PPS School Board Dances Around the Transfer Issue

by Steve, November 7th, 2007

The Portland Public Schools Board of Education finally took up the open transfer policy, sixteen months after city and county auditors requested they clarify the purpose of the policy.

One little problem: They didn’t clarify the purpose of the policy.

Nobody on the school board, and nobody in the administration seems to have a clue why we have this policy.

The discussion began with a staff report on the policy, which came off as very defensive. I asked Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) president Jeff Miller what he thought of the presentation.

“The staff presentation resembled a promotional pitch more than a serious analysis of the student transfer policy and its consequences,” said Miller. “On an issue of such importance, a school board is entitled to expect better.”

The presentation was primarily given by Judy Brennan, the program director of the Enrollment and Transfer Center. The report carefully avoided any discussion of rationale for the policy, and glossed over the racial and economic segregation that it causes. Evidently district staff feel an 11% increase in poverty in the Roosevelt cluster and a 20% increase in racial isolation at Jefferson High is “slight.”

In order to make the PPS transfer policy look good, they compared our district to Boston, Minneapolis, St. Paul , San Francisco and Seattle. And what do you know, we do look better compared to them.

They engaged a marketing research firm (for $71,000) to put together focus groups (which appeared to include very few black people), and guess what? They found lots of people who are really happy with the policy! Everybody loves school choice! (Well, 174 people do, anyway, and we paid $71,000 to find them and video tape them.) This was a major part of the presentation.

Finally, Brennan admonished against even slight changes to the policy. (It was at this point that it became very clear that she was selling the policy, not investigating it.)

The recommendations of the report are to

  1. create a standing committee of staff parents and community members (but not students, as student representative Antoinette Myers later took issue with)
  2. create a strategy for increasing familiarity with neighborhood schools
  3. implement a boundary change policy
  4. focus on diversity issues
  5. think about replicating successful programs into underserved areas, and
  6. help students who transfer.

In other words, let’s just keep dancing around the issue, and not really do anything about it.

Due to a quirk in scheduling of public comment, I had the opportunity to speak immediately after Brennan’s presentation. Here’s what I said.

Sixteen months ago, city and county auditors noted the increased racial isolation caused by the open transfer policy. They also noted that this policy is at odds with other district priorities, like strong neighborhood schools.

I presented you with my own study in September showing that this policy leads to an annual diversion of tens of millions of dollars of public investment from Portland’s neediest neighborhoods and into its wealthiest areas.

And now we have this report which fails to answer the central question first posed 16 months ago: What is the purpose of the open transfer policy?

This report completely ignores the neighborhood funding inequity my study showed, and glosses over the racial isolation and concentration of poverty the district’s research shows. The report talks about the “slight” increase of poverty. But is an 11% increase in the Jefferson cluster slight? It calls its effect on racial and ethnic concentration “similar.”

In 2006 Jefferson High had an attendance area student population that was 47.9% black, yet the school was 68.4% black. Do you really consider a 20% increase “slight?”

The study also fails to address the most egregious indirect result of the open transfer policy, our two-tiered system of high schools.

There are two kinds of neighborhood high schools in PPS: comprehensive schools, with a full range of options for all students, and schools split into academies, with limited options. Is it an accident that the rich get comprehensive schools and the poor get academies?

Finally, the report fails to address the local control of administrators over FTE budgets, which leads to gross programming differences between neighborhood schools, fueling the demand for neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers.

In this report, Portland is compared to other districts that seem to have been cherry picked to make Portland look good. They are called peers, even though no serious demographer would consider Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis or St. Paul to be peers of Portland.

The report relies heavily on market research, presented as if it were statistical data. Using marketing techniques instead of scientific research shows a distinct bias against discovering the truth.

The problems caused by this policy are clear. You all know them: racial and economic segregation, diversion of public investment from the neighborhoods that need it the most, a two-tiered high school system, and the fragmentation of communities.

What we don’t know is what problem this policy is supposed to solve. Instead of addressing that simple question, you’ve given us a lot of hand waving about how much better we are than Boston, how much people really like the system, and how it only “slightly” increases racial segregation and the concentration of poverty.

I say, if you have a policy that increases segregation, you darn well better have a Very Important Problem you’re solving. Why can’t any of you tell us what that Very Important Problem is?

This was followed by board discussion, which I found very interesting. I thought I saw glimmers of understanding from Dan Ryan, Dilafruz Williams, Ruth Adkins and Sonja Henning. Student rep Antoinette Myers seems to get it more than the voting members.

Dan Ryan talked of seeing that “there is equity in every neighborhood school.” Dilafruz Williams spoke of a “segregated city by race and by class.” Ruth Adkins used the term “white flight.”

After a bit of this, Sonja Henning finally cut to the chase. “I’m just still slightly confused and somewhat curious to hear from my colleagues, what do you all think the overall goal or objective is or was for this policy?” she asked. “Without some objective or goal, everything else is just talking around the surface.”

This threw things into a little bit of a tizzy. Ruth Adkins jumped in by quoting one of Brennan’s power point slides about promoting diversity, but when pressed by Henning, said “The unintended effect effect of it has been… a way for people to feel like they can escape their school if their neighborhood school isn’t good enough.”

Yes, that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? I was glad Ruth had the guts to come right out and say that. And of course, it just leads to more inequity.

Still, nobody managed to articulate a legitimate rationale for allowing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers.

But at least they talked about equity. Even Trudy Sargent got into the act on this, questioning the local control over enrichment programs, and suggesting that the board could mandate music in every school. She talked about better TAG programs in every school. “How do we make the district more fair in what’s offered to kids,” she asked, “And that’s what’s at the bottom of this, is equity across the district, so we have strong neighborhood schools in every district.”

Of course it was all lost on Bobbie Regan, whose most noteworthy contribution was in wondering if we should pay for transportation for tranfers like our “peer” districts in Boston and San Francisco do, and also if we should remove the guarantee of neighborhood schools.

But despite these glimmers of hope and understanding by a majority of board members, nobody dared ask why we would need neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers once we have programming equity.

And shockingly, as the discussion came to a close, the one change they suggested to the staff recommendations was to bump up the priority of helping students who transfer.

This was not lost on PAT president Miller.

“During their discussion, some Board members insisted that PPS could be doing more for those students who transfer,” he said. “The Board should ponder the wisdom of such a course. Encouraging more students to leave struggling schools is likely to further harm those schools.”

Which puts us back in the vicious cycle of poor schools being drained of enrollment and funding. Somehow or another, this school board, even while showing they’re just about, almost, not quite able to get it, can’t quite put all the pieces together.

86 Responses to “PPS School Board Dances Around the Transfer Issue”

  1. Comment from Terry:

    Great post, Steve. (How do you get those quotes down so accurately? Is there a transcript of the meetings I’m unaware of?)

    Miller’s comments are right on. I’m glad you had the opportunity to talk to him. Somebody needs to ask him, however, why he endorsed and recorded a testimonial for Doug Morgan over Ruth Adkins?

    Your line, “Of course it was all lost on Bobbie Regan…” is a classic.

  2. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Steve, thank you for all your work on this stuff. If people can escape the poor schools then the problems of those schools don’t have to be addressed. I really think this may be the underlying crux of the whole issue.

    It is beneficial to the board and the power behind the board to not have a lot of focus on the schools which are not working. The “escape” transfer system allows for a safety valve for parents who are on top of it and would otherwise beat down the door over the poor education. They would then either have to say they aren’t working or explain to those parents they won’t help them.

    I also don’t think this is a deliberate strategy. Just a comfortable one which isn’t even thought of as being a strategy. Kind of like how PSF maintains they care about the poor schools and show it by setting up grants for which the schools can apply .

    I also think this makes it extra hard for the board to justify the process since they don’t recognize it as a process, just something that seems to work for them.

  3. Comment from Nancy:

    “Somehow or another, this school board, even while showing they’re just about, almost, not quite able to get it, can’t quite put all the pieces together.”

    Excellent post Steve.

    Regarding the above quote, the student rep. gets it because her friends and family are living it; she sees the devastating effects daily.

    The board may not “get it” from personal experience, but they know exactly what they’re doing. Simply put, they just don’t give a damn about poor and non-white children.

    Oh sure, they each threw in a few good comments about inequities between neighborhood schools, segregation, blah, blah, blah.

    But, as you said Steve, the only action being taken is to dramatically increase outreach and information to low-income and minority students about the multitude of available transfer options – so these students can get away from their pathetically poor schools. Which will, of course, in short order completely shut their neighborhood schools down.

    In fact, during the district’s laughable PowerPoint presentation, the head of Transfer and Enrollment (can’t remember her name) said this has already begun.

    The district knows exactly what they’re doing, and Ruth is leading the charge. Ruth has personally told me twice that MORE choice is the answer for the students “left behind” in the crappy schools, saying “we are in a catch 22 and can’t improve offerings at the poor schools until we raise enrollment first”; I told Ruth that’s pure boloney.

    It’s called covering your butt folks; the district wants to appear as though they’re responding to the audit by caring so deeply about the poor and non-white students that they’re moving heaven and earth to inform, assist and involve them in the transfer process – all the while knowing it will destroy their neighborhood schools and still not provide a decent or equitable education to the students that remain in these neighborhood schools – or will not provide the best results to those that transfer.

    Ruth’s verbal rationale for her recommendations? PPS policy allows parents the “right” to choose whatever school they want; that’s their “right”.

    Did I miss something? The goal of evaluating the policy was just to keep it the same?

    Silly me. I thought the whole idea of examining the transfer policy was to change and correct it to address the current inequities and problems outlined in the city of Portland/Multnomah County (Flynn Blackmer) audit. Silly me.

    The only “right” this district should concern itself with is the “right” of every single child to access the same number and quality of educational opportunities as every other child – IN THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD. That needs to come first and come now; anything less will not do.

    Silly me. I could have sworn that Ruth documented and stated during her campaign that “no child should have to travel across town for a decent education”. I could have sworn that Ruth documented her commitment to equitable neighborhood schools throughout ALL of Portland. I could have sworn that she committed herself to address the issues in the Flynn/Blacker audit. I could have swore Ruth said there should be no bad schools. Silly, silly me.

    Oh, the district addressed these issues alright, by actually making it worse for the very children and families that have already been negatively affected. Just as they have done to the custodians; shoving to the ground then kicking and continuing to kick our most vulnerable students and workers.

