On Monday, Lane Community College (LCC) in Eugene canceled a winter term, non-credit course called "What is Islam?" that was designed and to be taught by community member Barry Sommer. In a statement issued Monday, LCC administrators said that Sommer's class “reached the attention of administration after a phone call from a local television station on Thursday" and that, considering recent events in Oregon, it was in everyone's best interest to "pause for careful consideration".
Sommer promotes profiling by the TSA. He also asks the burning question, "Are our kids not even safe when watching cartoons?" after the announcement that a Muslim superhero show called "The 99" would debut in January 2011 on The Hub—you know, that propaganda-driven, anti-American network formerly known as Discovery Kids. Sommer even compares an Egyptian university to the Vatican, claiming that the words of this man guide the values Sunni Muslims.
Sommer is also the head of the Eugene/Springfield chapter of ACT! For America, which he describes on his blog as "dedicated to education about Islam and the threat it poses to western values", an organization available to all "Americans who care about our freedoms and want to learn more on how to stand and defeat Islamic fundamentalism, creeping sharia and stealth jihad".
The president of ACT! For America, Brigitte Gabriel, has this to say:
My question is, how did Sommer ever get his class on the roster? And why did he give a lecture titled "The Nazi/Islam Connection: Collaborators in Genocide" at the University of Oregon's Pacifica Forum? Is there not a screening process for participation in the Oregon educational system? I'm all for the freedom of ideas, but I'd prefer that bigoted assholes keep their agenda out of classrooms and lecture halls.
Apparently high school teachers don't like watching their students dry hump to Chris Brown.
Cleveland High School is calling off its January winter formal because students can't seem to resist rubbing their goodies all up on each other on the dance floor and their teachers have consequently refused to chaperone the upcoming dance.
Cleveland's school officials have done everything else they can think of to curtail the busy jigging, from selling t-shirts that said "No bumping, no grinding" to giving dance chaperones "flashlights to shine on couples dancing inappropriately," said Vice Principal Pam Joyner.
Portland Public Schools spokesperson Matt Shelby is the voice of reason in this situation, likening "grinding" to "grunge and slam dancing" and saying that students always want to "push the envelope", no matter the time period.
"We just think it's fun," said Zoe Koss, a 16-year-old junior at Cleveland. Echoed 14-year-old freshman Imke Sellier: "It's a generational thing. It's just fun."
The STARBASE science program teaches science to elementary school during week-long trips to classrooms on national guard bases and has attracted vociferous protests from Portland parents upset about the military in classrooms. When a Mercury reporter sat in on a STARBASE science class this summer, he found students got hands-on with F-16 fighter jet parts to learn how to make paper airplanes.
The new contract continues the science program that the Department of Defense has offered locally since 1993. The Portland Observer reports that parents showed up to the contract hearing to protest the renewal, pointing to photos of happy kids climbing on tanks and helicopters on the STARBASE Portland website as evidence that the science program has a recruitment bent.
One hopes the lesson plan Kimberly Dawson use for her PCC class, "Business/Marketing Planning for Apparel Product Development" doesn't include sections titled "How to Move to New York" or "How to Get Selected for Project Runway." But, I doubt it. Dawson's a marketing consultant with a thing for indie fashion, advising both Portland Fashion Synergy and the group contemplating a fashion "incubator" in downtown Portland. She's also writing a white paper that "proposes a strategy for creating a thriving independent fashion economy in Portland." In other words, she's one of the good guys. The class is relatively new; this fall is the third class session, and features an impressive lineup of visiting designers representing a mix of business models, including venerable names like Liza Rietz, Elizabeth Dye, and John Blasioli. Class starts on the 28th (register here), so spread the word to all the aspiring design entrepreneurs in your life.
Tomorrow night at 11 pm at the Bagdad, Cort and Fatboy (and the Mercury!) present Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one of the best movies of the '80s and—I say this with a fair amount of conviction—easily John Hughes' best flick. (Seriously. Case in point: If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, you're a dead, joyless husk.)
