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Parents create education advisory group

Advocacy effort focuses on a common vision instead of a specific program

First there were the red-shirted supporters of Gales Creek Elementary, lobbying to keep their rural school open.

Then there were the migrant education advocates, who seethed over the elimination of their key administrator's job due to budget woes.

In between, foes of a $510,000 core literacy program championed by Superintendent Yvonne Curtis have raised their voices against spending that money in light of teacher layoffs and slashed programs at every grade level in the Forest Grove School District.

Tonight at 6:30, an emerging citizen advisory group made up of parents and educators will meet in the Rogers Room at the Forest Grove City Library to conjure up a united voice and message they plan to bring to a mid-month session of the local school board.

During that meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. on June 13, board members will consider adopting a $49 million general fund budget. Members of the new group say there wasn't adequate public input into the spending plan this spring - something district officials disagree with.

'Many parents, students and teachers felt 'blindsided' and ultimately powerless in the district's budget process this year,' group leaders Monica Gorman, Deb Bratland, Anya Doll, Karen Thias and Philip Thias wrote in a 'statement of purpose' sent to the News-Times last week.

Group leaders said tonight's meeting is a first attempt to 'bring the community together to discuss our collective vision of a quality education.'

Presentations on the proposed budget cuts, communication between parents and the school board, reading program acquisition, data acquisition, administrative costs, and the introduction of a newly-forming high school student forum are planned.

After the presentations, participants will break into discussion teams to come up with solutions to present to the school board later this month. The group would ultimately like to create an ongoing parent forum to work with district officials on common goals.

'Many, many parents and students are concerned that excessive testing, and the consequent awards for FGSD founded on that testing, are driving the district's ideas about what constitutes a 'good education,'' the purpose statement says. 'This is a starting point for citizen discussions on the budget and the educational philosophy of our school district.

'We in a democracy need to educate ourselves so that we can explore all the views out there about education and help the district make wise, fair, sophisticated decisions about our childrens' education and future.'