Volume 2, Issue 8: May 2009

From the superintendent:
It's all about students

In this issue of PPS Pulse, we are sharing some of our students’ accomplishments, in our classrooms, in athletics and activities, and in national competition with the best of their peers.

Our students are at the heart of our work, and they never fail to lend me encouragement, even as our school district is facing hard choices and challenging times. You’ll read in this issue about weighty issues of high school design or budget reductions. As we address these challenges, together, I know that if we put the best interests of our students first — above all politics, adult interests and personal motivations — we will make the right decisions.

Portland Public Schools can and will emerge from these tough times with our heart and commitment intact.

Carole's Signature Carole Smith PPS Superintendentsuperintendent@pps.k12.or.us

1. Continued slide prompts more cuts to PPS budget

Always a big task, the creation of a budget for the coming year was an even bigger challenge this spring because of the struggling Oregon economy. With new state budget numbers out, PPS is faced with cutting an additional $18 million (on top of the $14 million in cuts proposed earlier this year).

Where will the cuts be found? In staff furloughs, cuts in the senior leader ranks and the use of reserves – but the cuts mean that students will have no fewer class days next year than they did this school year.

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The budget proposed in March included significant cuts and across-the-board sacrifices for all PPS employees, who were asked to forgo any cost-of-living pay increases next year. Administrative and central support services trimmed $2 million, and changes to the staffing ratio reduced the number of employees assigned to schools based on the number of students they enrolled.

One round of cuts not enough

News this week from Salem prompted Smith to dig deeper in search of additional savings.

Legislative leaders responded to a $3.9 billion projected deficit Monday, May 18, with a state budget for 2009-11 that includes $6 billion for schools. Of that, $400 million will be set aside in reserves for the second year of the two-year budget.

Although $6 billion is more than what state leaders had signaled earlier, it still means an additional cut of $18 million for PPS, bringing the district’s total general fund budget to $407 million.

Smith characterized the $6 billion in state funding for schools as “a grim reflection of the pain our communities are feeling across the state and the immensely difficult choices that legislative leaders faced in putting together their budget plan.”

Bridging the funding gap

On Thursday, May 21, Smith presented the Portland School Board with her plan to fill the budget hole. The plan treats all employees equally, protects school days for students and responsibly taps reserves. It also goes a step further with a major restructuring of top level administrators to move leadership closer to schools and students.

Specifically, Smith called for:

  • Streamlining senior leadership and central administration, resulting in the net elimination of six or more full-time senior positions. The restructuring will start at the top, including positions that report directly to the superintendent. This reorganization will save almost $1 million. Additional $2 million in central budget cuts will result in a total of $3 million in savings.
  • Implementing five unpaid furlough days for all PPS employees (must be negotiated with employee unions).
  • Maintaining the current number of classroom days. (The four additional instruction days proposed for 2009-10, along with one professional development day, give the district the ability to arrange furloughs without reducing classroom time for students from the current level).
  • Using $9 million in reserve funds.

More detailed information about Smith’s plan to balance the budget can be found in her comments to the board, posted on the PPS home page.

The school board will host a meeting June 1 to hear ideas from the public on how to balance the budget. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Blanchard Education Service Center, 501 N. Dixon St. The board will approve the 2009-10 budget by June 30.

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2. Big crowd grapples with big problem: High school equity
PPS Chief of Staff Zeke Smith speaks to participants at the fourth meeting about Big Ideas for Better High Schools on May 16.
PPS Chief of Staff Zeke Smith speaks to participants at the fourth meeting about Big Ideas for Better High Schools on May 16.

About 200 people, including a large contingent of students, gathered at Jefferson High School on a sunny Saturday morning for a spirited discussion of Portland Public Schools’ high school system, the need for greater equity and ideas for improvements.

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Unlike the first three community meetings on Big Ideas for Better High Schools, the May 16 meeting in North Portland focused on the inequalities among Portland high schools and how to address them.

Moderator Zeke Smith, chief of staff to the superintendent, laid out the differencesPDF icon among the 10 high school campuses — from attendance rates to income levels, students entering high school well- prepared to those graduating on time.