Want to go for free? Good, 'cause I've got three pairs of tickets I have to get rid of. Here's how to enter to win a pair: Email me no later than 4 pm today (Thursday, September 2), and make sure your subject line is "The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act." Sometime after 4, I'll pick three winners at random and email them to let 'em know how to get their tickets. It's that easy.
OH, AND: If you're so inclined, Cort, Fatboy, the Oregonian's Mike Russell, and yours truly recorded a rambling podcast commentary/Ferris Bueller-related bullshit session, which you can download here. I hereby predict that I will never be invited to be on one of these again, because I spent the entire time (A) ignoring everybody else and instead eating the delicious cookies that Fatboy's awesome girlfriend made, (B) discussing the dubious legacy of Starfleet's Captain Cameron, and (C) ranting about Sylvia Plath for some reason. Look, I don't know, okay? I might have been drinking. Christ. Get off my back, Mom.
Personally, I hated gym class with a fiery passion. The smelly shorts, the weird gym-floor grit that collected on your hands as you crabwalked or what-have-you to suit the sadistic teacher's whims, the occasional tide of relief that came with a session with The Parachute only to discover that you're going to have to "grab a pinnie" and do laps on the muddy field.
But still... I think our society would be a lot happier and more peaceful if everybody exercised. That's why I agree with Anna Griffin at the Oregonian, who says that gym class is a terrible thing to lose. She's responding to a recent announcement by Portland Public Schools that it may have to cut PE teaching positions to save money in the face of Governor Ted Kulongoski's 10% across-the-board budget cuts.
Some parents, health care organizations and corporations have launched an (expensive?) marketing campaign to encourage the school district to tap into $33 million of reserve funds rather than slash PE.
But, asks Griffin,
What about the year after that? Heck, what about the decade after that? Even if school board members opt to preserve PE and cut elsewhere, the broader dilemma remains: Trusting state leaders to solve our financial problems and the current state tax structure to adequately fund public services is like building a sand castle at the beach. Plan big. Work hard. And know that eventually, the tide will come along and erase all your hard work.
So: higher taxes? Or fatter kids? The school board met last night to talk about the budget situation—it looks like PE teacher cuts (among other options) are still on the table, although classroom teachers would be expected to lead students in "physical activities."
It's the perfect Portland story: a young artist brings together kids and a homeless community to build a greenhouse out of recycled materials.
Ten middle school kids, most of them from Da Vinci Middle School, have spent six weeks of after-school time, and the beginning of their summer vacation, planning and building a greenhouse for Dignity Village, the permanent homeless encampment in North Portland.
Some residents at Dignity Village have 30 years of construction experience. Residents have supervised the planning and construction of the da Vinci Greenhouse Project according to their needs. The greenhouse is made from recycled materials donated by local organizations such as the Rebuilding Center.
"We really need this greenhouse," said a Dignity Village resident named Marcy, who is also the community's garden coordinator. "Year after year, this will be a great thing to have. Long after I'm gone."
Eleven-year-old Josh is the youngest student on the project, and was painting a stained glass window that will be installed in the greenhouse. His painting depicts people climbing up a vine, a symbol of "transformation, because that's what dignity village is about," he told me. "People think that dignity village is where homeless people go to live. Actually, it's where homeless people go to start over."
The kids learned about the village in conversations with the residents throughout their 6-week workshop. The workshop also included field trips, lessons from visiting artists and projects like designing model greenhouses.
Sneed has plans for another project with DaVinci Middle School next school year.
More pictures below the cut.
Over a hundred Portland teachers at all grade levels may get laid off due to budget woes.
In response to Governor Kulongoski's proposed across-the-board 9% budget cuts, a weak state economy and the fact that $16 million of next year's Portland Public Schools budget comes from reserve funds, Superintendent Carole Smith has proposed budget cutbacks totaling nearly $20 million.
This is her second attempt to save money in the coming years, after a proposed pay freeze was stoutly rejected by the teachers' union last week. At stake was a two percent pay raise next year, which teachers retained after 19 months of negotiations earlier this year.
From PPS's list of proposed cuts:
Central support and operations: $3.1 million
PPS central services and operations — including administration, finance and payroll, transportation, building maintenance and more — will cut spending on materials and services, as well as reduce staff by the equivalent of 25 full-time positions (or FTE).
