Ockley Green parent letter

12:24 pm

The following is a letter sent from Ockley Green parent Sia to Superintendent Carole Smith. The letter referenced in the first paragraph decries cuts at Ockley for 08-09, including the digital media program, one P.E. teacher, and two of four eighth grade teachers. –ed.

Dear Superintendent Smith:

I have read the letter from Jamie Malloy. It’s ironic, because yesterday I was talking a Jefferson parent that was trying to convince us that we could stay in Portland Public Schools for high school. At great expense to our low-income family, my daughter will be attending a private Catholic high school.

It is clear to me and many other parents that the district plans to continue the benign neglect of Jefferson Cluster schools. It is also clear that District will continue to practice de facto segregation through the school transfer policy. I just learned that students who participate in the Jefferson Dancers will NOT be required to attend Jefferson high school in the 2008-09 school year, as had been previously reported. PPS continues to cater to families with the wherewithal to participate in the school choice program. Families that can afford to transport children across town and away from their neighborhood schools. The environmental impact of this policy on this city, with regard to traffic congestion, pollution is “not okay”. The pitting of families against one another for “lottery winnings” as one parenting blog calls it is “not okay”. Continuing to give children in schools that are primarily attended by children of color, the short end of the stick regarding resources and programming is unconscionable.

Finding a supportive learning environment for my bright, stubborn, talented Afro-Latina daughter, has been a challenge at Portland Public School since we moved here in 1st grade. We have tried the school choice policy, but found that the policy is inherently flawed. The school choice program has become about middle-class and upper class parents choosing to have more resources and less economic and/or ethnic “diversity” for their children. Children of color are not always welcomed and supported in these environments. Meanwhile, parents of children of color that are low-income are selecting to forego basic needs and paying for school. Holy Redeemer draws from the Jefferson cluster and one-third of its students are on free and reduced lunch. My daughter, attended HRCS for 4th and 5th grade until I could no longer afford it. After a disastrous year at a focus option middle school, we were blessed to find Ockley Green.

Mr. Malone, Dr. Matier and Ms. Scheetz before her, have created an environment for our children that is loving, supportive and holds them accountable. My daughter has blossomed at Ockley Green. She has been making sure that she will receive high school credit for the algebra class. She didn’t even like math before now. She believes in herself and so does her school. As the parent of a middle schooler, there are days where you’re not sure how it will turn-out. Mr. Malone and his staff have demonstrated confidence in these children, when we parents sometimes have had our doubts. As a parent, I do everything I can to make our support staff, teachers and administrators know how special and precious these past two years have been. Ockley Green is the best school we have attended in Portland Public Schools. We tried the Family Cooperative School, Beach Neighborhood School and daVinci Arts Middle. My daughter was treated so poorly at some of those schools that I worried that she would lose her love for school that she brought to Portland.

I can’t even list the wonderful ways that the many Ockley staff that have reached out to our family. It is so special and unusual in your school system. I am so bitter about the cuts.

I am angry, hurt and pretty despondent that you continue to decimate the only school that is actually trying to accomplish what the mission of the District is supposed to be. I wish I could properly articulate how horrible what you have decided to perpetuate is, but language fails me. Much like you and the School Board continue to fail our children.



Share or print:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • Print

Sia is the parent of an Ockley Green graduate.

filed under: Equity, High Schools, Jefferson High, Ockley Green, Program cuts, Transfer Policy

follow responses with RSS

24 Responses

  1. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Don’t worry Sia, there will be no meaningful response. You hit the nail right on the head, the upper middle class families get a halfway decent education and everybody else gets test prep.

  2. Comment from Steve Buel:

    One more thing, are you kidding me???? The Jeff dancers are back to not being required to attend Jeff. Well, what a surprise.

  3. Comment from Clyde Tolson:

    The struggling, madly inexperienced principal at Mt. Tabor Middle School just cut art, computers, drama, leadership and closed the library down for good.

    So, we are left to ask WWJD?

    What would her mentor, John Wilhelmi, do?

  4. Comment from O.G. neighborhood parent:

    After those cuts will Mt. Tabor still have PE, Spanish, Japanese, Band, and Yearbook? What about any other enrichments?

  5. Comment from Clyde Tolson:

    The only electives left standing at Tabor are Spanish and Band. Health class is in Oregon law, so it must be taught. Yearbook may be after-school. JMP still at Tabor.

    But, the veteran, well-loved Spanish teacher has had enough of the rookie mistakes and the nastiness in the school’s administrative offices, so she’s retiring a few years early.

    There is a new Spanish teacher, however, the principal actually told her staff she is not happy with the new Spanish teacher’s license and qualifications, but will make do.

    The teachers at Tabor were stunned to hear the principal tear down her newest hire at a public staff meeting.

    Simply stunned.

  6. Comment from Zarwen:

    That principal violated the teacher contract. The new Spanish teacher should file a grievance.