Personal experiences

The information was fodder for a discussion grounded in the personal experiences of the community members, parents and most of all students with Portland high schools. While only about two dozen students participated in the first three high school system design meetings this spring, about 50 turned out at Jefferson. Their comments included:

  • “I think that a lot of the reason why kids leave schools and go to others is because not all schools have a lot of the same courses offered … kids will leave to get a better education for their life-long goals. I want to learn, so I don’t care how long I have to walk or drive or get on the bus. If I’m going to a school that doesn’t have what I want, I will leave to have a better future.”
  • “In my classes I feel like I barely get any attention from my teachers, and since I play sports, it’s hard to have to come in after school to get one-on-one help.”
  • “Make schools that have the same classes available to everyone. We shouldn’t make students go to one particular school. That’s what makes things not diverse.”
  • “There should be required classes that everybody has to take, but also electives. I think there should be more classes, a variety of classes where kids can take classes that they want to actually get something out of.”

Overall, comments from students, parents and community members reflected some common themes:

  • Schools need optimal student-to-staff ratio and high-quality teachers to build the relationships that help students succeed.
  • Schools should be a part of building community whether or not they are “neighborhood” schools.
  • Large schools should offer a broad base of high level academics, activities and electives.
  • Students should have access to hands-on programs, vocational programs, internships, virtual learning and other credit options.
  • High school boundaries should be reconsidered, but with community input.
  • Special education and English language learners need special consideration in the redesign process.
  • Travel can be a challenge, but some students are willing to travel if it means they are able to access desired programs.

Distrust of district

Several longtime neighborhood school advocates said they felt burned by Portland Public Schools’ past actions and decisions, with changes imposed on their schools, failed strategies that were supposed to improve students’ education and a history of district decision-making over community objections.

Superintendent Carole Smith acknowledged that many had valid reasons for their distrust. To move forward on high school design, PPS must openly and honestly address the issues underlying that distrust, and be transparent about the goals of the redesign effort before moving forward with its implementation. She also noted that the district needed to do more to ensure that new K-8 schools are supported and successful.

Later in June, Smith will propose a set of ideas on how high schools will be organized, including information on the sizes of campuses, access to programs and enrollment and transfer policies.

The proposal will be built around four major goals: powerful teaching and learning, rigorous courses, engaged students, and supportive families and community.

Over the summer, PPS staff will develop an implementation plan to make the framework a reality — an effort expected to take five to 10 years.

Stay updated on the process at the High School System Redesign Web site.

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3. Class of ’09 gets ready to shine

More than 2,500 students will graduate from Portland Public Schools this year. Want to come cheer your favorite graduate? Click the link to view the 2009 graduation ceremony schedule.

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The 2009 graduation schedule, organized chronologically by ceremony date:

School Date Rehearsal time Graduation time Venue
Jefferson Sunday, June 7 1:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m. Coliseum
Cleveland Sunday, June 7 4:45 p.m. 7:00 p.m. Coliseum
Madison Monday, June 8 Noon 6:00 p.m. Coliseum
Grant Monday, June 8 9:30 a.m. 8:00 p.m. Coliseum
Roosevelt Tuesday, June 9 12:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. Coliseum
Wilson Tuesday, June 9 9:30 a.m. 8:00 p.m. Coliseum
Benson Wednesday,
June 10
Noon 6:00 p.m. Coliseum
Lincoln Wednesday,
June 10
9:30 a.m. 8:00 p.m. Coliseum
Franklin Tuesday, June 9   6:00 p.m. School Stadium
Marshall Thursday, June 4
(Renaissance Arts)
Check with school 6:00 p.m. Gymnasium
Friday, June 5
(Biz-Tech)
Check with school 6:00 p.m. Gymnasium
Friday, June 5
(Pauling)
Check with school 6:00 p.m. Auditorium
Alliance Thursday, June 4
(FOCUS)
Check with school 1:00 p.m. Madison Auditorium
Wednesday,
June 3rd
(Marshall Night)
Check with school 7:00 p.m. Marshall Auditorium
Friday, June 5
(Meek)
Check with school TBD Meek Auditorium
Thursday, June 4
(Portland Night HS)
Check with school 7:00 p.m. Benson Auditorium
MLC Saturday, June 6 Check with school 2:00 p.m. Chapman

 

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4. Native American students get behind-the-scenes support
Graduating senior Sheila Heath received support during her school years from the PPS Indian Education Project.
Graduating senior Sheila Heath received support during her school years from the PPS Indian Education Project.

