Mayor welcomes freshmen Scots to promote David Douglas bond

Following the unique tradition there, incoming David Douglas High School freshmen are greeted by upper-class student mentors, teachers, and administrators. But see why, this year, Mayor Tom Potter was part of the welcoming committee …

Mayor Tom Potter and district superintendent Barbara Rommel join some of the Scot “Link Team”, as they welcome, and gave the “wave”, to the largest class in DDHS history.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At David Douglas High School, the “new kids in school” are cheered, not jeered, by a school-wide welcoming committee on Freshman Orientation Day.

But this year was different. Mayor Tom Potter was there also, joining in the welcome of the new students to the state’s largest high school ‚Äì a campus housing more students than many Oregon towns have population.

Sharing a light moment outside the school are DDHS Principal Randy Hutchinson, Mayor Tom Potter, and Superintendent Barbara K. Rommel.

We asked the Mayor why he came to outer East Portland early on this particular morning.

“I’m the Mayor of this school district, too,” Potter told us, flashing a broad smile. “I’m here to draw the attention of East Portland people to the fact they have a great school district in David Douglas.  And, I’m asking the people here to vote for ballot measure 26-85, so we can really create the best future for our children.”

Mayor meets Link Crew

Mayor Tom Potter meets DDHS “Link Crew” members Thuan Huinh, Emily Yip, Samantha Cha, and Oile Dao.

On his way into the school, Mayor Potter met representatives of the school’s “Link Crew” He learned team’s mission is to ease the transition of grade-schoolers 9th grade.

“It is like a Big Brother/Sister program,” explained the school’s Principal, Randy Hutchinson. “Each Link Crew member takes eight to ten freshmen under their wing, especially the first week. The young kids can ask any Link Crew member for help and know they’ll get it.”

Hutchinson said Link Crew members aren’t necessarily the team captains and club presidents. “They are middle-of-the-road, ordinary students who have a drive to, and desire to, help others.”

“Let’s go in and meet the freshmen,” Potter said.

David Douglas’ challenges
On our way in, we spoke Barbara K. Rommel, Superintendent of David Douglas School District.

“Our biggest challenge,” Rommel told us, “is our enrollment growth. We’re anticipating 3% more students than last year — the largest enrollment in the history of David Douglas school system. In all, we’ve had a 25% increase since 1999. This is really stretching our classroom space. While other schools are closing, we’re working to create the space we need to keep class sizes manageable.”

Rommel said the Mayor’s visit demonstrates his commitment to education at all of the schools in the City of Portland. “And, with David Douglas being the largest high school in the state, it is really great to see our city’s Mayor here, welcoming the freshmen.”

Mayor Tom Potter addresses 800+ freshmen ‚Äì the largest single class in David Douglas High  history ‚Äì at their orientation.

The mayor’s introduction at the assembly was met with wild cheering. “Good morning everybody! What a good-looking group of people you are. You are so fortunate. You are attending, not only the largest high school in Oregon, but one of the very best. All of your teachers, staff members, and Link Crew members are here to help you succeed. Have a great year.”

Asked why he was coming out in support of David Douglas building program bond, the mayor responded, “Investing in students today pays all of Oregon back tomorrow.”

Building project underway

The school’s Principal, Randy Hutchinson, commented on our way out, “It’s is nice to see that he [Potter] has hung his hat on being an ‘education mayor’, and he’s paying attention to East County.”

The challenge for the school, Hutchinson told us, is “sheer numbers. Enrollment keeps increasing. It looks like our enrolment is about 2,900, and another 200 students at our alternative school.”

The growling of earth-moving equipment was punctuated with the blaring of back-up claxons as he pointed to an area east of the main building. “While other schools are closing and consolidating, this construction project will add twenty classrooms. We need them.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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