What does "school" mean?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Amidst all the conversation about closing schools, merging schools, adjusting which grades are served by schools, there's one continuous undercurrent to the complaints.

And that's the notion that a school is a building. I disagree. I think a school is a community of teachers, staff, students, and parents.

It's certainly true that the physical location matters - nearby is better than far away, nice and clean is better than junky and unsafe - but I think the academic community matters more.

When I hear school advocates complain that the school district "is closing our school" -- that doesn't make much sense to me. No one is suggesting that those students won't be taught anymore. Rather, that community of teachers, staff, parents, and students is going to undergo some change -- perhaps split up, perhaps joined with some others, etc.

Now, I can appreciate that any major change is a scary prospect, but every school undergoes a metamorphosis every year under normal circumstances. Teachers come and go. Students transfer in and transfer out. And, of course, everyone gets a year older - and the oldest kids graduate out and new kids matriculate in.

If there's a well-functioning community of teachers, staff, parents, and students -- why do we assume that they won't be just as well-functioning in another physical location? Why do we fetishize the building, instead of recognizing that it's the people that make the difference?

Talk to me. I'm baffled.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Kari makes an excellent point, though I think I understand the building "fetish". That building is HOME for 7 hours of the waking day experience for kids, yes they matriculate out at some point, but they've gotten used to that idea by then. It's much more akin to moving to another house. Yep, it's an emotional issue rather than in intellectual issue, but that takes none of its power away. But the reality is that school systems have to do things in order to survive, sometimes builings become unusable and get knocked down, sometimes they're just no longer economically viable. It will take a good arguement to outweigh the emotional attachment, maybe that's what's most missing. I have no dog in this fight, just commenting... Thanks Chuck

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    Don't get me wrong -- I personally felt the pangs of nostalgia when my old high school was knocked down and a new building in its place.

    That said, given a choice between bankrupting our school system and moving some kids and their teachers into a new building - with some other kids and some other teachers - well, I know what the choice has to be.

  • C.M. (unverified)
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    From what I am seeing in the Oregonian, etc., the loss of these schools will barely make a dent in the budgetary crisis. (I beleive the maximum estimate was $4 million in savings.) So I can understand why people don't want to give up their local schools for a 'solution' which doesn't solve the problem.

    If, for example, PPS closes these schools, but then found a more permanent source of funding (say, from repeal of the kicker), then what? There's no school in the neighborhood. Thus lower property values, no place for the community to gather, etc.

    (For the record, I think K-8 schools are fine. But I understand the reluctance to accept change.)

  • grrlszgrrl (unverified)
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    It isn't the building, although Chuck Butcher makes an excellent point that it is "home" for those children. Mainly, though, it is the community you just talked about. My daughter will be going into second grade next year. She has been with the same children, the same parent group, the same teacher group for two years now and none of us had plans to change that. Now, it is being changed, suddenly, without out consent.

    Of course, as children mature the structure of their school community changes but for the youngest children who are just beginning to find that separation between home and the outside world, the consistent school community is a bridge that aids the adjustment. Taking that away from an entire community of children is what matters to us, not the building.

    If this disruption in children's lives were going to make our schools stronger and better funded, then we could all find a way to go with the flow and make it work. But, this is just a stop-gap solution that does nothing for our schools' long-term health.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    Closing schools and the resulting consolidation means each school draws from a wider area. That means that more people are farther away, and therefore less likely to walk/bike to school, and less likely to feel like the school is part of their immediate community. There's a reason why Starbucks has relatively small coffee shops all over the place, instead of a couple of huge ones -- a close, small, community-feeling place to gather is important.

  • jrw (unverified)
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    The community factor is a huge part of it. The building is a shorthand for the group that forms during a school year and over the scope of many years. I teach in a small rural school, which originally was its own school district and has now been absorbed into a larger consolidated district. When it became part of the larger district, even though nothing was changed physically, the resentments still existed--and still do, among oldtimers.

    This attitude in the urban setting also harkens back to the older days of rural schooling. Not every urban school develops this atmosphere, but for many rural schools, the school is a community focus which involves not only the youth of the community and their parents, but others who live there. At my school, a good portion of the town still turns out for eighth-grade promotion. Part of that is due that many folks are somehow related to the kids, but part of it is that this is a major community event.

    In the urban setting, we have this dichotomy with the larger vs smaller schools, in that some schools have a very tight relationship with their local community while others don't. I do see many good possibilities with the K-8 model for developing even more cohesion, better than the k-3 school setting or the K-5 school setting, but the process of getting there is going to be angsty. I know several Portland folks who went to K-8 schools who feel happy about the experience, and were sad when their schools were changed to middle schools or elementary-only schools (Sellwood is the one I have the primary experience with).

    I do like a K-8 school model. Handled well, I think it's good for all involved. Not every administrator can do it well, however--but those who can are usually the better administrators anyway.

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    CM -- you wrote, "I beleive the maximum estimate was $4 million in savings."

    Not sure if that's the right number, but if it is... That's a LOT of money! With a gap of something like $15-20 million, a $4 million in savings can get us 20-25% of the way there...

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    How about this reformulation:

    "The school board is ripping the beating heart out of our community."

    Of course it's not about the building. But it is about the community being rooted in a place.

    And I won't even start in on the transportation issues and the impacts on the long term health of kids who can no longer bike or walk to school.

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    The problem in Portland is that parents have no sense of the history of their local schools and behave like this is the first time in the history of Portland that their school has closed. It will mean the end of their community/life as we know it/the children will be damaged goods. When my kids were in elementary school the city re-opened Rieke and our kids were "forced" to move from "their" school (Hayhurst). The pain didn't last a day. Now if you tell Rieke parents that they may have to move to Hayhurst it is the end of the world.

    In our neighborhood in Southwest Portland the following changes have been made over the past 50 years. Rieke was opened, closed, reopened. Multnomah and Smith were closed. Jackson started as a high school and was converted to a junior high. Robert Gray was a k-8 and then converted to a junior high. I think that there are other closures and openings that I can not remember. In addition, boundaries move on a regular basis.

    I am a believer in neighborhood schools, but what is the neighborhood? There are three potential elementary schools within walking distance from our house, any one of which would be fine for our kids. Of course they started out at Hayhurst which is a fourth school, further away than the other three potential and we thought it was great.

    Parents being new to this always lack this perspective, but it would be helpful if the school board and the media helped give them some perspective.

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    I have to agree with Jonathan about the damage to neighborhoods when neighborhood schools are closed.

    We bought our house specifically so our kids could walk to school--and could grow up knowing our neighbors, both adults and kids--that lived around us. We specifically wanted to avoid having to drive our kids long distances, in cars, to school somewhere. It's an entirely different experience to do that--not bad in any way, but not what we wanted. Today, our kids run down the block to play with friends, say hello to the people who live on our street, all of whom serve as watchful eyes to make sure our kids & our neighborhood are safe.

