Brooklyn Neighborhood, Portland, Oregon (503) 241-4540

Board Chair Email: eric[at]brooklyn-neighborhood.org

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Brooklyn Parents Meet with PPS over Neighborhood School Issue

May 24th, 2012 · 6 Comments

The Portland Public School’s Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfer (SACET) met with several Brooklyn Neighborhood families last week to discuss an alternative to having Grout Elementary School be our neighborhood school. Parents in the Brooklyn neighborhood had recently asked PPS representatives attending a neighborhood association meeting to allow Brooklyn resident children priority into Winterhaven School.  SACET is asked to review data, listen to various perspectives on the issue, and advise on potential actions the district could take.  Since Brooklyn has been included in the Grout boundary since the closure of Brooklyn School in 2002, a meeting was convened at Grout School, and members of Brooklyn neighborhood, along with Grout and Winterhaven Schools, were invited to attend and share their perspectives.  Student enrollment data for Brooklyn and the remainder of Grout neighborhood were provided, along with enrollment at Winterhaven by neighborhood school.

SACET members heard testimony from numerous community members.  A summary of their statements, including written comments submitted at the meeting, are attached to this document.

Neeley Wells led the committee through discussion that included additional dialogue with community members.  SACET members raised several points:

Asked for clarification about transportation, and learned that yellow bus service is provided from Brooklyn to Grout.

Asked what types of preferences should be in place if a neighborhood set-aside at Winterhaven was not large enough to accommodate all Brooklyn applicants.  Expressed an interest in a neighborhood preference, but asked, “at what cost”?

Noted that district’s move towards larger schools, and that, if Winterhaven were relocated and the building reopened as a neighborhood school, the building would be too small to meet size target, the neighborhood does not have enough students to fill the school and Grout would be too small to be sustainable.

Teletha Benjamin and Jeff Hammond spoke of personal experiences with closures and mergers, and the benefit of having as many people as possible commit to the new school so that it can be stronger than the two schools were when separated.  Ms. Benjamin encouraged community members to be willing to take a step back from where they are now and to be open to compromise.

Regional Administrator Larry Dashiell added that PPS used to have 72,000 students, and now has closer to 45,000.  Population changes bring challenges, and a global perspective is needed.  He complemented principal Susan McElroy on her great team that is accomplishing so much at Grout.

On further discussion, members agreed that the Brooklyn neighborhood request fits within broader questions about location and enrollment issues at focus schools.  They agreed to incorporate this issue into their further work on enrollment & transfer priorities, which was tabled until their next meeting.

SACET members then heard and briefly discussed updates on the status of the Long Range Facility Plan, capital bond planning and consolidation and closure in the Jefferson Cluster.

Members agreed to hold the next SACET meeting Tuesday, June 19th beginning at 5:30 pm at BESC.  Specific room location will be sent in advance of the meeting.

The meeting was closed at 8:40 pm.

Meeting summary submitted by Judy Brennan

SUMMARY OF VERBAL COMMENTS

Importance of neighborhood school

Brooklyn neighborhood families do not have access to a neighborhood school.  Families move away because of this, causing transience.  This is no way to build a neighborhood.

The City’s direction for 20 minute neighborhoods could happen in Brooklyn.  It is an affordable neighborhood that may get increased families when light rail goes in.

The neighborhood make-up has changed and there are more young families now.Our neighborhood would be stronger if families who moved in stayed to attend the neighborhood school.

Brooklyn residents want to support Grout, but don’t consider it part of our neighborhood.  Grout feels physically isolated.  As a proponent for neighborhood schools, would like to see access to the school in our neighborhood.

We live across the street from the school.  We are there when other families have gone home for the summer.  We have nothing against the Grout area, but it is not our neighborhood..

Bikeability/walkability

Many Brooklyn families are at Grout, but would also like preference to Winterhaven, because it is so close to where we live, and we can bike and walk there.

Grout is not a school we can walk to.  There are three ways to cross the railyards and none are safe.  It is frightening to bike to Grout.  But we walk past Winterhaven every day.

Winterhaven program

The Winterhaven program doesn’t take neighborhood students because it is an accelerated program that serves the whole district.  If all the neighborhood kids came, it would not be Winterhaven any more.

Could Winterhaven change to a K-5 school so that more neighborhood students could attend?  Could a certain # of slots be set aside for Brooklyn residents?

Could Winterhaven have a little higher class sizes or be a little more crowded?

