No one from the public testified this evening in front of the Portland School Board
about the latest version of the high-school redesign.
That's in some ways understandable. Even though the board plans to vote on the proposal on Oct. 12, Superintendent Carole Smith
didn't publicly air her plan until almost mid-way through tonight's 5:30 pm meeting, meaning likely opponents of the idea to close Marshall High School had no notice.
However, Nick Christensen, president of the Lents Neighborhood Association
that represents the Marshall High neighborhood, issued the following personal statement after Smith's announcement that she favors closing Marshall entirely. Under previous versions of her plan, Smith had proposed keeping Marshall open as a small, 400-student focus school.
It's a sad day for East Portland. Hardworking families who don't have time to mount vocal opposition to a proposed school closure will instead be faced with the burden of driving their students further to school. Parents could instead subject their sons and daughters to more than 6 hours a week on transit to get to their new high school. Education should never be a burden, especially for emerging communities, and yet here we are, and there PPS goes making it even harder for East Portland to go to school.
Portland Public Schools could have agreed with the Lents Neighborhood Association, and explored transferring its East Portland constituency to the David Douglas School District. It instead closed the door on the notion immediately. Lents is fortunate that it is in two school districts, one of which has found numerous ways to succeed and one of which can't figure out how to educate its students. Unfortunately, students in Lents who live on the wrong side of the street will continue to be subjected to PPS' sub-par education; PPS will continue to take tax dollars from this neighborhood and import them into the more affluent neighborhoods of this city.
Education is vital to community development. This city has invested tens of millions of dollars in an effort to make Lents and its surrounding neighborhoods a better place to live. If this proposal goes through, we will lose a vital link to students who might otherwise help their community. How many Franklin or Madison teachers will have volunteer projects in Lents? How many students will mentor at Kelly or Lent elementary after a long day in a neighborhood far from home?
We congratulate those proponents and families at other campuses who were able to convince PPS their facility was worth saving. But nobody should be celebrating today's proposal as a victory for civil rights in Portland. A majority-minority campus, home to some of PPS' least affluent families, is proposed for closure. Students will be disenfranchised from their education. It's a shame that the path of least resistance is also the path that has the most to lose by being trampled.