PPS Event at Vernon Tonight

by Steve, December 4th, 2007

PPS area directors and principals of Vernon Elementary and Jefferson High will meet tonight with community members who petitioned the district to change attendance area boundaries to take them out of the Jefferson cluster.

Jefferson cluster families have been calling attention to the inequities in our cluster for three years, and have been met with absolute silence from the district. So it’s a bit of an affront that the district would only feel compelled to address this fundamental issue when confronted by residents of Beaumont-Wilshire. Not to denigrate these people, who are just trying to get what’s best for their kids, but don’t the rest of us matter?

This is a great opportunity for all Jefferson cluster families to come out and see what kind of excuses and promises the district will make.

Here’s a letter from Carole Smith announcing the meeting.

The meeting is tonight at 6:30 at Vernon Elementary School, 2044 NE Killingsworth.

24 Responses to “PPS Event at Vernon Tonight”

  1. Comment from Terry:

    The request for a boundary change should also be interpreted as an affront to the district visionaries who reconfigured Jefferson in a manner that few people seem to like.

    Will the district ever learn from its mistakes?

  2. Comment from Steve:

    What mistakes?

    (In other words, if you can’t acknowledge your mistakes, you certainly can’t learn from them.)

  3. Comment from Terry:

    Well, the numbers at the Young Men’s Academy don’t lie.

    Did anybody go to the Vernon meeting last night? I seriously thought about it since it wasn’t televised.

    (By anybody, I mean you or anyone else who can be trusted to report accurately what was said.)

  4. Comment from Steve Buel:

    People trying to get out of Vernon, who has had good success with their testing, just kind of shows that testing is not the ballgame. There are many, many more relevant reasons that make a school a school where you want to send your children.

  5. Comment from Steve:

    My sources tell me there were three reps from the district (Judy Brennan, head of the transfer and enrollment office; Cynthia Gilliam, the area director; and Leslie Butterfield, principal of Vernon). Nobody from Jefferson or the office of high schools attended.

    There were two Beaumont-Wilshire petitioners, two reporters (Beth Slovic from Willamette Week and Kim Melton from The Oregonian) and eight or nine concerned parents from the Jefferson cluster. Questions on equity, transfer policy and Jefferson went unanswered, and things “got pretty heated at times,” according to one source.

  6. Comment from Nancy:

    That’s right Steve. There was no representation from Jefferson at the meeting. Supposedly, the Jefferson administrators were not informed of the meeting.

    Something’s very wrong in paradise!!

  7. Comment from Steve:

    I guess I’m glad I didn’t go. I hate it when people waste my time. It’s very disrespectful.

    Here’s a quote from the superintendent’s invitation letter:

    “Several petitioners indicated concerns about the academic offerings at Vernon and Jefferson schools. In response, we invite you to meet the area directors and principals from these schools to share your thoughts and to hear first hand the opportunities that their schools can offer your students.”

  8. Comment from Zarwen:

    Why should anyone waste time at a meeting when you can read about the “opportunities” in Willamette Week? And get a clearer picture, too.


  9. Comment from Zarwen:

    “Supposedly, the Jefferson administrators were not informed of the meeting.”

    How is that possible, when Carole Smith’s letter was cc’d to Cynthia Harris??

  10. Comment from Nicole:

    So far it looks like the fate of Jefferson is as bleak under Carole Smith as it was under Vicki Phillips.

    But regarding Vernon I thought the principal did a good job describing the opportunities for students at her school, and I appreciated that she didn’t try to deny that there are inequities within the school district that still need to be addressed. In general I feel pretty optimistic about the future of Vernon, and I hope that parents will support the continued improvement of the school. (I also hope more people will get behind a districtwide attendance boundary review to ensure that all PPS families, including those from Beaumont-Wilshire, are assigned to a neighborhood school that is actually located in their neighborhood.)

    I learned today that a Vernon teacher has submitted a funding request of $816, through http://www.donorschoice.org, for materials to provide hands-on learning opportunities for Kindergarten students “such as an aquarium, sand and water tubs, plants and butterflies.”

    To read the teacher’s full project description, or to submit a donation to help bring more hands-on learning experiences to current and future Vernon Kindergartners go to:

  11. Comment from Steve:

    Efforts of Vernon teachers and principals notwithstanding, high poverty schools still suffer from the “Sophie’s Choice” scenario of cutting music, P.E. and art in order to fund extra literacy help or smaller classrooms.

    PPS has a free market philosophy from top to bottom, and it results in a kindergarten teacher begging private donors for $800 for basic classroom supplies while other schools have it all.