    When you close a school and ship kids elsewhere, your neighborhood becomes less desirable to families with kids. Houses are already expensive here; what family wants to move in to a neighborhood that has no school nearby, unless you are already planning on sending your kids to private school?

    I understand that some schools have to close, I just think it's a detriment to Portland's strong neighborhoods every time one goes down.

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    Kari, fearless leader (I'm buttering you up), when these buildings close, where do these kids go? Are they going to be crammed in at the other overcrowded schools? School in the park? I agree with the person before who said school is a child's second home during the day. Granted there are children who come in all the time and others who leave. But, imagine if you moved your children (I know, you don't have any) back and forth from home to home? That desk, that window, that playground, its all reinforcement for children. I remember being moved from a school. It took me the entire year to get over it, including an attempt to manufacture my own expulsion. The building and its contents provide protection, safety and another great thing to count on in this life. How about this as an option. Charge a freaking sales tax. I mean, seriously, at least a luxury tax.

  • Terry (unverified)
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    Actually, Kari, savings from school closures is a wash if you factor in lost enrollment from parents leaving the district. Even the district has admitted that school reconfiguration is more about improving educational opportunity than saving money. In short, closing schools won't save the district from "bankruptcy".

    The bigger issues are rushing through school closures on such a tight timeline -April 24- without adequate public discussion, and doing it in the midst of a budget crisis. In fact, the district is no doubt using the budget crisis as cover for pushing through its massive school realignment plan. The two issues should be dealt with separately.

    As for "school", you're dead right that schools are communities of students, teachers, and parents. That's precisely why it's absurd to judge the "performance" of a school solely on student test scores without factoring in demographics and parent involvement.

    That said, it is nice to be able to walk to a neighborhood school close by, which is what I was able to do right here in Portland in grades K-8.

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    This is a great discussion, folks. I'm learning a lot. Keep it up.

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    Kari,

    Think of it like "home". What does "home" mean? "I'll be home for Christmas." "There's no place like home for the holidays."

    Substitute for that 'an undetermined location with family members'

    It just doesn't work, does it? Yes, you are right, we "fetishize" the physical space. We attach emotional feelings of attachment, comfort, and community to this physical location. It's a natural human tendency.

    This doesn't mean the "school" is as fundamental to our self-understanding as is the "home", but they do have similar characteristics. It is also true that a "school" can be deeply interwoven with a neighborhood's sense of community and shared commitment.

    In my own neighborhood, the school is the location for: neighborhood association meetings, our 4th of july and halloween parades, a few summer fairs, spring soccer, summer baseball, and year round basketball and kid play.

    I have been in school communities (magnets) that consisted almost wholly of parents who dropped off and picked up their kids. And I've been in schools where the majority of children walk to school and parents linger afterwards.

    I've been in large (500+) and small (300) schools.

    I've been in large, sprawling districts and small districts. I have to say, in each case, I vastly prefer the latter.

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    This is probably more along the lines of fetisizing buildings, but the physical buildings do matter -- but that's not necessarily an argument for schools constructed 50 or 100 years ago. The way students learn today is different from 20 or 30 years ago, and there's an interesting architecture developing that seeks to address this. Here's one eco-techy example -- admittedly a little much for Portlanders to stomach.

    Jetsonian design aside, there is a large body of research linking green design to higher productivity -- one of the reasons so many corporate headquarters are LEEDs certified. Natural lighting, good ventilation, non-toxic materials are important - especially to younger students.

    If schools are going to be closed/reconfigured, green strategies can be one way to reduce operating costs over the life of a building, and more importantly, to increase student performance.

    The teachers, students and parents may matter most, but Portland's Whittaker is a good example of bad design hurting students' performance and health.

  • Richard Watson (unverified)
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    One point that has not been made is that these closures come via an autocratic process from the. It is supposed to be "data driven" but the data is always faulty, and there is no definition of success for such closure policies (or for the Jefferson High redesign, for that matter. I now call the Jeff plan the "School of Chaos".)

    Case in point: Kenton and Applegate Schools were closed last year. They could have merged the two schools in one of the buildings. But the kids were shuffled off to Woodlawn and Chief Joseph. Now, with the Superintendent's redesign of a K-8 system, Chief Joseph doesn't have the room to expand and the promised benefit of reducing studetn transistions has dissappeared. Lack of dilligent research is my conclusion.

    With respect to Portland Public Schools, let us not follow a false "Prophet"

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    From grade one through grade 11, I attended school sequentially in:

    Seaside, Seattle, Albany, Empire, Sisters, Hauser, Libby , Sisters, Redmond

    Now it is barely possible that I'm a bit maladjusted, (nah, just ignore that) but I doubt that the little darlings will be permanently scarred by changing school buildings, especially as (if I understand correctly) their little peers will be moving right along with 'em.

    Buck up folks. It took us years to get through all of the crap and wasted money and arrive at Vicki Phillips. She has seemed so much more professional than some of her predecessors, that we might oughta take a moment to reflect on how this problem might have been addressed by Ben Canada.

    And thank our lucky stars.

  • Bert (unverified)
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    While I applaud brainstorming for solutions, the initial thrust of this discussion reflects a "tyranny of abrstaction." It's cropping up all over the place and in blogs.

    Let's make whole, multi-generational communities a la Jane Jacobs!

    Seeing kids play keeps the prozac away. Seniors sitting on park benches are the best community policing system invented to date.

    Hmm, well I guess I have a communitarian streak in me!

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    In driving through Costa Rica, I was impressed by how many schools we saw, and how modest. Might be a lesson for Oregon there. In Corvallis, a very costly new school building was soon followed by a citizen rejection of a school levy renewal. Citizens voted for the new school, but their only option was the $46 million dollar bond, or nothing. That is not how I conduct my private buying and it should not be the limited construction spending choice presented to voters.

  • Erika Meyer (unverified)
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    My daughter went to kindergarten at St. Stephens School (Catholic). She liked the school and loved the afterschool program. At the end of her kindergarten year, St. Stephens closed. She cried, as did other parents, teachers, and children in that close community.

    She went to first, second, and third grade at Abernethy school. At the end of her third grade year, Abernethy doubled in size, changed to a year-round schedule, and incorporated two other schools (Edwards and Richmond) which had closed. I tried to disengage emotionally from this transition, but it affected the students a great deal, much of it through the parents who are very involved at that school. They also moved the Environmental Middle School out of Abernethy to Sunnyside. The upside was that thru parent advocacy, Abernethy got a "real" kitchen in their cafeteria and Abernethy kids no longer have to eat that pre-packaged plastic crap... ah, but I digress.

    Fourth grade had some changes for us, she wasn't able to get back into Abernethy, so is in our current neighborhood school, Bridger. The school psychologist as Bridger told me she has changed schools too much and we should really try to keep her in Bridger for stability's sake.

    And now we are told to prepare for Bridger to close.

