Volume 2, Issue 3: December 2008
In this issue
1. From the superintendent:What’s key to student success? You!
2. ‘Significant cuts’ in next year’s budget?
3. School ‘stabilization’ projects may begin next summer
4. Award-winning teacher shares her strategies
5. Lane, Whitman, Boise-Eliot schools earn recognition
6. Lincoln girls, Grant boys take state soccer titles
7. Thoughts about school libraries? Share them
8. Ready, Set, Connect … to PPS schools
9. Thanks, Mayor Potter, for making schools your business
10. Once a Demo, always a Demo: Jefferson alumni unite
11. It’s showtime!
12. Schools help during the holidays
13. Weather trumps test of automated phone system
14. Family Support Centers offer new service
1. From the superintendent: What’s key to student success? You!

Fall parent-teacher conferences are over, but thinking and talking about how your student is learning shouldn’t be a once-a-year event. Students learn best when parents get involved in their education. That may sound as if it takes a lot of time or expertise, but it boils down to two simple words: “ask” and “listen.”

Ask your student about school ― often. Not the “How was your day at school?” questions that are easy to brush off with a simple answer of “Fine.” Ask: “What book did you pick from the library?” “How’s the lab experiment going?” “What is your class reading for English?” “What are you writing about?” And listen to the answers.

Continue the conversation with your student’s teachers. Every teacher has his or her own way to keep in touch, whether through phone calls, by e-mail or by scheduling quick meetings with parents. Ask how you can help your child be more successful.

And don’t forget the other ways you can keep in touch with the school. Do you read the newsletters and announcements from the principal, whether e-mailed home or stuffed into a backpack? Once in a while, walk in the school doors and check the bulletin boards. Take part in the principal’s coffee talks and PTA meetings. Check in with other parents you know.

Enjoy your winter break and celebrating the holidays with your family.

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

2. ‘Significant cuts’ in next year’s budget?

The economic downturn is having a serious impact on Portland Public Schools’ budget, and after two years of fragile stability, cuts are once again in the forecast. Unanticipated one-time revenues that came in during 2007-08 are offsetting the state’s revenue cuts during the current school year, according to the financial forecast presented to the school board’s finance committee Dec. 9. The school district expects to finish this school year with adequate reserves, roughly 9 percent of operating costs. However, even those reserves will be drained by 2010-11 unless the school district significantly cuts spending.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close

Looking ahead to the new fiscal year, which starts July 1, Superintendent Carole Smith has called for “belt-tightening” actions in the current budget such as leaving some positions unfilled or cutting back spending on services, supplies and travel. Running all programs and services in 2009-10 as they now exist — a no-cuts budget — would cost $22 million more than provided in the governor’s proposed budget. Without cuts, reserves could dwindle to only 3 percent, leaving nothing in the bank to cover an uncertain future.

“We will weigh our priorities, make some strategic but perhaps painful reductions, and set ourselves on a path to fiscal sustainability,” Smith said. “I will do all I can to protect the services most vital to our students, but I will have to propose a budget with significant cuts for next school year.”

Read the district's budget update. Learn more about the Portland Public Schools budget. Want to dig in deeper? Apply by Dec. 31 to be a member of the Citizen Budget Review Committee, which reviews, evaluates and makes recommendations to the school board about the proposed budget. Click here for information and the application.

3. School ‘stabilization’ projects may begin next summer

Roofs, ventilation systems, security and technology upgrades are among the unglamorous — but important — items that may receive attention by Portland Public Schools next year under a proposed short-term facilities plan.

The plan, which calls for upgrades at schools across PPS, is intended to “stabilize” schools as leaders gear up for a much larger, long-term effort to renovate, modernize or replace many of the district’s 85-plus schools.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close

Related PDFs What is proposed for my school? Full text of draft short-term plan

The proposed plan calls for about $60 million in upgrades to support programs and school buildings out of $272 million in identified short-term projects; separate funding will pay for certain technology items.

On Dec. 9, a subcommittee of the PPS Board of Education reviewed the plan. The full board will examine it at a meeting Monday, Jan. 12, and funding will be considered soon after. Construction could occur next summer and in summer 2010.

