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July 19, 2007

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Terry, excellent comments, but this is where it really gets tricky. Would I rather send my kid to Alameda or Vernon? Alameda. But if I want to do that I need to buy a house in that neighborhood, not gerrymander the darn boundaries. But with this said, it is also imperative that the school board makes each of Portland's schools decent. In order to do this you can't have equitable resources from school to school. A school in a Vernon neighborhood is tougher to make work than one in an Alameda neighborhood. If you start with that premise then there is a chance you can build schools in poorer neighborhoods which people could be perfectly happy sending their child to. Right now that is not the case. Since that is not the case you are in effect asking people to choose between sending their child to a substandard school or moving. It is not the choice you really want to have parents make. Since this is also the case then PPS developed the DaVinci's and Environmental middle schools, etc. so parents who are seriously active in trying to get their child a decent education had someplace to go without moving. Now they have screwed this up by instituting the lottery system. Furthermore, it is incredibly hard to really discuss these problems in any depth since the school board and the administration only listen to certain people and act trying to make things more equitable without having done any real homework or having any real understanding of what goes on in schools outside of their realm of experience and social standing. Hence, we get "solutions" which make matters worse and platitudes which if challenged become mush. A great example and the most overlooked major mistake of this board is the mess they have made of Benson Tech. by removing the standards (i.e. making it more equitable in a stupid way) and not giving it enough money to maintain its national reputation as a fine technological high school. I am just starting working on the facts of this debacle and will be reporting to your blog when I have them together. But my cursory take is not very good.

Any chance it's NOT the test scores? Could these parents be using some other yardstick to measure school "success"? Just wondering.

I think we need to be careful about blaming Beaumont-Wilshire parents here. They got hosed by the district when Meek was closed, and there is now a huge area in NE without a neighborhood elementary school. And over the years, their high school has changed from Grant to Madison to Jefferson (that is, from good to bad to worse).

Bottom line: families have been getting jerked around by PPS, and they're trying to fight back. (I don't happen to agree with the boundary change as a solution, but prefer a broader solution that benefits families in all neighborhoods.)

I agree with Brand's basic thesis that transfers have caused segregation. But PPS policy encourages transfers, and transfers encourage more transfers, etc. until we have massively disproportionate educational investment by neighborhood. In other words, if the policy encourages this, why does Brand blame parents and not the policy?

Buel's right: We've got to offer families in every neighborhood a decent school, and furthermore, we've got to end the self-reinforcing transfer policy that's got our neighborhood schools in a death spiral.

A Beaumont-Wilshire parent wrote on my blog about this. I don't think it's a matter of racism that they want their kids to go to a school that's closer to their home. If the district hadn't closed their neighborhood school, this wouldn't be an issue.

Before you go all judgemental on us, please consider our side of the story! Take a look at my comments here: http://morehockeylesswar.org/blog/archive/2007/07/19/steve_brand_on_pps_segregation_in_todays_oregonian/#comments

And maybe you could watch the google video of our testimonies at the board meetings:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4328073411003790687
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8913448461643395165
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2260867179213934653

Oh yeah and the district supposedly closed Meek to 'save' money, yet a year after it was closed, it was re-opened as an alternative high school. Do you think they had to retrofit the building to accommodate older (and taller) kids? How much money do you really think the district saved?

In this instance, it would depend on how much $ they got for selling the old Glenhaven site, which had been the home of the alternative high school until then. But I doubt that it was enough to offset the costs of retrofitting Meek, paying the staff their relocation allowance, printing new stationery, updating the website, etc. And any small profit that might have been realized from the sale is long gone now.

The recent round of closings was more about appearances than budget. I've had Vicki Phillips supporters tell me that she had to appear willing to make "tough choices" in order to pass the bond measure last fall. (Never mind that Portlanders have historically been very friendly to school funding.)

The reality is that school closings only save significant money if you fire teachers and administrators. Shuffling them into another building doesn't save money. But it looks "tough" and serves the agenda of ideologues like Phillips, who evidently don't care that this cynical brand of politics is incredibly damaging to children and neighborhoods.

I did read your comments on the More Hockey site, Beaumont. Bottom line, though, is that you and the other petitioners are hoping to send your kids to a much more crowded school in lieu of one that seems to "perform" almost as well. The only conclusion I can draw is that student demographics loom large in this decision.

That said, I have no doubt that you and hundreds of other parents have been "jerked around" by the district. I have, in fact, been outspoken in my criticism of the district's transfer policy for enabling the gradual resegregation of some of Portland's poorest neighborhood schools.

And, it almost goes without saying, I was a staunch opponent of the closure of Meek ... and Applegate and Kenton and... suffice it to say that hasty school closures always have unwanted and unintended consequences, none of them good.

