Rebuttal to Those Who Vote With Their Feet!

I wrote the rebuttal below at the end of last spring, when Jefferson High School was mere inches away from being permanently shuttered by the PPS School Board, in order to urge supporters to sign a petition to let Jefferson stay open as a Community Comprehensive High School. Even though the current focus option is in place – the implementation of which managed to keep Jefferson’s doors open for the time being –  the general consensus of the community is that we want a Community Comprehensive High School featuring pathways that will build on the programs already in place in our feeder schools. (Like the highly successful Spanish Immersion program at Beach, for example.) The petition is still up, if you’re so inclined…

The School Boards key sound bite and official reasoning for wanting to shut the school down was that “People are voting with their feet”, but they failed to elaborate on exactly why people have been leaving. The gist of that statement is true – over the past four decades or so, people have been leaving our neighborhood schools in droves. But – as elaborated on in previous posts – there have been many reasons for that. Some of the migration has been voluntary, and some have been cleverly engineered by that same School Board. Other reasons have been State and Federal mandates that have sunk even more nails in the coffin of an already troubled school. You will read about some of that below…

At this point, and in this economic climate, there simply are no quick fixes but, over the last few years, neighborhood parents that insist on quality education available in their community are making a HUGE difference!  This voluntary groundswell is primarily happening in the lower grades, and seems to be in direct correlation to the recent change in demographics in this area. I want to make sure I express my grateful kudos to the many, many parents of elementary school kids in North Portland who are giving it their all. They are instrumental in turning the NoPo school situation around. Parents of middle school students not so much, as evident by the fact that many more elementary families than middle school families seems to have attended the recent Wednesday night Middle College information sessions hosted at Jefferson. I only hope that the School Board will buck their normal trend of premature shuttering of programs, and be patient enough to give these upcoming masses of elementary school fighters a chance to prove their worth once they come of high school age…

Rebuttal to “people voting with their feet”

Not counting the white flight during the 60‘s and 70‘s, several political events are at fault for today’s lopsidedness of education equality in Portland. What has been allowed to happen is a direct result of implementation of the PPS Transfer Policy, in combination with the 1990 passing of Measure 5. In response to the inevitable economic cuts in the wake of Measure 5, The Portland Schools Foundation was founded, as a vehicle to allow individual schools to raise money to keep their schools afloat. It came with a required stipulation that schools that raise beyond $10,000 have to donate 1/3 or their earnings to the Foundation for use by other less affluent schools. However well-intended, this has further exacerbated the problem. Wealthy area schools inevitably have become wealthier, and the strife of the less affluent to compete has worsened. In addition, the educational reform and funds allocated by the Clinton administration in the 1990’s, unintentionally paved the way for school districts nationwide to balloon into giant balls of red tape, consisting of countless committees that to this day are keeping their members gainfully employed to no visible effect on the grass roots level. Tragically, very little of the Clinton funds ended up where intended – in the affected class rooms.

Reading and listening to the ongoing discussion about Jefferson High School is frustrating, at best. Nearly every argument in favor of closing it – whether coming from the School Board or members of the larger Portland community – points to the number of people who do not send their children to Jefferson as evidence of the school’s failure. To say that Jefferson has failed as a school, is akin to telling a battered, abused child that has spent the majority of his life moving between various foster homes, that it is his own fault that he is failing. The truth is, that for the last half century, Jefferson has been denied the tools and resources necessary to succeed – a stable student population, consistent and wide ranging academic offerings and a reliable, long-term administration. Instead, it has fallen victim to one-sided bussing, and the perpetual cycle of continuously diminishing student populations as a result of shrinking academic opportunities, senseless redlining, and redrawing of its zoning maps. The main culprit of this has been the PPS Transfer Policy, which has been allowed to go on for far too long.

The circular reasoning of the nay-sayers fails to recognize the Real Reasons for this downward spiral, which for many years has thrown wrenches in the wheels of all our neighborhood schools. Jefferson specifically, has “enjoyed”  being a never ending testing ground for new “programs” and a revolving door of short-lived administrators.

Up until now, every program that has been implemented at Jefferson High School has been done within the context of the “school choice” transfer policy, dwindling funds, and shrinking academic opportunities. Naturally, this has encouraged families to send their children away from their neighborhood school. So, before punishing Jefferson High School and its neighboring community for struggling with the system in which it was set up to fail, we ask that you give us a meaningful chance to show what we are capable of doing. You will not be disappointed.


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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