The Very Important Problem: Three Parables

by Steve, October 17th, 2007

schoolsIn the spirit of “Remember: we’re here for the children,” I thought I’d present three parables about Portland Public Schools’ transfer policy and the Very Important Problem that it solves. Here goes.

Little LuLu and the Very Important Problem

Little LuLu lived with her Mommie and Grammie in her Grammie’s house. She had lived there since she was a baby. She went to kindergarten at the school two blocks away. She liked her teachers, especially her music teacher.

That’s why little LuLu was so sad when she started first grade and found out that her music teacher didn’t work there any more. Her music teacher was working at the coffee shop on the corner now, along with the former gym teacher. The art teacher got a job at Fred Meyer, and LuLu saw her there sometimes. She never did find out what happened to Mr. Miller, the friendly custodian who had kept her school clean.

LuLu asked her mommie, “Why don’t we have music and art and gym anymore?” and her mommie answered “Because too many people transferred out of your school, and the school board says we can’t afford those special things at such a small school.”

“But Mommie,” asked little LuLu, “Why did the school board let all those people transfer out?”

“Because,” answered her mommie, “They’re solving a Very Important Problem.”

In second grade, little LuLu noticed that some of her friends didn’t go to her school anymore. She also noticed that more and more of her classmates were being taken out of class for special help every day.

By third grade, little LuLu noticed that her teacher was spending most of her time telling her how to take tests. At the end of third grade, the school board announced that little LuLu’s school was closing, and she would have to go to a different school with more kids.

“Why are they closing my school?” LuLu asked her mommie.

“Because so many kids transferred out, and the school board can’t afford to keep such a small school open,” answered her mommie.

“But Mommie,” asked little LuLu, “Why did the school board let all those people transfer out?”

“Because,” answered her mommie, “They’re solving a Very Important Problem.”

When she started fourth grade at her new school, LuLu was very sad. Some of the same teachers were at her new school, but she didn’t feel right. All of her friends from her neighborhood had transferred to different schools, and she didn’t have any friends at this new school.

“Mommie,” she asked, “Can we transfer to a different school?”

“No,” replied her mommie, “Mommie has to work two jobs and can’t drive you across town for school. And you know Grammie is sick and can’t drive.”

Several years later, little LuLu went to register for high school. She had to choose between academies. One was for girls only, and it was miles away from the rest of the school. She liked some of the classes there, but she wanted to take some of the classes at the main high school. She also wanted to be a journalist, but her neighborhood high school didn’t have a newspaper or yearbook. One of the classes she wanted to take was only offered in the boys’ academy. She played the flute, but her neighborhood high school didn’t have a band.

Little LuLu’s adviser told her she would have to transfer to a different high school if she wanted all of these things. But her mommie didn’t think it would be safe for her to take the city bus across town into an unfamiliar neighborhood.

“Why can’t my high school have the same things high schools in other parts of town have?” little LuLu asked her mommie.

“Because so many kids transferred out, and the school board can’t afford to keep so many programs at such a small school,” answered her mommie.

“But Mommie,” asked little LuLu, “Why did the school board let all those people transfer out?”

“Because,” answered her mommie, “They’re solving a Very Important Problem.”

“I guess that must be a very, very, Very Important Problem,” said LuLu.

“It must be,” said her mommie. “Besides,” she added, “the principal of our school says we’re different, and we need different kinds of programs than kids at those other schools.”

So little LuLu went to the great big high school with a very small student body, and felt very small and unimportant compared to the kids taking French and Band and Journalism and College Prep English at the schools across town. But she knew she was helping the school board solve a Very Important Problem, so she felt better.

Mike Mackelhoody and the Very Important Problem

Mike Mackelhoody lived with his mom and dad and baby sister in a big old house in a part of town his parents called “transitional.” He always heard his dad telling relatives and family friends about what a great deal he got on the house.

There was a school three blocks away, but Mike Mackelhoody didn’t go there. His mom drove him several miles every morning to a bigger school. Mike Mackelhoody didn’t like getting up in the morning, and when he was eight, he realized that he would be able to sleep longer if he went to the school three blocks away.

