Yikes. Apologies for writing on Friday about a Monday meeting. But this week's session of Portland Public Schools' Board of Education was too important to ignore, even at this late date.
The topic? High-school redesign. The details? Um, there aren't many.
But here goes. First the overview,
which is based on a PowerPoint presentation from a PPS administrator (a good sign, right?):
• The redesign will require "change at every campus."
• The new system will include "community high schools,"
or neighborhood high schools with attendance boundaries; "magnet schools"
or thematic schools without boundaries; and "education options,"
which is just another name for alternative schools.
• School funding will continue to follow students, meaning schools will need to have an adequate number of students to support operations. But how many is that?
There's been no decision yet.
• Magnet schools will "incubate" innovative ideas.
• The "ed options" schools (aka alternative schools) will remain the same, because they are working, according to PPS. "We're not doing a whole lot to tinker with those at this time," John Wilhelmi, high school redesign adviser to the superintendent, told board members.
• There will be two community forums to get more public input on the redesign process on Oct. 9 and Oct. 17.
Then came the questions from board members.
Dilafruz Williams went first. A professor at Portland State University's Graduate School of Education, Williams had a technical question:
Why was PPS calling its proposed schools without boundaries "magnet schools." That term, she pointed out, has a legal definition that means the schools are designed to desegregate populations.
But that's not what PPS intends to do with its magnet schools, Wilhelmi said.
Trudy Sargent, co-chair of the board, either missed the point or didn't think it was important. She suggested PPS create a glossary
to define what it means by the terms it uses.
Bobbie Regan said she was worried PPS wasn't doing enough to keep up with trends in online education.
"If we could step that up, I'd sure appreciate it," she said. "It's going to happen, and we shouldn't try to play catch up."
Martín González came close to criticizing PPS administrators
for not giving the board a whole lot of information on what was happening and when. "I don't see a timeline for decisions," he said. "We can continue to ask the community about a whole bunch of things but if we don't have four votes [out of seven on the board]" the whole process is a waste, he said.
Again, Sargent chimed in, saying PPS staff would soon decide which decisions the board would make and when (which, depending on how much confidence you have in the board versus the staff, is either good news or terrible news.)
There was discussion at this point about the "tension" between making decisions too fast without community input and not having specifics to debate. But David Wynde noted that he had a list of questions from June 29 about the high school redesign.
And here it was Sept. 14 and "every question that I had at that point is still a question." He said, "that's the octopus were struggling with at the moment." Photo by Atul666.