Category: Madison High

In the news: teacher forced out, files suit

Madison High School teacher Val Gogoleski has filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming Portland Public Schools failed to provide accommodations for her disability and forced her to retire three years early.

In a story in today’s Portland Tribune, Jennifer Anderson reports that Gogoleski also filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will file a lawsuit against the district.

Gogoleski, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, says the district was slow to provide two out of three accommodations she requested (a phone and elevator access) and refused a third: a schedule with two prep periods.

Gogoleski was outspoken about district decisions she disagreed with, including during a recent controversy on hiring a new principal at Madison. “Speaking up as an employee means paying a price,” wrote Gogoleski on this blog last May.

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

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Hip Hop Charter eyes Jefferson

In another sign of the failure of Portland Public Schools to fund and support a performing arts magnet school in a historically black neighborhood, a proposed charter school focused on many of Jefferson’s current and past strengths — namely video production and music — has its eyes on the now vacant music wing at Jefferson High as a possible location.

Jennifer Anderson reports in the Tribune today that Erica Jayasuriya, the organizer of the school modeled after a Minnesota charter school, also has her eye on Madison and Roosevelt areas.

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

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New Madison principal announced

Carla Randall has been hired as principal at Madison High School. She was principal at Wilson from 2002 to 2005, and also served as vice principal at Jefferson and Cleveland.

More recently, Randall was director of curriculum for the Tigard-Tuallatin School District.

In a letter to Madison families, deputy superintendent Mark Davalos mentioned in passing the lengthy controversy that preceded her hiring.

The flap began with the involuntary transfer of outspoken counselor David Colton in spring of 2008, a student walk-out to protest that transfer, a teacher vote of no confidence in previous principal Pat Thompson, Thompson’s departure this spring, the appointment of Deborah Peterson as principal with no staff or community input, and Peterson’s withdrawal in the storm of protest over her appointment.

“The path to reach this point has been longer and bumpier than it should have been,” wrote Davalos. He described a hiring process that included a survey and an interview panel of three teachers, a secretary and a student.

Sources at Madison, speaking on the condition of anonymity, were hopeful about Randall as a leader, but noted that the staff and student panel was not presented with other candidates to consider.

Colton declined to comment for this story.

Randall begins work at Madison this Wednesday.

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

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Moore: district missed opportunity for apology

Note:School board candidate Rita Moore sent this letter to Oregonian reporter Kim Melton regarding her coverage of the community high school redesign meeting at Jefferson High Saturday. The Portland Sentinel also covered the meeting. –Ed.

Just read your article on today’s meeting and I wanted to say thank you. After 4 hours of remarkably shallow discussions of the models and an additional hour talking with District leaders about the principal situation at Roosevelt, I appreciate your highlighting the level of frustration that was present in the room.

This forum was significantly longer than previous forums and was pitched as an opportunity to “go deep” on the high school redesign. Instead, despite the additional time, the discussion was, in fact, shallower and actually shorter on the specific models while pointedly evading the “deeper” issues.

Most disappointing, both [Superintendent] Carole [Smith] and [chief of staff] Zeke [Smith] refused to take the opportunity handed to them by several members of the community to apologize for subjecting poor and minority students to experimental structures and sub-standard curricula. Carole came close, but the “mistakes were made” formulation just won’t cut it and she needs to understand that. Until District leaders are willing to take responsibility and then take steps to fix the problems they have created, we will never be able to establish trust. And many of us will remain forever skeptical of both the intentions and the competence of the District to provide the kind of education that all our children deserve.

By the way, when exactly will the District address the K-8 situation?

Anyway, thanks for your report.

Rita Moore has a Ph.D. in Political Science and taught at universities in the US and Europe for 18 years. She now works as an advocate for children in the child welfare system and volunteers as a mediator and facilitator. She has one child in PPS and recently ran for the zone four position on the Portland Public Schools Board of Education.

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In the news: new Madison Principal backs out

Jennifer Anderson writes in the Portland Tribune that current Roosevelt High principal Deborah Peterson has decide not to accept her appointment to lead a unified Madison High in light of the significant controversy ignited by her appointement there without community involvement.

“I have rescinded acceptance of the appointment in the hopes that PPS will be able to conduct a process for appointment of the Madison principal,” Peterson wrote in an e-mail.

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

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In the news: Duin on Madison, Roosevelt principal kerfuffle

Steve Duin hits the nail on the head in his Oregonian column this morning:

The adhesive power of trust is invaluable for public schools, especially in communities in which adults too often vanish before completing the job they started. Therein is the irritation, and the irony, regarding Deborah Peterson’s forced march ‘cross town, from Roosevelt to Madison High School.

