From the “Control Cell” at PDX, to a suburban hospital, to Portland’s 911 Center – and even to David Douglas High School – you’ll see exclusive photos and stories about the “TOPOFF 4” drill carried on across the greater Portland area, right here …

Getting a “peek behind the magic curtain”, we’re allowed to take a look at the “Venue Control Cell”, located in the main ballrooms at Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For all of the publicity thrust upon the local media, most folks in the greater Portland area saw only brief snippets about the Department of Homeland Security’s largest disaster simulation exercise to date — “TOPOFF 4” — held in the metro area, during the week of October 15.

We went to a press briefing as the full-scale exercise began on Monday, and learned that three locations are involved in a single, overarching scenario taking place in Arizona, Guam, and Oregon.

We were issued an official TOPOFF 4 press credential, and learn that our ability to visit any of the events will be strictly controlled.

Jeremy Greenberg, the program manager with Department of Homeland Security, briefs the press on the day before the “bomb” explodes.

“The reason for doing this,” explained Jeremy Greenberg, the program manager with Department of Homeland Security, “is that it helps governments, at all levels, to prepare to respond to a single type of event.”

The “event” described by Greenberg was the explosion of a “dirty bomb” on the Steel Bridge in downtown Portland. Such a device, if detonated by terrorists, isn’t intended to do great physical damage – but instead, to spew a deadly cloud of radioactive material into the air. The actual “ground zero” for this exercise was moved to Portland International Raceway, where officials built a simulated Steel Bridge from scaffolding.

The three key concepts, said Greenberg, were “prevention, protection, and response recovery”. “During the day, we expect 4,500 participants playing, controlling and evaluating the exercise here in Portland. It runs 24-hours a day through Friday.”

From their hidden location, drill controllers purposely add in unexpected contingencies, to test the ability of agencies to respond to changing conditions.

Connections to East Portland
First, the “Venue Control Cell” – the hidden-away controllers who actually run TOPOFF 4 – was located in the grand ballroom at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel.

The room was lined with rows of conference tables, at which sat “event play controllers”, calling the shots during the exercise.

“These exercises are as realistic as we can possibility get,” said Greenberg, “whether manmade or natural. Having the opportunity to learn and evaluate our capabilities in peacetime is a phenomenal chance to see what works, what doesn’t and where we can correct ourselves.”

On October 16, all across Portland, in the scenario, the city reeled from the effects of a nuclear radiation-laced high explosive device detonation. City, county and federal agencies worked with frantic precision to deal with the physical damage – and more importantly – with the thousands of civilian causalities.

To those participating in the 2007 TopOff exercises, designed to test the area’s disaster response system, the simulated event was played out as if Portland were under attack by terrorist villains.

Wearing radiation-resistant protective garb are registered nurse Kate Arendt, James Sobocinski of Hospital Security, and emergency room technician Josh Spano. Their role is to evaluate “patients” as they come into Providence Milwaukie Hospital. The close-up shows Sobocinski holding his functional, 1950s era radiation detector.

Disaster radiates to SE Portland
Even though the bomb went off downtown, Milwaukie Providence hospital in Southeast was activated as a disaster medical response site.

“Any time there is a regional disaster, patients are disbursed so they can get prompt care,” explained Steven Fletcher, Community Relations manager with Providence Health and Services.

“The larger hospitals will get really busy and quickly fill up. They’ll triage patents, and disburse them to locations elsewhere, such as Providence Milwaukie, where they can receive immediate care.”

In the case of a widespread release of radioactive material, Fletcher added, citizens suffering ill effects from the blast site would be routed directly to the hospital. “We’re not a trauma center, but our fully-equipped emergency center can accept critically injured patents.”

This “patient” says she was in her house when the “bomb” went off. “I’m concerned about my dog. Can you help my dog?” They did.

Full emergency gear stored on site
The decontamination unit, medical ward tents, protective gear, and special emergency equipment used in this drill weren’t shipped in for this exercise, says Environmental Services Manager, Tina Seely a member of the hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Committee.

“All of it was purchased through grants, and belongs to the hospital. The equipment is stored on-site. When a disaster with mass causalities happens, it is all right here – we’re ready to respond within hours.”

The temporary emergency ward fills with “patients” – some are considered acutely ill or injured; others are considered to be suffering from emotional distress, in the emergency scenario.

Lents emergency communication center activated
The following day, we’re permitted to visit the now-heavily-fortified Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), located just east of the Tri-Met bus yard off SE Powell Boulevard, in the Lents Neighborhood.

We’re met at the door by BOEC’s public information officer, Todd DeWeese.

“It is business as usual on the 9-1-1 side,” DeWeese tells us, as a group of reporters crowd around. “We have real-world dispatching going and, at the same time, a smaller center dispatching for the TOPOFF 4 disaster simulation.”

Looking unruffled, DeWeese says BOEC “actually has the easiest part of the drill. We do this every day. Whether simulated or real – we’re trained to accurately take in information, then, dispatch the required services.