    Chief Joseph has Smartboards in just about every classroom, P.E., music, library, counseling, and a technology specialist.

    Vernon’s begging for an aquarium.

    Chief Joseph has a 13.65 FTE ratio and is 51.9% free and reduced lunch.

    Vernon has a 16 FTE ratio and is 86.5% free and reduced lunch.

    Both are in the Jefferson cluster. Vernon is majority black (58.7%). Chief Joseph is majority white (54.3%).

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  12. Comment from Gabrielle:

    Having pulled my son from Vernon, I can tell you that what you hear from administration is bullshit. In an ideal world we would never have had to make this choice. Did Leslie (principal) also mention there are 30 kids in one kindergarten class with no educational assistants? That PE is not offered so the pre-k and K teacher do a “switch” once a week for 20 minutes so the k kids can get a little excercise (have you tried organizing 30 (5 year old) kids for 20 minutes to do anything?).
    The funding at Vernon and other high minority schools is not adequate to mee the needs of the majority of students. This is a disservice to all the kids. If you have a high acheiving kid, they will be bored and unengaged. If you have a child struggling, they will be bored and unengaged.
    My opinion is the district boundry is placed to keep title one funding. As the Wilshire/Beaumont neighborhood gentrifies (and other neighborhoods around Vernon and other title one schools) the boundaries will be changed to keep the title one funding.

  13. Comment from Nicole:

    I also have a pre-K child in a N/NE neighborhood school, and I would really like to talk to you about your experience at Vernon and about finding the best option for next year. Please email me at nicolebreedlove at yahoo com if you would like to share info. Thank you.

  14. Comment from Nicole:

    The follow-up meeting to hear about educational opportunities at Jefferson has been scheduled for Monday, December 17th at 6:30 pm in the JHS cafeteria, 5210 N. Kerby. District reps and Jefferson administrators will be there to share information and answer questions. Please spread the word to anyone who might be interested in attending.

  15. Comment from Nicole:

    The meeting Monday evening (Dec 17th) about educational opportunities at Jefferson, has been postponed.

  16. Comment from Steve:

    Word from the district is that the Jefferson meeting tonight is still on.

  17. Comment from Nicole:

    As far as I know most (or all?) of the parents and community members who were informed by the district (on Friday) about the meeting tonight and asked to publicize it have requested that the meeting be rescheduled to a date when adequate notice can be provided and more parents who want to attend can be there.

    Here are messages that I know of from Jefferson area parents and community members about the short meeting notice and/or requesting a new meeting that we could all attend. Thank you.

    From: Todd M.
    Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2007 19:19:49 GMT
    To: zsmith@pps.k12.or.us
    CC: ….
    Subject: Re: Jefferson Cluster Parent Meeting


    Thank you for the invitation. I would like to attend, but cannot because of a prior commitment.

    The petition I signed was ostensibly aimed to address the idea of sending kids to schools closest to where they live. A little digging convinced me that parents in this area are concerned about their kids receiving a decent education at Jefferson High. It’s obvious that there’s a discrepancy (at least in data from the available quantitative means) in high school quality in the Portland district. Until the district can change this, I would guess that parents will be left to try to “work the system” and get their kids to the school of their choice. I realize that the petition may have been an attempt at doing just that.

    I want to come to the meeting and be assured that my child will receive an education at Jefferson High that will prepare him for college. The small amount research that I’ve done indicates that Jefferson may not be currently able to do this.

    I feel a big problem is that only the people that live in the Jefferson cluster care about the education there. Ask the people that live on SW Vista Avenue who have kids attending Lincoln, and I’m sure they wouldn’t care or even know the extent of problems at Jefferson. I’m sure any parent outside the Jefferson cluster would just simply be glad that they don’t live within the area. People are selfish: “my kids go to a great school. It’s just too bad for those folks over in Northeast Portland.” Are there any advocates for improving Jefferson that don’t live in the Jefferson cluster and aren’t paid employees of the district? I’d love to hear that I’m wrong on this point.

    Maybe just threatening to bus kids from all over the city in order to fully mix up the demographics would get all parents and people in Portland to take notice? By making the high school assignment for each kid a matter of pure chance, I’m convinced that most people would demand equality for all the schools.

    It’s really a shame on this city that proclaims itself very “livable” and “forward thinking” that, within a single school district there could be, what appears to me, such an education gap. A gap evidenced by parents coming up with ideas such as a petition to change the cluster boundaries.

    In the future I would appreciate a bit more notice for these meetings. I understand that school district employees are busy and these short notices will happen from time to time. I do feel somewhat snubbed in that the school district representatives did not show up for the previous meeting at Vernon School, for which I’m sure they were aware of for at least two weeks.