Sheila Heath’s future is bright. After graduating from Renaissance Arts Academy this spring, Sheila, who is half Maricopa Indian, heads to Columbia University with a full-ride scholarship. It’s the kind of success story that the PPS Indian Education Project staff is focused on for all of its students — despite daunting odds.

This year’s enrollment report showed that 922 PPS students were “American Indian/Alaskan Native” — an official term that includes only students who are a member of a state or federally recognized tribe, or who have a biological Native American parent or grandparent. That represents about 1.5 percent of students in the district.

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Although improving, the graduation rate for Native American students in Portland Public Schools remains low, with 50.9 percent graduating in 2007. And assessment scores for reading and math are consistently lower among Native American students compared to white and Asian-American students.

Indian Education at a glance

Today in the United States:

  • There are 562 federally recognized tribes and approximately 624,000 American Indian and Alaska Native K-12 students.
  • Only 71 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Natives have a high school diploma, and only 11 percent have a bachelor of arts degree

In 1972, Congress passed the Indian Education Act, the first comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

Legislators revised the act over the years, most recently in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB reauthorized the program and renamed it the Title VII Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The name has changed, but core program elements have not. The act:

  • Recognizes that American Indians have unique educational and culturally related academic needs and distinct language and cultural needs.
  • Addresses American Indian education from preschool to graduate-level.
  • Affirms the federal government’s special responsibility to provide education to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Provides services to American Indians and Alaska Natives not provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

This achievement discrepancy isn’t unique to Portland. The Oregon Department of Education reports similar patterns statewide for graduation rates.

Students face many challenges

Karen Kitchen, who has supported Native students since 1994 through the PPS Indian Education Project says Native American students face a variety of challenges, including higher-than-average mobility.

“When a relative living on a reservation dies, a student might be gone a full month for ceremonies,” Kitchen explains. “Kids miss content as a result of this movement.”

Native American families also have above-average rates of poverty and suicide, and some parents are distrustful of public schools as a result of bad school experiences during their own childhoods — a pattern that makes it hard for schools to establish relationships with families, shown by research to be critical to student achievement.

The PPS Indian Education Project helps native students of all ages overcome these obstacles.

From their office at Hosford Middle School in Southeast Portland, the program’s five staff members work with families and school staff throughout PPS to increase student achievement, graduation rate and attendance, and to bolster family involvement.

School employees and parents will call them for help – to make sure classroom materials are culturally sensitive, for example, or to serve as an advocate for students needing additional kinds of support, such as tutoring. The Indian Education Project has a library with books and other media available for teacher checkout.

Project staff also nurture a positive self-identity for students.

“You never see great Indian leaders in textbooks, and often, everything is talked about as being part of the past,” Kitchen says.

She says it’s important to counter these patterns: “If you have pride in your culture, your people, family and ancestors – that’s really powerful, and carries over to greater confidence among students and a stronger desire to participate in school.”

Support continues beyond school day

The Indian Education Project’s family science night at OMSI drew more than 500 people, including Kelly Elementary School’s Mikaele Phillips.
The Indian Education Project’s family science night at OMSI drew more than 500 people, including Kelly Elementary School’s Mikaele Phillips.

In April, project staff held a family science night at OMSI for Native families, drawing more than 500 parents and children and community members to explore the da Vinci exhibit. Other events offered during the 2008-09 school year included a financial aid and scholarship workshop, and classes on  moccasin-making, beading and shawls,

Staff also link students with numerous organizations and project partners, including Native American Rehabilitation of the Northwest, United Indian Students for Higher Education at Portland State University, the Healing Feathers Project at PSU, the Siletz-Johnson-O’Malley Program, the Native American Youth Family Center, National Indian Parent Information Center and the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark College. This fall, project staff are partnering with the PSU chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to create an AISES club for high school students.

