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Monday, December 5, 2011

More biased reporting from the O

Today, in the second paragraph of this story, O reporter Larry Bingham decides to toss in his opinion that the Alameda Elementary School is "affluent." Not only is it inaccurate, but that adjective has no place in a news story.

On the merits of the argument presented by the article, of course the neighborhood association is right. For example, you could hit the Alameda School from our house with a rock, but under Super Carole's latest boundary change plan, we would be reclassified as in the Sabin School zone. Other neighbors, five blocks from Alameda, would be sent to Irvington School, 13 blocks away from them. And pretty soon Super Carole will be telling all of us that our kids are going to Jefferson High School.

Meanwhile, they're busing kids in to Alameda from 57th and Stanton, which is more than 30 blocks away. All of this unnecessary drama is a good part of why our two children have never set foot in a Portland public school classroom, and probably never will.

But back to the slanted reporting: This happens at the city's daily newspaper with alarming frequency these days. Somebody at the O needs to sit its dwindling corps of reporters down and break the news to them: When Steve Duin dies, one of you will get to express your opinion in the paper. Until then, you're reporters, not opinion columnists. Lose the adjectives.

Comments (31)

Too many bylines, written by people who think a byline has status.

Of course they have to bus kids in from 57th and Stanton, because they closed my Alma Mater, Rose City Park, a few years ago. Heaven forbid that families be allowed to choose their own schools rather than be "captives" of the public school bureaucracy.

I consider the schools an anchor in a neighborhood.
When moved or taken away, it creates a vacuum, angst,
frustration and chaos for the families and the children.

Not only are families "captives" of the public school bureaucracy,
but from what I hear also "captives" of school policies that Katz
brought into being while she was in the legislature.
From what I have heard and read, it doesn't sound good at all,
is there anyone here who has experience about that?

This isn't a new issue you are dealing with Jack.
My kids got bussed out to Rigler even though both Fabion and Meek were within a few blocks.

Fortunately, I'm not "dealing with" it. Except for knocking value off my home, which I'm not intending to sell any time soon, this doesn't affect me at all. Even if my kids were in Alameda now, they'd probably be grandfathered in.

Maybe they have volunteers there now.

If Larry really wants to see an "affluent" school he's spending time on the wrong bank of the river. You never hear any of this angst from the westside neighborhoods.

In my neck of the woods this problem was easily dealt with. There is only one incredibly sub par High School. Poor quality for all!

Be suspicious about any proposed boundary change. These are almost always in the end about the land.

I would encourage neighbors to actively participate or they will get what PPS decides which is usually not in the best interest of the community.

On February 23rd our City Council heard this Ordinance, which passed on March 2cnd.


In the Mayor's Feb 9, 2011 addendum to this Ordinance, he proposes to redefine what our schools are when OAR Division 22 already does.

These changes allow PPS to warehouse children in K-12 schools.

Do 8th graders belong with k-3 age kids?

By changing the grade definitions of our schools the Mayor has provided PPS the "right" to alter them in many cases without public input.

Remember that PPS has many elementary and middle schools that are appealing to development interests.

For PPS, redesign and new boundaries can mean more closures, the first step in disposition.

By combining grades or altering and changing boundaries, they can surplus those properties that are most desirable, or with the proper zoning (aka, least neighborhood resistance), that once again would reduce public opportunities for participation.

Don't believe any of what they have been saying about the "new" PPS and public participation when discussing a bond. It will be the same outcome driven agenda, proposed by the same people and end users, but now with a former banker in charge of "maximizing value" for PPS when it comes to our public facilities.

How have they done?


PPS has disposed of 32 properties in recent years.

Do we want this to continue without our participation?

These are our public properties, not a slush fund for political distributions.


Further, PPS set up a dedicated fund ( 8.70.042-P) for disposition proceeds.

Where are those funds? Ask PPS yourself.

It was the Mayor and Randy Leonard who were most vocal and active in maintaining their grip on the use and disposition of public land during this "zoning code refinement" to preclude us from our right and opportunity to public oversight of our public properties or any third party appeal, by passing this Ordinance.

Ironically the City says they have no control over PPS when in fact they could through the zoning code. They chose not to (at least openly) as evidenced by their vote. Expect more of the same and worse.

I was thinking the other day that the malignancy attemping to spread around the region may not have originated in Portland City Hall but from that Fortress of Arrogance, Metro and that Portland was just the first test case to fine tune the method.

If you don't think I'm crazy and are still reading, then a few questions come to mind, like how did a non-representative agency come to have so much control and veto power over the separate jurisdictions of so many communities?