“TopOff is good practice. This helps locate the communication problem spots that might crop up during a real emergency situation. This brings all of the agencies involved – hundreds of them – together in this drill. We have different levels of decision-makers here, in this building,” DeWeese says.

Mayor Tom Potter sits in the BOEC Disaster Policy Council room, our first stop on the tour.

At different times during the exercise, the mayor, transportation director, fire chief, police chief, city attorney, and city auditor direct the handling of the disaster occupy the room.

The Emergency Communications Center is the information exchange center that POEM sets up to deal with large-scale, city-wide disasters.

Next, we tour the Emergency Communications Center.

Ordinarily, this large room is used as the training center for BOEC staffmembers. But, for the purposes of the TopOff exercise this week, it was the disaster drill’s main coordination center.

Portland Police Bureau’s spokesperson, Sgt. Brian Schmautz, confers with his counterparts in the Emergency Communications Center during the training exercise.

“This room is activated by POEM,” explained the bureau’s spokesman, Kerry Dugan. “All of the equipment used here is stored on-site, so it is ready to go. It takes about an hour to get it operational; it’s refined over time, based on the type of disaster or situation we face.”

Here in the Liaison Office, information officers for agencies help disseminate important information to the public.

Next, we walk downstairs to the Emergency Communications Liaison Office. It serves as an “information switchboard” during disasters.

“We have public information officers down in this room – it supports the upstairs communications room,” says Dugan. “We have liaisons here from transportation, the Oregon National Guard, Red Cross, NET teams – and amateur (“ham”) radio operator volunteers. If we need to reach someone at any agency or bureau, these people can get in touch with them quickly.

Having a blast at David Douglas High

Agencies involved in the David Douglas High event evaluate the mass-causality screening exercise held at the school.

On September 18, a mass-screening event takes place at David Douglas High School.

“It looked like a thousand people standing in line in a room – followed by a photo-opportunity featuring the Governor, Mayor, Defense Secretary Chertoff and other officials,” the school’s Principal, Randy Hutchinson, tells us when we arrived on scene.

“Here, we are set up to take care of 1,000 people who were exposed to a cloud of radioactive people who were exposed to a ‘dirty bomb’ explosion near downtown Portland,” said Hutchinson.

David Douglas High School principal Randy Hutchinson, here with some of the school’s 1,100 students who participated in the TOPOFF 4 mass-causality screening exercise.

These “patients” would have been indirectly contaminated – or thought they might be contaminated – and were directed to be checked at a processing center, that was set up in the school’s south cafeteria, he added.

The Principal says 1,100 students – about a third of the David Douglas High student body – participated in the drill. “All this, and we managed to educate the other two-thirds of our students.”

Many of David Douglas High’s Health Sciences Career Path students helped triage the participants. “Some of our kids also served as interpreters for a variety of languages that are spoken in this area,” added Hutchinson.

Says drill is worth the effort
Will the time, money and effort expended on this massive disaster drill pay off? The Portland-area officials with whom we spoke say it probably will.

Providence Milwaukie Hospital’s Fletcher reflected the sentiments we heard across East Portland: “This exercise is as good for us as it is for the federal, state, and local responding agencies.

“It helps us better prepare ourselves in case the unthinkable happens. We’re going to be reviewing this drill during the next few days. We’ll be finding out what we did right, and what we can do better at – so, if it happens in real life, we’ll be able to take care of our citizens.”

Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler had to “face the press” and report on how the “dirty bomb” was affecting county services – and his agencies’ response. He did very well, by the way …

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Working to build citizen consensus for highway road improvements, street safety additions and increased bicycle – and a taxation system to pay for it – find out plan Sam Adams and Ted Wheeler are presenting …

Judith Huck, owner of Classique Floors, takes a look at the exhibits on display at an outer East Portland Safe & Sound Green Streets meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The tempo for promoting the new street repair and safety improvement plan is quickening. In the three weeks between the end of their second and the beginning of their third wave of transportation town hall meetings, PDOT’s boss, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, is adding a new presenting partner, Multnomah County Chair, Ted Wheeler.

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams talks with Patty Freeman about safety issues along her SE Portland street.

Says open houses used to gain local input
“We’ve invited people to put sticky notes on the project boards and maps, commenting on the projects and funding alternatives we’re considering,” Adams says. “Nobody knows safety issues of their neighborhoods better than the folks who live there.”

Jeff Cropp writes a comment at the SE Transportation Open House.

Outer East Portland folks say …
We find a wide variety of comments are written at the outer East Portland open house. They are listed, in their entirety, at the end of this article.

City/County program preview
We previewed the “Safe, Sound and Green Streets” program being put on Adams and Wheeler during their first co-presentation at Madison High School, on 82nd Avenue of Roses, on October 16.