We’ve heard a great deal from the Madison community here; it’s interesting to read Duin’s take on the Roosevelt community, as well as some damning words for the small schools model Portland Public Schools continues to force upon Roosevelt, despite its high cost and lack of funding:

The Gates Foundation has quit funding the initiative. It’s a lousy drawing card for kids in the neighborhood, 560 of whom leave to attend other high schools. Even Madison is kicking the concept to the curb, reverting to a comprehensive school.

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

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Who gets to choose and who does not

Last week Madison High School received the news of the departure of our principal to a job in the central office. With that news came the announcement of the new appointee as principal. This announcement did not come from the mouth of our Principal as we were to wait for Human Resources personnel to make the announcement.

While we were waiting for HR to show, I posed the question addressing the issue of interviewing candidates for replacement administration given that there was quite an elaborate interview process when our current principal was hired to take the job at Madison. I was told to ask this question of our representative from Human Resources who had not shown to play her role in the flurry of administrative announcements taking place at Madison.

When HR arrived I posed the same question and was told in so many words that our superintendent, Carole Smith, felt that the new appointee was the best fit for Madison teachers, students and community. She became quite coy with all of us in the room and would not tell us the name of the new principal saying that there were others to be told first. We were told that HR would be coming for the express purpose of telling us all who would be leading us next year so there was a degree of confusion and anger in the room. I left to help with a track meet but not before saying to the room in general that I felt manipulated and gamed and would enjoy spending time with the real patrons of this district, the children.

We were also told at this same meeting that the current administrative team asked central office for additional administrative support for next year. Astounded at this announcement given our projected enrollment of 822 + students for next year, I reminded those present that when we started 11 years ago at Madison there were 1392 students, one principal and two vice principals.

Next year we will have two counselors and when I started there were five counselors.

Seeking additional administrative support beyond the one principal and one VP allocated by central office seems beyond unreasonable given the cuts we are expecting in the building for next year. Today I opened an email from saying that the principal staring that we are to receive an additional VP as well as an additional .59 FTE for teachers but that we still will lose 11.25 FTE for next year.

Madison, in the years that I have been a counselor here, has seen a very steep decline in enrollment. The demographics have gone from primarily middle class to predominantly working class and immigrant families.

We have become a minority majority school with the usual plethora of problems that comes with poverty-affected, drug-affected, gang-affected families. The resilient children that come out of this milieu make Madison a place that is full of challenge as well as enormous reward for those of us who love the children and everything else that comes along with them.

Good teaching and lots of it is making a difference in the lives of these kids. Many are succeeding and they are succeeding because of the tenaciousness and the talents of the staff who care deeply for their students and expect more with less after being asked to do more with less. Teachers will have more students and there will be fewer elective offerings next year.

Madison does not need another vice-principal. Madison needs to keep as many of our teachers as possible so that class size does not explode. We have a thriving and amazing art and music program but when those are the only electives and art is cut by 1.5 teachers, class size grows and teaching becomes only about management, safety, and containment. There is not a lot of enrichment in an art class filled with 40 students and only half of them are there for the interest or the love of art. The rest are there because they have to be somewhere and there is no shop, automotive, metals, or business.

Madison. A poor school. Not a district powerhouse like Grant or Lincoln or Cleveland. No rich parents. No doctors in the house. No attorneys. We do have a new principal and she was chosen for us. Is she the best fit? Questionable when her reputation proceeds her. The word on the street is not good and her placement does not bode well for the year ahead. Is the staff being punished for our vote of no confidence for the outgoing principal? Did the expensive consultant hired to fix the discontent at Madison address the issue of leadership? Not once? Side stepping issues of leadership and leading us to the decision we had come to in the library the year before appeared to be a lesson in redundancy. Precious time spent for precious little only getting us to where we started: small schools are not working and we need to go back to a comprehensive model that shelters our 9th graders.

The new principal is not a principal from a successful comprehensive high school but a small school administrator. Her administrative background has been in elementary schools and possibly some time as a VP in a high school. Carole Smith owes it to Madison to explain to us how this particular administrator is the best fit for Madison.

Would Lincoln High School ever experience the indignities of a Madison? Would Carole Smith drop a principal on the heads of those West Side parents and students, especially one who comes with little experience in bringing schools together, working collaboratively, sharing governance? Never! How about Grant or Cleveland or any of the other schools where there is a collective body of parents who are fortunate enough to have the luxury of time, money, and privilege to assert their basic rights as parents and patrons of the district. Madison deserves better as there is a lot of potential out here on the East side of this city.

There were at least two capable and qualified administrators that could have moved into the principal’s position with proven track records for being people who respect and care about teachers and the contributions they make to student success.

My lament is for the waste at the top and the loss of the potential for empowering a staff that has felt neglected for years. Moving bad leaders from one building to the other or to central office has a ripple effect on students and when those students are damaged by the hand they have been dealt in life the ripples become tidal waves. I am grateful for the tremendous teachers on this staff who stay in spite of how hard it gets year after year. I am grateful for the students who show up, graduate, win scholarships and awards in spite of their circumstances.

