I’m Takin’ Back this Blog!

by Steve, January 31st, 2008

My first-born child, one half of the reason I’m so insanely ferocious about advocating for our schools, frequently gives me grief because I never write about hockey or war on this blog. “You should rename your blog,” she tells me, and also “Why don’t you ever write about hockey anymore?”

You see, I didn’t start this blog to write about school politics. I started it as a personal blog almost two years ago, and I actually wrote about hockey and war. Then, a year ago, I dipped my toes into PPS equity issues, and it has gradually taken over my blog.

Let me just say this: I would prefer to not have to worry about this shit. Seriously, I’d like it very much if things were like they were back in Iowa City where I grew up, and every neighborhood school was pretty much just like every other neighborhood school, and they all had art, music and P.E.

But, sadly, we do have to worry about this shit in Portland. So in order for me to take back this blog for things that I actually find interesting — hockey, music, macroeconomics, the price of tea in China — I’ve launched a new Web site for PPS equity issues. To satisfy my eight-year-old’s obsession with things matching up, I decided to call it PPS Equity. It’s got a blog, but that’s not all. The most exciting thing to me is a community discussion forum. With a simple registration, anybody can immediately participate and start new discussions in any of a number of forums.

Down the road, I’m going to set up a PPS data dump, in order to streamline access to PPS enrollment and demographic information.

Now is a good time for this. My friends at the Neighborhood Schools Alliance have been hammering the district on equity issues for years, and now, with the Carole Smith administration, we seem to be getting traction. Which only means we’ve got to keep up the pressure.

Check it out. Explore a little, register for the forum, start a new topic in your school cluster’s section. I think you’ll agree PPS Equity is a better vehicle than More Hockey Less War for the cause. Thanks everybody for your support over the last year, and let’s keep the nickel rolling in a bigger, better venue!

The Next Proof Point for Jefferson High

by Steve, January 31st, 2008

Now that the dust has settled after the Mayor’s Week at Jefferson High School, we in the community have had some time to think about things.

When Superintendent Carole Smith’s chief of staff Zeke Smith met with Jefferson community parents late last year, he asked for “proof points” that could be implemented at Jefferson by the start of the 2008-09 school year.

At the time, the only thing I could come up with (besides the idea of funding the school at two to ten times the district average per student in order to restore comprehensive programming) was to tear down the walls between academies.

So far, so good. They’ve announced their intention to do this.

But, like I said at the school board meeting, this is a very small first step in the right direction. (It’s what the community has wanted all along, and it will add teaching FTE at no cost, so it’s kind of a no-brainer for the district.)

In other words, this is not enough. In addition to this move, and the introduction of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, I would like to see the restoration of the music department at Jefferson. It is utterly shameful that a performing arts magnet school does not have a music program. I would like to see at least two FTE positions restored to Jefferson, one choral and one instrumental.

There is some amazing musical talent at Jefferson, but none of these student artists is getting high school credit for it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t start a band in high school by buying some instruments and hiring a teacher. We need to restore band to the elementary and secondary grades, too. I would like to propose Jefferson cluster elementary and middle bands. The teacher could travel among the eight feeder schools to give individual lessons, and have band rehearsals in the Jefferson band room. So that makes three FTE positions.

We’ve got to get serious in this city about our core curriculum, and music is part of that.