Many PPS schools are old and deteriorating. A 2007-08 assessment of elementary, middle and K-8 schools found that most buildings are at, or near, the end of their useful life. PPS buildings average almost 70 years of age, which is at least 20 years older than comparable school districts.

Interview with school architect John Weekes: Time for change

A nationally renowned designer of education buildings, architect John Weekes of Dull Olson Weekes Architects created the award-winning Rosa Parks Elementary School in North Portland (see a video about the school). Recently he helped arrange school tours in Canby and West Linn for PPS board members and administrators.

Q:Why does Portland Public Schools need new or renovated schools?

JW: If you think about schools — even some new schools, but especially PPS schools — they have not changed in more than 100 years. They may have been remodeled for specific programs, but generally they have not changed. In that same period of time almost every other building type has evolved.

Kids are kinetic active learners, but we put them small rooms or in rows of desks where teachers are forced to lecture. We have students sitting on radiators because there isn’t enough space. Teaching tools that the building can provide are limited. That’s not a good way to learn or teach.

Education today is much different than the way in which most PPS schools were designed to support. We need to recognize this, and envision a new model that supports the way PPS can grow and evolve in the coming decades.

Q: What makes a 21st century school?

JW: Twenty-first century schools are agile and adaptable. They provide for the functional needs of teaching, expand the possible uses of all space and support connectivity between teachers and students. They are embedded with technology. We must consider what we know about school buildings and how they affect learning, including the quantity of natural lighting, availability of fresh air and the impact of long-term maintenance costs.

Twenty-first schools contribute to our neighborhoods. A good school is one that looks both inward and outward: They must provide opportunities for all students while reaching out and supporting the community. If you fly above Portland, you can see that schools and school sites constitute a major part of the city. So as we look forward, consider that schools can be a positive contributor: to the quality of education, our neighborhoods and to the future of Portland.

The new report prioritized and put a price tag on the most urgently needed work to keep students warm, safe and dry in their classrooms and to save energy. The report also identified front-burner projects that support educational programs, including improvements at buildings reconfigured as K-8 schools (such as science labs).

Major systems need major attention

Essential building components, including roofs, heating and electrical systems, require work at many schools.

Many safety improvements were made with money from a 1995 bond — including seismic work at some schools to allow occupants a chance to exit in the event of an earthquake — but work remains to ensure schools are warm, safe and dry.

Proposed items include:

  • Renovate worst-condition roofs
  • Replace unit ventilators and air compressors to improve temperature control
  • Replace steam traps to provide more consistent heat delivery
  • Save energy by using refrigeration control devices and single pass compressors
  • Improve security by installing exterior door key card access controls
  • Repair sidewalks

In addition, PPS will equip classrooms with a basic technology package that includes wiring upgrades, laptops for teachers, cameras and projectors. These may begin reaching schools as early as next fall. Elementary, middle and K-8 schools will be provided a minimum of two computer labs.

The big picture

Meanwhile, the long-term, 21st century schools plan is moving forward. Early next year, PPS will begin a city-wide discussion on the future of high schools: Where should they be located, and what should they teach? Many sessions have already been held seeking public input on the overall 21st century schools project, which produced a set of guiding principles.

The community discussion on our high school system — which has involved principals and teachers so far — will continue this spring. That conversation will help school district leaders develop a long-term capital improvement plan, which will include plans to renovate or rebuild schools.

Warm, safe and dry improvements and any eventual 21st century school rebuilding projects would be funded by capital dollars, not general operating funds that support classroom instruction.

School Visit
An architect talks about the design of Edmonds-Woodway High School in Washington with PPS school board members, Superintendent Carole Smith and staff. ( BRIAN M. CHRISTOPHER )

To guide school renovation planning, district staff and board members have visited new schools in Sisters, Canby, West Linn and Tacoma, as well as six Seattle-area schools.

Until a plan is created for high schools, district leaders will not prioritize schools to be renovated or rebuilt as part of the long-term plan. The long range plan will rank schools based on 15 factors (PDF).

As the long-term plan takes shape, one new “building” has already broken ground: an ultra-green modular classroom at da Vinci Arts Middle School that will — in addition to housing a classroom, office and two music recording/practices rooms — serve as a prototype for future building construction. (Learn more in October’s PPS Pulse.)

