I visited the David Douglas School District in East Portland yesterday (6/2/11) and stopped by their evening school board meeting. The David Douglas School District describes itself as follows (here):
We currently have ten elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school with an alternative school campus. The district is a 12 square mile rectangle and spans east from I-205 to roughly SE 142nd and from Halsey Street on the North to the Clackamas County Line (S.E. Clatsop Street) to the South.
The David Douglas School District serves over 10,330 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Our students come from diverse backgrounds as 23.7% of our students are English Language Learners. At our last count we had 67 different languages spoken by our students.
The district is not far from me to the east. I see all those foreign languages spoken by its students as an opportunity. With a globalized economy, it is a competitive advantage for a city to have residents who are bilingual in a variety of foreign languages. So I’m interested in what foreign language programs the David Douglas School District has. What languages courses, other than English as a second language, do they offer those already speaking a foreign language? Does the district offer them the opportunity to improve their reading and writing skills in their given foreign language? We would not expect our English speaking students to read and write English well without study throughout school. We should not expect students speaking a foreign language to be proficient at reading and writing without study either.
Coincidentally, Oregonian columnist Anna Griffin had an article today, “David Douglas’ newest school board member is a welcome addition in the fight for East Portland ” about the newest member of the David Douglas School Board, Shemia Fagan. Fagan wll take office at the next board meeting, but she was there at the one I attended, sitting in the back of the audience.
Griffin writes (here):
Fagan wants to help businesses fight graffiti by using student artists to create murals. She plans to push legislators to tweak the state ESL funding model so that increasingly diverse districts such as David Douglas, home to 75 languages, receive more money and greater flexibility.
More than any specific goal, she sees herself as an advocate for David Douglas. In that regard, she's the latest addition to a growing collection of East Portland leaders -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- working to change the way their friends and neighbors respond when the political establishment ignores them. Eye rolling is no longer enough.
"I want to be a school board member in the same way that Jefferson Smith is a state legislator," she said. "Eventually we're going to build a strong political base here. Until that happens, the best thing people like Jefferson and I can do is get people west of 205 to pay attention. Progressives downtown or in the Pearl need to understand that if they really care about vulnerable people, about immigrant communities, about fairness, they must pay more attention to East Portland."