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

High School Redesign: Carole Smith's New "Brain Trust"

High School Alliance

About a dozen parents calling themselves the High School Alliance met with top administrators from Portland Public Schools over the weekend to talk about the high school redesign.

The parents politely shared their concerns [PDF] on Saturday about the impending redesign, which is supposed to get its first airing in just three weeks on April 26. Among the questions from the group (whose members Superintendent Carole Smith referred to as her "brain trust"):

• Is Benson a "focus-option" school? The district has said that its new, proposed focus-option schools wouldn't offer varsity sports. Currently, Benson does, although the district also calls it a focus school. What gives? And what about the Young Women's Academy, which currently houses sixth through 11th grades at Tubman Middle School? It's supposed to grow to 12th grade next year. Will it still be around? No one has said.

• How will Portland Public Schools market its new redesign? (Forget for a moment that PPS has expended a lot of energy marketing its K-8s to little avail.)

• How much will the redesign save? And how much will it cost?

One issue on which there didn't appear to be consensus was the timing of the focus schools' unveiling. One parent said the district must get the comprehensive schools right first. Another parents said not identifying the focus schools at the same time the district names the comprehensive schools would create more limbo and more anxiety.

A Lincoln parent offered a few words of caution, though it is hard to gauge the accuracy of her statements. She said West Sylvan Middle School experienced a "50 percent increase" in private school applications and that Lincoln cluster parents were at a "tipping point," suggesting some of them were ready to give up on Portland Public Schools.

The superintendent offered two bits of news that aren't exactly surprising. PPS, she said, would go out for a new local option when the current option expires in 2011. She also reminded the group the district would ask voters for a construction bond sooner or later. (She didn't say when, but speculation is the district will put the measure on the ballot in May 2011.)
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