Steve (the More Hockey Steve, not Buel)I take slight issue with your high school characterizations. From what I've read and heard from both parents and students, Madison and Jeff, by virtue of their size and teaching staffs, are actually pretty good schools. Of course both suffer from abysmal leadership, the blame for which can be placed squarely on the shoulders of district administrators. Their marked loss of enrollment in recent years is a direct result of undesirable demographics and the transfer policy.

One last note. Let me check a district map. Perhaps Alameda is indeed within walking distance of the children of the Beaumont petitioners. If so, I'll retract some of what I've said

Beaumont Wilshire Resident:

I do not judge you or your group, and agree that PPS closure, transfer and other policies are the culprits here, not the petitioners.

To accomplish the goals of your group and another group, will those involved in the Beaumont-Wilshire petition consider joining hands with Jefferson families fighting to demand that PPS reverse the Gates-driven Jefferson redesign decisions and revert Jefferson to a comprehensive school that meets the needs of all its increasingly diverse residents while providing equitable curriculum opportunities as offered at Grant, Cleveland, Wilson Lincoln etc., and doing the same for Jefferson's feeder schools?

This, along with demanding adjustments to the PPS transfer policy, would result in a huge increase of students living in the Jefferson area attending Jefferson schools, freeing up space at schools they now transfer to. Since Jefferson has the largest student population living in its boundaries, this would allow fair boundary changes so that families like yours could attend schools closer to home without harming Jefferson.

To get an idea of what we've been advocating for, you can check out Steve Rawley's "New Deal" post at http://morehockeylesswar.org

Will your group consider it? Thanks!

It is ludicrous that BeaumontWilshireResident, who lives blocks from Beamont, has Vernon and Jefferson as assigned neighborhood schools, while Boise-Eliot famlies (Boise-Eliot is just blocks from Jefferson) have Beaumont and Grant as their assigned neighborhood schools.

How can this be?

Terry, I should apologize to teachers and families of Madison and Jefferson for my flip comments. Of course there are good teachers there, and many of their graduates will go on to greatness, just like those from Grant.

Thanks for keeping me honest!

Any parent worth the title wants their kid(s) in the best school they can get them in. I will never fault that and didn't mean to suggest that was a bad thing. I still begin with the same premise every time dealing with PPS. The people supporting The School Foundation and Stand for Children run the school district. As long as this is the case then poor decisions are going to be made in every other part of the district that they know nothing about (parts other than Wilson, Lincoln, parts of Cleveland, parts of Grant). Everyone else is pretty much disposable. The problem is this is very hard to accept and harder to see. People genuinely argue that logic, education, what's best for kids, and fairness should be the virtues when a decision is made. Next time ask yourself, what is good for Wilson and Lincoln and upper middle class neighborhoods. Then you will see the direction things are going. So, how does this play out for Beaumont-Wilshire? I don't have all the details but seems like after the Meek closure their kids aren't going where they want. Think that would happen in Alameda or Ainsworth?

J.H.S. parent. Nice of you to apologize but the real truth is the middle schools that feed Madison, Roosevelt, and Marshall are terrible places for kids compared to what they could be and this has to have a huge negative impact on the high schools. Why the district and parents in general can't recognize this is beyond me.

Terry,

You have it dead wrong about the demographics! Are you telling me that if you lived four blocks from a school that you would not fight to be able to walk your child to that school (in their neighborhood) instead of being bussed across town?? We are asking that all the residents within the boundary of the BWNA be included at the same schools - here's the map of our neighborhood boundaries: http://www.bwna.org/graphics_new/BWNAmap.gif

If you zoom in on north side of the map showing the Alameda attendance area (http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/map/AlamedaMap.pdf) the district map has the number streets all wrong (because they didn't take into account 32nd place or 35th place) and they have the street names skidmore and campaign flip flopped. But you can see this is a very small area that we're talking about.

It killed me when I read the Oregonian's Homes section awhile back (a month ago?) and they profiled the Concordia neighborhood. Did you guys catch that the reporter, Jeff Kuechle, listed Meek and Whitaker as neighborhood schools? Yeah, good job, realtors. Keep trying to fake people out. (Did you all discuss that already? Sorry if I missed it.)

Anyway, if you look at the NWREL site, Whitaker is still listed:

http://www.nwrel.org/request/2003sept/whitaker.html

At least PPS is aware that they, themselves, closed Meek and Whitaker and did delete them from their website.

I really appreciate all of the comments everyone has been posting here and at our sites (Hockey God's and mine), and I'm glad we're talking, taking action and looking out for each other. I feel like we have been divided in so many ways -- I don't want that. I get so furious about it all, but it's just because I care so much, especially having grown up here.

My dad's family was here last night from out of town -- wanted to know what was up with Jeff. I told them my kids can attend Jeff (where my uncle attended school -- class of '52?? I think) or Madison, where my mom and I graduated (class of '60 and '82, respectively) (and my aunts and uncles) but not Grant (where my dad and three aunts graduated -- aunts were classes of '53??, '55, '57, I think, and dad was '60) because RIVALS. Grant will always be Mad-Hi's rival to me!!! No child of mine will go to Grant! They all thought this was hilarious, of course. So rivalries like *that* are fine, but not the others, where we're pointing fingers and all that.

