By Gil Johnson of Dundee, Oregon. Gil describes himself as a "part-time chicken farmer and full-time martial arts instructor, and a former political hack." Previously, he contributed "Pay as you grow" and "Oregon Inc.: Educate, Medicate, Incarcerate."
When Diane Linn called them the “Mean Girls,” I just thought that it was one more scratch in and ongoing political catfight at the Multnomah County Commission.
But mean they are. Commissioners Serena Cruz Walsh, Lisa Naito and Maria Rojo de Steffey want to slash $1.6 million out of the county's contribution to the popular and effectivef SUN program. SUN stands for Schools Uniting Neighborhoods and provides after-school educational opportunities to low-income children. A large percentage of the participants in the SUN programs would otherwise be latchkey kids.
I'm hoping someone who reads or contributes to Blueoregon can help. Neither a surprisingly coherent editorial in The Oregonian nor a rally of several hundred people at Monday's commission hearing seems to have swayed these three Heathers. Evidently they have no qualms about committing political suicide, so it's going to have to get personal.
Does anyone know any of the anti-SUN commissioners on a first name
basis? If so, can you talk to her and and talk some sense into her?
(Eric Sten, are you reading this? Serena used to work for you and I see
both of you together at City Club luncheons. Give her a call.)
If that fails, let's get the next county commission on record as
supporting full funding of SUN. Jeff Cogen, one of the candidates for
the seat that Serena Cruz, told The Oregonian he opposes the cuts. I'm
sure that Lew Frederick, his opponent, would support SUN as well,
considering he used to work for Portland Public Schools. That leaves
incoming commission chair Ted Wheeler. Anybody know him and where he
stands on the issue?
The proposed cuts—about half of the county's share and about a third
of the whole budget—are supposed to shrink the program's administration
costs by eliminating the site managers at participating schools
(currently there are 52 schools with SUN programs). This is ridiculous.
The site managers are not bureaucratic paper pushers; they are the glue
that holds together dozens of after school activities and hundreds of
kids at each school.
Site managers make sure the kids get their snack, get to the right
class or activity, When the kids get disruptive, the site manager's
office is the after-school equivalent of the principal'ws office. After
the classes are over, the site managers baby sit the kids until their
parents show up—and rare is the day that every parent shows up to pick
up every kid. If the site managers are eliminated, who is going to make
the phone calls and wait around to be sure that left behind child will
be going home—or on occasion, drive the child home?
The site managers also monitor the people who teach the after-school
classes, who usually are not credentialed teachers. My taekwon-do
organization provided four teachers to SUN programs this past year and
though they are good at working with children and teaching taekwon-do,
they are not the same as professional teachers. They get paid from $10
to $15 an hour. Our program gets great reviews from the students and
parents, but every year there are new classes and it's up to site
managers to make sure the teachers are doing things appropriate for the
children in those schools.
SUN was the brainchild of former county commission chair Bev Stein
and former city commissioner Jim Francesconi. It initially targeted
elementary schools. I remember a few years ago talking with Diane Linn
and suggesting that more middle schools be involved in SUN, because
pre-teens left alone are at an extremely high risk of getting into
drugs and other detrimental activities. She was ahead of me on that,
having planned on more middle schools as the program expanded.
The flowering of the SUN programs is perhaps Linn's one positive legacy from her tenure on the county commission. Some have suggested this is the reason why the Mean Girls are doing this. I can't believe they would be so petty and stupid.
June 16, 2006
Posted in guest column.
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