Other choices

Some families prefer focus options like immersion.  When families can’t attend their closest school, they make other decisions that they feel are best for them.

Concerns about Grout

Many Brooklyn students do not go to Grout.  Some wonder if it is next on the closure list.  Some feel that Grout is not a great school for their student, because it doesn’t have a reputation like Abernethy and Llewellyn.  When I came to Grout I heard nothing about support for at/above-grade level students.

Support for Grout

I will send my daughter to Grout, but I want my neighborhood to be strong, as well.  Grout on paper looks challenging, but in person looks awesome.  More kids here would equal music and PE.  My child would go to school here with 50 other students from Brooklyn.  Grout’s principal was named PTA’s principal of the year.  There are outstanding programs and teachers.  Don’t judge just on the railroad tracks.

WRITTEN COMMENTS

  1. I strongly believe in neighborhood schools and understand they have to be big enough to be financially viable.  My concern for Winterhaven is that it has already been changed by automatic sibling acceptance since not all siblings are ready for an accelerated program.  If we also accept neighbors automatically, the makeup of kids ready for accelerated curriculum would potentially be impacted.  Some years we only accept 8-10 kindergarteners and the rest of the 24 are siblings.  If a neighborhood school at that location is highly valued, it would need to continue to attract lots of students from outside the neighborhood and Winterhaven may not be the best way to do that.  Perhaps a different focus?
  2. Would it even be considered to have Winterhaven middle school (6,7,8) at another location so there could be a co-school?  K-5 (one neighborhood room, one focus room).
  3. Suggestion:  Move the Winterhaven 6,7,8 program to another middle school making room for twice as many K-5 kids.
  4. Suggestion:  I don’t necessarily need a neighborhood school.  But I can compromise and would like a neighborhood preference at Winterhaven.
  5. Brooklyn has such a strong community – from friendships between families, block parties, watching out for one another at the park and neighborhood watch.  We’ve had so many small children and young families move in, priming the neighborhood for continued improvement.  We need and deserve a better public school option than Grout – closer, better quality, more community based.  Please help us find a creative solution that allows our neighborhood and children [to] blossom.
  6. I would like to make two points from a Winterhaven perspective:

a)  Winterhaven families have made a major commitment to the math/science   majority.  An excess concentration from the local neighborhood motivated by convenience and locality, risks undercutting Winterhaven’s math/science mission.

b)  Winterhaven draws from the overall district, and diversity is risked by high concentration of local families.  Winterhaven likes the diversity in this Portland-wide draw.

  1. I’m not sure Winterhaven would be the best option for my child, nor am I as worried about a neighborhood school.  When I look at all the schools (elementary) in inner SE all have outstanding ratings but Grout.  That’s what I would like to see change.
  2. a)  Has the committee considered adding a focus option to Grout?

b) I think a language or World Studies program would be an addition that should be considered for Grout.

c) Make this a school that parents want to attend.

  1. Ideas for solutions:

a)     Shift Winterhaven to a K-5 and open up one additional class at each grade level, then preference 50% of slots for neighborhood kids.

b)     If Winterhaven building can’t sustain the number of kids wantin to attend, move Winterhaven to a larger school building, like Grout and then make the old Brooklyn school a neighborhood school.

c)     If nothing changes, the compromise should be that some preference is offered to Brooklyn residents.

  1. a)  Is Winterhaven large enough to service PPS?  There are many families that  apply and can’t get in.

b)  Should the district be offering an “advanced” or accelerated math/science school, or reinvest in math/science at all schools.

c)  How is family preference fair?  This should be an equal chance for each child.

  1. I believe the Brooklyn community would feel a solid compromise would be to guarantee a set amount of Winterhaven spots for Brooklyn resident children.  Keep the magnet school and keep the community!  Please!!!
  2. Suggestion:  Make Winterhaven K-5 so that more slots are available for K-5 ages and allow neighborhood preference.
  3.  Thank you so much for your time and commitment.  I recognize the difficult bind we all are in.  Offering some preference for Brooklyn residents/kids at Winterhaven is a vital option which will keep the Brooklyn community alive and well for future generations.

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Tags: Brooklyn Action Corps

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ampadgett // May 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Wow – I had no idea I lived among such narrow-minded and classist parents. My kid goes to Grout and does great there, class sizes are small and it’s a thriving diverse school.

    The comment above that ‘We need and deserve a better public school option than Grout’ annoys me so much. So many of you discount the school without even considering it as an option. When my son started Kindergarten I did not do the lottery or even look anywhere else after having a terrific tour of Grout with the principal.