It was just such a partner that helped Sheila Heath. Through the Indian Education Project’s newsletter, Heath discovered Salmon Camp, an OMSI program that gives Native American students the opportunity to conduct field research.

Sheila enrolled in the summer after her freshman year, and says the experience made her college and scholarship applications more compelling.

Sheila’s Columbia University education will be paid in full by a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Other Native students heading off to college include Joseph Sleven of Lincoln High School (attending Cornell University) and Cante Nakanishi of Madison High School (Dartmouth College); some will also attend Pacific Northwest College of Art, Western Oregon University and Portland State University and more.

A pervasive theme among the graduating seniors is belief in themselves and the support of families, teachers and counselors. Like Sheila, they’re confident in their choices but cognizant of who, and what, they’re leaving.

Says Sheila: “A lot of my teachers have been like counselors to me — especially Baret Pinyoun, who helped me with essays and college applications. And Portland is so pretty.”

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5. Save the dates, Demos, for 100-year celebration
Jefferson High School 1909
Jefferson High School circa 1909

Jefferson High School turns 100 this year, and Democrats of all ages are celebrating with a three-day gala starting Thursday, May 28, featuring dancing, dinners, golf, an auction, talent showcase and historic memorabilia display. Learn more and register for events at www.jeffersoncentennial.com.

As the district’s oldest active school, Jefferson is steeped in history and known for its loyal alumni. To read about the graduates organizing the centennial celebration, check out this PPS Pulse article.

6. PPS introduces Web site redesign
Click to visit home page

Portland Public Schools’ redesigned Web site went live this week, bringing a cleaner look and easier navigation. The initiative culminates this coming school year in dramatically improved school Web pages that will enhance schools’ abilities to tell their stories.

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Funding for the Web redesign and the new content management system comes from Meyer Memorial Trust. The goal: Unify the district with an updated, cutting-edge Web presence that better reflects the depth and breadth of what PPS has to offer.

The launch begins with the home page and news page as well as tabbed pages that feature information relevant to students, families and community members in one easy-to-access place and links to learn more. The home page features a primer to help navigate the site.

Schools are next

Carlos Galindo, principal of Peninsula K-8 School, and students.
Carlos Galindo, Peninsula K-8 School principal, and students (from left) Nhi Lam, KeShawn Mason and Brannan Miller are excited that Peninsula is the pilot for PPS' new K-8 Web pages.

For years, PPS has relied on school staff and parent volunteers for individual schools’ Web presence. The redesign and new content management system reward those efforts with improved technology ― photo galleries, video, calendars and special teacher pages for posting students’ work, events and assignments. (Click here to see how a K-8 Web page could look and here for a high school page.) The new content management system also will support such technology as forums, blogs and wikis — to be offered in the future.

While the new sites will have a similar look and feel, there is also room for each school and for teachers to make their pages their own — from using their school colors to choosing photographs to arranging content. The new sites will all be connected to the PPS server, making it easier for visitors to find the school they seek.

“The new system and design will make coming to and navigating the whole PPS Web site a lot more inviting,” says Nick Jwayad, chief information officer for the district. “But we are especially pleased that the easier-to-use technology will make it possible for schools to keep their sites current and really showcase all they are doing.”

Peninsula K-8 School in North Portland has volunteered as the first school pilot. The district will choose a high school pilot soon. Peninsula Principal Carlos Galindo says he’s proud of Peninsula’s Web site, which school personnel built within the limits of the old system, but he is thrilled at the chance to do more for his school community.

“It’s going to be something this school has never had that is going to be contemporary, modern communication,” Galindo says. “In this day and age of technology, we need to be ahead of it so we can prepare students for the next round of jobs.”

Feedback helps shape project

The district’s Information Technology Project Team paid close attention to the input of community members and employees who had comments on the demo home page – such as the suggestion to make links to other languages easier to find.

The team still is soliciting feedback on the redesign. To comment, click the “feedback” button on the home page. If you have questions, e-mail project manager Laura Quinn.

