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Sunday, February 28, 2010

What the signs really mean: Save Grant High School

So far we've stayed out of the big flap over the planned "realignment" of Portland's public high schools. We're on the list for rosy e-mail messages from the schools superintendent about how wonderful the planning process for this "boundary change" is going, and we see the protest lawn signs that have sprung up around the neighborhood about it. "Close the Gap -- Not the Schools." What an awkward slogan, we've thought, as we drove on to wherever we're going. But we haven't blogged a word about it.

Last night a couple of folks who are involved in the process bent our ear over cocktails. With all the buzzwords stripped away, they said, the school district is going to close Grant High School as we know it, turn it into some sort of magnet school (like Benson), and send the high schoolers from the Grant district to either Jefferson or Madison, both of which are currently perceived as lesser schools. And anyone who says "I'm not sending my kid to Jefferson" is labeled a racist.

I'm sure this one's got many other classic Portland features. I'll bet there are bureaucrats who tell you "No decision has been made yet," when of course the fix has been in from the start. There's probably a lot of "Thank you for your valuable input" from people who are going to keep holding meetings until you get tired of coming to them, and then tell you you missed the key moment. People saying "It's the principle of the thing" when they mean "It's what I want."

And there has got to be a developer weasel in the wings who winds up getting a deal out of this. Already we know they want the Lincoln High site for a tower or two, which means Lincoln will get moved to under the Fremont Bridge somewhere. Maybe that's part of why they're killing off Grant.

Comments (24)

Mover Mike used your great post to jump off to "Save Grant High? Not If You’re A Lib!"

Your 3rd paragraph is 100% spot on. This is how PPS does things.

My own sense (and I've got kids there) is that Grant won't be "closed" or "repurposed" (current jargon word I hate most, almost as much as "sustainable") as a focus school, but the boundaries will all be changed, and a lot of folk will be crying over that. Also, the building is seriously falling apart, and no matter what the new configuration is, kids will be out of that location and housed in "swing space" somewhere for a couple of years for much needed renovation. Assuming they float that bond measure, of course...
At least the signs look sharp.

They never cleaned up the train wreck that is the K-8 "reconfiguration." Again they are failing to make a case that all this upheaval will make things better.

Just like the west and east side trolleys....the fixes were in well before 2000 for the east side one and who knows how far back on the west side.
I am so tired of all the crooked fixes in Portland.

The board of Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association has passed a resolution opposing the closing or "repurposing" of Grant and/or Franklin high schools. The letter is here:


The Grant parents and faculty I know give exactly the same report as your cocktail party folks. It's apparently been a disastrous process toward an equally disastrous goal.

At least the new "repurposed" school will be close to Cesar Chavez Blvd. That is the most important thing correct?

I could live with sending my kids to Jefferson or Madison if I thought the educational opportunities were stellar, but the district hasn't made that case. Instead all I've seen in their descriptions of the go-forward schools is that they'll all be better then Jefferson is now. That's a pretty low bar...


Why are you supporting Franklin? The building is what, about half full at this point?

What I would like to suggest is merging Cleveland, which is bursting at the seams, and Franklin, which has an absolutely marvelous physical plant but an academic program that is failing.

Won't happen though as long as people resist thinking outside of the box with these schools.

We can't sustain our current configuration of high schools. We don't have the students.

This seems to be about real estate and who has eyes on these very nice sized parcels of land? This simply does not match with the mantra that all these new people are coming into our area. These lands belong to the public and will they come back in 10 years and insist that we buy new land for new schools?

The best thing is to keep public lands in public hands. A great public investment. If the schools are not full now, in the interim they can be used for community use, gardens, open space for children to play, open space needed by all in a city, gyms for people, community meeting rooms, community college class rooms,and the list can go on.

What would happen on these lands within the neighborhoods? Why cause upset and turmoil for people living in our communities now?

Do we really need continuous planning and changes until we don't recognize our neighborhoods and city anymore?

Many are changes the people do not want and are detrimental to our quality of life and to our peace of mind.

The frenzy of questionable projects and decisions in our city have caused some of us to wonder what insane matter or project will be next.

This in my opinion is abusive.