I assume most Americans are aware that their elected representatives in the Unites States Congress supply funding to certain oversees dictatorships and I also assume most of them want to believe it's a necessary evil in the name of some vague ot not-so-vague national security interest, but how would those same US taxpayers feel if they knew the same Congress were supplying funding to a non-representative dictatorship inside the United States?

I'm probably just thinking too much...

As for Portland Public Schools: Welcome to the sad world of the PPS union shop, where the over riding agenda is really about locking up parents and their children in the flat world union shop. PPS is an example screaming for parents and families to have the ability to take their public education dollars to the school of their choosing, rather than having it being predetermined for them by some well paid school administrator or even the likes of John Kitzhaber (Oregon's central planning governor).

As for the Oregonian, did you notice recently the Oregonian has eliminated the Saturday newspaper edition? It's been replaced with the early Sunday edition carrying a newstand price of $2. At least I think this might be true from my wife's experience at the news stand this last Saturday.

PPS closed Rose City Park School because it was too unsafe for kids. So unsafe, that they moved Marysville kids there ...

So about 10 percent of Alameda's students qualify for "free or reduced" lunches. I would expect the number at an "affluent" school to be zero.

I don't envy Super Carole and the board having to sort this thing out. Alameda is bursting at the seams and no one wants to be bumped out of it.

Alameda has a pretty affluent district. Not sure what it means to say the school itself is "affluent". But between Irvington and Alameda ridge I think it's fine to call that area affluent relative to some 80% to 90% of the rest of the city.

Reason #423 to homeschool.

Mr. Grumpy:I was thinking the other day that the malignancy attemping to spread around the region may not have originated in Portland City Hall but from that Fortress of Arrogance, Metro and that Portland was just the first test case to fine tune the method.....
I'm probably just thinking too much...

Found more for you to think about.

Wanted to respond some to your thoughts about Portland City Hall and Metro,
and tried to find more information... don't know how I came up with this thread that Jack wrote in 2005 called - same as it ever was:


Knowles, who amazingly hasn't got an organized bio or photo posted anywhere that I can find on the internet, is the most likely winner of Mazziotti's position. He was Commissioner Charlie Hales and Mayor Vera Katz's director of planning for more than five years ending in 1999, and he was a Metro councillor from 1986 to 1991. As I recall, he shares the Katz vision of Portland, which in turn matches the Erik Sten vision of Portland, which in turn makes Knowles the natural frontrunner.

That long thread is just full of information.

I also knew that at one time Charlie Hales was Chair of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee. Am trying to find the date, maybe Jack knows if it was at the same time that he served on City Council?

I haven't been inside in years, but Alameda sure looks like an exceptionally well-tended school when I drive by. Nicer than most. And I don't know how much a house nearby costs today, but I would take affluent as a shorthand way to say people in the neighborhood have some economic clout. Or to go with Eric's idea, the word suggests something to people who never cross the river and don't know which northeast was being described and therefore is useful. Speaking as an ex-copy editor at the O and former fairly close neighbor to Alameda School (altho we got our guy into Boise-Eliot back then) I don't think I would challenge the word. but then I tended to be less pc than some.

I respect your viewpoint, but I really do think that word falls into the opinion category, rather than the realm of journalistic fact. Alameda happens to be a very good school by Portland public school standards, and granted, money definitely has something to do with that. But "affluent school"? Over the line.

There are better tended schools in Portland. Besides, Alameda is an old building, it's overcrowded, and many of the students are not from affluent families, particularly those coming from east of 33rd. Certainly it's no more affluent a group than Irvington.

A school has children with parents of average income X and serves a community that has homes of median value Y. A certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced rate lunches. It is or is not a Title 1 school. A school has a discernable staff and faculty to student ratios and a discoverable average class size. It has so many computers per student and offers or doesn't offer various enrichment programs or remedial services. And yes, a school has test scores.

A good reporter will inform his readers of the facts. Saying a school is affluent is an indefinite statement by a lazy or presumptious reporter attempting to make a value statement which has no place whatsoever in a news story.

School quality has little to do with LEED buildings and spiffy landscaping. A key factor contributing to our positive experience with the Alameda Elementary School was the consistently high level of parental involvement. It goes without saying that such involvement is much more likely to occur in an "affluent" school district. Families with more discretionary income have more time and money to devote to their children's education. Many Alameda classrooms had parent volunteers when our kids attended. As noted in previous comments, the Alameda Foundation provides extra dollars that were used, for example, to retain the music teacher as a full time position when part of her salary was trimmed from the school budget.

We moved to this neighborhood and bought a fixer (the only thing we could afford) so that our kids would be able to attend Alameda. They are long since done with elementary school, so I have no dog in the fight now other than diminished property values if our area is carved out of the Alameda district. What is depressing is the notion that "equity" for school kids means diluting the higher quality programs.