We all deserve better and sending us a stranger and tacking on an additional administrator deserves only scorn and shame to those who make decisions without knowing the real heart and soul of what a school like Madison was, is and could be. I am not alone in saying no thanks for the extra administrator and no thanks for another schools reject.

David Colton is a high school counselor and a former English and drama teacher.

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In the news: Madison small schools are history

Beth Slovic reports today on Willamette Week’s blog that Madison High School will eliminate it’s autonomous, autocratic academic silos and return to a single high school in the fall, saving the district money while increasing opportunity for Madison students.

That leaves just Marshall and Roosevelt in the “small schools” category, with Jefferson having previously abandoned the disastrous experiment.

We’ll have to wait and see if any middle schools are reconstituted in the Madison and Jefferson clusters, the only parts of town stuck exclusively with K8 schools for the middle grades. Like “small schools,” K8s cost significantly more money to operate while providing significantly less opportunity (and high school prep) to their middle grade students.

At Monday’s school board meeting, the business agenda included money to purchase portables for Madison feeder schools Rigler and Scott, which don’t currently have room for eighth grade. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to invest that money into re-opening Rose City Park Elementary and converting Gregory Heights back to a middle school? Given the community uproar surrounding the decision to merge those schools into a single K8, it’s difficult to argue the community would be upset to have their old configuration back.

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

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Budget bright side: time for a reset

For two years I have argued that Portland Public Schools needs to balance enrollment in order to pay for programmatic, geographic equity in our schools. With poor schools already cut to the bone, the budget crisis may force the issue.

Carole Smith has now acknowledged to the school board, in a roundabout way, that we may no longer be able to afford the “smallness” we’ve designed into our schools: K8′s and small high school academies.

“In recent years, we’ve … supported small high schools with additional staff, and added assistant principals, algebra teachers and counselors for most K-8 schools. Can we afford to continue those initiatives?”

What she didn’t say is that even with this extra funding, students in small high schools and K8s have dramatically less opportunity than students in comprehensive high schools and middle schools.

As implemented in PPS, “smallness” is massively inefficient and more expensive than comprehensive schools, where cohort sizes in the hundreds afford significantly more opportunity for less money.

These failed experiments have contributed to the ill-effects of another failed experiment: the free market student transfer policy. This policy entered a death spiral years ago; now comprehensive secondary education has been virtually eliminated from the poorest half of the district, while transfer slots into comprehensive schools have all but dried up.

Students left in these schools suffer a general and wide-spread dearth of electives, instrumental music, college prep classes, civics, after school activities, and even science, math and literature.

Just as the free market banking crisis has succeeded in nothing more or less than transferring massive amounts of wealth upwards, the PPS transfer policy continues to transfer thousands of students and tens of millions of dollars out of our poorest neighborhoods each year.

We can’t fix the transfer policy without a coherent, equitable and balanced system of PK-12 schools. But we can’t afford comprehensive programs without the enrollment to pay for them.

And no matter what we do, the district faces large budget cuts.

So what can we do?

Just as with the global banking system, it’s time for a reset. We need to imagine a system that, no matter how lean, is no leaner in one part of Portland than another.

The budget crisis may force the district to do what I’ve been asking them to do for two years: restore comprehensive high schools at Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Roosevelt. Re-open closed middle schools in those clusters, too.

More importantly, the district may be forced to balance enrollment — that is, curtail neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers — to pay for programmatic equity in every part of Portland.

It is a budget-neutral way to increase programming — or stave off cuts — for our schools serving our most vulnerable students. We must imagine a system where the poor don’t bear the greatest brunt of budget cuts, as they have in Portland since Measure 5.

The bright side of this budget crisis is that we have the opportunity to design a balanced system of schools, where you cannot tell the wealth of the neighborhood by the number of classes in the high school’s catalog.

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

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Size matters

How student transfers, “small schools,” and K8s steal opportunity from Portland’s least wealthy students, and how we can make it right

When speaking with district leaders about the glaring and shameful opportunity gap between the two halves of Portland Public Schools, it doesn’t take long before they start wringing their hands about enrollment.

“If only we could get enrollment up at Jefferson (or Madison, Marshall or Roosevelt),” they’ll tell you, “we could increase the offerings there.”

Or, as PPS K8 project manager Sara Allan put it in a recent comment on Rita Moore’s blog post about K8 “enrichment”: “All of our schools that are small … face a massive struggle to provide a robust program with our current resources.”

Not to pick on Sarah, but this attitude disclaims responsibility for the problem. After all, the “smallness” of schools in the PPS “red zone”* is by design, the direct result of three specific policies that are under total control of PPS policy makers:

  1. the break-up of comprehensive high schools into autonomous “small schools”
  2. the transition from comprehensive middle schools to K8s, and
  3. open transfer enrollment.

