Portland Public Schools has begun the process of enrollment balancing in the Jefferson cluster. I was there at the first community meeting last night with two placards (My new one reads “Learning Mandarin & spending a high school year in China are tickets out of poverty”).
From the Oregonian article “Parents skeptical as Portland Public Schoos reaches out for input on Jefferson High enrollment area balancing” by Nicole Dungca (here):
As Portland Public Schools reaches out for input on the enrollment balancing process for the Jefferson High School cluster, some parents continue to worry the process will amount to nothing more than lip service.
Nearly 50 community members crowded into King School’s neighborhood facility Wednesday night to meet with district officials, including Superintendent Carole Smith, and discuss the process leading to changes that may hit the Jefferson high school enrollment area by September 2013.
After fielding criticisms for not giving communities enough notice before closing two schools within the Jefferson cluster -- Humboldt and the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women. -- the district was especially eager to reach out to stakeholders as it formulates more recommendations, said Judy Brennan, the district’s enrollment and transfer director….
First, while there were about 50 community members present, they were of two classes. Some, about 25, were selected by PPS to be on the committee (title unknown, function hazy), sat around the table, and were able to speak at this meeting. Others, like myself, were just attending and could not participate yet. I had asked to serve on the committee but was not selected by PPS.
Brennan said the series of meetings through the summer could help the district plan a more "respectful" process as they build toward recommendations that could go before the board in the winter. The district will hold two more meetings on August 7 and 21, at a location to be determined.
She also noted the group would not create the actual recommendations, but instead garner advice on how to further engage the broader community.
Third, this meeting focused on process. Each participant at the table spoke of his or her hopes and fears for the process, not the issues themselves. Lots of the skepticism and distrust that Dungca reports came out. This is a problem. Many seemed to me to be holding on hard to old grievances. This, unfortunately, creates, as regional administrator Harriett Adair said “a climate where people are not yet embracing further changes.” Yet, further change is just what they need for a better, more vital 21st century education system in the Jefferson cluster. Some old issues just need to fade away.
Fourth, there was no mention of immersion programs at all. Plus, some of the committee members encouraged PPS to directly point the committee to the important, relevant issues. After the meeting, when I spoke with PPS folk, I urged them, as some of the committee suggested, to put more foreign language immersion programs, especially Mandarin, as a set of issues for the committee to wrestle with. I was told that PPS wants the issues to come from the community. They encouraged me speak about the immersion issues at the next committee meeting.