Starting the third round of transportation open houses, Portland Commissioner Sam Adams confers with Multnomah County Commissioner Ted Wheeler before their joint presentation.

At this, the third series of transportation town hall meetings has on display maps, charts and graphs representing the program’s benefits.

With the aid of a 90-slide presentation, Adams and Wheeler throw the spotlight on Portland’s worst transportation problems – crumbling bridges, poor street condition, high-accident intersections and car vs. bicyclist conflicts.

Speaking about the county’s responsibility for bridge repair and maintenance, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler tells the group, “Ahead of all other county transportation issues is dealing with the Sellwood Bridge. It is at a crisis point. That bridge has a rating of ‘2’ on a federal sufficiency scale of 100. We need to completely rehabilitate or replace that span.”

They also pitch a plan that makes for what they call the $12.6 Million yearly “funding gap” to remedy the city’s transportation ills.

The plan they’re trying out on folks is a tax package that includes:

  • City street safety and maintenance fee of $4.50 per month;
  • Gas tax at $0.03 per gallon; and,
  • County vehicle registration fee and/or general obligation bond.

Mark Lear PDOT, director of Safe, Sound and Green Streets Project talks with Nancy Conwell at the outer East Portland meeting.

To verify the specifics, we spoke with Portland Office of Transportation’s Mark Lear, the director of the Safe, Sound and Green Streets (SS&GS) Project.

Lear confirmed that the city and county needs to generate a total revenue of 48.5 Million per year, for ten years, to meet its SS&GS goals.

Stakeholder group guides SS&GS
While the project’s literature and Adams frequently refer to the SS&GS “Stakeholder Group”, nowhere could we find information regarding this group.

“The group has grown to include 89 members,” explains Lear. “We’ve included everyone whom we think may have an interest.”

About half the members, Lear says, have a connection to business or commerce; and includes neighborhood business associations, trade groups, and those with an interest in retail traffic (like grocery stores) and freight movement.

About a quarter of the stakeholders is made up from of neighborhood association representatives. The final quarter, Lear describes as representatives of “transit users, bicycle groups, Elders in Action and pedestrian advocates.”

Greening of the project
Lear says PDOT has done significant citywide polling. “When we asked respondents about raising revenue, we found we’d have between five and nine percent greater support if the measures included ‘green elements, rewards or incentives’.”

One “green” element suggested is enhanced traffic-light timing systems designed to promote the smooth flow of traffic; thus reducing pollution and greenhouse gases. Another is increased promotion and construction of bicycle-designed routes.

Businesses located near a transit routes could get tax-reducing incentives by promote bicycle and public transit use for employees. Homeowners would save if only one car was registered to their household. “We would only move forward with incentives that have public support, and that can be easily and efficiently implemented,” Lear states.

Mark Lear PDOT, director of Safe, Sound and Green Streets Project talks with Naomi Tsurumi at the inner SE East Portland meeting.

Million$ for bike lanes?
Bicycle transportation advocates provide nearly half of the feedback noted in the second round of transportation town halls – including those in inner SE Portland – yet PDOT statistics show bike trips account for about five percent of total trips taken citywide

We ask Lear the question so many motorized-vehicle driving folks have asked us: “How are the SS&GS funds actually dedicated?

Lear breaks it down:

  • 58% is dedicated to arterial street rehabilitation and traffic signal synchronization.
  • 29% goes for Willamette River bridges including the local match to the Sellwood Bridge.
  • 5% is for pedestrian and bike safety corridors. “On wet, dark and cold days, these corridors will run on streets with less traffic. We’ll have signalized intersections where bike riders would cross busy streets. We’re developing a network for bike riders to ride more safely.”
  • 3% is earmarked for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • 2% will be spent to reduce incidents at high-crash intersections.
  • 1% is dedicated for the “Safe Routes to Schools” Program.

“The other two-percent is for tax collection fees,” Lear adds.

Hear and be heard
Officials haven’t said whether they’ll put the program – and the new taxes – up to a vote. But, you’re invited to see the presentation by Adams and Wheeler, ask questions of PDOT and county staff members, and sound off at transportation town hall meeting.

Come to Menlo Park Elementary School at 12900 NE Glisan St. on October 22 – or Sellwood Middle School on October 30 – from 7 to 9 p.m. to get your voice heard.

Or, for more information, see their web site at

Outer East Portland residents “sound off” about “Safe and Sound Streets:

  • You need to look at pedestrian and bike traffic, increasing on outer Foster Rd.
  • At the 136th & Ramona school crossing, cars speed during school hours and when children are present. The street needs sidewalks to keep kids out of the street.
  • NE Halsey & 126th needs help!

High-crash Intersections

  • It is interesting that there are 22 [locations] east of 82nd, only 10 west of 82nd and just two west of the river.
  • How to buses stopping in travel lanes contribute to or not contribute to high-crash intersections?
  • Please paint tagging on bridge on NE 148th Ave. off Halsey, past Sumner Pl.
  • Add stop signs to intersections that do not have any for N/S or E/W traffic.
  • Cut back foliage so street signs and stop signs can easily be seen.