    Thank God Rebecca is a senior this year. My son will attend Beaverton schools – I do not care what it costs.

    Despite the district’s rhetoric about the transfer policy keeping families at PPS, the district and board know full well it is causing families to leave or create charters in neighborhoods with poor schools. Problem is, they don’t give a damn if people from Jefferson, Roosevelt, Marshall or Madison clusters leave, or if charters bring down those particular schools.

    I will never stop speaking up and out for the “right” of every child to be valued and treated equally in PPS; never!

    “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”.
    Thomas Jefferson

  4. Comment from Steve:

    If you’re right that “they just don’t give a damn about poor and non-white children,” they also don’t give a damn about middle class children living in transitional (gentrifying) neighborhoods.

    As I’ve said before, they’re creating a time bomb. The very neighborhoods where young middle class families can afford to buy a house are the same neighborhoods suffering the most under PPS’s radical school transfer policy.

  5. Comment from Chris:

    You are right! Instead of allowing parents to choose to transfer their children out of failing schools, we should not let these kids leave. How dare White people want to send their kids to better schools.

  6. Comment from Steve:

    Gee Chris, how about fixing the school, so they don’t need to leave? Or is that just too radical?

  7. Comment from Chris:

    How about fixing the school and letting kids choose where they attend, or is that to radical?

  8. Comment from Steve:


    (It would be a step in the right direction, though.)

  9. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Nancy, you got it just right. But Ruth didn’t have the concern of kids in poor neighborhoods up front or SFC and PSF would have never supported her.

    And Chris, I could live with it. But what do you think the chance of this school board and administration fixing the poorer schools? You choose:
    a) none
    b) zero
    c) never
    d) all of the above

    See the problem now?

  10. Comment from Terry:

    “Failing school” is doublespeak for low income school, Chris. If you have a better definition, let’s hear it.

  11. Comment from BWR:

    Terry – that’s not true in the case of Vernon, now is it?

    I suspect “failing school” has more to do with the stats (test scores, drop-out rates, etc). I would also say that the “failing” stigma probably applies to elementary schools which are not failing (stat-wise), but are in a clustering with a failing high and/or middle school (if you can find one).

  12. Comment from Nancy:

    Chris: no argument. Equitable neighborhood schools throughout the city, and other choices if parents/students do not want to attend their neighborhood school.

    Steve R.: you’re correct, of course. The district also does not give a damn about middle class families in gentrifying neighborhoods.

    In fact, the district has pulled out all the stops to make sure the middle-class families in the Jefferson cluster are excluded, unwelcomed, and discriminated against at Jefferson High, their neighborhood high school.

    Perhaps the district is afraid that if more families get involved with Jefferson they will discover and report out exactly how horrendous the educational conditions are there.

  13. Comment from Steve Buel:

    “Euitable neighborhood schools” is a tough concept. True equity means the needs of the children in the school are being equitably met. Standardizing curriculum, same number of extras (electives etc.), the opportunity for equal numbers of good teachers and the like doesn’t really cut it. Some schools need more help than others. This is the truly scary thing for the powers that be. George needs more counselors, more discipline help, smaller classes etc. to make it equitable to Sylvan.

    PPS is not prepared to address this problem and, in fact, works hard to make sure it never happens.

    So I can’t buy equal programs as the answer to equal schools. Fairness asks for much more.

  14. Comment from Gabrielle:

    How do we get equitability in low-income schools? I just spoke to the Principal of Vernon and the district to let them know that we are pulling our son out. Thank god it is only pre-k, but without the broken, unfair, unequitable system of student choice that we feel compelled to use for the next school year, then what? What is a parent to do when they know that the education (whatever that means) is demoralizing his/her place age her child/ren, then what? I will not stop fighting, I will not stop using facts and figures, but I can’t leave my son in a dysfunctional system waiting for it it implode. With Vernon enrollment already so low, and the new Ivy Charter opening a few blocks away, I don’t see how Vernon will receive the resources it needs to survive.
    What you end up with is a school full of kids whose parents either don’t have the time, the knowledge, or the desire to challenge an inferior system. They may work long hours, more then one job, some may not have finished school themselves and wouldn’t know how to challenge the system. It is free and it is (perceived to be) safe, so why do I/we deserve more then this?
    After a lengthy conversation with the principal today, I felt defeated. Not because of her, but because of the system. The system that allows schools to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for extra educators, music, or perhaps and assistant at the expense of those that cannot. Vernon is in a gentrifying, neighborhood however most of these parents bought here because it was all they could afford. They don’t have the thousands to pour into vernon that Ainsworth or Alameda or Hollyrood parents do (or Lincoln Highschool vs Jeff).
    None of our neighbors send their kids there, and if they can’t get them in through the lottery they use a cell phone bill and some other “documentation” to enrol their child/ren elsewhere.
    I agree that we need to demand equitable in our neighborhood schools. I agree that we are creating a tiered system of education, and I agree that it is at the expense of those with the least resources to challenge the system….but without school choice, what do we have left?
    I grew up in Beaverton, and I for one would never move back. It was too conservative, to homogenous, and I like that my house is orange and doesn’t look like our neighbors house. (They have school choice there too, just better funding allocations).


  15. Comment from Ruth Adkins:

    To comment on just a few points…

    First with my market researcher hat on– a sample size of 174 is actually quite large for focus groups-it’s not the same as a telephone survey and if well recruited (which this appears to be, with geographic diversity) is extremely valid. The costs while not cheap, are pretty standard for recruiting and conducting this many groups & interviews and including Spanish and Vietnamese translation.

    That said, it is true this was research conducted with the “contented middle” – folks who are happy with their choice (whether neigh. or transfer out). This represents a whole heck of a lot of people. But, it doesn’t include those who are unhappy because they didn’t get into the school they wanted or those who feel the transfer policy is harming their neighborhood school.

    We need some of each of the above people to volunteer to serve on the E/T committee. Go ahead and throw tomatoes, but I think it’s worth a shot. At the very least it will provide a public forum to air everyone’s views.

    the one change they suggested to the staff recommendations was to bump up the priority of helping students who transfer. To clarify, this is about helping students who have already chosen to transfer and may not be doing well in their new school. Regardless of how one feels about the effects of transfers on neighborhood schools, we can’t abandon students who have already made that choice.

    the only action being taken is to dramatically increase outreach and information to low-income and minority students about the multitude of available transfer options No; the outreach we were talking about was on behalf of low-income neighborhood schools to encourage families to attend them rather than transfer out–ALONG WITH increased programming/support/enrichment for those schools. Which is what I hope and expect to see in the Supt’s workplan that is due to the Student Support and Community Relations committee January 10. While I don’t think any wholesale change to the current policy is likely, I’m hoping we can consider at least some operational changes which, together with a variety of other steps (supports/enrichment, outreach, boundary policy, etc) I hope we can start turning this around and bring families back to their neighborhood school *and* providing the quality that every child deserves.

    Yes, it’s slow but we are trying to make things better folks…

    To answer Steve R’s question, one definition of the purpose of the “choice” policy is to enable parents to seek out what they believe is the best educational “option” for their child. As long as that is the policy, we can’t limit availability of information about the system to only those families who have the means to seek out that information.

    That said, an unacceptable Darwinian situation has developed esp in N/NE as the area has gentrified and as the district has imposed sweeping changes (closures, switch to K-8, 400 size cutoff, etc.) and as charters and other options have proliferated.

    Ruth has personally told me twice that MORE choice is the answer for the students “left behind” in the crappy schools, Nancy, there must be a misunderstanding as that is not my belief.

    Thanks for the feedback, and for the opportunity to respond.

  16. Comment from Steve:

    My main beef was that the “research” was a marketing excercise, not a scientific, statistical study. As such, it’s a meaningless waste of time and money… unless you’re crafting a marketing campaign. Which seems to have been the idea.

    Re. helping transfer students, is the intent to only help students who have already transfered, or to help all students who transfer? It would seem a little obtuse to only help existing transfer students, but deny that help to new transfer students. Which is it? The bottom line is that the highest priority seems to be to help transfer students as opposed to those left behind.

    Now finally we get some attempt to clarify the purpose of the open transfer system: “to enable parents to seek out what they believe is the best educational ‘option’ for their child.” (I neglected to mention that Trudy Sargent said as much at the meeting Monday, mainly because I thought it was an inadequate rationale for such a radical policy.)

    In the first place, how does this justify the massive shift of public investment out of our poorest neighborhoods, the increased segregation and the concentration of poverty?

    Secondly, why do we need neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers to accomplish this?

    Ruth, I appreciate your courage in pointing out that “an unacceptable Darwinian situation has developed.” But why can’t you criticize the Darwinian policy of neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers that has created this situation?

    Trudy Sargent brought up the issue of local control over FTE budgets during discussion, and suggested the board could mandate music in every school. She also talked about improving TAG programs across the district. These are the kind of steps the district needs to take to move away from the Darwinian free market and back towards equity.

    I am pretty disappointed that this board seems very content to delegate policy making to staff. I’d like to see some better policy leadership. Clearly there is a potential majority that could get behind such a move as Sargent suggested, but somebody’s got to take the lead. Hint. Hint.

  17. Comment from ME:

    Trudy Sargent’s and Antoinette Myers’s comments were the most concrete and rational statements offered at the meeting. Trudy was the only board member who even broached the subject of taking specific steps to create equally strong programs at all neighborhood schools. Antoinette Myers recognizes how much a school is harmed by losing high numbers of students to other schools. Most of the board seems content with a piecemeal (and completely ineffective) approach to addressing the inequities caused by the transfer system.

    Nothing short of equal educational programs, a thorough districtwide school boundary review, and limiting transfers will do the job. No amount of public outreach and PR will turn things around, even with equal programs at schools, because too many families choose their schools based primarily on race and class. All the school choice marketing and administration of the transfer policy is a ridulous waste of time and money that should be spent educating our children! And does anyone really think that requiring parents to visit their neighborhood school before transferring is going to keep a significant number of those families from transferring. It didn’t last time that policy was in place. It’s laughable, and so is the majority of the school board.

    Of all the board members though, I think Dilafruz Williams made some of the most outrageous statements of all. Apparently one of her highest goals is to transfer poor and minority kids over to the West side of town to provide some diversity training for the rich, white kids whose parents chose to live in wealthy, homogenous neighborhoods. I guess the destruction of schools in the poor and minority neighborhoods is just the unavoidable collateral damage of a more important goal to provide diversity enrichment opportunities at PPS’s richest whitest schools.