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7. Pam Knowles to join Portland School Board

The Portland School Board will welcome a new member July 1. Pam Knowles was elected Tuesday, May 10. The Northeast Portland resident replaces Sonja Henning, who did not run for re-election. Knowles, a former teacher and attorney who works for the Portland Business Alliance, is a longtime advocate of Portland schools. Martín González of North Portland, appointed to the school board last summer, won election to a full four-year term over two challengers. Trudy Sargent, of Southeast Portland, ran unopposed for re-election to a second term. The seven members of the Portland School Board are elected from, and must live in, distinct geographic zones of the city, but are elected districtwide. They serve four-year terms.

8. With eyes wide open, Lincoln group supports student health

Put that broom away. A group of Lincoln High School staff and parents is taking a frank, direct approach to helping students stay healthy and feel comfortable in school, ensuring that no problem is ignored or swept under the rug.

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Mike Roach is pictured with his daughter, Lincoln senior Isabel Osgood-Roach, after receiving the Mary Oberst Award for his work to prevent underage drinking.
Mike Roach is pictured with his daughter, Lincoln senior Isabel Osgood-Roach, after receiving the Mary Oberst Award for his work to prevent underage drinking.

The Cardinal Families Health Action Network is a mix of Lincoln parents and staff, led by about a dozen core members, who share two goals: supporting students’ health — especially mental health — and a commitment to get things done.

“You can talk an issue or problem to death,” says Pete Schulberg, a group leader, Lincoln parent and communications director for Oregon Partnership, a drug abuse awareness organization. “The key idea is to do something, whatever the issue is.”

Formed several years ago by former Lincoln parent Diane Laughter, the group supports events such as a freshman scavenger hunt, where older students lead younger peers through the school, meeting key staff members.

“We realized a lot of students didn’t know we even had school nurses, so now we make sure all freshmen meet them, know where to find them and know what help they can provide,” says Mike Roach, another Lincoln parent and group leader.

Cardinal Families also organizes parent-to-parent discussions, called “Courageous Conversations,” on sensitive topics, including eating disorders, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

After one such meeting in March, this one about drugs and alcohol, Lincoln Principal Peyton Chapman summed up discussion points in an e-mail to families. An excerpt:

  • “Students tell us that most students regularly do NOT tell their parents the truth about who they are with and what they are doing on Friday/Saturday nights. It’s common to tell parents, ‘I’m just going over to a friend’s house to watch a movie,’ when, in fact, this means there’s a party at someone’s house that is not supervised by parents, and alcohol and drugs are available.”

Chapman also reiterated advice:

  • “Parents need to talk and LISTEN to their children. Ask questions such as, ‘I heard Susie’s mom say that Susie was caught with pot in her locker. What do you think about that?’ Instead of, ‘If I ever catch you with pot, you’ll be dead.’ The question opens the door for dialogue, allowing you to insert your family’s expectations through the discussion. The other may shut down the discussion.”

Drugs are just one of many topics addressed by Cardinal Families; an event for parents in April, for example, included a panel presentation highlighting services available to students with educational disabilities.

Group links with existing resources

The health issues faced by Lincoln students are no less common or critical than those faced by students in other schools. Things like unsafe sex, anxiety, drugs, depression, eating disorders and bigotry are universal concerns at the high school level.

Parents wanting to help can be overwhelmed. Where to start?

Members of Cardinal Families approach an issue first by assessing what resources already exist. Then they figure out ways to use them more effectively.

“We connect resources in the school so that staff can more effectively work with each other on behalf of students,” Roach says.

Laughter adds: “If you can help put people together — counselors with nurses, for example — people realize, ‘This isn’t just me. We’re working for the same things; we’re on the same team.’”

Cardinal Families members sometimes help by supporting ongoing efforts. For example, the group began contributing articles about health to Lincoln’s newsletter for families. Members also contribute to student-led efforts, including a weeklong education event in 2007 organized by Rose Festival queen Elizabeth Anja Larson, who overcame anorexia, and fellow Lincoln student Galia Slayen.

Staff support is critical

Lincoln employees play a major role in Cardinal Families. The principal, both school nurses, the school psychologist and a health teacher are all on the leadership team.