Special education and English as a Second Language: $4.6 million
Reductions to these services, staffed centrally but touching all schools and programs, include elimination of the equivalent of 52 full-time teaching positions through shifts in staffing assignments and a delay of program enhancements.
School staffing: $11.6 million
This cut will eliminate the equivalent of 126 teaching positions in PPS schools — further reducing already lean school staffing.
The school board will discuss these potential cuts at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, at 501 N. Dixon St.
After months of negotiations, false starts, scares, controversies, rallies, impassioned speeches, tears, speculation, and secrecy, Portland Public Schools' High School Redesign is officially... tabled until next year.
[record scratch] What? At a meeting last night where Jefferson and Marshall Supporters, as well as Sam Adams, were prepared to weigh in on the closing of Portland's most minority-attended schools, Carole Smith made a surprise announcement:
Given the complexity of the issues we are tackling, and my understanding of current board interests, board leadership and I have agreed that my staff will suspend preparation of requested board resolutions...
Board leadership and I are in full agreement that the board is not in a position to vote on these questions now.
We are also in agreement that this is not the end of this process.
Instead, on the first day of summer, this is the right moment to collect our breath, see how far we have come in this conversation and determine the path forward.
The place erupted in cheers after she announced the delay. The redesign isn't being scrapped, but the district is backing off its previous plan to start implementing changes this coming September. The board will take up discussion on high schools again after school starts.
I thought the proposed timeline was nuts. We're talking about completely reinstalling a curriculum, moving around tons of teachers, growing or shrinking student populations by the hundreds, canning athletic teams, teaching people how to navigate the new attendance boundaries... all on a compressed timeline. On a practical level, this delay makes perfect sense. But it sure did take a long time to admit that, and few people at the district mentioned the sense of headlong rush and last-minute scramble. The cacophony of "Don't Close My School" protests certainly wouldn't have sped things along.
More thoughts on this to come.
I'm guessing there's no way this is legit (what kind of preschool teaches kids about WWII?), but still: If I was in preschool and this happened? I'd either (A) shit my pants thanks to overwhelming terror, or (B) realize that this was about as awesome as things were gonna get, education-wise, for the next 18 years or so, and just roll with it.
A school board work session on Wednesday, June 16 began with a huge crowd of Jefferson supporters, mostly African-American, filling the boardroom and the lobby outside. They numbered in the hundreds, and a Portland policeman stood guard from an upper balcony.
For thirty minutes, they gave passionate testimony about why Jefferson should not be closed. A majority of the Portland School Board wants to consider closing Jefferson. The board’s only two members who have directly opposed a closure, David Wynde and Ruth Adkins, were present to hear the testimony. Dilafruz Williams and Pam Knowles were absent, as was Martín González, who first broached the idea of closing Jefferson earlier this month.
Tony Hopson, president of the SEI charter school and one of Jefferson’s most vocal supporters, gave the board an ultimatum. “We will do whatever’s necessary because the decision that you’re making, you have to understand that this isn’t just about Jefferson, you are ripping out the heart of black people in the city,” said Hopson.
“When people are pushed up into a corner, people will do whatever is necessary to survive.”
Thomas Lauderdale, band leader of Pink Martini, testified that he volunteers as a music teacher at Jefferson, and that he had big plans to increase music education programs at the school. "But we can't do that if there's no school," he said, to rousing applause.
The board member absences led Chair Trudy Sargent to cancel the planned work session, rescheduling it for later this month. After a half-hour of testimony, the crowd filtered out of the building.
When Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith announced the first version of a proposed high school restructuring in April, there was a promise implicit in her decision.
The school board has been getting a lot of criticism over the proposed closure of the Marshall campus in outer Southeast, which would leave only a small magnet school at that location. Now they want to do the same with North Portland's Jefferson High School. Lents residents have been asking Portland Public Schools to consider giving Marshall to the overachieving David Douglas school district instead.
