Farewell to Fremont (Part 1)

Farewell Fremont!   Today marks the end of my 2.5 year FUSE Corps Fellowship.   I’m writing to reflect on what we accomplished, challenge you with some ideas on what you might do next and thank you for the many lessons learned.  I couldn’t fit it all in, so this is a two-part missive.

In our first year, we explored what advanced manufacturing is, how we might prepare children, learned what other communities are doing to Remake Learning, imagined what Fremont education could be in 2026, created Little Bets to learn, and made 7 recommendations for the city and the district.  In the second year, we explored what innovation means in a library, what an innovative library might be, and then created innovation spaces, playbooks, field guides, Sparkboxes (more on those) and an Artist in Residence programs to get there.  Those are just a few of the dozens of projects I had the privilege to contribute to during my time in Fremont.  This has been an extraordinary experience for me with as many lessons learned as twists and turns.  For all that we learned and for all that we created, I’m very grateful.   

However,  what we accomplished together only scratches the surface of what could be done.  The projects we started can be jumping off points for larger initiatives with a more long-term and widespread impact on the community.  Now it’s up to you.  

With that in mind, I’d like to leave you with three pieces of advice and a series of “What if…?” provocations that might help guide you.  

Dream Together.   Part of my impact was just getting people in the city talking.  Never before had the leaders of Economic Development, FUSD, ACLibrary, Parks and Recreation, MVROP and the Fremont Education Foundation taken a trip together, much less to a land far far away to see how an entire community is reimagining education.   Never before had this group come together with business leaders to imagine what Fremont education could look like in 10 years.  

What if you continued this conversation?  What if you created a group of community leaders and business leaders to imagine what education in Fremont could look like in 10 years and then to work backwards to today WITH the resources to pull it off?   What if the library, as a Palace of the People and an institution everyone trusts, could be the catalyst for this kind of thinking?    What if it wasn’t even limited to educationIt’s, but imagined the kind of community Fremont could be in 10 years?

Dream big.  Dream Huge.  Take what is now and imagine what could be.  What could Archimedes, which is now just a thousand square feet in one library, really be?  What Pittsburgh created with their Remake Learning Initiative was really just a way for the entire community to own and improve education.  

What if Archimedes could be the connector between companies, nonprofits and city departments to enable the community to OWN education?  What if Archimedes could be the space for companies to come teach classes about the skills that they REALLY need NOW?  What if Archimedes could be the space for anyone to teach what they’re passionate about? What if Archimedes could be the space for city leaders to reimagine what education could be if it was supported by the entire community?  What if Archimedes had a full-time staff and executive director to enable the community to work in conjunction with teachers and mentors on projects for school?   What other similar examples across the country can you draw from for inspiration?

Most importantly, dream for today’s world.   Understand what companies are looking for and create a system that enables kids and the entire community to learn these skills.  This is perhaps the biggest challenge because the Harvard/Stanford/Doctor/Lawyer/Engineer track is so deeply embedded in Fremont culture.  I never could understand how so many parents in Fremont work at the most innovative companies in the whole world then come home to create a culture where the only measure of success is getting into a good college.  Simultaneously, Google, IBM, Apple and others are now explicitly stating that creative problem-solving is the primary skill for which they hire and that a college degree is not a prerequisite for their entry-level jobs.   It’s a mismatch that does a profound disservice to all of our children.  

Last year, Dr. Wallace started the “Portrait of a Graduate” that explored the skills, knowledge and habits needed to thrive in today’s world.  It was a good start, but it missed the single most important constituency-the businesses that ultimately hire our graduates.   It also stops short of the second (and more important) question in the portrait framework: what are the experiences that will enable our students to learn the skills?  Because if creative problem-solving is the most important outcome, five AP courses junior and senior year is neither the best way to learn nor the best testament to having the skill.  

What if, as a community,  you set out to rethink high school for today’s world? There are plenty of models out there – just read Ted Dintersmith’s “What Schools Could Be”.  What if, instead of hiring a traditional candidate for your new superintendent, you found someone who could inspire you to, as Apple eloquently put it, “think different”, together?   

I’m looking forward to seeing what you create.  

Part 2 – Was I an Intern? Coming tomorrow.  

Parker

 

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