    Okay, I admit that Bobbie Reagan may be even worse, but she’s become more like a broken record than a board member. “PPS must provide the best possible education for the students who might otherwise attend private school. PPS must cater to it’s most advantaged families. PPS can’t lose families to private schools. PPS is doomed if the districtwide 84% capture rate declines due to wealthier families leaving for private schools.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Bobbie Reagan could muster half that level of concern for individual schools who have capture rates below 50% due to her precious “keep the wealthy families happy” policies? Or if she could demand the same quality of education for all PPS students that she demands for the wealthiest?

  18. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I volunteered to work on the committee spending the one million in city money to help lower economic schools. Rich Rogers, Sten’s aide spearheading this work, told me I couldn’t be on a committee because of my reputation. I guess having a reputation for trying to help schools which are struggling is a bad deal at city hall.

    What committee are you going to ask me to serve on, Ruth? Do you have something that deals with equality, making the middle grades work, lessening the disruption in classrooms, building up poor middle schools, the hiring process, or getting PSF and SFC to lessen their negative impact on PPS lower economic neighborhoods? I’ll take any of these. Or how about setting up a committee on any of these issues and putting me on it, along with Terry Olsen, Wacky Momma, and Steve Rawley in the majority. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But this is what happens with the committees the district sets up. The school board and administration draw from their PSF and SFC buddies and they give the school board and administration what they want.

    Gotta give you credit for showing up — has to be something down there inside you.

  19. Comment from BWR:

    Seriously, what the district has set-up in N/NE is a condition that will lead to a mass exodus of families. Like us – we just moved to Lake O from NE. At least Lake O’s voluntary ‘foundation’ gives all money it raises equally to all the schools and specifically just to reduce class sizes. I’m not finding glaring inequities between the schools here.

  20. Comment from Ruth Adkins:

    I liked Trudy’s suggestions too. I’m open to looking at some kind of cap on n-to-n transfers. It’s going to take a whole bunch of different efforts from multiple angles (as Steve B. pointed out in a great comment recently on Terry O’s blog).

    I am giving Carole the opportunity to come up with a plan. It’s her job as Supt to figure out multiple strategies (not policies but operational), having heard from the board, I believe, the general directive that we are not where we need to be in terms of all schools providing equal quality (whether perceived or actual), such that families only transfer out if genuine need/interest for unique program or logistical issues like child care, moving, etc.

    No amount of public outreach and PR will turn things around, even with equal programs at schools, because too many families choose their schools based primarily on race and class. If this is true, then how would requiring those families to attend their neigh. school work? They’d opt out. I am not saying we should cater to this sensibility, but there is no one simple solution to this.

  21. Comment from Chris:

    Steve- “Failing School” is in the eye of the beholder. My definition of a failing school is a school that fails to educate a child to a certain expected level. There are, of course, many expected levels: government expectations (usually quite low), student expectations and parental expectations to name a few. Parental expectations can be very diverse, some may be satisfied with passing grades, others will accept nothing less than calculus by sixth grade, and unfortunately, some parents have low to non-existent expectations. The problem is not with the transfer students and the reasons their parents expect better, but with the schools themselves (Why are they failing to meet expectations for the transfers and more importantly for those who stay).

  22. Comment from Chris:

    Sorry, I was responding to Terry not Steve.

  23. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve B.,

    If such a committee as the one you described ever comes to pass, I’d like to serve on it, too!

    And I want to thank Ruth once again for weighing in here. It’s nice to know there is ONE board member who is willing to communicate directly with the public!

  24. Comment from ME:

    If neighborhood to neighborhood transfers were stopped, the schools would be more reflective of the neighborhood population rather than a school segregated by race and class. Then most families wouldn’t opt out, they would invest in making the school work. Currently the transfer policy practically begs many parents to abandon teh schools that need them most. Most PPS families can’t or really don’t want to opt out of public schools.

    If families were required to attend their neighborhood school which had good programs and hadn’t been abandoned by many of the other the families who have time and money to invest in teh school, then most people wouldn’t feel the need to opt out.

    Sure, if schools were more reflective of the neighborhood demographics some families will still decide to attend private school or move out of the district because there would be too many poor or minority students at their neighborhood school for their liking. But is that really the group of parents that PPS should be serving at the expense of all the others – especially the low income students who most depend on a public education?

  25. Comment from Zarwen:

    “If families were required to attend their neighborhood school. . . .”

    Do you propose doing away with focus options, charters, special ed. and alternative programs?

  26. Comment from ME:

    No, I don’t propose doing away with any schools that families already depend on. But I don’t think the district should be multiplying those programs without a compelling reason. Like Beaverton, PPS needs to curtail transfers from one neighborhood school to another, unless a family has a legitimate need to attend the other neighborhood school. Racism and classism shouldn’t be a legitimate reason to allow families to abandon their neighborhood public school.

  27. Comment from Chris:

    Why would it be in the school’s interest to prevent racists from transferring out?

  28. Comment from Nancy:

    Ruth: thank you for responding to the posts.

    (regarding families choosing schools based primarily on race and class.) “If this is true, then how would requiring those families to attend their neigh. school work? They’d opt out. I am not saying we should cater to this sensibility, but there is no one simple solution to this.”

    This happens because for years PPS has allowed it to happen – and in the case of Jefferson, the district has encouraged it. Racism and/or classism must be eliminated as a reason for transfer, period. Steve’s solution of equalizing all neighborhood schools and eliminating neighborhood-school to neighborhood-school transfers addresses the racism issue.

    “We need some of each of the above people to volunteer to serve on the E/T committee. At the very least it will provide a public forum to air everyone’s views.”

    Ruth, as you are intimately aware, hundreds of Jefferson residents have been airing their views in a variety of public avenues CONTINUOUSLY for the last three years: committees, testimony, surveys, petitions, meetings, protests, creation of alternative resolutions, etc.

    Even though the Jefferson cluster has been the one most adversely affected by the T/E policy, these residents have been ignored, criticized and condemned – as the situation continuously worsens for their children.

    Jefferson residents have spoken until they’re blue in the face. The last thing they need or want is another district committee looking to address the issue – while conditions at the schools deteriorate rapidly.

    “Yes, it’s slow but we are trying to make things better folks…”

    Ruth, our kids and schools are out of time; slow won’t work. Jefferson is on life support, with other clusters following close behind in intensive care. Our children’s lives and futures are in serious jeopardy. We need equity now, not one year from now or the year after that or the year after that.

    It’s not enough to TRY to make things better; just make things better.

    The residents of the suffering neighborhood schools have spoken. They want comprehensive high schools with the same levels, quality and number of offerings and programs available at Wilson (Jefferson is lowest, Wilson is highest); gap between low and high must be eliminated). Same for all families, every neighborhood, all levels from PreK to Grade 12.

    Bottom line: equalize boundaries, ensure all neigborhood schools are equitable in terms of programs/offerings, teacher quality, dual-credit opportunities, FTE etc. (with additional $$ and FTE formula to correlate with poverty levels). Maintain equal access to “choice” focus option programs for all students city-wide, including those programs housed in neighborhood schools.

    The Portland Schools Foundation must be revamped to operate like Beaverton and LO foundations, with funds and programs distributed equitable among schools.

  29. Comment from Gabrielle:

    Are you advocating then that schools such as Sunnyside and Buckman Arts turn into magnet or charter schools? As neighborhood schools it does nothing for parents like us in NE that want this educational option unless we succeed admittance through the lottery (neighborhood students are gaurenteed a slot). By eliminating the school choice through the transfer option (no matter how remote) then we are gaurenteed not to have same access to education programs. All schools with special programs would need to be through application only for it to be equitable.
    What about the students that aren’t captured and never will be? When polling our neighbors that do not attend our neighborhood school they openly admitted using a friend’s address to enroll their children. Instead of moving don’t you think a lot of parents would resort to this?
    I certainly don’t have the answers, but I have a lot of questions. For parents like us that cannot afford private school and cannot afford our neighborhood school what do we have left without the transfer option. I am not willing to move. My husband is not willing to move. And most of all our children “love our home” and do not want to move.
    I don’t understand the change in Beaverton, can you enlighten me. I could provide names of 5 high school students (my niece’s friends) that requested and received transfers from Beaverton to South Ridge. How is this different then PPS?

  30. Comment from Steve:

    With all due respect, Ruth, waiting for Carole Smith to take the lead is a delegation of policy making to staff. The kinds of changes Trudy Sargent suggested need to originate on the school board, not the superintendent’s office.

    And think about it: mandating music in every elementary school would be immensely popular. One of the biggest contributors to the perception of inequity is local administrators’ control over FTE budgets. You can still let them have some control, but there shouldn’t be such wild discrepancies between enrichment programs and class sizes from neighborhood to neighborhood.

    Again, this kind of policy needs to start with the board, not the superintendent. Somebody’s got to be bold here.

  31. Comment from Bart:

    Exactly right Steve! I think our best hope for championing that kind of policy change is Trudy. (Ruth is just too new and too meek.) I know that a few people will argue that principals need to retain full control over FTE, but a quality program with certain offerings (like music, art, PE, counselors, etc.) should be provided at schools districtwide. Schools will still have discretionary funds, including Title I funds, grants, PTA and parent fundraising, etc. to spend as they wish.

  32. Comment from Anne:

    Great questions about neighborhood/magnet schools, Gabrielle. Here is some history. When Sunnyside Environmental School formed in 2004 it ended up taking over and/or kicking out three programs in that building: Family co-op School, Sunnyside Neighborhood School and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. People on the East Side task force that discussed this FOUGHT for the right of neighborhood children to be included into Sunnyside Environmental School automatically. And by the way, the district justified closing the Sunnyside Neighborhood Program because they were losing enrollment. What they didn’t mention is that they STARVED them of FTE for a few years before they closed them. They took away a popular American Sign Language half time position, that united the students in all three programs and attracted people to the school. I have seen other schools starved to death in the year or two before they are closed. PSF is part of that.

