Is girls soccer the answer to the problems created by the No Child Left Behind legislation in Portland Public Schools?
It's at least a good start.
As the Lincoln Cardinals, a flagship program in the 10-team Portland Interscholastic League, prepare to play in the state final Saturday, the city's girls soccer program has never been in worse shape.
Jefferson, Marshall and Roosevelt didn't field varsity teams this year. Roosevelt only had eight players total, so it had zero teams.
What's being done about this?
Is it any wonder that students leave Jefferson, Marshall and Roosevelt ÑÊschools labeled as not making 'adequate yearly progress' by No Child Left Behind standards Ñ for neighboring schools? The option to leave is a key part of the law, which even requires that students receive free bus passes to get to and from their new schools.
The bus passes are a key ingredient because they provide students with access to other places besides their new schools.
And, as PIL Athletic Director Greg Ross points out, 'If you give a kid a bus pass and allow him or her to leave, which students do you think are going to leave?'
That's easy. The motivated ones.
And those motivated students might play soccer.
K.D. Parman, a teacher at George Middle School in North Portland, is the girls soccer coach at Roosevelt and has been with the program for three years. During that time, the number of girls in the program has dwindled from 21 to 16 to eight.
Roosevelt, Parman points out, has the typical problems that other 'failing' schools have with attracting athletes. Many girls work to help their families pay for necessities such as food and shelter. Or they speak Spanish, not English, fluently Ñ and Parman doesn't speak Spanish.
And no one wants to play for a team that loses every game, especially when the volleyball program is becoming more competitive and popular.
'I don't know that our school can support volleyball and girls soccer at the same time,' Parman says. 'There's just not enough girls for both sports.'
Parman doesn't know if there will be enough girls for a soccer team next year, either.
Enter John Teuscher, president of the St. Johns Soccer Club. The club will hold tryouts at noon Sunday at Columbia Park to develop players who could make Roosevelt, and even Jefferson, competitive in boys and girls soccer. If enough girls show up, the club will form a team that will play in the winter, spring and summer.
The St. Johns Soccer Club is strictly recreational, Teuscher says, because the more competitive club teams cost $400 or more to join, and that's without travel to out-of-state tournaments. It will cost $75 to $100 to play for St. Johns. The practices and games will give players a head start on the high school season, an advantage that players have at Lincoln and Grant.
Teuscher is frustrated that his efforts have gone unaided by Parman, who says the two simply haven't found a way to work together yet. The cooperation of club coach and varsity coaches is essential in building a program, especially for a school struggling to attract players.
'We need to find a way to work together,' Parman says. 'But it just hasn't clicked between us.'
Teuscher, whose daughter played soccer at Roosevelt until this year, says Portland Timbers assistant coach Jimmy Conway, who he knows through the St. Johns Optimist Club, would gladly help Roosevelt girls or boys soccer.
'We just need to be asked,' says Teuscher, who has coached for more than 20 years. 'Businesses would help support the program at the school, and we'll do whatever they need us to do, but we want them to at least come ask us.'
Teuscher, who has a son and a daughter attending Roosevelt, also is involved in baseball and basketball in North Portland and works with Roosevelt's baseball and boys basketball coaches.
That the girls soccer program hasn't been pushed more to succeed by the school and by the district is just one example of how failure is accepted at the schools labeled as 'failing.' And it's easily passed off as being a problem of unmotivated kids.
Teuscher says he's focused on the future and is ready to work with as many high school coaches as he can, including Parman.
'Pointing out how people are failing doesn't really solve anything,' Teuscher says. 'What we really need is action and cooperation. That's the kind of thing that will bring the community back to the schools and then, maybe, parents will send their kids to those schools again.'