Lents resident Nick Christensen, head of the Lents Neighborhood Association, sent this letter to the Portland school board:
School board members:
I am writing to again urge you to reconsider your plan to close John Marshall High School. My neighborhood, Lents, has worked so hard on developing a sense of identity and on fostering economic vitality through education. Sending students at least 30 minutes each way on buses to central Portland will be a significant hurdle to eastside redevelopment and to the goal of creating 20 minute neighborhoods.
Also, I would call your attention to a PPS report showing minority enrollment in the city's attendance zone. I think it's quite clear that a move to shutter Jefferson or Marshall would be met with civil rights questions at the U.S. Department of Education.
You've heard plenty of testimony on this by now, so I won't take too much more of your time. So I ask again — change the boundary over to DDSD, keep us open with fewer students from PPS, but don't derail the civic redevelopment in my neighborhood.
Last time the Mercury checked in with Portland Schools Superintendent Carole Smith, she said that the district is dedicated to keeping Marshall.
Update 1:09 pm: Christensen provided a map (after the jump!) that shows high concentrations of nonwhite populations in the Marshall and Jefferson attendance areas. If the schools are closed, these students would travel to schools in other, white (oranger?) neighborhoods.
Also, Christensen notes that he sent the letter as a private citizen, not a representative of his neighborhood. Headline changed accordingly.
David Douglas High School, the largest high school in the state, where 75 percent of students are on free/reduced lunch, continues to impress.
Last month, David Douglas won a national award for its music program. And now they've won an award for graduating way more kids than demographics would predict.
In the recently released Diploma Counts 2010, David Douglas is credited with a graduation rate of 83 percent. Using national averages and demographic data, Education Week calculated that a large, urban school similar to David Douglas would have a graduation rate of about 63 percent.
That means David Douglas graduates students at a 20 percent higher rate than demographics and other statistical data would predict. As a result, Education Week named David Douglas one of only 21 schools in the nation as an “overachiever” school.
In contrast, Portland Public Schools' graduation rates dropped to 53 percent this year. Portland Public Schools have 45 percent of students on free and reduced lunch.
What is it that makes David Douglas so successful? Is it the personal connections? The proximity to the yuppies in downtown Portland? The school board members that have been there since the schools had a wealthier, less diverse population?
Whatever it is, congrats, David Douglas—I'm glad to see a program that works.
The Oregon State Board of Higher Education has approved next year's tuition rates for Oregon's 8 public universities—which are desperate for funds. They represent a 6.5% average tuition hike.
Here's what you'll pay if you're a resident:
You can find more details, including nonresident tuition, on the Board's website.
Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith wants to close down the three small schools operating at the Marshall campus in outer Southeast, and use some of the space for a tiny magnet school.
That has Lents residents and the school community up in arms: they say that if PPS doesn't want to put in the money and effort to give Marshall a comprehensive curriculum, they should hand the school over to David Douglas school district, which is in charge of educating far-east Portland.
After authorizing a study earlier this week to see if that transfer would be feasible, Lents Neighborhood Association Chairman Nick Christiansen explained, "If PPS is willing to give up on the outer eastside, we need to look into what options exist to provide the educational foundation for a successful community."
"I've seen this neighborhood blossom," said Kay Del Marshall, a 1965 alumna. "I got a comprehensive education. Don't take that away from our neighborhood."
Parent Brad McFeters called on PPS to act: "We urge you to negotiate with David Douglas. We want to stay here."
While Smith has proposed a space-sharing agreement with David Douglas at Marshall, it doesn't sound like she's open to a complete handover at this point.
"We consider this to be our community," says Smith. "We want to continue serving it well. So that's the conversation, and I think we can end up with something cool."
David Douglas currently runs one high school—and with 3,000 students, it's the most crowded in the state. David Douglas spokesman Dan McHugh says it's too early to know if they'd be amenable to a switch. "If somebody ever came to us with a specific proposal our board would be open to listening," he says.
The Portland School Board votes June 21 on a more modest proposal to share some of the space with David Douglas.
David Douglas High is the largest high school in the state. There are over 3,000 students at the school, which has grown and grown as Portland builds more of its affordable housing in East Portland. The city annexed East Portland 20 years ago. Since 1995, the percentage of students at David Douglas on free and reduced lunch has shot up from 40 to 75 percent.