Family-friendly Pedestrian & Bicycle Routes

  • Bicycle boulevards should be kept low-cost and simple—signs and paint—and paid for by bicyclists with a bicycle path.
  • Please be more careful about where you put bike paths. When you have a path on I-205 do you really need one on narrow, high-traffic paths like 92nd?
  • NE Glisan between 102nd and 122nd has heavy traffic and a speeding problem with no motorized transit for support.
  • No more curb cuts for personal driveways.
  • I’m concerned about bicycle safety at Holgate & 72nd/79th.
  • Add grade separated bike lanes on busy streets that are traveled by bikes to access commercial and retail in the areas where street access is needed. An example is Foster & 92nd, 82nd & Powell, portions of 82nd near shopping and 122nd.
  • Rafael and Halsey traffic is too fast.
  • Please add pedestrian and bike crossing at 82nd & Raymond with clearly marked right of way lanes and activated signs.
  • Pedestrian islands should not be coupled with bus stops if the buses stop in vehicle travel lanes to board passengers.
  • Quit overcrowding our neighborhoods and our traffic problems will not be so bad.
  • I love the idea of moving bicycles off the main streets. Let’s make it safe for bikes and pedestrians and keep traffic moving.
  • Move bike and pedestrian crossing at 122nd & Foster. It impedes traffic.
  • Safe bike routes would be awesome (on alternate side streets or corridors).
  • I will never vote for even 1/10 of a cent tax to pay for anything Portland proposed. Quit wasting all our dollars and you will have plenty to take care of roads.
  • Family-friendly streets need public restrooms.
  • No bikes on any sidewalks.
  • Make and enforce a $292-$500 fine for bikes on sidewalks.
  • License and register all bikes and bicyclists, then use the money for bike boulevards and bike infrastructure.
  • If we are to be a truly “green” city, then cars, not pedestrians & bicyclists should be limited to certain streets.

Many people, from all over the East Portland area, came to the inner Safe and Sound Streets meetings

Bike Improvements

  • Need police enforcement for pedestrian crossings (SE Belmont east of 26th and SE Stark).
  • Motorists don’t look for pedestrians and only stop to be kind, not because it is required.
  • Involve the media—video of motorists ignoring pedestrians and bicyclists.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

hen the parking lot at SE 122nd Avenue and Division Street fills up with classic, show, and specialty vehicles, on a crisp Sunday afternoon – people come from miles around to check out this great, low-key car show …

Bill Dayton takes a look at Ken Krolikoski’s classic 1932 Packard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Lots of folks come to the “End of Summer Cruise-in” in the parking lot of Bill Dayton’s Pizza Baron on SE 122nd Avenue at SE Division Street to gawk at the cool classics, hot rods, and other specialty vehicles. We like hearing the owners talk about their rides!

10th annual event
“It’s put on every year by the Chrysler RT Club,” says organizer Dr. David Lee. “The best part is looking to see what everybody has done with their cars. These people put a lot of the time, talent, and money into their cars.”

Lee tells us that this event, now in its tenth year, draws auto enthusiasts from as far away as Hillsboro and Longview, WA. “It’s all about nice cars and good pizza.”

Classic cars; classy owners
We find Pizza Baron owner Bill Dayton talking with Ken Krolikoski about his slick-looking 1932 Packard.

“There are probably about ten of these left,” comments Krolikoski. “I wanted to find a classic, open car. But, I found all the ‘good’ ones are taken. I finally paid the price. It wasn’t perfect. Because they’re scarce, you can expect to put in some work to bring it back [into showroom condition]. It’s got 44,000 miles on it.”

“How does it drive?” we ask.

“Like a 1932 car!” Krolikoski says.

The Aragons show off their 1935 Dodge.

The car’s paint job attracts us to a beautifully modified ’35 Dodge belonging to Anthony and Leona Aragon.

“It’s been chopped, and has late model suspension.” Anthony reports. “It’s got a 350 Chevy engine. The project has taken a couple of years.”

He tells us that the best part about this car is that it is very drivable. “It is fun to drive. We like it when people smile, wave, and give you a thumbs-up. We can cruise down the road in it. But no, we don’t go shopping with it – it’s never left unattended in a parking lot.”

Rows of cars, modern to classics, attract car buffs, and people who enjoy looking at cool cars.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

You can “take a bite of out crime” – and remain anonymous while you collect a $1,000 reward by turning in James Sean Carlson …

Police have issued a no-bail warrant for this guy, 41-year-old James Sean Carlson. He’s wanted for busting into homes in both inner and outer East Portland.


The Portland Police Bureau, in cooperation with Crime Stoppers, is trying to find a wanted burglary suspect – and can help.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has issued a no bail warrant for 41-year-old James Sean Carlson on one count of Burglary in the first degree.