    But, back to the neighborhood/magnet model. If you do not allow neighborhood children in their local school, magnet or otherrwise you end up with a situation like Winterhaven where neighborhood children cannot go to the school right down the street. Winterhaven is a science magnet. It used to share the building with Brooklyn Neighborhood School. When Brooklyn was closed in 2003 neighborhood students were EXCLUDED from Winterhaven. This is wrong.
    And the bottom line is equitable programs. ALL students deserve quality programs. I am sure it would not be too difficult to come up with a baseline for all schools.
    I will not even begin to comment on PSF’s contribution to the inequity of the district. Let’s just say it reminds me of Bush’s “Clean Skies” initiative.
    I would be happy to hear how other districts make magnet schools more equitable. Maybe I am wrong about allowing neighborhood students into the school in their neighborhood.

  33. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Zarwen, you can serve any time on a committee with me. Doesn’t look like anytime soon, however. Haven’t heard from “anyone” on the school board yet.

    Nancy, your last three paragraphs are dynamite. You capture the essence of equality which is very much at the core of the discussion. Upper middle class schools can operate with less programs because their students arrive with more skills and are better behaved. This is what spooks them. True equality means more resources to poor schools. If you are controlling PPS why would you ever give up resources from your neighborhood school to improve the school in another neighborhood? Especially when resources are as tight as they are.

  34. Comment from Zarwen:


    You have written a very good post; I have just one correction for the record. When the Brooklyn neighborhood program closed (it was down to 70 or 80 children), the students were not “excluded.” They were put at the head of the line for the new slots available at Winterhaven, which expanded their enrollment that year. Some did take them—I don’t know how many.

  35. Comment from marcia:

    “Trudy Sargent brought up the issue of local control over FTE budgets during discussion, and suggested the board could mandate music in every school. She also talked about improving TAG programs across the district.”
    Two thoughts: (1)If music is mandated and the FTE remains the same, then we will have to cut another position at our school. Not a great idea.
    (2)TAG this year was reorganized so that the cost of paying the TAG coordinator at our building comes out of our building TAG budget. This money was meant for the TAG kids. So..the choice would be to have the TAG coordinating teachers not get paid for her services, or cut the amount given to each TAG kid. This is what we have ended up with….about $12 per TAG kid for the school year. TAG is not being expanded. It is seriously being stangled.

  36. Comment from g:

    I think that PPS can mandate that schools provide certain things like music, but still allow flexibility for the school to determine how it will be provided. Some Title 1 schools have free after-school music programs through Ethos a non-profit organization in N. Portland. Other schools may be able to provide music programs through parent volunteers after school, etc. The Portland Schools Foundation could distribute funds districtwide to ensure that every school has some music, etc.

    Yes, TAG programs are being strangled at some schools. I heard that at our school this year, ALL the TAG money (about $1100) was spent for a teacher coordinator with nothing left over to provide TAG opportunities for the students. I guess the PTA at our school, where over 90% of families qualify for free or reduced lunch, is supposed to raise funds for TAG enrichments.

  37. Comment from Steve:

    Maybe it’s my musical background talking, or maybe it’s the union guy. But music needs to be taught by certified teachers, just like (or maybe more than) other subjects.

    One FTE spread out across six or eight grades doesn’t do much to reduce class size. You’ve got to wonder what’s going on at schools like Astor, without enrichment and still big classes, and Chief Joseph, with music, PE, and librarian, and relatively reasonable class sizes.

    In 06-07, Astor had .5 SES, 1.63 Title I and an FTE ratio of 13.15; Chief Joseph had .6 SES, 3.15 Title I and an FTE ratio of 13.65. (Chief Joseph also had a .5 grant-funded counselor.)

    So how does Chief Joseph do it with basically the same FTE ratio? We could certainly stand smaller classes, but like I said, take away our music teacher, and one grade gets an extra class, or we get an extra reading teacher. Not much (if any) impact on class size.

  38. Comment from Zarwen:

    I’d be interested to know how the Title I FTE allotment at Chief Joe is being used. 3.15 for a small elementary sounds huge, and it is double what Astor has for Title I. (It is probably double what anyone else has for Title I, too!)

  39. Comment from marcia:

    “Chief Joseph, with music, PE, and librarian, and relatively reasonable class sizes.” Add to that a full time tech person also.

  40. Comment from g:

    Does Chief Joe have a real PE teacher, or fast food PE from Nike?

  41. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Chief Joe has excellent PE teacher. The little kids go once or twice a week; big kids have PE three times weekly; plus weekly afterschool fitness and yearly field day are offered.

    What’s “Fast Food PE from Nike”?

  42. Comment from marcia:

    Nike Go?

  43. Comment from g:

    “PE2GO is part of Nike’s NikeGO initiative, which is designed to increase physical activity in youth ages 8-15 and to give them the means to do it. A joint venture between Nike and The SPARK Programs of San Diego State University, which stands for “Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids, PE2GO will be implemented in seven U.S. cities over the 2003-04 school year: Akron (OH), Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, Washington D.C. and Portland (OR). Nike athlete LeBron James and U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona were on hand in early September to support the program’s launch in Akron, Ohio.”

    Nike saved about $17 million in Oregon from a single tax break last year, but due to their “generosity” the students in our school still get to have PE once a week for 30 minutes through the Nike PE2GO program. Nike also gets free advertising in our school newsletter whenever the Nike PE2GO program is mentioned.

    If Nike and other corporations would pay their fair share of taxes, schools would have enough public funding for real PE programs. But then Nike wouldn’t get free PR and credit for their “generous contributions” to our schools.

  44. Comment from Zarwen:

    I’m guessing that Chief Joe has a higher percentage than Astor of children on free and reduced lunch, which explains why they get a lot more FTE from Title I that pays for the enrichment.

    Steve, you are dead right about needing certified teachers for music and PE. Like the PE2GO program, there are organizations like Ethos and Young Audiences artists-in-residence that provide a little bit of music but not a real music education. Our school has an artist-in-residence that does a musical with the kids each year. He is a terrific person and I am glad we have him, but the kids are not getting a music education from this. They do not learn the instruments of the band and orchestra, they do not learn to read notes, they do not learn about music of different cultures around the world—these, among others, are the things I did when I was a full-time music teacher with PPS.

    Ironically, the communities that have the where-with-all to support music do it so they can see their kids onstage for the musical or the concert—but that is not where the real music education lies. The public has no idea how draining it is to prepare hundreds of children at a time for those programs—but the teachers who don’t do them don’t last long. That is why I quit the field after I had my baby—I didn’t want to end up like “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

    I am sure that the situation I described in the previous paragraph is true all over the country. My pie-in-the-sky wish is that parents everywhere would learn to value a true music education over a dog-and-pony show. There would be more certified music teachers in the schools if they did.

  45. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Zaqrwen, Hah! Not true in Vancouver. We have a full music program, at least in middle school. We have a band which marches in parades. A strings program. A full and very good choir. Kids take it all year. There are four instructors (yes 4, as in 4 fingers) though I believe they work at another school too.

    The SUN program also becomes a substitute for an athletic program. Somehow, the schools have forgotten the importance of genuine quality ande tying these activities to the schools. “We have music and art.” Once a week after school with a few kids. I attended the Rose Festival parade this last year and there were less students in the all district band than single schools that marched, by a long ways.

  46. Comment from Steve:

    The FTE/Title I/SES figures I cited are from 06-07. I believe these figures are arrived at based on the previous year’s enrollment. Chief Joseph probably picked up a big chunk of Title I money from the Kenton merger, even though a lot of those kids never came to Chief Joseph. It will be interesting to see the enrollment figures for this year, and see if that Title I figure is lower — I suspect it will be.

    Thanks, Zarwen, for giving detail to why we need certified music teachers. Too many well-meaning (but musically illiterate) parents think an after-school Ethos program, or a Dad coming in and singing Grateful Dead songs to the kids is a reasonable substitute for actual music education.

    Nobody seems to understand what is a given in more enlightened districts. Music literacy is unique in the way teaches integrated left- and right-brain thinking, and is separate endeavor from teaching music performance.

    The two are related, but everybody needs the former, and only a select few are well-suited to the latter and will go on to any kind of success with it. (Not to disparage the importance of teaching performance; I spent many years of study on trumpet, sax and clarinet, starting in fifth grade, and had many rewarding performance experiences.)

  47. Comment from Nicole:

    People may have forgotten (for good reason) that Ruth ran on a platform of ensuring equal opportunity for all students in all neighborhoods. Here’s the link to her campaign webpage where she explained her posistion.

    In particular note her (previous) sense of urgency in addressing the issues raised by the 2006 Mult Co./City of Portland audit of the PPS transfer policy; her promise to take into account how PPS policies impact ALL students not just middle class families with the most influence; and her statement that low income students shouldn’t have to travel across town for a decent public education.

    Fast forward to today, when TRUDY SARGENT is doing a better job of championing Ruth’s campaign promises than Ruth. And when Ruth is now content with a timeline for addressing problems with the transfer policy that would put off implementation of any changes until the 2009-2010 school year.

    Ruth admits that the school transfer market research presented at the board meeting was conducted with the “contented middle” – folks who are happy with their choice (whether neigh. or transfer out), and doesn’t include those who are unhappy because they feel the transfer policy is harming their neighborhood school. Ruth’s suggestion is to encourage the dissatisfied people to serve on an Enrollment and Transfer committee?! What a cowardly, condescending, and ineffective approach for hearing the concerns of parents in lower income schools. To suggest that parents in schools that are being strangled by a PPS policy need to spend our extremely limited parent volunteer hours serving on another committee to raise policy concerns which have already been presented during public testimony and by email to the board backed up with concrete data and facts. And after what some of us have just been through with the Jefferson Design Team farce!

    Parents in low income schools shouldn’t have to serve on district committees begging and groveling for equitable PPS policies and equal educational opportunities for their children. I prefer Ruth’s idea of the tomatoes – it would be just as effective as serving on a committee, be a whole lot more satisfying, and we would still have some time to volunteer in our neighborhood schools that PPS policy is sabatoging where we can actually have an impact on our children’s education.

    I’m embarrassed to say that during the campaign I helped review some of the language on Ruth’s website. I didn’t realize I was involved in creating PR spin much like PPS communications staff do to make the public believe exactly the opposite of the truth.

    Well I guess we can all still say that Ruth is a better board member than Doug Morgan. Or is she? So far, she’s really not.

  48. Comment from Steve:

    It’s easy to be critical of Ruth Adkins, especially since so many pinned the hopes of the Neighborhood Schools Alliance on her candidacy.

    I’ve been impatient, too, but I’m still willing to give her a chance to find her voice. I think it’s starting to be heard, even if it still seems inadequate to some.