  • betts (unverified)
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    For the past ten years the federal government has been funding grants for SLC's -- Small Learning Communities. These grants go primarily to large high schools with over 1000 students. The idea is the school district uses the grant money to create small communities within the school building so that students are more connected to their educational experience.

    The origination of these grants was of course research driven; research clearly shows that the number one method for engaging all students, from the TAG kids to the at risk students is to have those students in smaller educational communties where they create strong relationships both to peers and to adults. In larger schools many students feel disconnected, like they only matter as a number on a transcript.

    Ideally, the students would be in smaller schools, period -- meaning smaller buildings. But as our district budgets absolutely do not allow for this, we have to keep the large high school buildings and try to create the communitites within that space. These grants go to high schools rather than our elementary schools because our elementary schools are already SLC's, small neighborhood schools where kids can feel safe and can create meaningful relationships that help them grow and learn.

    So, my question is why is the Portland Public School District giving up its small community/neighborhood schools? It is not in the students' best interest to consolidate schools into larger buildings because the community will drastically be affected in a negative way. This move goes completely against research and best educational practices. The saddest part is that while, yes, the students will still get an adequate education, they will not get the best education possible. And that is truly tragic.

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    Buck up folks. It took us years to get through all of the crap and wasted money and arrive at Vicki Phillips. She has seemed so much more professional than some of her predecessors, that we might oughta take a moment to reflect on how this problem might have been addressed by Ben Canada.

    Well, Pat, maybe it was moving a lot that caused you to be content with "crap and wasted money" as long as it seems so much more professional than it did with Ben Canada.

    I must say, I still have hopes for Vicki Phillips but every time I get close enough to a situation with Portland Public Schools to get a real look at anything specific that is happening I am not encouraged. All the stuff that Vicki Phillips has done that has been highly visible has amounted to grandstanding--firing Steve Goldschmidt without due process and closing schools. The way the Goldschmidt firing was done actually cost the district extra money and the school closings have not saved significant money. That $4M estimate of what they'll save from the next round of closures, keep in mind, is the district's best case scenario. I guarantee you that if they are saying $4M they won't save anything near that. Read a parent group critique of how PPS calculates savings here.

    Perhaps the grandstanding was necessary. I'm willing to applaud the monetary loss on the Goldschmidt firing if it sent the right message and removed an obstacle to improvement sooner rather than later. Likewise, maybe they've got polling that says they can't get the voters behind them or move the legislature if they don't close schools. Maybe they have to close schools even if it doesn't save money or make any other kind of sense in itself.

    But even if you accept that the grandstanding was necessary, it comes at a cost, some of which has been noted here, and it certainly is not sufficient. Last year, the story we heard was that the ideal size for schools tends to be around 400 or 500 students--consolidating smaller schools will give kids better libraries, specialty teachers, etc. This year we're closing two schools in that ideal size range and now the ideal thing for kids is K-8 schools. Of course, as Rich pointed out, at least one of the consolidations we did last year put 500 kids into a school that can't accomodate K-8.

    My biggest problem with how the school district has been operating is that I still don't see anything in the programs that have been implemented or proposed that truly address any of the core problems the school district is facing and has been facing for decades. Everything I see amounts to tweaking the steering on a car after the engine has been jacked.

    PPS has been trying for decades to improve achievement in poor neighborhoods by following the latest fads in how you divide up the kids--whether adjusting grade alignments, or segmenting schools or moving them from one place to another. It appears that it hasn't worked so far. It might be a worthwhile tweak to the steering but does anyone really think that going K-8 is going to magically cause big jumps in achievement? It costs money every time we make those changes and even worse is the opportunity cost of spending valuable time and attention on what amounts to busy work.

    I don't know what the answers are, I'm not an expert and there are no doubt a lot of amateurs who are better informed than I am. Hearkening back to a comment I made in another thread, however, I did get a good public education and in addition to being able to read and do arithmetic I acquired a few analytical skills. I've listened to Vicki Phillps speak a few times, been to or watched a few school board meetings, been to some meetings PPS has held in my neighborhood and to some meeting of PPS parents. At all those meetings the first thing I was looking for was signs of a coherent plan for solving any of the significant problems facing PPS--funding issues, achievement issues--whatever.

    I have repeatedly heard contradictory justifications for PPS actions by PPS staff. I've seen blatantly insincere "public input" processes. I've seen parents treated callously by district staff (not by Vicki, by the way). I've seen an autocratic district staff consistently give the public and the school board absurdly inadequate amounts of time to weigh-in on or make major decisions. What I haven't seen is anything that looks like a coherent plan--or even a part of one.

    One of the things we are hearing in this discussion is that schools are even more than the sum of the parents, students and teachers. Schools have long been important anchors of communities. If PPS doesn't clean up their act, I'm afraid we are going to find out the hard way just how much they mean to the broader community.

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    A successful professional knows to focus on your customers! PPS seems to be focused on everyone else but on customers and what their customers want. Their customers don’t have to “buck up.” They can take their children to a school system that IS listening.

    Not arguing with your point steve, because as Doretta said, I ain't no expert on this nor do I play one on TV.

    One question does arise though. Isn't it logical to say that PPS has several different groups of "customers"?

    Taxpayers are customers because they pay for the service. Businesses are customers because PPS is training their future employees. And of course, the customers that that you were refering to: parents

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    My grandson will never attend public school. At the age of 3, he is learning his numbers, his alphabet, and can read a few words. He is now, and will continue to be home schooled. His parents network with other devotees of attachment parenting, and they assure socialization, etcetera.

    This is an accelerating trend which will be disastrous for publicly schooled children in the long run, as the PPS parents who do pay attention (and I assume every parent on this list is in that category) confront more hoops, they will rightly think of their own children's best interest ahead of that of the theoretical "larger community".

    So, as enrollment decreases, the cost per pupil will probably continue to rise with the percentage of "special needs" kids. Continue down that road, and schools will become almost exclusively remedial.

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    If the system cannot match other nations on basic comparisons, and cannot accommodate children that need to be challenged above grade level, their parents will continue to opt out to the detriment of the system.

    Again, I don't know if this K-8 deal will assist in furthering my little agenda, I'm just arguing that it should.

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)
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    Kari wrott: CM -- you wrote, "I beleive the maximum estimate was $4 million in savings."

    Not sure if that's the right number, but if it is... That's a LOT of money! With a gap of something like $15-20 million, a $4 million in savings can get us 20-25% of the way there... The budget gap for next year is actually $57 million. PPS is choosing to make $24 million in "sustainable" cuts, focusing primarily on closure/reconfiguration. In a word, they are downsizing.

    The District's numbers keep changing, but at a presentation before Portland Business Alliance Folks yesterday, PPS COO Cathy Mincberg admitted that they are actually budgeting to SPEND $2 million on the retrofitting and transition costs of closures next year. No savings. It will cost money to do this.

