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Message from Superintendent Smith: Call to action on high schools

February 10, 2010
Dear PPS community,
Monday night, I asked the school board to affirm the goals and principles we're using to improve our high schools, and to offer a more challenging and inspiring high school experience to all our students.
(View video of my message to the School Board.)
An important step
The board resolution I presented did not include recommendations about the future of any individual school campus. You can expect those recommendations this April.
Instead, the resolution was a call to action. It described our shared understanding about why all of our high schools must improve and the steps necessary to give all students access to the full range of courses they need and deserve. It also proposes a set of criteria for us to use in deciding where to locate community high schools.
This is an important step in this decision-making process: this is the first time that our School Board will have an opportunity to vote on the key elements of a high school system designed to produce better results for all our students.
It also represents additional opportunities for you to weigh-in.
Opportunities for input
I know there is a lot of anxiety about the future of individual schools. I hear and recognize the incredible passion so many of you have expressed for your neighborhood school.
This deep commitment to our neighborhoods is a unique Portland value. I've heard that -- and the commitment to community schools is reflected in the proposals we've put forward.
I want you to know that we are committed to making decisions in a thoughtful and deliberate way -- with full community input -- in keeping with our common values: that every student deserves an equitable opportunity to receive a rigorous education that prepares him or her for success.
As I told the School Board on Monday night, some people have said we're going too fast with this process. Some have said we're going too slow. But what's important is not our pace, but the quality of our decisions and the integrity of our process. To make the best decisions, we need your input.
So please, stay engaged. Here are some of the upcoming opportunities you'll have to share your thoughts:
  • Students are invited to a work-session on Tuesday, Feb. 16., from 4:30-7:30 P.M., in the board room at 501 N. Dixon Street.
  • The Portland School Board will hold a work session as part of its regular board meeting on Monday, Feb. 22, to discuss the resolution.
  • The Portland School Board will hold a public meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7:00 P.M. (Location to be announced) to take testimony on the main elements of the proposed high school system and the criteria to be used in determining the best location for community high schools.
 Next Steps
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the resolution on March 8. Under the resolution, I will present a proposal that reflects the goals and elements of a stronger high school system (including specific plans for individual campuses), within the following 45 days.
That's not the end of the conversation. The School Board and I will look for your comments on the proposed plan, before the School Board votes on any program changes or boundary revisions.

(Further details and a great deal of background information is on our High School System Design Web page.)
I hope you will continue to share your ideas and suggestions as we reach the next set of decisions and beyond. Thanks for your support for our students and our schools.

Carole Smith

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