    What other school board member has ever used the term “white flight” to describe the results of district policy at a school board meeting?

  49. Comment from Zarwen:

    And, to my knowledge, Ruth is one of only two board members who have ever responded to anyone’s concerns directly on a blog; the other being, of all people, David Wynde. But he has been curiously quiet since school started. Did he even show up at that last Board meeting?

  50. Comment from NoPo Parent:

    I agree with Steve. It’s easy to jump on the anti-Ruth bandwagon. Maybe we should focus our efforts elsewhere?

    But still . . . When she admits to the fact that the market research was conducted with the “contented middle” – folks who are happy with their choice – then it makes bandwagon jumping pretty easy. There is an expression for this: it’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Talk to people who like the policy and . . . by gum, the policy sounds pretty likeable! And I’m sorry, but to consider a sample size of 174 happy folks as somehow representative of the district as a whole is patently offensive to those of us who have a few brain cells left. Give us a freakin’ break, Ruth. Stand up for what you used to stand for.

  51. Comment from NoPo Parent:

    Two other things that jump out at me from this thread: Gabrielle’s heartfelt desperation and Steve Buel’s admonishment that making all schools equal will not make all schools equal. As Gabrielle points out from her own experience, low-income schools are disproportionately affected by pressures outside the school. While making all schools equal in terms of curricular offerings and support, we have to be sure that low-income schools are not abandoned and left to their own once the case has been made that, “Well, they got their way. They have what everyone else has. So why are they still asking for more?” I mention this because precisely the same logic is used to undermine support for low-income schools in other cities, which typically receive more money per pupil than their affluent suburban peer institutions. So let’s be careful not to set a trap here and lay the foundation for a backlash — one step forward, two steps back.

  52. Comment from Nicole:

    Zarwen, Sarah Ames has also responded to people’s concerns on the blogs. In my opinion that’s hardly a reason to excuse everything else that PPS and the board are doing or not doing.

    And let’s remember folks that RUTH is the HEAD of the committee responsible for seeing that the transfer policy gets an adequate and timely review. She is currently THE board member responsible for the fact that the board won’t even start reviewing a work PLAN until 2008 from the superintendent about possible tasks that PPS staff might do to start addressing the transfer policy. And all initial indications are that the ACTIONS that the board majority will support coming out of that process will have no real positive impact on the schools that are being hurt most by the transfer policy (a website for potential new residents to compare schools before they move to Portland, an E/T committee to talk about the issues further, more marketing of low income schools, better transfer information so that MORE families can transfer out of struggling schools, providing more supports for the students who choose to LEAVE the struggling schools, a boundary change policy for active parents who want to change their school boundaries but no comprehensive districtwide boundary study, a transfer cap – HELLO we already have a transfer cap, it’s called sorry the building is full, but if you’re Lincoln we’ll just add more classrooms so you expand your programs that other school don’t have so that you can accept MORE transfer students.) COME ON!

    Ruth “finding her voice” is not the problem. The last thing we need is another board member who can sit up there once or twice a month “talking” about how much they value equity, or how important it is to “close the acheivement gap”, or how we need strong schools across the district. Haven’t you learned that all the talk is meaningless. Vicki Phillips did that better than anyone. The only thing that counts is what is the school board and superintendent willing to DO to ensure a quality education for every child in every neighborhood.

  53. Comment from Nicole:

    I agree with you, Gabrielle, and others about equal not necessarily being equal. I think all schools need equally strong programs and educational opportunities, but low income students and schools absolutely need extra supports.

    The school district gets extra money from the federal government and from grants specifically to provide extra supports for low income students, so there really isn’t a good reason for anyone to argue that low income students shouldn’t get more in school funding. They will try though, so I agree we have to be careful not to let that happen.

  54. Comment from Lynn Schore and Steve Linder:

    ACCOUNTABILITY: PPS Transfer Audit — District COMMITMENTS not met

    One of the agenda items at the 11/5/07 PPS School Board meeting was to address the audit of the PPS Transfer Policy, a full seventeen months after the audit was published by City of Portland Auditor Gary Blackmer and Multnomah County Auditor Suzanne Flynn.

    A link to that audit, entitled “PPS STUDENT TRANSFER SYSTEM: DISTRICT OBJECTIVES NOT MET” can be found here: http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/.....0Audit.pdf.

    Presentations made 11/5/07 by Judy Brennan, head of the PPS Enrollment and Transfer Office, and Adam Davis of the “research” firm Hibbits, were thin, inaccurate, unscientific, cherry-picked, and so utterly lacking that the Board should be ashamed.

    Never were the words “Flynn” or “Blackmer” mentioned by the presenters – let alone having the authors, respected auditors Flynn and Blackmer, at the Board to present data and answer questions.

    Brennan’s and Davis’s presentations were inane, lacked data, and by their own admission were “qualitative not quantitative” — i.e. they amounted to a popularity contest, and were not scientific or representative in any way! Brennan’s presentation had already been made at a pathetic PPS “Board work session” last winter 2007, but material was presented as though it were new. As happened last spring, Monday’s Board meeting produced no measurable results. Both presentations and the School Board follow up (or lack thereof) were insulting to the intelligence of the public, and not worth discussing further.

    My purpose is the remind the School Board of the commitments and promises that former Superintendent Vicki Phillips made regarding Flynn-Blackmer audit and PPS follow up. Those commitments are found in the document above starting on page 22 (25) in a 6/7/06 memo from Superintendent Phillips to the auditors. Those pages are attached as a pdf file below.

    Commitments made by Phillips include:

    “Portland Public School’s (PPS) revised Transfer Policy, passed in August 2002, was designed to make the transfer process fairer, and it has; but throughout its continuing evolution, PPS has not stepped back to fully analyze and prioritize the underlying educational purposes and impact of the transfer process. This is the right time to do so.

    In the last year, particularly, the need to grapple with fundamental issues around School Choice has become obvious to school district staff, the School Board and our school communities. The transfer process raises difficult value and policy judgments that go to the heart of how we raise student achievement in our schools and how we retain a public school system that keeps the support of its constituents. School choice policies touch many of the critical efforts underway at PPS: Our work to strengthen high schools, to ensure that we have strong neighborhood schools in every part of the school district, plans for creating new language immersion programs and focus options, our drive to reduce the achievement gap, and our efforts to strengthen education by creating K-8 schools.

    We have examined transfer issues piecemeal, as they demanded attention or became pressing, but we have not conducted a thorough review, top to bottom, of all the issues our School Choice process involves. Your audit is thus very timely and helpful.”

    During recent years, the District has worked to redefine its future portfolio of schools. This has proven to be difficult. In a climate of tightening resources the Board’s goals – maintaining strong neighborhood schools, providing an array of educational options, and investing significantly in the lowest performing high schools – all depend upon and compete for resources. Attaining one goal may impede accomplishment of the others.

    The Board adopted its new transfer policy with ambitious goals for increasing educational options, but implemented the new transfer system while facing declining enrollments and budget shortfalls. It has responded with a series of plans for school closures, consolidations, and reconfigurations without a set of strategic priorities to balance the Board’s competing goals. The Board has not clarified what it is trying to accomplish with its transfer system.

    The District has not monitored transfer capacity and the implications for school choice as an increasing number of families are not approved for transfers to preferred schools. An effective school choice system requires an adequate supply of school capacity to meet the demand for student transfers.

    The District’s efforts to centralize and formalize the transfer process and make it more accessible to families District-wide, as well as the new requirements for transfer under NCLB, all worked to increase the demand for transfer options while supply was diminishing. The number of transfer slots available for the FY05-06 transfer cycle was reduced by about 50%, compared to the previous year. Reductions were most significant at the high schools and elementary schools. With these slot reductions, the percentage of applicants who were approved for a transfer declined—from 84% in FY04-05 to 72% in FY05-06. Similarly, the percentage of applicants approved to transfer to their first choice school also declined—from 71% in FY04-05 to 61% in FY05-06. Because the lottery became more competitive and fewer families received their first choice, it is critical that the Board establish an explicit purpose for the transfer system. More detailed information can be found in Exhibit 10 in the Appendix. Board needs to clarify the purpose of its school choice system Transfer slots are declining

    I. Given the current uncertainty about funding and the future configuration of schools, we recommend that use of the lottery be limited for the short-term or put on hold until the Board adopts a policy that clarifies the purpose of the school choice system.

    II. In order to insure that operation of the lottery will better meet underlying objectives for an open, fair and transparent transfer system which can better promote equity and achievement in the future, we recommend that the Board increase oversight of the student transfer system.

    III. Once the Board adopts school choice system objectives we recommend that District management:
    •Increase coordination, management and oversight of the various internal functions affecting the student transfer process, which include: ETC; Lottery Contractor; IT; Title I; Research & Evaluation; Communication; Transportation.
    •Develop regular reporting mechanisms on student transfers to District families, management, and the Board.
    •Develop a process for reviewing substantial changes to the lottery process, and simulate the impact of changes on lottery outcomes before implementation of changes.
    •Develop a plan to build the District’s capacity for administering the lottery in-house for the FY07-08 transfer cycle.
    •Conduct regular evaluation of transfer supply and demand. Reviewthe geographic availability of program/focus options. Consider expanding access in underserved clusters and assess the feasibility of using choice zones within a system of school choice.
    •Develop procedures with criteria for principals to use in determining available transfer slots.
    •Implement strategies to strengthen eSIS coding of student enrollment in schools with focus and program options, so that actual transfers to these programs can be better evaluated.
    •Conduct ongoing monitoring and further evaluation of the impact of student transfers on school and student achievement.
    •Follow-through with proposed efforts to support transfers system as outlined in the “Corrective Action Plan” for the final year of the VPSC grant.
    • Develop better internal controls and consistent testing of the lottery weights.”

    If the Board’s confidence in the Hibbits / Adam Davis study is so high, it should have no problem making public the “data” behind the Hibbits’ color dot maps. Data to be made public should include:
    1. Of 174 participants, HOW MANY focus option and HOW MANY neighborhood school parents participated?
    2. What neighborhood schools did their children attend?
    3. What focus option schools participated? (Obviously, with our transfer system, showing us where survey participants reside means nothing. Students can go to school all over the district.)
    4. What was the original selection criteria for participants?
    5. Were there really only three participants from entire WEST SIDE OF PORTLAND, out of 174 participants? If so, why?
    6. Adam Davis, in response to a question by Sonia Henning about the unusual “demographics” in the study, stated they could not survey the west side because of “budget” constraints. WHAT budget constraints could those have been? PPS parents of the west side were available to participate; they don’t live in Portugal or Antarctica, they are just on the other side of a river. Why would it be cheaper to survey east side parents than west side parents?
    7. What SCHOOLS do the three particpants on the west side attend? (They could be schools on the east side.)
    8. Isn’t it true that Hibbits only surveyed three west side particpants out of 174 because, as my fifth grader was able to put it, “the west side is steamed?”