    They will say it is worth it because they will have "right-sized" the district. Yet will young families really settle in this city so that they can drive past a mothballed building within walking distance of their home, to a distant consolidated school?

    Moreover, PPS is leaving untouched its boutique "focus option" schools while claiming it can no longer "afford" smaller neighborhood schools. The inequity and inconsistency is outrageous. (to take one example from the leaked plan: the Creative Science School is currently 150 students, will be given its own space and entrance and administrator, and will "grow to 250". How is this sustainable yet we can't keep open a neighborhood school of 300?)

    More on the money-- I doubt they have factored in loss of $5,000 per child per year when they lose students due to closures. Last year PPS calculated a 14% loss of students after closing 5 schools, and said that was entirely normal and expected. So if we assume that closing schools (not to mention reconfiguring 27 more) would result in at least the same level of losses, 14% of the 11 closed schools in the leaked draft plan = 492 students = an entire school building = $2.4 million lost state revenue, per year.

    Re: John Calhoun's comment about neighborhood schools in SW having closed and reopened in past years--true, but the key difference is that today we have the Hillsdale Town Center. Specifically planned over years of work by neighborhood folks working with Metro, with high-density development, sidewalk improvements, pool, library, mass transit, farmers market, apartments, etc. with a school at the heart of it. The Town Center needs an elementary school to help "anchor" it. Robert Gray is fairly nearby (within a mile,) but is not safely walkable.

    To all those who say kids are resilient, of course they are. The issue here is our city and neighborhoods, and keeping/attracting young families. Driving more families away through a hasty, top-down, poorly thought through process is the last thing we need.

    The Superintendent knew last fall that Salem had failed us and that the local option/Itax were expiring. Why didn't they start convening a process to talk about K-8, answer questions, formulate a plan, and get the community to buy in? Instead it is being forced through with only a veneer of community "input."

    Would the City announce that it has decided we need to streamline the neighborhood system and that it will be shutting down a bunch of neighborhood associations and community centers? And would it push the entire plan through in just 3 weeks from proposal to final vote?

    Sorry for the long post. I'll stop here!

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    I agree steve, but the GM analogy may not be apt, because the shareholders are not "customers", but "owners", who should be interested not just in quarterly profits, but also in the long term health of the firm.......er......dang.....guess it is a pretty good analogy after all.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Kari -

    I was just in Mitchell today. Little town of about 200 people. The school is the community. The only large building in town is the school. Well there is one tiny church. All events for more than 20 people are in that school building.

    Only in an urban area can you get by thinking that the school can be a community without walls. Over on this side of the State, a school without walls means we'd be standing outside.

    And I don't think it is much different in Portland. I grew up on Commercial Street three blocks north of Jefferson HS. When the polio vaccine was invented, we got it at the High School. That summer I took clarinet/band lessons - it was at the High School. Most of the events that were related to our "community" within the city were held at Jefferson. To this day, on MLK day I can turn on my TV and see the stage at Jefferson HS being used for an all-day celebration.

    Buildings ARE important. They are symbols of the linkage we have to our community. We might not actually ever go into that school building in our neighborhood - but we know it's there. Take away that symbol, you kill the connectedness of a community.

    Sometimes, you have to meet real people face to face - and with that I'll get off this screen.

  • Garlynn (unverified)
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    Students should definitely be considered the customers of the school system. Parents are the legal guardians of those customers, and along with local businesses and taxpayers in general, are the shareholders in the system.

    Merging all elementary and middle schools into a citywide network of K-8 schools actually sounds like a great proposal. I attended the Metropolitan Learning Center in NW Portland from 5th through 10th grade, and the presence of kids of all ages definitely made that school feel more like a family, it created more community, and it expanded the range of options available to all children (library, swimming pool, etc.) I understand why high schools need to generally be separate from K-8 -- that's the only way that the district can reasonably supply the foreign languages, science labs, etc. that high school students require.

    However, I think that many high school students are, by the completion of the 10th grade, ready to begin working at the college level, and often those last two years of high school are sort of wasted, in terms of academic progress. I think Oregon needs to seriously consider making it more of a mainstream option for kids to go to college after the 10th grade, both by establishing early admission programs at some of the institutions of higher learning across the state (or starting a new institution, along the lines of the Evergreen State College, perhaps to be located in Astoria), and by making the option to leave high school after the 10th grade more generally available and acceptable within the high school environment. As in, if students perform at a high enough level (measure by their GPA, standardized testing and SAT scores, I imagine) while in grades 7-10, then they will have the option of going to college after grade 10 if they so choose.

    Finally, when it comes to school consolidation... I sure hope the school district is using GIS, preferably ArcGIS with Network Analyst. Somebody needs to make a map of Portland, with all of its K-8 schools. They then need to plot quarter, half and one-mil walking distance buffers around each school. If the walking buffer of any school is completely overlapped by the buffers of the surrounding schools, then it might make sense to close it. However, if a school's buffer is not overlapped by any surrounding buffers, then under no circumstances should it be closed! This would do WONDERS for easing parents concerns, easing traffic congestion due to parents driving kids to school, and empowering students to walk and ride their bicycles to their neighborhood school!

    OK, I think that's it for now.

  • k (unverified)
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    I grew up outside of Portland, in a community with a lot fewer schools. Some kids walked or biked but most of us had to take the bus, sometimes 1/2 hour+ each way. Did I personally like it? No; I was one of the kids that got picked on. Did it scar me for life or take away the "community" that was school? No and I received a terrific education.

    I understand that closing schools can affect property values and I understand the appeal of having a school just down the road so little Suzy or Jimmy can walk. But given the choice of my kid walking to school to sit in an overcrowded, under-funded classroom with an overworked, underpaid teacher without enough supplies or having to ride a bus a whole 15-20 minutes to a school that is well-maintained with good teachers, decent class sizes and enough supplies, I'll pick the bus, thank you.

    Yes, we need a legislature that is less concerned with prohibiting cigar taxes and various partisan warring and more concerned with doing their job and fixing school funding. Yes, we need a tax overhaul (a sales tax would be a good start). But in the meantime, let's stop the territorial pissing over which building or how many is more important and do what's right for the kids. There's a solution on the table; I say take it unless someone has a better idea that is actually feasible*.

    • Much as I'd love to see the kicker refund gone, it's not likely to happen anytime soon, especially when there's a faction in this state considering TABOR.
  • betts (unverified)
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    There is a big movement right now to push AP classes in high school and to offer more of them so that even sophomores might be enrolled. This to me is a total joke. These classes are no longer truly college classes. They are glorified honors classes that give students inflated egos for a time, then crush them when they only score two's and three's on the AP test. Many of the students don't even take the AP test because they know they can't "pass" it. Advocating for students to enter college after 10th grade is just one more step in dumbing down the education of America. If high school material isn't rigorous or challenging enough for students after 10th grade, then that is where the change needs to be made, AT THE HIGH SCHOOL.