    Previously, I received a letter about the December 4th meeting dated November 14th. For this Monday’s meeting, I’m being asked to attend on, essentially, two working days notice. I have to say that puts all of the district management in a bad light for me. It makes me somewhat suspicious and think that people would rather avoid having the meeting at all or it just got put aside, then squeezed in a the last moment before the Christmas holiday. I hope these suspicions are unfounded.

    Will there be any record of the meeting that I can review later?

    Also, could you tell me when the last time the school boundaries were re-drawn? I was asked to sign the petition in mid-summer and am wondering how long ago this area (Beaumont/Wilshire) was incorporated into the Jefferson cluster.

    EMAIL SENT 12/16/07:
    Jefferson Parents,
    It was discussed today and at yesterday’s parent meeting, the consensus is that we do NOT attend tomorrow night’s meeting at Jefferson? Zeke, Carole Smith’s chief in command, only gave a one day notice.
    This is not enough time to adequately prepare for a meeting that is 3 plus years in the making. I think Mr. Crittenden will send out the notice. AGAIN, the collective decision is, WE WILL NOT ATTEND tomorrow night’s meeting. Mr. Crittenden will contact all the folks listed below and notify them of our intent.
    Hopefully, Mr. Crittenden will get this information out today. Thanks, Byrd

    EMAIL SENT 12/16/07:
    Hey Zeke,
    My name is James Crittenden. I am a Jefferson High School parent. I attended the Dec. 7th, 2007 meeting at Vernon School. According to Superintendent Carole Smith’s letter, principals and administrators from both Vernon and Jefferson were supposed to attend this meeting. As you know, No one from Jefferson attended this meeting and the Vernon people pretended not to know anything about Jefferson’s participation in this meeting. Now, you all have scheduled a meeting for this Monday, Dec 17th, 2007 to make up for the disrespectful act that happened on the 7th.

    Well, after meeting with the parents who attended this meeting, we are NOT willing to meet with PPS this Monday.

    You didn’t call to notify us of Monday’s meeting until Friday, Dec 14th, 2007. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec 17th, 2007. Do you think that is enough time for us to prepare? I am putting this email in the public arena. WE WILL NOT MEET THIS MONDAY. We need more prep time and demand a reschedule.

    But, before this meeting happens, someone from PPS needs to apologize to the parents and Jefferson community who attended the Dec, 7th 2007 meeting in good faith. Feel free to respond to me at this email. For Real, Mr. Crittenden

    Dear Mr. Zeke Smith,
    I appreciate your phone call on Friday informing me of the meeting at Jefferson on Monday evening. I also appreciate that the meeting was scheduled as a follow-up to the community meeting that I attended on December 4th at Vernon where no one from the district or Jefferson was present to provide information about educational opportunities at Jefferson as promised by Superintendent Carole Smith in her letter dated November 14th.

    As you know from your tenure at the Portland Schools Foundation, I and other Jefferson area parents and community members have been extremely concerned about the lack of educational opportunities at Jefferson for years, particularly since Jefferson’s coed 9-12th grade program was divided into small narrowly focused academies (as planned by the Portland Schools Foundation and former Superintendent Phillips and described in their grant application to the Gates Foundation in September 2005 prior to the Jefferson design team process).

    Concerns about the proposal to reorganize Jefferson into four narrowly focused small academies are well-documented leading up to and following former Superintendent Phillips’ recommendation to the School Board in January 2006, including testimony at public community meetings and school board hearings; protests by Jefferson design team members; alternative recommendations from the Jefferson PTSA; petitions; surveys; formal complaint to PPS dated 8/24/06; community-based action plan submitted to the School Board on 8/21/06, etc.

    The four academy structure significantly limits course offerings for Jefferson area students and also requires our children to choose a focused subject for their high school studies in the spring of their 8th grade year or to play the school transfer lottery for one of the few spaces at the more popular comprehensive high schools. The lack of educational opportunities is also a concern to our community because it puts Jefferson at risk for closure or downsizing as over 70% of the high school students in our neighborhood continue to transfer to other high schools that offer more courses and programs.

