May 19, 2008
Here’s another letter from an Ockley Green parent regarding cuts at the school for next year. –ed.
I am an Ockley Green parent. I have two children at the school.
Ockley is an outstanding, wonderful school that has done a remarkable job, thanks to Mr. Malone and his staff. My children are flourishing, even though they have vastly different needs. My daughter is on an IEP, and at Ockley she has an experienced, dedicated staff. My son is very bright. At Ockley his gifts have been recognized and challenged. This is a school where 70 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
These cuts are unconscionable. Higher income schools may be able to make up for such cuts in private fundraising but this is not true for Ockley. School choice is a facade and has created a serious situation of segregation. Low-income families can’t afford the transportation and lack the savvy to play the system. The result is a city where white and wealthier families take their resources into schools outside their neighborhood while minority and poor students remain in schools facing the impossible challenge of higher costs and budget cuts.
My son’s track meet this morning was an illustration of this fact. The Ockley and King teams were almost exclusively African-American and poor. Schools like Chapman were almost all white and wealthier. This segregation carried to the bleachers, and will carry on for the better part of these children’s lives, as white children benefit from educational opportunities denied to minority children through a program disguised as school “choice.” Sitting in the bleachers I reflected how I could have been living in the deep south for the clear color lines our schools perpetuate. But this Portland, Oregon. We are supposed to be progressive and equal opportunity.
The cuts being made demonstrate, once again, that this is not true. Our children deserve better.
Rene Denfeld is a writer and parent of two Ockley Green students.
May 17, 2008
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.