    Also, 16 year olds are not adults and should not be expected to act like them, nor should they be treated as such. We cannot forget that school teaches more than academics. (That is, in fact, what most of this thread's discussion is about, no?) School teaches social skills and responsibilities. Even the most brilliant student is not socially ready to be living on a college campus independently at that young and developmentally crucial age.

    I would be in favor of a European type system where students are tracked after 9th grade and enter a school geared towards their future persuits. Those on the University track go to a classical school where they learn traditional academic subjects and languages. Those on a "management" track who may go on for a bachelor's or an associate's degree get a mix between traditional education with extra business or career focused elective classes. And finally there is the vocational track where students take basic math, reading and writing along with vocational classes where they learn specific skills and prepare to enter the workforce. But this is perhaps a bit off topic, so I'll stop now. :)

  • TJ Weldy (unverified)
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    This is a 'me' explanation of the importance of a school's location, and I acknowledge that before I begin. It is not a circumstance that many people share. To my family the location of the school is the most important aspect in the usual run of things. My wife is vision disabled and cannot drive a car. We must be within walking distance. I specifically bought a home in an expensive area of SE Portland because it was very close to two kindergarten and elementary schools. Both of them have closed, although one has been re-purposed into a magnet school.

    We have been forced into a situation where the only logical choice is to home school. Please don't ponder my options - they are limited for reasons I have no desire to discuss and I don't want to hear about options - I have been through all of them already.

    I am generally politically left of everyone in the room, but I am beginning to develop anti-tax, anti-school fund attitudes because I feel like public schools are unavailable to my family. We made substantial sacrifices to move to our current location and we've been completely screwed by school closings. Property value reduction is an extra slap in the face because it really makes moving impossible for us unless we give up home ownership and take on unsecured debt.

  • The Siskiyou Skewer (unverified)
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    In the context of this discussion of the proposed K-8 model, it's important to keep in mind that middle school students are from outer space.

    Around the 10th or 11th year of an earthling's life, their body is invaded by extra-terrestrials; aliens to you and me. The whole ordeal is traumatizing. The body snatching makes strange sounds come out of their mouth, and acne bubble from their skin. Their mind is not their own, and they're prone to freaking out a lot. Understandable, given the circumstances. A downright mortifying time, if memory serves.

    It's better for all involved for these possessed "humans" to be walled off from the rest of society for the period of the alien incubation. When you're 12, it's embarassing to be alive. Let's minimize the witnesses.

    There is reason to fear that Vicki Phillips and David Wynde are agents of the alien menace, who seek to infest our otherwise tolerable life on this planet with the unbearable words and deeds of these barbarians from outer space. Just try asking them about their day some time. They act like you ran over a puppy.

    Rise up, Portland, and defend your planet Earth.

  • Pavel Goberman (unverified)
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    Kari wrote: "...I think a school is a community of teachers, staff, students, and parents.....". Kari, you are right, but you didn't include word: Taxpayers. Without taxpayers there will be no schools. About quality education in schools: success of any business depends on management. Shame on our educational system: after high school same students are poor in reading and math. Our country invites engineers from other countries. We could not invite engineers to defend this nation. Some blame for lack of money. We are paying a lot of income and property taxes. Where money go? SuperIntendent's Vicki Phillips salary is $225,000.00. President of the PSU Bernstine has $150K-$175K, Commissioner of Washington County Tom Brian has $159K, County Administrator has has $152K, Mayor of Beaverton Drake has about $150K, President of the OHSU Peter Kohler has salary $675,123.00 And many, many more "our service" public official in Oregon and country have huge salaries. They do NOT care that this nation has $9.2 trillion deficit and schools needs more money. These people care about themselves only. Cut theirs salaries till we will balance national budget. No one government employees may have salary higher than salary of the Governor of the state. And I will fight for it.

    Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Repres. 1st Congr. Distr.

    Where

  • Sarah Carlin Ames (unverified)
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    Hi all. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, here. The staff-generated K-8 scenario that was leaked to the newspapers two weeks ago was just that -- an early draft scenario (one of several) that did not have Vicki Phillips' blessing.

    Since then, staff has done more homework, talked to many parents, heard many interesting ideas and suggestions (including some from the school communities that would have been most affected by the leaked scenario). Superintendent Phillips has weighed in and nixed some ideas, encouraged others. She is finalizing the proposal she will share on April 4, when it will go out for more comment and hearings before the Board vote.

    Stay tuned; the debate will continue. We're working on getting more data and background up on the Portland Public Schools website, www.pps.k12.or.us

    Here's one tidbit that I think BlueOregon folk will appreciate: The average Portland elementary kid lives 0.7 miles from his or her school. In middle school, the average is 1.4 miles. If some schools switch to K-8, you might actually have more 6th, 7th, and 8th grade kids walking to school (even if some buildings are closed) than now. And as a bonus, they might walk their younger sisters and brothers to school, too.

    Sarah Carlin Ames PPS Communications [email protected]

  • The Siksiyou Skewer (unverified)
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    Sarah Peter Carlin Ames,

    The leak was, um, uncomfortable. We expect a certain futile clarification at every turn. Sucky part of the job, I guess.

    That's all well and good, yet you fail to address my concerns about middle school students being from outer space. Is Vicki or is Vicki not complicit in the alien conspiracy to expose countless otherwise normal people to the insane roller coaster that is life from the ages of 11 to 13?

    All this distancing from the plan is going to look mighty silly in a week, when the actual plan looks much like the fake plan. Especially in terms of the whole mixing up aliens with people thing.

    God Bless America.

  • Jerry (unverified)
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    With all due respect to Ms Carlin Ames, While I'm very interested in the education of the average kid, I'm even more interested in my son's education and well being. With all due respect to John Calhoun, I have a very acute sense of history.

    Our neighborhood elementary school was the primary reason we moved into our community in 1988. We chose Portland over the suburbs knowing it would cost us more, but because we could both engage in and help create a community of neighbors.

    Since that time I supported every tax levy, opposed Measures 5 and 47 and worked to defeat the repeal of the ITAX. If you review our precinct's (which before vote by mail used to be the elementary school) voting record, you'll see over 60% of my neighbors did as well.

    Unfortunately we waited too long to reproduce and PPS in its infinite wisdom closed our school last year to "save money" before my son could complete a year there.

    We no longer walk to school. The building stands empty, failing to generate projected rental revenues.

    My son's classmates were scattered to three different elementary schools (sorry Ryan, you're misinformed on that one), none of which is accessible by anything other than automobiles or buses.

    The community of parents who gathered in front of the school every morning as they walked their children to school, no longer exists. PTA President and Treasurer, Site Council President and other engaged parents are relegated to chauffeur status. A status that is antithetical to community building.

    Now, I drive my son to a private school. It's a fantastic school, one of the best, but it's not in our neighborhood. He no longer plays with our neighbors' kids and consequently, our community is weakened. Because of the unique "grandfathering" of last year's 5th Grade students, our neighbors will go to different middle schools than my son.

