Marshall High: Open for business in September

Find out what happened, this week, that gives hope to Lents Neighborhood freshmen who were told they’d have to start high school at Franklin or perhaps Madison …

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith says the Marshall Campus will accept freshmen in September – and the redistricting talks will then begin again.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks in the Lents Neighborhood were surprised to learn that Portland Public Schools did an “about face” about shutting out incoming freshmen from the Marshall Campus.

And, it now looks as if Superintendent Carole Smith hasn’t ruled out talks with the David Douglas School District about how the two districts may cooperate – perhaps including divvying up programs for outer East Portland students.

“Last night, the Superintendent and School Board announced that they’re suspending the vote on the big structural pieces of the redesign plan,” PPS PIO Matthew Shelby told us on June 22. “No votes on school closures or boundary changes will be taken until fall.”

On June 21, Superintendent Smith explained after the board meeting, “We will pursue conversations with David Douglas and other partners about the options for developing joint programs on the Marshall Campus, which could expand program access for Marshall neighborhood students. While we pursue these conversations, we will continue to engage the teams of educators that are developing new focus school proposals for the Marshall Campus. These steps are complementary, not contradictory, and I look forward to reporting on the outcome of these steps in the fall, as well.”

Smith continued, “In the meantime, I also recommend that the current Marshall small schools accept their ninth-grade classes for next year, while keeping slots available at Cleveland, Franklin, and Madison for the students who indicated that they want to attend these schools.”

Superintendent Smith will keep working to make “programmatic changes” to high school programs during the summer.

‘Program changes’ to continue
“Larger structural changes, such as boundary changes and school closings, require a vote of the Board,” Shelby explained. “But, programmatic changes are within her preview to make. Two specific items include common scheduling, and establishing Academic Priority Zones.” He referred us to Superintendent Smith’s published information that defines these changes:

  • Common schedule across our high schools – “To provide more flexible learning opportunities for students, to make more effective and efficient use of our staff, and to let students take advantage of programs located at campuses beyond their home school.”
  • Establishing Academic Priority Zones – “To better prepare students at our lowest performing schools for success in high school, by concentrating resources where they are needed most, including our most effective teachers and principals, effective interventions and supports, and programs to promote greater parent involvement.”

Additionally, Shelby said the Superintendent’s establishing frameworks for more intentional and more strategically-aligned partnerships with Portland Community College and Portland State University – and industry partners and local employers are also priority items on which she is working.

Says she sees value in the ‘redesign’ process
“From the outset, it was clear that our joint effort to improve the High School System could become acutely contentious,” conceded Smith. “I’m glad we have an opportunity for greater dialogue, innovative collaboration, and partnership development on the most difficult issues. I expect that next fall, we may find ourselves surprised at the results.”

Lents Neighborhood Association’s president, Nick Christensen, presiding at their meeting on June 22, says he’s not ready to “run a victory lap” after hearing about this week’s announcements.

Lents neighbors wait and see
At the Lents Neighborhood Association meeting on June 22, its President Nick Christensen said that the initial reports sound good.

“But until I hear something concrete from Portland Public Schools, I’m hesitant to say this is good news for East Portland, other than that it is giving us more time to state our case,” Christensen said. “Our case is that students of the eastside need to go to high school close to home – in a neighborhood, comprehensive school – and taking that away from them not only jeopardizes their educational future, but the community’s vitality, as well.”

Christensen added that he is attempting to set up a meeting with Superintendent Smith.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News.

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