  7. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I called Mt. Tabor and asked about the cuts. They said the schedule was not out for this year yet and the library was not being shut down. So, what is the real info. I am particularly interested in the library situation.

  8. Comment from Clyde Tolson:

    The 2008-9 schedule is out and posted, with no librarians. The principal unassigned both of them, personally.

    That’s a fact Tabor is not proud of, Steve, so I’m not surprised at the “disinformation” campaign.

  9. Comment from tang:

    You know, it kind of sounds like what happened at the elementary school level 6 & 7 years ago. They unassigned most of the certified librarians and hired classified to run the libraries. No more instruction ocurred, but the libraries were kept open for teacher use and student check out of books. Some used a cross between parent volunteer and classified hires. I believe it would be very difficult to find a certified librarian in an elementary school. Maybe this is what is going on.

  10. Comment from liz:

    As Sia mentioned in her letter to Carole Smith, new Jefferson Dancers won’t be required to attend Jefferson this fall as previously promised by Vicki Phillips. The Jefferson Dancers continues to be the only magnet program in PPS that a student can participate in without attending the school. Superintendent Smith and the PPS school board members should be ashamed, but what else is new? Here’s an article about the latest broken promise from the Portland Tribune today:

    Jefferson Dancers mandate will have to wait in the wings

    Portland Public Schools officials are backing off a strategy to boost equity at Jefferson High School next year.

    Since the Jefferson Dancers program is so popular citywide but the majority of the dancers come from other schools and neighboring districts, the district had been planning a new mandate for the program: Starting this fall, all Jefferson dancers actually would have to be enrolled at Jefferson.

    District officials say the plan is off the table for now. The biggest concern? Questions over how many dancers would transfer to the school while Jefferson continues to struggle to attract students. If done too soon, the thinking goes, the change could make the dance program stumble.
    – Tribune staff

    Link to Tribune article:

  11. Comment from Nate:

    Well, speaking as a member of the Jefferson dancers and as an academic student of Cleveland high school(class of ’09)- I would just like to say that as far as I can tell, the dance program wouldn’t be half as good if the students weren’t aloud to co-op. The co-op program allows great dancers from all over Portland (and even Beaverton+LO)to come together creating a very diverse and talented group of students-both financially AND ethnically diverse. I’ve spoken to many students about whether or not they would be willing/able to transfer to Jefferson as a full-time student, and so far I’d say almost all of them said no. Most don’t want to transfer because they’re offered higher classes and more programs/opportunities (i.e. international baccalaureate) at their home schools, some just feel more comfortable being with people they know and trust throughout the day at their neighborhood schools, another thing is we really like our off campus lunch and freedom- but whatever the reason(s) might be-the point is that little to no students would be willing to transfer, and i don’t mean to be negative but from my predictions i would assume that if all of the Jefferson dancers had to attend the high school, the program would crumble apart-at LEAST for quite a few years after the change. When i came to the co-op placement audition at the end of my 8th grade year, the studio was absolutely PACKED with dancers, we could hardly even move! Last year the da vinci dancers and other middle school kids were told that they might have to go to jefferson full-time if they want to participate in the program, and i don’t remember the exact number of students that showed up for the placement (thinking they might have to transfer into Jefferson full-time), but that day the studio was practically empty.

  12. Comment from Sia:


    I am really okay with the dance program taking some hits while it re-establishes itself as the JEFFERSON dance program.

    Schools like LaGuardia School of the Performing Arts (the FAME school) or School of the Arts in my hometown of San Francisco do not offer co-op programs. You’re either in or out. You make choices.

    As the enrollment increases, so will the offerings. Also there’s nothing that says that Cleveland or Lincoln or Lake Oswego High can’t start their own dance programs for their students using their own resources.

    I think we have sent really mixed messages about creating community, fairness, etc. when we allowed this co-op business.

  13. Comment from Nate:

    I feel like those mixed messages are only misunderstood. Maybe closing the co-op program down is a step that is necessary to take, but Before closing the co-op program down, i think a lot more work would need to be done to make Jefferson a better school. As an elite dance program we’re already having great difficulty getting the funds we need to do what we do, (traveling, conventions, performances, costumes, props, lighting, etc.) so i’m not quite sure how having a dance program at a whole bunch of schools would work financially, but if you’re talking about maybe moving the program to another single school-that might be appropriate but i don’t really know..Anyway, if they really want students to attend Jefferson full-time, then they’re going to need to do a better job of fixing the school and proving to the incoming students that the school is not a bad choice before-hand. It’s important to understand that the jefferson dancer’s extra curricular company is not a club that you can join with automatic admission-even though our dance classes are for everyone-you have to audition if you want to be on the after school company. it’s not a choice, it’s an opportunity you work for. The company consists of the best high school dancers in the city, and that’s part of the reason we’ve had such strong performances downtown at P.C.P.A. in the past-because we’re not spread out around the city, we’re all concentrated on to one ‘team’. A lot of dancers who audition are looking for a one of a kind pre-professional training program. We’ve performed in London (and taught dance classes to young children), Paris, Philly, Eugene, Battle ground, Scappoose, Kahneetah, Bend, and many other places. The school of dance at Julliard only accepts 24 incoming students a year internationally, and just over the past three years, two of those dancers came straight out of the Jefferson dance program. My point is that a lot of really great things have happened because of this company, and i just think it would be a shame to let it collapse. Careful and patient steps are extremely important. It’s taken many many years for the program to grow and gain it’s reputation, and it would take over a decade to regain what has been worked so hard for-IF things aren’t fixed in the correct way slowly.