Modular classrooms, along with vacant PPS school buildings, will likely play a big role in the 21st century schools project when construction begins — possibly as soon as 2010. Although construction will be staggered so that most schools remain open, PPS will still need extra areas, or “swing space,” to send students.

Your thoughts?

To stay informed about both the short- and long-term facilities plans, visit the Reshape Schools Web site. More community input sessions will be held next year. If you have comments and questions for the school board, send them to schoolboard@pps.k12.or.us. [ Back to the top ]

4. Award-winning teacher shares her strategies
Bonnie Robb
Students crowd around Clark K-8 @ Binnsmead teacher Bonnie Robb after she was named a recipient of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. BRIAN M. CHRISTOPHER

Earlier this month, PPS first-grade teacher Bonnie Robb won $25,000 for her innovative techniques educating first graders at Clark K-8 @ Binnsmead School. What’s her secret? Mostly, she says, it’s about the eyes.

Like many teachers, Robb, 35, faces big challenges in the classroom: Many of her students are from poor families, or don’t speak English well. Even in first grade, these students can be years behind their peers in language development — crucial for learning new skills.

“All these students can point at a chair, and say that it’s a chair. But some don’t have good ‘functional language’: They can’t interact with their environment very well. So when they learn a new skill, they often forget it.”

Read MoreClick to Open/Close
Bonnie Robb accepting the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award

If language is key to learning new skills — such as reading and math — what’s the best way to teach it? Through research with Ellyn Arwood, a University of Portland professor of education, Robb found that the majority of children, regardless of affluence or English abilities, learn best when visual elements are incorporated into lessons.

Robb says: “Most children, 80 to 90 percent, are hardwired to learn visually, so all my lessons take advantage of that.”

Apparently, it works. At Clark K-8 @ Binnsmead, about 80 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch (a commonly used measure of poverty), and almost half are English language learners. Despite this, 80 percent or more of Robb’s students meet or exceed benchmarks in reading, writing and math.

Robb incorporates visual elements that include:

  • Picture dictionaries. Students create dictionaries in which they draw a picture above each word to represent the concept of the word. Words are grouped by topic, or set, not alphabetically.
  • Drawing before writing: To write a story, a student first draws pictures. Robb labels the drawings with the words needed to write the story.
  • Draw while talking: To introduce geology, for example, Robb might tell a story (“One day I was at the park, and saw a rock. ...”), drawing as she talks.

Robb also integrates content across the curriculum. If students are studying insects, for example, they observe insects, write about them, make a song about them, and read and hear books about them. She says this helps students see connections across skill areas – so they learn reading, when they think they’re just watching bugs.

“Teaching comes down to this: If a certain technique works for kids, do it!” Robb says. “I only teach one lesson, but I teach it in a way that all students can learn from it.”

She encourages fellow teachers to try something different if they’re not seeing the growth they expect students to make.

To parents, she advises: “The most important thing you can do is talk to your kids. Even if you’re just saying out loud what you’re doing — when making cookies, you say, ‘Now I’m adding the flour, then we’ll stir it’ ” — kids just need to hear you talk. Language is the foundation for the rest of their career in education.” [ Back to the top ]

5. Lane, Whitman, Boise-Eliot schools earn recognition

Students at Lane Middle School in Southeast Portland let out a loud cheer at an assembly Dec. 10 as Oregon Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced Lane as a “Champion School,” one of only seven recognized statewide for significant improvement in student achievement, especially among students of color and those from lower-income homes.

The students cheered again a few minutes later when she announced that Whitman Elementary School, which feeds into Lane, was named one of six “Rising Star Schools.” Boise-Eliot K-8 School, in North Portland, also received a “Celebrating Student Success” award for maintaining the strong achievement that won it “Champion” status last year. Read the news release. For more about Lane's impressive turn-around read PPS Extra Credit

6. Lincoln girls, Grant boys take state soccer titles
Lincoln soccer team

Finishing undefeated for the second consecutive year, Lincoln High School girls (18-0-0) won the state 6A soccer championship, while Grant High School boys (17-2-1) took the 6A crown; both defeated Westview High School for the titles.

