December 2, 2009
Carole Smith, Superintendent
Portland Public Schools
501 North Dixon St.
Portland, OR 97227
Dear Superintendent Smith:
As a coalition of several Parent Teacher Associations that are part of the Cleveland High
School cluster, we have been tracking the High School Redesign conversation and have
recently met to clarify our perspective on the best way to organize the upcoming
discussion, on December 8th at Cleveland High School. Our coalition supports the
interests of the District, teachers and parents to seek to make our high schools stronger
and more equitable for all students. However, we are concerned that the District seems to
have “honed” in on a solution that may not achieve these goals in a way, which will result
in a long-term solution. As such, we would like to focus the upcoming Cleveland
discussion around these points that seem to be the core of the current District conceptual
1. The District is scheduled to recommend the plan to the school board in mid-
January. The District is likely to propose that 2 or 3 high schools be closed, and
high school students be assigned to equal sized community schools of
approximately 1,200 students each, or attend a focus school. Boundary changes
and a ban on transfers will be the primary methods used to assign students to
• What criteria will be used to determine which schools will close and how
boundaries will change?
• Are all nine PPS high schools under equal consideration?
• How will the district reach out to the communities that may have a high
school closure and/or a boundary change?
• How can neighborhoods provide input and influence the plan?
2. Perhaps Cleveland will not be closed, but closure could be based on location,
physical condition of the facility and its deferred maintenance costs, desired
socio-economic distribution, or other criteria that bear more on redistribution of
students than on the historical performance of a high school.
• How will the criteria be weighted? For example, will facilities
considerations carry the same weight as recent program success?
• Where does community/neighborhood/historical relevance fit into the
3. There is no stated school-specific plan yet for any particular high school.
However, from the conceptual plan, the options for Cleveland would include:
b. Conversion to a focus school; or,
c. Reduction in size to a community school of approximately 1,200 students.
• How strong is the demand for focus schools and what is the evidence
that focus schools support the district goals of quality, equity, and
• What criteria will be used for determining which schools will become
focus schools and what focus programs would be selected?
• What evidence is there that 1,200 students is the ideal population for a
community school, and how much fluctuation in this population size
over the years would be tolerable before a new reorganization would
4. Cleveland presently has between 1,500 to 1,600 students. To fit the PPS
community school model the Cleveland population would need to be reduced by
about 400 students. This may:
a. Reduce FTE staffing proportionately;
b. Reduce enrichment options that Cleveland currently provides;
c. Shift some programs to focus schools; and
d. Require ~400 students be removed and reassigned to another school by
redistricting or some other means.
• Can the district guarantee that students currently in the Cleveland
Cluster will have the same opportunities, or better, in the future, than
they would if no reorganization were to occur?
5. These changes would be implemented in the 2011 – 2012 school year.
• Is this a realistic timeline?
• Are families in the community adequately informed, especially the
families with elementary and middle school aged children?
6. No process has yet been identified for the community to discuss the pros and cons
of this model, to understand how its key components are designed to achieve
sustainable results or, to propose modifications.
• What will be the process for community input after the December 8
7. There has been no discussion to date of how an implementation plan will be
developed and what role the community will play in developing this critical
component of the final overall redesign plan.
• How will an implementation plan be developed?
8. The City Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is currently engaged in a related
effort to update Portland’s Comprehensive Plan (known as the Portland Plan). A
cornerstone principle of the Plan is increased urban density and the building and
sustaining of “20-Minute Neighborhoods”. Yet, it is not clear how the City’s
vision for growth through increased density is being factored into the High School
Redesign effort, given that an increase in special focus schools and a
reconfiguration of fewer community schools may require students to cross the city
and increase vehicle miles traveled, rather than reduce them as the Portland Plan
(and the City’s Climate Action Plan) calls for.
• How does the High School Redesign effort support and affirm the “20-
Minute Neighborhood” concept cited in Portland Plan presentations?
Each of these issues is significant and will warrant presentation and adequate time for
questions and comments. From this perspective it is our recommendation that the
Cleveland meeting be structured for the District to address each issue 1 through 8, allow
for clarifying questions by meeting attendees on each issue, and the opportunity for
limited testimony to the District on the overall conceptual proposal (the number of
testifiers and time for each statement would be limited).
We respect that the District has worked hard to prepare for each of the 8 individual high
school meetings. However, based on our review of the slideshow distributed, discussions
with parents, teachers and administrators, and a review of the record of the recent Grant
meeting (provided by parents), we are convinced that our proposed structure for the
December 8th meeting will best meet the District’s and our goals for meaningful
information exchange and feedback on the conceptual High School Redesign Plan in it’s
We look forward to your timely response to this proposal and are available to meet with
you, at your earliest convenience, to make final preparations for the December 8th
meeting. Please contact me with any comments, questions or, follow-up
Mike Rosen, Legislative Chair
Cleveland High School PTA, and
Signed on behalf of the following Cleveland Cluster PTA Presidents and their
Rebecca Friedenwald and Amy Sharpe, PTA Co-Presidents, Abernethy
Sara Elgee and Pam Wiley, PTA Co-Presidents, Cleveland High School
Christine Morita-McVey and Andrew T. Reilly, PTA Co-Presidents, Duniway
Jeanette Finley, PTA President, Lewis Elementary
Susan Kroll-Wilch, PTA President, Llewellyn Elementary
Toni Karter and Annie Griffin, PTA Co-Presidents, Sellwood Middle School
Cc: Tammy Barron, Principal, Abernethy Elementary
Paul Cook, Principal, Cleveland High School,
Tou Meksavanh, Principal, Duniway Elementary, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Powell, Prinicpal, Llewellyn Elementary School,
Helen Nolen, Principal, Sellwood Middle School,
PPS Board, SchoolBoard@pps.k12.or.us
Sarah Singer, PPS, email@example.com
John Wilhelmi, PPS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Xavier Botana, PPS, email@example.com.