Pioneer questions persist

Note:The author and her son were featured in a recent story in Willamette Week by Beth Slovic. –Ed.

I am a parent of a son who supposedly graduated from Pioneer this year. I have tried for years to advocate for the students at Pioneer by letters, e-mails and being on several PPS committees. It has been very difficult to get any response. Over a year and a half ago a dozen or so Pioneer parents wrote a very nice four page letter expressing some concerns about Pioneer. We got no response. I followed it a week or so later with an e-mail and the letter as an attachment. We got no response. Since then several of us have e-mailed the superintendent and the board with no response. I had always thought there was some sort of legal requirement for district officials to respond, but apparently not.

As our son moved toward graduation last spring I asked the vice principal of the Holladay Annex if he would go over our son’s credits with me as they where not posted on his eSIS diploma page the way they usually are for PPS students. As the vice principal fumbled around trying to explain how our son could have gotten credits, two things were clear. One, the vice principal had no written record of our son’s credits as they align with the credits needed to graduate with a modified diploma as listed on the PPS website & the ODE website. And two, the vice principal had no idea what the required credits for graduating with a modified diploma even were. Since that day my husband and I have gone up and down the hierarchy ladder of PPS asking for someone to explain our son’s credits. Here it is now almost October and we still don’t have any documentation of his credits and how they align with the state requirements. The last we heard about it was from the new Chief Academic Officer Xavier Botana telling us that by e-mail that “We expect to be looking at all of (his) needs as part of the IEP development”. So we’re being told to wait for an IEP meeting to find out if my son has his credits to have graduated from high school this last school year.

So, I have been asking for someone to explain my son graduating credits to me since early June and have yet to have anyone explain them to me. Even his eSIS diploma page still says he is missing credits.

To be truthful, I know why they do not want to talk to me. In my looking into diploma requirements I kept coming across the OARs and other laws that confirmed what I had already thought about how the district was neglecting the education of the students placed at Pioneer. Two weeks prior to my son’s graduation I sent a letter to many of the PPS officials that had refused to discuss credits with us. I have also sent the letter to the School Board with, of course, no response. I believe that these are extremely serious questions. This doesn’t just affect our son; this is how the district has been neglecting the education of Pioneer students for years.

In the letter I asked PPS, from the school vice principal on up to the superintendent and the school board, these eleven questions on July 24th and have yet to receive any answer:

  1. If Pioneer isn’t a school, what “school” is our son graduating from? (The Director of Special Education, Joanne Mabbott, informed me earlier that Pioneer did not get all the same things as other schools because it isn’t a “school”, it’s a “program”.)
  2. If Pioneer isn’t an accredited school, how can they give out credits?
  3. If Pioneer can’t give out credits, how can they give out diplomas?
  4. Oregon law states that core curriculum needs to be taught by a “highly qualified “teacher for students to be able to receive credits for a modified and/or a standard diploma. How can Pioneer students receive credits when the teachers are SPED teachers?
  5. How has our son earned his required credits for graduation when he hasn’t had access to the required courses?
  6. Why hasn’t our son had access to many courses, Pathways included, even though there is nothing in his IEP that states that the courses would need to be modified or deleted? (required by law)
  7. Why have the courses that our son has taken not followed the PPS curriculum or aligned with the PPS grade level standards? (required by law)
  8. Why wasn’t our son able to take three electives within this Pathways choice as required for graduation? (Pioneer has no electives at all! Graduating with a modified diploma he should have had twelve electives.)
  9. Why has our son received no career or Pathways counseling? (required by law)
  10. Why has our son received no help to write and implement an Education Plan; not to be confused with an IEP? (required by law) (And, yes, we know that an IEP can be used as an Education Plan, but it would need to have all the components of an Education Plan written within to qualify. Our son’s IEP does not qualify as an Education Plan.)
  11. Why didn’t our son get any career experience or career learning in his areas of interest? (required by law)

Joanne Mabbott had promised another parent and me back in June that there would be a Pioneer Community Forum Meeting so Pioneer parents could voice their concerns about problems at Pioneer near the end of August. Now we are being told that there will be no meeting and Pioneer parents could come to the Special Education Audit Stakeholders meeting instead.

The Pioneer Staff also recently asked to speak with district administrators and Joanne Mabbott refused to speak with them.

How do we get the district to respond?

Polly Zagone is a PPS parent.