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Equity in high schools challenged

The Lake Oswego School Board appears to be taking concrete and tangible steps to balance the high school curriculums in our district. Its plan is in direct response to an honest, insightful opinion piece by Lakeridge student Ruby Taylor in which she noted a large number of academic electives at Lake Oswego High School that are not offered at Lakeridge.

Appointing school Superintendent Bill Korach with this task, however, is like expecting Rip Van Winkle to repair a dilapidated barn. The public record clearly shows that Dr. Korach knew of section and subject matter disparities prior to Miss Taylor's October column, yet did nothing, in spite of specific and repeated pleas from Lakeridge parents.

As the minutes of the Feb. 7 board meeting state, a Lakeridge parent 'asked that the board look at elective offerings at both high schools, noting that LHS parents feel that their students have less elective course options available to them. He (asked) the board (to) ensure that students have equal opportunity to course offerings.'

In April, Lakeridge's representative on the consolidation committee wrote in the scenario B report of 'an equity issue with respect to types of electives and numbers of sections offered (such as AP classes, which at Lakeridge have so few sections, they can be impossible to take because of scheduling conflicts.)' An LHS SAC member addressed the board on April 12 about equity in 'access to specialized and advanced placement classes.' Less than two weeks later in the committee's scenario A report, the Lakeridge representative reiterated that 'this year many Lakeridge students who wanted to take (academic) electives could not … and ended up with six classes and fillers such as study hall and office help, or late arrival/early dismissal.'

At a May 23 meeting, the board authorized a new engineering course at LOHS that would be open to LHS but, according to Dr. Korach, 'the logistics of scheduling could be an issue' for its students. He affirmed the offering of 'unique and singleton course(s) at both' high schools, but promised to talk to the high school principals about scheduling options.

So it was with disbelief that we heard Miss Taylor recount that at their meeting after her article's publication, Dr. Korach stated, 'I didn't know.' The outpouring of frustration on Dec. 12 from Lakeridge parents, including LOSD Foundation board members, strongly signals that the superintendent's unwavering defense of an inequitable system and his stubborn indifference to complaints earlier this year is a serious breach of trust.

Finally, while acknowledging 'that a smaller school can be disadvantaged,' Dr. Korach never undertook the simple comparative analysis done by Miss Taylor. He is the wrong person to now lead the restoration of balance between our two high schools.

Karen Delaney, Lake Oswego, is a member of the Lakeridge SAC and Consolidation Committee.

Editor's note: Lake Oswego School Board Chair John Wendland responds: 'The school board and administration are addressing questions and concerns of parents and students regarding elective course offerings at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools. Comparisons are not as straightforward as they might appear in a simple analysis; the forthcoming results of the school board and administration's work will clarify some of the mischaracterizations and inaccurate assumptions that have been circulating as fact. Additional analysis of this issue will be communicated to the community and will be on the agenda at the Jan. 9 school board meeting.'