Carlson was the subject of a January 2007 Crime Stopper case after fingerprints linked Carlson to several Alameda neighborhood residential burglaries that occurred in October 2006.

Carlson was eventually arrested, charged, and convicted of the Burglaries.   He was sentenced to probation and has recently failed to report to his probation officer and has violated the conditions of his probation.

Additionally, East Precinct Detectives have probable cause to arrest Carlson on at least five new burglaries committed in the east county area.

Carlson is described as a white male, 5″11 tall, 175-180 pounds, with short red hair and mustache, and blue eyes.  Carlson is listed as a Potential Armed Career Criminal, and is considered a heavy methamphetamine user.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you remain anonymous.  Call Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357) or 9-1-1 if the suspect’s you know where Carlson is hiding out.

Fore more information, call Portland Police Bureau Detective Dave Anderson at (503) 823-4822.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service.

See why these hard-working law enforcement folks in green spend their free time bussing tables, pouring water, and delivering orders, at this Mall 205 area restaurant …

Mall 205 Red Robin customers Christopher, Sam and Kathy Calkins are welcomed by Dep. Jordan Philpot.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Last month, customers at the Mall 205 Red Robin Restaurant were treated to extra-special service by green-uniformed law enforcement personnel.

“We’re here to earn tips to support Special Olympics of Oregon,” explained Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Lt. Jason Gates.

Brad Bingham, GM Mall 205 Red Robin, Elyse Seisser, Red Robin server; Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department Dep. Jonathan Zwick; Dep. Joshua Zwick (brothers); and Dep. James Erickson — at Tip-A-Cop day, serving the families of sisters-in-law Melissa Baldwin and Valerie Harvey.

“Today, we have two teams here, each working four hour shifts. All of the donations we get are tax deductible,” Gates told us. “All of these deputies are volunteering their own time for this. Volunteerism is important to us at MCSO.”

Marilyn Davanzo and Joey Davanzo are served by MSCO Dep. James Erickson.

The restaurant’s manager, Brad Bingham, said that they love hosting this outer East Portland event. “We’re proud to be participating an event that gives so much back to the community. And, the deputies are surprisingly good workers!”

In his last act as Public Information Officer for MCSO (he’s going on to other duties), Lt. Jason Gates filled us in on the statistics: Twelve MCSO members volunteered during the 8 hour event; 246 patrons of Red Robin donated to the Special Olympics.

“In total,” he reported, “we raised $3,127.38 — an increase of about $500.00 over last year. We’re grateful for the opportunity to give back to our community.”

Deputies get their “marching orders” during the shift crew meeting led by Red Robin staff members. Check out those official law enforcement aprons!

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why failing to heed the “rules of the road” left this bicycle rider in very serious condition with a head injury, after he darted out in front of a car …

Portland Police Bureau Major Crash Team members piece together the accident, near Portland International Airport, that sent a man to the hospital with what officials call “a life-threatening head injury.”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An accident that seriously injured a bicyclist at 5:01 p.m. on October 18, on NE Marine Drive near Portland International Airport, shut down the area’s northernmost street for hours, while Major Crash Team members of Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division sorted out the details.

Paths cross with disastrous results
It was about 90 minutes before sunset, but the sky was dark with storm clouds. An automobile was traveling at the speed limit; a bicyclist was also westbound on the bike path that parallels the street.

Two witnesses at the scene say the 68-year-old bicyclist was traveling very quickly and didn’t not appear to slow down – or even hesitate – at the bicycle/pedestrian crosswalk stop sign. The bike rider darted southbound, into the path of the car, flipped off his bicycle, and smashed into the windshield of the car.

“The bicyclist was in a marked crosswalk, but failed to stop for a stop sign prior to crossing the street,” confirmed Portland Police Bureau spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schmautz.

Police say the bicyclist didn’t heed the stop sign; turning directly into the path of an oncoming car.

“The bicyclist, Robert Verrinder, was immediately taken into surgery at Emanuel Hospital with a life-threatening head injury. He remains in critical condition,” Schmautz added. “The motorist remained at the scene, and is cooperating with the investigation. Speed and impairment do not appear to be factors in the collision.”

Because of the incline at the crosswalk, investigators believe the 30-year-old motorist may not have seen the bicyclist until he was directly in front of her.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how the administration of Parkrose High School got families to come in and meet their student’s teachers, and become more involved in the school. And, discover how the “School Improvement Plan” there is helping freshmen turn into graduating seniors …

Roy Reynolds says he looks forward to a successful school year at Parkrose High.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In past years, the turnout for Parkrose High School’s “Back to School Night” – a time when parents are encouraged to come to the campus and informally meet with their kids teachers – was often poor.

“This year, we did it a little differently,” reports principal Roy Reynolds. “We offered a community dinner. To better form a community of education, we’re creating a feeling of community by ‘breaking bread’ together.”

Pitching Bronco shirts are Parkrose High students Derek Herman, Jr, Hang Nguyen, and Toyin Oyemaja.