That’s no accident, says parent leader Jeanne Ellis: “Openness is key. There is a very cooperative spirit among the staff here at Lincoln with regard to student health and wellness. Our principal’s willingness to acknowledge that students have health issues, and her support of our efforts to bring these issues to light allows us to do what we do with confidence and the knowledge that we are all on the same page.”

As a school with relatively wealthy, well-connected families, Lincoln enjoys some advantages over others in the district. Three of the expert panelists at the group’s event on educational disabilities were Lincoln parents.

But Roach, an affable man with twinkly eyes —  who recently received the Mary Oberst Leadership Award from  the Oregon Partnership for preventing underage drinking —  is adamant that Cardinal Families can be replicated elsewhere. “It really only takes a few motivated parents to get something going.”

And despite the serious subject matter, group members say the work is satisfying: Getting together, discussing problems, coming up with solutions, building support and implementing them is a rewarding process, they say.

Of course, the same parents don’t stick around forever, a challenge for Cardinal Families and similar groups. As the presentation on disabilities ended, a good-natured audience member wondered aloud “how Lincoln would survive” after Roach moved on. Roach joked that he was short on credits and wouldn’t graduate, but later said he plans to stay on as a community member.

Cardinal Families is happy to assist parents and staff at other schools. Talk with Jim Hanson or nurse Terri Paasch by calling Lincoln at 503-916-5200.

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9. Student athletes vie for state championships
Jefferson’s Marlon Miles blasts out of the block at the start of the men’s 400-meter dash at the 5A district meet at Lewis & Clark College May 13.
Jefferson’s Marlon Miles blasts out of the blocks at the start of the men’s 400-meter dash at the 5A district meet at Lewis & Clark College May 13. Marlon is competing in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash at the state championships Friday, May 22.

Competition at the district level is winding down, but the spring sports season for PPS high school athletes isn’t over. State finals in tennis and track end this month, while baseball and tennis playoffs continue into June. For results, check the Oregon School Activities Association’s Web site.

10.  Wilson brings speech crown back to Portland

For the first time in 24 years, a PPS school is the winner of the state speech and debate championship. Wilson High School’s team won the 6A title, while Lincoln High School tied for fourth.

Wilson High School students celebrate their win in the 2009 6A speech state championship.
Wilson High School students celebrate their win in the 2009 6A speech state championship.

More than 500 students representing 64 Oregon high schools competed at all levels in the championship. Led by veteran seniors Marcus Robinson and James Ranney, Wilson’s 17-member team captured the title.

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The last Portland school to win the tournament was Lincoln in 1985.

Ray Ocampo, assistant coach for Wilson’s team, is happy — but believes Portland can do better. He says the Portland Interscholastic League (which includes all PPS schools) used to be a “powerhouse” in speech and debate but withered from lack of funding.

“Speech and debate is far too important to let go. It gives kids a sense of confidence that benefits them through life,” Ocampo says. A shy student himself in high school, he joined Madison’s speech and debate and says it gave him the courage to go to college.

The same coach, Pat Gonzales, continues to lead Madison’s “Mad Mouths” speech and debate team. (Ocampo calls Gonzales “the Godfather” for his sustaining influence.)

Students gain skills and confidence

Depending on which of the 17 events students choose to participate in, speech and debate students may draw on a surprising variety of skills. Some require on-the-fly thinking; others demand choreographed movement or working in teams.

There is “dual interpretation,” in which a pair of students perform excerpts from published novels, short stories, plays or poetry. In “public forum debate,” teams of two strive to win support for their side of an issue, while students in “after dinner speaking” create and deliver a prepared speech; although designed to entertain, the speech must “have an undertone of seriousness,” according to guidelines.

Then there is impromptu speaking – a classic, tough event. A student walks into a room with a judge, who announces a topic. The student must immediately begin performing a five minute speech on that subject. (Tip from Ocampo: use anecdotes!)

Students on the Wilson team say participation has benefits.

“The ability to say things with confidence is huge. You can tell when people are second guessing themselves, and then nobody believes what you’re saying,” says James Ranney, a four-year team member attending the University of Oregon in the fall.