You're right, Beaumont. If I lived four blocks from a school I would want my child to go there. After all, I'm in favor of neighborhood schools, the ones within walking distance of students. That's the way the district was designed.

I checked out the maps (yours and the districts) and Vernon does seem rather inconvenient. I apologize for implying that you and the other petitioners had other motives.

On the other hand, it's quite clear to me that demographics are frequently the deciding factor in 'choosing' a school. Even if it's not true of your group, it certainly is for others. The evidence is to my mind conclusive, and I've written about it frequently. This post on White Flight, this one on the motivation of parents, and then this one on high school kids provide some examples of what I think about the issue.

I agree with Wacky that we probably should focus our indignation on the district, not on each other. Generally that's what I try to do when I write about educational issues

Terry, I did some reading at your links (motivation, white flight, etc)

I take the test score / drop out rate thing very seriously. To me it is not an indication of the quality of teaching, it is an indication of the peer expectations my child would encounter at that school. Basically, many schools with lower test scores have lower percentages of kids that go on to college. I want the 'go on to college' pressure to come not only from home, but also from their friends at school. It should not be a question, it should be an automatic expectation. I also don't want peer pressure saying 'drop out - school's useless'.

If the district really wants to fix Jefferson, then they need to find out what 'fleeing' parents want in a school and offer it at Jefferson. Shame on you for acusing 'white' parents of fleeing based on demographics. Show me the studies and focus group research numbers saying this is so. There must be a good deal more to the story than that. Maybe the fleeing parents don't like the inherent lack of stability in a school that makes sweeping changes / redesigns every few years. Maybe the fleeing parents don't want their child to be used in a 'guinea pig' program (of course funded with Gates grant money) to see if this or that particular reform will work 'this time'. Maybe the parents went to a Portland Public school and were very bored and unchallenged because the teachers spent so much time trying to 'catch-up' the great number of lagging students -- now they want something better for their children. I could go on and on with the maybes and I think it's a complicated issue and largely not about the color of people's skin. If you want other people to start seeing past the color of other's skin, maybe you need to stop focusing on the color of people's skin. Personally, I don't care about the color of anyone's skin, we're all flesh and blood trying to just get by in life.

Stating opinions as fact is a shameful distortion of the truth. Maybe I will just agree to disagree with you.

BWR, it is good to hear that you don't care about the color of anyone's skin. But unfortunately in America now, today, 2007, it's still all about your skin, how much cash you have and what kind of car you drive.

Ask anyone along the Gulf Coast about that one.

So when two white moms told me (this was three years ago), "We can't send our kids to Ockley! We'd be in the minority!" That's about race.

And when another white mom (a year ago) told me she couldn't send her kids to Vernon because, "It's all black kids there -- I don't know how comfortable my kids would feel." That's about race. And it's not about her kids -- they'd be fine. It's about her.

I agree with you -- boundaries need to be reconfigured in a major way. But no, I cannot say, "It's not about race." It's not about race for me -- I'm white. Why would it be? I'm in the majority here. And I'm not poor. And I do have a car, so if a flood comes -- I will drive away.

"White flight" is intended as a metaphor. Middle class blacks, Asians, Latinos are also guilty of fleeing what they perceive as lower class schools.

Here's the problem. In a public school system, what will become of all the students without concerned and involved parents, parents who care enough to fill out the transfer forms or encourage their kids to consider college? They're simply left behind. There is no district 'fix' for that.

BTW, my son, who's headed off to medical school next month, still hangs with a number of school friends who have never set foot in a college classroom. And you know what? I think he's a better person for it. But that's just my opinion.

Frank Swinnerton ~

I cannot give the formula for success, but I can give you the formula of failure -- which is try to please everybody.


This is the type of discussion the school district never has. The major problem in lower economic neighborhood schools is the attitude of many of the students. Are they engaged in school, try in their school work, have a positive attitude for the necessity of school, do they behave and cooperate with classroom rules. Huge numbers don't. The school district never seems to prioritize these critical factors in those schools where this is a problem. Since these things are way less likely to be problems in the upper middle class schools the district continues with the one size fits all mentality. They need to deal with the behavior problems and make school a much more positive and interesting place, partcularly in the middle grades. I taught in a middle school in one of these neighborhoods for ten years. Maybe two of those years I would have put my own child (if I had one)in my own classroom. One of the problems of identifying behavior as a problem is there is not the trust throughout the school district where teachers and the principal can say, "yep, my school, my classroom is out of control". Can you imagine a principal saying that his or her school has huge undealt with discipline problems, or a teacher saying their classroom isn't a good place for kids to be. Who is going to admit their classroom is a problem when no one else is willing to do it even though generally the discipline problems extend into every regular classroom. The education problems will not be solved in these schools without a serious effort to address student attitudes and behavior. And, guess what, it can't be done by making the teachers more skilled. Reorganization and holdiing kids accountable are much more important.