During the spaghetti dinner, the school’s great jazz band plays, families and students mingle around tables in the atrium, Reynolds speaks briefly, and the families are sent off to meet – and “make a connection” with – teachers throughout the school.

This year’s focus
“We’ve been working on providing a rigorous education,” says Reynolds. “But another topic is the ‘support part’ of education. One can stress rigor – but if you don’t support it – you’re not there.

“Our School Improvement Plan is focusing on ninth graders. For students who aren’t making the grade, we have planned a series of interventions. We want to get any struggling freshmen back on track.”

These interventions, Reynolds explains, might include mandatory tutoring either during or after school.

“Tutoring will no longer be optional. If you leave it up to the struggling student, we’re indicating to them that extra learning experiences aren’t really important.

“We’re not requiring this because we’re upset at them – it is because we want our freshmen to become seniors, and graduate. Their freshman year sets up their whole high school career.”

Instructor — and director of Parkrose High’s renowned choral program — Lesley Bossert confers with parents and students during Back-to-School night.

Was the evening a success? Reynolds says he thinks so. And, judging from the full parking lots – and the cars lining NE Shaver Street – we’d agree!

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Not all SE Portland celebrations are German! Learn why the Chinese celebrate their harvest season by making colorful lanterns …

The Lynch family – dad Chris, as well as Melissa, a Lewis 3rd grader and Elizabeth, a Lewis Elementary 1st grader – show their paper lanterns.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While many folks were enjoying a touch of Bavarian culture at Oaks Park’s Oktoberfest, others were learning the Chinese way of celebrating the harvest season, by making paper lanterns at the Woodstock Branch Library late in September.

“We make lanterns as part of our mid-autumn festival,” explained instructor Jean Choy. “Because the brightly colored lantern reminds us of the moon, we use them as part of our celebration.”

“On the date of our festival, the moon is the biggest and shines the brightest,” Choy told us. “Actually, the celebration is for three days. We say ‘hello, moon’ on the first day, and say ‘goodbye, moon’ on the third day.”

Instructor Jean Choy tells families at the Woodstock Library about the Chinese tradition behind lantern making, while she gives construction tips.

We asked Choy why there was a rabbit on each of the lanterns the kids and parents were making.

“We put a bunny face on the lantern because legend says a bunny rabbit lives in the moon. His role is to make the medicine of longevity; for a long, healthy life.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy one of the best Oktoberfest events! Take a look at the fun everyone had at the Oaks Park event, right here …

These fun musical cut-ups, providing a rollicking good time, are the High Five Band from The Dalles.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While some people prefer to travel for an hour or more to attend a traditional German Oktoberfest harvest celebration, thousands of Portlanders take in the same sort of festivities each year at Oaks Park.

From small musical groups to a full polka band, sounds of lively music drifted through the century-old amusement park from as many as three venues at the same time.

“My lederhosen are original, and da genuine article,” confides Al Planatscher – an immigrant from Tiraol, Austria. “I make all these pants myself, since 25 years.”

Daughter and dad Kristy and Byron White drove together to dance and dine at the Oaks’ Oktoberfest – all the way from Bellingham, Washington.

Food was savory and plentiful. Guests dined on sausages, schnitzels, and all the trimmings. The made-while-you-watch soft pretzel we purchased was the best we’ve eaten.

As we strolled around the temporarily-Germanic-decorated park, we stopped to talk with Oaks Park’s Senior Manager, Mary Beth Coffey. “I agree with people who say that our Oktoberfest is ‘the pretty one’. Set in our wooded area, overlooking the Willamette River, overseas guests say it reminds them of their homeland.”

This Portland choir sings traditional German songs. The group’s name, Liederkreis, means “Circle of Songs”.

When the crowd chants, “Ziggy, zoggy, ziggy, zoggy, hoy, hoy, hoy, hoy”, everyone lifts their beverage of choice, in a toast.

Because they’re celebrating German culture, Coffey says they strive for authenticity. “We have really worked at having German food, bands, and beer. The German Society is here, and the German School does the kids’ events. It is a way for people to celebrate a different culture for a day, isn’t it?”

The Portland-based Tyrolean Dancers provide an energetic, swirling, fancy-stepping demonstration.

Flap, Flap, Beak Beak, everyone! The traditional Oktoberfest Chicken Dance is led by The Oregon Chicken!

Then, we hit Coffey with the big question: “Do you dance the Chicken Dance?”

“Yes,” she replied with a big smile, “I indeed do the Chicken Dance. The Oregon Fryer Commission is our main sponsor, so I’ve had the pleasure of dancing with ‘The Oregon Chicken’ as he leads it, front and center.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Take a look and you’ll see why neighbors say this residential SE Portland street should be designated a “no passing zone” …

Police say the driver of this Acura shouldn’t even been on the road – his driver’s license is suspended!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“We really need to make SE 136th Avenue between Holgate and Powell a no-passing zone,” comments neighbor Mary Walker, as she looks at the wreckage about to be towed from the street.

