Unpopular Opinion · What's Going On?

Enough is Enough

Portland Public Schools is currently examining issues of inequity, looking to re-balance schools across the city. An advisory committee was formed and with community input, plan to guide the school board toward a solution.

When I went to Harriet Tubman Middle School we had a marine biology program. I took zoology. We dissected animals. We had Bunsen burners in more than one classroom. We had a dark room where we developed our own pictures from the cameras we made. We had two PE teachers, but I was able to opt out of PE and take dance instead. I felt like my opportunities were endless. My children will not have those same opportunities at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt. There are limited classrooms to share with 10 grade levels. The PE teacher is forced to teach 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 year olds in the same room. The same room where they have 15 minutes a day to eat lunch. The same room where they hold assemblies. And that is just a small piece of the problematic puzzle. Like many other (P)K-8s in the city, Boise-Eliot/Humboldt is not okay

BoiseEliotSchoolI’m tired of my children’s school being used as the dumping ground for neglected poor, Black, and brown children. Just take a look at the last decade. Portland Public Schools shut down Tubman and threw the middle school kids in Boise. They shut down Humboldt and threw the kids in Boise. And now folks are talking about turning King (another historically under served, predominately minority school) into a middle school and throwing even more kids into Boise. And for what? For kids to be able to ride their bikes to school. Guess what? Owning a bike is a privilege. Many of our kids cannot even afford a bike to have that option. And many parents don’t even own reliable cars. What of the King students who live in low income housing at McCoy Village who are able to walk to school? Are we to force them into Boise? Our schools have suffered historical trauma and people want to destroy them again so their kids can bike to school? Quite frankly, I’m disgusted that a committee put together to address issues with equity is even entertaining the idea. Shame on you.

And I do not apologize for the anger that many will read into my words. I simply refuse to sit quietly and watch our children be cast aside; further neglected so that the trivial desires of the privileged are met.

They think they can treat our kids like they are disposable because we (their parents) are not always here. They think we’re not here because we don’t care. They think because we’re busy trying to avoid institutionalized oppression, busy fighting for our liberation, busy working our asses off to put food on the table and keep the lights on, busy putting our own mental and physical health to the side to support our kids with graveyard shifts and second jobs and school, busy fighting generational poverty that we will not stop them from discarding our children. They think wrong

I am tired of our children being reduced to numbers. Enrollment = $ = programming. But what = our children succeeding? What = our children becoming doctors and lawyers and web designers and architects and entrepreneurs. What = our kids being valued and feeling heard? What = our kids being loved and understood? What = our kids breaking the centuries old cycle of poverty.

AP120423120878_fnx1omWhy are “successful” affluent schools being preserved? Why are schools full of kids who are attached to resources that ensure their success no matter where they go left untouched? Why are people asking that our vulnerable kids be disrupted again? Why are we wasting energy addressing the wants of the dominant group while ignoring the needs of the marginalized? Why is that energy not put into making sure SPED students are transitioned with care? Why is that energy not put into promoting effective communication with non native English speaking families? Why is that energy not put into building a working plan to increase the cultural competency of staff? Why is that energy not put into practicing trauma informed care? Why is that energy not put into making sure we have heard the concerns of every poor, Black and brown family? If you haven’t heard their voices, why are you not doing more to reach out to them?

Our kids are not “falling” because they are poor, Black, and brown. Portland Public Schools is failing our kids because we are poor, Black, and brown. This city has a long history of doing so and it’s no secret. We’ve had enough of that. We no longer accept the failure of our children. And if we have to jump up on tables and demand to be heard again, well, you better get ready to clutch your pearls.

I do not claim to know what the best solution is to our current equity or funding problems in Portland Public Schools. I am no expert. The experts get paid hefty salaries to figure it all out. But I do know what equity is. I know what oppression is. And I can tell you that any plan that does not put the most vulnerable groups (poor, minority, SPED, ELL, etc) at the forefront of discussions is not equitable. It is time to cut the crap and do what is right by our kids (all of our kids) for once.