What's wrong with improving the other schools instead? Why take away an opportunity from a family that has made education a priority by researching and selecting a particular school district? If "affluent" parents are told that their kids must attend a less convenient, less desirable school, they have the ability to vote with their wallets and place their kids in a private school. In that case, they probably won't be volunteering in the public school or contributing to public school fundraisers, foundations, etc. Not sure exactly what the right answer is, but this just seems like another social engineering experiment gone wrong.

There are statistics available on each PPS school website under School Facts, Statistics, Enrollment that help compare school socioeconomic status: percentage of free & reduced lunch and total Foundation FTE (the number of teachers a school's Foundation is able to buy through fundraising – which doesn't include PTA fundraising).
Alameda: 9.4% free and reduced - 4.33 Foundation FTE
Irvington: 37.2% free and reduced – 1.88 Foundation FTE
Laurelhurst: 13.8% free and reduced - 2.7 Foundation FTE
Beverly Cleary: 13.9% free and reduced – 2.91 Foundation FTE
Sabin: 43.4% free and reduced – 0 Foundation FTE
Rigler: 84.5% free and reduced – 0 Foundation FTE
One west-side comparison: Ainsworth: 5.8% free and reduced and 4.94 Foundation FTE

Eric -

There are non affluent schools on the west bank.

I suggest you take a close look at Markham elementary. Over 55% free or reduced lunch, zero foundation "buys" of FTE teaching positions.

When Smith was closed due to radically dropping enrollment, and the Smith population distributed among Maplewood and Markham, the palpably racist reaction from many of the "Oh so liberal" Smith parents was vicious. No way their precious darlings were going to go to school with kids with dark skins, and especially not with kids from Somali Muslim families.

It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad.

Glad someone mined the data about reduced price school lunch. That measure directly corresponds to family income, a.k.a. affluence. It shows Alameda families among the top 5% (or so) of all schools in the district. There is nothing wrong with using this data-driven approach to call Alameda and "affluent school", because it factually is, especially when compared with any of the other schools involved. I suppose it would be more accurate to say "a school where the students' families are more affluent than families at 95% of other schools in the district, as measured by eligibility for reduced school lunch." But since it's a news story and not a political science term paper, it's perfectly reasonable to use the shorthand.

I disagree with benshon. We need increased-transparency. I do want to know the back-grounding. A few more words help the reader to be better informed about how the ratings are figured out. Directing the reader to management-information as opposed to public-information would help even more. MI has the data sets people are going to look for when they go about lobbying, influencing, and selling. No reason to keep those sets from the public or to assume the public does not care.

Can't use free and reduced lunchs as a benchmark for affluence, which is synonomous with rich or wealthy. The dividing line between free and reduced and pay your own way is linked to the poverty line. There's an awful lot of average income or middle class between the poverty line and affluence.

If Alameda isn't affluent, I'm not sure where in Portland is.

West Hills are far more affluent. Northwest, Irvington, Eastmoreland equally so.

But the point here is that "affluent" is an opinion, and it's not relevant to the story. More highly regarded, better test scores, winners of more awards -- all relevant. But none of it so central to the story that it belongs at the top.

Although the article refers to the letter the Alameda Neighborhood Association sent to PPS, affluent is used in referring to Alameda Elementary School, and is surely referring to abundance of resources the school enjoys (including a strong neighborhood association.) Free and reduced lunch statistics are legitimate statistics to use, along with other factors like fundraising, when considering the ability of a school to provide extra resources to students that nearby schools cannot.

Ok, let's agree that Alameda is better funded than many other schools and is "affluent." Parents who paid good money for a house in that school district to provide a decent (but not great) public school education for their kids shouldn't be criticized by the Oregonian or so-called equity seekers (rallying cry "Mediocrity for All!") for wanting to stay within that district. Especially when the overcrowding is largely due to transfer students from outlying neighborhoods.

Alameda overcrowding is due in part to an irrationally huge attendance area boundary. Its attendance area has 50% more PPS kids than Sabin or Irvington. Isn't redrawing boundary lines a reasonable tool to fix the problem?

The huge attendance area resulted when Beaumont -- originally a K8 -- was converted to a middle school, in which case the elementary kids were added to Alameda. Then the boundary moved east to include some of the families affected by the closure of the Rose City Park School in 2006. On top of that, Alameda only recently stopped accepting out-of-boundary transfers. Add in the growth in the number of school-age children in the catchment area over the last few years and it was virtually guaranteed the school was going to burst at the seams.

I liked the option of converting Beaumont back to a K8 and making Alameda a K8. That would create two walkable neighborhood schools, ensure a viable and stable enrollment base for both, and not engender divisiveness between neighborhoods like this current proposal does. Unfortunately, PPS pleads poverty and is not considering that option at this time.

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