    {For those who haven’t had time to follow PPS on the west side, the west side is steamed for many reasons, including:
    1. Smith closed, and kids were sent to a substandard school facility which STILL has biohazards on the playground; many families left the District entirely; Ash Creek property values have tanked with the loss of Smith. Smith must be reopened as a neighborhood school.
    2. Rieke is the only west side school that has had elementary programs restored — the rest of the west side schools have NOT seen a return of art, music, PE, library and counselors.
    3. Rieke and Stevenson were given promises by Vicki Phillips and the district that they would NOT close, while no other Wilson cluster elementary schools were given such guarantees.
    4. Rieke parents heavily “poached” the Hayhurst catchment area for students this spring and summer. When complaints are made, Rieke parents say “Well, Odyssey poaches Rieke.” Touche, that is true. One of the many problems with PPS’s transfer policy generally, and with co-located schools — is they help set up a “school recruiting war” throughout the district. That’s what Celebrate Schools! is really all about: setting up a Lord of the Flies atmosphere.
    5. Rieke was able to offer all day kindergarten for this year before last year’s transfer deadline; unlike Rieke, Hayhurst had no such guarantees of all day K last year — not at the transfer deadline and NOT by the end of the year. So, as the Tribune reported, Rieke was able to gain 18 kindergartners from the Hayhurst catchment. This loss of 18 students from Hayhurst is NOT because Rieke knows how to market — it’s because Rieke has something TO MARKET. Rieke has FTEs and after school programs that Hayhurst doesn’t have, and in spring 2007 Rieke could offer the ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN GUARANTEE, Hayhurst could not.
    6. PPS historic gerrymandering around Markham and Stevenson elementaries, which is so blatant and severe that though these two schools are three minutes apart by car, Stevenson is 91% white while Markham is 54% white! There are many gross gerrymanders, including a huge cat-tail gerrymander which wraps around Mountain Park, and which PPS needs to address. This cat tail gerrymander is designed to send wealthier Mountain Park students to the white Stevenson, while keeping enough low income kids in Markham to make it the “Title I School” south of Barbur.
    7. Sidewalks going in to the Rieke area through some City program of Sam Adams, even though the Rieke area has the MOST sidewalks of anywhere in SW — as a matter of fact, Rieke used that sidewalk issue to help save their school.
    8. PPS continues to under-resource Hayhurst school, treating it as two schools when it suits the District, and treating it as one school when it comes to under-resourcing. The Hayhurst neighborhood school has 53% of students in poverty, but it cannot receive Title 1 funds because of the Odyssey magnet which PPS placed in the school.
    9. PPS appears to be starving out Hayhurst Elementary for its eventual closure. Non-white students who were traditionally not welcome at Rieke are now returning to Rieke under a boundary change, draining the non-white students from Hayhurst. The community knows that loss of non-white students is a sign you will be closed — that was a first step at Smith.}

    It’s frustrating that the public’s time was wasted by Judy Brennan and Adam Davis at the 11/5/07 Board meeting. The School Board must look at the commitments made by Superintendent Phillips to the City and County auditors in her memorandum. Answer the simple question that has been posed so many times: what is the problem the transfer policy is designed to solve?

    This audit was a requirement of the three year operating levy which commenced last year. PPS is accountable to the taxpayers to this audit, and FIX or terminate the transfer policy. As Steve Rawley put it, if PPS is increasing segregation or inequity, PPS better darn well be able to explain WHY! What possible objective could override the Board’s moral and legal obligation to provide equal access to equitable education throughout the district??

    Parents don’t understand how PPS can be entering into facilities discussions when it has not determined how to have equitable programs across the district. PPS must first address Flynn-Blackmer and equity, THEN focus on schools to provide that new, equitable plan. The Flynn-Blackmer audit found that PPS’s current transfer policies fosters segregation. Why would we focus on real estate now, when we have not addressed district-wide segregation — that’s putting the cart before the horse.

    I fear that Flynn-Blackmer will be another Annenberg Study: a hard-won, critical, competent study which will have absolutely no measurable result in stopping segregation and inequity in Portland Public Schools.

    –Lynn Schore

  55. Comment from Rene:

    This may be the most obvious, naive question, but I am here to ask it anyway, because I’d like to know the answer:

    Exactly why is the school board so loathe to admit the obvious negative results of the transfer policy? Exactly who are they afraid of upsetting?

    Are there that many parents who will balk?

    Or is there another reason?

  56. Comment from Nancy:

    Rene’s is THE $64,000 question: “Exactly why is the school board so loathe to admit the obvious negative results of the transfer policy?

    And Lynn’s is the $64,000 answer: “What possible objective could override the Board’s moral and legal obligation to provide equal access to equitable education throughout the district??

  57. Comment from NSA Member:

    Ruth Adkins did not create the current transfer policy. However, as co-founder and spokesperson for Neighborhood Schools Alliance, she most certainly does not need to “find her voice” regarding the damage inflicted as a result of this policy; in fact, she has repeatedly used her voice to speak out loudly against many of the very issues being made on this thread.

    One activity Ruth and other NSA members took part in was an attempt to create a PPS equity study. It became obvious in short order, however, that the inequities in PPS are so pervasive and engrained throughout the system that the task became overwhelming, and was eventually shelved.

    Ruth wrote several press releases that spoke out specifically against PPS actions with Jefferson and the design team. She wrote a scathing letter to the board outlining the gross inequity between education opportunities at Jefferson and Wilson, her neighborhood school. She spoke and wrote repeatedly about neighborhood schools being the “crown jewels of our city”, and the necessity of having equitable, strong neighborhood schools throughout. She spoke out against the inequitable treatment of parents and disparate discipline/rules for some students. And this was long before she became a school-board candidate!!!

    However, as the school board member given the “prime” position to recommend changes and make improvements in the transfer policy (to correct and eliminate the VERY inequities she has spoken out so eloquently against), Ruth, put simply, dropped the ball. She has not addressed the issues in the Flynn/Blacker audit, even though she promised that was her urgent priority. Solutions such as putting together a focus committee, giving special help to those who have already transferred and waiting years to deal with the devastating effects of the transfer policy demonstrate that Ruth is not committed to equal access to educational opportunities for all nor equitable neighborhood schools through PPS.

    We all appreciate that Ruth reads and responds to the blogs. However, Ruth owes it to those who have supported her, voted for her and worked along side her to explain why she has abandoned the very principles and issues she has strongly and often used her own “voice” to defend. Ruth must find her voice again to genuinely change and correct this transfer policy, and eliminate the tremendous harm being caused by it. By doing so, Ruth can and will make a profound and lasting difference to the lives of all PPS children, their children and their children. It’s not too late Ruth; please find your voice; the precious children are waiting and counting on you.

  58. Comment from Ben:

    Does PPS allow tranfers to out of district schools? The recent article on Lake Oswego opening up to students out of area could lower PPS state funds.

    I also heard via some friends that their private school (not a magnet program) had made inquiry of taking over at least a portion of the recently closed Rose City Park. They want to the entire building. This would be great for them, horrible for what is left of our neighborhood school.

  59. Comment from Steve Buel:

    “What possible objective could override the Board’s moral and legal obligation to provide equal access to equitable education throughout the district??

    How about making sure the upper middle class schools favored by SFC and PSF members get what they want? That is priority #1 through #99 with the school board.

    How does equity benefit the upper middle class schools? It just creates the possibility of losing resources. So why should the school board support it? This is not rocket science.

    And as to Ruth’s early musings and writings. The Neighborhood School Alliance didn’t get her elected. It was SFC and the members of PSF. Without them she gets clobbered like everyone else. So who does she owe? This is not rocket science either.

  60. Comment from Zarwen:


    The short answer to your question is “no,” PPS does not aloow out-of-district transfers. PPS district residents who enroll their children in other districts have to pay tuition, and PPS gets to keep the state allocation for those children.

    Concerning RCP, Cathy Mincberg said almost a year ago that it would be declared “surplus property,” which means it will be sold or leased. That was the real reason it was closed!

    If you take a hard look at recent school closures, especially the ones in SE and on westside, they had nothing to do with underachieving schools and not much to do with underenrolled schools. It was all about vacating properties that the district wants to sell or lease to generate profits. That is how the entire district is run. Check out the ties PSF, the school board, and the PPS “Real Estate Trust” have to land developers! Check out the article in Friday’s paper about their plan to get the Lincoln property! I have lived and taught in three different geographic regions and I have never seen anything like this anywhere else.

  61. Comment from CONCERNEDDAD:

    Really sorry to hear what you guys have to put up with to get a decent education.

    Reading over this controversy sure makes me glad I decided to home school. Not to sound like I’m bragging (because it applies to all homeschoolers), but our kids get more done, in less time, with less interference and bureaucracy, for a tiny fraction of the cost.

    Test scores are independent of economic strata, ethnic background, or educational accomplishments of parents. In other words, it doesn’t matter who the parents are, kids score on average 30% higher on standardized tests.

    They get Art, Music, History, Government, Science, PE, Literature, and are exposed to more subjects, at an earlier age, than public schools can dream of.

    I’m surprised more folks don’t give it a try. It’s the best way I know of to keep kids in the neighborhood and parents involved in their education.

  62. Comment from Looking for a lawyer:

    Here’s a federal case from Texas where the judge wrote, “The court is left with the distinct impression that the primary objective of fairly educating students was lost, and substituted in its place was an effort to prevent white flight from Preston Hollow [school].”

    In the Texas case the court couldn’t find the school board liable because the segregation of students was orchestrated by the school’s principal without sufficient knowlegde by the school board. I think the outcome of such a case in Portland would have been full liability for the school board (under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) since our school board members know that their policies are increasing school segregation and resulting in unequal and unfair education to students, and they have made clear that their priority is keeping white middle and upper income families in the school district over fairly educating all students.