Walker says she heard the accident that sent both drivers to OHSU on October 5 at about 9:30 p.m. “I was in the kitchen. I heard this huge bang. I mean, it was a really big boom. I ran out and looked, and called 911. The police were here in two minutes.”

As she walked three doors down to look at the remains of an offset, head-on collision, Walker said the horn of one car was still blaring.

Walker, who is known to East Precinct cops – because she volunteers to restock their patrol cars’ trunks, several days a week – said there was another accident on her road earlier in the day. “This street gets a surprising amount of traffic. And, it seems people are always driving in a hurry; they pass cars when it isn’t safe.”

The Acura hit the Thunderbird with such force, it bent the frame.

Shouldn’t have been driving
According to Sgt. Brian Schmautz, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, 28-year-old Lay Nguyen was driving a gray 1991 Acura Intrepid northbound and was “stuck” in traffic. However, Nguyen shouldn’t have been behind the wheel at all – his driver’s license is suspended.

Nguyen whipped out of his lane, stepped on it, and smashed, almost head-on, in to 44-year-old Dean Roundy as he was driving south in his 1993 burgundy Ford Thunderbird just south of SE Francis Street.

“Nguyen was cited for Careless Driving and Driving While Suspended,” Schmutz states.

As we watched tow trucks jockeying to pick up the totaled-out vehicles, Walker says, “I hope the city will take a look at our street before someone gets killed.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

If you’ve got kids, you probably know “Anansi the Spider” from the book written by Eric Kimmel. If not, see why an auditorium full of young fans welcomed him – and his famous spider – to their school …

-1 Using a tambourine as he tells his story “Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock”, nationally-known children’s author Eric Kimmel gets a rock star’s reception from kids at Clark Elementary School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For some grade-schoolers, learning to read and write is hard work. So, educators at William Clark Elementary School on SE 92nd Avenue, just south of SE Washington Street, came up with an idea to get them involved in literature.

“We thought that inviting Eric Kimmel, a Portland-based author, was a good way to kick off our month-long reading campaign,” explains Kathryn Golden, a 3rd grade teacher, and Principal Intern at the school.

“Our kids here at Clark, and in our SUN School program, have been reading stories about “Anansi the Spider” – Kimmel’s central character in many of his children’s books,” Golden tells us before the event on October 2. “We’ve been doing classroom activities with his books. He’s become like a rock star to them.”

-2 Ron McDonald, SUN program teacher, and Kim Vorasai, kindergarten teacher, serve pizza to students before Eric Kimmel speaks.

As the SUN School kids are enjoying a pizza meal before meeting Kimmel, Joel Todd, the site manager for the Clark Elementary SUN school, echoes Golden’s sentiments. “The energy generated by being able to meet a nationally-famous author has my kids freaking out with joy. They can’t believe they get to meet him and ask questions. The way it has gotten our kids into reading – it is awesome. I love it.”

As the auditorium starts to fill, and the 60 SUN School kids start filing in, we have the chance to speak with Kimmel.

-3 Joel Todd, SUN site manager Kathryn Golden 3rd Grade Teacher, and Principal Intern, and author Eric Kimmel before the program.

Professor turns children’s author

“I’m a former professor of education at Portland State University; and Professor Emeritus, school of administration,” Kimmel says. “But, I’ve been writing for kids for forty years. I’m here tonight to do a program focusing on a new book coming out. [The book] is still in process. I thought it might be fun for everyone to get a look at what goes into making a book.

“I’ll show the kids edited manuscripts and some pictures from the artists. They’ll will learn that books don’t just pop out of your head, ready to put on the library shelf.”

Kimmel says his stories don’t moralize. “Your job is to simply tell a good story. There is a beginning, middle, and end. A character has a problem, and ends up on a higher or lower plane, based on his decisions. Just like life!”

-4 Eric Kimmel tells the story of Anansi the Spider. The kids have been reading the book, and help by chiming in when asked to do so.

Says sharing his process is important

For Kimmel, says talking about his work is a pleasure. “It is important for kids to know books are created by real people. And, that creating a book is a process.”

Learning to read and write, while vitally important, is still difficult for many kids, Kimmel explains.

“I want kids to see that thinking is the first step in writing. You might actually have to think for quite some time before you write. And, the story will go through several revisions. And, it’s important that they realize that there is a ‘story behind the story’ – books are put together from bits of this and that.”

Another idea Kimmel imparts is “When you have a good idea, you write it down. Be tough on yourself and look it over. Rewrite it. Most books on the library shelf have been rewritten many times. Don’t think that, because your first draft isn’t very good, that you’re not a good writer.”

Kimmel, the rock star of kid’s books

As the author is introduced, he’s greeted with a thundering ovation. As the room quiets down, he starts by telling – not reading – a story about one of his characters, Anansi the Spider.