  14. Comment from anon:

    It’s disgusting that Jefferson dancers get top quality academic programs at their neighborhood high school and an elite dance program at Jefferson, while most Jefferson neighborhood kids don’t get a decent high school program. I don’t know why people allow the district to put a higher value on the education of Jefferson Dancers than the Jefferson neighborhood students. All students should be given an opportunity to meet their academic potential. The Jefferson Dancers program is a great program and should be supported, but so should the Jefferson academic program.

  15. Comment from Nate:

    you’re absolutely right, it’s not exactly fair. i live in the Marshall neighborhood and fortunately they allowed me to transfer to seek my OWN best education. my Best friend Quincy transferred out of Jefferson to Cleveland to seek a better education, and he is a member of the Jefferson dancers. Is it the school curriculum? or the environment and attitude(s)? I mean if the students really were set on joining the IB program at Lincoln or Cleveland, they could apply to transfer in, but the issue of that is that Jefferson itself would fall as a school because there would be almost no students..

  16. Comment from anon:

    What about the students who apply for transfers and don’t get them due to lack of space in the IB and other schools? Why should students have to transfer to get access to what is offered to all students who live in richer neighborhoods within the same school district? I’m glad that you are able to pursue your academic goals. I think every student should have that opportunity regardless of which neighborhood they live in, or which school they attend.

  17. Comment from Nate:

    i meant it when i said you’re absolutely right-that is where a great lack of equality is. It’s almost as if certain public schools are becoming private schools.

  18. Comment from Cascadia:

    In response to Clyde’s May 20 comment: “The struggling, madly inexperienced principal at Mt. Tabor Middle School . . . . .
    What would her mentor, John Wilhelmi, do?”

    He is more than just her “mentor,” they are romantically involved. She will not be held accountable for any of her actions.

    In response to Tang on May 21: “They unassigned most of the certified librarians and hired classified to run the libraries. No more instruction occurred . . .”

    Classified library assistant are now required to teach a library class – without the pay or support that a certified librarian/media specialist would receive. Neither do they have the licensed training. Thankfully, they do have the unwavering support of Edith Fuller, in charge of libraries district-wide, to offer as much assistance to them as she, her department, and dwindling budget can.

  19. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Edith Fuller retired in September.

    Her departure leaves a gigantic hole in what remains of the PPS library system.

  20. Comment from McAngryPants:

    As a middle class parent, how can I work the system so that my children get the best possible education?

  21. Comment from Stephanie:

    McAngryPants (I enjoyed typing that, awesome handle!)

    Not sure where you are at in the process but at least visit the schools in your neighborhood and don’t go on word of mouth or gossip alone. I stayed in my local area although I opted out of our home school that was bursting at the seams for Ockley Green that was only a few blocks away because I liked the OG vibe better based on visiting both schools (and because I liked the OG principal better).
    I consider staying in my area and putting a lot of energy into a school community working the system but know the pay off might not be instantaneous and am OK with that. I might be unique though because a nearby school happened to be a really good fit for my kids social needs and the teachers are innovative and accepting despite the lack of resources provided.

    I have never read this post before and really appreciate it as an OG parent :)

  22. Comment from McAngryPants:

    danke for the comment.

    Yes, PLAN A is for us to send my spawn to OG for K next year (also blocks away) despite PPS wanting to route them to Woodlawn.

    At some point though, it is my responsibility as a parent to do whatever I have to do to ensure my children receive the best educational experience possible. Should I be concerned about the environment of a school where “3 out of 4 students is in poverty” (http://ppsequity.org/2009/12/1.....fallacies/). To be clear, I do not believe ‘poverty’ breeds children that will misbehave (neglectful parents do that). I wonder if most of the school’s energy is invested in feeding kids and bringing them up to a basic level rather than growing the kid’s brains and challenging them.

    thx in adv for this discussion btw.

  23. Comment from Stephanie:

    I am the last person who would want to recruit you away from Woodlawn but happy to answer any questions about Ockley I can. We do put a lot of energy at the school in caring for the families within it but that is also a value added in teaching my daughter diversity and compassion that does not take away from her academics. You are absolutely correct that poverty is not an indicator of misbehavior. My kid is famous for some grandiose scenes but it is just the way she was hatched and the school has been amazingly supportive. OK, but again, don’t want to recruit so question away and perhaps some Woodlawn informants have some info to add??

  24. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I know at least two families who are very happy with Woodlawn.