  63. Comment from Looking for a lawyer:

    Here’s the link to a description of the lawsuit:

  64. Comment from Ruth Adkins:

    However, as the school board member given the “prime” position to recommend changes and make improvements in the transfer policy (to correct and eliminate the VERY inequities she has spoken out so eloquently against), Ruth, put simply, dropped the ball.

    There’s a big difference between a single board member (or committee chair) recommending changes, and actually getting those changes made (i.e. obtaining a majority of votes on the board). Making “bold” statements at board meetings isn’t worth much. Trying to bring about actual change in a large organization is (for me at least) slow work esp. on a part-time basis. The work includes not just counting to 4 but also building consensus, figuring out how far to push while still being effective and yes, finding one’s voice.

    I’d be the first to admit- five months into the job, I have failed to fix the problems and inequities in PPS. All I can do is keep trying, however inadequate it may seem.

    Part of the responsibility of the job is to take into account all aspects of every issue facing the district and to make your best judgment. In this case after hearing from my colleagues I made the judgment (which obviously, many folks on this blog take serious exception to) to ask the new Supt to come up with a plan by Jan. 10 (including potential changes to the transfer policy). And yes, this plan needs to refer directly back to the Flynn/Blackmer audit recommendations and Vicki’s responses to them. FWIW I failed to specify that on Nov. 5 and have since asked the Supt to link her recs back to that so that there will finally be some accountability back to that audit.

    Thank you,

  65. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Hey, Ruth, I am still willing to get involved in helping find solutions to the types of problems in neighborhoods that don’t seem to get addressed. Haven’t heard from you though. Today I’ll call the superintendent (for the umpteenth time) and volunteer to help there also.

    Good idea asking the super to come up with a plan. I’ll be glad to help her. I have some ideas on this stuff.

    Can’t agree that loudly speaking out at board meetings doesn’t do much good. It keeps the issues that need to be addressed at the forefront. Gives them credibility in the community. Makes people stop and think. The school board has been full of people working “behind the scenes” and “being able to count to four” etc. for years. Hasn’t done much for those lower economic schools. Maybe it is time for a new strategy.

    P.S. You are sounding a little testy.

    P.S.S. You are in a heck of a dilemma having championed something that the powers that be aren’t all that fond of. A little balance could go a long ways.

  66. Comment from Sick of excuses:

    The School Board shouldn’t need a work plan from the Superintendent in order for the board to clarify the goal of the transfer policy. And the superintendent can’t really come up with a good work plan without some direction from the board about what the policy is supposed to be accomplishing.

    The possible items mentioned by PPS staff for the work plan at the meeting would have no significant impact on improving the schools that have been harmed by the policy and you know it. How hard is it for you to say, first things first, we as a board need to identify the goal of the policy.

    Instead of a work plan in 2 months, you could have requested some background research from staff about how the transfer policy has affected the course offerings and programs available to students across the district. You could ask for a comparisons of schools showing the number of student living in the attendance boundary, the course offerings and programs available at the school, and the number of students transferring out. This would help to clearly show that the transfer policy is directly responsible for reducing educational opportunities for students in low income schools. You could have asked for data about transfer requests, including who is requesting transfers and who actually receives them. You could have asked for a comparison of transfer data from K-8 vs. middle schools for the 6-8th grades, and also a comparison of transfer data from comprehensive high schools vs. small academies, to show that the configurations PPS is forcing on lower income neighborhoods are not as desirable as the middle school and comprehensive high schools in wealthier parts of town like yours, and that many students are forced to go there against their will.

    You could have asked for a districtwide review of school boundaries, instead of a boundary change policy. You could have said that we have outdated, and in some cases, extremely gerrymandered boundaries in PPS that contribute to racial segregation and concentrate rich and poor students in neighboring schools. And also that some transfers could be reduced simply by having school boundaries that assign people to their closest neighborhood school or to a school that doesn’t require crossing major traffic arterials.

    As the chair of the committee responsible for overseeing the review of the transfer policy, you could have at least reread the 2006 transfer audit and response from the district before the committee or board meeting.

    You also could have questioned the effectiveness of having the head of the transfer office being the lead staff person on this project – someone whose job and whole department is dependent upon having an open transfer policy that serves about 10% of PPS families. You could have politely pointed out some of the deficiencies in the focus group process. You could have questioned whether it is wise to have the market research firm that donated it services to the Rieke Growth Plan (which relies on the transfer policy to help increase enrollment) also doing the focus groups to gauge parent satisfaction with the transfer policy.

    You could have said that PPS has a responsibility to provide equal educational opportunities to all students regardless of race and class and we are clearly not doing that. You could have said that we need to change a policy that drains millions of dollars of public education funding from low income neighborhoods and sends them to wealthier neighborhoods like yours. You could have said that PPS policies like the transfer policy place more importance on keeping white, middle and upper income families in teh school district, than on fairly educating all children. You could have said that this is not only immoral but it also opens up the district for a civil rights lawsuit.

    There is currently no vote on the table about the transfer policy. What matters now is what are you doing as head of the committee so that board members can make an infomed vote when the time comes, which “takes into account all aspects of an issue” and not just the interests of a few focus group attendees who are content with the current policy or the of the parents who might “flee” to private school if their kids have to be in a classroom with low income or minority kids.

    You say that you have failed to fix the problems and inequities in PPS after 5 months as a board member, as if anyone is suggesting that you should have solved it all by now. But let’s contrast the time and energy put on addressing inequities caused by the transfer policy with the time and energy spent on the Rieke project over the last 5 months. Let’s compare the progress being made on the Rieke growth project by your board committee and your new friends in the Mayor’s office and city council, the Portland Schools Foundation, The Oregonian, etc. with your effectiveness so far on making a case for the need to address the inequities in the transfer policy.

    It’s clear what your priorities are Ruth, just don’t make excuses about being just one vote or about being still new to the board. When there’s a will there’s a way, and when there’s not a will there’s a call for a committee and a work plan for someone to do something sometime in the future.

  67. Comment from Think of Them as Your Own:

    Ruth: If yours were the children being cheated and discriminated against would you allow those discriminating against them to stop and “take into account all aspects of an issue” before correcting the discriminatory situation?

    Heck no, you would demand an end to the discrimination of your children, immediately.

    Some things you just have to stand up for, and this is one. Discrimination and inequity against children is just plain wrong, no matter how you try to dress it or dance around it.

    Envision for a moment that the students in the Madison, Marshall and north (Roosevelt/Jeff) clusters are your own children. Then you would stop making excuses and make damned sure they’d receive all the educational programs and activities your children really do have at Reike and Wilson.

  68. Comment from Steve:

    Hey gang, let’s take some deep breaths here.

    Ruth Adkins is one of seven board members. I understand your frustration with her; I’ve expressed some myself. But I don’t see any point beating up on her in public. She’s not going to be shamed into being the board member we want her to be. Let’s be realistic (and maybe a little compassionate to the human being we know and have worked with toward common goals).

    I agree that the kinds of policy changes that are needed should start with the board. That’s how it’s supposed to work; the board makes policy and staff implements it. I’m disappointed that such an important policy question has been delegated to staff for recommendations, especially given that I think my policy recommendation is great.

    But I’m not that naive.

    The reality is that the board is made up of part-time volunteers with little or no public policy expertise. As much as we’d all like one of them to take the lead on this, it’s not happening.

    So let’s turn our attention to Carole Smith. The ball is in her court. Let’s get some e-mails and letters on her desk with our constructive policy suggestions. My own proposal starts with programming equity at all neighborhood schools. (Honestly, if we can mandate reading curriculum across the district, why not music?)

    Many of you have worked on these issues with Ruth far longer than I have, and are feeling burned. I understand that. But I don’t think venting that publicly is doing our cause any good.

  69. Comment from sjdprods:

    One point on Rieke supposedly “poaching” the Hayhurst catchment. As Lynn and Steve know, the boundary change that resulted in that shift was recommended and approved by the board the year BEFORE the proposed closure / marketing plan at Rieke. The shift was made specifically to address accusations (like those offered by Lynn and Steve above re minority students “not welcome” at Rieke — Puh-leese) that the district was improperly *excluding* lower income students from Rieke because they were outside the Rieke boundary even though they lived “across the street.”

    And now Rieke is somehow to blame for the district’s decision to have the school take the very students that it’s been blamed for not taking? Seems like one of those classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios. It’s not clear to me whether the better alternative is to insist that students who live across the street from Rieke now NOT be permitted to walk to that neighborhood school in order to drive to Hayhurst?

    Remember, Rieke is the ONLY neighborhood school laboring under a specific transfer limit. If you want to target your attention to priorities on this issue, it seems like there are a lot of other places, with much higher transfer rates, to which such attention is better directed.

  70. Comment from sjdprods:

    To make sure I’m clear in that second to last paragraph — it may not be — I’m trying to understand whether Lynn and Steve think it’s better to leave the change as is, thereby avoiding the improper gerrymandering that they don’t like, or to reverse the Rieke-Hayhurst boundary change, reinstituting the gerrymandering and requiring kids who can walk to Rieke to drive or be bussed to Hayhurst unless they transfer (!) to Rieke.

  71. Comment from Steve:

    I’ve never written about Rieke or Hayhurst. I think Lynn is the only one who’s brought up this issue here.

  72. Comment from NSA Member:

    “But I don’t think venting that publicly is doing our cause any good.”

    I respectfully disagree Steve. When a person runs for public office, makes specific promises to families and children, is elected based upon those promises, then breaks those promises – the public has a right and obligation to hold them publicly accountable to follow through with the promises made, particularly when children are involved.

  73. Comment from sjdprods:

    Steve (@4:47pm)– fair enough. Based on the 11/11 7pm Comment labeled “from Lynn and Steve,” which was the one I was primarily responding to, I assumed you had the same viewpoint. Perhaps not.

    On another point: “Sick of excuses” suggests (11/15 at 11:16am) that there’s been some huge amount of “time and energy spent on the Rieke project” over the last five months by the Board and others. While there’s been plenty of *local* time invested, Sick makes the mistake of assuming that news articles = evidence of lots of time spent at the district and city level. It just ain’t so. I haven’t seen it, whether from Ruth, from District staff, or from the city.

    So where does that growth come from? Every commenter here is well aware — many all too well — of the injury that threats of closure do to schools, and you should know just as well what is entirely likely to happen when the direct threats, at least, go away: Enrollment grows (marketing or not). The main point of most of this discussion is about the synergy that stability (whether through better programs, more funding, fewer transfers, or all of the above) provides in the form of quality neighborhood schools and parent confidence in / satisfaction with those schools. Why is it so surprising or objectionable that when the District finally shuts up about “declining enrollment” and closing schools, enrollment actually starts to rebound?