I agree it is not just about academics, its also about program. Some schools have a very strong academic program, but can't offer the extra's that the more affluent schools offer. They purchase teachers with foundation funds and have music, art and other enrichment classes that poorer schools can't afford.

http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/profiles/enrollment/enroll_out.php?rpt=150

It's been interesting to try to understand what this discussion is really about, and thanks to several of you for asking the questions.

If the concern is about expectations for kids and quality of teaching etc., then I'm confused as to why folks are unhappy at the prospect of having children attend Vernon. This is a school with about 85% of kids receiving free or reduced-priced lunch, but more than 90% meeting or exceeding state benchmarks in reading and math. The data and my experience of the staff in this school look like lots of high expectations for kids, and a group of people working very hard to deliver on the promise of a quality education for all children.

I share the concen that Terry and others have about reliance on state test scores, but I hope that we can agree that this combination of high levels of poverty and high test scores is not common, and might indicate that high quality teaching and learning is taking place at this school.

I've seen the reference to proximity and neighborhoods. Fair enough. But nobody is being "bussed across town" here. And none of the correspondence I've received or the testimony I've heard bothered to acknowledge the Vernon school community in any positive way.

So what this is really about? How many people who are asking to get redistricted have spent any time inside the Vernon building, have met the teachers, have talked to the principal? A couple of months ago, Paige Parker wrote a story in the Oregonian about a couple of families in the King and Boise Eliot (I think) area, who chose to transfer kids to other schools. She told me that neither family had visited the local school, they relied upon "word of mouth" to determine that it would not be suitable for their child. Sad.

So if it's not about the quality of the education at Vernon, then what is it about?

Like others who've posted here, I have to wonder if this is just as much about the fact that Vernon's school population is only 12% white.

Or is it that folks don't want their children to go to Jefferson 9 years from now (if they are about to enter kindergarten).


David:

It is obvious that these folks don't want their children to be locked into the Jefferson cluster which is a real possibility since PPS no longer allows attendance at a Grant cluster elementary school to guarantee attending Grant cluster schools through graduation.

David,

How can you say it's not about the distance? In many cases Vernon is the fourth (or fifth) closest public elementary school. Beaumont is a short walk away from our homes. Grant is just one trimet bus ride down the hill (only a total of 1.05 miles from my house). Jefferson is 2.47 miles and two trimet buses away (yes, we would have to transfer buses). One petition signing parent in our area timed it for her child and from home to school - Grant was 15-20 minutes and Jefferson was 30-45 minutes. She told us that her daughter often couldn't catch the connecting bus (going to Jefferson) because it was often too full in the mornings. Really, did you read all I had to offer at the mentioned links?

Lastly, I just want to point out to you: for over 30 years our area was in the Grant cluster; then for about 15 years the Madison cluster. Now (last 4 years) we have been assigned to the Jefferson cluster. Both the initial enrollment (directly after Meek's closure) and our hand collected census data (4 years after Meek's closure) show that our neighborhood has a real disconnection with our currently assigned schools. Mostly because they are not near us and not in our neighborhood. We feel that a neighborhood school should actually be in our neighborhood - or as close to it as possible. Fourth or Fifth closest just doesn't cut it.

We fundamentally agree, David. But there are two issues you tend to gloss over.

The first is the district's transfer policy, which enables parents to make decisions to keep their kids out of low income, racially diverse schools like Vernon. What can be done about that?

The second is the gaping holes created by the closure of neighborhood schools like Meek. I think that the district (and the board) is obligated to do something about attendance area boundaries in such cases. Like BeaumontWilshire, I would be upset if I were told that my child had to attend a school that wasn't really in the neighborhood.

BTW, I haven't gotten a response from you about the district's plan for the maintenance department. The testimony I heard seemed to indicate that outsourcing was a possibility, something like a repeat of the custodian fiasco. I'm still waiting to hear what you know about the situation.

So what this is really about?

I can't get over how our policy makers blithely blame parents for the segregation that district policy has created, then throw up their hands saying "How did this happen?"

Open transfer policy at PPS has created majority black schools in a city without a majority black attendance area. You can argue till you're blue in the face that this policy "saved" the district from "white flight" in the ’90s, but the reality is that it has torn our neighborhoods apart and produced a flow of funding out of the neighborhoods that need it most.

I've done some analysis of this reverse Robin Hood trend on my blog. I invite policy makers to engage in this debate a little more thouroughly. We've got to stop treating open transfer as a sacred cow and look what it's done to our neighborhoods.