In other fall sports, Jefferson High School reached the state quarterfinals in 5A football and Cleveland High School placed second in boys 5A cross country.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close


Lincoln girls beat Westview 1-0 in the championship game Nov. 15. Scout Libke, a senior and Lincoln’s player of the game, scored early in the second half with a free kick. Senior Kendall Johnson (recently featured by ESPN) was named the 6A Oregon State Soccer Player of the Year; she won the same honor in 2007.

Through tragedy, runner stays on
Lauren Armony
Lauren Armony

On a Monday in October, Cleveland High School junior Lauren Armony was pulled out of class and told her father had died in a car accident. She went home, but returned later for cross country practice — that day, and each day after.

Recognizing her dedication, teammates named Lauren most inspirational runner of the year, and Cleveland’s athletic director awarded her the Iron Woman award, earned by one student annually. Most teammates knew her father, who attended meets and took photos.

Coach Olivia Poblacion says Lauren demonstrated “exceptional” courage: “Lauren found a remarkable sense of stability and belonging from the support of her teammates.”

A team captain, Lauren helped lead the varsity girls to their highest placing ever at the state championship.

Grant, capturing its first state soccer championship, defeated Westview 3-1 with points from sophomore Alex Arrington and seniors Roy Bourgazas and Stephen Pies. In 2007, Grant lost 1-0 against Central Catholic in the championship game.

Mayor Potter
Grant players Even O'Kelly and Michael McGrew embrace after their team won the 6A state title. Buck O'KellY


In 5A football, Jefferson reached the state quarterfinals after defeating Marshfield and Mountain View. The Democrats lost to West Albany 38-14 at the Nov. 29 game.

Cross Country

Led by junior Daniel Winn, Cleveland’s cross country team placed second after Crater High School. Winn ran the 5K race in 16:15.4, putting him in sixth place out of 107 competitors. In girls 6A cross country, Lincoln senior Betsy Kolberg placed ninth with a time of 19:00.0.

Now playing: Winter sports

Basketball, cheerleading, dance/drill, swimming and wrestling have begun, or will soon. View game schedules at the PIL Web site; for additional information, go to the OSAA Web site. [ Back to the top ]

7. Thoughts about school libraries? Share them

Save the date: The district’s new 21st Century School Library Initiative Team seeks parent and community participation in changes to school libraries. A forum is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14; the location will be announced in next month’s Pulse and on the news page. The initiative’s goals are: Prepare students for postsecondary education, careers and responsible citizenship by developing information literacy and technology skills; and foster an appreciation for reading for both academic achievement and lifelong learning. For more information, contact Deb Carroll, 503-916-3458, or Susan Stone, 503-916-5404, ext. 1044.

8. Ready, Set, Connect … to PPS schools

A program to introduce families to PPS schools, and specifically to prepare them for “transition” grades, begins next month. The district’s new School Readiness and Choice Festival — called Ready, Set, Connect — will include events at schools and community sites, and will emphasize preparation for kindergarten and grades 6 and 9. More information will be available online and at schools next month. Ready, Set, Connect succeeds the all-district Celebrate, an annual one-day, one-location event.

9. Thanks, Mayor Potter, for making schools your business
Jefferson students
Robert Gill and Dennise Zavala took part in Mayor Tom Potter’s weeklong visit to Jefferson High School in January. BRIAN M. CHRISTOPHER

Dennise Zavala thought Portland Mayor Tom Potter was just another politician until he showed up at her high school last winter and brought City Hall with him.

“I never thought in a million years that some politician would step into Jefferson and see what the school is all about,” Dennise says. “But he made that choice.”

Moving key City Hall operations to Jefferson High School for a week last January exemplifies the support Potter showed for Portland schools. He worked for better funding for all school districts in Portland. But he also pressed further to spend meaningful time inside schools and draw positive attention to them. Early in 2009, the Portland School Board will recognize the outgoing mayor’s efforts with a proclamation.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close
Mayor reflects on Jefferson stint

His week at Jefferson High School, says Mayor Tom Potter, was among his favorite moments in his four years as Portland’s leader. In an e-mail interview, the mayor responded to questions about the visit.