    What about transfers? I address the point above, but once again, I can’t understand why all the focus when the 20% transfer cap that is an integral part of the Rieke plan is the kind of limiting of neigborhood-to-neighborhood transfers of which many here would seem to approve. (Again, compare that 20% transfer rate to, for instance, the 34% transfer rate at Alameda, or the 27/28% transfer rates at Laurelhurst, Duniway, and Chapman, or even the 42% rate at Ainsworth.)

  74. Comment from Steve:

    Ah, I understand. There are a few Steves here. Me (the owner of this blog), Steve Buel, and Steve Linder. (I like to think that deep down inside, we’re all Steve. Some of us are just more in touch with it than others.)

  75. Comment from Sick of excuses:

    Dear sjdprods,
    Please don’t take view my criticism of Ruth as a board member to be criticism of Rieke or the Rieke commmunuty. You may not have noticed the extra attention and external support that Rieke is getting now that Ruth is on the board, but it is happening. (I won’t list all the examples but I assure you that it’s more than newspaper articles.) That fact doesn’t diminsh the fact that the local Rieke community is doing a great job of supporting the school, and that is commendable. I agree that Rieke has been put in an unfair position to grow or close.

    My issue is that, despite claims of being “just one vote” and powerless to make a difference, Ruth has actually been quite successful at gaining support for Rieke’s cause and if she wanted to could help garner some similiar attention and support for issues of districtwide equity. I am happy that things are going well for Rieke, but that’s not enough, and it certainly shouldn’t be a reason to hold back on addressing inequities in the district out of fear for rocking the boat and losing support for Rieke.

    And let’s find a way to preserve Rieke that doesn’t rely on draining students from other neighborhoods. If every school in a wealthier neighborhood was allowed to bring in only 20% of its students from lower income neighborhoods, that’s still a pretty significant shift of enrollment and public education dollars from poor to rich neighborhoods.

    Rieke is certainly not the problem, the system is. Ruth is in a position (as a board member and as head of the committee reviewing the transfer policy, etc.) to fix the system so that all our children benefit. Apparently there is a lot pressure on her to ignore the inherent flaws in the current transfer system and other PPS policies that serve white middle and upper income students districtwide at the expense of others. So please forgive me if I put pressure on her to address the inequitites, and please don’t take it personally. I just want the school district to fulfill its obligation to all public school students. Trust me requesting politely, collaborating nicely, and recommending cooperatively has proven to be 100% ineffective. There are too many influential people and groups who have a vested interest in having an inequitable system. Change will only come when a majority of board members are willing to do what is right rather than what is easiest or most politically expedient.

  76. Comment from sjdprods:

    Sick —

    Understood. I guess we may just have to agree to disagree on whether the fact that Ruth is there has had any effect re the amount of discussion re Rieke. I don’t see it — the “marketing plan” was in place, as were most of the kids at issue in this year’s growth — before she was ever elected, and I think the district would have tried to use it as “news” otherwise, having had so much bad news. And the “grow or die” whipsaw still deserves substantial attention (what’s the latest on the “400 student elementary”) anyway.

  77. Comment from sjdprods:

    Sick —

    Understood. I guess we may just have to agree to disagree on whether Ruth’s election has had any effect re the amount of discussion re Rieke. I don’t see it, since all of the elements for this fall’s “news” were in place long before her election — including the “marketing plan,” the highly involved Hillsdale community / neighborhood association and their push with the city and Metro, and (most importantly) the bulk of the students that made up this year’s growth. If anything, I’d think the converse is more likely — i.e., she’s largely stayed away for fear of spurring the very kinds of objections that you offer up. That’s been more consistent with my observations (for all the good it’s done!).

    In any event, you’re right that there are other focuses that deserve attention; the “grow or die” whipsaw, for instance, still deserves substantial attention (what’s the latest on the “400 student elementary” anyway? That still has to be beaten down, rather than allowing it to turn into conventional wisdom and threatening a huge number of schools throughout the district, which is not to say that it’s not a day late and a dollar short for others). I’m concerned on the transfer front, though, about the “inequity” arguments that invariably rear their ugly head when a school closes its doors to transfers. In its own way, that looks just as inequitable — arguably more so in the short run — as allowing them. In the long run, is it better to close all doors to neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers? I’m willing to accept the proposition, but am a little leery of how to accomplish that without tearing up the district.

    In general, I think the district spends too much time thinking out (and precipitously implementing) “big changes,” and not enough time bringing about incremental ones. If they shifted boundaries every year, for instance, making changes applicable to new incoming students, rather than radical shifts applicable to all students, they wouldn’t find themselves with a sense of entitlement associated with particular schools, and could manage size issues better. Under current approaches, though, it ends up being an all or nothing proposition. It seems to me that avulsive shifts in policy are generally disruptive. Sometimes disruption is good, but if you don’t think it out ahead of time (or if those unanticipated consequences rear their ugly head) it can be a real mess. Sure — I recognize that a lot of people have been waiting a long time for change, and that it’s taken too long for district leadership to acknowledge that this is a big part of the problem. We may be there, at least (though I recognize that many disagree). In the end, though, it seems to me that if you start with a transfer cap — implemented along with (or followed a year later by) boundary changes applicable to incoming students in order to counteract enrollment changes (though that’s subject to discussion) — you might be able to demonstrate progress toward overall goals without the accompanying disruption.

  78. Comment from Sick of excuses:


    Don’t worry I’m sure that Ruth is working dilligently on the minimum 400 students per school issue.

    I agree that just shutting the door on transfers isn’t going to solve any problems, and neither will just capping transfers! Along with changes to the transfer system, the district needs to provide equitable offerings and programs at all schools, school boundaries that make sense, and an end to the 400-students per school mandate. They are all essential. And phasing in policies with grandfather clauses, etc. can ease most disruptions.

    I don’t know anyone who wants major changes that aren’t well-thought out in advance. Assuming you’re from Rieke/SW, I can assure you that the schools in our part of town have been disrupted by many more hasty and poorly implemented “big changes” than yours have, and we’ve also had the threat (and reality) of closures to deal with. I wouldn’t wish those things on anyone’s school, neighborhood, or children.

    Given the extent of the inequities in the district, little incremental steps like you describe can be more disruptive and less effective than thoughtful, comprehensive, and well-implemented changes to the system. The changes don’t have to happen overnight, but we should be able to have a districtwide plan for how to create equitable schools before we ask the voters for a capital bond to fund a districtwide facilities plan to house those schools.

  79. Comment from Zarwen:

    Re the “grow or die whipsaw” that was being discussed, above:

    Unfortunately, it is still very much alive and well. I know because I went to a Board committee meeting a few weeks ago where this thing was discussed. Bobbie Regan wanted to implement a specific timeline for a certain school to get to 400+ even though the new Super recommended waiting until the facilities planning process is finished. Dilafruz Williams pointed out that there are still over 20 elementary schools under 400. The other Board member present was Ruth Adkins. Curiously, no one mentioned the OVERCROWDING issues happening at other schools!!! even though they had just finished voting to change Rosa Parks to a K-5 because there isn’t enough room there to house grades 6-8! Makes me wanna bang my head against the wall!!!

  80. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The school board will not move one iota when confronted with polite, reasoned arguments. For one thing they don’t use reasoned arguments themselves for making decisions. Their decisions, for years, have been based upon what is good for their supporters, upper middle class neighborhoods. They even tell people before they speak that they want them to act nice. Be polite. “Be a good roll model for the children we serve”. How do you demonstrate listening without asking questions or making comments. The whole public input process is a farce.

    They don’t want to hear and respond to arguments which don’t go along with their own narrow focus. After all, I have volunteered for years to sit on committees or help various administrators or board members with particular projects or issues. In 20 years how many committees have I been asked to participate in, or issues I have been asked to officially help address. NONE. Not one. Not one board member even bothered to return my last emails (including Ruth). Why? I can’t be trusted to support the company line. I start from a different perspective — lower income neighborhoods and the need for genuinely addressing the problems in the schools. They don’t really want to do that. Protest and shaming is all that is left.

    Here, I volunteer to sit on the committee working on the transfer process. Call me. I am in the phone book.I would be glad to work within a reasoning atmosphere. I won’t wait up though.

  81. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Steve B.,
    I appreciate your energy and brains, even if others seem like they don’t. (And I also saw your letter to the editor in this week’s Oregonian, by the way: http://www.oregonlive.com/opin.....thispage=3)

    Add Jefferson to proposal

    What a great idea! A new state-of-the-art high school built with the proceeds of the sale of the current Lincoln High School site (“Lincoln High parents embrace selling the school for bigger site,” Nov. 10). But since Lincoln isn’t the only new high school we need, let’s couple it with an equally state-of-the-art school to replace Jefferson High School.

    If there is not enough money to replace both schools, we can have the Lincoln and Jefferson school communities raise funds and share the money equally. Maybe after such a project we could begin some healing in this school district.

    North Portland

    Thank you for always keeping it rolling. WM

  82. Comment from marcia:

    “Makes me wanna bang my head against the wall!!!”
    Yes. and it reminds me of my favorite saying: JUST SAY NO TO IDIOTS.

  83. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Just say no to Assclowns, too!

  84. Comment from Zarwen:

    Unfortunately, Marcia and Wacky, we don’t have the option of saying no when the idiots and assclowns are on the school board!

  85. Comment from Oregonian37:

    Did you see this about OPB putting out a survey about Portland schools, the transfer policies and overall satisfaction?


  86. Comment from LCparent:

    You are right on the money about the transfer policy. This is not just a Portland area school problem, this is a statewide problem, especially in the rural areas. In Lincoln County the policy, and I use the term loosely, is very similar to the Portland policy. The net effect is that one school, Newport, ends up with more and more students while the outlying schools end up with less and less. Newport is more affluent and the more affluent people in the rural area are transferring their kids to Newport. Of course the money follows the kids, so it becomes a snowball effect. The more rural schools have less money, so they have less programs, which in turn makes them less attractive to students – more transfer out!!

    Newport is subsidizing their programs with students and money from outside their attendance area.

    We need the legislature to step in and stop these transfers!! The constitution calls for equal education for all students, but that is not happening.