Smallness is not a problem in and of itself, but it is crippled by a school funding formula in which funding follows students, and there is little or no allowance for the type of school a student is attending (e.g. small vs. comprehensive or K8 vs. 6-8).

So when you’re dealing with a handicap you’ve created by design — smallness — it’s a little disingenuous to complain about its constraints. Instead, we need to eliminate the constraints — i.e. adjust the school funding formula — or redesign the handicap.

Adjusting the school funding formula to account for smallness would be ideal, if we had the funding to do it. Since we don’t, this would mean robbing Peter to pay Paul. That is, we would have to reduce funding at other schools to pay for smallness brought on by out-transfers, the K8 transition, or the small schools high school model. This obviously hasn’t happened, and it would be political suicide to suggest we start.

So barring a new source of funding to reduce the constraints of smallness, we need to redesign smallness.

The easiest case is the “small schools” design for high schools. Where students have been constrained to one of three “academies,” with varying degrees of autonomy, we simply allow students to cross-register for classes in other academies. Instead of academies, call them learning communities. Instantly, students at Madison, Marshall and Roosevelt have three times the curriculum to choose from. The best concepts of “small schools” — teachers as leaders and a communities of learning — are preserved.

For K8s, the problem is simply that we can never offer as much curriculum with 50-150 students in what is essentially an elementary school facility as we can offer at a middle school with 400-600 students. So we offer a choice: every middle grade student can choose between a comprehensive middle school or continuing in their neighborhood K8. Reopen (or rebuild) closed middle schools in the Jefferson and Madison clusters, and bolster those in the Roosevelt and Marshall clusters. Families in every cluster then have the choice between a richer curriculum of a middle school or the closer attention their children may receive with a smaller cohort in a K8. We all like choice, right?

Which brings us to the stickiest wicket of the smallness problem: open transfer enrollment, which conspires with K8s and “small schools” to drain nearly 6,000 students from the red zone annually (that’s 27% of students living in the red zone and 12% of all PPS students). We’re well-acquainted with the death spiral of out-transfers, program cuts, more out-transfers, and still more program cuts. It has reached the point that it doesn’t even matter why people first started leaving a school like Jefferson.

If you look at Jefferson now, compared to Grant, for example, It’s shocking what you see. Not counting dance classes, Jefferson offers 38 classes. Grant offers 152.

What kind of “choice” is that? (Disclaimer: both the Grant and Jefferson syllabi listings may be missing courses if teachers have not yet submitted their syllabi.)

Obviously, given funding constraints, we can’t afford to have a school with 600 students offer the same number of classes as one with 1,600, as district leaders will readily point out. What they’re not fond of talking about is the budget-neutral way of offering equity of opportunity in our high schools: balance enrollment.

All of our nine neighborhood high schools have enrollment area populations of 1,400-1,600. Jefferson and Marshall, two of our smallest high schools by enrollment, are the two largest attendance areas by residence, each with more than 1,600 PPS high school students.

With a four-year phase-in (keeping in mind that transfers into Lincoln, Grant and Cleveland have basically been shut-down for a couple years anyway), you start by making core freshman offerings the same at every neighborhood high school. Incoming freshman are assigned to their neighborhood school, and they don’t have to worry about it being a gutted shell. (Transfers for special focus options will still be available as they are now.) The following year, we add sophomore classes, and so on, and in four years every neighborhood high school has equity in core sequences of math, science, language arts, social studies, world languages and music, paid for without additional funding and without cutting significant programs at schools that are currently doing well.

Once we have this balance in place, both in terms of offerings and enrollment, we can talk about allowing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers again, but only as we can afford them. In other words, we will no longer allow a neighborhood program to be damaged by out-transfers.

It’s time for Portland Public Schools to stop blaming its opportunity gap on the smallness it has designed — by way of “small schools,” K8s, and open transfer enrollment — and it’s time for policy makers to stop transferring the costs of smallness to our poorest students in terms of dramatically unequal opportunities.



*I define the red zone as clusters with significant net enrollment losses due to student transfers: Jefferson (net loss of 1,949 students), Madison (1,067 students), Marshall (1,441 students) and Roosevelt (1,296 students). (2007-08 enrollment figures.) This represents, by conservative estimate, an annual loss of $34 million in state and local educational investment to the least-wealthy neighborhoods in Portland. “Small schools” were implemented exclusively in these four clusters, and the K8 transition, though district-wide, has disproportionately impacted the red zone. There are only two middle schools remaining in the red zone, one in the Roosevelt cluster and one in the Marshall cluster. By contrast, the Cleveland and Wilson clusters each have two middle schools; Franklin, Grant and Lincoln each have one.

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

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