Q: Why did you move City Hall to Jefferson for a week?

TP: I was invited. A group of Jefferson students visited the City Council, and the senior class president, Celeste Jackson, told the council, “If all you know about Jefferson is what you read, then you need to come and see the real story for yourself.” And so we did, putting ourselves in the hands of the real experts on our schools: the students, faculty, teachers, volunteers and parents for whom Jefferson is a very special second home.

Q: What lessons did you learn at Jefferson?

TP: That student success has a direct relationship to the support they receive from family, faculty and community, no matter where they go to school. … that too many students fall behind during that first crucial year of high school, and those who do are four times more likely to leave before they graduate. … that schools can be powerful centerpieces of neighborhoods and communities and that schools remain critical resources for their communities long after the last bell has rung.

The final lesson from walking those hallways is how much optimism and hope comes from hanging around teenagers who are so full of life, and who have told me numerous times: “We aren’t the problem. We are the solution.”

Q: What is the takeaway message for everyone about helping kids succeed?

TP: We are each responsible for the success — or failure — of what happens inside and outside these classrooms. If we point fingers, if we spend our time saying the Legislature has failed us, or the teachers have failed us, or the system itself has failed us, then the only certainty is that too many of our children will fall behind, and that is simply not acceptable.

I am optimistic about the future of our youth. But for that future to be as bright as I believe it can be, all of us must ask how we can become involved in the lives of our city's young people. The solution lies within each of us. I believe that even more passionately today than I did when I began this job.

Potter pledged in his 2004 mayoral campaign to put children first. In early 2006, he boldly proposed a .95 percent citywide income tax and the extension of a surcharge on business licenses to help pay for schools. When both proved unpopular, he helped raise $18 million from the city and businesses for schools. And he threw his support behind a five-year local option tax for PPS schools that voters approved.

He also joined discussions about other issues facing schools, such as the need for better children’s health insurance. But what he will be most remembered for among educators was his many visits to city schools.

Mayor Potter
Mayor Tom Potter, with (from left) board member Ruth Adkins, Potter’s wife, Karin Hansen, and Superintendent Carole Smith, enjoy an assembly at Jefferson. BRIAN M. CHRISTOPHER

Potter's attention included all Portland districts, kicking off 2007-08 with visits to such buildings as Parkrose Middle School, where students interviewed him and Potter quizzed them about their needs. But his tour de force came in January when he and his staff set up a temporary office at Jefferson, held a City Council meeting there and ended the week with his State of the City address in the Jefferson auditorium.

Robert Gill helped plan the visit as a Jefferson student council member, traveling to City Hall to join in logistical meetings with the mayor’s staff.

“It was the first time in history a mayor had ever done this,” said Gill, now 17 and a Jeff junior. “It shows a courageous act and that he really was a great mayor for the city of Portland — that he really cared and wasn’t just filling the spot.”

Dennise, a senior, assisted the mayor's staff during their visit. She felt proud of the introduction to the school that she and her fellow students gave Potter.

“What I think he learned is that Jeff isn’t what the media says it is — it isn’t a bad school,” she says.

Both students say that Jefferson feels like home to them and that, through media coverage, Potter’s visit educated the public about the school’s strong character. The take-away message, Dennise says: “Don’t judge my home until you’ve been inside.”

It is advice that Potter embodied in his words and actions. [ Back to the top ]

10. Once a Demo, always a Demo: Jefferson alumni unite
Jefferson alumni
Members of the Jefferson High School 1958 state football championship team, including standout Mel Renfro, gather at an alumni association tailgater in 2007. PHOTOGRAPHY BY REBA

Jefferson High School will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. But it’s already received the perfect gift, an energetic, forward-thinking alumni association that has the ability to reach 7,000 former students.

The North Portland school’s big birthday wasn’t on the minds of the three association founders when they got together in August 2006. They just wanted to support the school, which was facing significant internal and external challenges. “We kept hearing, ‘Somebody needs to do something’ — and we were saying the same thing,” says Maggie Brister-Mashia.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close

She suggested to her husband, Eric Mashia, that she make a five-year commitment to the school. When he agreed, the Jefferson High School Alumni Association was born.