Wilson recognized speech and debate as an official sport beginning last year, giving the team greater access to school funds and transportation. But senior member Marcus Robinson wishes speech was part of the school curriculum, which would help recruit and prepare students.

“Almost all other districts we face have speech class, and most teams are twice our size,” says Robinson, also a senior, who is headed to Reed College after graduation.

Some speechmakers go to national stage

Finding students to join the team is tough, they say. Many are afraid of public speaking. Even after joining, students sometimes quit after not performing as well as they’d like in an early tournament. (The team competes in about 10 competitions each year.)

But Ocampo is hopeful, saying the team appeals to a broad array of students.

“We get the theatre kids, the debate kids and mock trial kids who all just love the spotlight,” says Ocampo. “But we also get kids who are shy and want to be more outgoing. The first thing they ask is, ‘Can you make me a better speaker?’ And our answer is, ‘Absolutely.’”

The season is not yet over for several Wilson students. Next month, Mackenzie Bean, Jillian Prouty and Robinson travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to compete in the National Speech Tournament.

In the meantime, they have one more hurdle to tackle, although one well-suited to their smooth-talking skills. They need about $5,000 for travel and tournament expenses.

You can track the students’ progress at nationals by going to the National Forensic League’s Web site. For more results from the state competition, view this story on the PPS News Page.

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11.  PPS choirs, bands take their music on the road
Cleveland High School’s ClevelanDaires placed second in the 5A state choir championship.
Cleveland High School’s "A" Choir placed second in the 5A state choir championship.
Grant band students perform “Fantasy on a Japanese Folk Song” by Samuel R. Hazo at the PIL Band Festival in April.

The month of May is “game time” for Oregon high school musicians as bands and choir compete for state titles. Three PPS high schools took part this year. Cleveland High School’s "A" Choir, under the direction of Sam Barbara, placed second in the 5A division of the OSAA Choir State Championships, held May 7-9 at George Fox University; Wilson High School’s Wilsingers competed in the 6A division. In the OSAA Band State Championships at Oregon State University, Cleveland competed May 14 and Grant performed May 16.

12.  Safety patrols go for a ride
Fifth-graders Julia Kohn-Brown and Halie McIntosh escort a Lewis Elementary School family across the street. The girls say they enjoy being crossing guards — except, Julia notes, “when it’s really hot or really cold.”
Lewis Elementary School fifth-graders Halie McIntosh (left) and Julia Kohn-Brown enjoy being crossing guards — except, Julia notes, “when it’s really hot or really cold.”

Rain or shine, they direct traffic each day to ensure the safety of their fellow students. This week, Portland Public Schools safety patrol students get a thank-you for their before-and after-school efforts with a trip to Oaks Park.

More than 2,300 safety patrol students from PPS, Parkrose and David Douglas school districts visited the Southeast Portland amusement park this week, enjoying rides before lunching on hot dogs, apples, Rice Krispies Treats and ice cream bars, all washed down with Capri Sun drinks.

The year-end treat is a tradition that goes back more than 30 years, according to Sgt. Tom Perkins, school resource officer coordinator with the Portland Police Bureau and one of the event organizers.

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Fifth-graders Julia Kohn-Brown and Halie McIntosh escort a Lewis Elementary School family across the street. The girls say they enjoy being crossing guards — except, Julia notes, “when it’s really hot or really cold.”
Julia Kohn-Brown and Halie McIntosh escort a Lewis Elementary School family across the street.

“These students provide a real service by helping kids get to school safely. This is our way of paying them back and showing our appreciation,” Perkins says. “They have a great time.”

Students pay a $3 ride fee, which gives them free rein (within height limits) to ride whichever attractions they please, including the Scream-N-Eagle — according to the Oaks Park Web site, a ride that is “just too scary to talk about.”

The PPS Safety and Security Office and Portland Police SROs organize the event. Sponsors include the Archdiocese of Portland Catholic Schools, David Douglas School District, Masonic Grand Lodge of Oregon, Parkrose School District, Portland Patrol Services Inc., Portland Police Association and Three J’s Distributing Inc.