"With annexation has come poverty, which is kind of an interesting thing," said Annette Mattson, a David Douglas school board member. "The area did not have as many challenges until we became part of the city."
David Douglas High was rated as "In Need of Improvement" for the 09-10 school year by the Oregon DOE, and it did not meet the standard for Adequate Yearly Progress—in particular, the economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and other minority groups at the school did not achieve the AYP designation.
With the poverty, the struggle for academic success, the overcrowding—how did David Douglas schools earn national recognition this year as one of the Best Communities for Music Education in America?
The principal of the beleaguered Jefferson High School in North Portland, Cynthia Harris, was placed on paid administrative leave yesterday with no public explanation.
Harris's part-time business manager Reis Wilbanks was also placed on leave. Portland Public Schools spokesperson Matt Shelby says he doesn't know the duration of the leave. He says this has nothing to do with Jefferson's fate in the high school redesign.
Deputy Superintendent Tori Hunter will take over in the meantime.
Update 9:54 am: Beth over at WW has details on a pretty damning audit, released yesterday, that sheds light on some of Harris's purchasing decisions—including using student body funds to buy lip gloss, paying out of accounts with negative balances, and losing money on a latte machine. No word yet on whether the incidents are related.
Update 2:45 pm: More from The Skanner, whose reporter got kicked out of a parent meeting on athletics funding on March 3.
But the neighbors and Marshall High families who turned out on Monday see the plan as another blow to an outer SE Portland community that sees itself as neglected and powerless.
"We want what they have," said Marshall parent Paul Pietrzyk, referring to successful schools like Lincoln. He has been sending his kids to Marshall for 10 years. "You strip services from us for 10 years, give kids a bus pass to leave and then are surprised when we fail."
Other parents worried that making Marshall a focus school would end its athletics program. Some students piped up that they would consider transferring to Franklin High School just because the future of Marshall is so up in the air—PPS is asking students and parents to make decisions about which school to attend before it has been decided what kind of focus school it will be. Arts? Sciences? Business? That's still up for debate. "It's really almost impossible to get excited about what will happen there when you can't even tell us what kind of school it will be. The school will be just over 50 years old and already you're changing it," said Marla Rosenberger, a '65 Marshall grad.
"You are absolutely going to kill this community out here. And it's really trying hard to come back," said one mother, to a long round of applause.
Smith took the criticism calmly and quietly, noting that nothing has been set in stone for the future of Marshall because the school board wants public input on the plan. Two more meetings are coming up before the board votes on the88 page proposal (pdf) next month. "The intent is got us to have a core program in these neighborhood school and to offer robust classes," said Smith, confirming that the changes could cost up to $15 million to implement.
These student-written plays will be better than that, I promise. From the press release:
Come check out what ideas are mulling around in the heads of our local teens. I promise you will be shocked by stories containing brutal honesty, filled with joy from stories of hope, and belly laugh to absurd comedy. The local professionals mentoring, directing and performing include Paul Glazier, Val Landrum, Michael O’Connell, Chris Murray, Laura Faye Smith and Mathew B. Zrebski. The event is free and those who show up early will get the best seats. Hope to see you there.
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th, tonight, 7 pm, FREE
Portland Public Schools (PPS) is plowing ahead with its plan to overhaul the city's high school system. Tonight Superintendent Carole Smith revealed the general plan: Marshall High School will become a magnet-style "focus option" school. The rest will get a makeover, becoming "community comprehensive" schools with a wide range of offerings. The new plan will do away with the current liberal transfer policy, opting instead for a neighborhood-focused approach.
After the school board voted 5-2 last month to allow Superintendent Smith to develop specific recommendations, the details have been hashed out largely in secret over the past six weeks. Here are the basics:
Community Comprehensives: Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Roosevelt, Wilson.
Focus Option: Marshall (currently a campus housing three "small schools," which has seen its share of No Child Left Behind sanctions). There's no word yet on what the "focus" will be (Arts? Science?). That will be worked out in the future, with input from teachers and parents. I'll be putting in my vote for Animal Husbandry or Brazilian Fighting Arts.
