Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Fremd High School!

My life still revolves around Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois, even though I retired from teaching there in 2007.  I still talk about Fremd every day.  I'm still in contact with former Fremd students, and my golfing buddies are former Fremd faculty members.

I love Fremd High School!

So on the occasion of the 50th birthday of Fremd, it's time for a little reminiscing.  By the way, I hope all of you can make the Fremd birthday celebration on Saturday, June 2nd, from noon until 4:00 p.m. at the high school.  I'll be there with bells on!

Here's the link to get registered:  You can also just show up!

Even though I was an older first-year teacher (age 33) when I started teaching at Fremd in 1981, my connections to the school and to District 211 ran deep.

When Director of Personnel Don Skinner interviewed me for the Fremd English job in May of 1981, Don and I got to talking about basketball.  Don played for Palatine High School, and he was the point guard who fed the ball to legendary Pirates center Ron Kozlicki.

Ron Kozlicki
Don had graduated from PHS by the time I got to high school in 1962, but Kozlicki was still a senior my freshman year at Crystal Lake Community H.S.  Palatine and Crystal Lake were members of the old North Suburban Conference at the time.

Skinner and I didn't talk much education theory at that interview--we talked hoops!  I told him about how I was in the crowd the night Kozlicki broke the field house record at CLCHS.  Crystal Lake's team was horrible (They only won two games that year) so everybody knew what was coming the night the Tigers hosted Palatine because Kozlicki's reputation preceded him.

I was on the freshman basketball team at Crystal Lake, and we frosh players rode Kozlicki unmercifully before and during the first part of the game.  About half way through the second quarter, we just shut up.  Ron was unbelievable!  I think he scored 61 points that night--unheard of in 1963.  Kozlicki went on to star at Northwestern and for the Indiana Pacers.

Dick Kolze, who was superintendent of District 211 when I was hired, was the coach of that 1963 Palatine team that featured Kozlicki, and Dr. Kolze had taught in Crystal Lake in the early 1950's and knew my aunt who taught with him at the same school.

Dr. Richard Kolze, Fremd's First Principal
Dick Kolze is just a prince of a man!  He didn't know me from at hole in the wall, but when my aunt, Florence Knox, died in 1985, Dr. Kolze called me to tell me how sorry he was and how much he enjoyed working with my aunt when he taught in Crystal Lake.  Dr. Kolze later became the principal at Fremd, and he laid the foundation for the school's greatness.

Fremd was a frosh-soph campus during  Dr. Kolze's coaching days and Ron Kozlicki's playing days; the first class didn't graduate from Fremd until 1968.  At the annual Christmas luncheon sometime in the 1990's, Dr. Kolze told me that I was "getting to be an old timer" at Fremd.  I knew then that I had arrived!

Tom Howard was the principal at Fremd when I was hired, and he had played junior high football in Gurnee for a guy who later became the head football coach at CLCHS.  Howard asked me during my interview what I thought of this particular coach.

Now what do you say when the principal asks you what you think about someone?  I decided to be honest.  "I didn't like him!" I said.  "Me either!"  Howard responded.  Thus began my life with Principal Tom Howard.

Whenever I hear a complaint from a teacher about a principal,  I always think, "What would 'Tuck' do?"  ("Tuck" was Mr. Howard's nickname).  Howard was old school, but he was a great principal, the best I ever worked for.  I know, I know, some of you out there didn't like him, and I fought with him all the time when I was the adviser of the school newspaper.  But you always knew where you stood with Tom Howard.  He wasn't running a popularity contest for himself, and he was never hesitant to make a decision and stick to it.  I loved the guy!

Howard was another reason Fremd became a world class high school, but it wasn't just him; it was the combination of students, faculty, parents and staff that made Fremd great.  I've taught for five years since my retirement, and I've never had students as willing to learn as my Fremd students were.  The quality of the teaching at Fremd was also amazing.   I could start naming teachers, but I know I'd leave someone out.  When I first started at Fremd, there were still lots of teachers on the staff who had taught at Palatine before Fremd was built.

I also got to see all the sides Fremd because I announced the boys basketball games for 26 years so I knew all the coaches at the other end of the building.  Announcing those basketball games was just a blast.  Mr. Howard was the president of the Illinois High School Association during the late 1980's and early 90's so Fremd always hosted a sectional boys basketball tournament because of Tuck's clout.

The gym was packed for those sectional games, and Fremd's team, coached by Mo Tharp, usually won the tournament.  Howard used to stand at the south end of the gym with his arms folded watching the game.  The referees were intimidated by him because he was the president of the IHSA.  It was just hilarious!

And what can I say about the Fremd English Department that hasn't been said before?  From Judy Augspurger giving me quizzes and study guides my first week of school when I was a scared first year teacher, to Gary Anderson and Tony Romano developing and nurturing Writer's Week into its huge popularity today.  The English Department is just plain unique.

So happy 50th birthday, Billy Fremd.  You changed my life forever!


  1. As an Iowa State student, Tom Howard did his student-teaching in my hometown of Boone, Iowa right about the time I was born. When that connection came to light, I was hired. That was 25 years ago this August.

    You're right that you always knew where you stood with that guy. It wasn't always pretty, but what can you expect from a guy who kept a copy of "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" on prominent display on his desk?

    Fremd High School is a very special place. It has changed a lot, but the essence of greatness is still there. Those of us who continue to ply the trade there are well aware that every day we stand on the shoulders of giants, the great--and I mean great--teachers like you who built the place.

    So many thousands of students have received a world-class education there in the Quentin Valley. Such greatness in the past creates an obligation to keep it rolling for the future, embracing the traditions but also capitalizing on the opportunities of the future. We know what we're doing. The legacy is strong, although it is challenged daily.

    Those of us who made our careers at Fremd know that we share something that maybe outsiders cannot quite fully understand. For example, last week I was at a pension reform demonstration, walking the picket line with Marlene Craig's daughter. We'd never met, but once we established that connection, we were solid.

    I'm looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary with you next weekend, buddy.

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it right about now.

  2. thanks for sharing..