June 14th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

High-School Redesign: Jefferson Supporters Voice Frustration, Disappointment

Carole Smith at Jefferson June 14

In front of depictions of tombstones that carried the names of short-lived Jefferson High School principals and even shorter-lived Jefferson reforms, Superintendent Carole Smith told a crowded cafeteria full of Jefferson supporters tonight that "people are still listening" and "your voices matter."

The decorations for the evening's PTA session -- which also included a classroom skeleton dressed as a Grim Reaper -- suggest they believe otherwise.

Just four days earlier a majority of Portland School Board members signaled they were prepared to vote on a plan that closed Jefferson as a neighborhood high school. Smith supports keeping Jefferson as a neighborhood high school.

In fact, the proposed high-school redesign Smith unveiled April 26 envisioned a Jefferson that could grow from 440 students today to about 900 students in the near future. But five school-board members have said they would support making Jefferson a focus-option school, a proposal that sounds similar to an idea from 2007.

The board is scheduled to vote on Jefferson's future June 21. If the board approves closing Jefferson, the public will have had only 11 days to consider that plan.

Many of the dozens of Jefferson supporters who spoke tonight at the meeting (convened by all of the Jefferson cluster's PTAs) said they wouldn't support anything but a comprehensive neighborhood campus like the one they thought they were getting until just last week. One woman called the short notice "spiritual warfare."

Several students (who have final exams tomorrow) sat among the crowd, which at times crackled with anger over the district's repeated changes to Jefferson's structure. "I've only been here two years," 16-year-old Celine Yip, a Jefferson student, said. "And I've been to more meetings to save my school than any sophomore should."

The School Board will meet Wednesday, June 16, at 5:30 pm for a work session on the high-school redesign.
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