On May 10, a gunman shot a clerk at Cigarettes Plus on North Lombard Street. The clerk survived but the gunman fled, leading Portland police to lock down two nearby elementaries in the Portland Public Schools district: Chief Joseph and Peninsula.
But more than 300 elementary-school children and a couple dozen adults at a PPS charter school located just 2 1/2 blocks from the shooting—the Portland Village School—remained unaware of the danger.
“We had to find out from a neighbor,” wrote school principal Jackie Jaffe in a May 11 message to families.
For its failure to inform charter schools about ongoing emergencies, we’re giving Portland Public Schools security director Dennis Tune this week’s Rogue dunce cap.
Portland Village School is one of the seven charter schools in the Portland Public Schools district. Charters are public schools, and charter-school parents pay taxes like public-school parents. But last week, Portland Village School families found out they’re considered second-class citizens at PPS.
“I wanted to follow up to make sure the Charter Schools…don’t have a false expectation that we will be contacting them in instances where a PPS school is placed in a lock in/out,” Tune wrote in a May 13 email responding to Jaffe’s concerns.
“A lock in/out can be initiated by the police, the school and the security office. Currently there is no mechanism for notifying Charter Schools,” Tune wrote.
Asked why notification wasn’t better and what he planned to do, Tune offered this email response: “The school district and the Office of Charter Schools [at PPS] are looking at how schools of all types are notified.”
Lt. Robert King, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, says precinct officials call nearby schools to initiate lockdowns.
King says until last week’s shooting, police had contact information provided by PPS for 65 conventional schools, but not for charters.
King says the Police Bureau has now requested contact information for charter schools as well, but since PPS granted its first charter in 1999, that request is very late in coming.
Portland Village School business manager Tracy Rimel notes 20 percent of her school’s state funding goes straight to PPS for administration.
“We pay more than $350,000 a year to the district,” Rimel says. “For that, I think we should get a spot on the police call list and some safety for our children.”