    Although Jefferson has the largest number of high school students living in its attendance area than any other PPS high school, the district continues to fail to provide equal access to educational opportunities that are provided to other PPS high schools. The District’s senior staff members have recently reported that PPS plans to expand a partnership with Portland Community College in order to provide Jefferson students access to courses that are already offered at other high schools which have fewer students living in their attendance area than Jefferson. As you may know, PPS has been hoping to expand onto the Jefferson property for years. Like other Jefferson area parents I believe our students deserve the same educational opportunities that are offered at other PPS high schools; I don’t think our students should have to attend community college classes to have access to courses provided by PPS to high school students in whiter wealthier neighborhoods; and I am concerned that the district’s lack of interest in providing equitable course offerings at Jefferson is making our neighborhood high school vulnerable to a takeover by PCC. I appreciate having PCC in my community, but don’t support the expansion of PCC at the expense of not having a high school to serve our densely-populated, economically and racially diverse community.

    I hope that the District’s interest in meeting with Jefferson area parents this week represents a commitment by the district to work with concerned parents and community members to provide a quality, comprehensive, 9-12th grade, coed educational program at Jefferson (as already provided at other PPS high schools), and to provide adequate support to the new district-wide 6-9th grade young men’s and young women’s academies currently housed at Tubman and Jefferson. I am hopeful that PPS is interested in working cooperatively with Jefferson families, and families throughout the district, to move forward in a direction that will provide a quality, effective, non-discriminatory public education for all our children.

    I appreciate the district’s new urgency to acknowledge and respond to parents’ concerns about the curriculum at Jefferson, apparently in advance of the Mayor and City Council’s visit to Jefferson in January. However, I will not attend the meeting on Monday because I support other Jefferson area parents who have responded to the extremely short notice by calling for a boycott of the meeting and requesting that the meeting be rescheduled with more notice to parents who would like to attend. From our phone conversation on Friday I understand that the district did not send out any public notice of the community meeting on Monday, therefore it should not be a problem for the district to reschedule the meeting to a time that would be more convenient for Jefferson families. I would like to receive notice of any future public meetings where Jefferson will be discussed.

    Thank you,
    Nicole B.

  18. Comment from Steve:

    Yes, I understand people want it rescheduled. But the meeting is still on, according to the district.

  19. Comment from Gabrielle:

    Interesting, I didn’t receive any notice and I am in the Vernon/Jefferson cluster and would like to attend any and all meetings related to either of these schools and any proposed changes.

  20. Comment from Steve:

    It was announced at the Jefferson PTSA meeting last week. This is SOP for PPS. First, they flaked out on the meeting at Vernon, and then to make up for it, they hastily arranged another meeting. But they forgot to tell anybody but those at the Jefferson PTSA meeting.

    There are so many issues here, it’s hard to know where to begin. The families at Jefferson right now have very real, very serious immediate concerns that need to be addressed. Those of us with younger kids in the cluster have strategic concerns for the future of the school.

    These two groups of parents (that have some overlap) don’t have mutually exclusive concerns, and in fact ought to be able to find synergy. But there’s a lot of shouting right now about how we should boycott this meeting tonight, since there wasn’t proper notice.

    My personal feeling is “anytime, anyplace.” My message is very simple, and I don’t need any time to prepare it: We must return to a comprehensive high school at Jefferson. Nothing less is acceptable. Every student must have the right to attend their comprehensive neighborhood high school.

    The district owes everybody that showed up at Vernon last week an apology for flaking out on their deal. And they owe them all a rescheduled meeting with ample notice. But I don’t see how that should preclude having a meeting tonight.

  21. Comment from Zarwen:

    I can understand how people feel disrespected about a last-minute meeting on two days’ notice. When was the last time any central office administrator agreed to meet with parents on two days’ notice at the PARENTS’ demand?

    I also would like to let “Todd” know that, even though I do not live in the Jeff cluster and do not work for PPS, I am very concerned about the inequities between Jeff cluster schools and the schools over here. I think the correct word to describe it is “disgusting.” It is one of the (many!) reasons I campaigned so hard for change on the school board. And I am sure I am not the only one. So don’t worry, Todd, you ARE wrong on this point!

    Nicole, I know it was your post, but maybe you could let Todd know?

  22. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    I heard about the meeting last week, along with some other parents. It wasn’t two days’ notice, it was more than that. I’m with my husband on this one — anytime, anyplace. Let’s talk.

    I’m just now posting on my blog about the meeting — it went well. Sorry you missed it.

  23. Comment from Steve:

    The people who felt they were disrespected deserve an apology. I’m sure if they drop Leslie Rennie-Hill an e-mail or call her on the phone, they’ll get one.

    The meeting was probably more productive than it would have been if more people had showed up anyway (district administrators outnumbered parents by more than a two-to-one margin).

    I’ll write a post about that after I’ve thought about it some more.

  24. Comment from Zarwen:

    Well THAT’s a new one! When you are ready to post, I will be interested in knowing who the PPS attendees were.