With all the buzzwords stripped away, they said, the school district is going to close Grant High School as we know it, turn it into some sort of magnet school (like Benson), and send the high schoolers from the Grant district to either Jefferson or Madison, both of which are currently perceived as lesser schools. And anyone who says "I'm not sending my kid to Jefferson" is labeled a racist.

So...What would be so bad about closing Grant High School as we know and turning it in to some sort of magnet school?

Why is it that both Jefferson and Madison are perceived as "lesser schools"?

Anyone who objects to their child going to Jefferson is somehow labelled 'a racist'? How does that work if the parent is black, or Asian, or mixed? And you are certainly not going to tell me that the Grant district, as currently composed is lily white, now, are you?

I don't understand this petty provincialism. Isn't the goal to have a decent set of educational institutions which provide quality education...not just a bunch of "athletic powerhouses", or whatever archaic rationale is being put forward to 'save' Grant, or Jeff, or Madison, or whatever high school?

If I were a Grant area citizen, I'd be worried about the School District leaving an eyesore in the community, a la WaMo High, or creating an even bigger and worser eyesore by selling off the property to the Homer Williams types that serve as 'volunteers' on the District's surplus land committee.

Franklin is a huge school size wise, but to say it is half-full is missing the point. It is big enough to hold twice the number of students it currently has (over a thousand) but it is only a few hundred low of what the "redesign" team considers the ideal number of students which is 1400. As a Franklin Parent I can't agree with your comment about it's academic failing. It's an excellent school which my kids have done very well in. I'd be all for your suggestion of merging Cleveland at Franklin (or even the reverse) but that's not what this whole redesign is about. Thank God my kids will be graduating in just one more year and I will be through with PPS BS.

PS Grants not going to close, nor Lincoln, or Cleveland. I'll bet money that Franklin is one of the schools on the chopping block and the fix was in a couple of years ago.

Franklin certainly seems to have more undeveloped land at hand than the others...

But the value of the Lincoln land is much, much higher. The developer vampires have already made their play for that. They'll be back.

I did a few weeks of student teaching at a "repurposed" K-8 school and I thought it was a big improvement. The 7-8th graders didn't feel the need to express their newly realized sexuality as much as in the segregated middle schools.

The (traditional) high schools do not need to be changed. Everyone should have the same opportunity for an education at their neighborhood school.

The biggest problem with inter-city education is not the schools or the teachers, but the parents and the clueless administrators. The parents need to be more involved with their children's education (just like they are in other school districts). Administrators need to have more power to enforce discipline that doesn't involve suspensions and expulsions.


First, kudos to your kids doing well at Franklin. I agree, my language was overheated. More explanation below I hope.

My understanding of the problem with repurposing Cleveland HS is that the building was given to the City on the proviso that it always be used as an educational institution, so PPS is loathe to give it up.

But as a HS it is just insufficient. The parking is abysmal (and its location creates a major morning commute problem for most of SE Portland coming in on Powell).

Classrooms are overflowing. The athletic facilities, even with the redesign, are located 6 blocks away from the school and are just too small.

And when I go over for the traditional Franklin/Cleveland rivalry events, I just drool that that beautiful building and the lovely grounds.

So how could we possibly get these two rivals to consider merging? That would bring the IB program to Franklin which would bring a lot of middle class parents back to the school.

I also agree with you, Grant won't close. Anyone who is suggesting that is smoking something. If they are even suggesting it, it is a trial balloon to take the heat off of the Franklin and Marshall or Madison closings.

It is also interesting Paul that a change in the district boundaries sent more kids to Cleveland who would have normally gone to Franklin as well as the closing of "feeder schools" that were in the Franklin district. In the redesign meeting at Franklin in December where a very vocal crowd filled the auditorium the issue of Franklins low enrollment was brought up almost as if it was a fault of the school itself. Parents, Teachers, and Students pointed out how the administration of PPS had created this problem not the school and that Franklin was already a true Community School the model of what PPS claims it wants to create. Fix whats broken and leave alone what works.

It sure does look like someone has some "plans" for that land.

It is a beautiful historic building, if it isn't, should be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The wonderful grounds and open space must be kept open for the community.