Update: I wanted to note that although I am advocating for my children’s school in this post, I firmly stand in support of all the schools throughout the city that have been ignored over the years. To the Cesar Chavez, Lee, Scott, King, Woodlawn, Beach, Vestal, George, etc. families who have suffered at the hands of PPS, I stand with you. If there is ever any way I can lend a voice (or an ear) to your concerns, please feel free to reach out.

25 thoughts on “Enough is Enough

  1. Thank you! You could tag your post Cesar Chavez, too, because these are the discussions we’ve been having. In our neighborhood, Astor and and other affluent, majority white schools keep the K-8 or have one K-8 “scenario.” They get stability and continuity. Our only scenario is to become a K-5 and move into the already under-resourced George Middle School. The district isn’t talking about how to improve education for our kids or get more resources to George. It’s all about the right number of classes per grade! Thanks for putting it all together.


    1. Absolutely. I have friends at Chavez and used to live a few blocks from George. I’m all too familiar with how those schools are treated compared to Astor. I may mention the schools closest to me but I know there are schools everywhere dealing with the same issues. Lee, Scott, Chavez, etc are all afterthoughts in this process. We deserve more. Our kids deserve more. Please let you families at Chavez know that I stand with them too.


    2. There is not enough unity in this city. Black & Brown people have the power to not only demand but get what they’re asking for from PPS. Making the sacrifice to boycott by collectively removing our kids from school until the demands are meet is one of the strongest ways to get there attention.


  2. Have you sent this to the Willamette Week and Oregonian as guest editorial? This needs to be shouted from every PPS roof especially given the shallow reporting being done at those papers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  3. Please, please, please include the diverse, low socio economic area of SE Portland previously served by John Marshall High School which was closed several years ago. It is now being used to serve as a temporary home for Franklin students while that school is remodeled and retrofitted. After that service is complete it will serve Grant students while Grant is being remodeled and retrofitted. Outer SE has no neighborhood high school. Portland Public Schools has no shame!


  4. Please, please, please include the diverse, low socio economic area of SE Portland previously served by John Marshall High School which was closed several years ago. It is now being used to serve as a temporary home for Franklin students while that school is remodeled and retrofitted. After that service is complete it will serve Grant students while Grant is being remodeled and retrofitted. Outer SE has no neighborhood high school. Portland Public Schools has no shame!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoy reading your pieces. From a student at Whitaker (on 42nd) to becoming a BLACK WOMAN with a diploma from PPS, I’m very disgusted by the “board” and their “so called help” to better educate our communities (but even more so our children in the school system). When I think of being educated, my mind goes to being taught about history and how to overcome those obstacles the earlier generations faced for instance I still can’t grasp the fact learning about Christopher Colombus, Lewis & Clark, The Oregon Trail and such but NEVER about The Vanport Flood~ which is local history for Portland OR and Vancouver, WA but obviously not important enough to our children and students especially of color since the majority of people were black that wasn’t helped properly but left to fend for themselves and children. When will Vanport be apart of our history lessons?!? Or even Dr. James West, the black man who invented the electric microphone which we ALL still use today because ALL phones have mics and very much so ubiquitous but, not only that, the same platforms these “big wigs” stand on to give their speeches about a plan to better our communities are all using microphones. Will the students be taught about Jack Johnson, the black man who invented the Wrench- you know the tool that ALL races use to loosen or tighten bolts, pipes and/or the like! This issue with our children is deeper than the school system but more so as a people of color because even the Oregon Constitution ‘paraphrased’ says blacks have no rights or should be here in Oregon. Is Black History Month still recognized anymore in school? I graduated in 2006 and learned of Vanport after I received my high school diploma so I refuse to let my nephews, nieces and children when I become a parent go down the same path. And, it’s sad the children are reduced to numbers-I won’t even touch on that! But hey, if “A+B divided by XY=E” is education I guess we will always be educated right?!? Wrong!!! Lets be clear this is an awesome write up, I’m just frustrated with the school system and the people front-running it who claims to be adamant about helping underprivileged youth aka black kids but in the same breath mark them as thugs and gang members. You make plenty of vaild points in your writings which all needs to be heard in newspapers, schools and the school board meetings 🙂 keep the awesome writings coming…


  6. The funding issues start at the top with the superintendent that makes $247,000 per year. Am I the only person who thinks that completely insane?