Beaumont/Wilshire resident, you are not helping your cause with generalizations. I'm gathering from your comments that you live in the vicinity of Prescott & 42nd. You state that "in many cases," Vernon is the fourth or fifth closest elementary school. Let's just take your case, for example: Rigler is closer, yes. Alameda, maybe. That leaves Vernon next. It's hard to see how Vernon could be that far from any residents in the B/W neighborhood. Are you including all residents of the B/W neighborhood in your generalization or just residents of the former Meek boundaries? Also, why not petition to go to Rigler? Maybe you could petition to have Beaumont converted to a K-8? Anytime you change the boundary lines, the person who lives across the street is going to yell foul.

Craig,

You have the vicinity correct. I put my address in an online mapping program and clicked the link to show me the closest schools. It listed the schools in order with the closest first. It listed the address of each school along with the distance from my home to the school. Rigler is the closest to my home. Alameda is next. It is almost equidistant between Rigler and Alameda (less than a tenth of a mile between them). Then Hollyrood, then Sabin, then Vernon. For BW residents north of Skidmore, these schools in that order are pretty much how it goes. I would say that Alameda is the closest (closer than Rigler) for those residents on the south western quadrant of our petition area (33rd & Skidmore).

I believe the petitioners chose Alameda because it feeds into Beaumont which is right here in our neighborhood; and Grant is the closest high school to our homes. Also, we directly abut both the Rigler and Alameda boundaries - so those two schools make more sense than Sabin or Hollyrood.

Both changing Beaumont to K-8 and changing the boundaries are up to the district, all we can do is point out to the board that they have disconnected our community from what should truly be our neighborhood school. Who knows what the board will decide to do - if they decide to do anything at all. From everything I've read in online blogs relating to school closures, it seems that many parents feel that the board doesn't listen to community members. So I would not be surprised if they just ignored us. It's too bad, because many petition signing parents of children not yet in school said that if the change doesn't take place and they don't lottery in, then they are seriously considering moving or putting their kids in a private school.

Two other petition signers actually brought this issue up with Dr. Phillips 1-1/2 to 2 years ago when the district was in the midst of the Rose City discussion. These parents gave Dr. Phillips similar reasonings as to why they wanted the change and also stated that they would be willing to gather petition signatures. Dr. Phillips told these parents that she wasn't interested in minor boundary adjustments at that time, so they dropped it. Funny how we all ended up finding each other because we all feel the same way about how PPS has treated us.

Thanks for setting me straight on the distances, B/W Resident. I'm still wondering about who your petition represents, the former Meek boundaried families or the entire B/W neighborhood? You've made references to both, but I can't imagine that you're asking for the entire neighborhood (Alberta Ct. south to the ridge, 33rd to 47th) to be assigned to Alameda. Is there a place where the petition is available to be read online?

Our petition represents those Beaumont-Wilshire residents currently assigned to Vernon Elementary (formerly assigned to Meek). The majority of the petitioners with school-aged children already transfer into Alameda/Beaumont/Grant. The remaining residents within the BWNA boundaries are already assigned to Alameda/Beaumont/Grant. The petition area is roughly between 33rd & 47th; Skidmore and Alberta Court. Please see the map of our neighborhood assocation: http://www.bwna.org/graphics_new/BWNAmap.gif

Then, take a look at the district map of the Alameda attendance area: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/map/AlamedaMap.pdf (the district map has the number streets all wrong - because they didn't take into account 32nd place or 35th place - and they have the street names skidmore and campaign flip flopped). You can see this is a very small area that we're talking about.

Well, with all due respect and without getting into all of the issues we all have with PPS, why wasn't this petition filed when Meek closed in 2003? When Meek was closed, the students and staff were assigned to Vernon, if I recall, in an effort to keep the community together. Some of the residents on the east side of the former Meek boundary area transferred to Rigler because it was obviously much closer. How do you allow for the families that are closer to Vernon than they are to Alameda? How do you justify splitting the community that way?

You know, you say that this is a small area you are talking about, but it looks sizeable to me. Don't forget that Alameda is adding a fifth first-grade class this school year: that's a lotta kids per grade level. To bolster your case, you probably should do a door-to-door in your petition area, figure out how many kids you're talking about. If it truly isn't that many, you'd have a stronger case. The District isn't going to do that job for you.

I know that some parents tried to do something about this in 2005 and got the big 'brush-off' from the district. PPS doesn't send out letters to people without children - telling them that a school is being considered for closure. So, I imagine that many long time residents (without kids) had no idea. I, personally found out after Meek had already closed. I don't know why it took so long for the neighbors to get together on this one, all I can say is better late than never. At least we are trying to fight back!

I would love to find out the history on the Meek school closure... I didn't know that the staff from Meek were assigned to Vernon. Although the students were assigned to Vernon - the year after Meek closed, Vernon's enrollment only increased by 40 students (Meek's attendance it's last year was 219 students). I also had no idea that Meek's attendance area didn't entirely go to Vernon - that's news to me! How can I find out about more of this history? I'd love to share it with the parents whom are involved with the petition.