Feel sorry for the community around Franklin that they also had to deal with what appears to be another "undemocratic process" in our city.

clinamen, why do we continue to allow elitists like this to thwart our will? I say get mad. Become a radical on the subject:
* Hell No, we won’t go!
* Hey, Hey PPS how many kids did you stress today.
* What do we want? Grant Open! When do we want it? NOW!
* What do we want? Franklin Open! When do we want it? NOW!

“I also agree with you, Grant won't close. Anyone who is suggesting that is smoking something.” Cannot argue with the sentiment but never, ever put anything past PPS.

I had an interesting discussion with a neighbor who didn’t want to display a sign as she believes that there are too many high schools. I agreed that we should close a building or two (not turn them into unwanted magnets) but we have to deal with the wonders of Portland Public Schools. Their backroom consultants are even younger and more earnest than the town hall mob. They want to save the world (before heading on to DC) even if they have to destroy a school district on the way.

You close Grant the district will lose a minimum of 500 kids at $5k per child (these will mostly be the kids that PPS actually makes a profit on). Some parents will have no choice but to ship their kids out of the neighborhood but it will be a long time before we find out if they will save the failing target schools. If you close Jefferson and send half the kids to Grant and half to Roosevelt, Grant will suffer a bit but overall the district scores will probably improve. Half of the Jeff parents will be happy and the other half will get access to a more complete high school. However, a few will undoubtedly scream racism and have the numbers to back that up.

So, if you give PPS the choice between a reasonable solution and a suicidal one they are guaranteed to make the wrong choice. Therefore you need to stop them making any decision at all.

I don’t know if it’s OK to criticize Sam Adams on this site, but it would be nice if he could take a couple of minutes break from talking about 20-minute neighborhoods to try and stop a decision where the 1500 children in our area will be driven 10 miles a day. Plus closing Grant would be the biggest step towards making Portland another failed urban school district. When that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Major had to take over the schools like in many other towns. That should get Jack riled up and fighting.

Mike,I agree.
We need to show our outrage and become radical on the subject.
I am ready and have done so in the past. My comments at this point have been to get the info out to the people so that they know what to be outraged about.

Good input from you.
There are many of us who are fed up and we need to show it.
I guess there are some people too polite, too much in denial, whatever. Some have to actually experience "going through the tunnel of deception" before they believe what is going on.

and here I thought this whole redesign process was Cover-Your-Ass for them to close Jefferson without a fight. Not sure why they would close the largest and most successful (test-wise, anyway) east side high school in favor of sending the kids to lower quality schools.

I've been steeping in this high school redesign issue for a few months now - certainly no expert, but I'm starting to get my hands around it. The most dangerous thing you can do if you want to see Grant (featured by PPS last Spring as a "school that works"), or any other school that you love or think is successful, stay as a neighborhood school is assume that a school that is doing a good job will stay open in PPS's plan. I know that makes rational sense (why close something that works?), but PPS does not operate from a place of rationality. Just look at the K-8 mess. While it seems like a nice idea on the surface (that's what I thought as the parent of a pre-schooler when it happened), it is a total failure. PPS has done nothing to support the schools transitioning. Our school is not only bursting at the seams with totally insufficient space to educate the 700+ kids it now has, but we lack (thanks to PPS) the ability to offer anywhere close to the electives or curriculum offered at a traditional middle school. The electives offered to these students about ready to enter an academically rigorous Grant High School are a joke because we lack the staff and space to offer what Beaumont can offer and what Beverly Clearly used to offer. PPS's answer? "We will bring improvements to the K-8's from the top down." Seriously - those of you in business - have you ever heard anything so unbelievably stupid? These are children. If you lose them at K-8 - you aren't fixing it in high school.

PPS cannot be trusted to do anything that is rationally-based. This is experimentation and it must be stopped. Everyone (whether your kids go to public school or not) needs to demand that PPS do nothing with high schools until they can prove that their changes will actually positively impact the problems they have cited. They have done absolutely nothing to demonstrate this link to date. While I strongly support improving the educational outcomes of those children who PPS is failing, this plan will not do it.

To answer those who asked why the Laurelhurst resolution supported Franklin in addition to Grant, it is because part of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood (as defined by the city neighborhood boundaries) lies in the Franklin attendance area. I believe that the LNA Board, correctly, did not want to favor one high school when there are two that serve the children of the neighborhood.

Article is totally on point. Nice job!

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