Category: Jefferson High

Ockley Green parent letter

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.



Sia is the parent of an Ockley Green graduate.


Oh yeah, Jefferson High

At least Mayor Potter and superintendent Smith had the courtesy to follow up on the Mayor’s January week in residence at Jefferson High School. The school board — who met at Jefferson that same week, and heard testimony from the same students and same community members about the same issues — seem to have lost interest as soon as the TV trucks packed up and left.

It’s worth taking a look at the progress Potter claims in light of the flier circulated by Jefferson students complaining about cuts to curriculum and lack of academic rigor. These things are not directly within the city government’s power to fix, but the Mayor brought a strong sense of hope and possibility when he moved his office to the school.

According to the Oregonian, Potter announced that the city and TriMet would provide free transit passes to all PPS 6-12 graders. That’s great news, but doesn’t address the inequities Jefferson students face.

It was also announced that “Sam Adams’ office is helping provide instruments and new uniforms to Jefferson’s defunct band program.” But the district has not announced any plans to rebuild the music program at Jefferson. Uniforms and instruments for a defunct band program don’t help Jefferson students.

The Tribune notes that Potter takes credit for having the city “address safety issues at the crosswalk next to Jefferson’s Young Women’s Academy.” In fact, PDOT came out, nearly got hit by a car themselves, said it would be too expensive to fix, and left. Every school day, children continue to risk life and limb crossing that street.

Out of ten actions the mayor claims have happened since his January visit, it is difficult to identify one that actually improves the lot of Jefferson students, or makes Jefferson High more likely to attract the kind of enrollment that could sustain it as a viable neighborhood school.

Of course, the mayor’s people are quick to point out there’s only so much they can do, since they have no direct control over the school board.

So what has the school board done? So far, all we’ve heard about are more cuts to programs. The announced merger of the two main high school academies announced during the mayor’s week in January is evidently proceeding, but there has been no announced progress on any other “proof points” the superintendent’s staff requested in late 2007.

The recently approved budget for the coming school year cuts 4.5 full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions from Jefferson. But due to declining high school enrollment, there are internal shifts of FTE from Jefferson High School to the middle school students at the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Academies. I don’t begrudge the middle schoolers for getting these needed positions — the deserve far better, too — but this means real cuts in excess of 4.5 FTE to an already bare-bones high school curriculum.

It’s up to the school board and superintendent to step up, but so far there’s no evidence that Jefferson’s even on their radar anymore. Perhaps distracted by the PK-8 crisis and the looming facilities bond (already questioned by the Oregonian and Tribune), they’re suffering a little compassion fatigue about Jefferson.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


The Candidates Speak on Public Schools

The candidates for Portland City Council and Mayor are starting to talk about schools, and already there has been some interesting talk.

Willamette Week is posting video of their joint endorsement interviews, which have so far included candidates for commssioner #1 and #2, as well as mayoral candidates Sho Dozono and Sam Adams.

Jim Middaugh, a candidate for commissioner #2, raised some eyebrows at PPS with his response to the PPS Equity candidate questionnaire, in which he claims city staff of the Schools, Families, Housing Initiative helped avert a school closure. This prompted Matt Shelby from PPS to note “I’m not aware of closure plans, or even discussions for that matter, involving any of our schools.”

(Middaugh, like all other candidates who have responded to the questionnaire except Fred Stewart, carefully avoids talking about holding the district accountable to the Flynn-Blackmer audit.)

In the Willamette Week interview, Middaugh declares that schools are his top priority, and he cites his work on the Schools, Families, Housing Initiative as an example of how the city can help schools.

What he doesn’t mention is that in the first of two rounds of this grant, only one small project was funded that will actually be school-based. I’m not saying the other projects aren’t worthy, but there’s only so much a million dollars could do even if all of it were spent on our schools. One $14,000 grant isn’t much to crow about.

But I don’t want to pick on Midaugh. The fact that he has kids in PPS is one positive he would be wise to play up.