Jefferson alumni
Alumni association founders Ricky Pettiford (from left), Eric Mashia and Maggie Brister-Mashia PHOTOGRAPHY BY REBA

In the beginning it was just Maggie (Jefferson class of 1980), Eric Mashia (class of 1974) and Ricky Pettiford, a Jefferson Democrat through his job: A school employee for 17 years, he’s currently a campus safety officer.

Maggie is the association president — and by all accounts, the “queen bee.” She’s cut back on her work as an employment and training consultant and is devoting time to the alumni association and Jefferson student activities. Among other things, she’s rounding up alumni: James Bonner, a fellow class of ’80 graduate, recently returned to Portland from Houston and says with a laugh that it didn’t take long for Maggie to find him.

Today, the association – which just filed for 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) status – regularly draws about 25 to 30 alumni to its meetings.

Jefferson postcard
This postcard shows Jefferson High School as it appeared in 1909, the year the school was built.

And members are going full-speed. They held the third annual Alumni Reunion Dinner on Dec. 13. In the longer term, they’re working on a “concept paper” – in essence, a vision for Jefferson.

“We’re focusing on the climate we want at Jefferson,” Maggie says.

They’ve opened the Demo Store, which has two purposes: It’s a source for Jefferson apparel and a tool to teach employment skills.

After 80 years, Jefferson student earns her diploma
Jefferson graduate
Olivia Wittmayer examines her Jefferson diploma. LENNIE EDWARDS

It’s never too late to graduate.

Olivia Wittmayer would certainly agree. After leaving Jefferson High School just one year shy of graduation to help her family during the Great Depression, Wittmayer received a diploma Sept. 6 this year in front of her children and grandchildren.

Nephew Mike Wittmayer spearheaded the effort. After contacting PPS district leaders, he arranged to have a small ceremony at his house, timed to be near the date of her 95th birthday Sept. 1.

The daughter of German immigrants who lived in Russia, Wittmayer was born in South Dakota in 1913.

The association also has a Centennial Committee that’s focused on the 2009 anniversary. The committee has a comprehensive Web site that includes information on various activities, culminating in a multi-day celebration in late May. Among them:

  • “Color Purple” benefit. Through a special agreement, the committee received a portion of ticket sales for upcoming performances of “The Color Purple” at Keller Auditorium.
  • Centennial Anniversary Walkathon, April 25, Jefferson. The alumni association is hoping to get a broad representation of students, staff, alumni, parents and community members to walk and raise money in support of the school.
  • Jefferson Centennial Golf Tournament, May 27, Langdon Farms
  • Centennial Showcase 2009, May 28, Jefferson
  • Jefferson Hall of Fame All-Class Banquet and Silent Auction, May 29, Holiday Inn Airport
  • Jefferson Centennial Celebration, May 30, Jefferson

For Jefferson Principal Cynthia Harris, the association is the culmination of a dream she had for students when she walked the halls of the school for the first time.

“It’s not just about resources,” she says. “They’re mentors. They teach the students about taking steps to attain their goals. They teach them how to make a difference. They give them hope.”

The alumni association welcomes new members and interest. For information on the association and activities, contact Ricky Pettiford at 503-913-1929 or e-mail Maggie Brister-Mashia. [ Back to the top ]

11. It’s showtime!
Show folks
East/West Sylvan student performers in “Little Shop of Horrors:” Helene Matschek (from left), Mara Strauss, Lilly Fritz and Lauren Runnels-Gibson.

Musicals and plays have been performed by PPS students across the city this month. There's still time to catch a performance before holiday break: Check the PPS Event Calendar for a list of events, including "Cheaper by the Dozen" at Jackson Middle School and a winter music concert at da Vinci Arts Middle School featuring African drumming, jazz and the rock band Trogdor.

12. Schools help during the holidays

PPS students and employees are reaching out to families this holiday season with food, music, gifts, clothes and more. To stoke the giving spirit, some schools are offering students eye-catching enticements.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close
Maplewood 1st grade singing 2007
Maplewood Elementary School students sing at Washington Square Mall.

