High schools: open letter to the Superintendent’s team

1:26 pm

Dear Super Team,

I honestly feel that you missed some very clear issues that were expressed at the May 16th meeting.

You can not complete a diverse high school system redesign with out first addressing why it isn’t fair to begin with. The lines that are drawn for our schools need to cross the River. The wealth that lives in two schools should be spread around. Not only so more school have access to more involved parents, but so the students on the West side have access to a diverse community to learn in. Being able to relate to people of differing cultures is best taught young. That is a privilege that is being denied to those children now. In a 21st Century world we all need access to each other to grow to support our city, state, country, world.

Along these lines, it is past time to give neighborhood schools their neighboring enrollment back. It’s time to picture the school down the street as equivalent to the one across town. All it needs is you to make it your neighborhood school. What makes schools better is putting your children and your energy into it. It was clear around the room that neighborhood-to-neighborhood elementary transfers must end. But if honest concerns over quality of education aren’t addressed at the district level this can’t work. We thought that was the job of the K-8 reconfiguration to resolve. Where are the latest audit of K-8 course offerings for this year and next years planning?

As you have said, quality of high school course offerings has to be universal. But as the students explained, the specific educational offerings must to vary to offer specialized learning to motivated youth. So perhaps the idea is to have elementary education equalized and neighborhood focused. But to compliment this idea have an open specialty transfer process at the high school level. Where your neighborhood high school offerings are the same and if you aren’t interested in a magnet program you attend your neighborhood high school. But with the aid of publicly provided transportation, students would be free and able to choose a specialized course offering housed in another school. This would end the Kindergarten scuffle of worried parents that don’t feel comfortable with the feeder pastern of their neighborhood school.

More than anything it was expressed that the highest level of quality education should be offered to all children in all zip codes. Thank you for all of your efforts. Please continue to involve and inform the community at large as we proceed together towards a better tomorrow.

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Nicole Leggett is a Peninsula K-8 Parent.

filed under: Equity, High Schools, K-8 Transistion, Parental Involvement, Transfer Policy

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6 Responses

  1. Comment from Ty:

    Please bring your opinions and concerns to the Black Parent Initiative Forum. May 30th 11am-12:30pm Community education Center located in New Columbia, 4625 N Trenton, Portland.

    I hope to lead a discussion of the High School redesign issue and talk about a united effort to communicate to the school district.

  2. Comment from Nicole Leggett:

    Thanks for the invite. I think I will attend.

  3. Comment from David:

    Nicole, you are right on the mark. I attended the early meetings of the high school reform group and presented an article from the NY Times about Raleigh, NC schools. They bussed kids based on who had free and reduced lunch so that no one school had more then 40% below that poverty mark. Success. Please seek out the article as it talks about schools meeting benchmarks and the parents and communities happiness with the system. There will never be equity in Portland Schools as long as we have Lincolns and Grants and other schools from zip codes of affluence. There always needs to be a critical mass in any school that can help create a culture and climate of learning along with the teachers and administrators because they have the luxury of being able to be present in the sustained day by day evolution of that school culture. Working class parents are exhausted and just barely surviving and the parents of our immigrant children have not acquired the tool set to be there and build that culture of learning. The luxury of time for so many of our families in this city is just that: a luxury. Madison High School where I work is a fabulous place for the richness of the culture and the way our diverse groups learn and play together is brilliant to witness. But……..our resources are being driven by what the schools of wealth provide without the recognition that Advanced Placement alone is not going to cut it. Our Health Services program was recently cut in half…..go figure when the jobs in 5-10 years will overwhelmingly fall into the health services arena……..anyway….bus those Lincoln kids to the east side……..They will succeed in any school given the privileges they were born to. My Somalian girls are going to need a little bit of a boost and certainly more then what this district is currently providing. There is no equity without equality and separate but equal never worked.

  4. Comment from lauralye:

    Redrawing boundaries and limiting transfers would be far more effective than busing. Busing is costly and is bad for the environment. It also takes hours from kids that could be better spent.

  5. Comment from Val Gogoleski:

    As a product of the Detroit Public Schools (yes, in Michigan!), and having lived with the hatred and disruption of forced cross-district bussing, I don’t want to go there again. The racial divide was amplified to the point of a riot in my school during the instructional day and closing for a week. Thank goodness I was outta there in’71 and off to college. Seen and lived that–trust me, bussing creates more far more problems than it solves.

    So, what causes such inequities? Madison High has lost 53% of the kids in our attendance area that it SHOULD be getting (recent statistics from ’06 or so?).

    Why? Because we have such few course offerings, kids go to other schools (Grant, etc) where there is a wider range of courses to choose from. Every spring since Measure 5 in 1990, principals have the power to cut, which in itself has made for quite an uneven and less than equitable situation, in my opinion. The PPS way of cutting costs at the building level has set Madison and other HS on a path to decline….especially evident in enrollment numbers.

    So, what DOESN’T Madison have? Business Dept. completely cut more than a few years ago. Not even one basic keyboarding class offered (no wonder our kids hunt-and-peck!!!). No industrial arts (woods, metals, integrated tech, drafting, etc). No Home Ec for over a decade (what’s that, you ask? Oh, parenting and child care classes, how to COOK, run a house, balance a budget, just a few MAJOR LIFE SKILLS!). Watching the Starlight Parade last night—no band (we have a fabulous music teacher, but used to have TWO). Cuts to art and PE coming…..and let’s not talk about Health Services going to half time….

    My MOTHER WAS RIGHT. She FORCED ME to take keyboarding in HS (“If you don’t become a teacher, at least you’ll be able to get a job as a secretary!”). She also insisted I take clases “Clothing”, and some basic life skills courses ALONG with all my college prep classes. It’s called PREPARATION FOR LIFE FOLKS! Electives, things that teens want to know, enjoy doing, are lifetime skills and can and do lead to career choices.

    My child would go to a school where they would be exposed to many, many offerings. He or she would not go to a school woefully indequate in course offerings. Unfortunately, compare a forecast guide from a Lincoln or Grant to Madison, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and the racial, cultural and economic divide is glaringly obvious.

    MY MOTHER WAS RIGHT. Thanks to her, I can type well enough to get a job doing it…sew and repair things without a machine, know how to boil water…..use an electric drill….

    Madison is a GREAT SCHOOL with great teachers, hopefully turning the corner on horrible time?? I have the hope that equity will come our way…..and Jefferson’s….and Roosevelt’s….

    Val Gogoleski

  6. Comment from Nicole Leggett:

    Here is Carole Smith’s response:


    Thank you for writing. Some of the thoughts and concerns you express so eloquently came through loud and clear at the meetings — particularly at the Jefferson meeting. I look forward to your on-going participation as we move forward toward a plan and its implementation (including, perhaps, conversations about new high school boundaries, as you suggest).