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Close failed schools; help Benson

by: L.E. BASKOW, Hundreds from the Benson school community marched in opposition and rallied against the school district’s high school redesign proposal in May. Readers weigh in on the fate of Benson, which under the redesign plan would  convert from a four-year program into a two-year, half-day career technical center for students districtwide.

The idea to move Benson Polytechnic High School's career technical education programs to Jefferson High School is one of the most ridiculous ideas ever proposed (Redesign leaves Benson students out in the cold, April 29).

First off, district officials say they have no money. How do they think they can afford to move the infrastructure at Benson to another building? Jefferson would need to be completely rebuilt. If you are going to spend that kind of money, invest it in the Benson campus.

Second, when School Board member Martin Gonzales made the suggestion, he did so after noting that most students who should be going to Jefferson are now at Benson. That may be true, but not because they all want what Benson has to offer. They are there because of the failed enrollment and transfer process that made Benson the logical place for kids who did not want to be at Jefferson to flee to.

Bottom line, the Portland School Board needs to close schools that are not working and give a school like Benson - which is working - the support it needs to continue.

Bill Cooper

Beaverton

Not every student will be a doctor

The problem with the Portland Public School system and many others across the country is that they are still locked into that fixation that everyone should be trained to go on to college after high school - whether it is appropriate or not (Redesign leaves Benson students out in the cold, April 29).

Oh yes, we hear that the schools have gotten the message or that the schools are being programmed for the 21st Century or numerous other catch phrases. The truth is, they are not. The K-12 system is supposed to set up children for life, but instead it is setting up those who plan to be doctors, lawyers and social workers. If the schools really did set up kids for life, there would be a whole lot less need for social workers.

At a very minimum, there should be programs available in our school system that prepare our youth for the jobs of today and jobs of the future. These are the jobs that require a skill, the jobs that all those college graduates need someone to do for them: the (machinists), the tool and die makers, the welders, the electricians, the plumbers, the carpenters, the mechanics, etc.

Did you notice that these are the same jobs that needed to be filled in the 19th, the 20th and now the 21st centuries? Many of these (skilled jobs) are more sophisticated than in earlier centuries, but the need is still there.

We are essentially teaching for the 30 percent who will need a degree, leaving the 70 percent to fend for themselves. If this sounds a little backward to you - you are not alone. And many of these skilled positions pay as much or more than those who go on to college. These people are just on another track than those going on to college, but the result is that those who don't go on to college have a high school diploma that qualifies them for nothing more than being a service worker.

For many, the only answer to learning a skill is to join the service. Why should they have to make a commitment to the military in order to learn a skill?

This is where schools such as Benson come into play: These are the schools that can train the other 70 percent to be productive citizens. These graduates have the technical expertise that (the manufacturing industry) is craving, with jobs that pay good (salaries). These are the people who buy the big-ticket items because they have the money. These jobs have a future.

These are the jobs that that other 70 percent wants to be qualified to perform, and it is the Portland school district's job to see that they are.

Jim Werner

Southeast Portland

Redesign can't please everyone

Reporter Jennifer Anderson works hard to keep her spot as the Tribune's specialist in negativistic, cynical stories (High school shuffle makes critics shout, May 6).

There is no possible change to the Portland Public Schools status quo - which most agree is unhealthy - that would have pleased everyone. Superintendent Carole Smith's proposal is probably the most modest redesign that could work in terms of improving equality of opportunity at the 'poorer' schools, while not doing massive harm to the more successful ones.

And, of course, there's no guarantee it will work - but then, there would be no guarantee of success, whatever the plan.

Jim Gardner

Southwest Portland

Close the smaller of two schools

As a concerned parent and taxpayer, Benson Polytechnic High School is a central location. Why would you want to move all the Benson students to a school no one wants to stay in (High school shuffle makes critics shout, May 6)?

Offer Benson to more students. Just because Jefferson is near Portland Community College doesn't mean kids and parents want to attend. Move 1,000 students and all the shop classes, or move 500 students. If the move is about the budget, how can the board even consider moving Benson? Closing the smaller school makes more dollars and sense.

Chris Blank

Southwest Portland

Marshall students welcome at Franklin

As a parent at Franklin High School and a colleague of (parent leader) Jeff Hammond, I can speak for Jefferson and Franklin communities when I say that we welcome ALL former Marshall kids to (our) community.

The high schools and feeders are so close to each other and a number of Marshall kids already attend Franklin, so we know their needs. We are sister communities.

For almost 100 years, Franklin has been the high school of Mount Tabor and the neighborhoods directly surrounding the school, including Creston.

We want all those kids to go to Franklin, too. Let's keep the Franklin community together.

As far as the socioeconomic balance is concerned, I don't understand why all of the new catchment areas are not more diversified. The way it is proposed now, every high school in the district gets less socio-economically diverse except Franklin.

Molly Cliff-Hilts

Southeast Portland