So he worked up his courage and asked his mom and dad about it one day.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, “Why don’t I go to the school that’s just three blocks away? That way I could walk to school and sleep later in the morning.”

“Because,” answered his dad, “that school doesn’t meet AYP!”

Mike Mackelhoody wasn’t sure what that meant, but his dad and mom didn’t want to talk much about it.

Every day after school, Mike Mackelhoody noticed the neighborhood kids playing in the street. He didn’t know any of them, since they went to different schools. He asked his parents about this.

“Why do all the kids go to different schools?” he asked.

“Because,” said his father, “the school board is solving a Very Important Problem.”

When Mike Mackelhoody was old enough to go to high school, his parents made sure to get him transferred to a “good” school across town, one that had Advanced Placement classes and foreign languages and an instrumental music program. But his mom told him she couldn’t drive him to school anymore, since it was too far out of her way.

Instead, she got him a bus pass from the school board, and he had to take three different buses to get to school every morning. He had to get up very, very early, and he had to wait in the rain at two different bus stops along the way. If he missed one bus, he might have to wait an extra fifteen minutes. If he missed two buses, he might be very, very late to class.

“Why,” Mike Mackelhoody asked his parents, “don’t we have a ‘good’ high school in our neighborhood?”

“Because,” answered his father, “the school board is solving a Very Important Problem.”

So Mike Mackelhoody took three buses to his “good” school every day, and he took three buses home every afternoon. He never did learn the names of the neighbor kids, but he wouldn’t have had any time to hang out with them anyway, since he was always riding the bus. But at least he was helping the school board solve their Very Important Problem.

Caitlin Kurzweil and the Very Important Problem

Caitlin Kurzweil lived in a very large house in a very nice part of town. She lived there with her mummy and her daddy, her two Weimaraner dogs, and her big brothers who often Didn’t Play Nice with her.

She went to the very nice little school down the street with a very involved PTA. Her mummy told her that the school board once talked about closing her very nice little school, but the very involved PTA stopped them. So she got to stay at her very nice little school, and she learned music from Mrs. Melnaker, art from Mr. Josephson and P.E. from Mr. Jakes.

The yard of her very nice little school was always well cared for, thanks to the very involved PTA. There was a very nice playground, with a very nice play structure, built with money from the very involved PTA’s annual auction.

Everything about Caitlin Kurzweil’s school was very nice indeed, and Caitlin enjoyed playing with her friends after school.

Caitlin Kurzweil was very good at soccer. Her daddy coached her team when she was five, and as she grew older, her coaches always told her how very good at soccer she was.

When Caitlin Kurzweil was old enough to go to high school, she was excited to be on the soccer team. But when she went to try-out, she found there were one hundred girls who also wanted to be on the soccer team. Some of them were also very good at soccer. So good, in fact, that Caitlin Kurzweil didn’t make the team.

So Caitlin Kurzweil went home crying to her mummy, who called her daddy on the phone right away. “How can this be!” Caitlin Kurzweil heard her mummy say to her daddy on the phone, “Caitlin’s always been the best player on the team!”

Caitlin Kurzweil’s father called the soccer coach that evening to find out why she didn’t make the team. He was amazed to hear that there were so many girls at the school who where very good at soccer, and he tried as best he could to explain it to his dear daughter.

“But why are there so many kids at my school?” asked Caitlin Kurzweil.

“Because,” answered her daddy, “so many kids have transferred in from other neighborhoods.”

“But why does the school board let them transfer in?” asked Caitlin Kurzweil.

“Because,” answered her daddy, “the school board is solving a Very Important Problem.”

Eventually Caitlin Kurzweil got over her disappointment at not playing soccer, and focused on her classes. But many of her classes had so many students in them that kids had to sit on window ledges or the floor, and there weren’t enough text books to go around. So she asked her parents about this.

“Why are my classes so crowded?” asked Caitlin Kurzweil.

“Because,” answered her daddy, “so many kids have transferred in from other neighborhoods.”

“But why does the school board let them transfer in?” asked Caitlin Kurzweil.