Please watch the google video links above - we already hand-collected the census data of all kids within the petition area & submitted that to the district.

B/W/R,

I suggest going to the PPS website and entering "Meek closure" as a search there. It will probably bring up archived records of meetings where this matter was discussed. It may not give you the info you want, but it would be a place to start.

Now, back to the transfer issue: a major factor I have not heard mentioned is VP's enrollment quotas for schools (which apparently apply to focus options but not charters). A MAJORITY of PPS elementary schools have yet to meet the magic "400." Some are making plans to get there, some have no idea and no resources either. Regardless, what choice do these neighborhood schools have other than to cannibalize each other? Adding to the pressure are the District's plans to increase enrollment at focus options and charters by 1600 (or more) students over the next 5 years. My source for that number is stated growth projections of focus option and charter schools, some of which have not even opened yet, all over the District. I used the most conservative numbers, too--the bottom of the range, where any range was given. If realized, these numbers could climb over 2000.

2000 children added to focus options, charters and alternatives=4 to 5 more neighborhood schools closing down. Every one of these enrollment numbers was approved by the school board. So, take it with a grain of salt when they say they support neighborhood schools!

In reading through this thread as a person of color what strikes me is the lengths many white people will go to with denial of thier racism. That is made obvious by several factors:

•The refusal of the White Parents in Fear of Vernon Elementary School petitioners to acknowledge that by the measures usually considered (test scores, grades) Vernon is a very good school. There's nothing "substandard" about it.

•Steve Buel's demonization of the largely African-American students at Vernon and Jefferson. Black people's 'attitudes' explains why they've had a hard row to hoe, according to him. A reasonable person who knows anything about American history could think of better explanations. It is really disheartening to hear that a bigot like him taught minority children. (BTW, it is not black or Hispanic children who shoot up schools, killing classmates and teachers, rather often. White children are also more likely to smoke early and to use drugs. Perhaps white parents should be paying more attention to their own children's attitudes.)

•The notion that their effort to gerrymander school district lines to prevent white children from attending schools with high minority populations is some kind of 'eureka!' idea. Actually, this behavior dates back to desegregation in the South in the 1960s and 1970s. There's nothing new about it.

beaumontwilshireresident, if you put a quarter of the energy you are spending trying to evade having your little darlings attending school with the black children into working to overcome your bigotry, you would benefit greatly. Some mental health experts believe that bigotry is a form of obsessive/compulsive disorder, so you might want to start by getting some counseling.

I want to acknowledge that there are white people on this thread, who, not crippled by belief in white privilege, 'get it.' But, too many don't.

If this petition drive succeeds, ethical people should challenge the school district in court. The gerrymandering is just a thinly veiled pretext to avoid sending white children to a majority black school.

Well said, Julia Gomez. I would point out that many of the 'white' stalwarts in the Neighborhood Schools Alliance serve on Jefferson High's PTSA and loudly opposed the reconfiguation of Jeff, the only black majority high school in the state. To me, they're heroes.

Julia,

This is not a racial issue, it is an issue of being assigned to a school that is actually in our neighborhood - or as close to it as possible. Hence the term neighborhood school.

Yes, Vernon is a very good school - the last time I looked at the test scores - Vernon was a bit better than Alameda. If you read my posts, I never say that there is anything 'substandard' about Vernon, because I do not believe there is... Vernon has many many successes to celebrate. The issue here is not race, it is about going to a neighborhood school actually in/near our neighborhood. I'm sorry that you just don't get it.

Resident, you have no idea of how idiotic you sound. "This is not a racial issue" has been the coverup for discrimination since before the founding of this country. For example, people like you said that the 'real' reasons for slavery were Christianization of heathens, not providing chattel labor to make some white people very rich. Yet, any student of history knows that "this is not a racial" issue was a pretext. Same here. If Vernon Elementary school were more than 80 percent white instead of more than 80 percent minority there would be no White Parents in Fear of Vernon Elementary School petitioners. Nor is the school nearly as far away from your homes as you pretend. The private schools you are likely to flee to if you don't get your way will be at least 30 minute drives from your homes. But, that will not matter, because those private schools will be predominantly white.

I will be among the people bringing a lawsuit against the district if this sophistry succeeds.

Julia brings up a very good point. Another part of this pie is socio-economics. Vernon is at 86% free and reduced, while Alameda is at 12%. Which if you think about it, puts the Vernon program above Alameda. Vernon is managing strong results with an extremely high poverty rate. Sounds like an outstanding school and hard-working staff. Bravo.

I am as white as the full moon is October, so I cannot begin to know how Julia feels, but I do have a multi-ethnic family. I have watched my lovely niece subjected to the bigotry of others. The pain is long lasting. I'm with Julia, I don't think its just about distance.