    The $5000+ my son would have generated for PPS is now parceled out to every district in the state. Some neighbors have moved to Tigard, others pay the out-of-district tuition to send their kids to Riverdale and still others are saving up for their own lifeboat.

    And Portland Public Schools, Stand for Children and the Schools Foundation wonder why Portlanders are no longer interested in supporting a levy.

    Last year, there was an amazing story of a young rock climber in Utah who after finding his arm immovably lodged in a crevice, had the courage and will power to use a pocket knife to cut through his muscle, tendons and bones in order to free himself and survive.

    If he had worked for PPS, he would have cut off the other arm.

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    And some people think blogs can't generate meaningful, interesting, useful conversation that educates, elucidates, and energizes.

    Thanks all. I'm continuing to listen.

  • Betsy (unverified)
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    Okay, I'm going to jump into the fray to play devil's advocate here - or maybe it's demystifying some myths or misperceptions. (Depends on your POV, I suppose.)

    I've got two kids in PPS - one walks to our neighborhood school, the other takes the bus to a magnet school. There's no appreciable difference in their school communities - in fact, I'd argue that the magnet school (with a diverse population) has the more cohesive culture.

    And I understand wanting a strong neighborhood school - it was also the primary factor behind where we bought our house (now sold) when we first arrived in Portland. What I discovered, though, was that the neighbors on my street chose not to attend our neighborhood school. Today, 1 in 3 students (and their families) make the choice not to attend neighborhood schools, in fact - they attend schools elsewhere in the district. (The number increases to 40% in high school.) One could argue that these are children we're keeping in the district by giving their families a choice (where we might otherwise lose them to private schools or other out-of-district options.)

    And while some of those schools are magnet schools - not all are. Parents make decisions based on a number of other factors as well. (Let's not leave out the role NCLB plays here, for starters.)

    When I mention Irvington School, for example, what picture comes to mind? Affluent school community, involved volunteer parents, children of a predominant ethnicity. BUT - that assumption would be incorrect. Irvington's transfer in rate has varied over the past several years in the 40-50% range; its current school enrollment includes 45% African American students, for example. In fact, families choosing to transfer in often cited the diversity of the school population as a motivating factor (that's what I consistently heard when my son was a student there.) Irvington's situation isn't a unique one - I would argue that the often demonized PPS transfer policy actually creates diversity and a less homogenized school culture than you'd suppose - take a look at the statistics (available on the PPS web site) on a school by school basis and you might discover that your perceptions about certain school communities aren't borne out by the actual enrollment data.

    (Fernwood's another example here - sure, you'd assume a certain makeup given that Laurelhurst and Irvington are its two feeder elementary schools; you'd be incorrect.)

    So before you demonize PPS for daring to close your underenrolled neighborhood school - the same school that projects further declining enrollment over the next 10 years - you might want to look at your neighbors with school aged children first.

    And after hearing their stories, you might very well find that they have compelling reasons to make the choices they have for their children. You may find that having them still involved in a public school system benefits someone else's 'neighborhood' school, or someone else's children. (I don't have statistics, but long observation - along with conversations with friends with PPS kids, conversations with teachers and more - tells me that it's not just the neighborhood parents volunteering in the classroom; it's not just the transfer parents dropping their children off at the door.)

    Finally (as long as I'm blowing against the prevailing winds, might as well go all out) any savings the district might gain from closing schools is a year to year savings - not one time only. Sure, it might be negligible the first year - but it's money that you're not expending out (in a world of finite resources, thanks to Measure 5 and our vaunted legislature) this year, and in the years to come.

    I remember the talk our middle school principal gave at the beginning of the school year to the incoming sixth grade parents. She'd taught at both elementary and middle schools, and said she saw the same terrified looks on the kindergarten parents as she did on the middle school parents - only magnified. The difference, though, was that the middle school kids weren't nearly as terrified as we were; they were able to adapt pretty easily, while we were the ones traumatized and terrified of change. (The same was true when my daughter changed elementary schools after kindergarten - I moaned about not knowing how things worked, not knowing anyone in this new school community after six years at the old one, and mourned about losing relationships; she sailed on without missing a beat.)

    I assert the same is true when we look at changing school communities - how much of this fear of change do parents drive or foster; how much reflects how our kids actually feel??

  • Suzii (unverified)
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    Well, I can tell you that if my high school had been merged with the next nearest school (our hated rival and Karl Rove's alma mater), we would not have thought of it as the same community of students, families and staff that we had before. We would have seen it as a bad thing.

  • Suzii (unverified)
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    Specifically on PPS, I refer to the link Doretta provided to illustrate the district's fast-and-loose handling of numbers and disdain for our intelligence:

    School officials say 86 percent of students from schools that closed last year stayed in the district. The average at the district's other 85 schools was 88.8 percent, district spokeswoman Sarah Carlin Ames says, with a range of 80 percent to 96 percent.

    Gawrsh, Sarah Carlin Ames, do you really mean that 11.2 percent of the district's students bail out each and every year? Why, then, in a decade your 53,000 enrollment will be down to about 16,000, won't it? I bet none of your projections show 16,000 kids in 2016, do they? Because if they do, we have a much bigger problem, and it's unbe-frigging-lievable that you're talking about faddish rearrangements of grades while the Titanic sinks under you.

    (For people who've forgotten fifth-grade arithmetic, get out your calculator, enter 53,000 and then do (times .888 equals) ten times.)

    Or maybe you're trying to confuse the issue, and the 88.8% is measuring a completely different pie from the 86%? Hmmm?

    Like, maybe, 88.8% of school-age children whose residence entitles them to a PPS education choose to accept it? That's a statistic I've heard from other district officials. It's not the same as what you got the nice (if arithmetic-challenged and gullible) folks at The O to print, which is that only 88.8% of school-age children who attended Portland schools last year chose to come back this year.

    Or perhaps there's just no reason for anybody to trust any number PPS gives us, ever again? Do you really have 85 schools?

  • David Wynde (unverified)
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    Suzii

    The data do show that of students enrolled each year only 88.8% are enrolled the following year. That does not mean that the student population is decreasing by 11.2% each year though. Because pepole move IN and out of the district, so the 11.2% moving out are replaced by a similiar number moving in. The overall student population is forecast to level off at 45,000 +/- by the end of the decade; it's 47,000 now.

  • Suzii (unverified)
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    Ok, that might make sense. But now I can't even trust the PPS website when it tells me that enrollment is 53,000? This is not reassuring me that school board members don't see numbers that are hidden from the rest of us.

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)
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    Betsy wrote: So before you demonize PPS for daring to close your underenrolled neighborhood school - the same school that projects further declining enrollment over the next 10 years - you might want to look at your neighbors with school aged children first.

    A couple of points here--I haven't studied each school's profile but several of those proposed for closure are in fully occupied, efficient buildings in great condition.