On March 18, PPS announced that it had applied for federal School Improvement Grants for its three other small schools, housed on the Roosevelt campus. That money can only be awarded under a few circumstances, one of which involves replacing staff and implementing a "new and revised instructional program." The move to a community comprehensive would likely fit that bill, so Roosevelt's transition could be federally funded.
The focus option program at Marshall will be open to students from David Douglas school district (serving far eastern Portland) as well as PPS. Smith says this will open the program to more opportunities.
Plus, "we will build a Benson High School for the 21st century," says Smith. The school will serve 800 students, all of whom will be half-time and co-enrolled at their neighborhood community comprehensive schools. Benson is currently a science and technology academy open to students from across the district by lottery.
Now that the cat's a little further out of the bag, we'll have more details in this week's paper on what lies ahead. "There are risks inherent in this model," Smith told the school board, "but the success of the plan does not rest on the school district alone."
Highlights of how some key disputes were resolved are after the jump.
After more than 19 months without a deal, Portland Public Schools (PPS) and its teachers' union, the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT),
appear set to agree have agreed on a contract that covers last year, this year and the next.
The school board met this morning at 10:30 for a closed-door executive session at PPS headquarters. At 11:00, they began a public meeting to vote to ratify the tentative agreement. They voted "yes" unanimously at 11:16 am.
"I do feel like we found common ground," says PPS Superintendent Carole Smith. "I feel good about where we are... in this economy it was a hard sweet spot to find," she says.
The PAT ratified the contract yesterday, February 26. A majority of teachers in the district voted to accept the deal.
"We hope the Portland Public School Board ratifies this agreement," wrote PAT President Rebecca Levison in a statement.
Carole Smith and her chief of staff Zeke Smith (no relation) arrived together at the PPS offices this morning, and talked privately in their car for about twenty minutes before entering the building.
Directors Dilafruz Williams (just back from India), Martín González, Trudy Sargent, Ruth Adkins, and David Wynde were present for the vote. Pam Knowles and Bobbie Regan were away, and joined by teleconference. Regan asked if the board could "just vote yes" before deliberation, but Chief Legal Counsel Jollee Patterson said that wasn't possible.
"It took a longer time for us to reach a resolution than any of us wanted to take," said Sargent, referring to the year and a half of lurching negotiations.
When the parties gave each other their final offers two weeks ago, there were still some disagreements.
After the jump: some of the major issues, and how they were resolved in the tentative agreement.
63% of white students and 35% of black students finishing ninth grade in Portland Public Schools are considered likely to graduate from high school.
Featuring district officials, board members, parents, teachers, and students. A fast-paced "high-school debate"-style challenge, replete with audience votes and one-minute stump speeches. Come on down!
What follows is a possible scene from Korean Breakfast Club: A classroom of mischievous Korean schoolgirls orchestrate some hilarious disobedience behind the dickhead teacher's back. This is one that gets funnier as it goes along! (And dude! What's up with those punishments?)
School. It's a problem affecting many of today's youth. If you or someone you know has experienced school, you know the importance of a school system that is not a hellhole of inequality and missed opportunities. We've got six expert panelists who have big ideas about how to make Portland's high schools better. Come tell 'em what you think. Next Wednesday, March 3, at Backspace.
Drastic changes are in the works for as early as September 2011. Our discussion features Portland Public Schools' Chief Academic Officer, a school board member, some teachers with big plans and parents with strong opinions. Plus, the students who are actually affected by the whole ordeal. See you there.
The audience at Monday’s school board meeting witnessed a rare occurrence: board members disagreeing with one another. Usually, by the time a meeting is called, all the rough spots between directors have been ironed out in private.
Apart from the issue of whether the district needs to close schools (which, of course, inspired bickering across the board members' table), Co-Chair Ruth Adkins voiced some common-sense concerns on a number of important issues. She’s usually pretty quiet during board meetings, and it was nice to see her bring some skepticism to the buzzword-addled debate.
Provided after each of Adkins’ suggestions is the dismissive response of Co-Chair Trudy Sargent, who seems happy with the resolution as it is.
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