-5 When Kimmel asks, “What happens next?” – most of the kids know the answer because they’ve been reading the book at school.

Within minutes, Kimmel has the attention of his youthful audience. They love the story. And, ask questions, to learn more about the “story behind the story”. Perhaps one of these kids will, because of this experience, go on to become a famous children’s author some day.

To learn more about Kimmel, see his web site: CLICK HERE.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover why their educational concept is a far cry from “high school shop class”! See how their idea can turn potential high-school flunk-outs into good citizens – with well-paying jobs …

In this building on NE 158th Avenue, the Academy of Architecture, Construction & Engineering will open its doors to students in September, 2008.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After a distinguished career in education, including being the Superintendent of Parkrose School District for eight years until his retirement in June, Michael Taylor earned the right to put his feet up and relax.

But loafing isn’t in Taylor’s nature. He’s on to his next challenge: Creating a charter school in outer East Portland.

Speaking before the Parkrose Business Association, Taylor, and Oregon Business Congress (OBC) executive director Dr. Richard O’Connor, PhD, outlined their plan to open the “Academy of Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE)”.

Four years in the making
“We were approached by the Oregon Building Congress about creating a construction industry related academy four years ago,” Taylor began. “Because the building we were considering was located in Portland, we had to secure the charter through Portland Public Schools. It didn’t work out.”

Michael Taylor (sitting in his new office at the school) says he didn’t give up on the construction academy idea, even though they were spurned by Portland Public Schools four years ago.

But the idea so intrigued Taylor, he kept working on it.

“Terry Kneisler, Superintendent of the Reynolds School District, and I went back to OBC and told them that we’re still interested. Reynolds, Centennial, Parkrose, and Gresham-Barlow School Districts are the educational partners in the academy.”

Hybrid program provides skills and social life
“Public high schools are idealistic. Schools don’t necessarily want to produce laborers. They are about ‘opening doors’, and introducing students to opportunities and possibilities,” Taylor said.

“High schools do well at providing general education. And kids need the social engagement they get in a public high school,” he went on. “But they don’t do well connecting education to the ‘real’ world.”

ACE students will get the best of both worlds, Taylor explained, because they attend the academy – and their “home” high school – on alternate days.

The building that will house the ACE Academy is fully-equipped with modern classrooms and spacious construction laboratory areas.

Not reinventing the wheel
Instead of creating the school from scratch, Taylor said they modeled the ACE academy on East County’s Center for Advanced Learning (CAL).

“CAL provides training in manufacturing, information technology, and the medical professions. The idea of a charter school wrapped around the construction trades makes sense.”

While the new academy’s concept is unique, Taylor says, “What is different is how this partnership is coming together. Typically, the schools are the majority partner; in this case, they’ve agreed to be minority partners.”

More than shop classes
“The concept of specialized learning academies really makes sense,” explained Taylor, “because many students don’t have the money or desire to get a college degree.

“But because of the diverse training available at ACE, students may come in thinking they will learn to swing a hammer, but end up leaving as graduates who want to become architects.”

Richard O’Connor, Oregon Building Congress, says this new charter school will help students earn family-wage jobs, plus provide able workers for the construction trades.

OBC: Ten years of construction education
OBC’s Executive Director, Richard O’Connor, told us, “The organization was created in 1921, and has successfully dealt with industry issues. In more recent years, it searched for a mission; it was like a ‘hammer looking for a nail’ until we developed the ‘Building Futures’ educational program.”

About 10 years ago, OBC started working with high schools, helping them create “construction academies”. They created teacher development programs that integrated construction skills with traditional math and English courses.

Since their “Building Futures” program connects academics with real-life job skills, O’Connor continued, “Kids become jazzed about taking more math courses and finishing high school. Upon graduation, many students took more schooling and entered trade apprenticeships.”

“We’ve successfully worked with more than a thousand teachers,” confided O’Connor. “Because our courses were provided by top industry professionals, the teachers rate our program highly. Although the ACE academy is brand new, OBC has a wealth of educational experience.”

Richard O’Connor, Oregon Building Congress, presents one of their two “Educator of the Year” awards to the Michel Taylor, the new Executive Director of ACE academy. Although not shown, Terry Kneisler, Reynolds School District Superintendent, was also named “Educator of the Year” for his work in establishing the ACE Academy charter school.

Fills needs of industry and workers
At the Oregon Building Congress’ annual meeting, held this year at the site of the new ACE academy on October 10, O’Connor told us there are three reasons why this new charter school fills an urgent need.

“Construction is the fasting growing industry in this area In addition to construction workers, engineers and architects are also in short supply.

“Secondly, this education will provide solid, family-wage jobs to graduates. Graduates will have new choices: They can go directly into the construction trades or pursue technical or managerial careers.

“Finally, consider this. East County has the highest poverty rate in the greater Portland area. We think this school can be an engine for economic development.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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