Portland Public Schools' final community meeting about the district's plan to close and redesign high schools,
held at Franklin High last night, can only be described as a whopper. Franklin's theater, which holds 1,500 people, was beyond capacity. Some estimates put the crowd at 2,000.
The turnout was a clear indication to school district officials that Franklin's community is worried about rumors the school will close.
One student put the question to the district this way [paraphrased]: PPS closed Youngson Elementary School in 2002 because of declining enrollment in the Franklin cluster. The district closed Kellogg Middle School in 2007 for similar reasons. In 2009, some Woodstock neighborhood children started going to Cleveland, not Franklin. Japanese immersion students at Mt. Tabor Middle School go to Grant High, not Franklin.
"The circumstantial evidence points to Franklin's closure," she said.
The district's response? We have made no decisions yet.
Franklin's program currently offers more than what PPS says all high schools should have. The school, which has been around for 98 years, has band, choir, drama, dance, 12 advanced placement courses and programs to help freshmen. "How does Franklin differ from the high school you're trying to create?" another person asked.
"Franklin IS your model!" a woman shouted from the balcony.
The meeting was so tense that Superintendent Carole Smith's chief of staff at one point invited the capacity-crowd to "let it out." "If you're here to say you value Franklin, go ahead and let it out," Zeke Smith said.
The response? Uproarious clapping and cheering.
At another point, Carole Smith (who spent most of the meeting listening rather than talking) stepped in, saying she gets the Franklin community's "deep anger." "We know that," she said. "We understand that."
But she also noted PPS hadn't closed a high school since the 1980s and there are now far fewer students in grades 9-12. (The current high school population is about 11,000; in 1996 it was 14,000.)
"We get where we've caused pain," she added.
Here's one thing she and other PPS representatives don't get. Repeatedly in public meetings, they use the phrase "call out" to give props to students, teachers and parents. This "call out" phrase is the new "bucket," the insidious term used by everyone from the superintendent to school board members. On Monday, Smith "called out" the Jefferson football team, which finished second in the state championship. Last night, a PPS administrator gave a "call out" to an exceptional teacher at the meeting. Here's the problem: To call out
is to bring attention to someone in a critical manner.
I'm hereby calling out PPS. Please put the phrase "call out" in your no-no "bucket."