“Because,” answered her daddy, “the school board is solving a Very Important Problem.”

So Caitlin Kurzweil went to her very full school, and attended her very full classes, and took pride in knowing she was helping the school board solve their Very Important Problem.

12 Responses to “The Very Important Problem: Three Parables”

  1. Comment from Nancy:

    This is priceless!!!

    Nancy

  2. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve,

    THIS is the letter you need to send to the School Board!

  3. Comment from LoveStar:

    Heh parables!

    lmao.

    I agree w/ nancy. Priceless.

  4. Comment from KarmelKorn:

    What’s the very important problem??

    I’m confused.
    And who named it that?
    Damn, maybe I should be more involved.
    Life as a slacker sux…lol.
    Help me out guys!

    Kerry “KarmelKorn” T.

  5. Comment from Steve:

    Heh. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

  6. Comment from megs:

    Ah. The Parables. How true they are. But in some ways, they need to be rewritten. I attended a teacher training at a North Portland school today (Chief Joseph) that had a state of the art computer lab and an on-site paid full time tech person. I was flabbergasted to say the least. …Because… at my school I do not even have a computer that allows me to enter all the data the data hounds at the Office of teaching and learning are requiring from us poor teachers. The IT person came out this week and told me I need a new computer in order to do the data entry….That’s a laugh…Where would I get the money to pay for it…..???? For those who are not in the classroom, the data entry detail entails hours of one on one assessments in grades K-2(taking away from actual teaching time) and then the data must be sent to the district for some kind of purpose….(so someone can have some kind of job security and retire with great benefits is my guess)…Anyways… this tech lab at the north portland school made my jaw drop…new computers, a SMARTboard that you could draw on…and lots of bells and whistles…(The principal is dedicated to technology is what I was told) and this is supposedly good for your Kindergarten students…that’s what the tech person was saying anyways…she wants her child schooled in technology and so should we all…My argument is that if your kid can’t hold a pencil to write, why would you want them spending time playing with a mouse that does nothing to develop muscle control…If your kid is using the pencil to stab someone in the ear while I am are trying to do those mountains of one on one assessments, then perhaps their time is better spent developing some social skills….My biggest beef however, is ….if YOUR SCHOOL HAS A TECHNOLOGY LAB and a FULL TIME TECH PERSON WHY DOESN’T MY NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL DAGNABIT? I’d use a cuss word, but I’m a teacher.

  7. Comment from Steve:

    My understanding is that this is all (or mostly) funded with the Ockley Green tech grant, much of which disappeared with the closing of Applegate and Kenton.

    As for technology and Kindergarten, I’m with you. I don’t think kids need any tech education in K-3, and I’m a software engineer. Kids are bombarded with tech everywhere, every day. The challenge is to limit their exposure to it, not encourage it. Maybe they need technology/media awareness taught, but certainly not point-and-click skills.

  8. Comment from megs:

    I have to pose this question. How equitable is it for some North Portland schools to have received this grant money (a state of the art technology) and for other North Portland schools not to? I understand that since the VP regime was instated that chasing after grant money was seen as the way to fund our district. IS this equitable? Just throwing out the question. I’d like to hear your opinion.

  9. Comment from Steve:

    No, of course it isn’t equitable. The fact that we have to chase federal and corporate grants, then fight over the crumbs is a symptom of this state’s unwillingness to fully fund education.

    The fact that these grants are unevenly distributed is a symptom of our school district’s shoddy political and administrative leadership.

  10. Comment from Zarwen:

    I’m with Steve. Among the other monikers VP earned for herself during her tenure at PPS was “grant whore.” ‘Nuff said.

  11. Comment from marcia:

    LOL. Never heard that one before. By the way, Susan Ohanian pays tribute to Lynn Schore and Steve Linder’s efforts to find out what happened to the missing grant money. Here it is:http://susanohanian.org/show_a.....ml?id=7589

    What did happen to it?

  12. Comment from Zarwen:

    The feds took it back because the receiving schools closed down. VP lied to the public when she said that the money would follow the students to their new schools. I wish I could say I was shocked, but for me it’s just another example of business-as-usual at PPS.