    Second, it is my understanding that the PSU population projections are not valid at the school level. They are valid at the district level (for projecting citywide population trends), and somewhat at the cluster (high school enrollment area) level, but should not be relied on for predicting what will happen at an individual school.

    That said, you are right, Betsy, that many families go elsewhere than their neighborhood school, and that the "choice"/transfer policy has kept many families in the system who would have gone elsewhere. My point is that this might not be so much the case if PPS had chosen to champion and support its neighborhood schools with the same enthusiasm that it has done with "focus options."

    Why not add a PreK program (run by an outside group that will pay rent) in those buildings with extra space? This would bring in revenue, and most important help grow enrollment by drawing new families into their neighborhood school.

    Why not start any "right-sizing" effort by first taking a close look at the District's 103 "portables," many of which are old and substandard? Wouldn't it make sense to see if some of these could be removed, before closing buildings? Last week at a Board meeting it appeared no one was sure whether the District's classroom count includes these portables (it does). This uncertainty about such a basic piece of data about their facilities makes me worry about how carefully thought through this plan will be.

    any savings the district might gain from closing schools is a year to year savings - not one time only.

    Yes, but the point is, if we lose hundreds of students as a result of a poorly managed closure/reconfiguration process (at $5,000 each, per year, and don't forget their siblings) that is a year to year loss. Moreover, since in the first year it will cost us money to push thru these changes, what is the rush? Long-term, wholesale changes to the district should be done carefully and well, if improved education is truly the goal.

    My concern is that this "bold" reconfiguration plan, held until nearly the end of the year so that there appears to be no choice but to just push it through, is an attempt to pander to the Lars Larson/Judy Peppler mentality that PPS is full of fat and waste to be cut.

    Why is cutting some school days off the table? (cutting just 5 days in Sept. would save $5.5 million, eclipsing any savings from closures)

    If improved education and a thoughtful K-8 conversion is the goal, then the plan should not be pushed through in 3 weeks' time.

    I'll say it again--talking about how kids are more resilient than their parents is a straw man argument. The issue is much bigger than how one set of kids will handle this transition. This is a huge, citywide transformation. Are we as a city planning carefully and well for the long-term needs of our neighborhoods? Are we sure that the shift to K-8 has been carefully thought out? Would the City ever push through such a huge transformation with just 3 weeks of public input?

  • Lynn Schore (unverified)
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    Portland's Urban Livability Under Attack

    Every community deserves a well-sited neighborhood school. As with the location of any parcel of real estate, the location of the neighborhood school is one of the most important factors in determining its value to the neighborhood. The school location greatly affects the quality of life for students. The neighborhood elementary school is a keystone in the arch to livability for urban families in Portland.

    Every market study of residential real estate provides indicators about the quality of the neighborhood school. A major intrinsic element of value in a community is the SCHOOL within that neighborhood. The neighborhood school is an indicator of the vitality of the community. When a neighborhood loses its school, it not only loses its identity and pride: it becomes impoverished compared to any other neighborhood WITH a school.

    These qualities of a school's location are both tangible and intangible.

    The tangible, measurable qualities of a school's location include:

    -Safety / health: the number of students who can walk to school and not have to cross major traffic arterials -Safety / health: the number of students who must be driven or bussed to school -Safety / crime: the number crimes reported near or at the school location -Safety and air quality -Noise pollution level -Acreage of play field and age of play structure -Loss of current and future students and monies due to the loss of neighborhood schools

    The intangible qualities of a school's location include:

    -Attending school with your neighbors, with families who know your children -Opportunity to walk or bike to school -Opportunity to participate in academic and enrichment activities during non-school hours -Opportunity to participate in exercise and sports during non-school hours -Retaining historic buildings, neighborhood identity and pride -Retaining property values for neighborhoods; maintaining the resulting tax base -Synergy of school and adjacent city park -Support from school neighbors of all ages, particularly parents and community elders -Disaster support for students and neighborhood citizens in case of earthquake, fire, terrorist event or other disaster; communities are developing Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET), promoted by the Portland Fire Bureau and Office of Emergency Management, and having neighborhood schools available is critical to our communities -Loss of current and future students and volunteerism due to the loss of quality schools

    In Portland, the "City of Neighborhoods," it seems that our civic leaders care more about dog parks and skate parks than neighborhood schools. Most of our elected representatives and media never mention the history and benefits of neighborhood schools. For a city and state that so treasure open areas and green space, the fact that PPS and our government will not maintain our neighborhood schools is appalling.

    Superintendent Phillips' 'leaked' closure proposals will diminish property values in Portland neighborhoods, make Portland less competitive, and traumatize children and families. Every day, Superintendent Phillips should be selling the benefits of good neighborhood schools to Portland businesses, institutions and homeowners, not tearing down neighborhood schools.

    Up against stiff suburban competition, Portland's urban home neighborhoods need help. Don't deny our families their beautiful, quiet, well-sited and BELOVED neighborhood schools! We demand that PPS administration stop destroying Portland's neighborhood schools, which have long been the heart and soul of this great city, and the reason for PPS's success in the past.

    Lynn Schore and Steve Linder

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    People pay tens of thousands of dollars extra to buy a home near certain neighborhood schools in Portland. Some of the screaming you hear about closing neighborhood schools has as much to do with real estate values as it does with quality education.

  • Richard Watson (unverified)
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    The other thing that PPS can't or won't understand is that you don'tannounce the drastic changes that are essentially a done deal and got through the motions of giving public comment that really won't change the autocratic plan.

    I too had high hopes for Vicki Phillips, but she has lied to us. She has manipulated the Jefferson Design Team. She tried to negotiate a backroom deal with a Church for an alternative school without abiding by PPS's own process. She cost the District more money in the way she fired Goldschmidt, etc. etc. etc.

    It is either time for her to change her autocratic ways or it is time for her to go (as well as some of the PPS board).

    If closures are not taken off the table for a year while real dialog with the community takes place, then I will lead the charge to reconstitute the PPS Board. The City of Portland has already offered funds to delay closures while such a process takes place. Phillips would be wise to take that offer, unless she wants to shuffle off to Buffalo.

  • betts (unverified)
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    BlueNote is exactly right. Many people on this thread are upset about their neighborhoods and property values, which is an understandable complaint if the K-8 model is implemented and schools are closed.

    But the focus MUST be on the education of the students. That is the first priority and obligation of PPS, to do what is best for the education of their students, not what is best for their parents' pocketbooks. The question that needs to be discussed in earnest is: Is going to larger K-8 school communities in the best interest of the students?

    I feel strongly that it is not; but I would be interested to hear what others think?

  • Richard Watson (unverified)
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    As some people have pointed out, there are several way to implement public education, some better than others. But the argument keeps going back on dollars expended rather than how many dollars does it really take to provide a quality eductional model. The decline in enrollemtn is not atributable only to "demographics" There are plenty of kids in the PPS District to fill up the existing schools. The problem is that resources are not being applied to maintain quality Neighborhood Schools.