As far as Jefferson goes, I went to Roosevelt and the I teach at a school that feeds into RHS. The program there has been squeezed to nothing because of all the transfers. I imagine Jeff has the same problem.

Julia, that is a really funny comment calling me a bigot. I had to laugh. You wouldn't have done that if you had any idea about the history of PPS. You see, about 25 years ago, I coauthored, with Herb Cawthorne, and backed up by Ron Herndon and John Jackson (heads of the Black United Front), the most outstanding civil rights leaders in the history of Portland, the plan which eliminated the racial inequalties which were present at the time in PPS. It also gave lots of extra money, lots of it, to the schools in PPS (10 at the time) which were predominately African-American. (This was the forerunner of the state desegregation funds which were discontinued a couple of years back.) In order to do this I stood hand in hand with these leaders against darn near the entire white power structure in this city. It was a contentious time, with Herb getting death threats and me being blasted in The Oregonian regularly. My reward? Lost the next election to a person Herb called the biggest racist and sexist to ever serve on the Portland School Board and 25 years later I have someone who has no idea what they are talking about call me a bigot. Part of the problem with trying to straighten out behavior problems in the schools is that people accuse people of being prejudiced just for raising the issue. This is a great example of why these problems seldom get addressed. Heck, if people will call me a bigot, then no one, literally no one, is safe from this type of ignorance. But, to really set the record straight, my comments were not really directed at schools in the Jefferson cluster, which I have often said I have few solutions for the problems there, but at the outer southeast and north Portland schools. So you are not even in the right part of the city.
P.S. I have fought many other fights for Latino, and African-American children as well as the children of Eastern European immigrants during 40 years of school teaching as well. Ask around, then I will more than happily accept your apology.

Julia,

I have no idea what you mean by "people like you" - but I thought you might like to know that I am not fortunate enough to be able to identify with any one origin country as my heritage is a veritable patchwork quilt. But I do know that I have Native American in my heritage and resent the fact that you think I am in any way connected to the slavery that went on during the early years of our country's birth. I have many friends of many different backgrounds and I am in no way a racist or separatist socio-economically. I really wish you wouldn't focus so much on skin color/shade. It really makes no difference what shade of white/brown/yellow/red/blue/green anyone is. What matters is that you are a person whom tries to live by the golden rule.

FYI - I personally am considering home-schooling, not private school.

You have children so you could not have been born yesterday, resident. Stop saying silly things. If you did have Native American ancestry that wouldn't get you off the hook. (Big if. White people lie a lot about that.) There are racist Indians. In fact, the Cherokees imitated the whites of the South by owning slaves themselves. Some of them fought with the Confederacy. This year, they expelled Cherokees who are also identifiably of African descent from the tribe. Ergo, claims of Indian ancestry say nothing about whether a person is a bigot or not.

'Some of my best friends' has become a sort of badge of racial hypocrisy. Obviously, you don't get around much, or you would know better than to say it. Assuming that these rainbow friends of your exist (again, a big if) what do they think about your belief that your children are too good to associate with children of color in significant numbers?

It is telling that you would rather homeschool than have your children attend Vernon. There are many limitations and burdens involved in homeschooling. On the other hand, walking or driving your children to Vernon until they are old enough to go on their own would just be a minor inconvenience.

There's no legal basis for your demands. The district is not depriving your children of anything by not assigning them to the school you want them to attend. 'Neighborhood school' does not necessarily mean the school in closest proximity. Issues such as school size, crowding, grade levels offered, etc., have to be taken into account. What the White Parents in Fear of Vernon Elementary School petitioners are doing is trying to extort a right not to send their children to a majority black school by implying they have some kind of legal grounds to do so. You don't. You are using race as a kind of currency that is supposed to buy you what you want. Then, you order observers to ignore the elephant you're trying to hide under the rug. As if. . . .

What apology would that be, Steve?

I may be younger than you and not have lived in Portland most of my life, but am very familiar with the history of the civil rights movement. I was mentored by some of the best civil rights lawyers in the country at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. I am well aware that quite a few white people who described themselves as being in favor of equality for people of color turned their backs on civil rights once blacks, Hispanics and right-thinking Indians achieved a voice of their own and became assertive. What these white people were really interested in was playing the paternalistic role of Great White Leader. When people of color had had enough of their clowning and told them to get over themselves, they changed sides. Among the most well-known of those former white civil rights activists would be David Horowitz, who has been an ally of the white supremacist movement for decades. You may not have gone that far, but you have been irrelevant to the civil right movement in Portland for years. As your most recent run for the school board proved, people are seeing through you. What they see is a self-important white man who has no real understanding of how systemic and direct racism effect people.