The mayoral candidates are also jumping on the schools bandwagon, and also tip-toeing around any serious issues, like the glaring inequity documented over several years by the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, and more recently by me and the Jefferson PTSA.

Sho Dozono is vague about schools, as he is with pretty much everything, but thinks businesses and non-profits should be more involved. Sam Adams is all about “fundraising” (how about revenue raising?), and seems to have tuned in to the Jefferson High School “charrette” fiasco, with no awareness of the community fallout that followed this top-secret plan to demolish Jefferson and essentially cede the property to PCC.

In the Willamette Week interview, Adams talks glowingly of a Jefferson High fully integrated with PCC.

It’s surely not be a bad thing for some students to earn college credit while they go to high school. But this demonstrates how out of touch Adams is with his constituents in North Portland, who have been cool to the idea of demolishing Jefferson High and rebuilding it as an extension of the PCC campus.

Of course, this idea is consistent with the developer-centric ethos of Adams, much of City Hall, and PPS, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


Oregonian Letter to the Editor

This letter to the editor, from Jefferson High PTSA members Nicole Breedlove, Lakeitha Elliott, Shei’Meka Newmann and Nancy Smith, was published in the Oregonian on Saturday, April 6 [I’ll link it on the press page when it shows up in the archives. -ed.]:

To the Editor,

Commemorating the life of Martin Luther King is important, but it’s not enough. During the Mayor’s Week at Jefferson in January, the Jefferson PTSA presented a resolution to the Portland School Board and City Council which began with:

“WHEREAS, Portland Public Schools policies have resulted in increased racial and socio-economic segregation in our city’s public schools and discriminatory access to educational opportunities for Portland’s children and youth, in direct conflict with local, state, and federal education policies as well as the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The PTSA’s document detailed specific examples of inequitable and discriminatory school district policies and actions, and concluded with almost five pages of recommendations for addressing those issues. How many of our school district and city leaders even read the document? If they did, they certainly didn’t respond.

[But just like 40 years ago, it’s not just the policy makers who are responsible for discriminatory policies. The folks who felt entitled to sit at the front of the bus, or who did it just because they could, were also responsible. It’s no different today.]

It doesn’t matter how many people participate in a civil rights march, if we continue to allow discrimination to exist in our public schools, the justice system, and throughout our society. Martin Luther King may have reached the promised land, but we still have a lot of work to do.

Nicole Breedlove, North Portland
Lakeitha Elliott, Northeast Portland
Shei’Meka Newmann
Nancy Smith, North Portland

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


Upcoming Fundraisers for Jefferson, Faubion

Tuesday, April 8th, McMenamin’s Kennedy School (5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.) benefit for Faubion Elementary School.

When you dine in the Courtyard Restaurant between 5pm and midnight, McMenamin’s will donate 50% of the proceeds (from food and drinks) to Faubion PTA

Faubion’s PTA is raising money for a rock-climbing wall and sign board. You gotta eat anyway!

Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 20, Lloyd Center Barnes & Noble benefit for Jefferson High (including the Young Men’s Academy and the Young Women’s Academy).

Shop from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. both days. Purchase anything in the store – Books, DVDs, Starbucks Coffee and Jefferson will receive a portion of the total sales for the weekend.

Live entertainment provided by our students! Artwork, projects and information on display.

Please print out and bring in this flier (305KB PDF) to make sure your purchases benefit Jefferson High.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


Night Out for Jefferson Senior Class Trip Tonight!

Tonight – Tuesday, March 4 – any time from 5:00 p.m. to closing:

Please Come To the “Jefferson High School Family and Friends Night” at McMenamin’s Chapel Pub, 430 N. Killingsworth Street. Treat yourself and help our graduating Jefferson seniors.

McMenamin’s is generously donating 50% of the evening’s sales to the Jefferson PTSA to help fund the Jefferson Senior Class Trip. Mention to your server that you’re there to support Jefferson.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


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