    Instead of try to "live within our means" as some say, we should recognize that the means are inadequate. We must change our thinking. Public education is not a "cost", it is an investment!!! According to a Rand Study, for every dollar invested in public education, three or more dollars are saved in taxes.

    I also find it incredulous that PPS accepts a 15% decline in enrollment, due to closures, as "normal". We keep hearing how PPS must run itself "like a business". But, in business, a manager who caused a 15% loss of business would probably be fired!

  • meagan (unverified)
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    Small schools? Mega K-8 Schools? It all boils down to who you are trying to impress here in Portland. Gates Foundation last year. Broad Foundation this year.

  • Buh-bye Sweet O (unverified)
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    Vickie Phillips is just doing what the school board, foundation and business alliance hired her to do: Close a whole lot of schools and (over) fill all the buildings and don't listen to any guff from the pesky public.

    We were very involved in our lovely neighborhood school. She "stayed the course" and closed it with faulty data. It was just an omen of what was to come. We were told our children are "resilient" and they would "bounce back". Did we do as we were told and cram our kids into an over crowded school that they had to be bussed to?

    The only thing that bounced was our whole family---right out of Oregon. The state we live in now has a realistic tax system and our children's schools are truly excellent. My point is, our children's education was too important to trust it to a system that was not going to be fixed soon, if ever.

    Waiting for Salem to properly fund the district may never happen unless certain ballot measures are repealed and a consistant tax base is restored.

    As a point of reference:
    Our property taxes in Oregon- $2300 taxes on our same priced home in our new state- $12,000 (plus we have an 8.5% sales tax)

    That's reality folks. Is Oregon ready for that? If so, funding dilemma solved! If not, more chaos....

  • grrlszgrrl (unverified)
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    Sarah, are you kidding with this? First of all the "leak" was not a leak but a test balloon the district sent out. Second, is this district's spin on closing our schools, "Big brothers and sisters can walk their younger siblings to school now"? Come on. How many families do you know that have kids 7-9 years apart? More importantly, walking to school with your older sister or brother isn't going to fix the huge class sizes and the fact that without long term financial planning the district will just close the newly formed K-8 down the road anyway. If that is where Vicki and the rest of the district is at, there is little hope for Portland as a sustainable city.

  • frank carper (unverified)
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    yeah yeah yeah

    tina, there you go again with the conspiracy theories

    priceless

  • meagan (unverified)
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    Kari you ignoramus. Obiviously you were never involved in your kids' neighborhood school. And Sweet O, you forgot to mention the key factor in this....the Broad Foundation....who is pulling strings in the district now, and whose goal is to dismantle public schools...They and Vicki P. are doing a great job of reaching their goal. And I'd say that fat pr budget of Ms. Phillip's is paying off since so many uninformed individuals like Kari are buying into it.

  • terrified (unverified)
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    actually I believe the "LEAK" came from Portland Schools Foundation because someone got a little disgruntled about this K-8 agenda being shoved down Portlanders throats. Thus all the infighting (see Oregonian about this issue. The K-8 plan was actually crafted by the Schools Foundation and members of the Broad Foundation. Yep. Right. No conspiracy theory here. Just an acutal fact. Ask Dr. P if you think I am wrong.

  • shelley (unverified)
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    I'm quite impressed with some of the comments on this issue.

    My childs school was affected several years ago (Wilcox) and we merged with Vestal. I was so upset at first, thinking that there was no way we could replicate what we had there. I was wrong. I've learned it is the people...the students, the staff, the parents and volunteers who make the school. And I have to admit, the larger facility has been good also. We now have amenities like an auditorium (at Wilcox we had only a multi-purpose room)a large gym, a kitchen and a much larger library. Another plus from the merger...two dedicated groups of parent helpers. I've met wonderful new families and staff. No, it isn't all rosy...we certainly miss the short walk we had. Now it is just shy of a mile away. We still miss the secretary and librarian we had at Wilcox who couldn't move with us. We really were like a family. But we have all adjusted just fine. The kids actually did much better than most of the adults. I think Dr. Phillips proposal is a very bold plan. I'm all for the K-8 model. I only hope she and the school board take this s-l-o-w. Allow time for the conversion. The proposed savings are not so much that the implementation of the plan can't be 'tweaked' as to allow as much time as is needed to make the transistions as painless as possible for those affected. Just my 2¢.

  • meagan (unverified)
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    Don't count on anything going slowly. The weekend after the "LEAK" janitors were working "secretly" at Portsmouth, cleaning out rooms to make room for Astor. They were also told to be there cleaning out rooms the following weekend. And almost $300,000 has been budgeted (wonder where they found that money?) for professional moving expenses over the next few months. So much for public input. HAHA! That's the new top-down, corporate, Broad Foundation model at its best. Gotta love 'em. Especially good is the public buy-in they have gotten with their PR tying cost-savings to this K-8 joke.

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    Kari you ignoramus. Obiviously you were never involved in your kids' neighborhood school.

    Actually, I don't have any kids. Not yet, anyway.

  • meagan (unverified)
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    Kari, Then maybe you should reserve your opinions for something you actually know something about. Especially when your "opinion" can have an effect on those around you. You should be more responsible in your endeavors and start questioning what the Broad Foundation's intention is in dismantling public schools systems.

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    If you notice, Kari posted this and then asked for people's input. He's listening. And he's being educated on the topic by people who are in different shoes than him, particularly parents.

    After all, he posted comments like:

    "This is a great discussion, folks. I'm learning a lot. Keep it up."

    and

    "And some people think blogs can't generate meaningful, interesting, useful conversation that educates, elucidates, and energizes.

    "Thanks all. I'm continuing to listen."

    There are a lot of people just like Kari-- those who live in the community, pay taxes, but aren't parents. With Portland's declining population of those with kids, they likely outnumber the parents. And many likely have similar thoughts about this as Kari had initially posted above.

    Telling these people to reserve their opinions is the wrong way to go. Educating them is what should be done. After all, you need these people on your side come election time, whether it be for tax increases, ballot measures, school board, state legislators, etc.

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    Thanks, Jenni. Of course, my whole point was that I was reserving my opinion... I'm always amused when people think an honest question is a rhetorical one. Of course, after 65 comments, I guess we were bound to get one person who didn't understand -- and would prefer to just throw punches.

    For what it's worth, I grew up the oldest of five kids. All five of us went to the same neighborhood elementary from K to 6. From beginning to end, my family had at least one kid there for 17 straight years. No surprise - my parents were hyper-involved. I definitely understand the role a neighborhood elementary school can play in a family's life.

  • meagan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Well said, Jenni. Now on to the issue people keep side-stepping. Why is the Broad Foundation intent on dismantling Portland's schools?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The two-faced Republicans say they can't afford Measure One.

    I say boo-hoo, we can't afford Measure Five.

    And if more money does not equal better schools, why does PCC cost 100 times Harvard?

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