    I’m ashamed to realize that I live among such small minded parents who, let me guess, tried to lottery into Winterhaven and lost.

  • 2 mattmccomas // May 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    @ampadgett the comment you are referring to was a 1 parent vocalizing their thoughts. 98% of the discussion was about connecting our families better, making our neighborhood stronger and allowing our kids to walk and ride their bikes to school. Over and over again Grout was talked about in a positive manner. You’re thoughts about small minded parents is totally off base. I was incredibly proud of the parents that were there that evening.

    I was at the meeting and vocalized the fact that I am sending my daughter to Grout, I will invest there and get involved but I want a chance to send my kid to Winterhaven because it’s in my back yard. And yes, my daughter didn’t win the lottery to get into Winterhaven. :)

    If you have more questions you can email me at matthew.mccomas (at) gmail.com. We’re going to put together an initiative to connect Brooklyn families who have children who attend Grout, we would love to have you get involved.

    Thanks.

  • 3 mattmccomas // May 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Also, you can join the facebook group that has helped connect brooklyn familes concerning this issue….https://www.facebook.com/groups/194611383987369/members/

  • 4 Remmurf // May 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    It’s silly to label as classist those who want the chance to send their kids to the school in their neighborhood. What is truly classist/ elitist is a school with only 7% free/reduced lunch, 45% TAG and 80% white students that isn’t accessible for most kids within it’s immediate area and that requires all students to attend fee-for-service kindergarten. The discrepancy between test scores and enrollment at Grout vs. Winterhaven is huge. Where’s the outrage over that? There’s a school within blocks from us, paid for by our taxes, that looks practically like a private school. But we are told to look past it to one not nearby, with way fewer resources. Are we really snobs for preferring the closer school which also happens to be one of the top performing schools in the district? Especially when that school used to be our neighborhood school?

  • 5 ampadgett // May 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Excuse me, but I do not believe I have a ‘skewed’ view of the recent meeting, as you commented in your FB group. I fully intended to get to the SACET meeting, but had a family emergency that night.

    I understand that the Grout PTA and the Winterhaven PTSA both spoke out against this proposal at the meeting, so there is a strong likelihood that nothing will change.

    Imagine that PPS did something radical (not likely in the current budget situation) but let’s say this scenario happened -

    They move the Winterhaven focus school to Grout (this was proposed before back in 2006-7). They now have room for 600 kids from all over the City to lottery into a desirable K-8 science/math program.

    The Grout catchment area is divvied up between Brooklyn, Duniway and Creston. Brooklyn Elementary K-5 gets all Brooklyn kids plus every child up to say 32nd Ave. between Powell and Woodstock. This includes a large amount of low-income and ESL kids. This new Brooklyn school still continues to get lower test scores than Abernethy, Llewellyn and the new Grout-Winterhaven magnet.

    I guarantee that if that was the new reality most Brooklyn parents would still be scrambling to lottery out of their new walkable neighborhood underperforming school.

    Yes I do think you are snobs. You want a neighborhood school, but you desperately want it be only the sexy, high-scoring magnet program based on the multiple comments from the meeting detailed above.

    Kudos to the one brooklyn parent above who said ‘Grout on paper looks challenging, but in person looks awesome.’

  • 6 mattmccomas // May 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I’m sorry if the “skewed” comment was unfair. However, from your comments it seems as if you’ve unfairly judged your neighbors. The tone of the meeting was cordial and everyone in the room recognized that there is no easy fix to many of the problems PPS is facing. There were lots of perspectives presented in the room. Again, I’m sending my child to Grout and I’m hopeful that it will be a good fit. My desire to voice this issue because there is a facility in my backyard (literally) that we have no access too. Strong neighborhood schools strengthen neighborhoods and ours doesn’t have one. A couple hundred cars pass in front of my house every day and almost all of them have nothing to do with Brooklyn.

    The Grout PTA did not speak out against this proposal…they just highlighted the fact that Grout was a good school and that Brooklyn residents should consider it. There was one Winterhaven representative (a teacher, I believe) who voiced her thoughts about how the accelerated program of Winterhaven might not suit all the neighborhood kids….which I agree with.

    It’s a complex issue, but it does highlight some of the disrtict issues. It sounds like you’re passionate about helping your neighbors understand that Grout is a good school. Would you want to talk more about connecting families that are attending there?

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