside classrooms after the tardy bell between periods. “They put us against the wall, look in our backpacks, throw stuff on the floor and then you have to pick it up,” says Najera. “I don’t think lateness is ‘probable cause’ for a search,” he adds, “especially when you have to walk all the way across campus in the few minutes between classes.” Students are also upset that they have gone for months, in some cases, without lockers, which have been withheld until their parents fill out complex paperwork.
The students won two quick victories. Jackson, his supervisor Rene Jackson and crime-prevention Officer Ed Woodruff met with nine student leaders Monday -- the first school day after the walkout -- and agreed to simplify locker distribution and to an immediate cutback in student searches (which will now be done only with probable cause). On the recruitment of permanent teachers to replace the substitutes, there was only a promise that this was “a priority.” Simpson was not present at this meeting, but students expect to meet with her later this week.
Union leaders have no reason to expect the kinds of easy concessions their students won. They hope, says Harger, that LAUSD administrators -- or the school board -- move this month to make permanent changes in Fremont‘s leadership. Otherwise, they say, the United Teachers of Los Angeles may need to file action with the board to force Simpson’s removal.