Portland Public Schools brought its enrollment balancing process for the Jefferson cluster to the Vernon Elementary School (PK-8) on Thursday evening (10/11/12). Over fifty people attended. It was the forth in a series of October meetings at each of the elementary schools in the Jefferson cluster. PPS staff distributed information, spoke about the process, answered questions, and sought input from those present.
(1) I passed out printed copies of my recommendations (here: Mandarin immersion at Humboldt, Japanese immersion at King, and expanded Spanish immersion at Beach).
(2) The Oregonian covered the meeting. From their article “Portland Public Schools meetings about balancing enrollment move to Northeast’s Vernon School” by Larry Bingham (here):
….Vernon parents, when asked about successes at their
school, cited teachers, community, parents, the PTA, and diversity as tops of
their list. Asked to describe their school's challenges, they mentioned
cultural competency, a failure to reach all students, rigor, recess, and middle
Some parents raised questions of equity, particularly in resources devoted to upper grade students in K-8s. One parent read aloud West Sylvan Middle School's extensive list of electives and compared that to Vernon's three. Another parent called the district's handouts about the performance of K-8 schools vs. middle schools "propaganda."
Other parents wanted to know why Vernon's tests scores paled compared to other schools and what the district planned to do to improve learning, increase enrichment programs, and stop parents from taking their children to other schools when they reach the middle-school age grades……
(3) One of the issues simmering across the Jefferson cluster is whether to have middle schools (grades 6-8) or K-8 schools. Lots of parent are confused. PPS staff takes a neutral position.Vernon is a K-8 with only about 100 students in grades 6-8 and with the program housed in portables without lockers. Two classes (60 students) per grade is the minimum needed for a viable school. The Vernon PTA president said many parents, including himself, bail out on Vernon at sixth grade.
(4) Again, lots of distrust towards PPS was expressed along the line of “You didn’t listen to us in the past.”
(5) PPS staff now says more specific and alternative “scenarios” for enrollment balancing in the Jefferson cluster should be available in written form by parent teacher conferences (Thanksgiving week). There will then be community meetings to discuss the scenarios.