    “Carole Smith currently makes $193,000, but with this first substantial raise since she took the position several years ago, she will make $247,000 a year. Her new salary makes her the highest paid superintendent in the state.” Aug 5, 2014


  7. Eleshia, I hope you will get behind my initiatve to massively improve culturally relevant curriculum particularly in history, which I will be pushing to be included in the coming budget. Steve Buel


  8. Eleshia, I hope you will get behind the initiatve I will be bringing in the coming budget session to massively improve the teaching of culturally relevant curriculum, particularly in history. Steve Buel


  9. I agree with much of what you say EXCEPT I think there is an opportunity here that you might be overlooking. You have complained about/criticized the use of the multipurpose space @ Boise that has to serve as a cafeteria, a gym and a meeting space (auditorium)? Then you write about more kids being thrown from King into Boise if PPS turns King into a middle school. Being able to go to a middle school for gr 6-8 is an OPPORTUNITY! Children attending a middle school (as opposed to a (P)K-8) have wonderful exploratory/elective choices such as you had when you went to Tubman. These are choices that are not available in a K-8 due to the small numbers of gr 6-8 students in a K-8. Were I a parent in that neighborhood, I would welcome the chance to send my adolescent kids to a middle school; the chance for my child to choosE art, PE, foreign language, band, computers, technology/shop, dance for an entire semester, as opposed o the once a week classes that many K-8 schools can offer. I recognize that kids of color have historically been tossed about in this district. However, I think the proposed new model may be a chance to do things differently and BETTER.


    1. I am very pro middle school. I am a strong advocate for reopening Tubman and putting King Boise Sabin and either Vernon or Irvington 6-8 graders there.


  10. I agree with some of what you’ve written but think you may have missed the mark with criticism of “throwing” students from King into Boise to turn King into a middle school. The very opportunities you had at Tubman during your time in middle school could be available to students attending a King middle school; everyday PE, foreign language, dance, band, computers, shop/technology. It’s impossible to offer such variety in Electives/exploratories in a K-8. Is there a chance you’ve missed the mark here? You begin the article writing about opportunities you had at Tubman, choices that were possible due to the economies of scale at a middle school. You end by criticizing the district’s proposal that would offers these choices to your own kids.


  11. I agree with everything in this piece regarding your concerns around PPS and it’s support of schools in chronically underserved areas. I disagree that PPS is doing a better job anywhere else. PPS is a bloated, lost organization and it is not capable of the improvement you seek. There are many great teachers and administrators, but the org overall is broken. This administration seems incapable of getting anything done; it doesn’t know when and when not to capitulate to the unions, when and when not to capitulate to parent demands, it doesn’t know when to keep schools open and when not to, and it has little understanding of how it’s decisions affect the community. Every major initiative seems to drag on for so many years, until finally no one remembers why it was so important in the first place. Of course, this lack of ability would disproportionately, to use the expression from the blog post, affect the “poor, brown, and black” neighborhoods the most because it always does; because the parents at the wealthier schools are better organized with better connections. But, it’s still a system-wide problem.


    1. PPS is not doing a good job at all. I don’t think I ever said they were doing a good job anywhere so that’s not even a punt to disagree with.


  12. Thank you for your words! I am a Chavez parent and we are planning on taking a stand and demanding equity. This Tuesday (the 15th) there is a PPS Board meeting and we are trying to go in mass and demand that title one schools be a part of this decision making process. The address is: 501 North Dixon Street, Portland, Oregon, 97227 at 6:00 pm. We are trying to organize an event for the end of January for all affected Title one schools to gather together and address PPS with clear demands. We are in the beginning of reaching out to other schools. Sounds like the Portland Parent Union and the Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) are on board to help. If you or other folks want to be involved let me know.


  13. I enjoyed reading this (not because of the blatant disrespect for Portland’s Black youth), but because living in Chicago where close to 50 of our babies schools were closed, I empathize with your anger. AND after reading your words, I am reminded that if we have to discuss these issues on every outlet possible to stay in tune with the destabilizing of all our neighborhoods. Thank you for sharing.


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