Anyone who makes the kinds of remarks you do about people of color is a bigot. Why else would someone tell the lie that Vernon is "substandard" when, in fact, it is a high-performing school? Or that academic issues faced by some (not all, as you imply) minority children are caused by their 'attidude'? As I stated above, if you were really concerned about students' behavior you would not be ignoring the much higher rates of smoking, drinking and drug use among white kids. Not to mention their propensity to shoot up schools at the drop of a hat. Or, how about you calling a minority woman with credentials better than yours will ever be 'ignorant'? It may have been necessary for civil rights advocates of color to tolerate your ilk in the '60s and '70s. They needed any support they could get, including from phonies. But, that time is past. My generation and the one following will not pretend that people like you have the best interests of people of color in mind because we know you don't.

The only apology that would be in play here would be from your parents for conceiving.

Whoa, Julia. Hitting below the belt is not allowed.

Right, Megs. But Julia's comments are so elucidating (for me anyway) that I've been reluctant to reign her in.

Julia, I love your comments. Just avoid the gratuitous insults.

FYI, I'm currently reading Charles Frazier's new novel, Thirteen Moons. One of the central characters is indeed a Cherokee slaveholder. Whatever happened to the "Trail of Tears"?

Sorry, Julia, you missed the mark again. I have continually talked about the problems affecting lower economic neighborhoods in mostly white schools. In fact, my campaign for school board centered on the middle schools in those neighborhoods and anyone who had the slightest idea about the issues I have raised, which almost no one else has raised, would know that. I had solutions which fit them. So obviously am not ignoring them as you suggest. And you are right, my lost election for the school board was because people who control who gets elected to the school board easily see through me as someone who believes in equity and putting issues which negatively affect poor people, including African-American, Native American, and Latino students as a high priority. They don't want someone like me on the board for fear I will push to have resources moved away from their upper middle class schools and they know darn well they can't control me. And you are correct that I have been irrelevant to the civil rights movement in Portland for some time. But I do pay careful attention and talk regularly with people involved. Recently, for instance, I attended a Jefferson PTC meeting and also tried, again unsuccessfully, to have the HR department look at the plan I have put forth for sometime to improve the number of minority teachers in PPS. I just don't have workable solutions in the Jefferson cluster where the problems are different from any other part of the city, wish I did. And I could go on, but what is the point? You have your mind made up. In fact, since I think most people on this blog find this type of interchange pretty boring, and certainly irrelevant to say the least, this is the last time I am going to respond to your uninformed and rediculous assertions concerning my attitudes when you don't even know me. I'm in the phone book, call me up and I will be glad to go at it with you. However, that said, it is not the last time I will suggest that student disruption and attitude is a major, maybe the major, problem facing the lower economic middle schools (you even missed the whole idea that I am talking almost exclusively about middle schools and seldom mention elementary schools and don't lump high schools into my comments very often either). These problems do not get addressed for many reasons, for instance, the people running the school board and thus the school district, could care less about these neighborhoods, these people have little idea what goes on in these schools since they don't have connections with them, and various other reasons including to a degree some negative racial attitudes they hold and their singular interest in their own child's education. At the same time, it doesn't really help matters to suggest that someone who sees the importance of lessening disruptions in classrooms so children can achieve better is called a racist for denigrating the behavior of kids who regularly misbehave in school. In fact, it probably works against the very children you are trying to help. Since a lot less education goes on in unruly than orderly classrooms. And PPS does a miserable job of addressing this incredibly serious problem.

Steve,

You shouldn't even respond to Julia. Just do a google search on her name along with the word racist and you will see that she has been quite busy calling many many people a racist. It's incredible, and some people just have misplaced blame and anger that they will direct at any and every one. It doesn't matter to angry blame-stormers what kind of a person you really are, what background you have or how much volunteer work you might have done to better the community for all.

Say Terry, why is Steve Buel calling me ignorant acceptable, but when I describe him to a tee there is something wrong with that? One must also wonder why there is no chiding of resident for her most recent comment. Double standard, perhaps?

Steve, the contemporary civil rights movement has no need for Great White Leaders who insult people of color even as they claim we need them to tell us what to do. So, find another hobby. Birdwatching is said to be a delightful activity around here. Or, there's fly fishing. If you are the indoor type, watching paint dry might do. Just find something that keeps you away from us.

Reduced to personal attacks after your so-called arguments are demolished, eh, resident? You seem surprised that a civil rights activist would have reason to use the word 'racist' fairly often. But, then you have not said anything that suggests a person capable of engaging in even a nominal level of analytical thought. Instead, you whine and throw tantrums demanding your way. Makes one wonder why you perceive yourself and yours as superior beings above associating with most of the people in the world. There is certainly no evidence that you are. And, frankly, you don't make me angry. You amuse me.

Terry, thank you for your comments. Any good teacher knows the difference between condemning the behavior of a kid and condemning the kid. One is acceptable and one is absolutely not. Pretty much works the same way on a blog where you really don't know the people you are interacting with.

All the information and comments posted on this topic demonstrates to me that we still have some work ahead of us.

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