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13.  Who is Multnomah County’s top speller?
Spelldown 2009
Top three spellers in the high school district competition were (from left) Savannah Hrynko, Laura Mandel and Nick Budak.

Portland Public Schools students excelled in the annual Multnomah County Spelling Contest held last week, with four PPS students placing third or better across the three age divisions.

With one goal in mind — to be Multnomah County’s top speller — 24 students from six school districts competed May 12 at Multnomah Education Service District’s Northeast Portland office.

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The contest was written. For each of the 30 words, students wrote the word after a judge pronounced it and read it in a sentence. Students in all three age divisions spelled the same words.

Top three finishers from Portland Public Schools included:

  • Bethan Tyler, Grade 5, ACCESS Academy (first place, grade 1-5 division)
  • Alex Valls, Grade 5, Ainsworth Elementary School (second place, grade 1-5 division)
  • Grant Smith, Grade 8, ACCESS Academy (tie for first place, grade 6-8 division)
  • Nick Bukak, Grade 11, Grant High School (second place, grade 9-12 division)

First-place finishers advance to an all-state competition at the State Fairgrounds in Salem on Sept. 5. View more results from the county beePDF Icon.

First stop: SpellDown

To qualify for the county contest, students first had to compete in spelling bees held within school districts — a contest called SpellDown in Portland Public Schools.

In addition to the PPS students named above, Tristen Wong of ACCESS competed in Spelldown and qualified for the county bee.

Talented and Gifted Office staff members, assisted by other school and district employees, administered SpellDown.

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14.  A look to the future at NW Youth Careers Expo

More than 6,000 students — the majority from Portland Public Schools — flocked to the fifth annual NW Youth Careers Expo on May 7 at the Oregon Convention Center, where they talked to business, industry, government, nonprofit and education representatives about career opportunities and the skills they need to access those opportunities. Twelve hundred students participated in mock interviews with human resource professionals. The students also enjoyed hands-on activities in fields ranging from apparel merchandising to welding, and some even left with new hairstyles, thanks to cosmetology school students.

15.  Roll out the red carpet for Student Film Festival
Talking about movies
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The cinematic efforts of about a dozen Portland Public Schools students will hit the big screen later this month at the ninth annual PPS Student Film Festival.

Teachers Matt Gilley of West Sylvan Middle School and Phillip Walker of Jackson Middle School have coordinated the event from the beginning.

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“We began the film festival as a creative way for kids to showcase stories they had been working on in class,” Walker says. “Matt and I didn’t realize that we both were doing the same thing, which was integrating technology into the classroom. It blossomed from there.”

Gilley said he hopes that by seeing their work in the film festival the students will have a deeper appreciation for film and the creative process.

“If they’re working on a project with their teacher as the only audience, or with their teacher and 29 classmates as the only audience, then they work with a more limited attitude and perspective,” he says. “Opening up their work to a broader audience changes their perspective on the project, and it makes it more realistic and relevant.”

About a dozen student films will be screened at the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium at 5 p.m. May 30. The films will also be broadcast at a later date on the PPS television station, Channel 28.

16.  Stephenson alums travel back in time
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Capsule opening

Ten years ago, third-graders at Stephenson Elementary School in Southwest Portland created time capsules and filled them with small treasures. This month, 44 of those children — now high school seniors — returned to the school to open them. Items included a tracing of their hand, an essay about their dreams for the future, a 2000 New Year’s resolution and letters from their teacher and parents. Stephenson teacher Chris Snodgrass taught many of the students and helped organize the May 6 party, which many parents also attended. “It was truly a memorable event, and one that I will treasure,” Snodgrass said.

PPS Pulse is a publication of the Portland Public Schools Communications Office.

Robb Cowie, director; Katie Essick, editor; Matt Ferris-Smith, Sarah Carlin Ames, Erin Hoover Barnett and Brian Christopher, writers; Richard Martin, designer. Stay up to date with the PPS news page. Questions, comments or story ideas: ppspulse@pps.k12.or.us or 503-916-3304.

Portland Public Schools is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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