Many schools are gathering food. Lane Middle School is adopting several families and collecting items for the Salvation Army; Beverly Cleary School is preparing food baskets and holding a food drive; Duniway Elementary School is supporting 11 families in the community with gifts and food, including complete turkey dinners; da Vinci Arts Middle School is collecting food (and coats) for donation; Sellwood Middle School is assembling gift baskets; and Roseway Heights School is delivering food baskets and gift cards to the doorsteps of about a dozen community families.

In addition to holding a food drive, a number of Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women students are volunteering at Blanchet House, a support center for homeless individuals.

Schools also are connecting families with community resources. At Grout Elementary School, for example, Reedwood Friends Church is giving gifts to students, and the Oaks Bottom Lions are giving gifts and food to a family. (Staff buy students gifts, too.)

Also, Project Return, a PPS program for homeless youth, is providing groceries to several Chapman Elementary School students and their families. At the PPS central office, staff are supporting the Oregon Food Bank through a “food tree” (a stack of cans and boxes) and “bakestravaganza” (free baked goods, with a suggested donation).

Students at other schools are sharing music by singing and playing across the city. On Dec. 10, Llewellyn Elementary School’s choir performed at Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Maplewood Elementary School’s fourth-graders are singing at a convalescent center today, Dec. 16.

Robert Gray Middle School students are performing nearly every day in December, including at the Clackamas Town Center, Lloyd Center and the Oregon Zoo — even on the Willamette Shore Trolley Dec. 18. (For their schedule, contact Jeanne Berg.)

BizTech High School takes the (holiday) cake for generosity and creativity. The school — on the Marshall Campus — hopes to bring in 1,500 dollars or food items, through a variety of games and events to support the Oregon Food Bank and p:ear, a program for homeless youth. Events include:

  • Pay to Get Rid of Me Day (Dec. 10): Leadership students followed other students until that student paid them $1 to stop — and follow someone else.
  • Donate to Delay Day (Dec. 11): First-period class didn’t start until teachers counted all the money students brought to school.
  • Kiss the Turtle (Dec. 16): Five containers will be labeled with the names of a volunteer student or staff member; the volunteer’s container that attracts the most money must kiss a turtle at an all-school assembly.
  • Tournaments for dodgeball (Dec. 3, admission: one food item) and basketball (Dec. 10, $2 entry fee).

Want to help families at your school? Call the school and ask how you can help. Most are doing something, and every bit counts. [ Back to the top ]

13. Weather trumps test of automated phone system

Several weeks ago, Portland Public Schools’ inclement weather team put the wheels in motion for a test of the new rapid broadcast phone system, which provides immediate notification to parents and students in an emergency situation. But an early winter storm had other ideas.

Read MoreClick to Open/Close

The school district planned to test the system Wednesday, Dec. 17, but weather conditions put the system to work for real on Sunday, Dec. 14, and Monday, Dec. 15. All schools and offices were closed Monday. Schools on the west side of the Willamette River remained closed Tuesday; this is the second year the district is limiting closures and delays to affected areas.

The forecast predicts the possibility of more bad weather this week — as early as Wednesday.

If you haven’t received any weather-related calls at your home or on your cell phone, please contact your student’s school after winter break and ask for an update of the information in the electronic student information system (eSIS). Remember, you can always tune in to local TV or radio or the PPS Web site (click on “Inclement Weather”) for the latest on closures and delays.

14. Family Support Centers offer new service

Portland Public Schools’ Family Support Centers continue to expand their services. The newest: Families can now fill out food stamp and health care applications at the centers. Assistance is available in multiple languages. Call the centers for an appointment:

  • Northside Family Support Center, 503-916-5875, located at the former Applegate School, 7650 N. Commercial Ave.
  • Southside Family Support Center, 503-916-5729, adjacent to Kelly Elementary School, 9015 S.E. Rural St.

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

Robb Cowie, director; Katie Essick, editor/writer; Matt Ferris-Smith, lead writer; Sarah Carlin Ames and Erin Hoover Barnett, 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.

Portland Public Schools - 501 North Dixon Street - Portland, Oregon 97227 - 503-916-2000 - www.pps.k12.or.us